With the Razia series, I had a chance to play with the idea of femininity in science fiction. In Double Life, Lyssa was portrayed as very un-feminine. In fact, she spends a great deal of time downplaying her gender to gain more respect from the all male pirates. Still, as part of her character’s journey towards becoming somewhat normal, I thought it was important for her to embrace her gender.
Lizbeth, the new character in Alliances, is very feminine. Through her, Lyssa learns a little bit more about being a woman. But I didn’t want Lyssa to toss out her own ideas of gender, either, or to transform into this unrecognizable person like Sandy in Grease.
There’s a lot of discussion about femininity in the face of sexism in the book, and how Lizbeth is in control of her own sexuality. She wears short skirts (I wear t-shirts) and heels and make-up. But that’s because she wants to wear them. That rubs off a little bit on Lyssa, but not after some life lessons.
Even in the real world, there tends to be a stigma in feminism about actually being a female. Complain all you want, but it’s there. You have a certain faction that eschews things like lipstick, high heels, push-up bras, and all the things that they believe are there just to make women beautiful for men. Sure, there are women who go through all that trouble only to ensnare a guy. But there’s also something to be said for a woman who is feminine for herself, because she herself is a feminine creature.
By extension, the same can be applied to sexuality (as in sexual attractiveness, not preference). Someone on twitter (can’t remember who, but it was a lit agent), tweeted about an interesting concept – a woman who is in charge of her own sexuality. She is neither a nun nor a whore, but she uses her sexuality to get what she wants. The key here is that she decides how she uses her femininity, putting the power in her own hands.
I loved using Lizbeth for this; she is constantly disparaged for her sex, and yet she continues to wear her shirts and her skirts, knowing that what she chooses (again, chooses) to wear has no bearing on her performance as an investigator, or her worth as a human being. She chooses to wear pretty clothes and heels, because that’s what she wants to wear. And I think that is so empowering, and one of my favorite messages in the book.