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Womanliness as Pathos

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"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
Rick, Casablanca

Womanliness as Pathos is a narrative idea that the mere presence of something female or feminine will cause emotions like angst, drama, suffering, or pity. Under this theory, even "positive" emotions like sympathy, protectiveness, love or lust are merely desires to overcome or prevent negative emotions (like sadness, worry, loneliness or heartbreak).

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In fiction, you can tell this trope is at play when scenes involving a woman create intrigue, concern, competition, tension, danger or stress for the characters, or when some major conflict or disaster is caused by a woman doing (or convincing a man to do) something manipulative, selfish or foolish.

It takes the form of male characters being harmed or held back by them, women themselves being endangered or oppressed, tougher characters vigilantly protecting them, female characters fighting and scheming against each other, femininity being portrayed as inherently shallow, vapid or unstable, feminine male/trans characters causing some sort of trouble, or women not being held to the same scrutiny as men. Put bluntly, this conclusion is one of the most common forms of misogyny, but it also has elements of Truth in Television due to the inherent problems and disadvantages that many women face socially and physically.

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For example...yes, without a Daddy DNA Test a man will always have uncertainty about his paternity and thus fear being a Cuckold. A Pregnant Hostage will always be considered more delicate and more sympathetic due to the impossibility for cis-men to bear life. As long as "boys only want one thing", an Overprotective Dad will always fight to defend his daughters from that. And if a male character constantly uses destructive means to achieve success, then yes, women who don't like those things will always oppose them.

However, like any Stereotype, this is easily taken too far, especially when people/characters despise femininity, or want them kept out of the way just to avoid these issues, or when women/feminine characters are themselves blamed for something bad happening to them.

As you can imagine, this is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. Just see the number of myths and ancient legends that follow this pattern in the examples below to demonstrate how this trope was at one point even more in fashion.

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Due to its very controversial and delicate subject matter, we must ask that there be No Real Life Examples, Please!. Also, examples listed on this page should be extremely egregious, repetitious, or well-known; otherwise, it is probably a better fit in one of the relevant Sub Tropes in the subpage for tropes.

Sub-Trope of Women Are Delicate. Super-Trope of Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, as this trope is the reason they're considered "special".

Compare and contrast Moe, Women Are Wiser, and Females Are More Innocent; while on the surface, they seem to "counter" this trope by eliciting "positive" emotions, the wise, innocent women are often seen as valuable enough to protect. This trope is common in Film Noir and Hardboiled Detective stories, often to make the protagonist uncomfortable or to make him "care" about solving the case.


Tropes:

