Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Welcome, March -- Women's History Month

Check this out: Ann Parker blogged yesterday about 19th century women and their occupations. According to an 1880 census, 52 women claimed "prostitute" as a career, but only 1 writer (a journalist) appears on the list.

Which brings me (please bear with the loose segue) to women mystery writers.

I remember reading an early Sara Paretsky/V.I. Warshawski novel. The details escape me, but I know I held my breath while V.I. was being knocked around, rolled into a ditch, and hit over the head. It was the first time I'd encountered a female investigator who underwent the same rough treatment as all the male PIs I'd read.

Now there are so many of "us," it's no longer a surprise when a female protagonist holds her own in an action sequence, or when a female mystery writer turns out prose no less gritty than the guy down the block.

But what, if any, are the differences between male and female protagonists when it comes to crime novels? I've seen blogs about how women humanize victims better than men do, how they explore motivation more thoroughly or have a keener sense of justice.



Sheila Connolly said...

I think using a woman protagonist always increases tension, simply because a woman is physically more vulnerable, no matter how experienced in martial arts, weapons, etc., she may be.

There are writers such as Paretsky, or Kate Flora, or Nevada Barr, who push to prove that their heroines are as tough as any of the guys. I admire them, even as I wince at the damage inflicted.

But I hope writers shy away from using the female protagonist's "intuition" or "gut feeling" about a crime or criminal. Let the heroine work things out with her brains and her skills, please!

Camille Minichino said...

Oh, thank you thank you for that last line, Sheila.

Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for the female protagonists, writers, and, hopefully, presidents! xoxoxo