Earth Needs Women – a blast from the past from November 2010


*Forgive me for running blasts from the past on both blogs today, but for various reasons — okay, mostly cats and doctors. Someday I’ll tell you the story, it’s hilarious — I only slept 3 hours last night, which came on top of spending the afternoon/evening very worried.  Then today (Tuesday, late night) was a round of doctors. I managed to finish ONE grossly overdue short story, which is nothing short of a miracle as exhausted as I am. Tomorrow I finish the LAST overdue short story and can at last return to the novels. So forgive me for this one, but honestly it’s so old you probably don’t remember it. -SAH*

Earth Needs Women – a blast from the past from November 2010

No, this is not the obligatory ecological post. Today, in the car on the way from dinner (not cooking at Thanksgiving is logical when you have only four people) I was talking to the kids about a book I read when I was maybe 12/13.

This book – whose name I (unfortunately) can’t remember – came amid a trio of “fairytale books.” At twelve or so, I decided that I hadn’t read enough fairytales and was trying to round out my education. This one looked like a nineteenth century book with woodcuts, was written by some unknown Portuguese author and the title was something like “The Foundling.”

It started with a baby girl found abandoned in a forest. She’s taken in by an older woman who gathers wood and who makes a good – if unloving – foster mother.

Half-bored, I felt I knew where this was going, but continued reading, expecting the more or less obligatory hidden princess story.

I was wrong. Though I no longer remember the details of the book – yes, I read it a good hundred times, as it became one of my favorites, but it was a long time ago and memory gets blunted – I know that the parentage of the girl is never revealed. The old woman dies, the girl is turned out of the house, she ends up working as a maid and some other menial jobs. Her work ethic and (what my friend Dave Freer calls) battler spirit get her through. She helps an old lady who is dying and whom no one looks after and, in return, is given an old book of recipes.

She starts her own little business selling cakes and pastries at fairs and meets a young man of very good family who – however – does not marry her because of course, she’s a foundling of unknown parentage. Eventually her little business becomes a successful pastry shop and later she meets another young man, a pastry chef, and this time it all works out and they marry and have a happy family and a successful business.

If you’d asked me at twelve, I’d have told you I had no idea why the story charmed me as it did. I only knew I liked re-reading it and it became one of my favorite books. It felt good and somehow “right” in a way that fairytales and romances didn’t.

Today, when I telling the kids about it, I realized why. It was because the character was a strong woman. Born with the ultimate disadvantage, the ultimate lack of support, she doesn’t – like fairytale princesses – either get rescued by a strong knight nor even by fate that reveals her to be a hidden princess. Also, she never complains; she never repines – she takes the situation she finds herself in and makes the best out of it, all the while looking out for those who are weaker or in more need than her. This last characteristic nets her the all-important recipe book (supposedly created by a medieval convent, which rings true for Portugal, and which had been lost for centuries.) When her romance doesn’t work because her very conventional suitor wants a girl of suitable family, she doesn’t go into a decline, she just goes on with life.

She is, in fact, what editors so often say they want “a strong woman, self sufficient, a good role model for growing girls.” Only, from my observation and reading, by this they usually mean mouthy, aggressive, foolhardy and complains a lot about men till one wonders if said character has an issue with being born female. There are exceptions, of course, but complaining about fate and men and being bitter seems to be obligatory.

And yet, it is true that the type of character in my long-lost book is not only a great role model for young women, she is the type of role model we do need. Earth needs women (yes, and men, but we’re talking women here) who take care of the weak and helpless. Earth needs women who don’t whine. Earth needs women who cheerfully shoulder the burden of what needs to be done.

Earth does not need women who complain about men all the while neurotically obsessing on clothes and jewelry to attract said men and pursuing the highest-status males they can possibly get. There is nothing wrong with these activities, in moderation, but when they become the focus of existence they create a generation of infantile harpies. [Earth needs even less — and how innocent I was — “Strong women” who want to destroy men in order to feel powerful – SAH 2020]  Now, I don’t think any women in real life are as bad as that, but almost all “strong” women characters in books and movies are just like that.

Young women who read/watch these characters end up feeling they must APPEAR like them or they’ll be thought weak. And this is wrong. Strength in women – and men – can be defined not as throwing weight around but in doing what must be done for oneself and those who depend on one.

Earth needs grown up women.

I very much hate to tell people what to do, much less what to be, but I wish we could set about writing – and living – role models for the women Earth needs.

162 thoughts on “Earth Needs Women – a blast from the past from November 2010

      1. It’s not a bad plot either. You could theoretically write a hundred books with that plot with minor changes in environment and career choice, and never worry about plagiarizing someone else.

            1. He’s referencing Horatio Alger, who wrote a LOT of books in the 19th century with the plotline of “poor young man works super hard and perseveres and becomes wealthy and successful.”

            2. Horatio Alger, a popular writer of “poor boy made good up from his bootstraps” in 19th century America to the point they became know as Horatio Alger stories. Sarah’s book broadly fits the genre and your idea of reuse would model Alger’s career.

              And that might be a good thing for the YA market right now.


  1. You know, I think that’s one of the reasons “The Ordinary Princess” by M.M. Kaye charmed me so much as a kid. Okay, yeah, the main character was a princess (and later a Queen), but the fairy at her christening blessed her to be “ordinary.” And so, faced with everyone expecting not very much of her because she wasn’t “pretty” or brilliant or gifted or anything else, she went and had adventures…by becoming a kitchen maid and working very hard.

    And sure, her young man was also a prince, but like her he’d been “cursed” with ordinary and instead turned to working hard and making his way and not banking on looks or birth to have a good life.

    I loved that book as a kid. I still find it charming.

  2. Earth Need Adults Of All Persuasions

    …but that ain’t what we’re gettin’…

    Seriously, only children demand authority without understanding responsibility. Only babies cry about their problems and expect ‘somebody’ to fix them, without requiring any effort on their part. Other than the crying, that is.

