|Lara Croft: tough woman?|
Or man with boobs?
But to avoid the ‘man-with-boobs’ trap, the author gives the heroine a shoe obsession, or a constant concern over whether her butt looks big in this. She’s a loner who rarely has any girlfriends, and usually has anger-management issues. And she often has to fight workplace prejudice because of her sex, despite the fact that she’s clearly competent.
Or, she gets underestimated by the bad guys because she’s pretty and female. (This one in particular irks me. Honestly, how dumb are these male characters? Talk about gender stereotyping.)
|A real-life Victorian heroine|
(not the steampunk kind!)
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson,
the first woman to qualify as a
medical practitioner in England
Because readers like it. Make the ‘man with boobs’ call all you want: it’s impossible to argue with popularity. And I think it’s because the ‘kick-ass-chick-in-a-man’s-world’ mirrors our own experience. She has admirable strengths, but she’s still sometimes treated as second-class. She’s expected to do everything a man can do, only better, yet be ‘feminine’ at the same time.
Her world is our world. Only most of us don’t have the option of kicking butts and taking names. We’re still labelled sluts and whores if we enjoy our sexuality. When people underestimate us, we’re not in a position to take advantage of it – we just don’t get the job, or we get passed over for promotion, or stupid laws get made about what we can and can’t do with our own bodies.
Kick-ass Chick might live in a man’s world, but she has power that we don’t. We read about her because we wish we could be her. She inspires us, the same way real-life heroines do, even if her world isn't 'real'.