A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a message about a book he’d just finished reading. “This book was terrible,” he said. “It was an urban fantasy novel, and the story was good, but the protagonist was just awful. The author’s name was female, but it was clearly written by a man. No woman would ever talk about themselves like that.”
“Like what?” I asked.
His complaint was that the female protagonist called herself a bitch on every other page, referred to herself as a slut a couple of dozen times throughout the book, and regularly described and critiqued her breasts and… ahem… more private areas. Despite the magic, mystery, and action that should have been the focus of the story, the protagonist spent more time objectifying herself than actually engaging with the plot.
For my friend, the lowest moment came after the protagonist had a one-night-stand with a male love interest. While the man was still asleep in bed the next morning, the protagonist sneaked off to the shower and harangued herself: “Why am I always such a dumb slut when I’m drunk?”
As it turns out, my friend was wrong: the author is a woman. Plus, of course, in real life, women–especially young women–talk about themselves like that quite frequently. “You’re a 40-something man,” I said. “You’re not really the author’s target audience.”
But then I got to thinking. Who is the target audience for this book? And how does it affect them?