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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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the age of reading comprehension, ages eleven through fifteenish
children of dune - leto 1
Via metafandom:

What I Think About Twilight by helen_keeble, which explores the agency Bella has in her own life in transportation, social expectations, and, oddly yet not, dinner menu.

That reminds me of the fact that even now, fourteen years past legal, I still get a certain thrill from eating out. The more I have to dress up to eat there, the more I enjoy it. Huh.

However, it was in comments that I took a moment, specifically this one:

I can imagine myself as a teenager enjoying the books, but I've never gotten into books with female protagonists. Almost all of the books I devoured as a teenager and absolutely loved had male protagonists and were written by male authors. For some reason, I connect with the content of those stories far more than when a female protagonist is presented. [...]

That fascinates me, because I was entirely the opposite. In the name of getting a female protagonist (or at least a female point of view), I would do a page check to see who had the point of view. In the comment, the commenter mentions F'lar, while I was all about Lessa, liked Brekke, loved Menolly, adored Sorka, was a little in love with Sharra, and carried on a long-term love/hate relationship with Mirrim for years.

(I also really didn't get Mirrim; McCaffrey generally wrote types of female characters, either ones you were supposed to like or, you know, Kylara. Mirrim is still an anomaly in that I kept feeling like McCaffrey at some point meant to write a purely Mirrim story, because even considering the company she kept, Mirrim was really damn special in that way that made me want to throw things because all of her accomplishments were pretty much throw-away lines in other people's stories. I mean--gah. And did that girl have abandonment issues. Which with the fostering thing in place, made me wonder what McCaffrey was trying to say, since the idea seemed to be All Fostering, All the Time, Best Way, Only Way. Mirrim. Dammit.)

I'm thinking of Darkchild by Sydney J Van Scyoc, and Call of Madness by Julie Dean Smith and By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey and Six of Swords by Carole Nelson Douglas, lots of Patricia Wrede and then Mists of Avalon (and only now becomes irritating when I can't reconcile the use of Christianity, as while I do not have a degree in religion, the timeline seems off for a lot of what was considered Christian female requirements unless it was totes obscure sects, but whatever). And I'm not sure that's changed too much; unless by specific recommendation or unless I'm going to get a specific book, I default looking for a female main character.

I think it was the multitasking. Sure, men fought dragons and came home and got a princess. That was new and interesting. But you know, compare and contrast that to the girl that fought the dragons, took her father's throne from evil misogynist advisors, got married, had a baby, saved her country again, and still had time to read a story to the kid before going to bed. Then sometimes, she'd stop a war somewhere in there. And did it wearing a crown and some deeply cool evening gowns. I mean, that was a role model for twelve-to-sixteen.

You know, especially Darkchild. It's been years (read, nearly two decades) since I read it, so I am blanking on her name, but she's the equivalent of a princess, left at home alone while her mother goes off to recharge her sunstones in the mountains, and can do pretty much whatever she wants, including adopt a mysterious cute boy who she can teach cool games and hold hands with a future of controlling unimaginable power if she is her mother's successor and is expected to have sex with lots of different men when she grew up so she could have a daughter to be her heir.

(And now in retrospect, I am noting how sex was so casual with men, to the point where even their names weren't considered all that important; in contrast, barohnas had another barohna they bonded to with this stone that let them have, I think, a soulmate thing going on. After they retired from their position, they'd go live with their female soulmate. And the barohnas didn't seem to have very strong ideas about fathers, either; most never knew their father's names. Okay, now i have to go re-read these; if i remember correctly, the heroine mentioned above having a single monogamous husband was hugely revolutionary and disturbing to everyone, along with never choosing to bond with another barohna, etc. Hmm.)

Man, I loved her.

Yes. Carry on. I really need to find a copy of that book again, along with Six of Swords to check my memory against what actually happened. I'm almost sure I missed one or two of that series.

Patricia Wrede! The Princess didn't slay the dragon, she cooked cherries jubilee for it.

For me, my first instinct when thinking of books with female protagonists I like will always be "Tamora Pierce!" Because I adored Alanna even though I had nothing in common with her, because she has mad sword skillz but she still gets beaten sometimes, she has awesome magic but she only uses it when she's desperate so it sometimes goes wonky, she has a sarcastic cat, she has sex with more than one partner and she marries the King of Thieves. And then she went on to write more books in that series, and I found a little piece of myself in every single one of those heroines.

I think that's what gets to me with characters. I like reading a thought or an action or a stupid, sarcastic comment and going, "Hey, that's me." Or someone else. I love finding pieces of my best friends in stories, too. That'll keep drawing me back, every time.

(ETA for coding fail)

Edited at 2008-12-12 03:32 am (UTC)

I really need to read those. *writes down*

I'm kind of bitextual. I don't care what gender you have for the POV.

Honestly, it's not something I paid all that much attention to up until the last few years, when I'd check out my favorite authors and focus on teh books that had a female protagonist. Fandom is all about self-awareness sometimse. *sigh*

I can imagine myself as a teenager enjoying the books, but I've never gotten into books with female protagonists. ...