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    A-F 
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Ugly women are inherently comical when they try to woo a man, mostly because their belief that they could elicit love and desire from any man is completely delusional.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Women being drawn to dangerous or evil men.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Women who want sex constantly, even at bad times or when men don't.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Women who never want sex, while men usually do.
  • Alpha Bitch: The snobbish, mean "queen" of a school who bullies everyone else.
  • Always Save the Girl: If a Sadistic Choice forces them to save someone they love or a wider population, a hero "should" choose the loved one.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: A (usually female) character who must be protected or kept content, lest they end the world.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Being married is just the worst. Especially for men.
  • The Baby Trap: A woman deliberately got herself pregnant to trap a man into marriage.
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: The Girl Posse acting as treacherous, duplicitous hens.
  • Barrier Maiden: A (usually female) character who must be protected or kept content, lest something bad they contained get out.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: An overlord captures a woman and orders her prettied up so that he can seduce and/or rape her.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: A woman who has been captured and forced into slavery, and thus makes the hero (or audience) want to save her.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: This woman cannot be romanced or consummated with unless the man who wants her proves he is her better.
  • Beta Bitch: The Alpha Bitch's second-in-command, who often betrays her.
  • Bitch Alert: A bitchy woman makes her presence instantly known.
  • Black Widow: A woman who takes everything from her lovers (sometimes including their lives), gets rid of them, and then moves on to another.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: A daughter who is an absolute selfish, shallow brat.
  • Bridezilla: A bride-to-be who is a terror to work with, and wants everything done her way up to the wedding.
  • Broken Bird: A female character who has been so badly hurt that she now bears permanent emotional scars.
  • Bunker Woman: A woman kept captive in some madman's bunker.
  • Career Versus Man: A woman is forced to choose between her profession or finding love.
  • Cartwright Curse: A character (usually male) suffers the death of every person they fall in love with.
  • Casting Couch: A producer/director forces a pretty actor to sleep with them to get the role.
  • Cat Fight: A fight that is interesting not for how tough, skilled, or powerful the characters are, but how hot they are or how silly their fighting is.
  • Chastity Dagger: A woman that keeps a dagger under her clothes to protect her precious virginity.
  • Cheating with the Milkman: Husbands who are away from home must always worry about deliverymen and what they get up to with their wives.
  • The Chick: A female character who acts as the "heart and soul" and diplomat of a group.
  • Chickification: A female character who was once tougher is made softer and weaker in a stereotypically female way.
  • The Chief's Daughter: The princess of a tribal society who is curious about the outside world and/or falls in love with the first outsider she meets.
  • Chocolate Baby: A woman gives birth to a child with ethnic features that serve as proof of her infidelity.
  • Christmas Cake: A woman who is over 25, and thus has "wasted" her youth and good looks, now has serious trouble getting married.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: A woman who constantly clings to a man she loves or wants, often turning hostile to anyone she deems as a threat.
  • Conceive and Kill: A woman has sex to conceive a child, and then immediately kills the father.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: A woman who lives alone with no husband or children, with only her cats to keep her company, and thus goes mad.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: A female housekeeper who clearly has something "wrong" with her.
  • Cuckold: A man whose female love interest sleeps with another man.
  • Daddy's Girl: A girl who really loves her father and develops a deep emotional bond with him, often relying on him.
  • Damsel in Distress: A woman is in danger and needs to be rescued.
  • Dark Chick: A woman whose female intuition and tact for empathy and diplomacy are used for sinister purposes.
  • Dark Magical Girl: A pretty girl with magical powers but is overcome with loneliness and other terrible emotions.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A father must cope with the fact that his daughter dates someone whom he despises.
  • Death by Childbirth: A woman dies during a difficult childbirth.
  • Decoy Damsel: A woman is placed in danger, but turns out to be part of a trap for would-be rescuers.
  • Defiled Forever: A woman has had sex (even if against her will) and is now considered unclean or unsuitable for other men.
  • Deliberately Distressed Damsel: A woman allows herself to be put in danger because the captors assume she's helpless. They're wrong.
  • Disposable Woman: A female character who is introduced into a story only to die so that the male characters can do stuff.
  • Does Not Like Men: A woman becomes immediately hostile whenever sharing any space with a man.
  • Domestic Abuse: Most commonly, this involves a male partner being abusive towards a female partner.
  • Dragon Lady: An East Asian woman who is a mixture of fiery danger and exotic beauty.
  • Dragons Prefer Princesses: When dragons pick a target to eat or take captive, it's always some beautiful princess or fair maiden.
  • Drama Queen: If there's no drama yet, she'll just start the drama herself!
  • The Dulcinea Effect: A man is compelled to save a woman, even if he has never met her before in his life.
  • Education Mama: A mother constantly forces her child to study and go to school, out of the expectation that it's what a "good mother" should do.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: A woman is terrified of vermin and creepy-crawlies.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: A villain or not-so-nice man still loves and protects his mother.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Blonde women instantly get the attention and adoration of everyone around.
  • Evil Matriarch: A female character who is in charge of a family or clan and thus bosses everyone around like her children.
  • Fake Pregnancy: A woman fakes being pregnant for attention or other purposes.
  • Family Versus Career: A woman has to choose between continuing her work or starting a family.
  • False Rape Accusation: A woman accuses a man of sexual assault, causing him to be vilified and shamed even though he is innocent.
  • Farmer's Daughter: The daughter of a rural family that is beautiful and tempting to any male outsiders who come around. Often fiercely defended by her father or brothers.
  • Favors for the Sexy: A beautiful character (usually female) compels those around them to pamper them or give them things.
  • Female Misogynist: She hates other women—many times because of the stereotypes on this list.
  • Femme Fatale: A beautiful woman who is dangerous and untrustworthy.
  • Femme Fatale Spy: A dangerous and untrustworthy woman who is also spying for an opposing group.
  • Fille Fatale: A young girl who knows how to manipulate men and boys of any age to do what she wants because of her looks or charm.
  • Final Girl: The last survivor of a horror movie is a woman because the audience could not accept a man being as terrified in the same position.

    G-L 
  • The General's Daughter: A Military Maverick is courting a superior officer's daughter, to the father's chagrin.
  • Girl in a Box: The characters come across a small, seemingly-vulnerable woman stuffed inside of a box.
  • Girl Next Door: A sweet, approachable girl who lives close to a male suitor.
  • Girl Posse: A team of mean, snobbish girls who roam in packs in a school.
  • Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies: A timid girl is really scared of a horror film or story, often clinging to her date out of fear—who may have brought her to this particular film just to get that reaction.
  • Girls Have Cooties: Young boys don't want to play with girls because they fear "catching" whatever the girls have.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: A small or pretty girl is carrying a dangerous weapon.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: A queen or matriarch is completely out of her mind and a danger to her entire country.
  • Good Girl Gone Bad: A once sweet, innocent (and possibly chaste) woman has become a bitchy, dangerous (and possibly promiscuous) one.
  • Good Princess, Evil Queen: The young woman with less power is good and stable, while the older woman with more power is evil and unstable.
  • Gossipy Hens: Women who can't stop sticking their nose in other peoples' business.
  • Haunted Heroine: A vulnerable woman in a horror movie who is being driven out of her mind.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: A beautiful woman causes every man (and some women) to instantly stop what they're doing and pay attention to her.
  • Heir Club for Men: An inheritance cannot pass to daughters, which means that the parents must desperately try for a son, or the daughter has to fight like hell to prove that she's worthy of it.
  • Henpecked Husband: A husband is constantly bossed around by his wife.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: The female on a villainous squad is more likely to turn good—especially if she falls in love with the hero.
  • Honey Trap: A beautiful or vulnerable woman is used to control or trick a man.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: A "working girl" who is in a very sordid profession but cares about her clients and the people she knows in general.
  • Hysterical Woman: A woman who loses her cool and begins acting irrationally when faced with danger or strife.
  • I Banged Your Mom: Taunting a (usually male) character by claiming to have bedded his beloved mother.
  • I Broke a Nail: A female character cares more about a blemish to her appearance than whatever struggle is going on.
  • Ice Queen: A woman with a cold, aloof personality which is treated as a bother or obstacle to others.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: A villain has captured a beautiful woman and now plans to do dirty things to her.
  • I Have Your Wife: A villain has captured the hero's wife and forces him to do terrible things to get her back.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: The hero's love interest whose death haunts him.
  • Ill Girl: A young girl who is ill or injured, making her even more vulnerable.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: A woman who is with-child is in danger that threatens the life of her and/or her baby.
  • Indian Maiden: A young and beautiful member of a tribal society and thus stands out from others in her tribe in some way.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: A strong male character was defeated by a female character and is mocked or ashamed of it.
  • The Ingenue: A sweet, but naive young girl who gets herself into trouble.
  • Lady Macbeth: A conniving, manipulative woman who convinces her lover/husband to do foolish or evil things.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: If a woman sleeps around, she will get pregnant by the man she least wants to have a child with.
  • Leg Cling: Visual art style of a helpless (and often scantily-clad) woman clinging to the leg of a powerful man.
  • Literal Maneater: A female character who entraps and literally eats men.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: A young girl who uses her innocence or charm to trick and cheat unsuspecting marks.
  • Lonely Doll Girl: A young girl that plays with dolls because she is lonely and has no one else to play with.
  • The Lost Lenore: A male character mourning a female lover.

