Action Heroine Fans discussion

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General discussions > Why the appeal of action heroines?

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message 1: by Werner (last edited Aug 29, 2009 04:43AM) (new)

Werner | 1514 comments With any type or sub-type of literature that we find we like, why we like it is a natural question that arises, if we have analytical minds. And even if we aren't analytically inclined, it's a question that other people who don't like the same type of reading will certainly pose for us (sometimes with the air of a researcher investigating weird phenomena :-)). The literature of action heroines --Woman as Warrior, capable of kicking some butt, even male butt-- is no exception. Not really a genre, it's found in many genres: sagas and folklore, historical fiction, mysteries, fantasy and supernatural fiction, SF, action adventure in any setting, even epic poetry (think Britomartis in The Faerie Queen). From what does that image derive its enduring appeal?

Part of it, of course, is the appeal of any heroic figure, male or female. Literature that involves violent combat, if it's to have some meaning, finds that meaning in the moral sphere: it's a conflict in some sense between good and evil, waged to defend somebody or something who's worth defending. A hero or heroine here is someone who can discern what side deserves to be fought for, and who has the guts to do it, even in the face of danger. We admire him/ her for that, even if the fight is ultimately a losing one (after all, who doesn't admire Boudicca-- and how many people even remember the name of the Roman general who brutally conquered her?). And those who stand in the gap in this way often display other qualities that inherently excite admiration: loyalty, inner strength, the moral toughness to do what has to be done even when it hurts, compassion for those who need it, fairness and justice, skill -- the list could go on. But why the particular appeal of the distaff side of this image?

For some male fans, of course, part of that appeal is the factor of what could be called (defining it very broadly) "romantic" attraction; males are wired psychologically to react somewhat differently to females than to other males, in any situation, and some of us are attracted --both in literature/film and in real life-- to strong, competent, take-charge women who can get the job done. Other males feel threatened by such females, and so defensively stereotype them --and guys who appreciate them-- as somehow kinky and unnatural. (That's why many male fans of such heroines feel embarrassed about it; fortunately, I've arrived at an age where I care less than I used to about what other people think.) But I don't think that's a valid assessment; IMO, God didn't distribute heroic qualities by gender, and there's nothing kinky about seeing them as enhancing attractiveness in the opposite sex --either opposite sex. It's also not a matter of literal lust (as I said, the "romantic" aspect of the appeal is broadly defined :-)); a guy fan may recognize, and appreciate, that Jirel or Xena are attractive, but he's not going to actually fall in love with them or desire them --and if he's in a relationship, they don't in any sense compete with his lady. (The psychology of that kind of attraction is the same for females --my wife is a fan of John Wayne and Chuck Norris, but I know perfectly well that I don't have to worry. :-))

Even for guys, though --let alone for the many (straight) females who are also fans-- the appeal of these heroines can't be reduced to male-female attraction. There's also, a think, a natural tendency for people to root for the underdog. Women have been the underdog, not only in most physical combat situations, but in social-political and economic arrangements throughout most of history. Most women have less upper body strength than most males (though that trait, like most, is distributed through a population on a bell-shaped curve; so most women are stronger than some men --and a few women are stronger than most men) so they've usually not been trained to physically fight for themselves or others, and have been brutally pushed around a lot; they've been discriminated against, shut out from social roles most males take for granted, exploited and treated as drudges, put down as stupid and weak. In a lot of ways, they've been the ultimate underdog; so seeing a lady turn the tables, look a villain in the eye and knock him into the middle of next week can carry a special satisfaction, for action heroine fans of both genders. :-) Related to this, we all have a natural tendency to chafe at rules and restrictions that bind us and leach freedom out of our lives. Where this takes the form of rebellion against the moral order of the universe, it's unhealthy; but more often, it's just rebellion against man-made social strictures: "work 9-5 whether you feel like it or not; pull that tie tight even if it's 90 degrees in the shade; brush your teeth before you go to bed even if you're tired, etc. etc." (This is the kind of frustration Edgar Rice Burroughs appealed to with his theme of "primitivism.") Women tend to be strait-jacketed by a lot of social strictures and role expectations --"nice" girls don't fight, always let males take the lead and make the decisions, anything dangerous or physically demanding isn't womens' work, and so on. When one of them says, "Enough already; I'm gonna be me, whether anybody else likes it or not!" and buckles on a gun or starts studying karate, we can all kind of know how she feels --and it feels liberating to vicariously join her in rebelling, even if it's just by saying, "You go, girl!" Anyway, that's how I analyze the appeal of action heroines for me personally! What do some of the rest of you think --does this resonate with anybody?


