Random Ramblings, Reading, Writing

Female Protagonists: A Reading Rant

I think it’s admirable when a male writer tries to write a strong, female protagonist.  In my reading experience, men don’t usually write a female character as the main character in their stories.  I see a lot more women do this than men.

That said, I had a buddy of mine once tell me that he could ALWAYS tell when a woman wrote a book where the protagonist is a man.  He said it’s the little details that give it away.  Men and Women think differently.  I don’t know if this is always true, but he has a point. 

In my limited experience, I’ve read some great stories where men have written REALLY interesting female characters.  I’ve read even more books where a female writer has written her male characters VERY realistically.  I think writers who’ve been successful at writing the opposite of their own gender have one very important thing in common; they have people in their lives to bounce ideas off of, to help correct those tiny details they might be missed.

I read.

A LOT.

I’m always looking for new material.  A buddy of mine let me borrow a couple of books.  The first one was a collection of short stories.  LOVED it.  The second one was a science fiction novel.  Not my usual genre, but this writer did a great job at world building.  There are all these habitats across the asteroid belt, really interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it was the little details in the writing of the protagonist that threw me and lessoned my enjoyment of the book as a whole. 

The protagonist was a woman.  In fact, ALL of the “heroes” were women, and the “villains” were men.  That was unique, especially considering the author’s a man.  However, though it was obvious the author was trying to appeal to both genders, I had this sneaking impression that this particular author didn’t have a lot of women in his life to bounce ideas off of, or maybe he had a REALLY bad editor.  There were scenes that were well done, but there were others where the protagonist’s thinking seemed more like a man’s than a woman’s.  Worse yet, there were scenes where the protagonist behaved like a caricature of a woman.  For some reason, in the last third of the book, she started calling all her female friends “honey.”  She didn’t do this in the beginning.  I’m not sure what made her change, but it got really annoying.  Everyone’s name became honey!  Ick!

There’s a scene that stood out for me, where the protagonist, who happens to be a big-breasted woman, is doing some sort of intense sparring/martial arts/kickboxing workout…topless.  As a woman, I thought this was hilarious!  (It’s not supposed to be.) I’m imagining the reality of what this “might” look like and seeing this scene through a woman’s eyes, it’s really quite absurd.  OUCH!  I think the author was trying to show that in the future, bare breasts aren’t necessarily an issue.  That’s fine, if she was doing something low-impact like yoga.  This is his world.  His rules.  But as a woman, I know that you don’t want those things bouncing and flying around when you’re running, jumping, and working out.  Oh, she DOES get kicked in the chest, no big deal.  Umm…as a woman, I have to disagree.  OUCH!  Back when I owned a horse, I’d often wear TWO sports bras when I went riding or I would have been in severe PAIN.  I can’t even imagine kickboxing topless…or maybe I can, and that’s the problem.  He! He!

I’m not saying this writer needs lady-bits of his own to write a female protagonist.  It might not even be his fault.  This was a “traditionally published” novel.  I’ve heard some real horror stories about books getting mangled during the editing process.  Maybe that’s what happened.  Maybe “someone” decided that science fiction is usually written for men, hence the reason the protagonists clothes keep falling off?  Fabric in the future must be made of tissue paper.  She has lots, and LOTS of scenes where she’s fighting, and winning said fights, half-naked, sometimes in just her G-string panties.  Umm…yeah.  That bothered me.  Men rarely have to fight or kick box naked in literature.  Maybe someone thought this character was too “strong,” so they kept her mostly naked.  She’s supposed to have super-human strength.  Maybe “someone” thought the “honey’s” maybe her sound more feminine?   I don’t know.  I’ve got no answers.  Hence, the ranting.  😉 

Have a great day!

Juli 

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10 thoughts on “Female Protagonists: A Reading Rant”

  1. Thomas perry is the only one hubby could think of. He’s been reading a lot of female authors. I’ve been reading male authors but no female protaginist. One is Husk a thinking persons’s zombie book and I’ve read my first Jasper Fforde which every writer should read for the humour.

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  2. I know a lot of writers who stick to their own gender purely because they don’t believe they’ll be taken seriously otherwise. That sucks. Trying to force a character to behave like a certain gender is worse because it can become offensive or dismissive or degrading.

    And also, while I was reading about the topless thing, all I kept thinking was: black eyes. I’m so very mature…

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  3. As someone who has big breasts, there is no way I’d fight without a bra on. LOL That has to be the most insane thing I can think of. It would hurt. I jumped up and down with my kid the other day and didn’t have a bra on. (I had my pajamas on.) But yeah, I grabbed my breasts and thought, “That freakin’ hurt.”

    I’d love to read about a man fighting naked. No need to have anything protecting that area of his body. hehe

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    1. OMG!!!! Yeah… Can you imagine a GUY trying to kick box naked? Pfffftttttttttttt!!! Talk about dangerous!

      Although…I have seen this done before to a male character. The fighting naked part, not the kickboxing for fun scene. Jim Butcher HAS done this to his protagonist, Harry Dresden, a few times. But his character usually gets knocked unconscious and abducted first. Butcher seems to love putting his protagonist in awkward, hopeless, humiliating, and dangerous situations. 🙂

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  4. okay, I have to agree with you 100% on topless kickboxing… yeoch! LMAO!!

    yeah, I can normally tell a woman written by a man and vice versa. The usual way you know a woman wrote a man is he says “I’m sorry” and means it 😉 There are a handful of exceptions, but…

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    1. Huh. I started thinking about ALL the guys in my life. They’ve all said the words “I’m sorry” to me. Heck! If I’m at work, I usually get at least one “sorry” per day “Did you leave your empty boxes here?” “Sorry.” Followed by me saying, “Don’t be sorry; get ’em out of the way!” Hmmm… However, my guy pal who happens to be gay usually DOESN’T say he’s sorry. He says “I know” or simply agrees with me. “Did you eat all my chips?” “Yeah. I know. They were REALLY good. I’ll buy you another bag.” My straight male friends will just say “sorry,” and I’m STILL missing my chips! 🙂 *Moral of the story? I’ve got to stop leaving good food around. LOL

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