There’s an excellent series ongoing over at Fantasy Faction at the moment on gender and stereotyping in fantasy by Leo Elijah Cristea. I’ve ranted before about diversity, but this is an excellent – and many-parted – look at why it’s important and various aspects, including bisexuality and the need for balance.
The female characters presented in the opening are excellent examples of why setting warrior women as the standard can be problematic. A great number of people imagine leather-clad women with loose dark hair and a black handgun, staring over one shoulder in urban fantasy, and our dark, heartless assassins with troubled pasts in epic fantasy…It isn’t this leather-clad heroine who creates the problem, but rather those who assume her to be the standard. The norm. This urban fantasy diva with her attitude and gun-slinging night-job isn’t the only woman out there, taking on the night.
We need weak women who only find their agency later through a story as much as we need strong women who know exactly what they are doing from the get-go, and we need weak and strong men to do the same. Agency shouldn’t be an assumed asset and neither should strength. Both of these things are subject to personality and circumstance. And perception. Many people write characters off for being weak simply for not exhibiting strength in a way we’ve been taught to see. Ultimately we need diverse people and people who think and act diversely. Real people who are reflections of those we’ve known and loved and met.
The need for gender equality in fiction doesn’t threaten or invalidate everything that appears more traditional: those are part of the tapestry by default. Just as with the cold hearted assassins who are stripping feminine, softer and less traditionally “strong” heroines of their limelight, for fear of writing “weak” women, casting every woman as hard and every man as soft would do the same.
Part Four – currently missing!
Whether an author consciously decides to make a character bisexual as part of an organic process, or if, after careful consideration of the abundant cishetronormativity of their work, they decide to give bisexual representation, it is very easy to convey the point that a character is open to relations with people outside of the gender society has ingrained the reader to expect. A passing glance in a tavern from the gentleman thief to the fetching stable boy just popping in on his way to bed; a runaway princess thinking fondly of her lady-in-waiting, with whom she might have nurtured secret budding romance; that warrior on the battlefield who can’t get the eyes of the other swordsman from his head when the fighting is done.
They’re definitely an interesting series of articles that I’d highly recommend reading!