These Are The Reasons We Need Female Heroes

ph. PASQUALE VITIELLO via magdeleine.com
(Photo credit: Pasquale Vitiello)

Please welcome author Samantha Bryant to the blog as she shares her views on the female hero. 

In real life, the hero-women in my life are older than me. My mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, mentors, colleagues, teachers, other writers. It makes a logical sense: I look to those who have already “been there” to learn how best to traverse the rockier landscapes of my life. While I can be inspired and influenced by younger people, and often am, I look to the elder women in my life when I am in serious need, when I need saving.

Maybe that’s why I became disenchanted with the female heroes I could find in movies, TV, and books. It could also be because I’m getting older myself, and I find it harder to see myself in these eternally single and childless twenty-something women. I’m impatient with their overdramatic situations and narcissism. Their stories are forever trapped in beginnings, without forward motion and change. Too often, they make me want to roll my eyes right back at them.

Underage and Underdressed

There’s been a good spate of strong female characters of late (even if some of them seem to take “strong” a little too one-note seriously). I’ve been happy to see them: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Black Widow from the Avengers series, Lisbeth Salander from the Girl Who series, Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games, Tris Prior of Divergent, Princess Bubblegum of Adventure Time, Agent Carter, all the clones on Orphan Black, etc. Women who have skills, brains, and talents who use them to save themselves and others.

The frustrating thing to me has been that, even in stories about amazing women, we still worship at the altar of youth. Think about that list I just made. Not a gray hair or stretch mark among them. Several of them still respond to “girl” without feeling insulted or weird.

When I’m feeling cynical, I see it as a reflection of our society’s obsession with youth, especially when it comes to women, especially in Hollywood. By the time a woman gains enough experience to know what she’s doing, large segments of the population are ready to write her off as over the hill, like her worth lasts only as long as her fertility. Ask any actress over forty. That’s why they all seem to be developing their own projects, producing and directing as well as performing. Because otherwise, it’s over to the corner in the role of “mother” or “grandmother” (who is tertiary to the story, at best).

After all this time, are women really still primarily valued in the world at large for surface traits like physical beauty? How disappointing. Would anyone care that Black Widow knows a dozen different ways to kill with her bare hands if she weren’t also sleek in her black jumpsuit and strikingly beautiful with her vibrant red hair? Compared to icons like Wonder Woman and Supergirl, Black Widow is demurely dressed in practical combat gear (and don’t get me started on costuming).

When I’m feeling more sanguine, I can see it as wish-fulfillment. We glorify youth in our fiction because we miss it and know that we could do it so much better now than we did when we had it. “Youth is wasted on the young,” as they say, which is probably why our young female heroes are such paragons of physical prowess as well. We’re living the “if I knew then what I knew now” vision through them, giving them skills at twenty-two that, more realistically, would take fifteen years more experience of trial and error to develop. Skills that would come with scars.

Don’t get me wrong: I like this shining paragon kind of character much better than I liked the weepy doormat victims of the past., but she’s still too often not a fully-developed, well-rounded, interesting person. A strong female character isn’t really any different than a strong male character: she just needs to be a fully developed human, allowed to have flaws, history, motivations and doubts. Some wrinkles in her face as well as her psyche wouldn’t hurt either.

Stalking the Female Hero, RachelintheOC, Rachel Thompson

Where are all the grown women?

Thank goodness, grown women are starting to show up out there. Recent years have brought Helen Mirren as Victoria in Red and Judi Dench as M, both amazing and complex female characters, distinctly feminine and definitely dangerous, though neither is the “star” of her particular vehicle. Ming-Na Wen’s portrayal of Agent May on Agents of Shield gives me hope for the entire superhero genre. She’s a woman with history and experience, treachery and expertise. I’ve been thrilled to see more of these women showing up on the imaginary hero landscape.

Now, I want more women like that who also have people they love in their lives. There are plenty of loner heroes, not so many heroes with a family. Why are all women heroes broken and tragically alone (as opposed to by choice)?

At least we have Helen Parr of The Incredibles. Even if she still lets people call her girl, she does have a husband, home, and kids, as well as superpowers.

My Axe to Grind

That’s why I wrote Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel. I wanted to consider the idea of a woman hero, someone who was already established in herself before the strange new life-changing element (in this case: superpowers) comes in. Someone with adult life considerations.

I wanted characters I could really connect to—and that means women who are women, strong and flawed and interesting, just like male characters. People with enough years under their belts to have experience, and history. I wanted a superhero story about full-grown, capable and flawed women with lives, jobs, families and responsibilities. Women like me and my friends, but with superpowers.

Like Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

So, I did.

Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is my attempt to show the heroism of grown women. Besides dealing with the sudden onset of superpowers, my characters are also facing conflicts in the rest of their lives: relationships, work, families, society. The main characters range in age from thirty-two to sixty-seven. One is a mother to young children, two to grown children. One is a grandmother. Two are horrified at the very prospect of children. They are diverse in other ways, too: attitudes toward love, money, careers, and race.

