Archive | September, 2015

Strong Female Characters Part 4- I’ll get you, my pretty!

24 Sep

Sorry for the delay – I wrote most of this a while ago, but this flue/bronchitis will not let up. I finally have paid real money for real medicine, as well as gone to the health store for a placebo. I have no way to determine a control group, but I’d like the other medics to stop looking at me like a test subject for chest auscultation if we get a student. You can hear it without a stethoscope, grumble grumble.

A few months ago I read an article about Why Fiction Needs more “Ugly” Heroines. There were aspects I agreed about, and ones I didn’t, but I figured it’s some food for thought before moving on. I don’t 100% agree with the author, because like I’ll go into below: constantly reminding us that a heroine is plain, ugly or whatever, unless it’s a plot point, is about as obnoxious as reminding us how beautiful she is.

The romance is there because it SELLS. That’s why I get bitchy when I’m promised an adventure and we’re focusing on will-they-won’t they. I know there’s cross-genre appeal, but romance tends to almost always be happy, whereas my favourite stuff tends to be hard-hitting and downright cruel.

There’s a difference between beauty and attraction. Allegedly, in general people are attracted to confidence. When someone becomes more dear to us, we find them more attractive. However, we’re going for the shallowest of the shallows today – judging someone solely on their appearance, and why this is actually kind of hard with the written word.

I’m not going to waste time talking the beauty myth – you come up with your own conclusions. We can pull out waist-hip ratios, beauty masks, they could get attention by merit being exotic. Personally, I’d never say someone was ‘good looking in an exotic way’ because to me, that just means your viewpoint character isn’t that familiar with ‘other’, but that’s a topic for a new day.

Generally speaking, universally, humans find the following things attractive: symmetry, indicators of health, youth, and occasionally, things that strike us as interesting but not grotesque. For instance, a generically pretty face might actually be kind of boring if we were to stick a bunch of the same level of good-looking people together – sure, some variation, but after a while, everyone’s pretty so no one sticks out.

Beauty has both its objective and subjective values. Let’s look at a bunch of white brunette actresses. Objective in that no one would argue that these women are ‘gross’ but subjective that we peel over magazines about who wore what best, if someone gained five pounds, I like her hair but ew her nose, etc.

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Any of these women fit the profile of an attractive woman, but not only are we looking at different bone structures, eye shape, body types, different people would focus on different things. And obviously, describing these women would depend on the book’s style, as well as the viewpoint doing the describing.

As a reader though, even if I don’t get a description, I start to form in my mind what the character looks like, and it might be totally different than how you imagine them. Say I describe a woman as about twenty wearing a regency-era british gown, voluptuous, girl next door pretty, dark hair and a round face. Odds are, if I were to sit twenty people down and handed out art supplies, we’d have twenty different interpretations, with the exception of the people who had no idea and just started copying their neighbour. Is the woman’s hair curly, full, thin? How big and what shape are her eyes? When I said voluptuous, how many assumed fat or pudgy, and how many assumed hourglass? Who just drew big boobs? What are her lips shaped like? How tall is she?

Personally, I don’t mind a character being generically good looking because when I pick up most titles, the characters are usually young, and youth is an indicator of beauty. Don’t get me wrong – not everyone is a supermodel if she just takes off the glasses. In some of my unpublished books, characters get ragged on because they’ve been in the bush for weeks and look the part. However, most people can clean up and have their ‘best’. Adaptation into other media aside where ‘hollywood fat’ is a thing, where a character’s repeatedly shown (or at least treated) like they’re fat.

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I like this movie – although I will never understand why the one on the right is ‘fat’.

Is it fair? No. Should we have a variety? Sure – but I honestly can’t say we can win a war here as I can’t control how you interpret a character’s description. I think unless we actually make beauty or ugliness a plot point for discussion, most people will imagine the character however they want, even if I have official character portraits in the book or a website. As a reader though, I’d rather know the spirit of the character and one or two of their more noticeable features, like perhaps they have a piercing gaze or a mannerism. And given how beauty has its subjective components as well, this could be really hard to handle in fiction.

A character who is objectified and not treated like a person because of their physical appearance is in a much different category than a character who is revered for their looks. You can have a lot of fun with this – for instance, let’s say you’re writing about a culture where beauty is seen as vanity and that the society attacks this person, meanwhile hypocritically desiring those same attributes. In this kind of story, you can see it escalating because individuals would hate themselves, and hate the person who has let’s just say has ‘beauty’ more. This is interesting and there’s a reason for the character to be obsessed about their looks. Less so, is yet another pretty-but-doesn’t know it heroine fishing for complements while she’s humble-bragging.

