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Femmes Fatales?

One of the writing projects I’m working on is a kids’ book. Originally it was written for T.R.’s Christmas gift last year, but now that the deadline pressure is off, I have taken another look at it to see if I can make it into something marketable. My lovely writing group has been helping me in this endeavor.

The way the group works is that one person gets her (yes, we are all girls at the moment…) work discussed each week. This was not my week, so I spent Monday talking about some essays on the power of naming and the challenges of culture, but I’m thinking still about what was said the week before about my story.

As all stories must, the story has a villain. No conflict, no story. The villain, in this instance, happens to be female. The hero, or one of the heroes, is a ten-year-old boy. He meets up with some companions of various species and genders and collectively they overcome the villain’s nefarious plans. Classic adventure (there are wacky elements to the story, but they’re not relevant to what I’m thinking about right now.). In the course of the story, one of the companions betrays the others. A character they meet helps in the defeat and eventual redemption of the villain. The betrayer is a female character and the redeemer is a male. My group questioned this because I end up with two positive male figures, the main character and the redeemer, and two negative female characters, the main villain and the betrayer.

I think it’s okay. And yet I wonder if I have some deep hidden misogyny in me that allows me to think so.

Perhaps this seems like an excess of political correctness on my part. I have already made sure to balance the genders of the characters. I have tried to ensure that the characters do not behave along rigid gender lines. I tried to create an adventure story that was not dependent on violence for the resolution, even though I know my son would have adored a story full of swords clashing and heads flying.

I think, ultimately, that I hope my characters’ bad decisions spring from their characters as a whole rather than some aspect of their femininity. Or, in other words, because people make bad decisions, whether or not they are people who are girls.

Thoughts?

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
jan_can_too
Aug. 14th, 2008 03:21 pm (UTC)
Yep...
There is definitely a strong and positive female character and no one is looking for a significant other.

It ain't The Paper Bag Princess, but the girls definitely have power and goodness in this story.
shadowsmark
Aug. 13th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
This is so hard, because sometimes of course the bad guys are girls.

I think I would worry more if all your stories turned out this way. But for any particular story, that might be exactly the right way to go.

It sounds as though you've addressed some of the more insidious sources of sexism--like making sure that your story world reflects the gender balance of the real world.

About the only thing that made me sad about my daughter's learning to read is that I could no longer correct the gender imbalance in her story books: I reflexively made "she" all the animal characters that didn't need to be one sex or the other for the purposes of the story. It was nice to have a storybook world where 90% of the animals were female and 10% were male, instead of the other way around.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if a character is female or male for motivated reasons, that's great, but we won't be living in a non-sexist world until the default character can equally well be male or female. And sadly we're still a long way from that world.
jan_can_too
Aug. 14th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks...
I'm glad that the idea of a particular story works. (I think, being a girl myself, I tend to make more female characters, period, unless I pay attention. In this instance, because I was thinking of T.R., having a boy as the main character made sense...)

Hugs...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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