Women in Writing, and Strong Female Characters

Considering that I’m a woman writing urban fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal fic/whatever you want to call my brand of writing, I think it’s time I sounded off on this.

Bear in mind that this will be a lot more of personal observation than article analysis. Just letting you know in advance.

First things first, women writers have been around for centuries. George Sand had published best-sellers before anyone realized that it was a pen name for Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. In the 19th Century, to be an author was unheard of, and to do so was considered “unwomanly.”

Of course, times have changed, and women of all ages have ventured and secured themselves in the writing world. We read Jane Austen. We read the Bronte sisters. We read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Amy Tan. Toni Morrison. This is just to name a few, and this is proof positive that women can not only write, but entrench themselves in the world of classic literature. Me, I’m not anywhere near that level. I don’t know if I’ll ever be anywhere near that level. However, I write, and reasonably well if the Amazon reviews are any indication, but what I write is science fiction/fantasy.

What I’ve never been told is that, “Girls can’t write sci-fi” is still a pretty prevalent mindset.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I have nothing against women writers, but women just can’t write as well as men”? Because I’ve heard it, and each time I asked the person how they know that the male authors they’re enjoying are not women using pseudonyms and a model for photo. But at the core,  this sentence is an oxymoron. If you don’t have anything against women writers but still think that they’re inferior, then guess what: you have something against women writers. It’s called prejudice. That’s what it looks like. Dressing it up in a backpedal within the same sentence only makes you look more prejudiced.

While some sci-fi written by women contains elements of romance, it doesn’t mean that a female sci-fi author would necessarily put romance as the first plot arc of the story. Because there we go again with the presumptions.

To quote a good friend of mine, writers write. Period. What they write isn’t subject to discussion, necessarily, and what they write varies. Gayle, my editor, defines strength in her characters as taking the same bumps but getting up after them, and this brought up a curious point. Strong isn’t meant to translate into “untouchable and invulnerable” – that just strips the characters of their believability. The definitions of strength vary from person to person, but the general consensus is that if strength is written well, then the gender of the character or of the author isn’t relevant.

One of the best ways to put it is that if you’re reading, what exactly are you measuring its merit by? Are you valuing it by the way the characters are portrayed? The formatting? Vernacular? What are your priorities in evaluating a book?

For me, just personally, it’s the plot. I don’t stop and  refuse a book because I think that one author or another can’t write something; 999% of the time, that’s simply not the case.

And not for nothing, but some of the best fantasy/sci-fi I read has been written by women.



2 thoughts on “Women in Writing, and Strong Female Characters

  1. Girls have been writing science fiction for a long time–but due to the conditions you’ve mentioned, they almost always wrote using a male name, or used their first and middle initials for their name. Science fiction fans know women rock as writers–it’s the unwashed masses who don’t know any better.

  2. To my mind its such a bizarre thing to day that women can’t write sci-fi. Why not?!

    I must say I’ve never personally come across anybody saying that women aren’t as good writers as men. Still, I’ve had the gender debate in various forms on my own blog and in the comments of others.

    I think its sad that such a prejudice is still around, but with thigh people talking about and saying that its not ok, things will eventually change.

    …one hopes!

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