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Sex In The Story 1: Shooting Up Heroine

Action heroine Black Widow is annoying some fans of the forthcoming “Avengers” film. How come? Is a story’s female character only strong if she is fighting men or bad guys?
| Feb 9, 2012 | No comments | Series:

Popular actress, standing in the middle of a big-city street, with the federally required slender body and Hollywood-required skinnier skintight suit, weapons, impeccable hair — standing still, and not even bothering to look at the huge fiery explosion blossoming behind her because she’s just that cool, gentlemen. You can’t go wrong, right? Wrong.

Cool superheroes never, ever look at huge fiery explosions, so superheroines don’t, either.

I say this because I haven’t seen this kind of nitpicking of any action-heroine character in any forthcoming film. In this case, it’s nitpicking by geeks who otherwise anticipate the May 4 Marvel superhero/crossover film, The Avengers.

The latest teaser, with an extended version on YouTube, arrived during the Super Bowl Big Game on Sunday. And many reactions, following similar criticisms of “Black Widow” (Scarlett Johansson) in the first Avengers trailer, included more of the same for this one.

Pan around the heroes… Norse god of thunder, Super Soldier, super-power armoured genius, the [author’s paraphrase] blinkin’ Incredible HULK, then…
girl with a small gun.

Widow looks stupid in every scene […]
shoving a mag in that pea shooter. She’s totally outclassed by all that power, even Hawkeye cuts a better figure with a bow.

Scar Jo Binks still looks like a lifeless piece of cardboard[.]

‘Super-Mega-Ultra-Lightning Babe’

This confuses me, especially if some alarmist Christian authors and leaders are right about the Over-Feminization of Society. If radical feminists really won their battles to show that anything men can do women can do better, these reactions seem to make no sense. Marketers also seem to have misfired. After all, what other demographic but stereotypically virginal guy-nerds wants to see pretty women in skintight suits kick supervillains’ and alien-invaders’ collective butt just as fiercely as the male heroes?

A few possibilities could contradict my finding of contradiction:

  1. Based on groupthink, men are simply lying about not appreciating Black Widow.
  2. The same men who nitpick her centrality in The Avengers marketing also nitpick Hulk’s (likely not-final) CGI and Captain America’s costume.
  3. These folks are all internet trolls who feign(?) misogynism — same as who enjoy saying “get back in the kitchen, woman, haw, haw,” and other inane silliness.
  4. Black Widow is not central in the marketing of The Avengers mainly for the men. She’s instead directed to the female demographic. More women will come to the movie, goes this logic, if they see a female representative on the superhero team.

Only the fourth brings my rebuttal. That’s because, from what I’ve seen, women who go for these sorts of stories are perfectly fine with male-only heroes. Oh yes, I can’t wait to see Black Widow take down aliens with the best of them? Not. Somehow or other, it’s still Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and even The Hulk who are the true stars of the show.

You may disagree, especially if you’re female. I eagerly admit, my experience is limited, and men and women need one another’s gifts and thoughts to sort through these issues.

But if I’m right, why then throw a female character in with the popular heroes? Is it a bluff? An appeasement? May someday every movie marketer snap upright, look around a table, and exclaim, “Oh, I thought it was you who would be offended if we didn’t do this!”?

Simple-minded strength?

Show of hands from all women who would not have seen this likely-awesome film, if it had no featured female action star.

The source of this super-heroine marketing could be this assumption: We must put some sex appeal in there for the guys, and some girls in there for the girls. Let’s save some cash and do it all at once. Yet coupled with that is another expectation: that a successful story — speculative or otherwise — needs to show female characters as strong, strong exactly like the males, while also being just as feminine, in order to please everybody.

Many others write about how these characterizations can foster absurd expectations, in both men and women, of women’s abilities and appearances. I assume that is true, before moving to this: the self-contradictory nature of these characterization attempts.

Let me see if I can trace this logic.

  1. Previous stories that showed women in only subservient or “domestic” roles are inadequate. We must now show women as strong and equal to male characters.
  2. “Strong” and “equal” can only be defined in stories as “fighting.”
  3. Thus, the only way to show strength and equality is to show women fighting.

