Fantasy Friday 1 - Females in Fantasy - a rant
This is a meme hosted by Rinn Reads, and I thought I'd join in for this week!
A friend recommended Mistborn: Fall of the Empire on the grounds that unlike another book he'd recommended to me, this one had a strong female protagonist and would not make my inner feminist scream bloody murder.
Vin of Mistborn lore is a pretty badass character, and she has her vulnerabilities and flaws; she's not a bad character, per se. But just because the main character is a girl doesn't mean it's a "feminist" novel. Vin may be the awesome powerful hero of the story, but there isn't a single other female main character. All the other ones in the series (perhaps with exception to Twindyl) are either beautiful people that stand there and look pretty/minor threats that you never really take seriously. I don't need there to be an equal number of men and women in my books, I just want the few women to be treated with respect and given roles that actually matter. I would have been happy if just one other person in Kelsier's company was a woman.
I suppose there are far worse books out there. A depressingly large number of books fail the Bechdel test:
1) At least two female characters
2) Who talk to each other
3) About something other than a man.
I'm not even going to talk about the cover art. A quick google search of "women in fantasy" turns up pictures of women with exaggerated curves and super-tight clothes. Whyyyyyyy
I think part of the problem is that fantasy is full of white male authors. The Game of Thrones series comes to mind - some people argue that all the characters are messed up and flawed, so it's not really just subversive towards the women. While this argument might hold for the first book, it becomes a pattern throughout the series for women to wrestle some power for themselves (be it political advantage or the upper hand in battle) only to be thrown into a situation where a man needs to save them. It's either that or they're just thrown around like pawns in the marriage game.
I have read some excellent fantasy novels by female authors that aren't necessarily overtly feminist (they don't have a power structure where women are higher than men, and they don't particularly go out of the way to show how badass the women are), but they do a good job of portraying all their characters as complex, three-dimensional people. Melina Marchetta is one of my favorite authors, and she's a prime example of an author who writes characters who are simply people, not slightly fleshed-out stereotypes. She treats all her characters with respect, and even if they are flawed, there is still some sliver of nobility in all of them. I think George R.R. Martin should take a few lessons.