Female Violence in Fantasy

Violence is a vast topic, but there are few fantasy novels without it. Currently, I have the impression we have a bit too much of it, not so much in the fight scenes as in the torture scenes. The latter are, imho, technically much easier to write: in a fight, you have to choreograph several protagonists. In a torture, you have one which is immobilized.


Since I don't like clichés, before starting to write my novels, I seriously thought about why a man would make physical confrontation his profession, like the endless warriors, assassins and mercenaries one finds in fantasy. Of course, there are traditions, education, the duty to protect your homeland, or simply not knowing how to do anything else, but that would not be enough to make of you an exceptional warrior, like Conan the Barbarian, or James Bond in a other style. No, what would make you an out of the ordinary warrior is not only the fact that you are strong and fast with good coordination, but you also love violence. Well yes, it's like in any job: to be good, you have to be gifted, motivated and love what you do. As a child, you loved the sword and combat lessons. You were prepared to do overtime during breaks. As an adult, You are always ready to work for free, "for the glory" or "the honor" if it promises to be a good bloody fight. The motto: "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women" is yours.


Psychologically, you may be socially well integrated and appreciated by those around you: you have friends, a family, you respect the hierarchy, do not hit your colleagues too hard, protect your tribe. Perhaps you even have a code of honor forbidding you to pry on the weak or torture prisoners. You may be ending your career as a charismatic warlord adored by his troops. Or, you are downright sadistic and amoral and never set yourself any limit. You appreciate violence for what it is, as a connoisseur (Deadpool) Either way, you love the rush of adrenaline it brings you.


On the other hand, if you are a female hero, even a warrior, you have, most of the time, to justify your violence. You are serving a good cause. You defend the oppressed / your country / religion / family. You get revenge on a bad guy. You blame everyone for being wronged. At the worst, you are violent to make money. But apart from extremely rare exceptions (Monza Murcatto in Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie) you are not an experienced veteran of many wars. You are a young girl who is just starting out in the profession. Most of all, you don't appreciate violence for what it is. No spontaneous violence. Never ever. Before you hit someone, you owe it to yourself to do a mental checklist and wait for the abuser to attack first, a bad plan, as any professional brawler will tell you. The exceptions to this ethical rule are once again extremely rare. Imagine the hours of training that these poor heroines put themselves through while they preferred to lead a peaceful life, cooking cakes ou making potions ! No wonder they look a bit artificial. It seems they only dream of one thing: retiring to their kitchen and resuming baking cakes.

Finally, as usual, the warior heroines of female authors are much less credible than those of male authors. Paradoxically, the warrior heroes of female authors do not have this problem! Would they fantasize about being a man? Huge debate, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the reasons for the explosion in M / M romance nowadays.

If you want a believable character, you have to let go of the clichés and imagine a really tough, bad woman, the kind you don't find in the roles of heroine, but in the roles of villain. Indeed, in real life I don't believe for a minute that women are naturally sweeter than men. Everything is a question of opportunity and social framework. Violence is not socially rewarding for women while it is for men. What mother ever told her daughter to slap the little prick who pisses her off in the playground, even when the prick in question does not reach above her shoulder?

In fact, violence for women is taboo, even more so than sex. Were it not severely repressed, just imagine the number of guys who would have had their throats slit in their sleep, suffered some fatal « accident » while drunk, or endend poisoned at breakfast. There would have been harems in revolt where the concubines would have massacre their eunuchs instead of fighting between themselves. Perhaps that explains why the Vikings or even the Mongols were so polite to their wives.

So, as for everything that was taboo, it was done on the sly: woment would strike weaker than themselves, children or slaves, have someone hit by her servants, slandering someone to the point of sending him/her to prison... In modern times, as in the Middle Ages, one can wonder about the enthusiasm of some women for wrestling shows. Of course, there are handsome beefy champions, but it's not just that.

Some will point out that women are physically weaker than men. First, it would be necessary to know by how much.  Above all, in the 20th and 21st century we have a great equalizer: firearms. Despite this, warriors in SF or urban fantasy find it much harder to use them than their male counterparts.

So how do you write fantasy while remaining respectful of taboos? It's simple. Heroines shouldn't harm people? What about demons?  Then women will be hunters of vampires, demons, zombies and will be able to knock out hordes of magic creatures, but never humans!

That’s how we saw hordes of monster killers of any creed follow in the footsteps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.



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