  3. It’s hard to show women being tough in an active way– says the gal who wants to be as cool as Molly Weasley when she grows up– that is also not boring. Female strengths aren’t so big and flashy.

    Same way that they have issues with showing a guy who is genuinely strong– that is, has a gentle side. (Although that’s improving, some.)

    1. It is to bad that the connotation of “gentleman” has been so degraded. I was taught by both my Dad and my Mom, albeit in different ways, that to be a “gentleman” the first requirement was to be a man. And by man what they meant is what is in Yiddish called a “mensch”. A strong man, whose strength is under self-control and used for the good of his family and community. Earth needs grown up men and women – badly.

      1. Neat factoid– the word translated as “meek” in the Bible (as in the meek inheriting the earth) is the same one as a bridle on a horse. Controlled.

        No strength, no point.

        1. Yep. Strength is the first virtue, said the grandfather to the wee one. Not to be strong enough only to get what you want. To be strong, but strong enough to do what’s needed when needed without causing undue harm. Strength of will, strength of character are no less important. Once you have the strength, the ability to act in the world, then you can choose to be virtuous, kind, hard working, and charitable.

          What history shows us again and again is that the weak will be used and abused. Better to make young men and ladies who *are* strong in all the ways that matter than coddle them into perpetual weakness. They grow up weak and want daddy government to make all men and women weak, so they won’t be afraid anymore. And are doomed to failure in that.

          1. ::puts Mormon hat on:: there’s also a passage in the Book of Mormon that discussing “bridling all your passions”. Not “don’t have any passions” but CONTROL them. You rule them, they don’t rule you.

      2. The connotation of “Lady” has also been degraded. These days it’s largely an epithet when used in everyday speech, particularly when it’s used to refer to the person being addressed.

      3. I have long noted the irony that in our modern era a “Gentlemen’s Club” is the type of venue into which no gentleman would venture.

        1. As a young man, I was for the longest under the impression that “Gentleman’s Club” involved a private rifle range, perhaps a boxing ring, and a library full of old books. Imagine my disappointment upon learning what most people used the term to describe. *chuckle*

          1. One of the things I found charming about last summer’s Shazam! film: Although the protagonist is a 14 or 15 year old boy–and not only that, but one who has been in the FOSTER CARE system since he was about 3, and is a serial runaway to boot–Billy: did not swear (at least not more than dammit), and was more focused on his personal mission (finding his mom) than particularly interested in sex or girls. (There was NO romantic interest whatsoever in the film.)

            And while there was a mild gag regarding a *cough* “gentleman’s” club (twice), with the first time Billy getting coerced into going in (in adult form) by his foster brother (who behaves a lot more like one would expect a modern teen to behave, albeit to a far lesser extent than usually portrayed), only to come out again barely two minutes later looking bewildered and carrying buffalo wings. He failed to see the interest in going in there, and is really only interested in the food. Later on in the film, Billy teleports himself and the rest of his foster siblings to the same location to escape the villain, and they ALL (barring the one foster brother, who is grinning) likewise come out looking either disgusted or bewildered (and covering up the youngest girl’s eyes).

            It was nice to see an actually-innocent male character, instead of the preferred Hollywood method of treating all teens (but especially boys) as utterly sex crazed to the exclusion of anything else. (It was also, by extension, nice to see a family-friendly superhero film that was TRULY family friendly–it didn’t even really have any of the usual “wink and nod at the grownups” sort of gag happening, because that would have spoiled the character’s overall innocence.)

            (And the inevitable “buy beer” gag was also treated well, with BOTH boys being grossed out by it and going back and getting soda and candy instead.)

    2. *chuckle* Folks that don’t think women can be shown being tough never saw a mother stare down feral animals (or humans) when they were little, rifle rock steady, cheekweld tight, right pointer finger carefully taking up slack. Hard to show that kind to strength when they hate anything tubular that spits projectiles out a hole at one end.

      There are the other kinds, too. Organising a funeral for her parents with dignity and grace, being a pillar of support for her family to rely on. Fearless honesty in the face of savagery, too, works. Pick any strong woman, put her in a fronteir society and watch the sparks fly.

      The lack of any real ability to pick out virtue, be it male or female, on the left is one of the things that is slowly poisoning the well. People are finding that wokeness does more than make you go broke. It can make you unattractive as well. Case in point (swided shamelessly from ace and Tim Pool):

      Feminists PANIC Over Women Abandoning Feminism Because Men Won’t Date Feminists

      1. All of that takes build-up, though– do you know how many folks I’ve had to explain that Old Yeller scene with the pigs was FREAKING HORRIFIC DEATH?– as opposed to “gal screams for help, dude walks in and beats up bad guy.”

        Guns aren’t as visceral, probably because of the lower chance of losing.

        1. All true. A good story well told can take time to set properly. Maybe a good short story writer could take some ideas and run with them? They’re free after all.

          No need for a PO box in Schenectady. Plot bunnies about on this blog, I tell ya. Totally infested. *grin*

          1. But what happens if the Hypothetical short story writer has too many short stories already in the works?

            Would said writer want any more plot bunnies? 😈

            1. Surely there exist hypothetical short story writers with the teensiest bit of unclaimed time that plot bunnies can sink their teeth into. Vicious little hunters, those plot bunnies. *grin*

              1. Hopefully those hypothetical short story writers with the teensiest bit of unclaimed time have Editor Cats who can “deal” with the plot bunnies. 😈

                1. Tricksy things is plot bunnies. They sneak into the tightest spaces, subsist on nothing more than idle thought, and breed at a rate that rivals bacteria, let alone true lagomorphs.

                  Tempt the plot bunny at your peril, lest it come to infest you! I’ve still got the scars…

              1. I’m not sure that he would.

                Problem is, I read Sarah’s “how to write a cozy” post.

                And suddenly a mildly obnoxious loomy-dude (impressive, since he’s usually the size of a GI Joe) is flipping over to a main character and I can almost see the whole story, at least in pencil-sketch… almost… I just need to grab it, and get it down….