    M-S 
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Society treats virginal and chaste women with reverence, while a woman who is even suspected of having any sexual activity is shunned and scorned.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: The villain has a beautiful daughter whom he usually cares about and tries to keep away from the hero.
  • Make Way for the Princess: The Girl Posse is coming through and demands that everyone clear the path for the all-important Alpha Bitch.
  • Mama Bear: A female character is violently protective of her children.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: A father can never be sure if his child is really his, because who knows what his lover was up to?
  • Mangst: A variety of male suffering and angst caused by the various tropes on this list.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A wild, carefree girl comes into a man's life and begins causing trouble, but he eventually concludes that it's the kind of trouble he wants or needs.
  • Maternity Crisis: A pregnant woman will always go into labor at the wrong possible time to cause maximum drama.
  • Matron Chaperone: An older woman who accompanies a young woman to keep any suitors away.
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: The inevitable conclusion of this trope; if women always cause drama and strong emotions, then they will always be "special" in comparison to men.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Works which treat female characters as more valuable and sympathetic than men, for similar reasons that children are.
  • Menstrual Menace: A woman that is on her period is a walking disaster that needs to be avoided at all costs.
  • Missing Mom: The source of a character's angst or drama comes from the fact that they have no mother.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: If a victim is white and/or female, then their rescue or safety takes precedents, often at the expense of any non-white and/or male victims.
  • Monster Fangirl: A woman who is enraptured by a dangerous or evil person/monstrosity.
  • Monster Misogyny: Monsters that deliberately target beautiful, vulnerable women.
  • Mrs. Robinson: An older woman who enjoys seducing young men, often to "make men out of them" or because she enjoys the power over them.
  • Ms. Red Ink: A wife who overspends her husband or family's money on frivolous things, forcing them to go broke.
  • My Beloved Smother: A mother who is overly controlling with her children, especially if said "child" is now an adult.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: A man defends accusations that his lover has slept with others.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: A brother defends his sister from being hit on by his friends.
  • Naïve Everygirl: To make this female character more relatable or appealing, she is characterized as naive or easily misled.
  • Netorare Genre: A genre of stories that are about men being cuckolded and betrayed by women they love.
  • Nothing Nice About Sugar and Spice: When women or girls that are truly girly are also truly dangerous and / or vicious.
  • No Woman's Land: The world outside of the safe place the woman lives is deeply misogynistic and dangerous.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: An entitled privileged woman is the source of most conflict in the neighborhood.
  • Old Maid: An older, unmarried woman who is now considered undesirable or useless.
  • One Bad Mother: An evil character with "Mother" in her name, and likely has very twisted "motherly" attributes.
  • The Ophelia: A beautiful young woman who is absolutely insane and horrifically broken.
  • Overprotective Dad: A father who is determined to protect or control his daughter, whether or not she wants or needs him to.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: A couple are about to have a baby, and the father is completely useless and frantic.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: A teen (usually female) who chats on the whole all day, often driving up phone bills.
  • Pregnant Hostage: A pregnant woman is taken captive because it's two hostages in one.
  • Pregnancy Makes You Crazy: A pregnant woman goes completely off her rocker, either because she is panicky or needy, or because her hormones are completely out of control.
  • Pretty Freeloader: A (usually female) character who eats up all the food and lives rent-free, but is way too attractive to ask to leave.
  • Prom Baby: A girl who is pregnant at her prom will give birth there for maximum drama or embarrassment.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: An ex is accosted by a woman they broke up with, who desperately wants revenge or to be taken back.
  • Real Women Have Curves: Relatable female characters have Weight Woe.
  • Rebellious Princess: A princess disobeys her parent's orders and wants to live her own life—especially if she's met a dashing suitor.
  • Rich Bitch: A rich woman who is utterly insufferable to deal with and thinks she can do anything she wants because of her affluence.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: A villain states that he will only help or spare the heroes if they can sleep with one of their spouses (usually a woman for maximum sympathy).
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: If a beautiful woman is chatting up or hitting on an average-looking man at a pub, then she must have some kind of angle.
  • Screaming Woman: When faced with danger, a woman lets out an ear-piercing scream. Sometimes as a call for help, but often just because it's "what women do".
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: A girl who looks pure and wholesome on the outside, but has some dangerous or unchaste practices when no one's watching.
  • Shotgun Wedding: A man has defiled or impregnated a father's daughter, and now he must marry her to preserve her dignity.
  • Showing Up Chauvinists: A group of men who mocked a woman are now completely outdone by her to embarrass or humiliate them.
  • Shrinking Violet: A shy, vulnerable girl who stays away from people.
  • Single Mom Stripper: A young, beautiful mother who takes a job as a stripper (or other forms of "sex work") to support her child, even if it's not something she wants to do.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: Slasher victims are usually beautiful, naive blonde women to maximize audience reactions.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: A teen girl who has fallen deeply and uncontrollably in love, and thus become vulnerable.
  • Soap Box Sadie: A woman who is known for constantly having some sort of social agenda to fight for, much to the annoyance of everyone around her.
  • Sports Widow: A woman who doesn't have much of a marriage because her husband is constantly leaving her to go and play sports or games.
  • Stacy's Mom: A young boy is attracted to his love interest's much older mother, often even moreso than the daughter.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: The methods by which girls in Japanese Media bully one-another.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: A character (usually female) is killed, injured, or weakened so that another character (usually male) can feel angst or become motivated for revenge.

