Repeat after me, folks: romantic plotlines don’t ruin female characters.
A female character isn’t weak because she has normal human emotions. She isn’t anti-feminist because she has vulnerabilities. There’s a difference between a female character existing entirely to be in love with the male character and a female character who happens to have a romantic subplot as part of her story.
It isn’t feminist to insist that female characters have to be “badass” unfeeling robots, detached from absolutely anything considered “feminine,” including, apparently, emotions. Sure, we don’t want female characters to be damsels in distress, but swinging in the other direction, to cardboard-cutout-badass-making-quips, isn’t much better. Good female characters appear human. And sorry, romance-haters, but love is a part of that.
Rhiannon, FeministFiction, “Down With Love” (via tiorickyaoi)
ZOMG READ IT. REEEAAADDDD IT!
besides, being “badass” normally means acting like idealized men only with boobs. which is dumb.
This is actually something I consider super important. It can be refreshing to see a woman character who doesn’t have romance subplot, because so many women characters are seen as as extensions of the male hero. But people can fall into a trap of judging women characters as automatically less if they do fall in love.
I really loved the way Captain America: the Winter Soldier handled Steve and Natasha’s friendship. I like that they didn’t hook up. But there were some reactions I saw that implied (or outright stated) that this made Natasha a superior character compared to other MCU women. (Jane Foster, for instance, gets a lot of contempt for daring to be physically attracted to Thor.)
The whole concept really opens itself up to concern trolling. Any woman character who has a romantic subplot suddenly becomes “just a love interest.” See, it has nothing to do with hating the character for getting between your perfect boyslash, or for daring to touch your darling with her girly bits. You’re just very concerned about the integrity of her character. No one, of course, ever worries that the male half of the pairing might become “just a love interest.” One big example I can think of with this, was when the first Star Trek reboot movie came out, and so many Kirk/Spock fans suddenly became so worried about Uhura’s character. (And I’ll talk a little more about how race can factor into this further down.)
This idea can create other kinds of concern trolling. There’s a the recurring idea that woman character X is so awesome she doesn’t need a man. Which may sound fine on the surface, but it becomes just another way of bringing her down should she enter a relationship. I’ve seen this with Sara from White Collar, with Sara bashers insisting that Sara would be awesome if she weren’t dating Neal, or that she’s too smart to date Neal. (No one ever suggests Peter is too smart to date Neal, so I guess they think he’s stupider than Sara.)
This whole “doesn’t need a man” thing can take a racist edge as well. The stereotype of the “strong Black woman” is well entrenched, but takes on fresh life in fandom, when, for instance, Abbie from Sleepy Hollow is declared to be too tough and independent to need a relationship with Ichabod. (Fine, she doesn’t need a relationship. But what if she wants one?)
Incidentally, the only time I’ve seen the whole “too awesome to ship” thing applied to male character is Sam Wilson from the MCU. Do I think it’s a coincidence that the sole example of this that I’ve seen applied to a man is aimed at a Black man? WHY NO I DON’T. Once, again no one seems concerned that Bucky or Tony are too awesome to ship with Steve. Are they simply inferior to Sam?
So, um, yeah. I’m not sure I’m really saying anything that the original post doesn’t already say, and I guess the conclusion that fandom is sexist and racist is nothing new, but this is something I’ve thought a lot about.