One of my reviewers recently mentioned that they liked that I have a strong female lead. This came when I was thinking about how many men aren't sure what makes a good man in this day and age. I mean it took women already 200 years to figure out who we are and we haven't even finished the process though I see more and more women happy with who they are in their skin regardless of whether they are girly or not. The Manly Man has had such a bad rep lately that men are a bit confused on what they should be. Many men because they are afraid of their own insecurities can't handle a strong woman.
In my books I always have a strong female lead but I also don't water down the men either. I just make them men who aren't intimidated by smart or savvy women. In this article I want to talk about females in literature and why it is so important that they should kick butt. Especially if they are part of a love interest.
In the Past
From Jane Austin to today many fiction that deals with women sees them as only interested in securing a 'man with a fortune' many of the women show a bit of wit and smarts but none of this really catches the man. Instead, their wits usually gets them into trouble the man then has to rescue them from. Reinforcing the idea that women shouldn't think too hard and that they should let men solve all their problems. You still have this particular character pop up in modern literature of a girl in need of a good man and who just gets into trouble when they think too much. Usually with the man arriving in a perfectly Deus Ex Machina way and saves the day by being there at the perfect time. I once read a story where the guy only showed up after the bad guy had done his worse and it was actually a breath of fresh air and made me realise how often the man arrives at the right time.
Time of Transition
To get anyone to take female characters seriously it had to be really out there like Margaret Atwood's The handmaid's tale.
They had to be in your face otherwise people would have just written them off. Some are very controversial and can screw with your mind. Like when I read Sharon Green. She can screw with my head but in a way that made me want to scream that it was all wrong so, so wrong. I take my hat off to these writers but they also make me feel uncomfortable and the kind of books I like to read are light and escapist. All the women in these kinds of books are often a bit monstrous. Super exaggerated in their abilities and their experiences to highlight the subtle way society pushes women into a certain role.
Media and its influence
No matter how much we say we don't let media influence who we are as a woman we are. Of course our childhood is mostly influenced by our family and our surroundings but the pressure to conform comes from every angle. It is why men don't prance around in skirts. Shucks I have a friend who likes to wear a kilt and people always mock him when he does. Usually as a joke but that is what I mean.
I was listening to a podcast about Tamora Pierce's Alanna series and how she didn't end up with the Prince. Because he didn't want to marry the knight he wanted Alanna to change and become a princess for him and he didn't even think about all the sacrifices she had gone through to be a knight in the first place. Alanna actually had several love interests in her story. The one after the Prince was a red haired martial artist guy who could seriously kick butt but Alanna found that he was focussed more on his own career than sharing it with her. He wouldn't teach her what he knew and told her off when she put herself in dangerous circumstances even though that was her job. That leads to George. I love George. He was the lord of Thieves and loved his mother. He kept Alanna's secrets all the time she studied to be a knight and taught her how to fight dirty to deal with macho men at court who wanted to take advantage of the smallest squire. George eventually gives up his life of crime and marries Alanna. He is pretty much a stay at home dad because he can work from home while his wife travels around as a knight for the kingdom. He has no magic, no kingdom, no special abilities except maybe breaking locks. I grew up with characters like Alanna and it didn't surprise me she ended up with George. I always thought the prince wasn't for her and was so pleased when she ended up with George. Because I grew up knowing that a good man is a man who can let you be who you are without it changing just who they are. When I was in high school there was this girl without much self esteem. She would put down all her friends around her to make herself seem better in comparison. But life doesn't work like that. You are not better when all the people around you are less.
Just who would you want to marry in your fairytale of your life. The Prince who wants you to fit a tiny little pigeon hole of what is all right for a woman. The strong macho man who can't handle it when a woman can look after herself because his idea of being a man is looking after a woman or do you want a man who can be himself and let you be yourself and yet together you can be so much more. Safe and partners.
If you are a writer please write women who can kick butt and if you are a reader please let your feet vote on which books should be on the best seller list and let those women be strong. It breaks my heart when we have books like 50 Shades of grey which teach women that as long as a man has money he can do anything he likes to you. All he wanted from her was for her to change. A good male lead is not one that wants the woman to change to fit his idea of a woman.