                  1. Main issue is getting the time and attention span to put it down; everyone is not sleeping because of a stuffy nose, so the Empress is seriously unimpressed.

                    As only a terror-laden 4 year old can be.

                    1. you know, it’s weird, when you say stuff like this I want to visit and play with the kids. Yes, I know I CAN’T, but…
                      As for the first part, I have I THINK the actual flu, complete with shivering/burning cycles. It’s driving me bonkers. At least I have my mind back. Yesterday I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
                      DIL and I did a little religious pilgrimage (long story) this morning, but now I’m trying to finish a story.

                    2. *hug* The thought helps.

                      Oddly enough, we might get a chance for me to focus on writing this summer– because I’m supposed to do a cross country trip, and the last time I did a big camping trip with the camper, I actually got a decent amount of time to sit in the camper and write.

      2. *sigh*
        That’s what I have built all my books on, especially the historicals. Women being strong, steady, competent and relatively unflappable – the central pillar to the characters around them. It’s not that hard … oh, scratch that. It’s apparently HARD for the Usual Suspects to contemplate and bring to life on the page.

          1. Love that book. I think it was the one responsible for turning the theme of “arranged marriage that WORKS” into one of my reading-catnips.

      1. There’s just too much set-up required to explain why it’s awesome.

        Doesn’t mean it’s not, just means it’s not especially visual.

    3. Depicting a hero who is both strong and gentle is tricky. Kirk Douglas was the only actor who managed to pull it off really well – it would probably be worthwhile to study his performances.

      Thinking about it, the character needs time in the plot to develop…and probably should have some vulnerabilities.

      1. A good modern example adapted for hour-long format is the guy who plays Angel or… the writer guy… on Bones.

        His go-to character is big, strong character who is constantly holding back to keep from hurting folks– and then at dramatically useful places is scary strong and competent.

        Doesn’t hurt that it’s solid catnip for ladies.

        1. I had Douglas’ performance in “Spartacus” very much in mind. Gladiator, general, liberator – very strong. But he has a tenderness toward the woman he loves…and that includes not sleeping with her at the first opportunity.

          File the serial numbers off that and steal it. Especially these days, because you can set the heroine up as someone who is disgusted with faux-Alpha “males” who want cheap sex after a few dates. A heroine who is, not coincidentally, also repulsed by modern feminism…because they are telling her that cheap sex is all there is.

          1. And watch it sell off the charts because the guy obviously WANTS her, but also doesn’t want to hurt her, and not hurting her is a bigger priority.

            In gaming terms, that is either mashing all the buttons, or komachi code, depending on the metaphor.

            1. [puzzled look]

              Do you mean the KONAMI code? Because a quick search for komachi code didn’t turn up anything.

                  1. I’ve found that the only way to avoid responding to e-mails from here instead of working is to never open my e-mail until I have nothing else on my plate, or it’s the weekend. Ever tried to scan 1000 e-mails in 8 hours?

        2. Booth on Bones. (Bones is the writer, he’s the FBI agent.) And yes, while Angel had a lot of that in particular, his role as Booth took that and removed most of the broody angst from Angel (which I’ve found got less and less attractive the older I got) and you had 100% solid catnip for women. 😀 Booth is gentle, and kind, and terrifyingly strong and competent when protecting those he cares about. He’s also funny, and not afraid of being silly, and while they play with him having the “usual” masculine hangups in the “sharing feelings” department, he doesn’t really. Not when it’s actually important–he only finds it irritating when it’s people just wanting to be touchy-feely for the sake of it, when there’s more important stuff to be doing.

          Oh, and he’s a father who openly adores his children. So yeah.

          I haven’t yet seen David Boreanaz’s latest role on…SWAT? Or is it something to do with Navy SEALs…but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was much the same sort of character.

        3. Does Booth become a writer in Bones? I kinda lost interest after the super-aspie kid became an apprentice serial killer (thank you for perpetuating false stereotypes about Odds, Hollywood!), and he was still very much an FBI agent at that point.

          (Bones, played by Emily Deschanel, was the millionaire writer and forensic anthropologist.)


          1. I have no idea, it really didn’t catch my memory very well; I probably conflated some of the “series where Angel is the big guy wearing black” with “series where that Firefly captain is a big guy wearing black,” honestly.

            1. Castle was the one with Nathan Fillion, and he did play a mystery writer in that. (Though he didn’t wear much black, to be honest.) His character was rather hyperactive–which I gather was closer to “actual Nathan Fillion” than Mal Reynolds from Firefly had been, lol.

              Now he’s playing a middle aged guy who decides to become a cop–The Rookie. Very good series.

              1. I know he had a black jacket on the first time I saw the character, because I remember going:
                Oh, hey! It’s that Firefly captain. On one of the interchangable detective shows.”

          2. No, Booth was the FBI Special Agent, although I vaguely recall him being promoted toward the series end (and framed and all sort of other nonsense as the series flailed about for audience once they married the two leads and drained the sexual tension from the relationship.)

            The character you’re recalling, Zack Addy, had to be written out of the series due to ongoing psychological issues (bipolar, I believe) of Eric Millegan, the actor playing him,

            1. I did wonder about what happened with the actor who played Zack. They DO resolve that at the end of the series, and the actor makes some guest appearances in the last season or two as they work in the resolution.

              But no, Booth never becomes a writer, he stays an FBI agent.

              1. As we have learned, many FBI agents are writers of fiction even though their reports and warrant requests carry the burden of being legal documents.

    4. The American frontier, like all frontiers before and after, provide active tough women.

      One even lived long enough to be one of the toughest people on the Titanic.

  4. … forgive me for this one, but honestly it’s so old you probably don’t remember it.

    Forgive you? I‘m so old I probably don’t remember it.

  5. “Young women who read/watch these characters end up feeling they must APPEAR like them or they’ll be thought weak. And this is wrong. Strength in women – and men – can be defined not as throwing weight around but in doing what must be done for oneself and those who depend on one.”