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) You got quite a few of my reasons down for liking them. There's a whole new range of possibilities in a story with a heroine over heroes. After reading hundreds, if not thousands of heroic stories, it's a nice change of pace.



message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin I know part of why I want a male to be strong is because I don't want someone I have to lead around. Having an equal partner is important, so now matter if your male or female, you want your partner(not sexual) or character in the book, to be strong enough that you feel comfortable with them. Characters are almost always some what subconsciously or consciously thought of as a partner of some sort. Its what makes a book more exciting.

I have to agree whole heartily with the fact that why heroines are so much more interesting is because we are the underdog. Even in today's day and age I always felt that physically women are the underdog. Largely because so often it is true for the reasons stated.

One of my favorites growing up was Laura Croft because not only is she beautiful, but you can really see her doing it. Angelina Jolie proved how real it could be, since she did almost all her own stunt work. These characters like her also tell girls its alright to be strong. I can't tell you how much of a war it is growing up wondering if its right or wrong to be strong. This is coming from a girl who's favorite pass time was play fighting with her male friends when she was little. I use to really beat the tar out of them too.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Erin wrote: "...This is coming from a girl who's favorite pass time was play fighting with her male friends when she was little. I use to really beat the tar out of them too."

You still hit boys too often, Shorty. It's the uncouth influence of your older brothers. I remember a call from your first grade teacher after you decked a boy & gave him a bloody nose, with one punch, because he pulled your pigtails.

Ripley from the 'Alien' movies was also one of your favorites, wasn't she?


message 5: by Erin (new)

Erin LMAO!!!! I didn't know I had done that! That's great! And I don't remember if I liked her or not. I have a feeling you're projecting. Mom tried to keep you from letting watch anymore.


message 6: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments My ideal heroine is Ripley from Alien. Not the biggest action heroine since it was SF/Horror series but i liked her Everyman(or woman) way of struggling to survive against the monsters.

Other favs Xena,Bêlit(Conan S&S story),Sarah Connor.

Actually i havent read many quality action heroines most of my favs are from film,tv.

I will read Jirel by CL Moore soon though.


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I probably am projecting. I really liked Ripley in the first couple of Aliens. I didn't like the third, though. the 4th wasn't terrible, but not my favorite.


message 8: by Mohammed (last edited Aug 29, 2009 06:05PM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments I havent seen the third even though i have it on DVD.

I only saw Alien,Aliens earlier this year and only the fourth one before. I always thought Ripley was cool in the fourth one that wasnt so good. Seeing the first two films who are near perfect SF films i have so much more affection for Ripley now. Even more seeing how rare she is as a female action or SF hero of any kind in film.

When i read they want to do a prequel to Alien without Ripley i thought what's the points that's how much big of a fan i am :)


message 9: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) I like the blending of strong and soft in a heroine. Lover, mother, daughter, warrior.

When I was young, it wasn't considered proper for a girl show any masculine traits, so for me, I was able to live it without really doing it, if you know what I mean. Times have changed and so have I. I take every opportunity to compete with men on their own turf and prove I can do anything they can do. I don't go around fistfighting, but I compete in other ways. My profession is a direct result of this attitude.

My most beloved heroine of all time is Boudica of the first century Britian. A wife, a mother, who rose up and started a rebellion against the Roman invaders. And she gave them a run for their money, before that last battle, Nero was ready to pull out of Britian.
Manda Scott wrote an excellent 4 book series, starting with Dreaming the Eagle. I highly recommend it.


message 10: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Jackie, welcome to the group (and welcome, too, to everybody else who's joined so far!). Out of curiosity (if it's not too nosy a question :-)), what is your profession?