Two clarifications. First, by fighting I don’t mean only physical combat (though that is a subset of this). This can also include women fighting men, fighting for acceptance, and fighting for equality in a Traditionally Man’s World. Second, I don’t mean to imply that women in stories, or reality, should only be “domestic,” in the kitchen, having babies, etc. Many women of the Bible don’t do that. The Proverbs 31 Woman doesn’t do that. No New Testament passage insists this is the only job description of Biblical Womanhood.

Now consider this: If we define un-Biblical, flawed “feministic” strength only as physical action-heroine fighting, I believe most Christian fiction doesn’t do that. Showing only this form of female strength is more common in secular stories.

However, if we accept a broader definition of “fighting,” are some Christian novel plots based not on women’s roles as people, before God, but on human men’s approval?

I suppose here I speak of other fiction genres. My bias may be showing, but I haven’t seen this issue in Christian speculative novels. Rather, it’s cozy/historical/modern romances that present lady detectives, lady doctors, lady schoolteachers on the prairie, and likely even a lady sheriff Trying to Make It In a Man’s World while being challenged to a gunfight with Bad Bart while also falling in love with the handsome ranch hand.

This makes me wonder: why are these narrow definitions of women’s strength common mainly in other fiction genres? It also makes me ask: what other assumptions behind the women-shown-as-strong-in-only-one-way themes may be latent in our own minds?

Thus this series. It seems well-timed not only because of Valentine’s Day, but because:

  • My last series concluded with a discussion in which I quoted Lord of the Rings actress Liv Tyler, who became overjoyed at being able to show a unique kind of strength in her character, the Elf-princess Arwen. “You don’t have to put a sword in her hands to make her strong,” Tyler said.
  • Author/pastor John Piper, who is otherwise balanced on Biblical relationships, recently said “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.” But women can play too, he said. (My quick response: problems result when Christians act like our only sex confusion is too much feminism. “Biblical” chauvinism is, and has been, a very dangerous overreaction to the equal-opposite lies of feminism.)
  • Controversy continues over abortion, women, feminism, and “protection racket”-style methods of a certain business against the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

All this can affect our views of men, women, and sex in our stories — first as Christians, second as readers. Such issues affect others’ stories as well, and stories in turn affect cultural reactions to and representations of men and women’s roles and relationships. How do you see Scripture defining men’s and women’s equality and differences, for their Creator’s glory? How do your favorite speculative stories particularly show women’s strengths, apart from stereotypical action-hero abilities and stances?

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

I have never paid to see a movie to watch a female actress; in fact, I avoid all movies with female leads.  I despise women trying to be better than men; they come off as ignorant and useless.  Stay home and stop letting the villian use your worthless butt as a shield.

I watch movies to see the male actors; and I’ll watch the AVENGERS to see THOR (no matter how dorky he seems; I always enjoyed Norse mythology); if a boring female must be present, I prefer the ORACLE type character (DC Comics’ Ms Gordon). 

I have never liked the Xenafied females that have ruined 99.9% of action/fantasy/sci-fi movies; they are boring and ridiculous, and seemingly insistant on proving to the world what self-absorbed idiots they are.  I have found very few so-called ‘strong women’ types in Hollywood movies or recent books that are believable or likable.  Hollywood has no idea what to do with a good female character — so one is stuck with male fantasy females (they do realize that these ‘tough/too-cool women’ would pound their male egos into the ground?) or the butch writers with their skewed idea of male women.

At least with DVD, I can fast forward through the tough/’strong’ female sections.

Oh, and conversely, I despise weak, feminine men.  It seems Hollywood loves extremes; resulting in worse movies every year.

Kessie Carroll
Member

There’s a chick in Avengers?
 
#watches trailer again
 
Oh, there IS a chick in there! I was too busy looking at all the hawt guys. 😀

Galadriel
Guest

That’s hilarious,  Kessie.

Fred Warren
Member

I haven’t read Avengers since I was a teenager, and am likely missing some huge chunks of canon history on the team, but I’m a bit puzzled that they didn’t use The Wasp, aka Janet Van Dyne, one of the team’s founders, and much more than a sexy prop. C’mon…brilliant, wings, energy blasts, ability to shrink to insect size…how cool is that?

Actually, I think Marvel has done a pretty good job over the years creating heroes and heroines that have some complexity. You see it more in their “civilian” secret identities, where they are flawed, awkward, and struggling with problems most of us can identify with. They’re often overmatched in brute strength versus the villains and prevail because of their ingenuity and nobility–and that goes for both heroes and heroines. Peter Parker (Spiderman) is the exemplar for this characterization, but he’s not unique.
Yes, these are comic books we’re talking about, and the portrayals vary in quality among the writers and artists, but it’s a genre, and certain stereotypes are perpetuated, for better or worse.