    T-Z 
  • The Tease: A character (usually female) constantly torments someone else by acting flirtatious or dressing in a manner that drives them crazy.
  • Teen Pregnancy: A young girl is pregnant and now has to struggle to deal with it at her tender age.
  • Territorial Smurfette: A woman is used to being special because she's the only girl, and thus turns hostile to any other woman who comes along.
  • Traumatic C-Section: A woman needs a caesarian section to save the life of her and/or her baby, and it's shown as a horrific, gory, and dangerous procedure.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: A man angsts because he's not able to be the provider for his family. Especially if his wife doesn't work or if she spends all of his money.
  • Uncanny Valley Girl: A pretty or small girl is offset by some kind of creepiness to her appearance.
  • The Unfair Sex: Female characters get away with shenanigans that male characters could not or wouldn't even dare to try.
  • Unrequited Tragic Maiden: A young girl pines for a man she can never have and is considered beautiful or sympathetic for her plight.
  • Unstable Powered Woman: Plot difficulty instigated by a woman who can't control her new power.
  • Vagina Dentata: A woman's vagina has teeth or other sharp edges to protect her from rapists or to give her terrifying control in a sexual encounter.
  • The Vamp: A completely evil woman who uses her beauty and sex appeal to fool others.
  • Vain Sorceress: A woman who uses evil magic with the primary goal of being eternally young and beautiful.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Women and feminine characters always place value on their looks.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: A hero is hounded by a villainous woman who wants him for her own.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: A woman who will protect her boy- (or girl-) friend with violent retribution.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: When said sacrifice is a young, beautiful woman, it's always played for drama and she needs to be rescued.
  • Wacky Cravings: A pregnant woman demands more and more outrageous or disgusting things to eat.
  • Wanted a Son Instead: A parent mistreats their daughter because they wanted a son.
  • Wed Locking: A woman's sexual reputation has been destroyed, so a man offers to do the "honorable" thing and marry her to restore it.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: A wife constantly nags her husband to stop doing whatever dangerous or manly activity that drives the story.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The new wife of a child's father mistreats the children that aren't "hers" and makes sure that her own are the ones on top.
  • Wicked Witch: If a woman knows magic or sorcery, then it's because she's a witch and has consorted with evil.
  • Widow Witch: No one knows what a widow does in her own time, so they assume she must be up to unholy sorcery. Sometimes, it will turn out to be true.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: A person who violently defends an abused wife.
  • Women Drivers: A female character behind the wheel is a danger to herself and everyone on the road.
  • Woman Scorned: A man broke a woman's heart, and now hell hath no fury like what's coming his way.
  • Womb Horror: Pregnancy, in general, is treated a horrifying experience where any number of things can go wrong.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: A character who refuses to hurt women, no matter how despicable.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A woman uses her vulnerability to pretend to have been wronged, knowing people will likely believe her.
  • Wounded Gazelle Warcry: A woman uses her vulnerability to rally others to fight on her behalf.
  • Wrong Guy First: A woman dates or marries the obviously-wrong suitor first, learns her lesson, and then goes back to the "right" one.
  • Yoko Oh No: A woman begins to date one of the members of a Badass Crew, and her involvement destroys them.

