Pleating to the sett
Pleating to the sett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard this once from an editor because my heroine went to a fight wearing skirt. Which would probably come as a bit of a shock to any Scot wearing a kilt, and a few martial artists as well. As someone who took martial arts training – in a standard gi – I can tell you that trying to do high side kicks in jeans would have been a bit… binding.

The interesting thing is that the term is only applied to women characters. No man wearing a kilt would have been described that way, and I read a few male characters who deserved the title. *laughing*

On the reverse side, I once had a reviewer (female) ask ‘why did she go’? Meaning, why did the queen go to defend the stair to give the King and their son a chance to escape, although I gave exactly that explanation. (Just to show that the bias is shared by women, or that they’ve been trained to believe the myth.)

Neither question would be asked of men.

Few people – certainly few Americans – are taught that women fought in every war since time immemorial. The British have several examples of powerful women – Elizabeth I, Victoria and even Margaret Thatcher – yet they, too, turn a blind eye to some of their history. There’s always been a bias about women in battle, especially in our traditions. Women are victims (probably a factor in the rape of military women) or mothers. In fact, even when faced with direct controversial evidence of the bias and blindness about women in combat, archeologists simply ignored it when faced with it. So much so that when I commented on it at another site, I was called on it by someone who considered himself an expert.

Someone, though, corrected the misconception better than I can…

One of my favorite unsung books involves the deed of Paksenarrion – a farm girl who becomes a warrior.

In this age of negative images of women – even down to taking away Merida’s (from Brave) bow and sexualizing her – there are some great examples of magnificent, flawed, powerful women like Paks. I read one review – by a woman – who didn’t like Lessa of The Dragonriders of Pern because she was too tough. Lessa was tough, and strong. Anne McCaffrey – who wrote the Pern series – wrote a lot of strong women characters. Ditto the Heralds of Valdemar series.

So if you’re looking for books featuring great, strong, interesting women you could read any of those. (Or mine *grins*)

More importantly, consider going against stereotypes – many of them are wrong. Consider breaking the mold – have a not so heroic hero like Mal Reynolds in Firefly… but try to stay away from whiny, moody… Whoops, my bias is showing!


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Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. She reads and writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!

Happily married, she’s companion to two dogs, three cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.

Valerie Douglas is the co-founder and one of the administrators of the 12,000+ member Indie Author Group – supporting writers around the world.
Visit her blog at Valerie Douglas, Author at Large