[Sharing some stuff from my webcomic, So You Write, because the associated rant may be of interest to some people who read this blog.]
(Click it to read if formatting makes menus or text obscure the image.)
Step 1: Include tons of irritating stereotypes about women in your story
Step 2: Insist that the presence of even caricature-style women in your story is “diversity” and “empowerment”
Step 3: Portray real-world women as unreasonable for being offended by your portrayal of them
Step 4: Blame hysteria in a female-dominated publishing scene for blocking your opportunities
Step 5: Ignore, discredit, and mock women who try to help you understand
Listen, guys. I know that if women seem mysterious to you, it’s easier to believe lazy stereotypes about them than to give them real diversity and respect as people. But we’re not giving you a hard time about this because we just hate men and nothing you do is right. We’re simply super tired of our motivations and feelings always being tied to sex, babies, sex, shopping, and sex.
It’s not just “offensive.” It’s terribly uninteresting and incomplex. Think about the (hopefully, exaggerated) female supervillain team in this comic. Is the only way you can think of to make a woman bitter is to portray her as a sad barren witch because she couldn’t give birth? Does the only source you can dredge up for a woman’s gritty, dark past have to be tied to rape? Is it really the best you can do if your team powerhouse is simply irresistibly sexy and exploits the heroes’ attraction?
It really is a problem if female characters–even ones not as exaggerated as these–are written by men who fixate on “femaleness” and miss the mark of who they could be. If they see women as sexual manipulators, materialistic shoppers, beings who must find fulfillment through motherhood, or creatures who become interesting and motivated when men violate them, their prejudices are going to come out in what they write.
And they’re probably also going to say if women can’t handle the stuff they want to write about, it isn’t really written for them anyway. Guess what? These messages are bad for other genders too. This is why there’s a pushback against traditionally male-dominated entertainment creating female characters like this. Nobody should be writing terrible female characters and excusing men for telling each other ridiculous stories about who they think we are.
This is not to say you can never have a female character who grieves because of childlessness or has lingering pain and trauma over assault. It just gets so, so tiring when the things that motivate our gender in fiction are always about either things men think are silly or things that tie us to men or define us by men.
All that said, depressingly, having a badly written book is a lot more likely to doom your publishing opportunities than misogynistic text will. Sexist stuff gets published all the time, and even though plenty of editors (of multiple genders) are tired of it, there are also plenty who don’t even recognize it.