Strong Women vs Kick-@$$ Women

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In 2017 one of the biggest summer blockbusters of the year was Wonder Woman. A first in this new wave of Superhero movies.

Previously, women have been depicted as strong and capable… until a man comes on the screen. Then she becomes the typical Damsel. And even before that, we, the audience, were TOLD that this woman was strong of character. But there were very few instances of actually being shown.

In romance, most women (heroines especially) are known to be perky, and quippy. They are stubborn to the point of being a bratty child, but everything works out in the end because she gets her hero.

Where does this come from? Who thinks that this is okay?

TV and movie producers. Game designers. Various other powers that be (PTB) that are more often than not Old (white) and Male.

I’m not going to get into the race portion of this discussion. It has had me upset enough over the past month. And I won’t be man-bashing. Please, don’t think I am. Just hear me out. Especially on this next part.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I was of an age of weekday morning cartoons, weekday afternoon cartoons, as well as Saturday morning cartoons. Let’s look at this for a moment. 3 channels in the mornings and afternoons, 2 hours each during the week and then another 3-hour block on Saturday again, 3 different channels. Do you remember what cartoons there were targeted for girls?

  1. Strawberry Shortcake
  2. Rainbow Brite
  3. My Little Pony
  4. She-Ra
  5. Jem
  6. Hello Kitty
  7. Care Bears (but does this really count?)

That’s from what I remember. ALL of that TV time and I only remember 6 (possibly 7) shows for girls. There may be more, but this is what I’m going to run with.

Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite browbeat us with how girls are supposed to like pink, care and share everything they have. Even when they have to share with boys… which is why I’m not sure if Care Bears was geared to girls. They had to share them with Boys. Hell, even now, they are changing the genders of some of the bears so that now they’re girls instead of boys and boys instead of girls (Here’s looking at you Wish and Funshine). Oh! And glittery magic saves the day.

Always.

Now I turn to She-Ra and Jem. Two of the most iconic characters that every girl wanted to be like.

But if we look back at who they are, I wouldn’t want to be either one. Not really.

She-Ra was a He-Man knock off. She could have been powerful and cunning. Hell, she started out as a villain. Oh just thinking about the ways the stories could have gone… I’m having a Padme moment. 

Because what we got was a woman that fought by the honor (a cop-out when you realize her TWIN fights by the power) of Greyskull. And she’s just a dumb set piece that’s there to look like Kathleen Turner pre-Jessica Rabbit. Okay, in her defense, EVERYONE in that show was dumb as a brick. Really. This chick was a CAPTAIN in the army you were just fighting, and because some muscle-bound foreigner says that we can trust her, now SHE is the one you’re hanging your entire rebellion on??? Crap. The more I think about it, the more I hate it.

So let’s move over to Jem. I used to sing all of the songs. I had the dolls. But after a while, Jem lost her appeal. I was starting to see more romantic entanglements because my older sister was starting to date. And I realized one thing about Jem that turned me off to the point I was done with her.

Jem teaches you that it’s okay for your boyfriend to cheat on you, as long as it’s with you.

Rio didn’t know that Jem was Jerica for a LOT of the series. I am honestly ashamed of how stupid he was. But he was making a play for BOTH Jem and Jerica. And both women acted like it was perfectly okay.

That’s not okay.

Now, there are other female icons that come to mind. Cheetara from Thunder Cats… but again, she was a set piece. A girl so that when brothers had to play with their sisters, the sister has someone to play as (I have an older brother… ask me how I know). Wonder Woman in Super Friends was the same thing. Tom and Jerry always fought over the girl. Transformers had Arcee. GI Joe had Lady J and Scarlet (To be honest, I LOVED Scarlet and Lady J), and while they were commanding women, they were tied to Flint and Duke respectively. The Baroness as well… even though I liked her way better than Destro.

So I think it’s pretty safe to say that there weren’t THAT many kick-ass women to admire growing up.

Don’t get me wrong. It was the same with movies. Women were over-sexualized in action movies if they were there. Or they were the ones that needed to be saved, even after being told don’t do the thing. Over time people seemed to confuse being a sexual creature with being a strong bad ass woman. They are not mutually exclusive.

And then two women came to become the benchmark for strong AND kick-ass women in the 90s.