My Goodreads friend Andrew Seddon's novel, Imperial Legions, is set in Britain in the time of Boudica's rebellion; she's not the heroine of the book, but she's an important character. His portrayal is pretty faithful to history --which is a shame, since her Celts get slaughtered by the Romans. (I told him he should have taken a leaf out of Harry Turtledove's book, and had a time-traveler give her a couple of dozen AK-47s with ammo. :-))


message 11: by Jackie (last edited Aug 31, 2009 09:16PM) (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) Werner, thanks for the info about Imperial Legions, another one to add to my To Read list.
I often think of how different the world would have been had Boudica won that last battle. I'd love to read an Alternate History of that.
I restore antique and classic wooden boats and I'm the only female who has ever lasted more than a week since it opened in 1928. And I excel at it. I'm highly competitive with my co-workers; I have to do a better job. Besides my foreman, workers last only a year or two, but we've been working side by side for 9 years now. He's tough to work for because he's a crazy perfectionist, but so am I, which is why we work so well together. We're pretty much a package deal now.
Prior to that, I did demolition and some construction. I did my Office time and it just wasn't my thing. I enjoy working with my hands.


message 12: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments You're welcome, Jackie! I should warn you that Imperial Legions could be called a Christian romance (a genre I don't usually like) --but it's not a sappy kind of romance where two people mostly spend their time emoting and feeling like their hearts, bones (brains?), etc. are melting. :-)

Kudos on your success in your profession! And I think it's cool that you've worked in demolition and construction, too. (The house Barb and I now live in had to have a lot of work before we moved in, and our contractor was a woman; she works right along with her crew, and definitely knows her stuff. Barb's no slouch with tools, either. :-))


message 13: by Jackie (last edited Sep 01, 2009 07:41AM) (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) Times have surely changed. When I got out of High School, 1979, I told my father I wanted to do construction work and gave me such a hard time, it was easier to just work in an office. Even as late as 1979, women either worked in an office or as a nurse. Now it's so completely different and I couldn't be more pleased.
The only thing I miss is having other women around to talk to while we work. So typical, it's funny.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments For me it's a lot of what you said, Werner, but also my feeling that woman are capable of so much, and having action heroines in fiction are figures of this potential.
It's funny how on one hand some traditionalists (of both sexes) want women to stay home and have babies and raise children because they are too weak to do man's work, or because her role is in the home. Well that job is very hard, it requires lots of emotional and physical fortitude. Carrying a child and giving birth is not easy. If a woman can go through nine months of that and then raise her children, and run a household, why can't she go to war, be a NAVY SEAL, help save the world? (I get a little soapboxy about this, so forgive me).

I love strong women because they embody what I think women are capable of. As you have alluded to, there have been women warriors and heroines all along, and throughout history. It's nothing new or strange.

Like Mohammed, I admire Ripley tremendously. I also loved Alexa from Alien Versus Predator. I love Alice from the Resident Evil movies. There are so many women warriors that I admire, I can't even think about them all right now.


message 15: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments Hi Danielle welcome

Alice is cool too. Maybe i liked her and RE movies cause she was a new version of Ripley fighting Zombies instead Alien monsters.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Thanks for the welcome. I can see the similarities to Ripley, Mohammed. I think Ripley is the model for the movie action heroine. She set the standard and there are some good follow-ups and bad ripoffs of her in the movies.


message 17: by C.C. (new)

C.C. Cole (authorcccole) | 25 comments Agree about Ripley from the Alien/Aliens movies. I'm admittedly a Kill Bill fan myself.

I think powerful female leads interest many because it's a nice vacation from "the damsel in distress", and female heroines (I'm now talking about my character, Shevata, from "Act of Redemption") tend to appear harmless, making a complex/difficult opponent for the stereotypical villain.


message 18: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Good points, C. In the latter respect, it's not just Shevata; in combat situations, I think males in general tend to underestimate female opponents, and that male readers might not expect much fighting ability from a woman. Reversal of expectations adds an element of surprise, which always makes a storyline more interesting.


message 19: by C.C. (new)

C.C. Cole (authorcccole) | 25 comments Agree, good analogy regarding combat!!


message 20: by Mohammed (last edited Aug 05, 2010 05:12AM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments I was just now thinking Werners original post in this topic.

Must say i dont like female action hero because she is the underdog or its male-female attraction.

For me as a male its about getting away from the macho dominated hero look. Why cant a gal be tough,action hero kind of thought.


message 21: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 66 comments C. wrote: "Agree, good analogy regarding combat!!"

In my second novel, A Warrior Made, one of the male leads becomes a storyteller, while the girl he meeats and eventually hooks up with becomes the fighter of the group.


message 22: by C.C. (new)

C.C. Cole (authorcccole) | 25 comments Mohammed.... strong female characters in a story do not require weak male characters to make them strong.