    Gender-Nonconforming Tropes 
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: A gay (usually male and effeminate) character is treated as a danger to children.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Because marriage is supposed to be between men and women, gays are assumed to "slut it up".
  • Creepy Crossdresser: This trope usually involves a male character dressing as a woman and thus looking or acting disturbing and creepy.
  • Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: An effeminate man hates women, often because he sees them as competition.
  • Elfeminate: Elves are exceptionally and supernaturally beautiful and thus usually have traits considered "feminine".
  • Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite: A character with both male and female traits is considered attractive to everyone.
  • Gay Bravado: A man is so confident in his heterosexuality that he will intentionally display effeminate traits just to mess with other people.
  • "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot: A boy's femininity causes a conflict.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: A character who displays non-conforming or homoerotic behavior feels compelled to remind everyone that they're straight.
  • Not Like Other Girls: A girl who wants to be special because she doesn't display the stereotypical behavior of other girls.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: A pair that are considered weird or exceptional because they display traits opposite of their genders.
  • Pink Is for Sissies: A male character wears "effeminate" clothes or colors and is mocked for it.
  • Psycho Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women, but displays predatory behavior.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Masculine women are portrayed as better than feminine ones.
  • Sissy Villain: A villain who behaves effeminately. Often, his feminine nature is explicitly what makes him a villain, but other times, it merely adds to his creepiness.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: When the narrative or a character insists that women should be barred from action and stay on the sidelines.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: If a character is straight and male, he reminds himself that he's not gay or bi, no matter how gorgeous his friend is.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: If a man does textile work as a hobby or profession, people will mock him as effeminate or call him gay.
  • Transgender Fetishization: A trans character (especially trans women) is presented as exceptionally sexy or attractive.
  • Trans Tribulations
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Usually involves a male character learning that a beautiful female they desired is transgender or really a man in disguise/drag.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Sin City: Women (whether good or bad) are quite often the cause of anguish, danger, or the eventual downfall of several characters, especially the protagonists.
    • "That Yellow Bastard" opens with protagonist John Hartigan pursuing pedophile child-killer Roark Junior to save the eleven-year-old Nancy Callahan. John saves Nancy and wounds Junior's genitals but is betrayed by his fellow cops and framed for the crimes himself. While in prison, Hartigan's wife refuses to wait for him, divorces him, and has children with another man. Hartigan's only solace during this time are the periodic letters he receives from Nancy, who (under an alias) tells him about her life and how much she loves him for saving her. One day, Hartigan receives one of Nancy's letters with a finger inside, and he confesses to all the false charges so that he'll be released early and able to save Nancy. Upon finding her working as a stripper, Hartigan realizes that he was tricked and has led Roark Junior directly to Nancy. Nancy spots Hartigan in the crowd and immediately leaps into his arms, kissing him, thus accidentally revealing who she is. Hartigan protects her from Junior, and while hiding out, Nancy tries to convince Hartigan to sleep with her, but he refuses due to their age difference. While Hartigan struggles to keep his urges under control, Junior finds them and attempts to kill Hartigan while promising to rape and kill Nancy. Hartigan escapes, saves Nancy, and kills Junior. He and Nancy declare their love for each other, and she goes off to wait for him to find her again. Hartigan, however, realizes that with Junior dead, his father will now scour the ends of the Earth for Hartigan and Nancy, and so he does the only thing he can to protect her—killing himself.
    • "The Big Fat Kill" involves a gang of Dirty Cops trying to shakedown and sexually assault one of the prostitutes who are in charge of Old Town. The cops and the hookers have a non-aggression truce whereas they'll leave each other alone, but this is broken when Miho kills the dirty cops and gives the police an excuse to throw The Lopsided Arm of the Law at Old Town and take it over. This starts a war in which the protagonist Dwight has to protect the freedom of the working girls against an army of cops, gangsters, and mercenaries. It's later revealed that Becky, the girl who caused all of this, intentionally provoked the cops and started the war—and she is later implied to be killed because of it.
    • In "The Hard Goodbye", Marv is a hideous, lonely man who pines for Nancy but feels that no woman would ever love him because of his looks. He is shocked when a woman named Goldie takes him to bed and gives him a great night of sex, only to find her dead when he awakens. Feeling indebted to Goldie for giving him the one night of passion he thought he'd never enjoy, he tracks down everyone involved with her death—leading up to Cardinal Roark, brother of the corrupt Senator. Along the way, Marv finds his parole officer, Lucille, tortured and with her hand eaten off, and she is later killed by a squad of Dirty Cops. He is then attacked by (and later teams up with) Goldie's twin sister Wendy. After killing the people responsible for torturing Lucille and killing Goldie, Marv is captured and sent to prison. He endures every torture they inflict and refuses to sign a confession that would allow them to legally execute him, but reluctantly signs the confession when they threaten to kill his mother. The story then ends with him being thanked by Wendy, but executed for his good deeds.
  • Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy is a constant source of angst and turmoil for Peter, resulting in the circumstances her death being retreaded several times throughout publication, as well as many stories that resulted directly from her death or the events immediately leading up to them. For example, The Clone Saga started when Stalker with a Crush Miles Warren cloned both her and Peter Parker as revenge for Peter letting the object of his affection die. The story Sins Past revealed more details about her past, including that she cheated on him with his archenemy Norman Osborn and bore two children.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Casablanca:
    • Despite ostensibly being a film about cynical nightclub owner Rick Blaine getting over his bitterness to help resistance leader Victor Laszlo escape from Nazis during World War II, the majority of the film's angst is about a woman: Ilsa, who fell in love with Rick a year ago after believing Laszlo (her husband) to be dead but left him out of obligation once she learned he was alive. From the moment Ilsa walks in, all of Rick's angst and turmoil come bubbling right to the surface, with Rick's loyal musician Sam even telling his boss that dealing with the woman is nothing but trouble, as she was the cause of Rick's bitterness. When Ilsa and Rick meet again, it becomes clear that the two still harbor strong feelings for each other, and as the person with the only two passes out of Axis-controlled Casablanca, everything rides on Rick. For reference, when Rick and Laszlo discuss who should use the passes, Ilsa is the only one they both agree on for the purposes of keeping her safe and happy. Laszlo wants Rick to go with her because it's clear he's the one she loves, while Rick wants her to go with Laszlo because he's her lawful husband and a very important man. Rick finally cements himself as a hero when he gives the passes to Ilsa and Laszlo and then persuades her to leave with her husband at the expense of his own happiness.
    • In addition to the main plot between Rick and Ilsa, the movie demonstrates the corrupt and apathetic nature of Dirty Cop Captain Renault by introducing a young, beautiful, and sympathetic Bulgarian refugee named Annina whom Renault has agreed to help escape to America with her husband if she performs sexual favors for him. Before she makes her choice, the desperate Annina comes to Rick to ask if she can trust that Renault will keep his word and if (as a man) Rick could forgive a wife who slept with someone else even if it was for his own happiness. The young, innocent woman's plight persuades the usually-cynical Rick to rig the roulette tables in her husband's favor and allow them to leave the country without giving in to Renault's demands.
  • Out Cold drew heavy inspiration from Casablanca in regards to its Love Triangle, as Rick and Anna had hit it off in Cancun, but she's engaged to Barry, who's a professional snowboarder-turned-doctor and pilot after an accident left him a Handicapped Badass. Rick, unaware of this, had spent months mooning over her departure at the start of the movie - which his friends call him out on, as he'd known her for all of a few weeks.
  • G.I. Jane: This trope is exploited by several characters to try and justify their beliefs that a woman is unfit to join and inherently disruptive to a Navy Seal unit. The main character, O'Neil, is put through miserable hazing and bullying, is accused of being a predatory lesbian, and Master Chief Urgayle begins to sexually assault her during a training exercise to show what is "likely" to happen to a woman captured by the enemy — an action that all of the male trainees fiercely object to but do not try to stop. O'Neil fights off Urgayle before things go too far, leaving it ambiguous whether or not he would have truly gone that far.
  • Indiana Jones: Dr. Jones's experiences with women are fraught with emotional baggage. He is constantly tempted and solicited by his female students and endures heavy Belligerent Sexual Tension with the women he works with like Marion, Willie, and Elsa. In particular, Willie is portrayed as a constant obstacle — she is consistently a Damsel in Distress and has such a shallow reaction to bugs and creepy-crawlies that she hesitates to save him and Short Round from a death trap (and then accidentally reactivates said trap while frantically trying to get them off her). Elsa, meanwhile, is a Honey Trap that seduces and betrays Indy, and he later learns she did the same thing to his father. She winds up tricking her boss into killing himself with a false Grail and then dies trying to take the real Grail out of the temple so that she can be with Indy. Indy winds up almost getting himself killed trying to save her, and still mourns her (unlike any other villain in the series).
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show: In addition to the villain being a rather feminine transvestite whose love for constant, responsibility-free sex leads him to manipulate, murder, cheat, rape, and abuse those around him, his actions also cause the heroine, Janet, to start some drama of her own. In discovering her sexuality, she cheats on Brad with both Frank and, more importantly, Rocky- the one person who Frank doesn't want anyone else to sleep with. Frank jealously attacks Janet afterward, and in trying to protect her, Brad and Dr. Scott both get turned to stone. In the end, while Janet is feeling freed, Brad is a broken mess, and it's left ambiguous whether or not her newfound sexual freedom is a good thing- it certainly wasn't one for the other characters, who suffered directly and indirectly because of both her and Frank.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: The character of Buffalo Bill was not meant to be seen as truly homosexual or transgender. Instead, the writers, cast, and actors state (as repeated by Hannibal Lector in-universe) that Bill was a deeply disturbed man who wanted to create a "new him" with the "respect and power" he felt that women were afforded in society. For this reason, he kidnapped, tortured, killed, and then skinned overweight women to create his "woman suit", which made him feel confident and sexy the way he thought "women" would.
  • Terminator: Sarah Conner in The Terminator was scripted to be a vulnerable, accessible Girl Next Door compared to the unstoppable, terrifying monster coming to kill her. Her design was crafted to be as far as possible from what you'd expect from a woman destined to save the world. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she was redesigned so that the girl we knew was gone. Now, we have a tougher, more proactive Sarah, but she is described as being like a "cornered animal" whose voice and behavior are simultaneously defiant and chilling. She attempts to become a Terminator herself when stalking Miles Dyson but finds she's not a machine after all.