Now, I will say this. I have my problems with Xena. I won’t get into them here. But I will say that for just about every season (except for the last one). I was DOWN for the Warrior Princess. She took on GODS and WON! She didn’t need a man to dictate anything to her. She didn’t need a man to define her. She knew what she needed to do, she sank her teeth in and did it. She used every weapon she had and she still had enough heart to know when she went too far. Xena was the type of character arc She-Ra deserved.

Buffy, on the other hand, had a hand full of strong women in one place. And here is where I will show you what I believe is the difference between kick-ass and strong.

First, we have Buffy. If she had her perfect world, she would be out at the mall with friends or cheerleading. But she’s been given the mantle of Slayer. That means no more mall crawls. No dating the captain of the football team. She has to spend her nights killing vampires and other creatures of the night. Again, she buckles down and gets her hands dirty.

Faith is another kick-ass character. Her arc goes from one of an antagonist to that of a hero to stand side by side with Buffy.

There is one character that walks the line between strong and kick-ass. Willow.

Willow started as the nerdy friend. The one that wanted to help out even though she knew she wasn’t strong enough to handle vampires they way Buffy did. So, they gave her a girlfriend, got her addicted to magic (Dark Willow was one of the BEST arcs… just saying) and she became a teacher to the other slayers. They learned to turn to her when Buffy was down.

Now, to the woman I feel is the strongest in the whole Buffy universe…

You can’t change my mind on this. Buffy’s mother Joyce is the strongest female in this show. Her daughter’s escapades forced her to change her entire life. She had to pick up her roots and move because of her daughter getting kicked out of school. She had to deal with an emotional teenager going through hell alone. The world was falling down around them on a weekly basis. And all Joyce did was take sigh, shake her head, and carry on. She raged maybe two times before she found out that Buffy was the Slayer? She wasn’t okay with it, but she knew that her daughter was the only one that could do it. So Joyce smiled, left a light on, and dealt with what came.

You don’t have to be a fighter to be strong. Just standing in the storm can give you strength.

Interlude of Y2K

After Xena and Buffy went off the air, they left behind a void and they ignored filling it. The PTB decided to focus more on dramas where the women were all these love-lorn damsels that needed to be saved from themselves. Or on dramas where no one was likable.

We also saw the rise of the reality show.

Yeah. Whole. Different. Monster. We’re talking about women in fiction. Reality shows are quasi-fiction at best.

There were movies that tried to have that kick-ass female lead. But no one seemed to be able to hit the mark. TV was obsessed with the Jersey Shore, American Idol and the like more than they were with the next new Buffy.

To be fair shows staring a bunch of men weren’t really hitting the mark either. So, without a lot of TV or movies to watch, I fell into anime.

Hard.

Like, brick to the face hard.

But most anime of the 90s and early 2000s can be summed up in one sentence: Boobs don’t work that way.

No, really, the jiggle bounce on some of those anime were really distracting. And I may do another analysis on Anime as it’s own medium in the future. I know there are a few that I already know I want to cover. But that’s not here. We’re talking about what happened with female characters.

Enter the Epic. The Wonderful. The Beautiful…

Kill Bill.

Tarantino was in his prime (at least in my eyes). And this had a nearly perfect mix of action and story.

Yes, with all of the wonderful movies about women embracing their freedoms with their sexuality. How it was okay to date around and NOT be called a whore, I gravitated to…

The Bride.

I didn’t know her name. I didn’t CARE. Here was a revenge flick that turned Revenge with Kevin Costner and the Wraith with Charlie Sheen into comedies. She was focused and determined. I loved all of the members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad because of 1 key fact.

There was only 1 man on the squad (Bill doesn’t count. He ran it.)

(and Bill’s brother was actually kinda useless as we see in Vol 2… but we’re talking about Vol 1.)

So, let’s get back to Bride and the Vipers.

These are strong kick-ass women. These women set the bar for Kick-Ass in my world. To this day, I can only hope that my characters come across this way.

On the book front, I was still writing fan fiction. I think it was around 2004-2005 when I decided to try writing on my own. I started reading actual books again and stumbled on Paranormal Romance (my genre of choice). There were a couple of series that I started reading, and devoured. I would come in on book 9 and go back and find every book previous and read them all.

No lie. This was me. I knew the people that worked there and they knew both me and my daughter.

But by the time I reached book 12 in this one series, I realized that all of the “strong” women fell into a cookie cutter. Out of 12 books, all of these women were “strong” because we were told they were strong. They were “desirable” because we were told that they were. They were smart because, again, we were told. In 12 books, there was 1 woman that fought alongside her man.

