Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Weekly Webcrawl: Defining the Strong Woman in Fiction

Having recently review Brian McClellan's highly entertaining Promise of Blood, I've been looking at other reviews of the novel for curiosity's sake. As I noted in my own review, I would have liked to see more female POV characters, but suspect that McClellan will likely correct this oversight with the forthcoming The Crimson Campaign. But I never felt that the novel was populated by weak female characters, a criticism I have seen leveled in other reviews. Some reviewers stop just short of claims of misogyny, and I found myself questioning my own interpretation of McClellan's characters and angry that anyone would use such a hot button word so casually. But this is the Internet, where the old adage about opinions and assholes is all too apt. With that in mind I'd like to offer the following.

In my opinion we need to reevaluate our definition of what constitutes a strong character, regardless of gender. Does being the victim of abuse, crime, or even rape make a character weak? Or is it a lack of agency? Or is it something even more complicated and difficult to define? I'm not sure, but I think it is worth noting that statistically almost every person you know has been the victim of some sort of abuse or crime. Does that victimization make them a weak person? What if it were your mother, your wife, your child, rather than a person made up entirely of an author's imagination and words? Would you feel the same way? I would like to hope so.

With that as preamble, here are some articles I've found that discuss varying definitions of 'strong women' in fiction. I found them all very enlightening, but your mileage my vary.

  • SF Signal's Mind Meld has some interesting thoughts on Strong Women in SF/F: I particularly enjoyed the comments of Teresa Frohock, Lauren Beaukes, and Jaye Wells.
  • Chuck Wendig's thoughts on the matter from his excellent blog.
  • This post from Culturally Disoriented doesn't talk about what defines a strong woman in fiction, but I think gets to the heart of why those characters are so very important.
  • And last, but certainly not least, N.K. Jemison has this to say on the subject.
Let's hear from the peanut gallery. Tell me what your thoughts are on this topic. Have you found other articles worth sharing with the rest of us? Do you think I'm full of it? Inquiring minds want to know.

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