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The 'How would a male author describe you?' Twitter challenge is a lot of fun.

"She had an ass like a plump popsicle and I deigned to admire her."

The 'How would a male author describe you?' Twitter challenge is a lot of fun.

Can male authors write powerful, strong, and accurate female characters? Totally. Do many struggle with it? Well...

Author Gwen C. Katz was scrolling through Twitter, reading a thread about members of marginalized groups advocating for more work written by marginalized individuals. Of course, it went haywire — especially when a man just had to jump in to assure others that he was every bit as capable of writing an accurate female character as any woman.

"I think writers should be able to write from any perspective as long as they can pull it off. It takes research, skill, and creativity, but if a good writer can't do those things, he/she isn't a good writer, right?" he wrote. "My book is a first-person [point-of-view] and the [main character] is a woman. I'm definitely not a woman. But it works because I was able to pull it off. I reject someone saying I couldn't write a female [main character] because I'm a male, because, well, I just did. It's called writing."


Oh boy. Was he able to pull it off?

"I sauntered over, certain he noticed me. I'm hard to miss, I'd like to think — a little tall (but not too tall, a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date. The rest of my outfit wasn't that remarkable, just a few old things I had lying around. You know how it is."

The thread (which you can read in its entirety here) included a few other choice passages from chapter one of this mystery book, but the point was made: Some guys just don't know how to write about women without being really weird about it.

Now, maybe you're saying to yourself, "Sure, but that's just one guy that nobody's heard of." Fair point. For another example, which was uncovered by writer Julia Carpenter, let's look to renowned author John Updike:

Excerpt from "The Witches of Eastwick" by John Updike.

It's not limited to books, either. Take, for instance, this 2016 Vanity Fair profile of actress Margot Robbie, which begins:

"America is so far gone, we have to go to Australia to find a girl next door. In case you’ve missed it, her name is Margot Robbie. She is 26 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way but in a minor knock-around key, a blue mood, a slow dance. She is blonde but dark at the roots. She is tall but only with the help of certain shoes. She can be sexy and composed even while naked but only in character."

To be sure, there's nothing necessarily wrong with describing people or characters as sexy (though, if you don't understand how women pee, maybe don't try to go into detail about that). It's just that this type of writing is so formulaic, so common.

Twitter users had a bit of fun with the format after Whitney Reynolds recently offered a challenge: "Describe yourself like a male author would."

The replies were absolutely epic, with thousands of people responding.

Thanks to a new chart from Electric Literature, creating your own personal description is as easy as spelling your name.

The result follows this format: "She had ____ like a ____ ____ and I ____ to ____ her."

For instance, if your name were Sarah, your description would read: "She had knockers like a silken princess and I longed to proposition her." If your name was Brittany, you'd get: "She had a bust like a shrill popsicle and I ached to fondle her."

Fun, right?

"The Twitter challenge originated in response to a man who was claiming that his female characters were so convincing, they proved that there's no need to elevate a wider range of voices. White male writers can do it all!" Electric Lit editor-in-chief Jess Zimmerman says. "But when writers take on characters they don't really understand or respect, what you end up with is a kind of puppet show: all the 'real people' look the same, and everyone else is just a weak, potentially offensive bit of 2D guesswork. This is not actually good for the state of literature! It's alienating to readers and impoverishing for books."

Zimmerman elaborates, clarifying that she knows it's #NotAllMen who do this, chalking the prevalence of the detached and unnecessarily sexualized descriptions as the result of a culture that never really asks men to see things from a woman's perspective.

"That's why the joke in our generator is that the woman is described according to the man's reactions: a lot of male writers, including famous ones, never get any closer to 'imagining a woman's experience' than 'imagining my experience of a woman.' But keen observation, empathy, and the ability to take on someone else's perspective are crucial novelist skills. Male novelists should relish the effort it takes to do better."

Let's all have a laugh, and for the authors in the audience, don't let your writing become an internet meme.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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