    Strength is that quality in a woman or man that gets them out of bed and going to work when they feel like shit and want to stay in bed. The quality that lets them forgive their romantic partner’s faux pas or moment of weakness. The quality that lets them forgive their parents for being dolts when they were a kid.

    The quality that makes them go out and learn something difficult so their family can prosper.

    Lots of people have it in Real Life, but I see little of it in fiction. The story of the foundling making good through hard work and perseverance is a nice one, no wonder you liked it as a kid, Sarah.

    I always liked the Alexander Lloyd books, the Prydain series. Similar situation, Taran has to work his way up.

  6. I very much hate to tell people what to do, much less what to be …

    I, OTOH, find myself constantly suppressing the urge to tell people what to do, much less advise them as to what they are, so I guess the world is in better balance for your loath-someness.

  7. Heck, a distaff reskin of Captains Courageous in a female-centric setting would be a huge improvement over the crap being shoveled at our daughters nowadays.
    But I have no idea what the female equivalent of a fishing boat might be.

    1. Hmmm … a boarding house, somewhere on the frontier, I think, definitely in the 19th century. Or Australia, maybe. Mouthy, spoiled and bad-mannered daughter of a rich man, like Harvey – washed overboard, rescued and stranded, having to work for a living, be pleasant to other people for the longish time that it takes for word to get to her family … it could work.

        1. *snicker* Yes, excellent parallel … but done as a boarding-house employee in the 19th century …
          Oh, carp, I think I have got an idea for a Lone Star Sons short…

          1. Her mother was a shanty gal,
            Who died while giving birth,
            And she grew up the lowest slave
            In the deepest hell on Earth.

        1. A nice mention! Thanks – but Sophia wasn’t spoiled and in need of a character readjustment – she was just desperate and realistic about what she HAD to do to keep alive, and independent.

        1. Excellent fairy tale.
          “They belong to King Thrushbeard the True! I you were his wife, you’d own them too!”

          Part of a semi-hardcover (okay, it was a shiny cover over cheap cardboard, and the cover eventually got torn off and lost somehow) anthology from my early childhood. I think it was called, “50 Famous Fairy Tales.”

          Probably instrumental in getting me interested in fantasy and mythology. And laid the groundwork for The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings triggering my life-long passion for reading.

      1. If you’d like, take my great grandmother for backstory fodder– she had a boarding house somewhere on the stage line in Kansas, and married a fellow who was a coach robber.

        She didn’t know this until their (only) son was about five.

        She legally separated and in real life moved out west, her son was a total Odd and tinker (either late 50s or early 60s when the post office got a copy machine, it broke two days later and he fixed it, had never seen such a thing) but Texas would work, too, if they gave her an offer.

      2. The question is, do you need the protagonist to move around, or does encountering an ongoing stream of rough-edged folk as part of day-to-day survival count sufficiently for the ‘distaff Captains Courageous’ vibe?


    2. A girl as spoiled as Mary Lennox is being taken through the woods in a coach, when highway men kill the coachmen. Her handmaid pushes her into the underbrush with whispered orders to run, which noise is enough to alert the highwaymen, who promptly capture and abuse the handmaid, which not!Mary hears as she flees.

      not!Mary, having run as far as she can on hysteric strength, eventually collapses by a stream. The water smells foul which she cannot abide, so she stumbles her way upstream to the headwaters, where at last the water seems pure enough to drink.

      She’s found, passed out, by women that she assumes are with the highwaymen. They aren’t: They’re part of a mobile camp that supports harvesting work on the forest: Syrup time is over, but there’s plenty to do before fall arrives and fur-trapping is done. Logging, herbs, truffles, etc.

      not!Mary has no intention of grubbing in the dirt, but the camp is running by a rather formidable lady, who isn’t inclined to accept slacking off in the able-bodied. not!Mary learns to work her butt off, and also gains an appreciation for how the men attached to the camp (but usually off doing work) are working harder than she ever could, in more dangerous conditions . . . and when they find the highwaymen, are the ones to take the risks of storming their camp, before not!Mary is brought in to identify her handmaid from among the bandits’ captives.

      There’s dances, courting, underhanded social manipulations, maybe some mean girl shenanigans, etc.

      In the fulness of time, the entire camp floats down the river, bringing all the products of their industry, and not!Mary is able to send a letter to her folks. Then it’s time to start all over again, syrup, winter truffles, winter furs, until spring and stretching on towards summer . . .

      Eventually her family shows up, but they hardly recognize her, the way she’s grown in the last year and change.


      1. This is a SF blog, so perhaps a slight twist is in order. The girl — let’s make her quite young — is taken when slavers attack her family’s space yacht. (Perhaps introduce that element later, as her backstory is revealed) and eventually, a few years on, is auctioned in a market on a planet where slavery is still practiced. Underfed and obviously ill-tempered, nobody wants to invest the capital to purchase her until a old madam (maybe a beggar, to preserve a PG rating) buys her for a pittance. She is put to work assisting her new owner in daily activities such as cleaning, cooking, begging (or other, if the PG rating is not desired) ad ruing messages for her owner.

        Lots of directions to go from there, of course. Her owner might be a spy — for which purpose either beggar or madam is a suitable guise — seeking to get at the slavers preying on the spaceways. She might, at appropriate time, be sent away from the planet to live among space-faring traders or gypsies Eventually she might find her way back to her home planet (presumably Earth) where the secret of her origins is revealed

        Nyah — no one would buy that!

        1. You left off that a relative who didn’t inherit the head position of the family galactic mega firm, was behind the attack that killed her parents.

          Citizen of the Galaxy – Heinlein classic.

            1. No, but he could have been one had Heinlein been inclined to do so. I don’t think the story would have sold as well though. Citizen of the Galaxy is lumped in with RAH’s juveniles, but like several of his other juvenile books, speaks of issues that are of rather more mature concerns. Which may be why many of his young teen books continue to appeal to far older readers. I can’t seem to find my copy and I’m wondering if that was in the lost crate from the Belgium move.

