Reblogged from my backup blog, which I used while this one was down:
There’s this debate that constantly goes on in the blogosphere–we need more Strong Women! There are tests to prove how Strong a female character is, whether she talks about something other than a guy, if she has her own plot and character development, and so on.
Because the last thing we need are Damsels in Distress, who exist only to be rescued. If a girl needs saving, she’s no longer a Strong Woman! She should always save herself!
These people never talk about romance novels, which do damsels in distress hardcore. While romance heroines are sometimes spunky, usually they’re sighing, lonely flowers, wishing for a big strong alpha male to come along.
In my newest book, Wraithblade, I ran into this problem and chewed on it for the whole book. It’s an urban fantasy romantic thriller about a nascent assassin, Revi, who flees the other assassins rather than murder a child. She encounters Jacob Argent, consummate retrieval agent, who then becomes her protector as three different factions attempt to take them both down.
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But does Revi need protecting? I waffled a lot. One the one hand, she’s a trained assassin. On the other hand, she really needed somebody to watch her back. Doesn’t everybody? She does handle herself pretty well, making daring escapes and rescuing Jake when he gets into trouble.
Jake needs Revi to watch his back, too, because he’s in just as much hot water as she is. He winds up saving her a couple of times, too. He’s also a caring, sensitive guy (which is a good thing).
So, Jake and Revi both exhibit elements of Strong Women/Men, and also Damsels In Distress, because they each technically need rescuing from time to time. But who came up with this “strong person” metric, anyway? Shouldn’t it be more of a spectrum? In real life, nobody needs saving 100% of the time, but nor can everyone go it alone 100% of the time. We swing back and forth.
If our stories and characters are going to be realistic, we have to let our characters swing, too. I read an article where the author gnashed their teeth about Black Widow in the Avengers movie, how she was the “token female”. Yet in the movie, Black Widow swings from being vulnerable to being tough. Back and forth–like a real person.
Nobody every complains about male characters. I see very few male characters who are alpha-male-beat-the-chest all the time. Men are vulnerable, too, and that’s how the audience connects to them emotionally. It’s why girls swoon over Loki. I don’t ever hear anybody complain about Loki being strong or weak. He’s vulnerable, and this connects to us emotionally.
Yet as soon as a female character is portrayed as vulnerable, that’s not allowed. That’s Damsel in Distress. Yet without that vulnerable humanity, she’s one more cardboard cutout of a chick with a sword.
So, in a way, Revi is a Damsel in Distress. She needs saving from a lot of things. But so does Jake.
Maybe, at its heart, that’s what this debate is about. “I can save myself! I don’t need a Savior.”