This is kinda sorta a continuation of this post.
I wound up thinking of this tonight because I was trying to continue reading I, Robot, (I am never gonna find the time to finish this reading challenge) and I couldn’t keep reading it because I am so, so annoyed that Dr. Calvin wound up being a fucking stereotype.
In the short story “Liar!” everyone is manipulated by this robot who can read minds, through the use of their pride and arrogance, etc. For example, the mathematician (a man) was manipulated into thinking he was going to inherit the company. His pride and arrogance was used against him.
The way Dr. Calvin was manipulated was so, so typical of the way a female character is treated by male writers.
Dr. Calvin didn’t get to be proud or greedy or smug or any other human flaw. Instead she had the sexist flaw of hating other women and being insecure about her appearance and longing for romance.
As someone who writes about romance constantly, I’m still annoyed when romance is the sole defining characteristic of a female character. All too often, female characters are whittled down to wanting a husband and kids (Harley Quinn anyone?) and their desire to be pretty and validated as just as worthy as those prettier but stupidier women with big jugs that they hate. It’s . . . really, really annoying.
Asimov treated Dr. Calvin like his stereotypical idea of a woman instead of like a person. This isn’t to say that he actively hated women or something. But what he did with this female character was sexist. Us stupid women. Even when we have a fucking degree in robotics, we still want to have seven kids and bang some guy who doesn’t even know we’re alive!
Women are more than our uteruses. Dammit.
And I guess I could give Asimov a break because of the time period he — nope, nope. He doesn’t get a break. Because plenty of people are raised in racist, sexist societies and still manage to eventually learn to see other people as people, despite what they’ve been taught. Being racist and sexist and ignorant is a choice. Especially when it’s so fucking easy to educate oneself these days. Get on the internet, read some articles, discover that — gasp! — not every woman wants to have kids. Not every woman is petty and insecure and jealous of other women. Not every woman is only concerned with fucking romance.
And, no. you don’t get points for giving a female character six degrees. Why can’t a female character be stupid? Why can’t she be ugly? Why can’t she actually get along with other women? Why can’t she be a terrible fighter? Why can’t she be feminine, weak, need saving, wear some fucking dresses, and at the same time, still be a three dimensional human being with desires of her own?
“Strong Female Character” does not mean masculine. The phrase is indicative of wanting female characters that are presented as human beings, in the same way male characters can be Charlie Browns and Arthur Dents and Homer Simpsons, completely flawed and human individuals.
It was not my intention with The Prince of Qorlec to have Quinn be a “strong female character.” Quinn isn’t awesome because she has super powers and because she kicks ass. Quinn is awesome because of her unshakable joy and compassionate heart. She cares about other people and continues to do so, risking everything to protect life. It is both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness.
At the same time, she gets to be completely flawed and human. She gets to be punched in the face and uglied up because real “strong female characters” don’t exist just to get off teenage boys. She fails. She cries. Sometimes she needs saving. She is supposed to be utterly, utterly human — ironic, really, considering she’s a fucking alien.
The same can be said for Thalcu. Thalcu is feminine and pretty and weak. She doesn’t know how to fight at all. Whenever she and Quinn are in danger, she winds up on the sidelines helping. But at the same time, Thalcu is not completely worthless just because she’s feminine.
As I’ve said in past posts, Thalcu is the entire reason the second book in the series even happens. Thalcu rescues Quinn not once in that book but twice. Thalcu is brave, not always the brightest, compassionate, not always the kindest, temperamental, bratty, spoiled, lazy.
Thalcu is utterly human.
Thalcu is treated like an equal by the narrative and not a prize to be won or an inferior because she is feminine. The other characters in The Harvest tease her for being unable to fight, and yet she’s just as important and contributes just as much as the rest of them. Hell, she’s the one who sets everything into motion when the characters decide to assault Area 967, and again, she’s the one who makes it possible for Quinn to succeed.
Thalcu is not rendered utterly worthless and useless by the narrative simply because she is feminine. She does not exist solely for Quinn, the protagonist, but has a story arc all her own. She does not exist solely to be objectified. She exists to be a character, a player on the stage, equally as important to the narrative as everyone else.
This makes her one fucking strong female character. And it does not require her to be masculine or have six degrees in robotics!
Sometimes I kinda worry that people might assume my books are about yet more “strong female characters.” This is not something women (men would say “feminists”) asked for. We didn’t ask for every female character to become a man with tits. We asked for female characters to start being depicted as human fucking beings.
So, yeah, returnofkings.com, you misogynistic asswipe, all the “strong female characters” you’re tired of? Those are the fault of men who don’t know what the fuck feminism is or what was meant by “strong female characters.” You are basically bitching and whining about Game of Thrones being “destroyed” by feminism when it’s actually being destroyed by men who don’t know what feminism is. Men like you, actually.
My books aren’t about celebrating masculinity as the sole means of being valuable in a story.
My books are about celebrating women as people.
Hell, my books are about celebrating people as people, because my male characters are also allowed to be utterly human. They get to be feminine. They get to be masculine. They get to be weak. They get to be strong. Not like men aren’t already celebrated, though. They’re already depicted pretty much everywhere as human beings, while women just have to fit some fucked up idea of “strong female character.”
For most men, a “strong female character” is a hot chick with six degrees who is masculine and kicks ass and always chooses the loser nerd (who thinks he’s a nice guy but is actually an asshole — like you, returnofkings.com!). That’s not strong. That’s really weak. So we have men to thank for fucking up Game of Thrones and we have men to thank for fucking up female characters.
Maybe if institutionalized sexism wasn’t holding women back as a whole, we’d be creating these female characters ourselves and then you wouldn’t have to worry about us complaining about your sad juvenile fantasies being sexist.
Just a thought.