        2. Could copy from Shield Hero and have her be quite young, enslaved, and nobody buys her because she’s basically obviously half-dead, until someone who really has no cash to spend does.

          1. But not have her be a 10-year-old in the body of a 20-year-old (at least once Raphtalia leveled up!), desperately in love with her owner. Nor with a mechanic that lets her level up faster by staying his slave, unless that’s set up by a villain.


        3. Serial numbers filed off correctly, but I think the body lines need a bit more changing. We need Space Bondo!

        4. Well, okay, but I was trying for a serious take on ‘Captains Courageous concept, except female’. So a mobile group of gatherers, instead of a mobile group of hunters.

          The trick is, for any endeavor of hard labor, you have to wonder why men aren’t doing it instead, and so the men _are_ doing the really heavy work such as lumbering. The women are doing work that’s lighter, but still important. not!Mary learns both what’s involved in running households at the ground-level _and_ what’s involved in leading dozens of women in a community at least as large as what her mother is theoretically in charge of.

          If sci-fi elements are desired, this can be on the frontier of known space, and a lot of what the camp is doing is learning how humanity can best manage the local flora and fauna. But that far out, they often find that low-tech solutions are more reliable than high-maintenance high-tech, i.e. Pournelle’s ‘horses can make more of themselves’ thing in the CoDominium.


      2. It’s in my to-be-read queue but David Burkhead (who is often seen in these parts) wrote a story about an elf princess captured by orcs. _Aruk Means Hard Work_. I think it’s spelled Aruk. (goes to check) Oruk. Oruk Means Hard Work. Looks like 99 cents atm.

        Anyhow, from my understanding, that’s the basic idea of the story.

        1. Well, the Princess in question is about eight years old when kidnapped and wasn’t exacted spoiled rotten at that time. 😉

  8. The problem is that Mars needs women too, and apparently they’re out-competing us for the good ones. And considering that Mars can’t even support human life that kinda tells you how bad things have gotten here lately.

  9. she doesn’t – like fairytale princesses – either get rescued by a strong knight nor even by fate that reveals her to be a hidden princess.

    Kate Crackernuts and Snow-White-Fire-Red would like to have a word with you. Also the heroines of “The Black Bull of Norroway,” “The Seven Ravens,” “The Three Little Birds,” and “The Feather of Finist the Falcon.”

    Heck, Alissandra would like to have a word with you.

    They could round out your education.

    1. To be fair, Disney has so thoroughly overshadowed the “fairytale princess” trope, that it’s easy to forget that princesses in a lot of fairy tales were working their butts off 😀

      Usually, the ones where the strong prince/knight/whatever was rescuing her…she wasn’t the protagonist. HE was. So maybe that’s part of it, too.

      1. And the fact that boys can have their own fairy tales has been elided from pop knowledge. . . I have literally seen a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk that gave him a sister so it could be her story.


        When thinking of billing a massive fairy-tale mash-up as “Brothers Grimm meets — ” the problem is that you can count on the fingers of one hand the people who could fill in a second name. Alexander Afanasyev, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Joseph Jacobs, Jørgen Moe —

        Maybe Andrew Lang or Charles Perrault. But maybe not.

        1. A related problem:
          folks flatly ignore all the Disney movies that do have a male main character. Because girls wanna dress up like a princess more than boys want to be Robin Hood, Pinocchio, that kid from Big Hero Six….

          One of these days I’m going to actually print out all the animated big movies and count it up, I swear.

          1. I seem to recall Big Hero 6 evolving into a Disney Channel half-hour series.

            Not a channel I routinely monitor, so it is conceivable I am in error.

        2. Usually folks use “Brothers Grimm” as a shorthand for all the fairy stories. Like how the Kleenex on my desk is *checks* Puff’s.

          1. Yeah, but “The Grimm Brothers meets the Brothers Grimm” not merely sounds, but is, stupid.

        3. And the fact that boys can have their own fairy tales has been elided from pop knowledge. . . I have literally seen a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk that gave him a sister so it could be her story.

          I’m waiting for “Three Billy Goats” retold with at least one being a sister.

          While still called “Billy Goats.”

          You know it’s coming.

          1. Oh, Jim Butcher had an interesting take on “Three Billy Goats”.

            He had Harry Dresden deal with three “fairy” types similar to humanoid goats. Harry learned that they were call “Gruffs”.

            After he dealt with those three Gruffs, they warned him that their “big brother” would be after him.

            The “big brother” was much larger than the first three but Harry managed to deal with “big brother” only to learn that an older brother would be after him.

            Well, Harry had other problems in the story but finally the older brother showed up.

            Harry heard this voice warning the other bad guys that he didn’t have a quarrel with them but the following bad guys didn’t listen.

            Then Harry sees the older brother. IIRC he was slightly shorter than Harry, carrying a wizard staff and having on his belt souvenirs of other wizards older brother had dealt with.

            IE This older brother definitely wasn’t somebody Harry wanted to fight. While I don’t remember the details, Harry managed to talk his way out of fighting older brother.

            Of course, you have to wonder if there was some Gruff after older brother. 😈

            1. He had a boon from the Summer Court, and used it to request that the Gruff bring him a freshly made doughnut with sprinkles on it from a specific shop that happened to be closed for the night. Which meant the Gruff would have to wait there for hours.

              Since the Gruff didn’t want to actually go after Dresden, he didn’t try to rules lawyer his way out of it.

              1. Nod, I found the novel where that happens.

                Of course, the Funny Thing was how Harry was building up the size of eldest Gruff until he finally saw eldest Gruff. 😆

              2. Yeah, if I recall Eldest Gruff appreciated Harry’s clever way of both filling the boon and avoiding having to fight him, and mutual respect was born.