And, as with the adaptation of novels to film, a lot of nuance provided in the original is distorted or lost on the big screen in exchange for faster pacing and impressive visuals.

Fred Warren
Member

…and 10 points to Gryffindor Stephen for what may be the most provocative title we’ve seen here yet.

Galadriel
Guest

As I’ve said before, the Xenification of Susan annoys me no end,  but I don’t mind Eowyn because it grows out of her character. It’s a natural desire, not something tacked on by the moviemakers. It’s especially interesting in light of what the other females in Tolkien’s books are like–Galadriel, Arwen…especially going back to the Silmarillion , where one has Melian the Maia, whose powers protect all Doriath. In fact, all of Tolkien’s interacial marriages include a ‘higher’ woman and  a ‘lower’ man. And the strength they have is different from the men’s, but not lesser.
As for more modern works, the first thing I think of is Doctor Who. And my favorite Doctor Who companion is Sarah Jane Smith, because she’s wise and cares about others–which provides a strong comparision to Torchwood’s more callous ways.  The other character who comes to mind is River Song–who is called “hell in high heels” and whose strengths can be summed up in the following exchange.

Amy: I don’t understand, okay? One minute she’s going to marry you and then she’s going to kill you.
The Doctor: Well she’s been brainwashed. It all makes sense to her. Plus, she’s a woman.

River is just an interesting case, and a very pecular mix of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits.  On one hand, she goes around with hallucigentic lipstick and jumps out of things, but she’s very devoted to the Doctor and…yeah, she’s a tough nut to crack.

Kaci Hill
Member

Much as I dislike Susan,  I’m not sure what Xenafied her. The books refer to her as an excellent archer; and she does use it in Prince Caspian.   Susan didn’t care for battle., but she clearly could jump in. Lucy was named Lucy the Valiant for her prowess on the battlefield, and I think she used her knife only once in the movies.  So, the weird part to me is that they seemed to have reversed the roles for the two girls. 
 
River is crazy.

Kaci Hill
Member

Personally, I don’t care what the girl’s role or occupation in the story is as long as:
– she is not annoyingly stupid
– she does not, by any accounts, scream more than once, and never for more than two seconds
– she doesn’t stand there when the means of escape is right there in front of her
– her overall character strength doesn’t overshadow the guy’s (she can be his equal; she can even be the  more aggressive or sharp-witted of the two, and, if it makes sense, the one packing the gun, but don’t put a strong female lead next to a weak male lead – it makes the poor guy look bad)  
– she is not a man in a woman’s body
– she is not utterly helpless in all situations (guys need someone at their back, not a wet noodle in constant need of saving and worthless if the guy needs help)
– her wardrobe befits the situation (I’m sorry, but a skimpy dress in the middle of a fight doesn’t work, and slinky material rips; and too much bared skin in a fight is going to get her cut to ribbons)
– she looks the part  physically (check your facts on what the increased levels of activity does to a person’s body)
-she’s not thrown in just to have a female character

Lostariel
Guest

At least five of those apply to guy characters, too. Although screaming has never bothered me. It’s a natural reaction; it doesn’t mean the character’s a wimp.

Kaci Hill
Member

True. And yes, on the screaming – that’s why I had to amend the statement.   It’s when they won’t stop that it’s aggravating. I saw one lady literally scream for the last fifteen minutes of the movie – just standing there – while the lead guy dangles from a rope. I’m like, ‘shut up and help the guy already!’ Fifteen minutes of the shrill banshee, no lie.  I’ve never seen anyone scream that long.
I also have recruitment, so high pitches kill me anyway. That’s likely part of it, for me personally.
 

Lostariel
Guest

LOL. Fifteen minutes is ridiculous.

R. J. Anderson
Member

I would totally have gone to see a BLACK WIDOW movie if it were about her being smart and capable and taking down bad guys (however improbable her methods of doing so might be), but of course they didn’t make a BLACK WIDOW movie because misogyny. And even if they had made such a movie, it would have been tiresome anyway — in order to sell it to male viewers, they would have shown her stripping down to her underwear at least once to get into her costume (happened in IRON MAN 2: Check) and/or arriving at some gala event with a thigh-high slit and a plunging neckline and/or tumbling into bed with the male lead. And I would see at least two of these shots in the trailer and sigh wearily, and then I would skip the movie.