Superhero fiction has been a great venue for exploring what it means to be a female hero. I love speculative fiction for its ability to take on issues without feeling like you’re doing anything more than playing. Ideally, I want a fun story that leaves the reader thinking. I hope that’s what I’ve written: thinking woman’s heroes.

 

About the Author:

Samantha BryantSamantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. You can find her online on her blog,  Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+.

About the Book: 

Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero NovelGoing through “the change” isn’t easy on any woman. Mood swings, hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, and itchy skin are par for the course. But for these four seemingly unrelated women, menopause brought changes none of them had ever anticipated—super-heroic changes.

Helen discovers a spark within that reignites her fire. Jessica finds that her mood is lighter, and so is her body. Patricia always had a tough hide, but now even bullets bounce off her. Linda doesn’t have trouble opening the pickle jar anymore… now that she’s a man.

When events throw the women together, they find out that they have more in common than they knew—one person has touched all their lives. The hunt for answers is on.

 

Broken Places is available NOW from Booktrope. It's already hit #1 on Women's Poetry and Hot New Releases on Amazon! Broken Pieces is still going strong, #1 on Amazon’s Women’s (paid) Poetry list.

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo).

All content © 2015 by Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.


Pictures courtesy of Pasquale Vitiello via Magdeleine and Pixabay

The Reasons Reverse Sexism Doesn’t Really Exist

I am not sexist and I don’t condone violence. You might disagree with me after reading this post.

The Spark: A Little History the spark of feminism, RachelintheOC.com, reverse sexism

I shared a question on my Facebook wall the other day: what do you have an irrational fear of? Hundreds of people answered (I started things off with my perfectly rational fear of spiders because, spiders) and with a few exceptions I’ll note in a moment, people opened themselves up, sharing what truly frightens them, from the seemingly silly (cherry tomatoes?) to the downright horrifying (elevator cables snapping, airplanes crashing). I loved how many people cared and supported one another, sharing stories about their true fears.

The response was amazing!

The notable exceptions: about five or so men who said, “being asked my irrational fear on social media.” They all basically laughed it off in the same *wink wink har har* manner, at different times, without reading the thread to see that other men had already said the exact same thing (and then there’s the one guy who, apropos of nothing, made an inappropriate comment about my ‘tantalizingly red hair’), which I ignored completely — I’m supposed to be flattered?

Realizations

I realize these men thought they were being funny, original, possibly hilariously comical however, this was a post on my wall where, if you don’t know me at all, I often ask people to write what scares them, to reveal their vulnerabilities. I found it terribly disrespectful of these guys to joke around this way, not only to me but also to the brave, wonderful people who had gone out of their way to share their fears with others in such a public way. We really had engendered a bonding camaraderie which these guys ignored completely by injecting this type of immature tomfoolery.

I realize that some men (not all men, so if this doesn’t apply to you, good men of the world who would never do this and didn’t do this, I’m not talking to you and am not lumping all men into a category of ‘all men are dicks,’ because I appreciate and respect you, truly), will never share their true fears with anyone, especially themselves, let alone in a public forum– so the easy answer is to go on someone else’s wall and criticize or make sarcastic comments. Yes, some women will do that, too. (In fact, one woman did make such a comment in a non-humorous way — she explained that if a future employer saw her comment, she was afraid she may lose out on a job opportunity.)

I shared my frustrations in a different post, accompanied by an ironically focused humor meme which states: “boys are stupid, throw rocks at them,”  — see screenshot of my post with the cartoon below. I’ll even link to this post so you can see all the replies for yourself (though you’d have to friend me to see it in its entirety). What’s interesting is that because I made the observation that it was only men who made goofy comments on my original post, combined along with the obviously satirical cartoon, people accused me of being sexist. Oh, and promoting violence.

My Response Post

 

RachelintheOC, RachelintheOC.com, Facebook, feminism

The Offending Screenshot

 

 

The Cartoon That Incites Violence

boys are stupid throw rocks

Clearly, a threat.

What I Believe 

I focus on supporting what I love and not bashing what I don’t, but I must, in this case, stand up for what I strongly believe in. By stating my observation that 90% of these silly comments were made by men, people accused me of being sexist.

Interesting.

“Here’s what’s strange, and what’s extraordinary
Nothing changes, but nothing stays the same”

~ Room in my Heart, Jonatha Brooke 

(copyright, Jonatha Brooke)

I don’t promote negativity. I promote compassion and polite discourse. I believe in humor (in fact, I wrote two best selling satirical humor books). When I received comments such as ‘if that cartoon were of girls having rocks thrown at them, you’d feel different,’ or ‘do you literally believe boys are stupid and should have rocks thrown at them?’ I feel I have to respond.

