I read a post titled Why I Write “Strong Female Characters”, by Greg Rucka, a bit of a rockstar in the comic writing biz. He says some great and interesting things, like the following:
No character – no well-created character, at least – is defined by only one trait, by one aspect. Sherlock Holmes is not simply brilliant. He’s also a malfunctioning human being who, perhaps ironically, possesses a strong moral compass and such a compulsion to pursue justice that it eclipses any fealty to the law. He’s also a junkie.
Because, yes. Speaking in romance genre terms, the heroine shouldn’t just be a blandomatic who serves only as the soft feminine foil to the hero’s hardness. Neither should the hero be a meaningless well of alpha testosterone, spilling over to turn women’s knees to jelly. Yes.
But I stumbled over this line where he describes his female characters:
They are rarely, if ever, portrayed as victims, and if they are ever impediments to the story, it is because they impede themselves through their own character flaws.
I’m sorry, what? Because why would it make a woman weak to be harmed by another… and survive and thrive?
Sure, my judgment’s a bit clouded because the protagonist of my book is a victim and the book follows her journey of healing. But I’m wondering about the 1 in 4 women who’ve suffered abuse or trauma or domestic violence. Are they now, by definition, weak? (I don’t think so.) And have I ever heard anything more victim shaming than that? (No.)
I recently read a truly great book, Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly. In it, the heroine is A) INSANELY STRONG, and b) a victim. Her past is a part of her, it shapes her. However, I think it’s fair to say that she doesn’t act like a victim, as in, not how we would expect someone to act in her position. Basically, she’s amazing and you should read the book and plus it should got digitized for Kindle (yay!)
So maybe he meant that a victim could possibly be strong, so long as they didn’t act like a victim, though he didn’t say that. But even so, why do we put parameters on how a victim can act? Why is it okay to equate being a victim with being weak? I know he’s not the only one who thinks like this, but really, to me that is the exact opposite of helping the situation. I can’t relate to a woman who is an indomitable fighting machine, a sexpot, and someone who cannot be hurt, but I am emboldened and inspired to see someone like Emma Costello who faces harsh realities and comes out on the other side with quiet grace and kindness.