Self-aware misogyny and writing real female characters in fiction

Danielle Milliken is a marketing student who is currently interning at Momentum. She loves both books and llamas, and has managed to combine them in one succinct blog post.

In Amanda Bridgeman’s Aurora: Darwin it is stated that

Female members of the United National Forces have not been allowed to travel into the outer zones before, but Harris is ordered to take three new female recruits.”

In We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ NarrativeKameron Hurley discusses the roles of females in combat roles, saying that ‘women have always been around’, but we just aren’t trained to see them:

I often tell people that I’m the biggest self-aware misogynist I know.

I was writing a scene last night between a woman general and the man she helped put on the throne. I started writing in some romantic tension, and realized how lazy that was. There are other kinds of tension.

I made a passing reference to sexual slavery, which I had to cut.  I nearly had him use a gendered slur against her. I growled at the screen. He wanted to help save her child… no. Her brother? Ok.  She was going to betray him. OK. He had some wives who died… ug. No. Close advisors? Friends? Maybe somebody  just… left him?

Even writing about societies where there is very little sexual violence, or no sexual violence against women, I find myself writing in the same tired tropes and motivations. “Well, this is a bad guy, and I need something traumatic to happen to this heroine, so I’ll have him rape her.” That was an actual thing I did in the first draft of my first book, which features a violent society where women outnumber men 25-1.  Because, of course, it’s What You Do.”

You should read the whole article, it is excellent. Spoiler alert: Prepare for llamas

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For writers: Are you challenged to write with the assumption that women should naturally be involved in combat? For readers: Should authors now be making the assumption that women would be involved in combat in the story?

Read Aurora: Darwin by Amanda Bridgeman to see if you still feel that the female characters are liberated by their chance to go into space. Maybe they should have been there all along…

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