That fascinates me, because I was entirely the opposite.

my experience is pretty similar to the original commenter and I'd never considered too deeply just why that was, though now I'm wondering if that might be a function of age. I'm not sure of your age, but assume you're in your 30s - I'm 49 and most of the books/authors you listed weren't around when I was a kid/teen. if one wanted to read SF/Fantasy or actiony genres, they pretty much always had male protagonists; even female authors (like Andre Norton) focused on men/boys. if that other commenter is also older, that might be part of it. or it could be something else entirely, but for so many years girls' books didn't include adventures, and bored me stupid.

That could make a difference; I'm honestly not sure. I don't remember when the preference took over, but it was around ten-twelve when I started buying my own books and not depending on the library.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
By the Sword! I love it. But I don't think as a kid (oh so long ago heh) that I had a preference for male or female protagonists. Although I do always enjoy a strong female lead. Hm.

*g* I love that book so much. Kerowyn ftw!

You know, it has struck me recently that I did a kind of weird thing about ten years ago: I started favoring books with male protagonists. I had always favored girls/women, and then something shifted. Sadly? I think I can lay that at the doorstep of slash.

I've swung back to where I'm about even in what I read, but still, it was a strange thing to realize.

My fandom reading is male oriented, but not my non-fannish and pure pleasure reading. I know there's some kind of dissonance in that; fandom tended to increase the attention I'd pay to male-centered books, but it never shifted my actual preferences.

Actually, when I think about it, fandom-related reading (outside fanfic) is a lot closer to Required Readings to Get Along With Others and Understand Fannish References (still fun, but I go into it differently). When I'm not working off recs or fandom, most of it I still bend toward strong female protagonist or at least a very strong female pov in the story (Dragon Price by Melanie Rawn, for example). This could be why I still go for romance occasionally; while not a guarantee, it's far more likely I'll get what I want in pov there than anywhere else.

I really don't know why, either; it's not like there was some motivating point where I felt GIRLS YAY. I can just remember going through teh bookstore until I found female pov or protagonist story.

Heh- pre/early teens I swore off female authors entirely. As I recall, I didn't necessarily dislike female protagonists, but I read a few books in a row w/female authors that just... There was some kind of thread I didn't dig. (Looks hard at 'Pern' cause while I liked a couple, I'm pretty sure that was one of the series that contributed to my boycott.)

I think it may have been Andre Norton who got me over the 'it's not ALL women writers' thing. Cause I didn't realize she was a woman for quite some time.

But yep, never worried overly about the sex of the characters. I find in my mystery reading, I tend to read more female writers/characters than men. SF fantasy I skew male.

Hmm. I can't remember if overall I ever noticed the author's gender.

I'm pretty sure, if I do the math, the proportion of female-protagonist books is high across the board, even at the expense of quality (i'd drop my standards for the female pov big time). It wasn't a dislike so much, but just a general disinterest. Before fandom, almost all of my writing was female-pov too, or mixed with a female focus. And that, in retrospect, does feel weird, considering.

I never really thought about it in terms of male/female protags, but in looking back I had a definite preference for them. Harry from the Blue Sword is still my favorite protag pretty much ever. And I loved Lessa. To the point where I still get fighting mad when anyone calls her a Mary Sue. Since all female heroes with unbelievable stamina, resourcefulness and great hair are unbelievable fantasies where men are just expected to be that way. Grrr.

I need to reread McCAffrey. Maybe over Christmas.

Oh God, The Blue Sword and to a lesser extent, The Hero and teh Crown. But the former was *amazing*. I remember how much I wanted more of that, about her life after.

I've probably mentioned before, but it continues to amuse me how Anne McCaffrey became progressively more and more feminist throughout the course of the books.

But, traditional "feminine" attitudes toward sex got annoying (there's more than a few reasons I read a lot of m/m sex). I like characters of either gender going for what they want and being passionate about it.

*nods* See, I'm pretty sure that's part of the reason I may have defaulted to female pov early on; I wanted something outside the stereotypes, and there was a fighting chance in the female pov I'd get it.

Though I really don't remember any seminal moment of deciding; I just remember searching for books with that female pov instead of male.

Tamora Pierce, Tamora Pierce all the way.

I think I own every book by her in the Tortall 'verse, as well as in the Circle Universe. I got started on Alanna first, but I think I fell in love with Keladry more - that series is the one that I reread constantly.

I actually still read all her new books... they're such a comfort for me.

She wins at feminism! Her characters are strong, but very very human. Oh, and I love how sex is treated in the books. Like someone said earlier, Alanna has had more than one partner. There is an anti-pregnancy spelled necklace that can be worn, so that is a decision by the woman.... oh and also, in Keladry's case, she almost gets carried away for the 1st time in having sex, but stops and thinks about it after wards, and gets advice. Sex is not treated with shame.

.... I think a lot of my feminism was built from what I learned in these books.

I think a lot of my feminism was built from what I learned in these books.

There was an awesome panel at Wiscon a year or so back entitled: "Everything I know about feminism I learned from YA." It was fab, and I got a lot of names of books I need to read.

