In a recent interview I did with Ben Peek he made a point that has stuck in my head over the past few days. In response to a question I asked about strong female characters he indicated that it was a sad reflection of society today that female characters are still considered weak and boring.
This got me thinking. A lot.
Was he right? Am I part of the problem? Do I unconsciously support the archaic and sexist notion that female characters are weak and boring through my reading choices?
A quick scan of my bookshelves suggests he may be right. Now don’t get me wrong. I like to consider myself an egalitarian. I don’t think men are in anyway superior to women at all. In fact, I think it’s the other way around. My wife constantly impresses me with her ability to handle things better and more effectively then me, and I am also a firm and passionate supporter of the feminist movement. Women have had the raw end of the stick for too long, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot.
So the question needs to be asked. Why on earth don’t I have more books featuring strong female protagonists?
To be brutally honest… I really don’t know.
I genuinely felt shame as I read over my book titles and conjured up characters from those titles in my head.
White male hero… white male hero… white male hero… blac… no wait… white male hero.
What about female authors? My rough estimate is 70% to 30% in favour of men… another shameful statistic.
So what the hell is going on here? Am I really that much of a sexist pig in terms of reading? Do I unconsciously think that female characters are weak and boring? The figures seem to suggest that I do, and that is horrifying to me.
Upon reflection my library seems to be a microcosm of the speculative fiction community in general. Men still dominate the publishing circuits, and strong male protagonists are still the norm even with female writers. Thankfully this seems to be slowly changing, and authors such as Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie are paving the way with diverse and intriguing works of speculative fiction featuring female and genderless (or gender changing) protagonists.
So what do I do? Sit around and wait for trends to swing towards an environment that makes me more comfortable? No… I still need to actively change now. I need to be more open to diverse works of speculative fiction, and I need to vote with my wallet. I need to find more female authors to read, interview, and promote via this blog. And I need to embrace diversity and march out of my reading comfort zones.
And you know what… I will be better for it… both as a reader and a person.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and reading suggestions.
Note - Fan Art is the property of Darey Dawn.