As readers of this blog assuredly already know, I’m writing a fantasy series. In the early books, there is only one female point-of-view character out of four—and she’s a weak person. Not a weak character, I hope, but definitely a person who doesn’t measure up to the current feminist ideal. If this character of mine, who is the ruler of a country (however inept she may be at that job) were male, there would be no need to discuss issues of feminism, internalized misogyny, etc. She—he—would simply have been a character with a particular set of flaws and challenges.
Not all male characters, even PoVs, are expected to be heroic. To write a weak man is not a crime against the male race. Why should it be a crime against feminism for a female character to be real?
Did you see what I did there? It is still a transgression for a woman to be real; to be anything less than the embodiment of the current ideal. I believe this set of limitations hampers us as writers—and it diminishes the experience of readers. It should be a question, not a foregone conclusion, my female PoV’s somehow rising into heroism. It should not be unacceptable if she does not: because as writers we tell stories about humans, even when our characters are of other species.
This is one example of the ongoing problems of feminism. By defining and enforcing rules regarding what constitutes acceptable femininity, we again confine ourselves within expectations. I think it’s time to recognize and reject those limitations, and for those of us who write women to do those characters—and our readers—the honor of reflecting them as fully human, in all humanity’s wonderful and awful variation.
You can click this link to my contribution to Fantasy Book Café’s Women in SFF Month, where I expand on these thoughts. While you’re there, you might do yourself the favor of reading some of the other posts in this month-long feature: a true reflection of the diversity of thoughts and activities and contributions of women in SFF. I’m inexpressibly proud to be a part of it.