While the high fantasy and sci-fi genres still seem to be dominated by male authors (with a few notable exceptions, of course), in the urban fantasy world, there are some interesting things going on in that age old gender war. People sometimes underestimate the power and social influence that books and television exert over the world. For instance, before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the idea of a female hero (not a heroine, not someone who seemed strong until they needed to beef up a macho man and have him swoop in to save her) was unfathomable in the mainstream media. Buffy Summers paved the way for protagonists like Veronica Mars and others who flooded in after her.
I was reading my Twitter feed yesterday, and there was a little trend of hashtags inspired by Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, entitled Things Anita Blake Taught Me. Here are some that stood out to me:
“It’s okay to have wild monkey sex with more than one man at one time. Rawr!”
“Being a woman — and a petite one at that — doesn’t mean shit. Stand up for yourself!”
“Loving two men is okay.”
“A woman can be tough, carry a gun, be beautiful, smart — can be herself and still have lots of men want her.”
“It’s okay to date men who are prettier than you are.”
“Being a bad ass and being a woman are not mutually exclusive.”
“It’s easier to live in a man’s world if they secretly suspect you can kick their asses.”
“It’s too much of a burden to saddle men with always being the strong ones, just as it’s too much to saddle women with being the weak ones.”
Some people might argue that Anita Blake is oversexualized, but I am going to step out on the edge of the sword and say that she is an empowering figure. How many millions of times have we seen the man with his gaggle of women? How many references to men being more bad ass, more sexy, stronger, more manly for having more sexual partners, yet women are sluts and whores?
The power comes in because writers like Laurell Hamilton and Charlaine Harris are lending a hammer to the glass divider between the sides of that double standard, blurring the Madonna-Whore complex and showing that women can be sexual, can have multiple partners, and still be strong, confident, intelligent, and competent. It’s not the shattering blow yet, but there are cracks appearing, and that gives me hope.