  10. *Puts on Woke-writer hat, pitches voice to a whine* But writing womenly women is hard! How can a women really be strong when she’s not manly? That’s weak and bowing to the patriarchy. *removes Woke-writer hat and hurls it into the back of the litter box*

    It is difficult, because to do it correctly [I will not say right/write] you have to research women who were, and are, indeed womanly and strong. They are complicated. You have to show depth and lots of “why.” At least, when I try it, I have to do that. It’s easier to Grrrrrrllllll-Power!!!!! it.

  11. It’s kind of sad that for all the talk about ‘feminism’ and the need for ‘womyn’s stories’, femininity is increasingly vanishing in a lot of media.
    I wonder if anyone has taken the same kind of look at the social pressures on girls to abandon girly things that supposedly drive them away from math & science?

    1. Seen the reaction on social media when a parent dares suggest to a female child that they might, possibly, want the Pink Thing instead of the Blue Thing?

      It’s insane.

      …. nevermind that anybody with half a brain and basic exposure to kids knows that kids will randomly throw a crud-fit.

      About anything.

      Even, or especially, the thing they’d screamed to get.

      There is a *reason* I talk about the times my kids burst into tears because I GAVE THEM A COOKIE.

      1. Marshall at 13 threw an almighty fit in a hotel elevator because we were taking him out for ICE CREAM. And he loves ice cream.
        The best part of this was the couple in the elevator with us, a little older than us, staring at us and the kid and I’m thinking “They’re going to think we beat him to make him hate ice cream or that ice cream is an euphemism for beating him or something.”
        We get to the bottom floor, all get out. The couple is walking ahead of us, and turns around to face us. And asks one question “Thirteen, right?”
        We laugh and nod.
        AND the kid never threw a fit in public again.

        1. I’m trying to reach back and remember why, in my own experience of such cases.

          I think it may have had to do with the perception on my part that I was being belittled. Too much a child to be treated with respect, but not enough care on my parents’ part to teach me the logic and wherefores of acting like an adult. Dad was better at such tutoring than Mom, perhaps because she had the child psychology degree. (Oh the screaming arguments between her and myself . . .)

          Or wasting my time. Considering how many of us there were, they didn’t have as much individual time for any of us, but timewasters like family photos, after-church chat time, and phoning-friends-time-so-no-interruptions-for-permission . . . well, it was all infuriating.

          I’m not sure what protocols I’ll try to employ, in the event that I have children like myself. Although I was informed that it would be too cruel to levy that curse on me, so who knows?


      2. “I think that you’re trying to bribe me instead of paying attention to me!”

        Dunno how many kids are that sophisticated in their thoughts, but I’m pretty sure I felt that way with my parents at times.


        1. In this case, I THINK it was because we were interrupting his particularly obsession at the time. I no longer remember what it was, but it might have been the massive bundle of comic books we’d just bought him.
          The idea that we were on a family vacation and we — his parents — might want just a little time with him was not alien, but I think he was too young to appreciate “making others happy” as a goal.

          1. “Making others happy” is a goal???? I don’t think so. Happiness is an individual choice, after all.

            Pacifying others, now that’s an attainable goal. Not always worth attaining (for various values of “pacify”) but an attainable goal, nonetheless.

            1. How about “doing things you know will make people you love” — because he does — “happy and costs you very little.”
              He seems to have got it now, but at thirteen… well….

    2. Well, take a look a the insane mixed signals happening:

      There’s a horrifying number of people who, if Little Girl indicates she likes this “boy” toy or color, then she MUST be transgender. Same with a boy who likes dolls, or something like that. He MUST actually be a girl!

      These woke people are possibly even more rigid in their stupid gender stereotypes than what they claim people in their mythical “1950s” were. There is no room in their world for a girl who likes cars, or mechanics, or math–those are BOY things (but we must force the “girly” girls into STEM). If she does, she’s actually a man.

      There are many things charming about the Anne with an “E” series, but CBC unfortunately also shoved a lot of woke nonsense into it. The one that enraged me the most was the boy who was quiet and artistic and sensitive…and so, of course, HAD to be gay. A STRAIGHT boy couldn’t POSSIBLY enjoy making art, or making his surroundings beautiful. (And Diana’s wealthy aunt had to be a lesbian. Because only a lesbian wouldn’t get married then, right?) And that really, really makes me angry, because it isn’t true, it’s forcing unreal gender stereotypes onto people.

      1. You might find the exploded expectations and implicit stereotyping amusing:

        Why today’s young men are terrified of sex
        Mason, a former college football player from suburban Milwaukee, was almost 20 years old when he lost his virginity.

        It’s a story you don’t hear too often. Boys, we’re told, are having sex younger and more irresponsibly than ever. But as author Peggy Orenstein learned while doing research on her new book, “Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity” (Harper), out now, the reality can be very different.

        For Mason, the simple act of kissing was something he largely avoided in high school, afraid that without enough experience he would do it wrong.

        “He thought he was just supposed to know,” writes Orenstein.

        Even holding hands felt like it came with the risk of humiliation.

        When he went to college he met a girl, Jeannie, who invited him back to her dorm room to fool around. He wasn’t able to perform, and blamed it on the weed he’d been smoking all night.

        She texted him the next day, inviting him over to try again.

        “But the more he thought about it,” Orenstein writes, “the more anxious he became.”

        Once again, his attempts at intimacy fizzled.

        For Orenstein, who’s spent two decades writing about the sexuality of girls — with bestsellers like “Girls & Sex” and “Don’t Call Me Princess” — Mason’s predicament was difficult to take seriously at first.

        Like many of us, she bought into the cultural stereotypes “that all guys are sexually insatiable,” she writes. “Ever ready, incapable of refusal, regret, or injury” — an idea that just reinforced “the most retrograde idea of masculinity.”