I am, however, quite happy about Black Widow being in AVENGERS, because they have way too many characters and too much action going on to waste time slow-panning up her body while the wah-wah music plays. Or at least I hope so.

And yes, having her there DOES make a difference to me. There are a lot of reasons that THOR unexpectedly ended up being my favorite superhero movie of all time despite me being completely bored by him in the comics — but one of the things that simultaneously flabbergasted me and filled me with delight is the way the female characters are NOT sexualized. Sif has body-fitting armor, sure, but it’s PRACTICAL armor which goes right up to her neck — no weird cleavage windows or exposed thighs — and it fits in with the general Asgardian style. Jane and Darcy wear comfortable, practical clothes which are not designed to show off their bodies or get attention from men, only to be believable for their characters. Thor’s mother is a middle-aged woman who looks dignified and queenly. Compared to something like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS in which every. single. woman. in the film ends up mostly or entirely naked and in a series of sexually charged situations, THOR was an incredible breath of fresh air.

And it’s not just the wardrobe or the plot — it’s the dialogue. THOR is the only action movie I know of that passes the Bechdel Test, and it passes it in the first scene. Jane and Darcy, two named female characters, are talking to each other about something other than a man. That almost never happens in any movie not geared specifically toward women, and it’s surprisingly rare even in the movies that do.

Also, it’s funny, and I will go a long way for funny. I hope the Black Widow gets to be funny at least once, even though the trailers make it look like everybody’s playing straight man to Tony Stark. 

Krysti
Guest

My daughter and I watched The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy again last weekend.

I think that the female lead in Hitchhiker’s Guide, Tricia/Trillian is one of the zaniest, most feminine AND strong roles I’ve seen in recent years. She’s interested in adventure and wants to find the man of her dreams who will go running off to see the universe with her. She dresses comfortably for adventure. She’s totally cool with flying the spaceship, but only really enthuses about the wish machine and the toaster knife; both kitchen appliances. She gets Marvin the suicidal robot to do whatever she wants with a little feminine persuasion. Even when she’s convicted of kidnapping the president and about to be fed to a wild hungry beast, she’s still true to character, and she’s very upset by her circumstance. And she gets totally angry with both Zaphod and Arthur when she learns that earth was destroyed–for completely different reasons! She really wants to know the meaning of life, but wants true love at least as much, if not more.

I LOVE the POV gun! (that it was commissioned by angry housewives and that it only works on men is hysterical!) As a plot device, that gun was totally inspired, and it’s too bad that I can’t borrow it and play with it a little in real life.

I thought that the author of the book and the producer of the movie both totally understood female psychology and that most women aren’t really interested in dominating the universe or fighting the bad guys, or all of the manly roles that Xena tries to take on. Sure, we’re interested in adventure, but we’re hard-wired to want love (with a man) to be a part of our adventure. We also want to take all the comforts of home with us, or at least be assured that home will be waiting for us when we return. 

Timothy Stone
Member

That was an interesting piece, Stephen. Good, but you kind of hit on so many places that I’m having trouble digesting it all. I may have to comment more later as well.
 
I would question the assumption that women are not presented as unrealistically stronger to “prove themselves to men” in speculative fiction. At least if you assume “speculative” to mean basically “what-if” fiction. Arguably Honor Harrington, for instance, is speculative fiction, and that has women who are as tough as men. Much of fantasy would have inordinately (physically) strong women, and that is often speculative in nature.
 
The other point is that, though I laugh and tease my mother and other female friends over their “Love Inspired” books (yes, that’s an actual name of books marketed to Christian women), what’s in the books does have some historical truth to it. Women DID have to do much there, as there was not the access to any of the “comforts”, technology, or relative safety of the established cities and states on the East Coast (or Mid-West as we went increasingly farther west in favor of so-called “Manifest Destiny”). Life was harsh and women HAD to do more.
 
AT least, that’s what the women themselves told us, quite unwittingly, through their diaries. Much of what we know about the history of western expansion in the US, and before that even a  useful supplement to “official” records was from the diaries of said wives, as well as the (semi-official for the time) records of churches.
 