There are lots of stories where the heroines aren’t beautiful. My favourite novel, Till We Have Faces, is a retelling of Eros and Psyche from the perspective of Psyche’s ugly sister Orual. Orual is at first defined by her ugly features, which is in keeping with the original story and is explored. Pratchett’s Witches series in general, two of the main characters are older ladies, and Magrat is usually not described in a flattering way (I have only read the first of the Tiffany Aching series – I have no idea how her looks are treated in later novels). But, as with the previous article, pretty shiny things and sexy things sell, so we have to accept that part of having things adapted (and very few of us authors have much say in the cover of the book, let alone who is directing, making the score, etc.) is that we do lose some control at some point.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important to sometimes clarify what a character looks like, and state certain things. I find this can be more difficult when talking about different races in fantasy when words like “South-east Asian” no longer work as they’re on a made up planet. I would probably pitch a fit if ToO ever gets adapted and they casted someone other than an aboriginal woman as Naguset, but if they found the perfect actress who was tall rather than the petite woman I described, that wouldn’t bother me. But even if we look at the article and say “we need more plain heroines with a variety of body types’ I have a hard time with this because different body types can be attractive, even if the media tries to frump them up.

Almost done with these posts – Part 5: Tokenism and Final Thoughts. Hopefully I’ll wrap this stuff up and not get too off topic. Got a schwack load of new books to R&R, and I just did a swap for the last part of a children’s book I wrote (which the beta incidentally doesn’t care for, but it’s just proof he doesn’t tell me what I want to hear). My confidence isn’t 100% back, but I’m hoping I’m going to be sending out a few manuscripts in the coming months.

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If I’m Being Honest: Strong Female Characters Part 3: Slut Shaming and Dressing for Empowerment

14 Sep

Sorry for the delay – I’m having what I’m going to call a flu turned bronchitis. I keep waiting for days when I’m more coherent. NOPE. And I was going to tackle beauty here too, but this is a big topic, and walls of text are scary, so expect beauty in a day or so.

Let’s first define slut shaming. I’m not going to talk about the politics of The Scarlet Letter, the tragedy of Dido or even the redemption of Fantine. That stuff is above my pay grade for starters, and there’s no way in this article I could actually talk about every aspect on women, sex, and sexuality. I could dedicate a career writing about one small aspect of the topic. I don’t care if you’re an everything goes kind of person or you have extremely conservative viewpoints, the point remains that in every society, you have what is considered modest, and what is considered risque.
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Slut shaming, here, is going to be about the character who exists for the audience to hate, not the hooker with a heart of gold. The almost always female character who does things that we’re supposed to not like her for. She may or may not be a physically beautiful in a different way than the designated heroine (I’ve often seen it as a complement – a voluptuous raven haired courtesan to the lithe and golden haired maiden) when she flirts or kisses or goes after a man, it’s because it’s skanky. When the designated heroine/love interest does it, it’s pure, motivated out of love, something greater, etc. All bets are off if it’s the villain’s daughter or she has some sort of characterization other than “here to steal your man”.

There’s probably stuff that’s trigger-worthy to mention. I see the fall out from exploitation all the time in RL, so while I’ve learned to keep it civil as with the title, I am trying to be honest. I make it a policy to not talk about specifics of my job here.

The short answer to slut shaming in fiction is that it more often than not backfires. I’ve read books where it’s almost like we’re supposed to hate the slut, but I can’t because she’s being active. When it’s almost seems like it’s wish-fulfillment that tragedy befalls this character, I can’t help but wonder what the narrator thinks of people in general.

I’ll exemplify this in the character of Marcie Miller in Hush,Hush; a book I could lambast all day. Marcie exists to be what Nora is not – and while I have only read the first book, I’ve read enough online from like-minded people that pretty much confirms that Marcie exists to make Nora look like a good person. Marcie likes sex, and seems to have self-respect and have people meet her on her terms, unlike Nora, who is pretty much being taken advantage of by from what I can remember: Her best friend, her love interest, the guy who wants to kill her, homeless ladies, waitresses, her teachers – I could go on for a while. At one point, Nora dresses provocatively to play detective and get information – even to ask herself before she goes out, where is her inner Marcie Miller?

If you don’t believe that maybe this character doesn’t exist to be hated, I invite you to check out her wiki.

