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[personal profile] serria
I was reading a fantasy trilogy, and was reminded about how much the genre apparently struggles with women. The first book was an impulsive purchase at the bookstore, because I liked the cover artthought the description looked interesting. And I enjoyed it, more or less - not the greatest thing I've read, but relatively entertaining. The story was about a who boy gets trained as an assassin, and his adventures thereafter. Two other characters include his somewhat dry female love interest (kind of in the ballpark of stereotypical damsel in distress, not particularly captivating character to me) and another female character who is also an assassin. This character, though has a bit of a femme fatale entrance and follows kind of an "evil badass woman" trope throughout the second book, was still kind of interesting. I enjoyed a lot of her scenes, at any rate.

Anyway, I finished the second book, and there was an interview included at the end of it. One of the questions was about the whole "strong female character" thing, and the author (who is a man) gives quite a rant. He feels, apparently, that most "strong female characters" in fantasy are really just "men with boobs" but he is very excited about the direction his female assassin character is taking in the third book. He feels his portrayal is, I guess, very true to femininity and rounds out the character, etc.

So what happens in the third book? The female assassin falls in love with the male protagonist and spends the majority of the book crying and being emotional. As, you know, women do. :P

Fantasy and science fiction are my favorite genres, but I wonder if they tend to be more sexist than other genres. For the record, I don't think a female character falling in love with a male protagonist is sexist, nor is a previously cold character suddenly becoming emotional. But juxtaposed with the mindset of the author, that any "fighting female" character who isn't emotional or in love is a "man with boobs" - I think there's a reality here with how many female characters are portrayed.

I brought this up because I am writing a fantasy story which stars a female warrior. She has a female love interest. More than that, the leading male character is the one who has to be saved. I wasn't thinking about social issues or anything when I wrote this, but that's how it turned out. It was an unintentional subversion of gender roles. Of course, I am female myself, but I wonder if my protagonist is a "man with boobs." She is certainly not demure, emotional, or romantic. This accusation, though not (yet) directed at me, bothered me because my protagonist is really not at all defined by her female gender - by fantasy genre cliches, she should just be swapped into a male character. When I started overthinking it, I was even beating myself up over having a lesbian romance - does that (unintentionally) mean that she is taking the "male" role? Does that mean she is a "butch lesbian" (she's not, she's bisexual)? Is my story suddenly about gender roles when I never wanted it to be? What if I make her love interest male, is that better or worse? What if I have no love interest - does that also make a statement about a "masculine" female character?

Blah. I hate the phrase "men with boobs." I also hate the phrase "strong female characters." Like, what do they even mean!


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