Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Empowering Women in Fiction

I did not shop on Black Friday. Instead my husband and I accompanied our younger son, his wife, and three young children into Manhattan to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our daughter-in-law actually did the driving. Having worked in the city for a number of years, she’s comfortable driving there and knows Manhattan very well.

We offered to pay for parking but she insisted on first looking for a spot. This turned up rather quickly. But the car that left the spot was smaller than the large SUV. Our son questioned his wife’s ability to park in that small spot. However, she was confident.

“I can do it,” she said. And she did! On the very first try at that. She parallel parked into a space that left barely an inch in front and back without touching the other cars. I confess it amazed me.

This kind of female empowerment is impressive. Recently, I discovered that the reason the editors of The Novel Fox chose DEATH LEGACY to be featured by their new publishing house was because Michelle Hallam, heroine and protagonist, is an empowered woman. Instead of a female who needs protecting, she runs her own unique “consulting” firm, is a master of martial arts and weaponry. She won’t rest until the bad guys get what they deserve. http://www.thenovelfox.com/death-legacy



In THE BAD WIFE, 4th novel in the Kim Reynolds mystery series, Kim, a quiet, introverted librarian of strong moral character and unwanted psychic abilities, solves murders. She teams up with tough Bert St. Croix, police detective and woman of color, to save Lt. Mike Gardner’s life. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6PCKVW    


There are many empowered women in mystery fiction, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple for one. The P.I. novel was male-dominated until the late 1970’s and early 80’s when writers such as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Miller and Sue Grafton began creating women investigators who were as tough as men. These novels offered more in-depth characterization and, in the case of Paretsky, a social agenda.  

In romance fiction, no longer is the-too-dumb-to-live female in distress who needs rescuing particularly popular. Women want to read about females with strength of character who are the equal and can go toe to toe with an alpha male.

Today, more women than ever have an “I can do” philosophy like my daughter-in-law who runs her own business, nurtures her three children, is a supportive wife and maintains a positive attitude. That sense of female empowerment is increasingly reflected in literature.


Your comments welcome here. What empowered female characters can you think of? As a reader and/or writer what books reflecting female empowerment would you recommend, your own or those of others?

24 comments:

  1. An interesting post, Jacqueline. I'm glad to see that the reading world is ready to accept that one can be a strong, empowered woman without knowing martial arts et al. Thank Heavens the too-stupid-to-live milksop 'heroine' is out of favor. Real women have always been strong - even if they can't throw a bad guy over her shoulder. Thanks for a great post.
    Janis, aka Susan

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  2. Hi, Susan,

    Thanks for coming by and commenting. I know your heroines demonstrate strength of character.

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  3. Interesting that they chose to feature it specifically because of the strong female lead. Maybe there's hope yet.

    One book that inspired me [counter-intuitively] was The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood--probably because my age at the time I read it. I was so enraged by such a future prospect, it made me determined to do otherwise.

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    1. Hi, Maddy,

      I read Atwood's novel and was troubled by it. But I guess that's what good writers do--make us think.

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  4. One of the reasons I started reading crime fiction was for exactly that reason--the women characters seemed so much more independent and free-thinking. Agatha Christie may not have considered herself a feminist but she expected her female characters to get out there and do something. Right now I'm reading a nonfiction book about a young woman who decides to give up her job and start farming. It's hilarious and insightful but also she never hesitates in taking on exactly what she wants to do, even if she has no idea how to go about raising chickens, milking goats, and the rest of it. She just goes at it. I love that.

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    1. I'm with you there, Susan. I respect women who are independent and think for themselves and act accordingly, whether in real life or fiction.

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  5. I could not write a woman who was weak or dependent. I'm not, I can't relate! Great post!

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    1. I think that's why your books have such strong appeal!

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  6. Well said, Jacqueline. As a reader, writer, and editor I no longer deal with women/girls who are portrayed as unempowered or needing to be protected or saved. Which does not mean that they can't have flaws or weaknesses. This cliche needs to die.

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    1. Hi, Ellen,

      I agree with you. Women who are empowered still have flaws. No one is perfect. So fictional characters need to have weaknesses just like real people.

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  7. Our latest book, Sex Change, takes place during a mid-term election. Our sleuth, Nina Bannister, makes a statement about the need for women's empowerment in Washington DC, which goes viral: "We outnumber them so why are we letting them tell us what to do. What's wrong with us?" This leads to a Lysistrata-like, humorous mid-term election (with a mystery to solve, of course). Join the revolution:

    Find Sex Change and the other books in the Nina Bannister series written by T'Gracie and Joe Reese on amazon.

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    1. Your mystery novel sounds great! Thanks for sharing the information with us, Pam.

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  8. Congratulations on making the cover for the publishing house! I'll bet YOU feel empowered now.

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  9. Hi, Janet,

    I can't take credit for the e-book cover of Death Legacy, although I had much input into the original hardcover art.

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  10. I believe the character, Tante Margaret, in my yet to be published novel, is an empowered woman.She solves a mystery in Safe Harbor without using her psychic skills, and ultimately wins the love of the man she secretly yearns for.
    Thanks,Jacquie, for allowing me to take a spot meant for empowered women.

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    1. Mary,

      Thanks for dropping by. Your mystery series is a good one for readers to follow.

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  11. Good blog, Jacquie. There are so many women, real and fictional, who are on top of the list, but since I can't think immediately of certain books, I'll zero in on my heroine in "Deceptive Clarity." As a P.I., she propelled herself from messy divorces to handling an incredible mystery that spanned continents before it reached a conclusion. She remained central to the case surrounded by male associates and emotional ups and downs. She proved her worth as a strong woman.

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    1. Betty,

      Thanks for telling us about Deceptive Clarity and the strong female character at the center of it.

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  12. Very important topic, Jacquie. My whole adolescent/adult life has been spent in hopes of empowering women--myself and others. And women are paramount in my novels, both mystery and mainstream. Probably my strongest woman sleuth is 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft, who in 1793 wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, for which men and women, too, called her a "hyena in petticoats." This didn't stop her--nor did the Revolution in France she experienced halt her fight for social justice. She remains my alter ego.

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  13. Mary,

    Mary Wollstonecraft is a significant figure in the feminist movement for women's rights. Ironically, I just read in the news yesterday that two women were arrested in Saudi Arabia. Their crime? Driving a car.

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  14. Made me think of the Ladies #1 Detective series by Smith--takes place in Botswana. I, too, create strong, independent women who solve their own problems as well as others'. Thanks for a great post!

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  15. I love that series! I hooked my husband on it as well. Smith is such a fine writer.

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  16. I bought a copy of Death Legacy the day it was available from Novel Fox and loved it. Michelle Hallam is pure dynamite. I'm looking forward to reading about her further adventures.

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  17. Thanks, Mike. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading the novel. Several male readers have told me how much they enjoyed Death Legacy. One even told me he was angry with me because the book kept him reading all night and he was tired at work the following day. Hope you'll try The Bad Wife next!

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