But let’s backtrack to the characterization of the slut being someone using sex to get what she wants. Isn’t this subjective, especially when we hear the argument for “Dressed like that, she was asking for it!” ? “Dressed like what?” because go to different areas, and showing too much skin is showing any skin – the geisha showed their necks.

In my eyes, the victim is never to blame, even if they are as dumb as Nora. I will caution people against doing stupid things that put them into harm’s way (such as going into a known gang bar in rival gang colors) but here’s the other thing – how little control does this other person have if the mere sight of a girl dressed less-than-modestly is akin to a grand seductress?

Let’s take an extremely basic story – the heroine has her designated love interest, but he’s seduced by some temptress, only to learn the error of his ways to recant, then he’s welcomed back by his pure first love. The other woman is to blame.
Well, why did buddy stray? Is he in such poor control over himself that he loses all control of his faculties the minute something easy shows up? Why is this on the seductress, but not the seduced? And don’t get me wrong – this can be hilarious if it’s making fun of the nincompoop who can’t recognize that’s a rabbit in drag.

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But if this is done seriously – why would the heroine want such a weak willed fellow? And don’t get me wrong – I’d be pissed off if some woman was snooping around trying to take my boyfriend/husband/slap-slap-kiss interest. Not nearly as pissed off as I’d be with him, mind you.

This is akin to making a harmless villain. Your hero is only as strong as the obstacles he overcomes. And while I think it’s normal to want to quell the masses who are still on Team!Jacob and pair the spares so that everyone lives happily ever after, it’s okay to let your audience feel that the hero picked wrong – but if the basis of your story is “which one will he pick” and in the eleventh hour, debase one of the choices as inferior because she’s a slut or did something where she can never be redeemed, that’s lazy writing.

And WHY can she never be redeemed? This might be my religion talking – again – but even if the character had consentual sex she has since regretted, how is she an inferior character now that she’s maybe learned something? Where I stand, we’re all fallen from grace and not perfect, and I can’t relate to perfect characters very well. I’ll mention Naguset from Tower of Obsidian here – the woman is implied to have lived through horrific abuse, and at one point tries to seduce Aaron because the only thing she has going for her is her ability to please men and he can keep her safe from what she considers worse men. Aaron politely declines, mostly because he was never in any of the quest for his personal gain – even though he keeps hoping that his secret-beloved, Aoife, notices his noble heart while they save Kale. (He’s also a bit of a do-gooder and bad with women in general). The scene plays out with him letting her touch his rough hands to know that he’s never going to lay a stray hand on her – and the guy’s a big strong warrior, she’s a half-starved tiny woman; he can do pretty much whatever he wants and no one cares about the abused brown woman. She doesn’t have to do a thing to earn his protection. Naguset never asked for the quest, she got stolen and dragged half way across the world twice, and life as a thrall sucks. Her initial goal was survival and returning home, but after that scene, she had genuine respect for Aaron, so it made her actions reflective of what she remembered before her ordeal – in trying to match true nobility for nobility, she saved his butt what, three times before they even get to the tower? (And if you’ve read the book, Aoife’s not in it for the higher good – she’s pissed off with Kale. Saving him is a by product.)

So what about the dressing for empowerment bit? You know – the one that coincidently looks like they’re fulfilling a sexy fantasy. I’m not going to say no, not ever – after all, Princess Leia killed Jabba the Hutt by strangling him with her slave chain.
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But for all that goes right, we have much much more that’s basically there to pander.

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I’m really not an expert, but let’s look at women who enter fields such as modeling, dancing in music videos, and even porn to make a killing. They’re business women, and they know that the images convey more than just displaying body parts, when it gets into themes or selling ideas, quite often the image of a beautiful woman helpless can stir an emotional response of anyone. I remember going to a lecture about how many beautiful dead women were on CSI on prime time and being thankful I hardly watched TV.

Not all of it is done in poor taste, but more often than not the model, actor, whoever, enters and needs to fulfill a role – they need to fit the sample size, they need to project an idea, and it’s about using a person to showcase their ‘art’. I think one of the reasons I got into writing rather than acting was because while an actor can rebrand the character slightly and make it their own, the writer was the one selling the theme. Sure – a director can get ahold of the story and change the intent completely, which is where we get people complaining how different it was from the book when things start to get lost in adaptation. While the actor might be the person who brings in the audience and they’re who we remember, we all have our favourite actors in the show we despise – they can only showcase their talent if the medium’s worth watching.

