Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The System

I want to talk to you about women in Fantasy. From the Kick-Ass Heroine of Urban Fantasy to the Strong-Minded Woman of Epic Fantasy there seems to be a vogue on for women that are Taking Names and bucking The System. And it's kind of annoying me.

Don't get me wrong. There's some really great stuff out there of that exact variety. I, for one, love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels. And Steampunk pirate chicks are just plain cool. 

But sometimes it seems like authors create social systems just so their female character/s can tromp on it. Or, worse, they've stuck their characters into a world with the gender roles we've come to expect for no other reason than the fact that its normal for fantasy and have their female characters prance about high-kicking the established system with barely a nod to the fact that this is going on. If you want to have a world where women use swords and curse and do all sorts of what-have-you then do it. It's fantasy. You can make it that way. Really. And if you don't want that to be your world, then how about seeing some consequences. 

I'd like to see some strong voices from female characters who are living in The System. Dealing with it. Hell, even using it. Because, quite frankly, even in our days of Womens Lib and Feminist ideals, that's what most of us do. The System is different for us than it was, say, 100 years ago but that doesn't change the fact that we're still living in it, and, on a day to day basis, doing very little to challenge it. 

There are some examples in this in contemporary fiction, mostly, I think from the epic/machinations of power sub genre. But a lot of these women are either appendages to men or, quite frankly, manipulative witches. I'd like to see a woman of the straight up heroine variety deal with living in The System. I'd like to see what that means for her. And, okay, so maybe she's gonna have to high-kick it a little. After all, isn't that what heroes do?


Anonymous said...

You make a great point there, Erica. It's irritating how authors put a female protagonist in a particular setting but then that character is not made to strongly interact with it (the system) and make an impact on it.

Funny thing is how years ago (correct me if I'm wrong)a tough fighting heroine was seen as a strong, feminist character because she was shown taking on many similar characteristics as those of the traditional male hero yet keeping some feminine qualities. But then over the years these characteristics became formulaic and therefore stalled strong character development for female protagonists.


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