I had settled on a couple of topics for today's post, but I don't really seem to like either of them. So instead I'm going to talk about this awesome book I found during the week: Sea Queens. It's a children's book about female pirates. It's totally awesome too! It has stories of different pirate women, most of whom were also said to be nobility initially, and what made them so awesome. Even though it's a children's book, I've been enjoying reading a few pages every night instead of blowing through it all at once.
I like this book because it deviates from the norms: it's a historic adventure book for children about women in a role typically dominated by masculine figures. Now before this starts turning into a feminist argument, let me explain why I love that. Girls like me who grew up as Tomboys don't have a lot of a female role models who aren't damsels in distress or completely unlikeable. I don't know what it is about female characters in fantasy, but if they aren't falling all over themselves needing to be saved all the damn time, they're complete jerks who need the love of a man to become likeable. I hate that dichotomy. Every once in a while you get someone like Daenerys Targaryen or Arya Stark, and I suspect even Lyanna Stark to a degree from the bits and pieces I've picked up on here and there, who are just completely amazing female characters. Sensible, vulnerable, deep, capable of taking care of themselves; pretty much the kind of character you find with most males in fantasy novels. They feel real, they're likable, you want them to win. Yet this is so rare that almost all of my examples have come from just one series. I think I would also put Cara from The Sword of Truth series here, but she was such a two-dimensional character at times that I'm not sure she entirely qualifies.
Now I'm not saying there are no other good female characters in the genre, but I haven't seen many which emulate the same kinds of qualities I admire in male characters growing up. It also didn't escape me that I didn't see many such characters growing up either. I know I spent a lot of my childhood re-enacting roles traditionally thought of as masculine because action/adventure/fantasy has always captured my interest. I wish I would have had more access to books like Sea Queens growing up.
I also wish that there was less of the female objectification/sexualization in the "geek" culture, and I think more books like this one would help with that. I have amazing friends, truly. I have never felt outcast or objectified by any of them. I grew up with an awesome neighbor who loved video games and adventure/fantasy things the same way I did, and who still shares this passion with me when we are able to get together. I grew up very privileged to be accepted by my guy friends who enjoyed the same things I did, and to be a woman in (at times) an all male group and not feel stigmatized. Until the end of last year, I hadn't even really run into the kind of people who make women feel uncomfortable for being interested in this genre (which was a startling experience for me, to be honest). I think one of the downfalls of our culture becoming popular is the elitist attitude which has started to arise; in the merchandise espousing that only people who grew up with certain games are 'real' gamers, or only people who like certain shows are 'real' geeks/nerds. Women are sometimes viewed as side-kicks or hangers-on because there are so few good female role models who aren't just the good looking sexy side-kick/character there to fulfill the desires of the male lead.
I guess the point of all of this is to say I would have loved some better stories focusing on women when I was younger and I'm glad for finds like this. It's a reminder that there are opportunities in literature that aren't being explored terribly well.