We also have to consider the reality that while you could argue burlesque is an art, but at some point all of it is a business, to the point where people have to be imported because the locals don’t want to be exploited. At this point, it’s not about empowerment. I would argue, like modeling and acting, for every porn star who has a really good go of things and is happy, socking away money (for knowledge that they can’t exactly get a job as a teacher easily in their fourties) there’s always going to be numerous people who don’t have that exclusivity and, if we are honest, often times porn is selling a fantasy that it’s okay to objectify these women because that’s their job. For more reading, how about Female Chauvenist Pigs by Ariel Levy? It’s been a few years since I read the book, but going into the politics of playing into fantasies is important, as I for one am not convinced that the pornographic industry will ever going away, and we need to talk about it honestly.

The erotic business doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and we see things trickle down into more mainstream media on a regular basis. When you start saying stuff like “everyone wants to be a pussycat doll” you’re making some grandiose claims you better be able to back up. Even saying “We represent girl power!” and mostly just have the spice girls dance around, it’s sending out a conflicting message.

Have I said in conversations that I think singers are whoring themselves out? Absolutely – I said some of them are going the way of soft core porn years ago. And let’s be honest – am I wrong?

I’m taking for granted that every one reading this is of sound mind to know the difference between tolerating something and embracing something. Just because you don’t think it’s wrong to wear miniskirts and haltertops, it might not be your style. And there are times when you do make yourself more attractive, and times when you are using sex to sell a product or an idea. And, even if halters and minis are your thing, there is a time and a place and I certainly hope you wear them because you like them.

In short, we can rebrand something until we’re blue in the face, about what it’s supposed to mean and how the audience just doesn’t understand. Just expect some of us to be all like, “Not for me, thanks.” And go and write and push against the tide where sex sells and the boring ‘ideas’ take too long to get across.

It’s okay to have an opinion about utilizing and objectifying the human body to promote an idea, even if you don’t agree with what it seems like other people are saying. If we’re to smile and go, “it’s all good” we’re probably not going to be completely honest with the power of media that surrounds us. However, when we start to subject people to the idea that their worth is based on what they’ve done, rather than their personhood, we start to negate a person’s inherent value. In short, if you need to solve a love triangle by demonizing a character, maybe you can refocus on building up the designated pair’s chemistry instead.

Strong Female Characters, Part 2: Oppression, Oppressors, and Aha! A Plot!

3 Sep

1392346901-0Sorry for the delay – I’m finally getting over that flu, and I basically took three days off to go camping/kayaking. Yes, I was sick for it but the weather’s been beautiful, and I can stand the fresh air when I’m hacking. And I was getting ready to post, and then work called and I can’t say no to the easy money.

I’m not in women’s studies and know very little about other cultures. For the sake of this article, oppression will be beyond gender roles, to the point where a person is effected either fiscally or in some manner that effects their livelihood. For instance, let’s say I get a new chauvinist supervisor that I have to continuously work with. I might have to put up with some comments here and there, but my livelihood is not affected because the union would put a stop to it ASAP. To me, this is not oppression but dealing with a person and the long term effects are not institutionalized. We don’t live in a perfect world, and part of the reality in living in a free multicultural society.

Last year I took a day course and a topic I wanted to bring up was handling the “hard topics” in YA. The instructor basically said, “You can handle whatever topic you want, just don’t get all educational”. I was coming off a night shift, so I didn’t argue as I wasn’t going to be that coherent. I’ve read lots of books that did teach me stuff and some, dare I say preachy, even in ways I didn’t agree, but the writing was good. When I’m that entertained, I don’t notice it’s propaganda the first time.

Anyway, if that when you try to be educational, most of us in that beginner phase of writing can’t handle the most sensitive topics, or at least I couldn’t, because my early writing was about as graceful as a hippo doing ballet.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but when I read Narnia or Tortall and we got to Obvious Real Life Issues, I was all like “Pfffft… please.” Ironically, Prachett’s Discworld, when I was like a decade older, has lots of those big ideas that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I was busy laughing so I didn’t notice unless they were slapping me in the face.

My argument therefore, is make your writing good enough that it doesn’t backfire as an argument for the other side. An aside is that even if we consider all fiction to be entertainment, no work exists in a vacuum. Hence my reference in the writing class – even if I’m writing silly nonsense, I think I have more of a responsibility, especially if I’m writing towards kids, YA and potentially even special needs adults, to make sure I’m not teaching any really bad lessons by accident.