No. I posted a humorous cartoon that I thought, as educated adults, people wouldn’t take literally. That is my mistake. One of the Four Agreements is: don’t make assumptions, so that’s on me.

The Bigger Issue

But there’s a bigger issue here (so get your rocks ready):

I simply do not feel it’s possible for men to be oppressed in the same way women have been throughout history and even now (particularly given that men control 95% of the clout in media), so I disagree with the straw-man argument that women oppress men — it’s a false equivalence.

Feel free to throw your rocks now — or maybe your dictionary (which, by the way, was created by men).

I love this article by Melissa A. Fabello, Co-Managing Editor of Everyday Feminism, on Everyday Feminism, which breaks down why sexism against men (aka, reverse sexism) is just not possible. Sure, women stereotype men, just as men stereotype women. Sure, there’s prejudice and discrimination against both genders, which totally sucks. However, reverse sexism isn’t possible because these four main tenets would have to be true:

1. It Is Pervasive
It is woven throughout social institutions, as well as embedded within individual consciousness. 

2. It Is Restrictive
That is, structural limits significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility in ways beyond the individual’s control.

3. It Is Hierarchical
That is, oppression positions one group as “better” than another.

Dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

4. The Dominant Group Has the Power to Define Reality
That is, they determine the status quo: what is “normal,” “real,” or “correct.”

In order for women to perpetuate reverse sexism in ways that consistently and influentially impact society (including my post about throwing rocks at boys), any and all of the above would have to be true, and they’re not — at least, not at a comparable level. The ‘tit for tat’ argument doesn’t work here.

What makes me the most sad about all this? Women deal with sexism on the daily on social media just by being on social media. Sure, men get it too, but on the same level? Not even close. See, it’s not about tit for tat. That’s the point! I’m not denying that sexism happens to men — what I’m saying is that it’s not comparable. 

(I have male friends who are being harassed by female bosses in their jobs as I write this — it sucks and I support these dear friends in going after these women to the fullest extent they possibly can. I hope these women are fired for their abuse of power. I’m not a denier. It happens. Again, my point is, on the whole of society in general, the scale of incidence is much lower for men.)

Read this amazing article by best selling Booktrope author J.C. Hannigan on social media perversity, or one of my past articles on similar topics, or this article from the fabulous Chuck Wendig on how women are treated on the Internet (and for the record, I love when men support women — the more the merrier). And don’t even get me started on what Trump has the nerve to say about women, Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell being only the most recent examples (bimbo, pig). How is this acceptable at all?

And if you think I’m just making this all up, the fact remains that women continue to make 78 cents to the dollar compared to men, a gap that has remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. The problem is even worse for women of color (Source: Economic Justice).

Beyond Sexism

Apart from all of that, what upset me most about the incident: people attacked me for sharing a frustration, an opinion they didn’t approve of, on my account, on a space I’ve created, developed, and branded over many years. See, what I love about social media is while it’s indeed social, about building relationships and connections, I don’t need anyone’s permission to post what I want — I’m an adult woman, and as long as what I’m posting is within Facebook’s guidelines (no porn, no promotion), do I need to ask for anyone’s approval or consensus? No, I don’t.

Neither do you. It’s not my policy to come over to your wall and tell you what to post, criticize your opinions, or bully you for your beliefs — it baffles me that people feel it’s their right to do the same to others. This is why people become depressed (read more about Social Comparison Theory here), create plastic veneers of themselves, or post nothing but happy cat videos and rainbow-crap inspirational quotes — nobody wants to be R E A L because what happens when we reveal our true selves? People laugh, bully, and criticize and that hurts if we take it personally.

I’ve thought seriously of shutting down my Facebook account this past few days but I won’t, and you know why? Because of the advocacy work I do with childhood sexual abuse survivors, raising money for the Joyful Heart Foundation, the real-life friendships I’ve made, the Gravity Imprint I direct for Booktrope, and the BadRedhead Media client work I do and love — all are tied into Facebook. That’s what I take personally and means more to me than anything else, next to my babies.

I have taken to shutting my Facebook down on Fridays (as many of you know, I take #FFF: Facebook Free Fridays) already and will continue to do so; perhaps, I’ll carry that over to other days as well because frankly, I don’t need the negativity and does it really matter anyway? Not to me. I keep doing what I do, posting what I want, and writing my stories. I encourage you to do the same.

hopkins

Most likely, this article will feed the negativity and I accept that, but like my Facebook wall, this blog is my home, too.

I welcome your respectful comments.

Broken Places is available NOW from Booktrope. It's already hit #1 on Women's Poetry and Hot New Releases on Amazon! Broken Pieces is still going strong, #1 on Amazon’s Women’s (paid) Poetry list.

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo).

All content © 2015 by Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.


 

 

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blue wall office

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