For that matter, cowboys were not white. I have NO CLUE what they were called back then, but today, they’d be referred to as blacks, Hispanics, and Indians. They sought a better life away from the restrictions of the “established” areas. I am NOT saying that the historical information in such chick lit is grounded in reality, so much as that it’s probably more so than the old westerns we get so much of our cultural notions of cowboys and prairies from. I love the old westerns, but they were not true at all either.
 
As for the issue of what is happening with women and the dangers of feminism versus chauvinism. First off, what was the actual context of Piper’s remark. He flat-out (assuming I have my muddled understanding right from not having studied the issue much) straight complementarian view of male-female relations. So hearing his view may be helpful.
 
As has been referred to in passing by yourself and a female commenter on here, such expectations of females CAN lead to harm. To women and men. Very much in real life. I know folks don’t like non-deep social issues that are still political in nature brought into these comments on articles, but please forebear with me. You will see my concern.
 
Recent leaks from the defense department are speaking of changes in rules that will bring women closer to the front lines. Now, given the fact that the front lines are not clear in warfare such as that of the past decade or two, officially recognizing some of the situations women are in in the first place, makes sense. But the area this makes  no sense in is if you are talking of sending a female medic or driver into a situation where there will be guaranteed to be combat, into, say another “Fallujah”.
 
Here are the facts. Women CAN NOT do most rescue carries, women can not (do to limited upper-body strength) reload and prep the heavy weaponry (240’s, and especially 50 cals) in normal situations, much less when it is clogged and mucked up with sand and grit. Women in the Army, in the better scores in pushups reps and 2-mile run times, would be complete failure if a male Soldier got the same number of reps and time. VERY FEW, if any, women get the high enough reps AND time to reach what most males get. Situps are the same for both genders.
 
Why am I saying all of these details, it is that there IS  a danger to giving young girls and women unrealistic expectations of their physical abilities, just as there is of giving them an undue burden of “beauty” to meet. (I find most of Hollywood’s anorexic notion of beauty ugly myself, but that’s another issue). In this case, it can lead women to try careers, and demand to be allowed to do things, most of them have no business doing. In the military or firefighting, it will get folks killed.
 
There is also an issue related that might be chauvinistic, but really IS human nature. Men protect women. It’s in our genetic codes. Unless the culture has absolutely corrupted men, they protect women. Even in that case, men still protect women after a fashion who are “good enough”. What does this have to do with anything again? Well, the evidence shows that units that put women in danger have a uniformly higher casualty rate. Anyone wanna guess why that is? It’s not all the inability to load and cock the heavy weaponry. It’s that the men take IDIOTIC chances, no matter how often they are “trained” not to do so, to keep women out of danger. 
 
And let’s not get to how we make women feel when they enter the world and see they really CAN’T do what they saw the characters on tv, in books/comic books, etc., do. That’s gotta be as harmful, I’d imagine, as the inability to live up to this twisted notion of beauty.
 
I don’t doubt there is chauvinism in popular culture. I would argue that the greater danger right now is not misogyny, but misandry. MOST female characters are not like the “screamer” that was Mary Jane in the Toby Maguire SpiderMan films. Most of the characters are like Lois Lane, kicking butt and taking names. Even the “screamers” are just damsels in distress, and  not the buffoons the men in distress are made out to be. The example of Xander from Joss Whedon’s shows when I debated your friend on your wall, Stephen, comes to mind.
 
Also coming to mind is that Happy Hogan in the comics was originally Tony Stark’s BODYGUARD. He was still outclassed by the Black Widow, due to her extensive training, but Happy could still take out several bad guys in short order. The movie had him as a below-average intelligence chauffer ogling Black Widow only to (BARELY) beat up one guy, while Black Widow cleans the whole room, and is done and quite bored by the time he beats up his one guy. Oh, and she hasn’t even broken a sweat, while he is breathing like he just ran the New York Triathlon. Reducing men to utter morons to somehow make the woman look “better” though I’d argue it doesn’t, is more likely than the other way around. 
 
