Nick Evans's Blog: Wordsmithery - Posts Tagged "gender-bias"

Female heroes in teen fiction

There's much talk of the incipient racial bias in public awards such as the Oscars and in everything from senior roles in government to promotion chances in the workplace. Added to this, there is huge gender bias in many films and plays. The "little lady" has to be rescued by the man and he protectively wraps his arm around her while fending off their attackers (usually with a gun - a subject for a whole other post, I think).

Yet we know that strong female characters in the lead of stories have a great following. You only have to check the success of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Similarly, Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games. So why do we accept this view of women as simply passive responders to the action in so much that Hollywood churns out?

Our preconceptions are set at an early age. "Girls can't/don't do that sort of stuff," is a mantra that has meant that Maths, Science and Technology subjects in schools are dominated by boys. Yet, in real life, we all know that women are just as capable as men at pretty much everything (and can do a few things that men can't!), yet we make a big deal out of the fact that Royal Brunei Airlines' first all-female flight crew landed a plane in Saudi Arabia. Wow! Women! Flying a plane!

It may still be a minority occupation for women, but why ever not? Why do we gasp in astonishment? It's all down to simple good old prejudice, unfortunately and its rampant, not just in terms of gender bias, but racial and religious stereotyping that pigeonholes people on the basis of ... myth.

Was that why I chose girls as the main characters in my first stab at fiction? Not really. The two current books in Xalata Orbit and Melody Fret: The Hammer of Asttar and its followup, The Simulant Swarm are based on my own perceptions of girls in my wife's family. They are all strong characters in their way and they refuse to accept a bit part role in the play of life - just how it should be.

Xalata and Melody are two sides of that same coin. Xalata is brash, bold and insecure. Whereas Melody is more measured, deeply afraid of life, but has deep wells of resolve that help her overcome her fears.

The truth is though, that boys are just as conflicted, just as afraid of failure (and as likely to fail) and have the added burden that society expects them to take up the pastiche characterisation that is a "man's role" in the world. Few can aspire to that Hollywood ideal, thankfully. Yet in failing to get there, they damage their own self-picture and suffer crises of confidence - just like girls do.

I hope that, as we move away from the contraints of religion and towards a society based more on respect of others that we might understand that men and women, girls and boys are all the same animal, all suffer the same problems and are forging their path through life as best they can - with the help of others.

I'd be interested in your view!
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Published on March 20, 2016 08:58 Tags: female-lead, gender-bias, stereotyping


Nick   Evans
The occasional thoughts of a would-be author who knows he can never be as good as he thinks he is. Read me and weep.

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