Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Women's Fiction

I'm in a bit of a fog today, fighting off a cold that my twin sis kindly offered to share with me (Twins. Always sharing things.) But I was doing a blog roundup and got as fired up as I can while sipping tea and staring, slack-jawed at the screen every few minutes. Once again I'm upset about women's fiction, women writers, and female protagonists.

First of all: What the HELL is women's fiction!? Oh wait, don't tell me. Let's wiki it, shall we? "Women's fiction is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of literary sub-genres that are marketed to female readers, including many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, chick lit, and other sub genres."

Right. Soooo then why isn't Men's fiction a literary term? Oh, right. Because Men's fiction IS fiction. It's ALL fiction. Fiction written by men. Because all fiction IS written for men, by men. Right?


Fiction is fiction. Stop quarantining books with female main characters so that men don't have to read about them or their pink frosted feminine lives. As if "women's fiction" is somehow of lesser quality and simpler themes than regular Fiction. Here's an interesting blog post on that from The Guardian. Men need to get used to reading about female main characters. I ranted about this here, if you need a refresher.

Moving on, there's this angry but interesting post from The Rejectionist, which begins as a book review of Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER and ends up as a diatribe against weak, lovelorn heroines currently popular in YA literature. Of course Bella of TWILIGHT serves as the symbol for All That is Wrong With Female Protagonists.

Question: Since when does every heroine have to represent how women should act in society at large?? I never hear people complain that a certain hero is too weak/strong/stubborn/boring/brutish/insert adjective here. Why do you think that is? Because men don't have hangups about where they fit in society. For women, we're still figuring that out. We're still trying to find the balance between wanting to be considered equals and the fact that we were born with a uterus built to grow BABIES. And what does that mean? And what if we LIKE baking cookies? Is that wrong? I think the issue is that women have a lot on their plates right now. And we need to remember that one character is just ONE character in a work of FICTION.

When we think too much about what a female character Represents, we end up with two types of characters: the weak woman in love OR the badass, take-no-prisoners woman with NO FAULTS, ever because women are perfect in every way. Writers and readers need to look at women as people just as we look at men. We're all people, just with different parts.

It's okay for one person to get swept up in love, isn't it? In fact, isn't that what happens to Twilight's lovesick hero Edward? He almost kills himself because of his love for Bella. But you don't hear any men--

(granted, this is Women's fiction we're talking about so they probably don't even know that a book called TWILIGHT exists, right?)

--complaining that Edward is too absorbed by his relationship and how unhealthy that is. No, because men aren't terrified of that happening to them. They aren't afraid of getting swept up by love, or letting that be an integral part of their lives. But women ARE afraid, because we're still trying to find that balance in real life. We consider Edward to be just one more character, making decisions and living his life. Bella on the other hand, somehow has to represent Everything a Modern Woman Should Be. That's a heavy load for any character to bear, don't you think?

So let's just try to move--one step at a time--towards a day when women and men are just people, in fiction and in life. We can start by eliminating derogatory terms like Women's fiction, for starters.

1 comment:

  1. There are two female protags in my debut novel for middle grade readers Dead Frog on the Porch and just as many boys as girls are buying it. They don't seem to care because they can identify with the protags.

    In other news, I posted my book trailer that my 12 year old niece did (it doesn't involve Sprite the cat, but it's really good).

    You can check it out on my blog (feel free to cross post)!

    Cheers, jan