One of the reviews of one of the books I’m reading right now (follow all that?) praised the main character for being a “feminist ahead of her time,” and that phrase got me thinking a lot. Especially how inaccurate I felt it was and how, in a way, it seems to decide that feminism and the idea of a strong, opinionated female is only a modern idea. I am grossly simplifying, I know this, but it is interesting to think about how often a statement like that is used in complete disregard to the many examples of strong females before our time and in history. I think of matriarchal pantheons; I think of Lysistrata. I think of Egypt and Sherazaad. I think of Empress Wu Zei Tian and Esther. Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. One could claim that these are exceptions, not rules, but I find it very difficult to believe that there weren’t women in every day life who took a look at their worlds and decided that, no, they were still going to be themselves. Like the character in the book, it didn’t have to be anything big. Just the little things of claiming a life and a personality all their own.
More importantly, it got me thinking again of my own female characters. I recall a secret on Fandom!Secrets (I was unable to find it again; there are a lot of them to go through!) mentioning the desire to see more female characters that weren’t so blatantly Break the System! Kick Major Butt! Be a Badass! It suggested that the more muted female characters, the princesses or the handmaids or the farmgirls got a bad rap because they weren’t bold or strong enough feminists. And I kind of agree. Just because a character isn’t blatantly powerful and strong doesn’t mean she doesn’t contain her own secret strength and I realize those are the sorts of character I like writing the most.
In general, though, I like to think that I’ve covered a pretty good variety of females, because, realistically, even in fantasy, there are all types of women in the world. And each can be a feminist “before their time,” whether they’re doing it with a sword or simply by living a life that makes them truly happy.