    Literature 
  • Conan the Barbarian: A commonality in Conan stories is that there are two types of women: helpless (often very shallow and naive) women who cling to Conan and require his constant protection and attention at all times...and scheming, evil temptresses. In some stories, one may also become the other. For this reason, Conan is often in no mood to deal with the women he comes across, although he will reluctantly save one in trouble because it's in his personal code to do so and because he often demands she reward him for the hassle with her body. Whenever they're together, Conan even remarks that Red Sonja is a rare exception of this, as she is just as capable as he is. But even then, she's a constant source of sexual frustration for Conan, as she's the one woman who won't simply fall into his bed.
  • The Trojan War is parodied in the Discworld novel Eric, where the noncombatants are shown to be rather uninterested in the whole war and wish Elenor would just choose which king she wanted to stay with.
    [...] and that bloody woman would have to make up her mind whose side she was on, the hussy.
  • Eve and Adam: Terra Striker is the cold, rather bitchy mother of the first protagonist, Evening, who basically adopts the second protagonist and Evening's love interest, Solo. Early into the story, her attitude and controlling nature have everyone assuming that she's the mastermind behind the entire story but it turns out that she's not. While she is definitely not blameless, most of her actions were done out of genuine concern for her daughter. And it's also revealed that she tried to stop the events that led up to the story. Terra is basically the axis that drives the entire plot forward and brings the characters together.
  • The Hagakure goes at length about the unreliability of women in general. For example, it is emphasized that a samurai has to avoid allowing a son to grow too close to his mother (such as by being too strict... as a woman will "naturally" side with her son) or by allowing too much contact between the two after a certain age. The book goes on to say that the concepts of "reason" and "women" are mutually exclusive, that women should not have contact with any man closer than a distance of six feet, and that it is good to be strict with daughters and let them endure suffering under the assumption that Misery Builds Character and their strife will end once properly married.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Women are usually the primary focus of the series, as they are most often portrayed as the victims of rape or sexual abuse. Many stories deal with the negative assumptions of this trope, such as Victim Blaming a woman who should have "known better" under the assumption that rape was an inevitable consequence of a woman being in a particular place, time, or situation. Other negative consequences, such as men being raped by women (or other men) and not being believed or receiving the same sympathy are also brought up. This trope even extends to the personal struggles of the main characters. Olivia Benson is a Child by Rape who empathizes with female victims and, later, endures a sexual assault herself. Her original partner, Elliot Stabler, is overly-protective and feels it's his "duty" to not only protect his partner but to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes because he fears something like it happening to his wife and daughters.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Arthurian Legend: Although the myths are populated largely by knights and lords both noble and ignoble, women are responsible for much of the moving and shaking. It is the sorceress Nimue who traps the wise wizard Merlin, the queen Guinevere's affair with Lancelot that ultimately dooms Camelot, and the machinations of the sorceress Morgan le Fay (in later interpretationsnote ) and Arthur's estranged half-sister Morgause that contribute to this.
  • The Bible:
    • According to the Abrahamic tradition, Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden when Eve eats the fruit of Knowledge and then convinces Adam to eat it too.
    • Samson's downfall is caused by falling in love with the Philistine woman Delilah, to whom he confesses that his hair is the source of his strength. After she cuts off his hair in his sleep, Samson is then blinded and captured by the Philistines.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • The Greek myth of Pandora states that Zeus wanted to punish Prometheus for stealing fire to give to mankind (which, at this point, is literally made of only men). So after chaining him to a rock and having his liver ripped out every night by an eagle, Zeus gives his dumb brother Epimetheus a "gift" in the form of Pandora, the first woman. Pandora is absolutely beautiful, and also absolutely good at everything (her name literally means all-gifted), so Epimetheus takes her in right away. Unfortunately, Pandora also carries a jar that Zeus tells her never to open, but her curiosity gets the better of her. When she opens it, all manner of suffering flies out.
    • Almost all of the misery in Heracles' life was caused by women—first, his father's wife Hera, who couldn't punish her husband for infidelity and so took out her rage on Heracles...in one myth causing him to go mad and kill his wife and children. Later, his wife Deianeira is almost raped by the centaur Nessus and after Heracles defeats him, the dying Nessus somehow convinces Deianeira that a magic shirt will keep Heracles faithful to her. When she becomes afraid that Heracles is falling for another woman, she puts the shirt on him which causes Heracles' horrible agony that he can only relieve by burning himself to death.
    • The Trojan War. The whole thing was started by Eris, the goddess of discord, tossing a golden apple into Olympus "for the fairest". As a result, the goddesses fight over it, resulting in Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena choosing Paris as the 'judge'. Aphrodite bribing Paris with Helen of Sparta, the World's Most Beautiful Woman and the famous 'face that launched a thousand ships', is what gets the war going. This causes the men around Helen, including her husband King Menelaus, to start and sustain a conflict that lasts over a decade while Helen herself remains relatively passive in Troy.
    • Aphrodite, in general, was a constant source of this; to the Greeks, her status as a Love Goddess made her one of the most dangerous gods in the entire Olympian pantheon. A human could reasonably avoid pissing off gods like Helios, Poseidon, or Hades simply by not being involved with anything concerning them. But love is an entirely different story, and Aphrodite's myths are full of men and women who angered, offended, or slighted her in some way and earned her wrath. Typically, causing her to retaliate by having them (or a loved one) fall in love with something troublesome. This, for example, is how the infamous Minotaur was born. Aphrodite herself also constantly fell in love with mortals (which usually ended badly), feuded with other gods for various reasons (usually over a lover), and cuckolded her own husband Hephaestus with Ares. She was even involved with the creation of Pandora.
    • The Iliad: The driving conflict of Achilles being in his tent for the first half is Agamemnon refusing to hand over the conquest he wanted, the priest's daughter Briseis.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh has a wide variety of examples of the trope, beginning with Gilgamesh himself being a despotic tyrant who raped any woman he wanted, whether or not they were married or a relative to his allies. As part of the gods' plan to stop him, a wild man named Enkidu encounters a prostitute and has sex with her, which (to the animal spirits) now made Enkidu "domesticated" and no longer wild. This civility causes Enkidu to become outraged when he learns of Gilgamesh's action, and so he goes to challenge him. The two fight and become Best Friends. During their adventures, the Love Goddess Ishtar becomes enraptured with Gilgamesh, but he spurns her. The gods see this as a great insult and punish the two by having Enkidu fall fatally ill. Enkidu's death causes Gilgamesh to become an Immortality Seeker, and this becomes his primary motive throughout the rest of the tale.
  • Japanese Mythology: The traditional Japanese creation myth states that when the first woman, Izanami, dies from giving birth to fire (literally), her husband Izanagi tries to go down to the underworld to retrieve her. Unfortunately, he gets freaked out when he sees her as a half-rotted corpse, and so Izanami lays a curse that will cause 1,000 humans to die every year Luckily, Izanagi counters by promising that 1,500 humans will be 'born' every year.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Women often are frith-keepers or keepers of peace/security. However, their priority was to their kin, and they would ensure that vengeance was enacted whenever their kin had been harmed. Women, then, are often the source of drama and suffering, galvanizing their husbands into enacting vengeance. In these instances, their husbands are typically portrayed as more peaceable, lazy, or even feckless. A specific example would be Gudrun from The Saga of the Volsungs, who cannot revenge her murdered husband because her brothers are the murderers, but she can justifiably kill her next husband for her brothers' murders.
    • Thor is notably protective of his wife, Sif, who is exceptionally beautiful. In one myth, Loki cuts off Sif's beautiful golden hair as a prank, leaving her distraught. This would have ended with Loki dead by Thor's hand had he not promised to get her new hair forged by dwarfs. This particular event leads to the origins of other mythical artifacts like Odin's spear Gungnir and Thor's hammer Mjolnir.

