Are Strong Women Too Strong?
The virginal, trembling heroine that many historical romances seem to specialize in have sub-zero appeal for me. I’m not even going to touch the illogic in these novels (how on earth does a virile hero of often advanced years and always of extended world experience even begin to fall in love with a wilting waif of eighteen or twenty years of age, who startles at a loud voice?)
So for me, strong is good. Urban Fantasy romance in particular has some wonderfully strong heroines in them, but you find strong heroines in all sorts of romance genres. Since the bodice-rippers of the 1980s, heroines have been developing more and more backbone, independence and equality in romantic relationships.
Then I came across this quote from Vanessa Bailey, actress, writer & producer (emphasis is mine):
A great role for women is one that’s well-written. It’s not about having MORE women, it’s about having rich, relatable, aspirational, inspiring, intriguing, horrifying, disturbing, funny, tragic, vulnerable, struggling characters that happen to be women. I’m now ever-so-slightly bored with the “strong women” thing. We fell into the trap of that being ball-busting business women, or assassins, or women who don’t need anyone else in their lives, they just need to find themselves. Fascinating characters come in all shapes and sizes. A strong female character for me can be weak, conflicted, murderous, vulnerable. But if they pull me in and wrap their storyline around my brain and heart, then that’s a strong female character. Let’s have more of those!*
Is Bailey right?
She’s saying that in the past, “strong” women were ball-busting loners, but now, a “strong” female character should simply be one who gets the full character development, regardless of whether she can drop a Navy SEAL by herself or not.
Romanceland is a special case, of course, because it features women falling in love, which is a pre-history based biological imperative that is gender-biased all on its own. But most romances these days already feature well-rounded female characters…or they should. There’s no longer any barrier to a romance writer portraying a heroine with any personal history or profession she wants, or needs for the story.
Flat, generic heroines who are there for the hero to rescue are ultimately unsatisfying reads, even if they ARE astronauts-turned-rally-drivers. Only a fully-developed and interesting heroine makes the romance worth reading.
BUT I still like women who take on men in their own world, and succeed…in their own way. I even like women who take the sexual lead, and seduce the hero. I like heroines that know their own mind and work to reach their own goals and ambitions. I like heroines that own bars, who run bootleg, who are the best shot with a rifle in the county, who trade among the stars in their own ships.
Every delicious hero you’ve ever met could have a heroine just like him, ready for her own romance. Think of a female Han Solo, a female Indiana, a female Rick Blaine (Casablanca, just in case the name doesn’t do it)….
I would love to read romances featuring heroines like that. Just think what the heroes would have to be like, to be worthy of her love!
Wouldn’t you like to read about stronger heroines?