Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D: Dame Aleksandra

I wanted female knights in my fantasy kingdom, so I built it into the culture. Dame is the female equivalent of Sir. To be sure they were seen, I made the captain of the king's personal guard a woman. Thus, Dame Aleksandra Rytsarova. Dame Aleks, if you dare.


Putting women in powerful positions is still, sadly, something of a balancing act. Female characters seem to take guff from all directions -- being "too" feminine or "too" masculine. It's the same pressure to be Perfect that any working woman gets, I suppose. Perfect Worker, Perfect Leader, Perfect Mom, Perfect Housekeeper, all at once. 

Not a reference photo for Dame Aleks. Wrong
hair color, wrong armor, there's no way this is her.
But an awesome photo! Her name's Virginia Hankins.
I wanted to interview Dame Aleks about all those problems of being a strong woman and "one of the guys" because she taps into all my personal insecurities about being an unromantic, no-frills, sure-I'll-disscet-the-frog-in-biology-lab woman myself. 

(If you're new here, there are more character interviews grouped under the "character development" tag. My side of the conversation is in italics.)

To have reached Captain of the Guard, you must be a capable fighter and leader. I don't think I need to prove your toughness to the readers the way I would have had to a few decades ago.  Rather, I feel a certain pressure to prove you're female. The usual accusation is that you're just a guy with tits if you aren't "feminine enough." 

If I've borne children, does that prove me a woman? If I'm Captain of the Guard, how good a mother can I be?

Not a feminine one, certainly.

Mother forbid I fail to teach my girls to be girls.

So how are you not a guy with tits? Do you ever wear a dress? 

Each time I'm off duty, surely.

...and Captain of the Guard is 24/7 (lol)...

Prince Kiefan, perhaps, is how I prove my gentler side. I was on the King's Guard already, and a mother as well, when he was born. As beautiful a son as one could wish for, full of smiles and sunlight. I could resist him no more than any woman on the castle staff.

But you also squired him when he was old enough. 

And it was an honor to train the crown prince. He'd never thought of me as a knight, though. His father had put the first sword in his hand, and women were only those he could charm for treats.

How many ass-beatings did it take to change that? 

I would not have kept him on, had it taken more than one. He's never been a fool, and he takes discipline well.

How complicated is it to mother a boy you're sworn to serve and protect?

The housemistress was more a mother, perhaps -- she held him when he cried, told him stories at bed-time. I hope I showed him how to use one's gentleness in leading, rather than forget it in being a warrior. That will both serve and protect him as a king.


If you're a writer, how do you balance "masculine" and "feminine" traits in your female leaders? How do you define those traits?

6 comments:

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting post!

It's hard to find a balance between the two. If you go too far in one direction or the other, the character can come off as cliched or unrealistic--but you also want to give them conflict that makes them relatable, in some way.

Journaling Woman said...

That is a tough one, but I am old enough to get in the minds of both male and female. :)

Teresa

L. Blankenship said...

LOL, I know what you mean. :)

We're different, but not that different.

Elizabeth Twist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Twist said...

[Roop! I didn't like my previous comment, so here is an expurgated version.]

Intriguing character interview.

I don't know how to answer those questions. In my WiP there is a vile monk who ends up in the body of a vigilante nun, while she hops into a French peasant boy. They have interesting times sorting out their new fleshwraps. I guess I'm saying I play with gender? I regard it as flexible, while most individuals are not.

A-Z @ Elizabeth Twist

Paul of the Man Cave said...

Found you through A to Z and enjoyed this post. I used to do a lot of role playing and characters like this are a real challenge :-)

Good luck with A to Z, I hope I can keep up too!
Paul
http://tasmancave.blogspot.com.au/

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