If I'm getting the point of your last sentence, strong female characters do not have to take on a 'manly' appearance or 'manly' tactics. There's plenty of strength and dominance in estrogen.

If you don't like strong female heroines, to each their own. I just go for the story in general.


message 23: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments C. wrote: "Mohammed.... strong female characters in a story do not require weak male characters to make them strong.

If I'm getting the point of your last sentence, strong female characters do not have to ta..."


Who said i dont like strong female hero ?

Im not talking about weak male being in a strong female character story. What i thought why cant there be more strong female characters in hero role. Doesnt matter if they are more feminine ala say cheerleading Buffy or less feminine one like Ripley. Starbuck in BSG is basicly like a military dude.

Any kind of female hero is fine with me. Not saying they have to be one way or the other.


message 24: by C.C. (new)

C.C. Cole (authorcccole) | 25 comments Good clarification....agree!!


message 25: by Mohammed (last edited Aug 07, 2010 04:55PM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments Frankly to get rid of damsel in distress kind from my mind i will watch my DVD of Alien 3 and the always cool Ripley.

I wish there were SF books version of her !


message 26: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 66 comments Mohammed wrote: "Frankly to get rid of damsel in distress kind from my mind i will watch my DVD of Alien 3 and the always cool Ripley.

I wish there were SF books version of her !"


Elizabeth Moon's Kylara Vatta series.


message 27: by Mohammed (last edited Aug 07, 2010 05:35PM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments I havent tried that series but i have heard good things and want to read it.

I tried reading Honor Harrington series but it was too much rip off on Horatio Hornblower....


message 28: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 66 comments Mohammed wrote: "I havent tried that series but i have heard good things and want to read it.

I tried reading Honor Harrington series but it was too much rip off on Horatio Hornblower...."


Very true, and Weber isn't as good a writer. Also try Tanya Huff's Confederation of Valor books, about Gunnery Sgt. Torin Kerr. Tanya Huff does a lot of fantasy too, and Moon has the Paksennarion series of fantasy novels.


message 29: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments I like military SF and heard good things about Weber so i was real disappointed.

Torin Kerr is military SF or has just an action heroine ?

I have read Paksennarion.

Thanks for the recommendations it helps. I get annoyed by the fact i have trouble finding out that even those kind of books,characters exist.


message 30: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 66 comments Mohammed wrote: "I like military SF and heard good things about Weber so i was real disappointed.

Torin Kerr is military SF or has just an action heroine ?

I have read Paksennarion.

Thanks for the recommendati..."


Torin Kerr is a Gunnery Sgt in the Space Marines during wartime. What do you think?


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I liked the first 8 books or so of the Honor Harrington series. No, Weber isn't a top notch writer, but he's good enough. It was entertaining. I do think he drew the series out too long, though.


message 32: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 66 comments Jim wrote: "I liked the first 8 books or so of the Honor Harrington series. No, Weber isn't a top notch writer, but he's good enough. It was entertaining. I do think he drew the series out too long, though."

That's about as much as I liked of it. Up to Honor Among Enemies. After that his inability to write convincing dialog or real characters took over, and I really didn't care about the complicated politics and extended battle sequences.


message 33: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 67 comments Marc wrote: "Mohammed wrote: "I like military SF and heard good things about Weber so i was real disappointed.

Torin Kerr is military SF or has just an action heroine ?

I have read Paksennarion.

Thanks for..."


Space Marines sounds good for someone who became Military SF fan after enjoying the marines side of the story in Starship Troopers :)


message 34: by Werner (last edited Mar 08, 2012 08:44PM) (new)

Werner | 1514 comments We haven't posted on this thread in awhile, but another aspect of the appeal of action heroines occurred to me today --its power as a metaphor. Just like in the supernatural fiction genre, where things like vampirism, lycanthropy, tangible struggle between the divine and the demonic, etc. can serve as a metaphor for real-world psychological, moral and spiritual conflicts, I think the struggles of a heroine to overcome adversaries in physical combat can serve psychologically as a metaphor for the very real struggles many women --probably more so than most men-- face every day: with demanding jobs, poverty, hardship, parenting (sometimes alone), health issues, inequality and discrimination, caregiving for family members with serious problems, etc. Very few real-life women will experience the kinds of physical challenges the literary and film characters mentioned above face; but quite a few of them will have to cope with challenges that also demand guts, endurance, inner strength, resolution to see things through, self-sacrifice, loyalty, etc. And I could see how watching or reading about a heroine beating the forces of evil could send them the message that they've got what it takes to beat the menacing forces and problems in their real lives, too. Just a thought!


