Yeah, that sounds like an intro for a bad erotica story, doesn’t it? Well, don’t get too excited. It’s not. I don’t have the chops for erotica.
No, the title is simply a reference to an observation that some folks have made with regards to the women in Half Past Midnight. One of the more common comments I get from readers is that they’re glad to see the women in HPM are not the stereotypical “damsels in distress” who depend on their big strong macho men to take care of them. In fact, I’ve gotten more than a few comments to the fact that the women in HPM “kick ass”. This is something I’m proud of, and it was intentional. It’s a subject that is near and dear to me, and the title of the post sums up my feelings pretty well – I like strong women.
The feeling goes back to my early days of training in the martial arts. Even as a teen, I noticed that the special “seasonal self-defense” classes that came out during the holidays were aimed almost exclusively at women. Even worse, it almost seemed that they were designed to make women fearful. I know a lot of it is the result of living in a male dominant society, but I’ve known too many women who were absolutely fierce when it came to fighting for me to believe that women are inherently incapable of taking care of themselves.
It is my firm belief that the only reason our society constantly uses the “damsel in distress” stereotype is that we raise our children to believe women are physically inferior, and that just ain’t true. Yes, women are different. Yes, most women have less muscle mass than most men. Yes, most women are smaller than most men.
But in a hand to hand situation, smaller is NOT the same as less capable. Anyone trained in grappling styles such as Judo or Jujitsu knows that a lower center of gravity can be a huge advantage in grappling. And women who are trained in martial arts are typically faster with short burst speed attacks than their larger counterparts. Yet we raise our daughters to think that they should play with dolls and dress up, and that they should look to a man for support and protection. We raise our sons to think they should protect women as fragile things, incapable of taking care of themselves. Older brothers are taught that they should watch over their younger siblings. If the boys are brought up in polite society, they are taught that it is their responsibility to watch over and protect women. After all, it’s the “gentlemanly” thing to do.
But reverse that situation – older sisters watching over younger brothers… there comes a point with this paradigm at which the older sister is actively discouraged from protecting younger brother. They are taught that he must learn to take care of himself in order to “be a man” and not “be a sissy”.
I was raised in The South (capital “T”, capital “S”). I was the elder of two siblings, and was taught to watch out for my younger sister. But I can tell you from painfully personal experience that past a certain age, my sister didn’t need anyone to watch out for her. In point of fact, I can recall one situation in which she jumped into a fight and pulled my butt out of the fire.
So I contend that the only reason that most women need a man’s protection is that they are convinced from birth that they need it. We are all convinced that they need it.
Now, this is my blog, and I get to guide the conversation wherever I want it to go. So, let’s extrapolate this hypothesis to a post-apocalyptic setting. If the SHTF scenario ever becomes reality, do you really think anyone is going to be worrying about lip gloss or mascara? No! Initially, men and women alike will do whatever it takes to survive. As time passes, they will work to develop the skills necessary to perpetuate that survival situation. And once that is somewhat assured, they will work to rebuild and advance beyond the terrible circumstances in which they have found themselves. There will be little time to worry about whether an activity is man’s work or women’s work. And when the time comes to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your property, it’s unlikely that anyone will worry about how an opponent’s genitalia looks.
That is why I write strong female characters. And it’s why I will continue to write strong female characters. Weak female characters simply don’t interest me, just as weak male characters don’t interest me. In my opinion, weak characters of either gender can only serve as cannon fodder. Any decent protagonist or antagonist will inherently be a strong character in one way or another. Otherwise, you don’t have much of a story – or at least, not a story that would interest most people. And just to be clear, by strong, I don’t simply refer to physical strength. A good character can have plenty of strengths other than muscle mass. Intelligence, diligence, perseverance, even luck (think Louis Wu in Niven’s Ringworld), are just a few strengths around which you can build a good character. And all of those characteristics can apply to women, just as easily as to men.
So I refuse to perpetuate what I view as a societal fallacy. When the fecal matter impacts the oscillating rotary air redistribution device, men are not more courageous, intelligent, or superior in any way that matters by simple virtue of their gender. And when push comes to shove, it could just as easily be a woman doing the pushing and shoving.