By: JT Bock
- Did you know that women make up 51% of the U.S. population but only 16% of the protagonists in films are female?*
- Did you know that when a woman appears as a protagonist in a film, the role will most likely be in a drama or a chick flick and will not center around the woman finding her destiny but finding someone to rescue her from her current situation?*
- Did you know that out of 157 female action heroes studied by sociologist Katy Gilpatric in movies and television shows nearly 50% were evil and 30% were killed off?**
After hearing these statistics, I realized how I hadn’t noticed that most roles in my favorite films centered on men. As Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist, said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” If women don’t see strong female leads, women in power who are taking control of their destiny, how can they be inspired to follow their own paths?
Romance novels can get a bad rap (mostly from people who have never read one), but I look to romances to find empowered women—in fact, women write 98% of romances, talk about empowerment! Consider the film industry where only 4% of directors and 12% of writers are women, and it is no wonder that we’re not seeing more diverse female leads.*
A strong female protagonist doesn’t need to have the strength of an Amazonian or fight monsters next to the Incredible Hulk. She can be an entrepreneur, doctor, politician, lieutenant, or mother. She can be a ship’s officer like Ripley from Alien, as Katy Gilpatric notes in her research, but she must have the following traits**:
- Drives story
- Gives orders
- In power
Just like men have role models in action heroes and strong male leads, so women can find inspiration in comparable roles of their gender. Having women characters portrayed with strength, leadership, and power teaches young women that they can strive to be better, can overcome hardships, do great things, and aspire to follow their dreams.
I’ve always gravitated to paranormal romances because I love the supernatural, and I’ve found—in the stories I enjoy best—women represented as leaders, as heroines with special talents who work with the hero to stop the Big Bad. I enjoy stories where the woman is trying to find her destiny, learning to use her powers, finding the confidence she needs to succeed. And I also love when she can find love—on her own terms.
In my debut paranormal romance, A Surefire Way, my heroine Surefire was inspired by strong female leads like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although Surefire has the super ability to hit any target, she struggles to find confidence in herself and in her talent. She makes mistakes, but soon proves to the hero that she’s not just a spunky gal with a pretty face. Not only does her journey involve stopping the bad guy from destroying the world but learning how to believe in herself and not waiting for outside validation—something I struggled with as I pursued my destiny. Several times the hero saves Surefire. However, as her confidence grows, she also saves him. Just like in a real-life relationship, where two people support one another, the hero and Surefire work together to reach their goals and save the world. They help each other on their inner and outer journeys.
She stared down at the water rushing around her, climbing higher to encircle her waist. She inhaled a long breath and when she looked up at him with her mismatched eyes, he was amazed at her composure. Her lips, though pale, were set tight across her teeth.
“Whatever happens, happens. Let’s get this over with.”
He nodded and faced the door. He spread out his arms and allowed the points of the two farthest spikes to pierce his palms. Another pierced the center of his torso.
He cried out. Acid coursed through his veins. He fought the urge to pull away. Three spikes inserted. Two more to go. One pressed between his eyebrows and the other stuck into his chest at the heart, cutting through his shirt and into his skin.
Icy water now encircled his waist, and he knew without turning that it almost covered Surefire’s chest.
“Push me,” he said between gritted teeth.
“I can’t,” she protested.
The water surged several more inches. Surefire sputtered then coughed.
“Fine, I’ll do it. Where should I push?”
“My back.” He forced himself to speak through the pain. “And head.”
He felt one hand against his lower back, now submerged underwater, and another brace against his head.
“Push,” he yelled.
She cursed, and he felt her cringe. Then she slammed her body into his, shoving with all her strength. The world became blindingly white before it went black.
Being the perfect partner to stop the end of the world, that’s the power of a strong woman.
Just for this blog, A Surefire Way is $0.99 on Amazon. Hope you are inspired to create your own adventures and find your destiny.
Are there any heroines in films or novels you admire?
*Research cited in the documentary Miss Representation.
**Study cited in the film Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.
About the Author
When J.T. Bock was a child, she wanted to be James Bond or Indiana Jones or a vampire hunter or Wonder Woman. Whatever brought her the most action, adventure and romance while play acting on her stage—otherwise known as her grandmother’s basement. Now J.T. has assembled her own team of action heroes, supernatural creatures and maniacal villains and set them on adventures far from her basement to exotic lands and alternate dimensions.
From a secret location outside of Washington, DC, J.T. conjures these pulse-pounding tales to share with those kindred readers looking for an exciting escape. Her alternate identity enjoys spending time with her workaholic husband and their sidekick rescue dog, traveling to interesting locales (San Diego Comic-Con), and enjoying life to the fullest with an amazing group of family and friends and a good glass of wine.