Every now and then, I come across a blog post or an article about Strong Female Characters. (Sometimes several come along at once.)Of course you do. You're Tor.com. Don't you guys write half of them?
Often with the capital letters, usually decrying a simplistic reading of strength. True strength, these articles argue, goes beyond mere skill at arms and a sharp tongue. True strength encompasses so much more than shallow kickassery and badass posturing.Um ... you know that those at least help, right? Emma Peel pulled that off with style.
And "shallow kickassery" ... so, what? Because Krav Maga is simple and straight-forward, it's shallow? How about something overly complicated and flowery like Tae Kwon Do. Are you being anti-Semitic, since Krav is an Israeli self defense system. Are you against Israel now?
I joke, of course ... we all know that Tor.com thinks that all kickass bits of business is shallow, because true strength comes from understanding the rapist and the ax-murderer, right, fellas?
Well, you know, I’m not likely to argue with that case.Of course you're not. After all, you schmucks went after Joss Whedon, trying to call him a sexist. We know that Tor is shallow.
Strength, and courage, and virtue—notwithstanding its very manly Latin etymology—encompass more than surface-level traits.Um, one, you had to have a disclaimer on virtue? Really? Why not issue a disclaimer on the Cardinal Virtues too, while you're at it.
And how nice, you think that virtues exist. Wait, you mean they're not subjective, cultural, completely anthropological? Or are we just going to go into Lefty virtues? Any bets? Place your bets, folks, place your bets.
But I do find it interesting how this argument is almost always applied to female characters. How many posts and articles decry the shallow sorts of strength of the thriller hero—seldom sketched in more than two dimensions—a strength that can generally only be demonstrated by his competence with violence, his willingness to defy authority, and his occasional ability to make entertaining banter?Funny, I'm reasonably certain that the Tor article that slandered Baen authors pretty much did exactly that. Also, that stupid article on SFCs from a few years back -- for example, dismissing James Bond as a pure psychopath (which I'm not arguing, I like Bond less and less as time goes on). Come to think of it, half of the NY Times articles are highly, highly dismissive of thrillers, thriller authors and thriller characters.
How many posts and articles? How many hours have you got?
More often you find them praised, or taken as the model for a whole subgenre, at least in terms of style. (Here I make sweeping generalisations, but no more sweeping than have been made in the other direction.)Here, you make sweeping generalizations -- with a Z -- without any knowledge of your subject matter. The amount of times I've seen Mitch Rapp or Scot Harvath dismissed as jinoistic, shallow, cardboard .... I've lost track.
So, how about you pretend, just for a moment, to have done five minutes of research. A quick google search would have you piece this together. I haven't seen this level of ignorance since Tor.com defamation of Baen last time, noted above, and ... and ...
A quick search of the internet has led me to realize that this is the EXACT SAME AUTHOR. The light dawns. It's been three years, and she has apparently yet to pick up a single novel not published by Tor.
The short version is that this is the very same creature who bitched that David Weber's most famous creation, Honor Harrington, didn't have a sex life in the first few books, glossing over the fact that Honor was the near-victim OF AN ATTEMPTED RAPE.
But show me a female character whose major characteristics are competence with violence, willingness to defy authority, and the occasional ability to make entertaining banter, and I’ll show you a character who—I am willing to guarantee you—has been dismissed as entirely lacking depth, or as a “man with breasts,” or criticised for being insufficiently well-rounded, or not really “strong.”You mean like the article you wrote where you did the same thing?
You mean like how Honor Harrington has been dismissed as that, and her characteristics have nothing to do with a lot of banter or defying authority (she's an Admiral, she is authority).
Maybe like the New Statesman did a few years ago, in an article that read surprisingly like yours did ... and does.
(Look at the critiques sometimes leveled at, for example, Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels.Who?
Or any number of other urban fantasy female protagonists—it’s often urban fantasy that bears the brunt of this critique, since it’s the genre with the greatest preponderance of ass-kicking female characters.)
|Maybe PTSD-Superheroine will|
be too "strong."
And it's only urban fantasy? Honor Harrington gets this critique all the time, according to Those Who Know these things (John Ringo noted the critique, and David Weber has heard it often enough). Hell, the last time I heard someone level this SFC charge was Kim Harrison against Blindspot.
