“Kick Ass” Romance Heroines

I stumbled across this comment, with which I totally disagree, from author Lisa Marie Rice in her posting “Five Things You Won’t Find in a Lisa Marie Rice Novel”:

1. Kick-ass heroines.

It sounds good in theory: A heroine who’s rough, tough, buff, gruff, and takes no guff—from anybody, least of all the hero. She is the antithesis of the simpering ‘80s heroine who bore the brunt of all the hero’s neuroses. She’s not taking it anymore. She can outfight him, outrun him, and outgun him, and she makes sure he knows it.

She knows her own mind and makes sure you know it, too. She never backs down, not even when she’s in the wrong.

In Real Life, I avoid her whenever possible. The male version, as well.

I worked for many many years in a very difficult, mostly female profession which was chockablock with alpha females who could wrestle you to the ground while quoting Hegel, in German. They knew everything, were amazingly opinionated and boy, did I grow tired of the vibe.

I don’t want them in my life, why should I want them in my books?

Though my women have very strong moral lines in the sand they will never cross and they are not pushovers; they’re much softer, more accommodating, easier to get on with and frankly, much less tedious. I like to think that if my heroine can find a peaceful solution to a problem, she will.

The world is full of people who are absolutely convinced they’re right, they say so loudly, and they will not back down. The results of this kind of personality are right before our eyes. My heroines are not going to add to the conflict in the world if they can help it.”

For Rice, a “kick ass” heroine has a number of negative qualities, most of which I personally don’t associate with the term, including boorishness, a tendency to resolve problems with the use of force (verbal and/or physical), overbearingness, and inflexibility.

I’m glad Rice wouldn’t write a heroine like that, because I agree she wouldn’t be all that much fun to read about (although that list kind of does describe a lot of the heroes I recall from the 1980’s, like Steve Morgan, most memorably — and accurately — described by Mr Giggles as “the king of date rapes”). I’ve only read one Rice novel, Midnight Run, and in Claire, the heroine who miraculously recovers from a near fatal illness and whose life changing epiphany involves, mainly, shagging a really hot cop, I detected nary a sign of kickassness.

For my part, when I hear someone describe a heroine as “kick ass”, I usually sit up and pay attention. My own understanding of the term “kick ass” as an adjective is either “really great” (a “kick ass movie”), which is not the sense that’s at issue here, or “really powerful, forceful, effective”. I can cheer for a kick ass heroine because she’s strong in a way and at a time that matters. She doesn’t merely have the right beliefs and stick to them — she acts on them, and impacts others by doing so. Admittedly, a woman can be effective in a lot of different ways — not everybody can be Eve Dallas — but sometimes I think folks veer a little too close to the idea that it is unfeminine to be an agent, a force, an active cause of things happening. No, a real woman must be accommodating, soft.

It’s not a viewpoint I share.

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Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 9:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] crap without having a mental breakdown, but I’ve already vented my spleen on the kick-ass heroine, and Sirantha Jax is definitely one of those. There’s one scene in particular that made me […]

  2. […] is terrific. In an earlier post, I noted that heroines can be strong in a lot of different ways, and Win is an example of that. She […]


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