I would close by saying that, in fairness to Black Widow in the movie, she was actually doing flips and throws to knock out bad guys, which is somewhat realistic as a fighting form, if still over done. So Marvel has put the tiniest fraction of realism in there. Then again, this movie is anything but realistic, like how without any type of shock absorbers, Tony Stark hasn’t been turned to paste a thousand times over by now. 😛
 
One last question, I know that the comments about the good-looking guys were (mostly) in jest, but I do have to wonder why it is that culturally women are not viewed with the same scorn as perverts or leches for ogling bare-chested men, as men are called thus for ogling cleavage-bearing women.

Kaci Hill
Member

 
I would question the assumption that women are not presented as unrealistically stronger to “prove themselves to men” in speculative fiction. At least if you assume “speculative” to mean basically “what-if” fiction. Arguably Honor Harrington, for instance, is speculative fiction, and that has women who are as tough as men. Much of fantasy would have inordinately (physically) strong women, and that is often speculative in nature.

Haha. Yeah. There’s more than one reason I typically prefer male leads.  Most women are physically incapable  of what the story requires of the leads.

And I don’t know who Honor Harrington is.

There is also an issue related that might be chauvinistic, but really IS human nature. Men protect women. It’s in our genetic codes. Unless the culture has absolutely corrupted men, they protect women. Even in that case, men still protect women after a fashion who are “good enough”. What does this have to do with anything again? Well, the evidence shows that units that put women in danger have a uniformly higher casualty rate. Anyone wanna guess why that is? It’s not all the inability to load and cock the heavy weaponry. It’s that the men take IDIOTIC chances, no matter how often they are “trained” not to do so, to keep women out of danger. 

Nah. I actually had a guy  friend in high school who wanted to go into the military explain that his problem with women in combat is that his first instinct would be to protect them. It’d be a distraction.  I completely understand that.

And let’s not get to how we make women feel when they enter the world and see they really CAN’T do what they saw the characters on tv, in books/comic books, etc., do. That’s gotta be as harmful, I’d imagine, as the inability to live up to this twisted notion of beauty.

That brings up another point: Women really need to understand their own strengths *and* weaknesses. Honestly, that itself makes for stronger characters.

Reducing men to utter morons to somehow make the woman look “better” though I’d argue it doesn’t, is more likely than the other way around. 

Ding, ding, ding!

One last question, I know that the comments about the good-looking guys were (mostly) in jest, but I do have to wonder why it is that culturally women are not viewed with the same scorn as perverts or leches for ogling bare-chested men, as men are called thus for ogling cleavage-bearing women.

No idea, but it’s still creepy.  I’m weird, though. I’m not interested in guys I don’t know.

 

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

  Kaci:      One last question, I know that the comments about the good-looking guys were (mostly) in jest, but I do have to wonder why it is that culturally women are not viewed with the same scorn as perverts or leches for ogling bare-chested men, as men are called thus for ogling cleavage-bearing women.
No idea, but it’s still creepy.  I’m weird, though. I’m not interested in guys I don’t know.
 
LOL, but how do you know someone if you’re not interested in them?  One can feel they ‘know’ someone from TV, or work, or friends of friends, but honestly, do you really KNOW them?  And if you’re not interested in them, how do you get to know them to make that determination ? (under normal circumstances; of course, felons and such would automatically get the ‘not interested’, as would someone who is married or engaged.)
 
The double-standard:  Men like attention from women, any kind of attention.  They don’t view it like we do.  Many women do not like unwanted attention from men, whether they know them or not.
 

Kaci Hill
Member

LOL, but how do you know someone if you’re not interested in them?  One can feel they ‘know’ someone from TV, or work, or friends of friends, but honestly, do you really KNOW them?  And if you’re not interested in them, how do you get to know them to make that determination ? (under normal circumstances; of course, felons and such would automatically get the ‘not interested’, as would someone who is married or engaged.)

 
Amendment: I’m not interested in kissing, dating, or hitting on someone I don’t know. And I don’t care to receive it from someone I don’t know, either. And, in all fairness, some people just don’t take that long to figure out.

The double-standard:  Men like attention from women, any kind of attention.  They don’t view it like we do.  Many women do not like unwanted attention from men, whether they know them or not.

Guys really don’t like girls flinging themselves at them when they aren’t interested.  They might not always realize they’re garnering negative attention, but it doesn’t mean they always want it. Some women can’t take a hint, unfortunately, and guys generally don’t egg on a girl they aren’t interested in.

