05 July 2012

#2: Thinking on...Submissive Heroines in UF and PNR

*Just my random ramblings about bookish stuff going on in my head*

My friend Jas I met in college, and Sela I call my big sis. They are two of the gentlest, sweetest people you will ever meet, the type of people UF semi-disdainfully look down upon: "submissive", "fragile flower." These two rouse people's protective instincts just by being. Two incidents come directly to mind.

In junior year, Jas had an acrimonious disagreement with her flatmate. And everyone's ire was aroused on Jas' behalf, it was actually quite scary how unanimous the backlash was against the roomie, because we were so protective of Jas, but also because she was the instigator and the one who was clearly in the wrong.

Sela was working with a doctor a year above her when his colleagues made a few distasteful remarks "jokingly," and a similar backlash occurred among the small medical student community in the hospital on Sela's behalf.

So at first glance, they look like women who need protecting. But make no mistake, they are not weak or fragile. On the contrary, they are two of the strongest women I've come across. They have wills and backs of steel for all that their patience is endless, and their demeanors soft and gentle. They are fully capable of solving their own problems and everyone else's around them too. Even with all our indignation, it was Jas who sorted herself out with the college authorities, and Sela can stand her ground like no one else I know.

You'll never call them to mind at the mention of "kickass", but really, they kick major butt in their own way. You won't see them yelling or 'in your face', but they'll win their arguments all the same. If they were UF characters, none of them would hold swords but without them, wars wouldn't be won: they strategize, they heal, they reassemble, they rally the troops. If I was a warlord (warlady?) I wouldn't step on the battlefield without their counsel, without their support.

Making "kickass" and "dominant" the only descriptions of strong women shortchanges and forces I our ideas of who strong women are into a box. All these heroines begin to resemble each other - cardboard cut-outs of the same mold, with a few variations here and there. And it's not even always well-done. How many heroines have you read who are supposedly kickass, but come across as brash, rude, not-too-intelligent, lack common sense, and are altogether empty barrels making lots of noise?

The only book I know of featuring a submissive heroine - Kitty Norville - painted her as weak, whiny, cowering, unsympathetic, only in the end to try to redeem her by making her into some sort of suppressed dominant....because kickass=good and submissive=weak=bad.

The thing is, people like Sela and Jas are NOT dominant. But they are also strong women. They cut just as strong a figure as a Kate Daniels or a Mercedes Thompson or a Merit; their wills are just as indomitable, event though they can't snark or fight like these ones can. They aren't flashy, and their strengths lie in the places no one venerates.

I just wish UF thought these women's stories were worth telling too.


  1. I agree a woman doesn't have to be dominant to be a great heroine. In fact, in the world of dominant-submissive, the submissive one has the power.

    1. That's an interesting way of looking at it, Tinkerbell.


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