Friday, January 10, 2014

When will we stop hating on our female leads? (Or, IMO, females in general.)

You know what I see when people rag on our female characters? 

I see them ragging on females. PERIOD. 

Your character is strong and confident, she takes the reins and rides her own horse, saves her own ass.
Someone, somewhere is going to think she's manly. She's a bitch. She's not relatable. She's too tough.

Your character is possibly a bit weaker than her male counterpart (or maybe just pretends to be), the perfect damsel in distress, waiting for rescue.
Someone, somewhere is going to think she's pathetic, weak, and the perfect Mary Sue. Or, more currently, she's Bella Swan. She's soft.

You know what? When I read Twilight all those years ago, I loved Bella Swan. I related to her. She was just like me when I was that age.

Stupid decisions, chaotic, all-consuming love, mistake after mistake after mistake . . . ME.

Damsel in distress, where's my handsome prince? Who will rescue me now? . . . Oh, look at that, ME AGAIN.

So who's to say that the only female lead worth reading, worth relating to, rooting for, loving, becoming, is a strong, kickass heroine who takes no prisoners and doesn't need no stinking man? (Sorry, Troop Beverly Hills reference there.)

Why is she the only thing readers/reviewers/editors/publishers/agents seem to want to see these days?

That's not who *I* relate to. That's not who *I* was as a teen. That's not who *I* am now.

So what's the deal?

I'm the mother of a young girl, so I understand the need, the desire to raise strong women. REALLY, I DO. But you know what? That's real life, not stories--hat's MY JOB AS HER MOTHER. If she wants to read nothing but fairytales where the beautiful, flawless Princess gets rescued every. single. time by the handsome prince, SO BE IT. It is my job to teach her the difference between fantasy and reality, fiction and non.

I want her to read books where women are real. I want her to read books where women are flawed, be that whether they are too strong, and don't let anyone in because they're so busy proving themselves, or they are weak and rely on a man to save them. Or, maybe they're somewhere in between. Maybe they can rescue themselves but choose not to. Maybe they cry too much. Maybe they flip-flop between lovers. Maybe they make so many stupid decisions, its hard to love them. Maybe they never know which end is up. Maybe they dwell, spin on negative issues that arise. Maybe they push past them quickly and with ease.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

MAYBE THEY ARE JUST WOMEN. Women who love, laugh, cry, hurt, lead, follow . . . exist. Maybe they are just beautiful women for all their faults, all their magic, all their strengths.

Because that's who I am. That's who my daughter will be.

Flawed, magical, strong, weak, beautiful, sad, happy, loved, scared, fearless . . . WOMAN.

This post started because of a mini Twitter rant I went on this morning. I'd seen a tweet that irritated me for the simple fact that it ragged on what many think of as a typical YA trope: "girl meets boy + girl needs saving = boy comes to rescue." (Um, PS, I love this trope.)

My first tweet read like this:
"Ugh, seriously. So tired of people judging books (esp YA) because the female lead isn't a badass who saves herself. NOT ALL OF US ARE/WERE."

And the tweets continued, and your responses were awesome, and I love you, and I am clearly not alone. 

I want to close out this post with a recent bit of feedback I received recently. I'm going to change the names, because it can apply to SO MANY of our books/manuscripts"

[male lead] was the rescuer and [female lead] doesn’t play enough of a role in her own salvation.


Guess what? ME AGAIN. 

And you know what else? Just because certain things didn't happen for you as a teen, doesn't mean they didn't happen for others. Just because you don't "need" a man in your life now, doesn't mean other women don't. 

And don't think for a second that those of us who love the gushy, romantic notion of being rescued can't rescue our damn selves. We just don't care to. 

I won't judge you for killing your own spiders, so don't judge me when I scream and wait for my husband to come running. 

So, shoot me for this rant if you must, but PLEASE stop ragging on female leads.

You're essentially just ragging on WOMEN. 

Where's the feminism now?


  1. Perfect! My MC is a flawed female who finds balance in her flawed male love interest.

  2. Admittedly I want to see weak heroines grow into strong ones. But then, that was me. I was weak and then I stopped waiting for someone to save me and started saving myself and everyone else too (worth noting in this that I'm a veteran so my views are skewed). But mostly I just want to see change. If the character is the same person she is at the end as she was at the beginning, I feel ripped off. :(

    1. I'm replying to this and your comment on Facebook: I'm glad you noted series, not just books. Many heroines need way more than one catastrophe (or one book/installment of a series) to become the stronger version of themselves.

      I know that I had to survive many hurdles to become who I am today, and in ten years from now, I'll look back on many more trials that made me who I will be then. (Does that make sense? lol)

    2. Absolutely!! i am the sum of all my experiences, not just one, and I want to see that transformation. If you rush it too fast it's not believable and I'll drop the book like a hot cake. And as long as they are not victims who allow themselves to be repeatedly used and never ever stand up for themselves, I'm satisfied. Even Bella who started off as weak, grew to be the one strong enough to save them all in the end. THAT was a character arc worth reading (even though I still loathe edward. #teamjacoballtheway)

  3. So I used to be guilty of this, then I got frustrated about the kickass heroine being the only valid heroine type. Now I find that the problem is the language we use. Male characters can be strong or weak or and number of other discriptors. But female characters are only strong or weak and if the are strong they are good characters and if they are weak they are bad characters. I think we need to think in terms of whether or not they are valid characters. A valid character is simply relate able to their audience, and that they grow as a "person" through out the book. I don't like Bella I have strong opinions about her, but that does mean I don't think she is completely an invalid character. There are too many people who relate to her.

  4. I just saw your blog on the side of my Facebook page as an ad. I absolutely love this. I've been thinking about this so much lately, and how much it annoys me too. The main character in my book is, I'd say, a combination of the two extremes, but I relate to the "Bella" protagonists more as well because of what you said. I don't identify with "kick-butt" heroines with virtually no weaknesses. Plus, what little girl hasn't dreamt of that beautiful boy coming to her rescue at some point? :) Writers should write what they love, and this is what I love, so I write and read it! I would love to re-blog this sometime! :) On another note, I love how you mentioned how the "Damsel in Distress" stereotype is actually more realistic to read about, because no one is "indestructible."

  5. I think it all goes back to that whole idea (I'm sure it's a lovely worded quote somewhere, but I don't know how it goes) that everything someone says is a glimpse into who they are. So someone who rags on girls for being too take-charge is saying, "I don't want to be told I'm too butch," or maybe, "one time someone told me that I'm a bitch because of how take-charge I am." Someone who rags on girls who are rescued by a guy is saying, "I don't want to feel weak." We most dislike the characteristics in others that we see when we look in the mirror.

    It's a general problem we have as women that we criticize one another. But mostly, we're doing it to try and make ourselves feel better. Another quote that I won't get right goes something like, "No one ever lifted themselves up by tearing another down," and the reason we need to read that quote and think about it is because we're all prone to doing it.

    To be honest, I'm tired of reading romances where no matter how hard the heroine works, in the end, the hero has to swoop in and save her. You know what? I just don't read romances any more. Instead, I read other books, ones that I'm pretty sure I'll like, and I talk about them instead of stomping around yelling about romances. (I have stomped around and yelled about that maybe once after reading a Nalini Singh book that somehow got under my skin. But maybe in one small rant in an afternoon, not as a general rule.)

    This post is a great reminder that we all need to be careful what we say, especially when we're emotional.