1) I don't know what Harrison was smoking, but 2) I note that Harrison WRITES urban fantasy told from the POV of -- wait for it -- her female lead!
Funny about that, an urban fantasy female author leveling an SFC charge.
It puts me in mind of that old adage, that a woman needs to be twice as good to go half as far as her male counterparts.If that were the case, you'd have to actually read more than Tor novels. You seem to get nowhere fast by being totally ignorant of the topic of which you speak. Nimrod.
Oh, and wait, Xena lasted six seasons -- the exactly same length as the male counterpart, Hercules. I'm shocked, shocked I say.
I’m not arguing in favour of greater shallowness,Don't lie, you work for Tor. And I don't see you advocating for the Wright family.
lest anyone be tempted to misunderstand me.We understand you just fine. Though I'm waiting for you to turn this into another ad for Tor books while maligning everyone else.
But the double standard of content, the double standard of criticism applied, bothers me really quite fundamentally.Then maybe you shouldn't indulge in it yourself.
We fall into the error of really rather relentlessly applying criticism to female characters.You jumped the shark there already when Tor went after Whedon because of Black Widow.
They’re too domestic! They aren’t domestic enough! They have too little agency! Or too much, having unbelievably few constraints on their choices! They’re too violent, too shallow, too brittle. They’re too gentle, too generous, too forgiving, too soft. They’re insufficiently maternal, or too much so. They’re too independent! They’re not independent enough!How about "They're not having enough sex for my taste!" Again, see Honor Harrington. No, I'm not letting that go.
They are, in short, very seldom considered good enough to escape this kind of scrutiny.Tor should know, since, again, Whedon and Widow. It's obvious that the other authors at Tor.com are guilty of this, so how about you go hold their feet to the fire.
(Which is unsurprising: If you haven’t noticed, nonfictional women are equally subject to a more intense scrutiny than men.Really? Let me know when Leftists stop deifying Margaret Sanger.
And it’s not just men who subject them to it: It’s something many of us have internalised and reproduce. It’s the air we breathe and the society we swim in.)Also see commentary of Black Widow.... by Tor... an author who's a woman.
Also see your own article on Honor Harrington.
Are you born being this hypocritical, or do you have to take lessons?
This continuous critique of female roles in narrative, though—not just their lack, but every aspect of their presence, both in specific and in aggregate—points to a rather more basic issue. Women just aren’t seen as normal the way men are.Okay, pardon me while my brain processes this. Women aren't normal the way men are ...
As a guy who went to an all-male high school, I think we have very different definitions of what constitutes "normal."
No, seriously, how are men considered "normal"? Because the people that come to mind are a guy with multiple personalities and another who self-identifies as a weapon of war, and another guy who refights every battle of World War I in his spare time when he's bored. So, tell me, what do you think of as normal.
And female protagonists, female heroes, are even more a thing to be remarked upon. Male characters escape this sustained critique, because male characters are still the default, the standard.What? WHAT?
Okay, done. You're obviously too stupid to even write articles on the internet. Have you never heard of Boudica? Maeve (The Tain)? Emma Peel? Red Sonja? Modesty Blaise? Linda Carter as Wonder Woman in the 70s? Buffy? Xena? Ever read a Terry Goodkind novel (Cara and Kahlan, you don't GET much stronger than them)? Ever read the life of a single female saint? Joan of Arc? Hell, right now, I'll go to cartoons. Ever hear of Cheetara of the Thundercats? How about Elisa Maza (the cop from Gargoyles)?
Right now, you want urban fantasy? Go look up Holly and Julie in Larry Correia's Monster Hunter books
I've grown up with female heroes since my earliest recollections. Where the hell have you been? WHAT COCOON HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING IN?
I'm now seriously considering giving up on this entire article. Female heroes aren't normal. Bull. My earliest recollections involve female heroes all over my cartoons, all over my comic books, all over my media.
Oh, wait, are these not the "right kind of women"?
