Toward the stars – role models in fiction

Posted: June 1, 2012 in Darklands, feminism, Inspiration, Marketing & Promotion, Reading, Role model, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,
Pippi Longstocking

My extremely well thumbed copy of Pippi Longstocking. Yes, that is the pages all falling out of the middle :-S

I saw this post today about creative people providing positive role models for girls. It’s a new venture to showcase non-stereotypical products for girls. They don’t want pink things (unless they’re science kits), nor are they interested in things related to external beauty.

“Passive Princesses are an absolute No No but we are happy to showcase Bold, Daring, Adventurous, Self-Rescuing Princesses.”

I signed up, as a purveyor of self-rescuing heroines with maths skills, and it made me recall some of the interviews I’ve done during the course of promoting Darklands.

I’ve cherry-picked a couple of relevant pieces below.

In my very first interview I was asked what I’d wanted to be when I grew up. I had this to say:

I wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Tarzan. I wanted to be Dracula. I wanted to be a mad scientist with sticky-up white hair. I wanted to be a pirate. I wanted to be a Viking. Eventually I realised that writing would allow me to be all those things.

And btw, it wasn’t lost on me that all my childhood aspirations concerned the male characters. Why? Because they got to do the interesting stuff. What did the female characters do? Stand around squealing, and then run away and trip over nothing!

I’d like to think girls do a bit better for role models now than they did when I was a kid.* But I guess things still aren’t great, or this initiative wouldn’t exist :-/

Zencherry at World Lit Cafe asked me a while back about the physical appearance of Sophie, Darklands‘ heroine, “She was a little plump and thought of herself as a mite homely and yet she had strength that she discovers along the way.”

Was I purposefully going against the grain, she asked. This was my reply:

There are at least a dozen different answers I could give to this. Like how I was a gawky adolescent with no self esteem. Like how billions of advertising dollars are spent convincing attractive young people that they are not attractive enough, and their lives will be richer, happier and more fulfilled if they only buy this or that product to make themselves more beautiful…

But I’ll give you this answer: Many years ago I nervously gave one of my first stories to a friend to read. She was far kinder than it deserved, but what I chiefly remember is her asking quite pointedly, ‘How come interesting things only ever happen to beautiful girls?’ A very good question! I have given far more thought (or maybe far less thought?) to my characters’ appearances ever since.

Plus, I just like geeks.

Well, who doesn’t?

* I have since thought of one geniune female role model I had as a kid – Pippi Longstocking, who is just ace 😀 In fact, she’s so good, I think I’ll have to do a post all about her another time.

  1. earthfae says:

    Yeah, I noticed the lack of girls doing things as I child even in shows with mixed teams (like digimon) they boys got most of the screen time and the most intersting plots.

    At least I had Sailor Moon

  2. Pete Denton says:

    You’re right that most books still seem to have a male protagonist. As a writer you get to change that and shape the future generations. Books like The Hunger Games are helping push the female lead to the fore.

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