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Today I’m excited to have a guest post from Moira J. Moore, author of the Heroes series! I have been having a great time reading the books in this series starting with Resenting the Hero. They are character-driven fantasy books centering on Lee, a young woman who has been trained to become a Shield, and Taro, the Source she has to work with (and isn’t at all happy to be paired with!). As a Shield, Lee protects Taro’s mind while he averts the natural disasters that plague their world.

One aspect of the series that I found particularly notable was that the society was gender equal – gender didn’t seem to be an issue at all when it came to lineage or societal roles. So I invited Moira J. Moore to write about how she approached gender equality in her series, and I was very happy when she agreed to write a guest post!

I’d like to thank Kristen for inviting me to participate in this fabulous event. She suggested I write about my portrayal of gender relationships in my Heroes series, and as that is a topic very near to my heart, I was ready to jump all over that.

To me, the best way to demonstrate gender equality is to describe a society where respect between the sexes is the baseline of proper behaviour. Recognizing the equality of others is not considered a remarkable trait any more than not murdering people is. It’s simply expected. There are jerks, of course, but why they treat people like trash has nothing to do with sex.

I decided to strive for a society similar to one I’d actually like to live in: Equal opportunities with no assumptions or restrictions according to sex. And the first step to that, I decided, was to describe a different version of what it is to be strong.

Prizing physical strength over everything else – and I think a lot of societies do –  automatically puts women at a disadvantage. There are exceptions, of course, but an average guy is going to be able to beat up an average girl, and a whole lot of other inequalities will be created because of that one fact. If we let them.

Either sex can be smart, can be disciplined, can show endurance. I think other excellent sources of strength include being able to recognize when one has made a mistake – and I know, Lee doesn’t always – apologize for it, never make the mistake again, and fix it!  The ability to recognize when others are good at something, and instead of getting immature about it and turning it into a competition, letting them do their jobs. Being able to take no for an answer. Recognizing that others know best what’s best for them. I could go on forever.

I’m generalizing, but I see in real life a lot of traits being treated as weaknesses when I think they are signs of strength, and it was those traits I wanted to make a priority in the world I was describing. These are strengths that either sex can exhibit, on an equal basis.

The following are the points I kept in mind as I wrote:

  1. Physical strength is not considered the most important asset to have, or a necessary stepping stone to everything else. Some jobs require physical strength, others don’t. In my world, people aren’t going to assume someone can’t be a good accountant just because that same someone, male or female, can’t also move a barrel full of wine. All that matters is that the person can do the job they were hired to do.
  2. A man isn’t considered weak or some kind of failure just because he doesn’t have a lot of physical might. Throughout the series, Taro never learns to fight. He would have been in some scraps at school, and he’s twisted his way through some tense situations, but if he got into a serious fistfight, he’d be toast. He knows this, and he doesn’t care, except when it’s inconvenient. Others assume this of him – he’s not tall, he’s slight, he’s not aggressive in his manner – and they don’t think any less of him.  He’s a Source and he’s good at it. Who cares if he can throw a punch?
  3. Men wouldn’t dream of using their physical strength against women, because they are raised not to.
  4. When I hear “firefighter,” I think “man.” When I hear “nurse,” I think “woman.” This isn’t good. When I’m writing and I need someone of a certain occupation, and I automatically think that the character is going to be male or female, I flip the sex over.
  5. There is no concept of being unladylike or unmanly. There’s no concept of a woman having the prerogative to be late or change her mind or a man having the right to be proud to the point of stupidity. There’s no concept of chivalry. Everyone is expected to be polite to everyone else regardless of sex.
  6. Aside from issues of consent and fidelity, there is no morality surrounding sex. People can have a lot of it, people can have none of it, no one cares, though gossip can be fun. Note: Shields and Sources aren’t supposed to sleep together, but that’s due to legitimate concerns about the impact such a development can have on an already intimate and emotional bond. It really does screw them up, though I fear I didn’t make that clear enough in the books. Lee and Taro are an exception.
  7. Marriage has nothing to do with morality. Most people don’t bother.
  8. Whether a child’s parents are married has nothing to do with morality.
  9. It isn’t assumed that mothers will be the primary caregivers. Both parents are responsible for caring for the children, unless one is horrible at it and needs to be kept away for the sake of the child.
  10. I think I managed to avoid ever writing “for a woman” or “for a man.” As in, “That’s an unusual job/characteristic for a woman.”

The best way to demonstrate gender equality is, of course, to have it reflected in the relationship of the two main characters, Lee and Taro. The first step was dealing with the jobs the two characters have. Lee is a Shield and Taro is a Source. The public think that Shields have a lesser role, not because the Shield is considered a feminine occupation – it’s not, there are male Shields – but because of their perception of what the two roles involve. Taro, as a Source, is the one in the spotlight, but he can’t do his job unless Lee does hers. He doesn’t think she’s in a subordinate position, and neither does she. His respect for her abilities are as great as her respect for his.

Lee is the calm one, Taro is the emotional one. No one thinks that’s weird.

While Taro has the wild reputation, I hope I made it clear that he isn’t Lee’s first sexual partner, and that there were no moral issues involved with that.

Taro isn’t embarrassed when Lee knows something he doesn’t, or when she can do something he can’t.

Lee doesn’t think a man shouldn’t be so fussy about his clothing. She just wishes Taro would leave her alone about her clothing.

Lee doesn’t expect Taro to protect her from physical attack aside from what he can do as a friend and a partner, and she jumps in to protect him just as often, even though she can’t fight, either.

They bicker, and they criticize each other, but they never go out of their way to hurt each other, and they never tell each other what to do.

Really, I could go on for ages about all the ways I tried to show that Lee and Taro have complete respect for each other, that neither thinks the other is lesser for any reason. The short story – at the end of all that explanation – is that I took a bunch of the things that drive me nuts about my own society, and tried to fix them. I hope I did a fair job.

Moira J. Moore has several short stories related to her Heroes series available on her blog. Click here to see the master list of stories with links to read them in full. Her website is located at moirajmoore.com. You can also visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.