Women in the Lead

Women in the driver’s seat
Bathed in the spotlight
For more than romance
Or to be a victim
And nothing more than that
*
They fight like a hero
Make mistakes like humans
And get up when they fall
Because that is what they do
When they have the lead
*
I am asked
Upon many days
My thoughts on women
Taking up the reins
And throwing down with the men
*
I ponder for a deep answer
And come up blank
It is not a stretch
For they are still human
And carry the same pieces
____________________________________________

So, I was asked to write a post on ‘Female Protagonists’, which has to be one of the most common requests that I get here.  I’ve tackled it many times and even have an entry slated for that fantasy tip book that will be done in a hundred years.  The truth is that I’ve tried so hard to be deep and unique in every responses that I don’t think I have it in me to be flashy any more.  What do I think of female protagonists?  They’re not that different from male protagonists.  The clothing, pronouns, and physical descriptions can differ, but the meat of a hero is the personality and actions.  I focus more on that and I’ve always tried to make my characters flawed, which isn’t exclusive to one group.  A male and female can both be impulsive, temperamental, courageous, smart, good, evil, and the list keeps going.  That’s where I stand and it makes tackling the question for the length of a post rather difficult these days.  So, I tried a poem . . . Not sure it worked.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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19 Responses to Women in the Lead

  1. It worked! And, I’m sharing it! 🙂

    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. L. Marie says:

    Very appropriate, considering all of the discussion about women in movies these days and all of the controversy about certain characters. Whether a character is male or female, I hope to see character development and not just surface level assumptions about strength.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a worthy topic, and in maybe ways saying less is more. I write mine like unique people. Some of them are kind of girly, and others are kind of hard boiled. That’s how humans are, so that’s my baseline.

    Like

  4. I certainly agree with your point that women characters can be whoever we writers want them to be. Action plots should not be for men alone.

    Like

  5. V.M.Sang says:

    Yes, Charles. It worked. An excellent poem.
    As to female protagonists, in my Wolves of Vimar series, the protagonist is male, but there are 4 female characters who have a big part to play. They are all strong characters, and I am writing some earlier stories of their lives as I want to do more with them.
    My current wip has a female protagonist. It’s a historical novel in the time of the Vikings. She is strong, but has flaws, too.

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  6. I take my inspiration from female heroes from my wife. 34 years ago I decided whether I wanted to be right and in charge or happy. I’ve had 34 years of happiness.

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  7. I love your thought, that heroes have a commonality in their actions that makes them heroes as opposed to side characters. I think the difference can be in how the world reacts to the woman as hero. In the real world, women commonly experience being minimized or entirely erased.

    In fantasy cultures and are said to be “traditional,” townfolk might be surprised that a woman is taking action. Women may be told that it isn’t their place, to let the men handle it. Or women may be urged to take a supporting role (fixing coffee is the notorious example or being minimized) while “real heroes” are working. Taking it farther, bards may write songs about the whole band of heroes but barely mention the woman or not even mention her at all. The female hero on this example is being erased.

    Even in future settings, a female may be pushed aside, or tried to be. For example, the character Rose in the Star Wars movies was working in a fairly menial role, but caught one of the male heroes breaking a rule, thus leading her to rise as a hero in her own right. However, in the latest movie, they push her back into a menial role again.

    In fiction, of course, the author has freedom to decide how their imagined world reacts to heroes. If the author chooses complete equality — the culture doesn’t notice if heroes are men or women, and lauds them equally — that is a valid choice and inspiring in its own way. But if you’re looking for a flaw, your female lead might be minimized or erased, and react to it with anger or even tears. Ultimately, the character may be pushed even harder to prove her worth.

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    • I’ve written several responses with examples, but came to another conclusion. Our perspectives of how certain character types are treated in fiction is derived from what we read and watch as well as our world views. You speak of fantasy culture minimizing women, but the ones I’ve read rarely did that. Many times, the female characters rose up to do something as impressive as the men without undoing the male characters in the process. These are the stories I grew up with and I feel that they are actually more common than the ones people point out today to make such points.

      Your final statement is something I wholeheartedly disagree with. Every character needs flaws and giving them to a woman doesn’t force them to work any harder than a man with the same problems. If it comes off that way then it’s either the author doing a bad job or the audience perceiving things a certain way. Nyx and Luke Callindor both have impulse control problems in my books, but she doesn’t fight any harder than he does to overcome this. You might not have meant it to come off this way, but it sounds like you are arguing for female characters to not have any flaws because of the same risk of falling that male characters have. If we are not allowed to give flaws to one group of characters then we shouldn’t be giving them to others, which means all characters are perfect and infallible. As another comment said, it is better to treat all characters as human and let everything else fall into place.

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