I’ve discussed this topic a few times before, so here’s part one and part two (part one includes LGBTQ people, while part two just focuses on women).
I honestly wish I didn’t have to do this again, but it looks as though this is going to end up being a monthly conversation. The reason why is that a lot of people just still don’t get it. There is a reason why women in fiction, every medium of fiction, is important.
I’m focusing on women in this post, because there’s still this stigma that if a product has a woman on the cover, it won’t be as wildly popular than if generic, white, cookie cutter man is on the cover. That stigma is the problem, and some can’t get past it, which means that a lot of marketing for video games, movie titles, books, comics and so on drops off because the head honchos don’t believe a female lead title can sell. Which is weird because a lot of female lead products have been wildly successful in the past.
And quite a few more that I can’t think of off the top of my head (though, I’m sure others can add to this list). So why are we always taking a step back whenever a new female lead title starts to make it’s way through the press? Why are we forced to deal with the same nay sayers over and over again over female characters in print, film and digital media formats? Is it an insecurity that suddenly women will become more ubiquitous then men in fiction? I doubt that considering that the number of female lead titles that exist is still only a small handful compared to the number of male (and white) lead titles that exist in the world. Keep in mind, for decades it was always a male power fantasy to be the shining knight and save the damsel in distress. This was the way of things. It’s old and tired now, but those who like old and tired things are trying to hook up the white knight to a heart monitor and keep him alive via external machines. Well, it’s time to just let him die, he had a good life, now let him die with dignity and let the new stuff happen.
This is another reason why women in fiction is important (and this part doesn’t just cover female characters, but female writers, artists, creators, and not just white women, but women of all colours); women bring something new to the table. A different point of view that can bring about new stories and keep the world’s creativity alive. Let’s face it, we’re starting to hit the bottom of the barrel, creatively speaking, and we need new stuff. After all, why the hell are we doing remakes of Total Recall and Psycho in movies when we could be searching for something different. The main answer to that is business people really don’t like taking risks and they’d rather play with a sure thing. When they do take a risk, doing so with something that has a female lead is often way too risky for them to go through with it. And even when they do go ahead with it, they don’t promote it enough in order to allow that thing to work.
Bottom line, let more women be creative leads in every aspect. Let women be the main characters of popular culture. But make sure it’s not in some patronizing way. Make it believable. We’ll all be more creatively richer for it.
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From Ian Morrison of Friends of the CBC:
I have just received the following note from my friend, Margaret Atwood.
Margaret and her team have developed a new way for artists and creators everywhere – including Canadian fiction and non-fiction writers, musicians, graphic novelists and others — to reach out to new audiences here and around the globe with webcast events, personal connections, and individual signing possibilities. It’s called www.fanado.com.
This project offers an important new way for the world-class art of Canadian creators to find and reach new audiences. I have supported this important project. I invite you to consider supporting it too by visiting www.indiegogo.com/fanado.
For a project like this to work, there must be a groundswell, and a wide base of support – just as for public broadcasting, of which Margaret is a steadfast supporter.
Writing projects, fiction and non-fiction, writers, musicians, graphic novelists and more! This might also be a great opportunity for women creators in Canada to showcase their work as well.
Let me be quite frank about this. These are women who present a positive influence that not only women can look up to, but all genders. Characters that are not simply pretty delicate flowers that some male hero needs to rescue, not at all. Because these icons I speak of can rescue themselves. Sure, there’s women out there that have no problem with being rescued and they have lots of role models to look to, in books, television, comics, film and so much more.
But there’s also a large number of women that don’t want or need to be rescued. Believe it or not, guys, but not every woman wants to be rescued. And if you believe they do, then you’re not looking at the big picture.
Every so often, a female character comes along that breaks the boundary and is someone worthy of looking up to. There are many out there right now that I can name, beginning with Wonder Woman. She’s not the only one. It might surprise you to hear, but another would be Anne of Green Gables. Sure, you really can’t compare Diana, Princess of Themyscira with Anne of Green Gables, the two are worlds apart in what they do. But they’re still positive role models.
The list is extensive and includes, but is not limited to:
The list could go on and on. Already, I know the usual comment from detractors. “Isn’t that enough for women? Do they really need more?” For each strong, positive role model a woman has, there has to be about twenty positive male role models. Here’s the catch, though. A lot of those positive female role models can be good role models for men as well.
Women should never be used as sex symbols alone in fiction. This is dangerous because it sets up bad examples for men, and often times women in real life become objectified because of that treatment. Women are not simply objects to be compared to fruit or candy or some precious gem.
Fiction needs more strong female roles. And don’t confuse the term “strong female role” with something akin to a Boris painting. There’s a lot more to a strong character than just how badass or sexy they look. Some of the sexiest characters are the ones fully clothed and use a superior intellect and knowledge of their opponent than how to seduce or pummel into the dirt (see the afformentioned Janeway and Granger).
But it would seem that mainstream media, whether that be in television series, comic books, movies or even advertising, would rather portray a women in a certain aspect that they believe the public is comfortable with. That view gets worse when speaking about women of colour.
As a society, we need to utilize the medium of story telling, whether printed or digital, text, audio or visual, to tell more stories about women. Good stories that women of all ages can look up to, and that men can learn something from. Because right now, we aren’t treating women very well, which not only distorts the view of women currently living in this world, but also distorts how we view the history of women. History has a large number of women that achieved many great things. Marie Currie, Laura Secord, Irena Sendler, and many others made great strides in history.
It’s time we started treating women better. In our everyday lives as well as how they are viewed in fiction.