So, if you’ve met me or read my work, you know I love a great “strong female lead.” I love to write (and read!) about kick-ass ladies who get shit done, take names, and are just all-around fierce. And I’m not just talking about Lara Croft, here. They can be kick-ass in any sphere, and words are sometimes the best weapon of all. They can wear dresses, be mothers, have tea, or fight in the octagon and snipe people.
“Why the ‘Just a Bitch?’ line, then?” you’re thinking. Well, here it is. One of my many pet peeves is writers mistaking bitchiness for “being independent.”
So there I was, reading a suspense novel. There’s the strong female lead, let’s call her “Bess.” Bess is a private investigator, but her specialty is really finding and tracking people and things in cyberspace. She’s a tough cookie, she packs a SIG Sauer in an ankle holster, she won’t take no for an answer, and she helps battered women find new identities and escape abusive situations (as pro bono work). She goes after the bad guys like it’s her mission.
She sounds great, right?
Nope. What she actually is, is argumentative, antagonistic, overly-sensitive with a super short fuse and no regard for other people. Oh, and the type to walk off whenever she’s upset and not communicate.
In walks the male lead. (Poor bastard) Let’s call him “David.” (That one’s for you, Dave Medinnus!) Now, David is a detective with over a decade of experience, and he’s a damn fine one.
So Bess can’t get in touch with one of her clients and is convinced that the woman has been murdered. (With no evidence) She goes to David (whom she met once before) and insist he investigate the case (with no evidence). Never thinking, “gee, he’s an insanely over-worked detective who might not want to be doing cases on the sly and getting fired.” When he’s skeptical about this being an actual case, (because there’s no body, no blood, no evidence, and oh yeah, the woman has been in hiding for 6 months) Bess blows up at him and is all “I can’t believe you don’t believe me!” and huffs off.
Flash-forward a day, David’s worked his actual job all day and night, getting sucker punched by a gang-banger and having to go to a body dump, all that, with paperwork up the wazoo. She calls him THAT NEXT DAY to see what he’s dug up on her “missing” client yet. When he says he hasn’t had time to look into it yet, Bess blows up at him with “I can’t believe a woman’s life means that little to you! Fine, if you’re ‘too busy’ …” and yaddie yaddie.
So the next day, he somehow does manage to investigate the supposed missing person of Bess’s (and finds out that the few leads Bess thought she had were actually duds.) So he tells her that, and she flips out on him again for not believing her.
Then, of course, she goes out and does stupid things on her own because “I don’t need a man’s help!” Uh, gee, Bess, might you maybe need the help of a person actually trained to do these things, maybe? Just…annoying. So, she gets in trouble like an idiot. Then Dave (who, for some unknown reason, cares about her) expresses concern over her getting injured and she blows up at him, “Don’t tell me how to do my job!” and “Maybe if you actually did your job…” and yaddie.
Just…hold on a sec, Bess. How can you NOT see this from Dave’s side?
Speaking of…during this entire novel David is getting about 2 hours of sleep a night, running around doing his real detective job and being exhausted. After one of the times Bess blows up at him for no good reason, she then won’t answer his calls for 3 days. Then, Sunday morning comes, David’s ONE morning to sleep in and he had only gotten in at 4 am that morning. She shows up a 6 am (after not talking to him for 3 days) and is like, “Hey, buddy. Let’s hang out. Want to go for a jog with me?”
If I was David, at this point I’d be like, “No, lady. You’re the most obnoxious, aggressive, selfish, self-righteous idiot I’ve ever met. Also, I just told you I’d only slept 2 hours, and you still think I should spend my time with you this morning? F off.” And finish it off with slamming the door shut, clicking all the locks as loudly as possible, and going the heck right back to bed without one single regret.
It’s obnoxiously bitchy characters like this that make people sometimes groan when they hear the words, “Oh!, this book’s got a strong female lead.”
And that breaks my heart, because it just makes it that much harder for strong female leads to get the attention they deserve.