A. T. Ross
Member

Fascinating topic, Stephen. I don’t know that there’s a ton left to add, so I’ll just concur that strength comes in many forms and superficial equality in fighting prowess is not necessary in all female characters. I see the ladies here saying that they could care less about how awesomely a girl can kick people around in slow-mo, but more of a strength of presence and mind, that the female leads are confident enough in themselves to realize they don’t really need to compete with men over who can hit the bullseye. In fact, the case might be made that in many cases a female lead driven to get acceptance as equal to men is actually insecure, rather than a shining example of confidence and strength.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Grr.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but this is a pet peeve of mine.

The Black Widow thing is very much an “appeasement”, I think…an attempt to quiet down feminists who would rant if it was an all-male hero team.  *eye roll*  Personally, the instant I saw her on the trailer, I thought, “And of course, there’s the token kick-butt female character.  Lame.”  Funny thing is, I don’t think it really appeases feminists.  It just annoys everyone, because she is clearly a pointless character thrown in for political correctness – and that makes her even weaker, as a female character.

As I said in an abortion-related article I wrote a couple of hours ago, “Feminists aren’t interested in being powerful women.  They just want to be imitation men.”  I am passionately complementarian and I believe women and men are both strong, but in our own different ways.  God created us with obvious biological differences, so it’s silly to pretend that the disparity ends with the physical.  Storytellers do a disservice to women by continually feeding them this lie that “anything men can do, we can do better”.  That goes both ways, anyhow.  Some things men generally excel at, and other things women are best.  I believe it’s important for us as Christian writers not to perpetuate the secular feminist trends.  Let’s model truth!  It’s so much more “empowering”.

I have an unfortunate tendency of creating girl characters who think they’re strong and self-sufficient, only to be thrust into a dangerous situation where they become a damsel in distress and realize they’re not as tough as they thought and need a guy to save them.  I’m sure that’ll be reeaaaal popular with the publishers these days.  Yeah…

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

To clarify, though, the character I’m mostly referring to is still one of the strongest characters in the book, and goes on to do some pretty amazing stuff – all minus weaponry.  😀

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

I agree :-).

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

Never liked Janeway; she was too loud, aggressive,  and mannish – I saw nothing feminine about her. Even her efforts at the ‘softer’ emotions came across as forced and phony.

I was pleasantly surprised by Jane Foster in THOR; even when she foolishly disobeyed, she realized it and made an appropriate cell phone call.  And she didn’t jump in bed with any male (although D Blake must have been quite a hunk for his clothes to fit Thor).

Both Foster and her friend were ‘real’ people, as well as believable females.

Sif was also well done; as was the Queen. Wasn’t Thor’s mother Gaia? So she (Fraya/Frigga, I get them confused) was step-mother to both Thor and Loki (who was freakin’ awesome).  Loved her scene defending Odin from Frost Giant.

My top fave would have to be Princess Leia; when I first heard ‘Princess’, I cringed.  But I was pleasantly surprised; she remains one of the best sci-fi females that I’ve seen.

Kaci Hill
Member

Stephen, Melinda articulates my thoughts on Janeway well.

Kaci Hill
Member

Haha. Although I have to admit I wasn’t a Leia fan either.
 
But, really, I’m harsh with female characters.
 

Lostariel
Guest

I realize this was months ago, but I just have to say: 
LOKI. <3 

Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman)
Guest

Waif-fu makes my husband laugh. He did some field training in the AF with women and saw how they failed, badly, at keeping up with the men. In a real war they would have endangered everybody by dropping their corner of the patient stretchers and being unable to evacuate fast enough.

Joel Garner
Guest

I must say, reading all this (article and comments) was rather interesting.  

Now, it’s time for me to go write that scene where the princess rescues a knight from the dragon…

(Just kidding.) 

;-). 

Lostariel
Guest

My mind went to Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender. (She gets a lot of hate, but I love her.) She used her bending to teach Aang and help defend, and when she stepped over that line for revenge, it was clearly wrong. (And Aang was the one who convinced her of it. His balance of kicking butt and refusing to harm anyone is an analysis for another time, when we might talk about dare I say it  guy characters.) Mostly, Katara was the sometimes-fussy mother of the group, much to Toph’s annoyance.
Ah, Toph. She’s the opposite of Katara, but she’s hardly Xenafied either. She’s a tomboy, and that’s fine, because real tomboys are like that (minus metal-bending), not like comic book ones.

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