And yes, Tammy Pierce's name came up a LOT.

Edited at 2008-12-12 05:36 am (UTC)

That fascinates me, because I was entirely the opposite.

This is really weird: I was exactly like that commenter you quote! I rarely identify directly with protagonists, but to the extent that I do, I tend to identify more easily with male protagonists... Never had any patience for Lessa, frankly, though to be fair this book was a favorite anyway, because even as a teenager I found it a bit over the top.

This difference in outlook must mean something profound... but what?


*g* Overthinking leads to headaches and indigestion. Honestly, until fandom, it's not something I examined overmuch. It was like, I like sci-fi, fantasy, and female protagonists. The reasons for those things I've never seriously considered.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
See, I tend(ed) to go with books with a male POV character, and I'm not sure why I found it so easy and comfortable to slip into those shoes, you know? I'm pretty sure looking at it would show some kind of uncomfortable things maybe about me, and maybe about society.

Nowadays, I'm more likely to read a female POV, but I think that's more about the authors I read: chauvinists are less likely to write a female POV character.

Hmmmm. I'm thinking about this now. I think I identified with male protagonists, but I think I was actually quite balanced. My favourite character in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series was Nyneave (oh, man, I don't even remember how to spell that name anymore) but the other females were as interesting as the males. I adored the first three Earthsea books, but my focus was always on Jed (and just loved reading about him through other sets of eyes). ...I think the sad thing is that I haven't bonded to female characters much in books. I mean, apart from Nyneave, there aren't any others I utterly adored, there aren't any others I can even *name*.

I went through a heavy Anne Rice period in high school and I can give you names of the male vampires I liked, but the females never gripped me for any longer than the narrative lasted. And... hmmm. Oh, Elizabeth Bennet. There was a character I liked, but my love came from the series first and I read the books after, so that's still more of a TV-character inside my head.

My only saving grace here is that my favourite childhood stories were females. Matilda by Roald Dahl was an absolute utter favourite that I read at least six times during the primary school years. I loved it absolutely.

Even younger than that is "The Paperbag Princess", which remains my favourite fable/fairy tale and always stuck with me. (If you haven't read it, the story goes like this: the wedding of the prince and princess is distrupted by a dragon taking hte prince nad burning the palace. The princess has no clothes so she puts on a handy paper bag and trudges off to rescue her prince. She gets there, finally outwits the dragon, gets her beloved back. Said beloved responds by giving her attitude about the dirt on her face, her ratty appearance and her general lack of girly-prettiness, and she decides that she doesn't need/want the prince after all. ...honestly, imprinting on that story at a young age explains *so much* about me in general.)

Although, hey, now that I think of it, "What Katy Did At School" was another childhood favourite. So I think it's more that my reading pattern was female-focused as a child, and then as I got to 10-12 and went through a phase of reading a lot of more adult novels (authors that I'm totally blanking on right now, btw, but Wilbur Smith was a big part of it) where POVs were split but the males were more active/interesting, and then in the teenage years I was more focused on males. The books where I read female POVs were always books with split POVs (like Robert Jordan) and apart from "Pride and Prejudice" and possibly a few VC Andrews, I doubt I've read many all-female-POV books from 13 upwards.

When I was in college, I absolutely absorbed all of the Pern books. I adored Lessa and Menolly.

Like you, I had a love/hate relationship with Mirrim. It bothered me so much that I wrote to Anne.

Anyway, this is what she wrote back:

Many thanks for your letter and apologies for the delay in my reply. I'm sorry that Mirrim's character has been bothering you for years, but your speculative answers are very astute. I would agree that it is Path who is the source of many of, in your words, Mirrim's problems, but I shall not, in the near future anyway, be going into much of this part of Pern life, but I also feel that Mirrim is a very sensible girl and like Jaxom and Ruth, she will find a way to cope with her situation."

I just wish I had kept a copy of my letter to her. I have no idea now what I said back then. Heh

Man, it's been years since I've read these books. You're seriously making me want to pull them out and reread them. *g*

I think it kind of weird that most of my early stories I wrote from a female perspective, but my reading was almost completely male oriented. To this day I still prefer male perspective, but now my writing has drifted that way, too. I think a big part of it was that almost every book I found with a female ended up in romance, and that killed a story for me unless I was specifically reading a romance novel. I like my for fun reading without the romance usually, though there are a few exceptions. I guess I'm just odd. :)

I'm not sure I actually ever preferred a male or a female pov. I definitely read through all of Pern multiple times, starting at about the age of 10 (see the username, which I've sadly been using variations of for almost 15 years) - my dad had the entire series in hardcover, actually, so I stole his copies. And I read through the Valdemar books multiple times as well, but there my two favorites were Kerowyn and Vanyel - I could've taken or left both Talia and Elspeth. But at the same time I was also all about Middle Earth (to the point where I can quote large chunks of it from memory), which really has virtually no female presence whatsoever.

Though I think that part of it for me is that I almost never identify with characters - I don't look for myself in a character, and I don't want to be a character (roleplaying has never held the slightest interest for me). I just wanted to have someone tell me their story. I really don't know.