I’ve done this before but it needs saying again.
Lead female characters in any genre of fiction is important. To that end, here’s a gratuitous image of Shani and Pania, the two main characters of my own work, Black Mask & Pale Rider.
Now that the shameless self promotion is out of the way… There’s a really good quote that I read, and another that I pulled out of an interview A.M. Harte did with me a long while back.
“[Parents should] recommend some books with female leads that your son would enjoy reading. If your next question is “Why?,” then ask your daughter why she liked Harry Potter. She might say it was a good story, great characters, and a fantastic world. Who cares if the main character was a boy? In fact, girls will pick up a book with a hero or heroine equally. According to my excellent librarian resources, boys will actively avoid books with a girl as the main character. What’s the problem? I have no idea. Why should you encourage your son to read books with heroines? That’s easy. You want your son to grow up knowing that a strong female for a friend, wife or boss is normal and good.” —Rebecca Angel (via msandrogynous)
And the one from me…
I’ve always been more interested in the heroine than the hero. That came from when I was a kid. I remember my dad would give me a dollar to buy comic books. And back in the 1970s a dollar was quite a bit, it was 25 cents, 35 cents for a comic book. I ended up buying, this was when DC had their World’s Finest comics series out, and it was a dollar. There were no ads and they had all these stories in it. I really got attracted to the stories of Green Arrow and Hawkman, but not necessarily Green Arrow and Hawkman, I was more interested in Black Canary and Hawkwoman. Just because they seemed more alive to me and they jumped off the page. So, I’ve always been more drawn to female protagonists, and I thought it was different than what was normally out there. The female protagonist has always interested me, and it interested me more with having Shani and Pania as female instead of male. Because I felt if it was just two male protagonists, it would just be another western. —Tim Holtorf, in an interview with A.M. Harte, author of Above Ground, on the reason why Black Mask & Pale Rider were a pair of women in the wild west and not men. Full audio interview (and a reading) found here.
There haven’t been many leading female characters in fiction, mostly because many authors attempt to push the male gaze in front of everything. Some female leads are very subtle, as what was done in the Harry Potter series.
Rowling wrote Hermione to eschew stereotypes. She doesn’t end up with the hero; she is never there to function as Harry’s love interest. She prefers Arithmancy to Divination in school. Hermione is also a total badass, despite her prim and proper reputation. (…) So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of any traditionally feminine qualities and instead are forced to pick up traditionally masculine traits. However, Hermione is never made to do that. Most notably, she is written to be highly logical AND emotionally expressive, a combination not commonly afforded to most of today’s leading ladies. —Liz Feuerbach, The Women of The Harry Potter Universe (via writingadvice)
Hunger Games does have an excellent female lead. But it’s a rare exception in a market that boasts huge numbers of male heroes. And of all the male heroes, most are white.
We’re supposed to live in a world of diversity, but we just can’t seem to become diverse due to the fact that any time any one attempts to promote a female lead, or a woman of colour, or a person of colour in general, it’s seen as an inferior worth than a piece of entertainment with a white man.
It may be one of those things where you have to write your own original piece in order to bring out more female leads in the world of fiction. If that’s the case, do it well. Don’t fall into stereotypes. Test your work against the Bechdel Test. Be different, be creative, but most importantly write. Create something new.