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As I work on the stories of this series, I often struggle with getting everything I want to convey into words. One of the things that has come up, and I found important enough to address that I'm doing this piece of meta, concerns decidedly gendered terminology.

One of the stories in-progress takes place during the Avengers film timeline. I initially started writing it for my own peace of mind and as a writing exercise. I wanted to be typing and I wanted to have an idea of how certain things changed in the film. I shared the first draft of those scenes with my roommate. I'm in the process of revising now and those first impression comments were very helpful. But I came across two notes from her when I included the now infamous "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist" line and later Toni snarks that she isn't a "sugar daddy." Roomie noted that these should probably change, joking with the second one about "no sugar mama?" But here's the thing: Change the gender of those terms and suddenly the meaning changes. (Well, I'm not sure about the Sugar Daddy versus Sugar Mama, I just honestly don't hear the second used. When I have, it's been used far more tongue-in-cheek than the former.)

I'm going to be sticking with Toni identifying, to some extent, as "playboy." I mean, what the hell is the equivalent for a female term? "Playgirl" sure as heck isn't it. While "playboy" isn't exactly the most positive image or held up as the shining example of what a "good man" should be, there's not an overwhelming stigma associated with it. Using "player" or "playboy" can be used jokingly, even positively in certain settings. Tony Stark owns the playboy image because it means he's "got game," he's charismatic, he's sexy and can be charming, and he wins people over. Those are all aspects of being a "playboy" along with the sexual connotations and implication of not settling down. But if we look for a term of a woman who has multiple partners, about the most polite term we have is "flirt," otherwise we're looking at "slut" or "whore." (Note that when it comes to labeling men with these latter terms, we usually modify to "male slut" or "man whore," clarifying that we are not talking about a woman.) Granted, I'm sure there's many people within my universe who curse at Toni and use terms like "slut" all the time, but Toni isn't going to identify like that. Part of why I think she would grab onto the playboy label is because of bending the gendered term.

Things like this keep me revisiting lines I've written again and again. I often find myself stalling as I get overwhelmed by the number of things I would love to include in these stories. I'm not actually intending to make weighty political statements in these fics, but the politics of gender and all the sociological wealth inherent in a wealthy, powerful, brilliant female character deserves more than a flighty wave of the hand over all the potential issues at play. It's a challenge and I love the ideas that come to mind because I have Toni Stark in play, but I also recognize that it's sometimes getting me bogged down as I juggle the ideas and worry about if I'm doing the ideas justice.

It's entirely possible I'll end up having a series of meta writings related to this universe. After all, there's quite a bit of headcanon that I can't quite figure out how to smoothly insert as prose fiction without having it overshadow the larger story.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
Re: playboy vs playgirl for Toni
I agree that "playgirl" does not work for Toni. I've read quite a number of female Tony Stark stories by now, and it is interesting how the writers deal with this line. There really aren't many good alternatives available. The best I've seen is "sex goddess", which is entertaining, but doesn't seem to carry the exact connotations you want.
On the other hand, calling herself a playboy seems to say that (subconsciously, at least) she buys into the idea that only a man is supposed to behave like this.
So, for me, Toni calling herself a playboy just doesn't work.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
Re: playboy vs playgirl for Toni
More things to think about! Makes me regret the lack of audio for the written word since I can imagine Toni using it sarcastically at the very least. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing ("bad" in terms of "unbelievable") for Toni to have part of her that feels that way -- it would be something that was well socialized into her and any promiscuous behavior would be seen as scandalous compared to an exasperated eye-roll and little censure that a man would face.

But yeah, I'll definitely keep this in mind as I work on it. Thanks for the comment!
Nov. 11th, 2013 06:23 am (UTC)
I've always just thought of it as 'socialite.' It has other implications and it's not as overtly sexualized as even 'playboy' is, which makes it the more polite/desirable (read:'feminine') term.
Nov. 11th, 2013 04:18 pm (UTC)
Oh that's a nice one! Works rather well.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )