IWW: Gender Rolls (Yes, it’s intentional)

As a kid, I remember having to hunt for strong women in fiction, and not the long-suffering, taking care of my plague-infected children while my husband’s gone to war, strong. I wanted Red Sonja chopping heads in every story. Instead, I never wanted for a man with no neck.

Being ten and knowing everything, I had the answer. To be the hero, the heroine must cast off everything that makes her a girl, to be a dude with breasts! Hero Barbie had to dress like a dude, think like one, smoke like one and get such a bitchin’ tattoo as could only come from prison.


No tea parties! No shopping! No housewifery or skirted business suits! No pesky children! Pshaw, aprons! Go to hell, fairy princesses! She could only be the kind of man I saw in no-brainer adventure tales on television. If put in a dress, Hero Barbie should think she looks like this:

"I've never felt so free..."

None of that silly girl-shit, just straight ass-kickin’. How could she fail?

But then…something curious. For every headlock:

Seriously, this is as far as my arms bend?

For every backhander:

Since we can't actually punch

There came a sudden unexpected ending.

What goes up...

Hero Barbie started to lose.

...must end in cliche

Villain Barbie was just too awesome.

She could wear pink sparkles and still kick ass. She took whatever she wanted, including the initiative in my stories. She was free from whatever constraints society placed on her because she didn’t give a damn what society thought. SHE WAS THE VILLAIN. No talk of what girls or women or boys or men HAD to be affected her. She’d gleefully give anyone who told her what to do the little plastic finger.

Evil gets all the toys...and we're paid in pandas

Golly that sounded like fun! Hero Barbie couldn’t fight that. And why should she? Villain Barbie began seducing my hero as surely as she’d seduced me.

"Polish all my obscure knicknacks, and we want to be able to see our faces in this panda."

There was only one problem. The villain never really gives a shit about anyone, including her friends. She just uses them for what she needs at the moment. Alluring, yes, but I actually cared about people. I wanted to help them.

"You can feel guilty or....we can go get ice cream."

I had to find a way to merge the two, to make Frankenstein Barbie. Could the pink dress, the automatic rifle and the desire to help people rather than hurt them really go hand in hand in hand?

Accesories are everything

Were you more attracted to the hero or the villain in fiction? I must say I liked them both.

(Before anyone lists strong female heroines in the 80’s, please remember that my childhood stories are based on my experiences alone and aren’t an indictment or even an accurate reflection of the times. These are the memories that led to my writing characters the way I do. Thanks muchly. ^_^)


14 thoughts on “IWW: Gender Rolls (Yes, it’s intentional)

  1. I made it all the way through the post, but I think I’ll need a stitch in my spleen. I started coming undone at, “Seriously, this is as far as my arms bend?”

    Sadly, you speak the truth.

  2. Dude, accessories!! They’re the best!! Also, I over-identified with all the ladylike ladies, and then hated it. It never occurred to me as a child that I could be a different kind of lady, I just thought the only way to be a girl was to be “dumb” and “helpless.” Once I grew up a bit and read more, i became really pissed off. Now i have a hard time reading anything where the protag isn’t a strong badass woman. 🙂

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