This a very hot topic! I have heard complaints from people I know, and I have read online comments that in fantasy women are over-sexualized and/or under portrayed. It is true when one walks down the science fiction/fantasy aisle in Barnes and Noble that the covers often depict women as culturally ideal. When was the last time you saw a homely man or woman featured on a cover? I suppose someone could give an example since beauty has a subjective component to it, but most images show that are accepted as beautiful by the general culture. I have also seen more and more of a demand for “strong, independent female characters” in my favorite genre. I get that women make up half the population and portraying them in a crude or cookie-cutter fashion is disgusting. However, let me ask you this: what exactly is a strong and independent female character?
In Goandria: The Schism, my goal is to make Evera the light of the story. She has her flaws like anyone, but at her heart she is overflowing with love. However, Evera is dependent upon Lorkai for strength, and Lorkai depends on Evera in the same way. These two characters lean on one another in their fights, when facing the worlox or their own personal demons. Evera is also a very strong character. When challenges come her way, she faces insurmountable odds without backing down. Then, to reiterate my question. What is a strong and independent female character? I could see potential arguments on either side saying Evera is or is not strong and independent. I suppose like many other things in this world, one knows it if he/she sees it, but it is hard to put a definition around it. The thing is, no one is truly strong and independent. No one is an island. No one can function without help in some degree. I’m sure that is not what the term “strong and independent” means, but then again, what does it mean? Sure, as authors we could write characters that are islands and could kick butt by themselves, but how believable is that? Perhaps the term is in reference to female characters that do not need a husband or boyfriend to function. Hey, if that is the case than I am all for it. Marriage and relationships are not for everyone. A woman who chooses to stay home and care for the children is not any weaker than a woman who is career-focused in the midst of having a family.
This topic brings another question: should writers focus solely on the female characters and ensure they are strong to avoid clichés? I’m sure few would actually say that, but this is the impression that is often given. What I feel should matter most is depth of a character, not the gender of a character. Characters drive stories. An author can create a beautiful world, but if the characters are static, the plot will fail. So yes, we should have strong, independent characters, but the expectations need to be realistic.
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