I am an avid fiction reader, as I'm sure many of you are. When I don't have access to my handy dandy ebook collection, I often turn to sites like AO3, Fanfiction, and Fictionpress to get my daily fix. And yet I've been noticing a disturbing trend, ESPECIALLY in the stories on Fictionpress.
Enter female. Generally poor, friendly, and blissfully unaware of her own extreme beauty. The author usually insists that her protagonist is a strong independent female, yet doesn't offer a shred of evidence to support this claim. The Semi-Grand List of Overused Romantic Cliches aptly summarizes these qualities below:
1. The heroine is stunningly beautiful. It's one thing for the hero to glance at her legs, or imagine running his fingers through her long hair. It's quite another if he (or worse, she) rhapsodizes about her "blackberry brandy tresses"? or "the small, perfect dimple in her cheek"?, not to mention her watermelon breasts and thimble waist.
6. The heroine claims she can take care of herself as she steps on a rattlesnake and simultaneously shoots herself in the ear.
Similarly (or maybe not so much), the male is devastatingly handsome, but treats everyone like shit and has women drooling over him constantly, ones he uses and throws away while simultaneously hemming and hawing over the lack of "quality" women around or thinks all women are "after" him for his money or looks. Also, this man is usually a gazillionaire cowboy/CEO/gardener of some sort. The Semi-Grand List also notes this phenomenon:
1. Likewise, the hero is tall, broad-shouldered, muscled like a python and hung like a horse.
3. The hero is a prince, tycoon, billionaire or sheik. The last is particularly difficult for me to believe because I live in the Middle East, and I'm too accustomed to what real sheiks are like.
9. No other woman in the novel is allowed to outshine the heroine when it comes to looks or skills, just as no man is allowed to be taller, stronger or richer than the hero. The two are pinnacles of perfection.
14. The hero's wife/mother betrayed him/lied to him/didn't change his diapers regularly. As a result, he now distrusts all women.
Now, by themselves, these qualities are mildly grating at most. I can often shrug it off if the plotline or supporting characters are compelling enough. But what gets me the most (and maybe I hadn't noticed it as much before?) is how goshdarn POSSESSIVE the man is. In many instances he employs the woman, dictates how she dresses, prevents her from interacting from any men bar his 80 year old butler or the teenage neighbour, and/or silences any of her protests with a simple "I LOVE YOU, OKAY? THIS IS WHAT LOVE IS." In one story I was reading today the man got so jealous he basically forced the woman to have sex with him but it wasn't rape because "the way he looked at me set me on fire!!" Um, no.
16. The hero is wildly jealous at the mere idea of any other man staking his claim on the fertile territory that is the female protagonist (heroine is too good a word here).
I know many of these stories are written by teenage girls, but I find it disturbing to think that young girls think that assuming the damsel in distress role is what men find most attractive, or that men who physically or emotionally dominate the woman into submission is sexy. NO. You wanna know what's sexy? CONSENT.
When I was in high school, I envisioned my Prince Charming to be kind and considerate. A man who thought someone with a personality and ambitions beyond being someone's wife/girlfriend full-time was desirable. And this isn't to say that being someone's wife or girlfriend is wrong or undesirable. Heck no. But in many of these stories the girls want something more for themselves and by the end become satisfied with molding themselves into the man's idea of a good partner. And that's a no-no in my book.
Anyways, rant over. Here is an exception to all these rules, a FANTASTIC AMAZING WONDERFUL piece of fiction that is basically Pretty Woman if Pretty Woman was, like... a feminist work. Plusplusalsoand the author has made accompanying fanart that is out of this world. I implore you to read it!