Male heroes are ubiquitous. And they offer no potential transgression of our existing social hierarchies.Uh huh ... Because a man who dressed up like a giant bat and fights crime is in no way a transgression of anything in society, especially in Greenwich Village during Halloween. Because James Bond isn't a cold-blooded psycho with all the personality of a brick? Because being super-patriot Captain America is perfectly 100% A-okay among the good leftists of the world. Because fighting for Truth Justice and the American way is so common that it's been completely excised from the last two movies on Superman.
Because being a hero, in itself, in no way requires transgressing society's norms.
Offering no potential transgression of social hierarchies? You have a very, very narrow view of what the social hierarchy looks like, don't you? Where did you get your anthropology degree in, a crackerjack box?
So how should we address this double standard?How about you actually frame the problem in a way that's not so easily refuted by some random schlub on the internet because he grew up with all the evidence that prove you've done no research? Maybe you should actually have done some research without making so many random blanket statements that are refuted with children's cartoons and 70s reruns.
There are a couple of ways which have been pointed out to me, and which I think are worth considering.It would be too much to hope for that these people suggested doing actual research? Or that you yourself don't indulge in it?
It’s vital that in our discussions of Strong Female Characters, we remember the double standard exists.Of course it is! Who suggested these ways? Terry Hayden?
Also, have you proven that there is a double standard? Nope, you've working on a premise that you clearly haven't proven, clearly hadn't researched, and what discussion? Have we actually had a discussion yet? It feels like so much of this time has been spent on -- "look, look, there are shallow male characters that no one has ever made fun of." Seriously, you want a discussion on that, go watch a Reb Brown movie (Note to my readers: don't ever watch a Reb Brown film unless you have brain cells to spare).
It’s not fair to hold female characters to such a high level of scrutiny.Wait, hold on. First, it's not fair that male characters aren't held to the same level of scrutiny. THEN it's not fair that women are held to this level of scrutiny....
Uh huh. You know what? Riddle me this, batty -- why is it that the same people who bitch about Strong Female Characters and many men in thrillers are the SAME FREAKING PEOPLE?
(Part of this, of course, is a scarcity problem: When there are only one or two significant female characters in a narrative, or when they are less than completely ubiquitous in a genre, their representations carry more weight and attract more criticism, because they have to stand for every woman.)Ooooh, so we can't critique women like this because they're a scarce resource, but men are fair game because they multiply like rabbits. Supply and demand, nothing more, nothing less.
Last time I heard an argument like this, it was an argument for why telepaths on Babylon 5 saw "mundane," non-telepathic people as disposable non-persons.
We need not only to discuss female characters in light of the double standard of content, but also in light of the double standard of criticism.How about we critique individual characters and stories one at a time and stop trying to apply arbitrary political ideologies to them that have nothing to do with the story? How about we try that for a few minutes, you reject from remedial reading?
We could also spend some more critical energy on interrogating Strong (and Weak) Male Characters.Interrogating? I'm sorry, is Jack Bauer writing this article now?
Subject them to higher levels of scrutiny.Funny, I can't even read a New York Times book review anymore for all the crap they give any character who has actual muscle tone. We won't even go into how much they hate everything Marvel.
Ask ourselves what we really mean by “well-rounded” and “believable.”I still find it hard to believe that Baen hasn't sued Tor, and this author, into next Tuesday from last time they did this.
But mostly, I think, we need to destroy the idea that there is a default sort of human and a default sort of protagonist.How about this -- my protagonists are human beings who are not morally, ethically and in all ways repugnant? You know, in no way like Game of Thrones?
That we should judge strength differently based on who has it.So your solution to the double standard is to institute a different double standard, is that right? Or do you mean that maybe we should take things on a case-by-case basis of quality?
... Nah. I already suggested it, so of course you'll hate it.
(Maybe even that some things are peculiarly male or female at all.)Oh. really? What an idea. Are you going to allow girls to pick pink while boys choose blue? Let me know when you come even that close.
Look, don’t get me wrong.I wish I could.
By all means, let’s debate the meaning of strength.By all means ... you start.
Let’s argue against shallowness, and in favour of depth.Thanks, I have been. Didn't you read the above fisking?
But let’s try not to uphold the double standard while we’re doing it?Which one? The old one that you made out of straw, or the new one you just established?
I know it’s hard. But it’s got to be worth a try, right?Right. 100% agree. Pity you couldn't try.