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Well said, Werner. I know that when I read a book with a heroine overcoming obstacles it does encourage me to get through the everyday stuff that I deal with.

For instance, Sydney Bristow from Alias. As weird as it sounds, I've caught myself thinking, Sydney would be able to handle this when I've been in a tough situation.


message 36: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) | 91 comments Lady Danielle "The Book Huntress" wrote: "Sydney would be able to handle this "

Well, season 1 and 2 Syd would be able to handle it. . .

;-)


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Seasons 1-5 show a Sydney I loved and respected for her abilities. Season 4 wasn't as good because they focused on Nadia and she's not nearly as interesting as Sydney.


message 38: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) Lol, or look at it this way... sometimes, looking at the action heroine bashing the bad guy and killing the minions and all... Women do like to imagine themselves in her shoes, with the boss-from-hell in the bad guy's place, and all the office idiots in the minions' places. Oh, and yes too - sometimes the bad guy takes the face of the hubby/bf... :)


message 39: by Sadie (new)

Sadie Forsythe | 27 comments I should start by noting that I am a woman. Most of my reason have been covered already, but to throw my two cents in I think part of the reason I appreciate a heroine is different from why I love a hero (and I do). When I look at a hero doing what heroes do there is a sense of appreciation, a sense of being protected-even if imagined. As a woman, and I only speak for myself, this is nice. But I don't want to be protected all of the time, this is tantamount to helplessness and I won't abide by that. A heroine, however, provides me a form on which I can model my own heroic deeds. (Is there a female version-heroinic, probably not) I can look at her and not need a hero to protect me. There was a time when women were supposed to value protection above almost all else, though I doubt many every fully lived up to that social expectation, but now is not such a time. I want to be able to take care of myself and those I care about, and a heroine reminds me that it is possible.


message 40: by David (new)

David | 7 comments There's a lot of food for thought here. Here's a sort of random thought on the subject, one of the deepest traditions in the ancient pantheons of the Indo-Europeans is the War-Goddess, the Gaels had the Badb Catha, the Greeks Athena, the Hindus still have Kali the Destroyer, and many more. I expect you can find similar war-goddesses outside of the I-E traditions.
Maybe it's something about destruction equaling cleansing, leaving room to create anew?


message 41: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments The ancient Finnish goddess Loviatar was apparently in a similar mold (and thought of as pretty formidable). I sometimes think that for men (or at least for some of us), at a deep psychological level, the combination of mysterious "otherness" and allure that women have makes us subconsciously think of them, in some ways, as sort of goddesses; and naturally, one attribute of a goddess is power. In primitive times, the most obvious kind of power was fighting prowess, the power of a warrior, of life and death; so it's not hard to see that as the psychological root of the myths of war goddesses, and as why the archetype still resonates thousands of years later with us "civilized" males. :-)


message 42: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) As a kid, most of the books I read that had a heroic or adventurous storyline featured male characters. Sadly most books featuring girls seemed to be, well, tame and boring. Somehow, I managed to carry the mindset of reading about strong male characters into my adult reading.
But recently I read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (sorry can't hyperlink on my iPod) which features a strong female lead character. She's wild and a lot of fun and it made me realise that it felt very different reading about strong a female character than it does reading about a male.
For me, when I read about a male hero, he's someone I can admire and be attracted to. But when I read about a heroine she becomes someone I can live vicariously through and identify with. It's like she stands up for me and says hey, we girls are alright. We can be strong, heroic and tough, and still be a girl.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Well said, Janelle. I want to see portrayal of women in genre fiction that don't perpetuate stereotypes, but show how dynamic women can be and still be strong.


message 44: by Alex (last edited Mar 12, 2013 03:28AM) (new)

Alex (goodreadscomalexsheridanwrites) | 10 comments Men are expected to be tough from Day One. That whole, 'boys don't cry', and 'take it like a man' kind of gears most men toward being psychologically prepared to fight. Women are expected to be nurturing and kind, even when they don't feel like it. Bad things will be said about a woman if she leaves the cooking and cleaning to her husband. Most women aren't even encouraged to learn to use tools growing up.

