What the Feck?! (WTF?!)
Is a new feature here at The Book Nympho.
Every Monday we will post a book related topic
that had us thinking WTF?! while reading a book
or talking to others in the book community.
Give a heroine a break...maybe?
Are we tougher on them than our heroes?
Give a heroine a break...maybe?
Are we tougher on them than our heroes?
I noticed recently that I, like many others, seem to give the heroes in my stories a lot more leeway than I give my heroines. I have a lot less tolerance for a heroine who seemingly takes unnecessary risks or makes questionable decisions, sometimes earning the label of Too Stupid to Live (TSTL) for doing so. I cannot think of one example where I've even considered assigning that label to a hero.
So, why was it so natural for me to beat up on my heroine for doing something I might have tolerated, or even justified, from the hero? Was it because I have higher expectations of my same gender? Am I perpetuating the expectation that women have little to no margin of error in comparison to men? Or, do I have lower expectations from my male heroes?
Here are some examples of where I might have been more unfair to the heroine than the hero.
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires)
Merit seems to never miss an opportunity to snark at Ethan or get in his face. She's pretty disrespectful to him and I found her attitude unreasonable. But, when I thought of the situations being reversed (male vampire being snarky and disrespectful of the female House Master), it actually seemed...normal. I actually expected him to be resistant and would have felt less of him if he hadn't! Aaaggghhhh! Me, sexist?
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (Fever)
I KNOW I'm not alone here! How many of you found MacKayla (she didn't become Mac to me until the second book) immature and whiny in the first book? She annoyed me to no end and my review referred to her "endless mind meanderings and immature rants." Was I being fair? Think about it, MacKayla was just a young, sheltered Southern girl who still lived at home, enjoying the life of a debutante in pink when her sister was inexplicably murdered. She goes to Ireland to find out what happened and gets thrust into this extraordinary mythic world that is beyond imagination. And, her first serious relationship is with the most mysterious man on the planet! They don't get any more complicated than Barrons. In retrospect, I thought I was too hard on her and realized that as I watched her mature the hard way through this series. Would I have been as tough on the frat boy? Maybe so but I'm not so sure.
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Underworld)
Okay, in fairness to me, this story also included the dreaded love triangle so Elena Michaels already had a strike against her. But, I also thought she took a long time in forgiving Clay for biting her. And, she messed up every strategic operation the Pack executed against the Mutts. In fairness to her, she hadn't developed Pack mentality so why did they expect her to behave as one of them? I tried to imagine how a man would have reacted to this kind of deception (being bitten without consent) and just knew that the woman would have been toast with no possibility of redemption. The love triangle, however, would have been worse for me. We don't tolerate a triangle involving two women and one man!!
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress)
Cat seemed so impetuous in this first book and drove me nuts. She was the queen of acting first and thinking later and I questioned whether I even liked her. It took me months to go back to the series and read the second book, where I fell in love with the character. Cat's always smart and passionate with a tendency to leap before looking closely but she knows how to take care of herself. Yes, Bones made her tougher but she's always had the goods. Looking back, I wonder if I would have had more patience with Cat if "she" had been a "he" out to kill all vampires no matter what. I don't think so but.....
Naked in Death by J. D. Robb (In Death)
Anyone who knows me is aware that this is my most favorite series ever. What they might not know is I wasn't so thrilled with Eve Dallas after this first book. She's surly, rude and doesn't suffer fools very well. Eve is also dangerously solitary in her lifestyle and I thought she was a cop on a ledge. Now, here I have to check myself. The mystery genre is where I live and have loved it since I was a young teen. I'm used to the hard boiled, flawed detective but this was the first time I'd seen these characteristics in a female detective. I didn't react well but the story was so compelling I had to keep going with the series. My gender bias raged with this story and I had to own up to it. Needless to say, she's now my hero, bad behavior and all.
There are many more I can cite with similar issues. It was suggested to me that there is a trend with first books in the Urban Fantasy genre, where the heroine is the lead character, to have issues with the first story. I have to admit that's true for me and most of my examples are from UF series where I've not been a big fan of the character in the first book but later adored the heroine. Am I setting a higher bar for female protagonists than I would for their male counterparts? Do we accept that the hero is allowed to screw up and bounce back without being considered TSTL? Or is it just that we don't see stories written where the men make these kind of mistakes or blunders?
The one UF series that comes to mind with a man as the main character is the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. In the first book, Hounded, Atticus made many mistakes that I thought were "out of character." That was an assumption I made, and made it rather quickly. I'm still asking myself why it was so easy for me to make this leap and not so much for the women in other series.
To redeem myself here, I do have one great example of a heroine who I thought was brilliant from the start, even though she's not perfect. Patricia Briggs' heroine, Mercy Thompson from the series with the same name, is one of my most favorite heroines. This series was my first venture into UF and I think I've judged every heroine since to Mercy's standard. She's smart, loyal and has a rational process for thinking through situations and I like her moral compass.
So, maybe I am being tougher on the women in these stories. Or, it could just be that I started off with a pretty good role model and that's the standard I'm expecting them all to live up to. I'm still trying to figure that out. I know where my judgment comes from as my first job out of college was in a profession dominated by men. There was no margin for error as women were held to a different standard. However, that was long ago and no excuse for still holding on to that point of view. I’m hoping that Mercy Thompson just shaped my view of the ideal heroine
Where are you on this topic? Are your heroes getting more of a break than your heroines? Do you follow the trend or are you bucking it? And, if you’ve got some examples, we’d love to hear about them.