    Theatre 
  • Antigone: Played With. The protagonist, Antigone, actually acts far more like a Greek male hero would, rather than a heroine; these traits create a lot of friction with the other characters, who expect her to act as a woman should. Creon is especially fed up with her antics, feels the need to assert his dominance over her as a man, and tries to get his lovesick son Haimon to abandon her. He believes that she makes Haimon act weak and foolish — in other words, like how a woman would be expected to act. Creon's misogyny is one of the main reasons he opposes Antigone in her quest, and the drama is ironically created because she doesn't act stereotypically. The only time she acts "womanly" is when she's Driven to Suicide, and that leads to a very Bittersweet Ending.

    Video Games 
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: Subverted. The Lydian religion, which is based around a Mother Goddess, is the source of all the conflict pre-Time Skip, such as the imprisonment of the initial protagonists' mother and their need to live in a barren land... And then that goddess is revealed to actually be a male nearly-immortal android pretending to be a god, who is so insane that he actually believes it.
  • The Grand Theft Auto franchise makes extensive use of this trope, with women often being the causes of game's events or important motivators for the male protagonists.
    • In Grand Theft Auto III, the story proper begins when the protagonist Claude is betrayed by his girlfriend, Catalina, during a bank robbery and gets arrested for it. Catalina thus becomes the story's main antagonist and is demonstrated to be a complete psychopath. Further, Claude is later betrayed by one of his mafioso bosses because the mafioso falsely thinks Claude is sleeping with one of his mistresses, Maria, who becomes both the Damsel in Distress as well as the closest thing Claude has to a Love Interest.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
      • This game is a prequel reintroduces Catalina as one of Carl "CJ" Johnson's "girlfriends" (although it's clear that CJ is only putting up with her to try and get money to bail his older brother out of jail). Once again, Catalina is a complete psychopath and further demonstrates herself to be an extremely impulsive and inept criminal due to her Hair-Trigger Temper. She continuously nags, screams, and derides CJ, using him as an example of why she "hates men" while ignoring any of the problems she herself causes. Further, when confronted by CJ on her actions (and her refusal to pay him the money she promised), she changes the subject by accusing him of eyeing other women and being a bad boyfriend, and blames her chaotic actions on "the female heart".
      • The protagonist's sister, Kendl, is portrayed as the "brains" of the Johnson family and is constantly frustrated by her brothers' attempts at gangbanging and criminal activities (although she has no qualms about using the ill-gotten gains). Further, her brothers show constant concern about her virtue, at first staunchly disapproving that she is dating the Latino gangster, Caesar. The main antagonist, Officer Tenpenny, even constantly tries to intimidate and anger Carl by threatening Kendl with harm and rape, stating at one point that Carl should be glad that she currently "only sucking one greaseball's dick".
      • A very obscure mechanic in San Andreas can have Carl's date with one of his girlfriends interrupted by another one of his girlfriends.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV: Early in the game, Niko finds out that his cousin Roman is being cuckolded by a small-time criminal with powerful connections. Roman is devastated to learn of it but begs Niko to do nothing that would draw the wrath of the more powerful criminals. Niko is appalled by his cousin's resignation and kills the criminal anyway to retaliate. Later in the game, it's also revealed that Niko's girlfriend Michelle is actually a government agent named Karen Daniels, and depending on the ending, Niko's other canonical girlfriend, Kate, can also be accidentally killed during a drive-by, prompting Niko to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Grand Theft Auto V: The Inciting Incident for the events of the game is the moment when Michael chooses to wreck what he thinks is the house of the man (or one of the men) his wife has been having an affair with. The fact that he himself cheats on her with random strippers and prostitutes is barely addressed at all; it's her infidelity that the game mostly focuses on. We also see many other examples of important or secondary male characters whose love interests or girlfriends are seeing other people. Franklin is motivated to get rich primarily to try and win back his ex-girlfriend from her rich fiancé, and Trevor points out that his unwilling accomplice, Floyd, is being cheated on by his fiancée Debra—something given credence when Debra mentions a "Robert" later. Trevor himself is also introduced in the game cuckolding Johnny from Lost and Damned (soon after killing him), and one of the few characters that elicits Trevor's sympathy (and, in fact, outright love) is the beleaguered but loyal wife of the mob boss whose house Michael ruined.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe:
    • The extraterrestrial race of gems are almost all female-identifying, and while this is normally a non-issue on the show, the "feminine" qualities of the cast sometimes contribute to the story. For example, the fact that Rose Quartz (Steven's mother) was female and had to give birth to Steven by giving him her own gem is a major plot point. In addition to making her a Missing Mom, it causes Steven himself to be misgendered as "she" several times as people refuse to see the half-human boy and only the "female" gem wedged in his body.
    • In particular, three out of four of the Diamond Authority demonstrate extremely toxic elements of stereotypical femininity:

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