Friday, August 15, 2014

Tomato, Tomahto - It's All In Your Perspective (What Makes a Female Character Strong/Weak)

For the past couple of weeks, I have wrestled with the idea of this post.  And as I type this, I'm still questioning myself..  But the thing is, it's been eating at me...

You see, I'm a forty-something woman.  I was just a kid during the 1970's when women were fighting for equal rights.  I remember the controversy, the anger, the demand for equality.  And while I didn't have to protest, I am part of a generation that received the benefits of the movement.  That being said, I've still experienced my fair share of narrowmindedness.  For several years, my family owned a small business.  As co-owner of a marina, it never ceased to amaze me that some of the salesmen would try to talk to my brother instead of me. To get the same respect, I had to "prove" my knowledge.  It was nothing short of frustrating and demeaning.  Being seen as an equal, being respected for my work - these are things that are important to me.

At this point, let me clarify:  

The following isn't intended as an attack on the writer or the writer's work.  I didn't read the novel. In fact, I don't even remember the author's name or the title of the book. I only read the little promotional blurb and it most definitely caught my attention as a well written blurb should.   

So, back to my post...

When I stumbled across a New Adult romance and found that the heroine was a cash strapped college graduate, who in her desperation, decides that she will become a rich man's play thing, I cringed.   What was the point in getting an education, etc. if she was just going to lift her skirt.  I mean, I guess she couldn't meet her "knight in shining armor" as she worked her second job.  Nope.  The college loan payments must have been atrocious - because prostituting herself was the solution. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many women who have made this choice and are good with it.  And as for the story, like I said, I didn't read it - and maybe the heroine had tried to find a second job, maybe she had resigned herself to eating Romen Noodles dinners...  Obviously, the heroine was trying to be honest - I mean, she really wanted to make her payments...  Maybe she should have decided that her credit was just going to have to suffer - at least until a better paying job came along...   But for me-when I read the blurb-I failed to see the romance and I certainly hated seeing a young woman portrayed in such a weak manner.  

It's Just a Story

I totally get that this story was a work of fiction and I'm sure there are readers who loved it. But with so many women and children being sexually exploited, portraying a "pay for sex" agreement as the beginning of a healthy relationship feels all sorts of wrong to me. Yeah, I know - It's just a story and I can lick the red right off a lollipop. 

Maybe It's Me

At some point, I wondered if maybe my feelings were due to my age? I sought the opinions of a younger crowd.  I am the mother of three sons so I presented the scenario to them.  They looked at me as if to say, "Really?"  But being the good mother that I am, I didn't let them off the hook.  Finally, one of them said, "Maybe her bills were really stressing her..."  Another nodded in agreement.  So then I asked, "Would you be good with dating someone who had made this decision?"  They looked at me.  The twenty-one year old said, "Look, just because I can maybe understand doesn't mean I agree... so no, I couldn't see myself dating her."  My seventeen year old said -  "If it was only the one time, then maybe... but that's just dating. I mean, it's not like I'd wife her up."

Uptight?

By now, you might be thinking that I'm a bit uptight and definitely judgemental.  You'd be wrong.  At nineteen, I was a single mother so I know all about making hard choices.  And maybe, that's why the premise of this story bothered me so much.  Because in the real world, the decisions we make follow us and most of the time, women who choose to sell themselves, don't end up with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I was a single mother, working two jobs when I met my Marine.  Twenty four years later, he's still got my back.

Disclaimer:

I realize that there are women who have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, with no where to turn.  Their children need a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.  While I have never found myself in this position, I recognize that some women have.   Because of their circumstances, they may feel as though prostitution is their only option.  I'm certainly not casting judgement on the decisions they have made.