Gender Gap

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about perceptions that there was a demographic shift occurring in the readership of speculative fiction: a substantial tilt toward girls and away from boys, such that perhaps a genre that was once perhaps dominated largely by male readers is now substantially dominated by female readers. 

The question of gender – of readers, of authors, and of characters – has been on my mind a lot lately thanks to a series of blogs and articles I’ve seen that address the topic.

First, there was an article on the Powell’s blog by author Jennifer Dubois in which she opines about the difficulty in our society of female protagonists and narrators in fiction – and the ethical need, in her opinions, for more such characters.  The article is called “Writing Across Gender” but it isn’t really about writing characters of the opposite gender, really, as it is about writing female characters.  It was an interesting place to get my recent thoughts on the subject jump-started.

The question was inherently interesting to me, naturally, because the primary protagonist of my current novel project WIP is a female character.  I had a lot of trepidation when I began this project, I must admit.  Jennifer Dubois thinks that because:

…First, the notion that women are essentially strangers, their consciousnesses wholly foreign; and second, that this foreignness, in addition to being unassailable, is also pretty limited and boring.

But honestly, I don’t think that’s terribly accurate, or true. Continue reading

More “Boys vs. Girls”, Fewer Books from Borders…

Apropos of my Friday post about audience gender in Speculative Fiction, I came across this today: an article about Joanne Rowling’s mega-successful “Hermione Granger” series

Now, I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series, and I’m also a believer in egalitarian ideals.  So I get where this article is going.  Essentially, it is critiquing not Harry Potter but the society that makes it such that in order to meet the goal of “appealing to both genders” the series necessarily had to be about a boy.  I’ll agree, Hermione was easily the most capable character in the book, and I seriously identified more with Hermione and, say, Neville Longbottom than I really did with Harry. I didn’t have a terrible upbringing like Harry.  But I was seriously good in school, and I studied and worked hard throughout.  And it would’ve been cool, I thought, if the hero could’ve been someone who was like me – who was good in school and liked studying and liked knowing things.  Instead, that role went to a supporting cast member.

(Now, Hermione lost me when she went ga-ga-eyed for some dumb jock, i.e. Viktor Krum.)

I disagree with the criticism leveled directly at Harry’s character in that piece, but the general criticism of society is sadly valid. Continue reading