F is for Fearsome Heroines

Recently, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on how today’s heroines aren’t afraid to kick a little ass. Well, that’s not how they phrased it, but you get the point. Gone are the days of damsels in distress and princesses who sit on their perfect rear ends waiting to be rescued.

Maybe it started with She-ra. I’d like to think so. Buffy definitely helped. But if you look at the shelves of your local bookstore or turn on the television, its clear women are coming into their own as heroines. From the katana wielding main character of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland vampire series to Snow on Once Upon a Time, wallflowers need not apply. (Sorry Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen proved you’re irrelevant.)

In talking about the new big screen versions of Snow White, CBS Sunday Morning notes, “Like every storybook heroine these days, she FIGHTS.” And they mean that literally – swords and all. Today’s heroines rescue themselves. Now that doesn’t mean they don’t need love or want someone to share the fight with, but like most modern women, they’re not waiting around for a man to complete them. They grab life with both hands and make of it what they desire.

That’s fine by me. That just means my heroine’s time has come. For reasons I can’t reveal until you read the book, my Guinevere can fight as well as any man, and she does. That’s one of the things that makes her different from the traditional portrayal of the character. She is not only physically strong, but smart and not afraid to express herself. (Although one could argue that was typical for a Celtic woman.) My Guinevere is in every way Arthur’s equal, a woman trained to sit beside her King on the throne or stand beside him as they lead their troops into battle. In many time periods – even a hundred years later – that would be anachronistic, but we’re fortunate that the Celts raised fearsome women. (Boudicca, Cartimandua, Maeve and Scathach are just a few examples from history and legend.)

Actress Aly Michalka at a Renfaire. She is the inspiration for a Saxon (sans bow and arrow) you’ll meet in book 2.

It’s time for strong female characters to serve as role models for young (and not so young) women. Even my female characters who don’t wield a sword know how to fight with their brains and their tongues. Morgan will best you in any verbal war and Isolde will out-strategize you before you know what hit you. That’s not to say my books are fueled on feminism. There are several female characters who fill more traditional roles (Elaine, Camille), but they are certainly more balanced with ones who will stand up for themselves than tradition usually dictates.

I know I’m not the first to infuse a little girl power into my books, and I hope I won’t be the last. I’m just proud to contribute to the growing trend of weapon-weilding heroines. IWA girls, this is for you!

What do you think of the new wave of strong heroines? Ladies, who do you most identify with in fiction today? What traditionally passive female roles would you like to see rewritten? And what other “F” topics do you suggest for future posts? (Clean ones, mind you.)