        Over the span of two years, Orenstein spoke to hundreds of boys across the United States, ranging in age from their early teens to mid-20s and spanning all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, religious beliefs and even sexual orientations. She learned that a surprising number of them don’t live up to gender cliches — meaning they aren’t hormone-driven Frankenstein’s monsters, obsessed with sex and unconcerned with the consequences. In fact, they’re pushing back against cultural expectations, and many are going so far as to avoid sex altogether. …

        1. And I think we’ll see the leftists attack these young men on that front more and more. We’re already seeing it with the accusations of being an “incel” and pretending that the angry creeps out there are the majority of the young men not having sex, and so they’re all one bad day away from becoming mass murderers. Sigh.

          I’m thinking maybe we’ll see a growing cultural realization that those “old fashioned rules” regarding premarital sex were maybe less to do with being ‘repressed’ and more to do with a “doing this has consequences for BOTH parties, so maybe let’s not push it on people until they’re really serious about it.”

          We’re already seeing the chaperones making a comeback in male/female interactions…(which is a little sad, but given the #metoo witch hunt, it’s only sensible)

          1. those ‘old fashioned rules’

            I quite recall Daughtorial Unit, while still in teens, decrying the loss of those rules which permitted a graceful decline of offers which you did not know the other party well enough to consider. They created room to maneuver where the current rules leave you only in tight corners.

            1. That was probably the point. Although which impulse (I can think of three– impossible to politely decline means you’ll say yes, you can be bullied into yes, or you’ll be brutal about saying no) was behind the desire to m ake it so you can’t politely decline with a future opening to reconsideration* I don’t know.

              * Something that tends to be missed in the whole “women say no when they mean yes” thing is that the “no” is current condition, and open to change; kind of like the inverse of a woman accepting a date and being able to then decide she doesn’t like the guy much, when given further information.

  12. Thanks for the reminder with this post. I have to admit that I forget what I am trying to write from the noise I hear every day on TV and the internet. We do need role-models of women who are care for themselves and those around them and not a whiny entitled princess.

  13. There’s this great quote here that I keep thinking of when I think about strong female characters-

    “What I find fascinating about the series is that it really is girl power in action. It does not take traditionally “masculine” action tropes and simply gender swap them, no, and it does not deny or condemn the attraction of the pretty princess fantasy. Instead, it takes all the “feminine” girly stuff like frilly princess dresses and pink unicorns and makes them into implements of power. The hypothetical girl in the audience is being told that she can be as girly as she likes and still dream of growing up into power and responsibility. Feminine articles are not shackles or playthings to be eschewed, or tools good only for obtaining the approval of men — they are treated as cool and desirable things, in and of themselves.

    “Boy craziness is even part of this, in the way they make the knightly romance fantasy an active one. The girls wanna be swept off their feet by a handsome knight, and, damn it, they’re gonna go out there and find that handsome knight and make sure he does it.”

    (That, and I want more strong awesome women that kick ass in their own ways. Plot bunny somewhere about the classic “prince rescuing princess” story and it ends with them both partially rescuing each other, by playing to their own strengths.

    (And, damn it, I’m writing characters that are pretty flowers of femininity-and kick ass and take names as women.)

    1. Except, of course, that Sailor Moon makes the frilly princess-y stuff into implements of _masculine_ power, able to deal out death in retribution. (Or punishment, as Usagi would say.) There’s of course also the healing/purification that Moon herself specializes in, but the way she applies that power is still rather aggressively masculine.


    2. The meme is “You don’t need a man, you need a gadd@mn hero. Because you’re not a woman, you’re a gadd@mn goddess.”

  14. That Earth needs adults of all persuasion is a given. What I find most interesting, however, is the insight that “said character has an issue with being born female”. There’s definitely some form of self-loathing going on in the writers and most vocal fans of characters like that. However, I think it’s not so much the “female” part that bothers them. Rather, it’s the “born” part of most main characters that’s been elevated to cult status in modern fiction, particularly action-oriented stories.

    When you look at superheroes, for instance, their strength is usually either inborn, or gained from sheer happenstance, and impossible to reproduce at will. For fantasy tales, including space fantasy like Star Wars, much ado is made about characters being born with supernatural talent off the scale, which becomes their defining trait as people. Meanwhile, the villains usually come from much more humble beginnings, often enduring poverty and abuse, and their acquisition of power is regarded as evil in itself. It’s almost like the stories imply that being of the supernatural blue bloods is all well and good, but if you’re not, well, know your place, peasant.

    Sure enough, tales of high-born heroes have existed since times immemorial; from the myths and legends of demigods whose strength comes from their lineage, to the so-called “changeling fantasy” of supposed commoners learning of having noble blood, and thus being eligible for upward social mobility. Thing is, there’s just as many folk tales of ordinary people achieving success and status on their own – and these were the ones actually favored by the general population. Men and women who succeed on wit and guile, and whose success and social elevation is never treated as wrongful.

    So when you look at which of those two frameworks has been the focus of most modern fantasy fiction, with the all but pseudo-aristocratic narrative of inborn power and noble status being shoved down the audience’s throat, it’s no wonder that anyone not feeling all that “noble” would start flipping out. The past ten years have been an ample demonstration of how young people, who were all individually left with the impression of being the special snowflake in the blizzard, fully competent by virtue of birth alone, now have to face the reality of actually needing to learn how to manage life. Of being, by the standards of their own preferred fiction, the hapless and powerless extras of the world. And of being given “role models” that are actually impossible to emulate, at least in anything other than their aggressive and self-centered attitude.

    In short, these people have been taught that unless they were born the right way, they couldn’t succeed in life. And in their formative years, they lived in comfort with the idea that they were, and expected to be showered with conveniences ever after. And then a couple of banks crashed, and that little field of dreams wilted away. What followed, in the end, has been the familiar past decade of wailing and gnashing of teeth, with perhaps another to come, until these people either learn to live like adults, or at least get tuned out, and in fade in obscurity.

    1. I eagerly look forward to the issue f World’s Finest featuring Clark & Bruce bickering over Kal-El’s “Kryptonian Privilege” vs Batman’s “Wealth Privilege.” Meanwhile, Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan are dissing Ray Palmer and Barry Allen fr their “Unearned Power.”