It is intriguing when an author gives us a strong female who's put in a situation where she has no choice other than to kick some a*s. How will this weakling handle herself? Can she do it? Not only can she do it physically, but can she handle the pressure mentally? Will she run from her adversaries, screaming for help, or will she turn and fight?

I think that's the payoff right there - we expect men to be able and willing to fight, but it's a double challenge for women.


message 45: by The Pirate Ghost (last edited Mar 13, 2013 07:59AM) (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) An interesting study in the differences between the way two writers write male and female characters can be seen in "The Blood Gospel" co-written by James Rollins (an aclaimed Action/Adventure author) and Rebecca Cantrell, a Horror (Urban Fantasy) and Y/A writer (also aclaimed).

I might not have noticed if I had not been a Rollins fan for so long, I had sort of accepted his G.I. Joe type male heroes. Then, in this book, there is one complicated male hero that is clearly drawn from both author's strenghts, a good, strong Heroine, and what should have been a co-Hero (with the other two) turns out to be a forgetable G.I. Joe action hero type. (Maybe not forgetable, but character wise, its a struggle to keep envisioning him on the same shelf as the other two).

The female heroine is, on the surface, similar to Rollins Heroines in the past, intially I thought nothing of it, but as I read through the book, she had so much more depth of character. Rollins builds character through background, this Lady was built through current internal conflict (set up in the background) and she seemed so much more complicated and developed than what I had expected.

I'm still in the camp that says, some men write women like women and men like women, some women write women like men and men like women, and sometimes it's the other way around. (I still acknowledge that women probalby write better female characters (heroines). I just don't think that it "Must be" that way).


message 46: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) | 26 comments Alex wrote: "I think that's the payoff right there - we expect men to be able and willing to fight, but it's a double challenge for women. "

Alex, it's more than an expectation, it's the reality of physique. There is a reason men and women don't step into the same boxing ring, swim lanes, or soccer field in the Olympics.

When I wrote my first book featuring a heroine, I did a lot of research to bring realism to her fight scenes. I'd seen Gina Carano in Haywire, Angelina in SALT, etc. As much as I liked the movies, I thought those women were incredibly strong. Incredibly.

My research led me to some interesting studies: women's leg strength is about 90% of a man's, but the upper body is 60%. Mother Nature wanted a woman to run when necessary (like fleeing the woolly mammoth stampede) but she only needed to carry the baby. She left killing the mammoth to the men.

This means that a woman can fight a man but she's going to need some serious advantage.

Zoe Sharp handled this admirably in her first novel "Killer Instinct" when she had her heroine talk her way out of a fight with a big man. I chose to "cheat" a little by having my heroine get the element of surprise: most men don't expect a woman to have trained as a boxer for ten years and they don't expect a woman to throw a punch while she's still talking.

The element of surprise combined with a vicious right cross will get it done. Any fight that drags out should put the woman in the hospital (and the man fighting her in jail). Nonetheless, I occasionally get reviews that say my heroine couldn't knock down a man -- and yet I know for a fact that it's possible. I'm 190 and my 120 lb daughter (15 at the time) knocked me to the mat while sparring (she only took boxing for a year). (Yes, everyone at Koncrete Gym howled about that for weeks -- but in my defense, a father can't really spar with his daughter no matter how many times she knocks him down. :)

Peace, Seeley


message 47: by The Pirate Ghost (last edited Mar 13, 2013 11:32AM) (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) (note to self, no sparing with Gabi...)

The IRL (in real life) fights where a woman beat up the man, where the man is a credible threat (not all men are braun and muscle) seemed to have one thing in common. There was the element of surprise, but there was also and element of "The man wasn't ready to put as much effort into the fight as the woman was."...surprise.

It's like a dog chasing a cat. Comparatively, a woman has a better chance against a male oponent than a cat has against a full sized dog, yet, most dog cat fights (certainly not all of them) the cat comes out on top because the dog did not expect what he got into. He thought it would be easy, or he was just out for fun and the cat took him seriously and responded like her life was at stake. She struck fast and early drawing blood, and very loudly (lots of noise) and, when its clear they run, they hide they find defensable positions and when they can't get away they give em both barrels, even if their out gunned. Their goal is to survive, not necessarily to win, and they believe if they give up, their dead.

