Women and Heroism in Fiction

There’s a through-provoking essay and discussion going on about how we write women in fiction and how we view women in our real world over on aidanmoher.com. The comments are all worth reading. My own is on page 3. If you get that far, the rest of this post will be a rerun.

I consider myself a feminist. But I struggle. The feminist I am lives in a world where our definitions of heroism, strength, and courage are often defined by a male-oriented world.

I often struggle with this masculine filter that obscures our view of our world. To write strong heroines, we often give them guns. We put them in armies. We make them fight. We give them a “male” role. We make them single and childless and tattooed and badass.

In real life, we often gain respect by joining the boys. We shove our way into their No-Girls-Allowed fort and we demand equality. And in doing so, we’re declaring our roles to be worthless. Our playhouse to be inferior.

I want the boys longing to get into our playhouse. And not for the stereotypical reason, for the lazy writing reason–to get into our pants. I want them hungry to join us. To be like us. I want motherhood and teaching and nursing to be as valued as being a soldier.

Can you think of any highly-respected traditional female role that men fight their way for the privilege of taking on? I’ve tried, and I can’t think of any and I know I must be overlooking something. Because if nothing exists, that just isn’t right.

Our definition of heroism lives in a man’s world. How do we overcome that without undermining the value of our own roles?

I don’t think we will ever know the answer to this until men and women are truly equal, and women are respected as women–not as women who have become more like men. But if, or when, that happens, this question will be irrelevant.

Have you seen Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech? It’s good.