Long ago, all the way back to last January, Lady Saika wrote a post about Homophobia and Slash Fanfiction. At one point she discussed why people have a difficulty imagining some of their favorite characters as a sexuality other than straight. She wrote:
Part of this is rooted in persistent and terrible stereotypes. If, when you think ‘gay’, you think ‘faaaabulous’, you’d never imagine Dean Winchester getting into a relationship with a guy. If when you think bi, you think ‘slut’, you never would imagine someone like Durarara‘s Mikado as bi. If you think ‘butch’ when you hear ‘lesbian’, you’d never in a million years think of, say, Luna Lovegood as a lesbian.
The same is true in the reverse. If a woman doesn’t want to get married, is into sports, is a warrior, is basically not stereotypically feminine, then automatically people assume that woman is a lesbian. Now don’t get me wrong, these characters could very well be lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, straight, or whatever; my problem is assuming someone is homosexual based on gender stereotypes.
I know plenty of women who love sports, who don’t want to get married, and who could probably kick your ass into next week whether you’re a guy or a girl. Characters like Rainbow Dash, Marceline, Merida, and Wonder Woman are great characters that women relate to because they act like real women. They have a variety of interests, talents, and personalities. They are real people and not stereotypes.
Women and men have been trapped in a box that defines what their gender is instead of being allowed to define it for themselves. Women must all want to get married, have babies, and take care of the home. Men must all want to get a job to support their families, watch sports, and always be tough. These stereotypes may seem very true for some people, but for most others these stereotypes fall short in defining who they are and what their gender means to them.
Characters like Wonder Woman, Merida, Marceline, and Rainbow Dash break the stereotype of submissive, passive female characters. Some people seem to feel threatened by that, and it causes them to lash out. The women that don’t conform to this stereotype are some how “abnormal” so they must be lesbians. This is offensive to women, gay and straight. It says to women gay and straight that having stereotypically masculine traits are “abnormal.” It further stereotypes lesbians by saying they must all be “butch” or masculine. A stereotypical feminine lesbian is seen as out of the question to hetero-sexists.
Really, what this boils down to is empowerment versus disempowerment. These characters were created to empower women no matter what their sexuality. Think about all those women in the Olympics right now that are winning gold for their respective countries. If an interviewer looked at one of them and said, “Wow, you are really good at sports – you must be a big lesbian!” – even if that woman was a lesbian, she would be offended because it is disempowering. It takes this important aspect about who women are and what they are trying to achieve and says that is ONLY because of your sexuality. Furthermore, it says that the only way they can achieve anything is by being masculine. In other words you, as a woman, can only achieve by being a man.
Gay or straight, women are just as diverse and complex as anyone else. Wonder Woman, Merida, Marceline, and Rainbow Dash are complex and interesting, whether they are gay or straight, but by attempting to force them to fit into these stereotypes we are taking away their complexity and their power. People are complex. Let’s allow our characters to be complex too.