For instance, even though I haven’t read it nor plan to, the final book in the Twilight Series has a very anti-abortion message in it. Now, I’ll throw out that as a healthcare professional, I don’t judge anybody – I sit on the pro-life side, but let’s not focus on me besides ballparking where I sit on the issue. Twilight brings up a topic that divides people, and to further complicate things, the situation is not normal – for whatever reason, no humans and vamps having done the deed resulted in a pregnancy (or there’s like one other in the entire world…) and as a result it’s killing Bella. This is not what I’d argue as a good argument for your cause, even if the desired result is to make your heroine look like a martyr who really sacrificed nothing.

This is an instance where the situation makes it look like strawman has a point.

And we can’t treat every subgenre the same, either – the historical fantasy genre has a different game than alternative history.

For instance, The Song of the Lioness Quartett fits – it’s set in a fantasy world, very similar to our own, where MC Alanna has to pretend to be a boy to become a knight. The story of Mulan doesn’t fit, she is a historical person(sorta?). Octavia E. Butler’s Wildseed Series almost fits, but doesn’t – yes, characters are being used for breeding. This applies to both genders, even though it could be argued to be worse for the women, it’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

We don’t have to look far back into history to see not only women, but people by virtue of their ethnicity or class being treated like chattel, denied rights, and personhood. This is happening now and I doubt it will stop any time soon – we can go as far as ‘out there’ as human trafficking or as local as domestic abuse. You can go on netflex or youtube and look up documentaries on honour killings or some of the real struggles not limited to gender. And, seeing what I see on a daily basis, you do not have to necessarily leave your neighbourhood. For the sake of this entry, I will not really be discussing oppression towards men, but there is a reality there as well – historically, it was not uncommon to kill all the men, even the children, and take the women as slaves. If you look into the Book of Exodus, Pharoah commanded all the boy babes be killed at a given time to prevent future uprisings.

I think it’s perfectly normal to look at a historical time period and explore maybe what it meant to be a woman in the regency era. In general though, as a reader, I’m going to ask, “Why does this real-life theme need to be explored in an advanced society that can master space travel, eliminated poverty, and has a three day work week?” Unless the point is the utopia’s really a dystopia. The quick answer is window dressing – that you can easily have a plot and basically reiterate what’s been done before. This is when I make the resting bitch face all squinty, because I don’t like it when science fiction and fantasy are treated like shallow genres.

This a real life issue where people are facing much worse issues than being forced to wear fancy dresses. It’s extremely irksome when the heroine doesn’t ‘want’ to wear it, but it makes her look beautiful – in a way, this fulfills the “Oh, she doesn’t know what she wants” and makes her look less in control of her own body. I’ll talk more about this with the next update. What makes me feel for your heroine is the consequences of her actions – if she defies the social order but there’s no real consequences, unless there’s a serious sense of no one taking her seriously and ‘It’s just Sally being Sally LOL” I don’t think she’s showing strength against adversity. If this is about the culture, have real conflict between the characters – maybe have the character wants to chose her own destiny, but feel torn because she feels some sort of obligation to someone she loves.

Now, the quick and dirty with this oppression story is usually the woman warrior – and let’s assume that this chick can genuinely fight, that’s not the issue. Assuming that war isn’t a bunch of sitting in wet trenches, festering wounds, and having your limbs cut off due to gangrene because that’s just gross and it’s my fantasy, dammit.
Violence looks awesome on screen – I’m not in the military, but from my experience, talking with guys and gals who have been, it’s organized chaos on the battle field, and then, when you’re not fighting, it’s shitty shitty camping unless you’re going back to an established base, and even then, it’s not exactly luxury for your average grunt. Let’s keep it to a very PG rating for the sake of simplicity and we assume all battles are the same. Ever be the only girl in your canoe trip and have to use the toilet? Latrines can be a luxury. (Pro Tip – Make her an OFFICER, life sucks less).

If we’re going to be really honest, war sucks and then you have to deal with all the bodies. From the perspective of a young grunt, the idea of his sister being at home, with shelter, with probably some choice in the menu, it seems better than at the very least watching your friends die. Remember what I said about potentially arguing and proving the other side right? If you make the story all about idealized combat and a generic girl power message, it doesn’t really convince the other side of anything other than a, “Can I play too?” who’s likely to run off and tattle to mom when you hurt her feelings. Rape is real, violence and brutality are real – slavery is real. By all means, discuss, but do your research.

