Girl Heroes Polemic

I was a great reader of science fiction as a young person. I began to wonder why the protagonist in a traditional sci-fi or fantasy story was always a guy, even when the writer was a woman.

Where were the stories that presented a woman as the problem solver?

The sci-fi formula opens with a nephew who worked on his uncle’s farm but yearned to right some social wrong associated with his father’s (not mother’s) death. Some inciting event includes the death of the uncle and destruction of the farm by a bad guy with no redeeming qualities. Our young hero gains a mentor who knew the father, and a sidekick with special but only complementary powers.

All these guys go on adventure together, relentlessly pursued by the bad guy, while our hero pieces together the way his father (not mother) died, until we reach a final confrontation with the bad guy in which the hero prevails. He smiles sheepishly at a decorative female who is from a social class above him but flirts anyway.  The end.

I read and watched many stories with a pantheon of characters (whole armies of characters), and one token female who was the daughter of an aging leader and available sexually to the hero but to no other man in the story.

Also see:

It’s not just me who claims this disparity. Just view/listen to how Nostalgia Chicks see Disney Characters.

The lone woman has no sister, cousins, daughters, playmates or enemies. I kept wondering, where were all the women? The camp followers, the nurses, the mothers, sweethearts, daughters, whores, and landholders who husbands were already killed in the war. How did they cope with difficult times and a bad guy with no redeeming attributes?

I was encouraged to write a story that was unique and build on something I
know. I thought a sci-fi story in which the protagonist as a girl might be fun. A real woman cannot call on armies to follow her, or pay assassins for special work. She may have children already, so adventure is out of the question, and care-takers must be solicited before she can enter the public square where she has no voice.

To set the female character as the protagonist, I encountered a set of problems.

When a female hero takes up a sword or a semi-automatic, she sacrifices the attributes of a woman who depends on her own wits to succeed, and instead signs onto the adventure of the men, solving problems as a man would.  We have several archetypal examples of this theme from Xena the female warrior through GI Jane. Even her choices for sexual partners are more about the men than about her preferences. Read more about the male gaze debate.

So how does a story shape if the young hero must solve problems that women experience in ways that women address problems? I could find few books in my favorite genre that started with this assumption, so I had to write some.

And that was my first reason to write.

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