Please welcome today's guest blogger, author Nicole Galland, to the Book Club GIrl blog! Nicole's newest novel, Godiva, goes on sale today! If you can't get enough Godiva, Nicole will also join us for a Book Club Girl on Air chat on July 23rd at 7 PM EST.
male protagonists, writing Godiva
felt like finally coming home – speaking my own language after several years in
the Foreign Legion. I took off my combat boots and put on silk slippers. It
Then I started worrying, which I’m very good at. I worried
that I had created a regressive heroine who would disappoint all my female
friends. Godiva is very charming, but her feminine wiles get her into a lot of trouble.
Wasn’t I promoting sexism and (an even worse offense for a writer) resorting to
stereotypes, making a heroine out of a damsel in distress?
The “damsel in distress” trope has been around in various
forms since the dawn of stories. In some eras and societies, her narrative is
secondary to the male hero’s – she’s one of his adventures while he is out and
about hero-izing. More progressively, she gets her own storyline, but she is
still rescued by a man.
Damsels in distress are (traditionally) both physically
attractive and physically weak. For centuries they were not very interesting
personalities. So it’s thrilling, in these enlightened times, to encounter
heroines who are original, well-defined, sassy, confident, and powerful… but
even these are often still damsels in distress, by definition: they tend to get
rescued by men. Look at Princess Leia.
If you think we’ve come a long way since the 1970’s, you’re
right of course… in 2013, even women as powerful, original and not-traditionally-feminine
as Brienne of Tarth can be damsels in distress. In Game of Thrones (and the novels it is based on), Brienne is an
Amazonian knight of magnificent heart, skill and strength… who is saved (“single-handedly”
no less) from certain death by the once-dashing Jamie Lanister, her former prisoner.
Even this fierce and wildly popular female warrior of contemporary pop culture has
to do her time as… a damsel in distress.
So if Godiva is a damsel in distress, at least she’s in admirable
But Godiva isn’t a
damsel in distress. She has all the presenting symptoms: physically attractive,
physically weak, a damsel, and in distress. But Godiva refuses to be rescued by
any male in the story.
takes her out of the damsel-in-distress category.
I’m not knocking damsels in distress; I myself would appreciate
being rescued, if the need arose. But I like Godiva for refusing to obey the
damsel-in-distress rules. She and I are nothing alike in personality, but it
still feels good to have written a character who can make me stop and think
about my own strength in the world.