Feminism: Tournament of Book Heroes

Half-Price Books is hosting a voting poll to determine the "bravest" character in science fiction and fantasy. I like HPB, but this tournament strikes me as problematic in a couple of ways. One thing that stands out at me is that they broke out "heroes" and "heroines" (#BinaryGender) but the tournament name and tagline refers to "heroes" as the best (#NormalizationOfMaleGender). I expect more.

Also: I question some of their choices for the 16 fantasy heroines. Notably, Bella Swan is up against Selene from Underworld. Yeah, that Selene.

@ comicvine.com

I'm not sure how we can even go about comparing apples and oranges like that, but setting that aside for a moment, I'm not sure how Bella Swan is even a notable example of "bravery" such that she needed to be on this list. It seems like she, and quite a few others, were ushered in by virtue of their "popularity", which brings me to some larger points:

I want to point out that at least 3 of the fantasy heroines are children when first introduced to their audiences (Arya Stark, Hermione Granger, Coraline), with 5 more being young adults (Bella Swan, Buffy, Sailor Moon, Mulan, Daenerys Targaryen), whereas at least 11 of the fantasy heroes are grown men or seem to be coded as such, if I understand correctly (Aragorn, Rand al' Thor, Roland Deschain, Conan the Barbarian, Indiana Jones, He-Man, Gandalf, Harry Dresden, Westley, Tyrion Lannister, Bilbo Baggins). I feel this framing reinforces a problematic idea that a male fantasy hero is a man but a female fantasy heroine is a girl. (And preferably a sexually inexperienced girl, because sexually experienced women are totes scary!)

It is also very much worth noting that -- as best I can tell -- all of the female fantasy heroines are pale and light-skinned, and most of them are cis and heterosexual. (#DiversityMyAss) This is a problem, and reinforces the idea that there's no point in writing black or trans* or intersex or genderfluid or QUILTBAG characters because they won't be picked for awards. (Instead of acknowledging that awards and marketing frequently drive sales.)

I want more diversity in my fiction, and I want more diversity in my fiction polls.

(Hat tip goes to Sarah, who is consistently awesome on Twitter and you should totes follow.)


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