I’m not suggesting the Stepford Wife scenario is anything more than a gilded cage, but when you’re deep sea diving, sometime the cage looks great. I’m not saying never explore the theme, there are plenty of situations why it can work. In Octavia E. Butler’s Parable Duology, in the second book the Earthseed Colonists are captured by a Christian sect, their children stolen and they’re forced into slavery with shock collars and the women are raped, despite the fact that the sect clearly forbids fornication.

Why does this work? My guess, is because I am a Christian and I’ve seen how people wield religion like a sword, and while I don’t agree with painting everyone in broad strokes, the point of the Christians taking over the followers of Earthseed was ‘it’s for your own good’ meanwhile, they can’t follow their own rules.

Why should we care about the mentality of the other side? If I create a generic villain who is evil and represses people for no reason, it’s hard to pull off. Yes, these people are real and do exist – some people just like to watch other people suffer, but they’re generally not the top dog who schemes his way to power. If we consider the more Machiavellian method, it’s that it’s easier to control people with fear than love, but that’s a whole other topic. It would really depend on the theme of the novel, but in general, I like a complicated villain because they’re interesting – and with the Earthseed example, the “It’s for your own good” is twisted. I’m forced to not only acknowledged what’s on the page, but use my brain and think, at least to acknowledge they preach one thing and practice another. But not all villains have to be complicated – take a look at the main villain in The Book of Eli – what he wants is power and control. If there’s no sense of the lengths he’ll go to, we can easily create a strawman, or a caricature of what we’re supposed to despise. Don’t develop him, or worse, give the hero questionable morality, then all of a sudden, you get people like me reading your book and asking why we’re cheering for the hero other then the fact that the author has established he’s the hero. Once again, we have the bible as a means of either repression or emancipation – but we see life under the guy without the bible. Imagine if he takes a book of hope, and twists it to his own end.

Regardless of what you believe, we all know that religion can be used to control people and the protestant reformation – among many reasons – was partially a result of the desire for the bible to be interpreted by individuals rather than the church as a whole (once again, big, loaded topic). I’d argue this to be more horrible for the believer than the non-believer. (Oppression is bad when it’s coming from ‘other’; I’d argue it’s worse when it’s internalized and coming from home – consider Prachett’s Monstrous Regiment – in the end, it’s the women who’ve been oppressing the women, the men all kind of go along with it because the highest ranking soldiers are all women crossdressing and being brutal… it’s funny, okay? If you want to read some stuff about gender roles, Prachett touches on it a lot).

What about a villain who oppresses women because of their tempting sexuality? Once again, this would depend on the type of villain in question – if the guy is like Claude Frollo from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it’s really more about him being holier than the rest of us and he needs the temptress to be put away. If the villain is more from a Mad Max type world, hording of women might be the same as hording other resources, objectifying women to the same level as water or food, where maybe it’s more about him lording it over other men that he has excess while they have none. This not only depends on what your heroine is up against, but also the theme of your novel. Honestly, the only thing that irks me about this IN FICTION is when the heroine is so beautiful she makes otherwise normal men who wouldn’t act this way redonkulous, but we’ll get to so beautiful it’s a curse next update.

I’m not saying you can’t have oppression story lines work – as I’ve said earlier in this post, people have been oppressed and will probably continue to be oppressed. I’m saying that your hero overcoming a villain who’s not all that either complicated or dangerous is therefore relying on the narration to keep reminding us how awesome they are for it to work. By all means, go to a historical era where lines are not only spread on gender, but on class and religion, but do your research. If you’re able to have the rules as you like them, ask yourself why the rules are the way they are – if you’re pushing any new boundaries. Being honest with your own work can only serve to make the story stronger. Giving us a generic Girl Power! message doesn’t help people like me who are in a male dominated field.

I’ll put another aside her – while most people would agree that things like cooking, sewing, cleaning and managing a household are typically your culturally ‘pink’ jobs, I’m going to point out most dudes in the military I know know how to feed themselves, can sew their own buttons and they can press their pants. When you’re thinking of traditional gender roles, also consider what’s essential skills everyone should know. You can have a traditional homesteading wife who minds the home while the menfolk are away, raising babies, canning produce, and shooting cattle rustlers while not breaking a sweat. A character can be traditionally feminine and strong, and someone can be going against gender roles and can be an awful role model.

Next Up: Part 3 – Dressing Sexy for the Empowerment, where we’re going to get into Beauty as a Curse, and Slut Shaming