Friday, April 11, 2008

Are Women Evolving into Male Roles?

My two novels are set slightly into the future: PeaceMaker in 2012 and Unholy Domain in 2022. In the initial planning for these novels, I researched trends in technology and Western culture, with the objective to make the settings realistic. I tested this research against a lifetime of observation, and solicited feedback from reviewers and writers. What I discovered led me to create a balance of power between the sexes in PeaceMaker, while Unholy Domain is dominated by strong females.

It became clear, at least to me, that the two genders were moving toward each other in world view, attitude and actions. Women were becoming more like men and men more like women (but that’s a subject for another time). I don’t claim this is a conclusion based upon rigorous scientific procedures, but however informal, it makes sense to me.

When men think about women, we always focus first on appearance, so let’s start there. Is she pretty? Not too heavy, but with plenty of curves? Soft, pure face of an angel? Those are the questions we asked thirty years ago, and we still ask them today, but the women have changed.

Today’s females are bigger and more athletic than previous generations. Go to any workout facility and what do you see? Plenty of women. And not just doing aerobics, either. Pumping iron, pushups, building their strength against all manner of exercise machines. They’re dropping baby fat and showing off lean, hard muscles. Not that they are becoming bodybuilders (although some do), but they are not the women of your mother’s generation either.

Drive around town and you’ll certainly come across a jogger. What’s the gender most of the time? And she’s probably setting a fast pace, too.

Muscles are no longer solely a masculine domain. Check out the ladies playing basketball or tennis, let alone the boxers. Not a wimp in the bunch. Title IX has opened the door for women to excel at sports, and they are succeeding. You want to see Serena Williams or Mary Pierce getting ready to serve a cannonball at you? I don’t. That doesn’t mean today’s women aren’t as beautiful or sexy as previous generations. I think they look better, actually, with their lean, athletic figures.

Okay, they look different, but what about their attitudes? The way they lead their lives?
Back in the fifties, college was primarily a man’s domain. Now the majority of underclasspeople (did I get that right?) are women. Women mature more rapidly than men and do better in their studies. They graduate at a higher rate and move into the professions. Some would say they’ve swarmed into the professions, shouldering men out the door as they pushed in. A guy risks getting trampled if he holds a door open.

Women start most of the small businesses in North America. Bet you didn’t know that. A few decades ago, if you called your doctor, your lawyer or your accountant, a masculine voice came over the line. Not any longer. It’s more likely the voice will be pitched higher and smoother.
My profession has gone the same way. Most readers and writers seem to be women, at least from what I can see. Pick up a novel at random and the author’s name usually begins with Karin or Nancy or … you get the picture. There are still a lot of us guys turning out thrillers and science fiction, but that’s changing, too.

Remember how, a couple of generations ago, women would spend much of their time searching for a man to marry? When all they wanted was a home, a child and a good husband to take care of them? Well, today’s gals are in no rush to get married. They have options. They think the way guys think. Date, have fun, get some action but don’t rush into marriage. Get the career started, then, maybe, think about family. And keep working. It’s a significant break with the past.

Why have women done so well? Attitude and opportunity. Fifty years ago women were locked out of many of the opportunities men enjoyed, but that’s changed now. With a few exceptions, such as really dangerous or heavy physical work, women can do anything a man can do. And women have just as much determination, courage and brains as men. Combine that with sexuality and they can get where they want to go, maybe with more options than men. Actually, as I think about it, we men are outgunned.

You know, as I look this stuff over, it seems to be generally positive. Yeah, the women are becoming more like men, but that’s better for them and for the guys, too. But there’s a negative side.

When a woman starts a business, she has to work like crazy to make it successful. If she’s a single Mom, what happens to her children? Daycare is usually okay, but it’s not the same as having a full-time mother. If she’s married, the man will pick up some of the slack, right? He’ll try, but remember, he’s got his career, too. And there aren’t many stay-at-home Dads. We discovered that society doesn’t respect a guy who relies upon his wife to be the bread winner.

There are more women in prison than ever before. Just like men, some aggressive, the rules-don’t-apply-to-me women take what they want. White collar crime, violence, sexual predators, the whole nine yards. And what’s going on with these female teachers who seduce their high school, even grammar school, students? This rarely happened way back when. Damn!

Too many women are waiting too long to get married. They’re going out to the bars, drinking, flirting, having sex with any guy that appeals to them. Wait, this was supposed to be a negative. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. Women are becoming more masculine in Western society, and it seems to be working out, but there have been bumps in the road. And a few potholes. Quite a few.

And so, as I outlined my novels, I decided that the female characters would not be crammed into the stereotypes found in many stories. Take Dianne Morgan, the most dominant character to emerge from my novels. She’s the real mover and shaker, the person driving the action across both books. Dianne is the CEO of a giant software company, a single mother and a self-made billionaire. Sexy, sometimes tender and very determined. On the other hand, she’s violent, erratic, and trusts no one. Fits the description of a masculine villain, doesn’t she (except for the single mother part)?

Dianne is an example — maybe a bit extreme — of today’s alpha woman. With three male partners, she grows a business from startup to giant corporation. She uses all the weapons nature provided to become CEO of the world’s largest software maker. Ray Brown is her key acquisition, a brilliant software engineer who has developed an intelligent operating system that understands the spoken language. Just like the computer in Star Trek. She knows all other software will be made obsolete, so she recruits Ray, then seduces him. He’s married, but business is business. Ray becomes an alcoholic, loses his family, winds up in rehab, but what the hell, Dianne has the software. She actually cares for him, but first things first.

Okay, I admit it, I’m trying to get a rise out of you. I’ve enjoyed thinking about women becoming more like men, and I’d like to hear what you think.

Check out this stunning video trailer for Unholy Domain.

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