Why Can't our Heroes be Heroines?

SHE WRITES and Teri Coyne host

Ordinary Women: Extraordinary Heroines
A New Paradigm for the Modern Heroine.

a reading with authors

Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 7:30pm

5233 N. Clark St.
Andersonville, IL
(773) 769-9299
Red Line to Berwyn

Meet Diane Meier

About Diane:
Diane Meier's first book, The New American Wedding - Ritual and Style in a Changing Culture - traced a revolution in the nature of public ceremony, as it reflected our evolving society. President of MEIER, a NYC-based marketing firm, her work on behalf of clients from Neiman Marcus and DeBeers, to Kohler, Elizabeth Arden and Pierre Balmain - have helped define luxury marketing for a generation. Diane's first novel, The Season of Second Chances, was this season's lead book from publisher, Henry Holt and Company, chosen as a Top Choice by the nation's Independent Booksellers, and has been well received by critics and readers alike, albeit causing some passionate discourse on the nature of "Women's Literature" as a literary category.

Some thoughts on heroines:

SheWrites, and our Heroine Panel at KGB on Wednesday, are asking for a blog on the idea of unorthodox heroines. And, though I may be too literally interpreting the concept, I’m taking it to mean this new feminine model we’re seeing in literature and movies: the Superhero-ine who Whams! and Bams! with the best of them. Or the unapologetic, shit-kicking crank we find, by chapter five, can shoot the hell out of the dungeon and happens to be on our side; the assassin-heroine of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or the little blue-haired girl in Kick Ass. Their appeal is undeniable. I mean, I get it. It’s fresh and new. But I’m really thinking of how much more effective --- and more importantly, how subversive -- it could be to beat the odds with the tricks women have always known how to dish up.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not for censure, or limiting Creatives in their desire to develop tough talkin’ gals who know how to make bombs and tear the balls off of bad guys. If that’s the way an artist wants to express herself, go to it. And, of course, I want to live in a world where creative output is not defined by a chromosome. But I also want to make sure that we don’t buy the old male idea of what a hero is supposed to be.

If we look at the heroes our testosterone-rich writers have dished up for us over the last half-century or so, we see a bunch of action figures swaggering across page and screen, reflecting men who swagger across the globe -- brandishing their holy wars, genocide, ethnic-cleansing-brands of rape, and imperialistic campaigns for and about oil, gold and cola. Are these the role models we want to follow?

Iron Man cleans his dirty-weapon-designing-conscience by creating a fire storm of dick-hardening, death-machine action. Really? That’s all he could think to do? Kick more ass? Not exactly Alfred Nobel. And the Avatars – where do I begin? Sully, our earnest, American spy, learns so little from his sensitive, nature-connected Na’vi compatriots, that it never occurs to him to take the larger message of peace, the circle of life, the issues of environmental protection and – most of all – a push-back against arrogant imperialism, back to his own people, so that the pea-brained, scar-faced general might be removed from duty. Instead, he stays and fights. And fights and fights and fights until there is nothing left to save. He’s too stupid or stubborn to try something else. It’s nothing short of pathetic.

Oppressed classes value the traits and skills of their oppressors over their own. One can see why, of course. In the value system created by The Other, the skills of the oppressed – permitted or enforced -- seem so puny. So less-than. But value is in the eye of the beholder. (And when women horn players have to audition behind screens to make sure they’re equitably heard, it must also be affect the ears of the beholders.)

I’d suggest we take another look at the things we’ve just moved beyond in our rightful quest to pick up the reins of power. When Mary Robinson was made the president of Ireland, one of her first acts was to put lighted candles in the windows of the presidential residence, as a symbol to welcome back the Irish who’d emigrated away from their homeland. I find it a very womanly, nurturing thing to do, and no less powerful because of that fact, as business and money, not to mention tax advantages, followed. She didn’t declare war on Denmark because she wanted butter.

But in our art, we’re left with the value of a good punch over wisdom; some brute force, rather than a move forward by inspired negotiation. So – I’m just saying -- that it’s a shame we’re not likely to see the values of progress, the things we were taught at our mother’s knee, the things we have always known to be smarter and richer and more powerful than aggression, as we look to create New Heroines.

Read an excerpt from The Season of Second Chances

Learn more about Diane Meier

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