If I’m being 100% candid with you… those other 11 women weren’t all that. As a matter of fact, a few of them dipped into Too Stupid to Live territory. How could a guy that’s lived for 100s of years find that fun? I’m going to ignore the ENTIRE cradle robbing feel that most Paranormal romance has. I want to stay on topic and this is already long.

But in the majority of Paranormal Romance, the heroine was The Damsel. If you want, I can go over character types. But this one is a no-brainer. She goes out, gets into trouble and has the hero rescue her. Louise Laine is a perfect Damsel (I have Superman issues. So I’m only going to brush on this.) She goes into danger because it’s her job. She often does so weapon-less. She also has no sort of self-defense training (that may have changed in later issues of the comics, but I don’t think so). It’s like she’s just going to do whatever she wants because her BF will save her within seconds of her scream.

There were a LOT of heroines like that in Paranormal Romance. It’s what drove me to want to write my own stories to have my own Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. I will admit, the closest things to strong women I have don’t get much page time at the moment. It’s something I’m working on changing. But again, to be candid with you, I’m having fun with writing kick-ass women.

Strong and Kick-Ass are 2 separate things that need to go hand and hand. But just remember, can have one without the other. You just have to give your characters reasons, flaws, and motivations.

And please, for the LOVE OF ARES:

SHOW US WHY YOUR FEMALE IS SMART, STRONG, KICK-ASS ANY OF THIS!!!!!

Remember, he’s watching.

gone too soon :(

He sees everything

(sorry, I was talking about Xena… couldn’t help it)

And this concludes my thoughts on Strong vs Kick-Ass females. Let me know your thoughts. We can agree or disagree… Just remember Rule #1.

See you next week!!
Dawn

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New Directions

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No, I’m not starting a Glee Club.

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I know that I haven’t been up here the way I should be. But that’s usually because I don’t know what I should write. I write my novels (or try to) and keep it moving because that’s what I do. I have discussions with other authors and there are times when I feel like a fraud because most book references people use go over my head, but I nail movie references and even some video game ones.

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I also know storytelling. I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve also been told by a close friend that I have a “teacher aspect” to my personality. Because of that, I got to thinking (yes, LeFou, it’s a dangerous past time. Been there, sang that). And thought about talking about the crafting and storytelling that I’ve always been so invested in.

As a result, I’ve decided to do something a little different for a while.

  1. I’m going to stop beating myself up if I don’t have any content. Really, it wastes time and is very tiring. If I don’t have anything to write about or a writing prompt or even news to share it will be okay. I’ve had this blog since 2011 and it’s not going anywhere. Neither am I.
  2. I’m going to have actual writing and storytelling topics. Some will involve Anime, Games, and movies.

Okay, so that’s 2 things different.

Since I enjoy so much different media, I hope that you’ll enjoy the new content. If not, I totally understand.

I just also want to remind you that Rule #1 will be in effect for all comments and topics.dont-be-a-dick-floral-inspiration-quote-prints

The first analysis post should be going up this weekend.

See you all then!
Dawn

Rule #1: The True Golden Rule

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*****WARNING: This isn’t going to be my usual happy blog post. There will be more colorful language and pure raw feelings.*****

 

Hello.

My name is Dawn Aiesha Ibanez. I am the daughter of a Puerto Rican Vietnam Vet and a Black Southern Belle. So, if you do the math, I’m biracial.

I write paranormal romance. Sometimes the couples are interracial, sometimes they aren’t. I always have end of the world stakes, action, comedy, and (hopefully) a sense of family.

My characters, my family and I all try to live by Rule #1: the golden rule.

 

It’s not hard, really. I keep my head low, I do my thing and work hard for what I want. Whatever I can’t afford, I bide my time and then get it on my own.

Currently, I hold a position in the RWA’s Maryland chapter. I love my position. I love having a place to belong. But lately, I haven’t been feeling like I belong. Not in MRW, NEVER get that twisted. I will continue my work with this group until someone comes up to me and pulls my responsibilities out of my cold dead hands. But I haven’t felt like I belong in this new world that I’m realizing has become so toxic because people are forgetting the golden rule.

Diversity in books, in Romancelandia specifically, has become something of a hot button over the past few months. From what I hear, Agents want more diverse voices. Readers and bloggers want more diverse voices. But when it’s time to put up or shut up, publishers only want non-POC authors, voices or whatever you want to call it. If there is a character of color, that person is a caricature of a stereotype, or something else entirely (but still just as insulting).

