Ana has a great Sunday Salon post today about women characters in literature. And I’d like to carry on the same conversation she asks. How would you answer today’s query:
There is quite a bit of debate about a woman’s strength versus weakness. How do you define a strong or weak woman character? Have you ever unconsciously or consciously taken a specific character and read her as a representation of all women. Do you think female archetypes accurately reflect the shortcomings and strengths of our gender? Ana asks, “Do you find that you tend to be more critical of female characters than of male ones? What are some examples of heroines or female villains that you think were well-written? What about ones that you felt were not?”
I read predominantly women's literature or books with female leads and that is because I am actively seeking out our voice and role in the larger society.
I am by nature a critical reader; I am always asking questions like the ones Ana poses. Am I doing harm? I don't think so. If I am, then at some point because of my circle of peers, I expect I'll be corrected or challenged when I get it wrong. Getting it wrong isn't a bad thing; it's an opportunity to get it right.
I don't like weak female characters but flawed characters do not bother me. If we are going to examine our humanness then I expect the character to have flaws.
I don't have a problem with a female character having weakness when it is examined against strengths. What I do object to is the idea of women needing men to be whole, to function, to be fully woman. That is an entirely different message from a woman who finds love fulfilling or a woman who had not recognized her own strengths and later does.
I think the literary critics just as historians in general have failed women. However, the recorder documents the world as he sees it and experiences it and by large, the world has been seen through men's eyes. I think men can get it right and I think women have responsibility to speak up when men or women get it wrong.
How you define wrong is subjective, it is fluid and it requires a constructive and open dialog.
I read a quote once that said paraphrased, you might not know how to build up your self-esteem but you know how to stop lowering it.
I think with women characters, you know what is wrong for you. I think we need to be actively engaged in defining what is right.