      Across the way, of course, Peter Parker is sneering at their argument, wanting to remind them they’ve great responsibility and ought act like it while Reed Richards cashes another patent royalty check, hoping no smart alek remarks about “Royal privilege” get made.

      In Fantasy Land, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippen & Bilbo give thanks that Strider’s noble lineage binds him to the duties of the throne while allowing them to swap tall tales with the Pevensie kids, Eustace Scrubb and his friend Jill.

      1. I picture it more like Agent Coulson (best character to come from the MCU) rolling his eyes whenever Thor and Tony Stark get all full of themselves about how important they are for protecting the world. And in Fantasy Land, Conan, self-made king and frequent slayer of sorcerers and ancient gods, mocks the idea of some guy being fit to rule merely for belonging to some grand noble line or other, never mind needing a fancy magic sword to get the job done. In his experience, “blue” blood stains red as any other, and plain old steel is good enough for any devil from the outer dark…

        In purely creative terms, though, I tend to cringe at how the various arbitrary divisions found in young-adult fiction – muggles and mages, humans and mutants etc. – tends to get milked for some existentialist woe-is-me drama, or presented as grand social metaphors about tolerance. It’s not hard to see the parallels to real life special snowflakes, who blame their otherwise low social status on belonging to some oppressed group or other, and not on, well, being professionally unskilled, personally irresponsible, and generally obnoxious human beings.

        1. Tony Stark probably _is_ the best suited (pun absolutely intended) for saving the world, though. (MCU version, note.) Put Iron Man, War Machine, and Pepper Potts in charge of vetting who can be trusted with Stark powered armor, and world peacekeeping really does end up getting privatized. If he hadn’t been gaslit by Black Widow, Captain PR, Furry, and the other SHIELydra manipulators into believing that everything that went wrong was his fault, James and Pepper would have noticed when Scarlet Witch brainwashed him because they wouldn’t have been sidelined in favor of Tony sucking up to the Avengers, and the downward spiral that resulted in an Earth utterly unprepared for Thanos might well have been averted.


          1. Iron Man wasn’t brainwashed by anything but his own superiority complex and belief that the most perfect system would be one that he designed– so of COURSE building a super robot with an insane amount of weapons.

            And let us not discount how quick he was to viciously attack every other member of the team, because some lady in an elevator attacked his pride.

          2. World peacekeeping being privatized is one thing; the problem is that after the first battle of New York, Tony was clearly displaying signs of PTSD, panic attacks, and a developing messiah complex – from then on, he wasn’t privatizing peacekeeping, he was trying to monopolize it. Which in turn led to the Ultron debacle, wherein his masterpiece for global defence had its own ideas of what global defence meant. And the fallout of that in turn led to the civil war, etc. In essence, he went from a more libertarian ideal of employing private means where governments fall short, to a modern day liberal who imposes his own vision of how the world should be, all other views be damned. At least he snapped out of it when he got confronted by the resulting victims. And Cap didn’t even stop then… but that’s a can of worms we’ll need entire pages to go into.

            What bugs me is precisely the frequent double standard / glass ceiling, where the supposed heroes of the story get a ton of free passes and convenient supernatural upgrades whenever needed, while the story twists into a pretzel in order to justify why it’s only they who receive such benefits. For that matter, noticing these trends in predominantly liberal-oriented fiction – from the Harry Potter books and the Avatar cartoon series, to the modern woke-infested comics – is what led me to the conclusion that their otherwise social-justice-howling fans and writers don’t really desire justice, let alone equality, as much as mere supremacy, enforced by similar double standards in their preferred real life political and social frameworks.

            And vice versa, the kind of fiction that I’ve noticed appeals to conservatives – from hard-boiled detective novels, military action thrillers, or even romance dramas – focuses on personal effort, drive, and perseverance in spite of unfavorable circumstances or physical resources, as the primary means of success. And for this reason, it’s the main characters of these stories that I find to be far better role models than the perpetually overpowered special snowflakes in vogue nowadays.

            1. If superheroes get standardized the genre stops being superheroic. Doctor Strange is fine, but as many wizards as the Dresden Files turns it into urban fantasy; everyone in powersuit is mecha, not superhero; etc.

              True, it’s better to justify it more thoroughly. But superhero as a genre is less philosophically coherent than fantasy or SF.

              1. Doesn’t HAVE to be less coherent; Wearing the Cape is the prime example. However, it’s more likely to be simply because comic books need to be able to reboot so as to hook the next generation of readers without keeping the back issues in print. This forces compromises.

                1. esp, forex, the X-men books… they need to have a New Generation Of Mutants so they can retell the early Shadiowcat/Jubilee/etc stories with a new character to introduce things.

                2. That’s the justified case for uniqueness. But it’s a case of coming up with in-world explanations for why the tropes of genre play out, not a philosophical reason for why the genre has this trope.

  15. I think I might have said this here before, but some of my favourite “strong female characters” are those written by Lois McMaster Bujold. In particular, Fawn from the Sharing Knife series is a refreshing change from the (now well-worn) fantasy trope of the girl who despises needlework and wants to learn to sword-fight instead. I liked the recognition that sewing (and spinning, cooking, preserving etc.) are actually very important skills, and that someone with competence in those things is valuable, even (perhaps especially) to a society of warriors and hunters. And that someone with maternal and domestic inclinations can also be brave and clever, and heroic when required.

    1. Fawn–and the worldbuilding–were what turned me from an initial “meh” reaction to the idea (Bujold initially sold it on “I was trying to write a straight romance novel”) to really, really enjoying the series. I loved Fawn, and her can-do, let’s find a solution to this problem attitude to…well, everything. So much so that between them, she and Dag began upending a whole world’s worth of cultural expectations. But! I also loved that they didn’t magically change the world overnight–they STARTED changing things by challenging the norm, but they realize they are likely at least a generation or two from making a widespread change.

      Bujold addresses how this is beginning to play out in her novella “Knife Children.” It’s great.

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