Now, this isn’t me hopping on a bandwagon. RWA has come out and acknowledged that there is a problem with the RITAs in that they need to find a way to have more diverse books enter. I applaud them. It takes a lot for anyone, an organization publisher or person, to admit that they screwed the pooch and ask how can they make things better.

Does that instantly fix the problem? Hell no.

I don’t have an answer for this problem. I know that last year, I entered One for Sorrow in the RITAs for Paranormal Romance and didn’t make the finals. I was totally okay with that. Better books got in. I am an unknown to the vast majority of people that were judging. I never looked at it as “It’s because I’m black.”

To be 1000% honest with you, I was never comfortable with identifying as a Black woman. I was never comfortable identifying as a Hispanic woman. I’ve always looked at it as I am a woman. Take me or leave me. I could sit here and lament on how I have cousins that have a level of privilege that I will never achieve because their fathers (my uncles) married white women and they can pass as white. But that would be a dick move. We’re family.

I have been the subject of ridicule. That’s also another reason why I don’t identify with a race. I grew up on Staten Island in the 80s and 90s. By high school, the majority of my friends were white. I listened to rock music. I was told that I “acted” white. I was told I was “trying to be” white. I was called “the white sheep” of my black family.

I brushed all of it off because my friends never treated me like I was the token black friend. I was just their friend that loved to write. I listened to what they did. We all got along and while things weren’t cookie cutter perfect, I wasn’t subjected to the same lifestyle as most of my other counterparts in the writing world.

Let’s get back to the here and now. Now, I am a 40-year-old woman with a 15-year-old daughter. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I can’t sit back and hide behind I can’t identify with blank because of how I grew up. The cut and dry of it is simple. I am a biracial woman that has interracial romance in some of her stories.

See Rule #1 and keep that in mind when I say this:

We are ALL a part of this fucking problem and it is up to ALL of us to fix this.

Yes, Authors of Color need to step up and make sure their voices are heard. But know, if you step up, your shit better be in point. People of color, in general, need to stop perpetuating these god awful stereotypes so that if… IF a white author or another person of color decides to write a black person, we aren’t flying off the handle because they got the character completely wrong. (Don’t believe me? Go watch some old school anime and REALLY look at how they view Black people as well as Americans as a whole.)

White authors (for lack of a better title. I won’t call you clear or N-AoC that sounds dick-ish) need to realize that yes, they have privilege. And with privilege comes great responsibility. I’m not saying you have to fall into the white savior trope. Don’t go up to the lesser known black author and give them a handout. I’m saying if someone says “Hey, I’m looking for a new read, any suggestions?” don’t just name your close friends. If you see a book in your genre and there is a PoC on the cover, give that one as many accolades as you would if you saw a white dude on the cover. It’s not that hard. If you want us as PoC to support you, you need to support us as well.

Sitting back isn’t the answer. Saying that if RWA wants Black authors to win the RITAs they should have a separate category for “Diverse Romance” even in sarcasm is NOT helping the problem. Actually, even hinting that Separate but Equal is an answer shows how much you DO NOT know the problem.

Another problem that RWA is facing is the elitism some authors tend to have. And again, this is a slippery slope. If publishers aren’t putting out books about or by PoC, that means that most of these books are self-published. It is 2018 times have changed since 2008. Putting out your own work is hard, but it’s not AS hard as it used to be. Authors don’t have to sell their books out of the trunk of their car. But for WHATEVER reason, self-publishing is still looked at as “Less Than” add that on to the pile of bullshit from those that like to cry “I just can’t identify with a black heroine” and we end up with a clusterfuck that had me realizing that a world that I enjoyed being a part of thought of me like the neighborhood kids that thought I was odd person out because I didn’t listen to Naughty by Nature, but Bon Jovi instead.

Everyone needs to step up. Everyone needs to get in this shit and dig our way out. Every fucking one. Black, White, Hispanic, Asain, Indian, Eskimo, Gay, Straight, Asexual, Every LAST FUCKING ONE of us needs to come to the table. Bring your A game. Open your minds to things that may not be your exact cup of tea and face all of the music. Realize that EVERYONE has fucked up and that the only way to clean this up would be TOGETHER.

*Okay. I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say. Sorry about the long post. But the more I see this topic, the more my head is going in circles.*

And before I leave, I’m going to just remind you. When life gets hard, follow The Golden Rule:

 

Dawn.