Usually it's the dog that takes off even when that started out "really meaning business this time." They just are not prepared to sacrafice what it takes, even though a fair sized dog (45 lbs) could eat a 10 lbs cat any time it truely wanted to. I just had to be ready to loose an eye first.

The fights in the news where a woman fends off a would be attacker (a credible attacker) seem to have more in common with that. They use the arsenal, mace 'em what ever they have. They scream and run. They kick bite and scratch. If they have a gun they use it. They throw things and, like the dog against the cat, the attacker leaves for fear of getting hurt, or caught or both and he's not prepared for that.

And, even when they win (survive) the women often take grevious damage because of it. And, sometimes (far too often) they can't get away.

Surpise works both ways. Sometimes the man may not be prepared to loose an eye or a tooth to win the fight with a woman, but the woman does not believe there's going to be a fight. That goes back to what Alex was saying. Men learn from day one that they are expected to be able to "bring it" when they need to (even if it's not a realistic expectation). Women, no matter how capable they are, are not taught that lesson unless they grew up in an extreme situation (and they they rely on instinct more tha physical ability...paranoia pays off every now and then).

I find the most realistic fight scenes between women and men are made realistic because the women really understands that she will die (or worse, lots of pain) if she doesn't fight back and keep fighting.


message 48: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) | 26 comments I, Curmudgeon wrote: "(note to self, no sparing with Gabi...)

The IRL (in real life) fights where a woman beat up the man, where the man is a credible threat (not all men are braun and muscle) seemed to have one thing ..."


Indeed, Hugh, do not spar with Gabi. I saw her picture--she has the eye of the tiger :)

Your point about cats & dogs is well taken. I'm getting close to writing a fight scene where Pia takes on a brute who is a fighter and I'll be cognizant of your advice. She will be fighting for her life -- but I'm not sure yet just who will win.

BTW: Cats & dogs, yes. But Coyotes are another story. We have coyotes in our 'hood and feral cats (large, open lots around here) and the coyotes keep the cat population at a minimum. Most unfortunate: we can hear mother nature's drama played out from time to time. Not pretty.

Peace, Seeley


message 49: by The Pirate Ghost (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) Seeley wrote: "I, Curmudgeon wrote: "(note to self, no sparing with Gabi...)

The IRL (in real life) fights where a woman beat up the man, where the man is a credible threat (not all men are braun and muscle) see..."


Yes, the coyote isn't out "at play" and has no realistic expecttaion that it'll have a bowl of food at home cat or no cat dinner. It's in it for survival. Any given day, a dog could take a cat, like a coyote, it's just the dog's "softer" in it's heart because he can rely on man.

As for the book, I'm not completely against the guy coming to the rescue at some point, but, I find I have more respect for the image of a woman in a book when she gets herself out of the jam (after she looses the fight) escapes, sneaks out, tricks 'em what ever (or just hangs on to life long enough for the cops to come and the guy has to run off (a win = survival)

The problem is, that the same is true for the average man against a trained fighter, yet, for some reason, readers (we), likely men mostly, but strangely not exclusively or even close to exclusively, have a different standard for men in than women.

The last book I finished, the heroine is abducted (no sense in fighting an unbeatable oponent, also well done because it wasn't demeaning, even the heros wouldn't win the fight) and, she figures out how to sneak out of the holding cell.

Book two, the one I'm reading has a very violent disturbing attack by a serial killer on a young woman (17) who is pettite. She fights back, gets the ever lovin crap beat out of her, but, survies, because she holds on long enough for people to find out what is making the noise in the alley. It's disturbing, and not what the girl would call a "victory" but she wasn't the next victim (had she not fought, it would have been worse for her).

Lots of ways to look at it. (Of course, I read Pia Sobel #1, I'm confident you'll work it out just right, what ever you do. (with or without my intrusive help) And, I appricate the nod on the talking points.)


message 50: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) | 26 comments ( Pia SAbel, by the way. It's Swedish for 'sword' so the name means Pious Sword... clever, no? )

You are very right about all those points. A woman's best weapon is her scream, and that's why so many writers like to have her attacked where no one can hear her. But your main point is clear, and I think this was Alex' original point, the resolution for a woman in a violent situation is a lot more critical than a man's.

Peace, Seeley


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