Breaking the Shackles of Patriarchal “Likability” for Female Characters in Matriarchal Storytelling 

There recently was a very interesting and thought-provoking article about how unlikable males can have followings and fans while females are reviled.

It goes further than that. A male character with a single redeeming quality will be forgiven, but a female with a single bad trait will be dismissed and dismantled.

Why?

You can thank Patriarchal Storytelling for that misogynisitc divide.

It is latent sexism that rigs individual and collective thought processes because the Patriarchal Structure favours male qualities over female. It shows the world through the eyes of man.

Meaning female characters who do not support a male protagonist or at least express acceptable behaviour will be automatically dismissed and disliked.

Patriarchal structures are all about the One. There is no Infinite here. It all One or Nothing; ergo, if you not for the One, you are Zero.

A villain.

There is no room for other Ones to blossom or to get their hearts and voices heard. The parameters of the story are set in stone from Once Upon a Time, and there is no time or space to think about anything else but The One.

The biggest casualties in this rigged structure where the One always wins are atypical female characters. They have no space to maneuver. They have no platform to express their souls. They are seen as usurpers and hecklers who try to overshadow the protagonist and are evil because they have their own story to tell and may just upstage the perfect hero or heroine. They must be selfish and they do not know their place.

Because they are not the Chosen One, they are to be punished for their literary defiance.

The end result is devastating: authors have not had the space to create new kinds of characters that break the shackles of the Patriarchal confinement to make new characters who evolve and are unpredictable.

The Matriarchal is about the Infinite, and thrives with characters who are different, eccentric, and weird.

And when I say weird, I mean different than the expected norm or are not based on what is already established.

We can have female characters who are outrageous in the same stories as other clashing characters because who is a supporting character in one series is the headlining character in another. There is no literary pecking order. We can get to know characters and see how they interact with characters who are very different.

There is a lot of untapped opportunity showcasing abrasive female characters, especially as how they act toward other characters.

For example, I have two anti-heroines, the brutal Doyenne Assassin who headlines her own series, and a significant supporting character in one cabal known as Nerve. Both women have interactions with Magnus Lyme, a gracious global consultant known as The World’s Most Dangerous Woman.

The Doyenne is not someone to mess with and she is a homicidal practical joker with an imaginary son. Yet she adores Miss Lyme who gets along just fine with her. A lovable hitwoman who is vain, calculating, and snarky would not exist in the Patriarchal. She would be a character to be defeated by a Patriarchal hero, not a valuable ally to respect. The Doyenne is protective toward Miss Lyme who gives her a platform in her own stories, even though she does not agree with her methods.

Nerve also gets along with Miss Lyme, but as she has yet to headline her own series, is so far played for subtle comic relief. Everyone else is terrified of her.

Except Miss Lyme who adores her.

As the stories are from Miss Lyme’s point of view, it may be hard to imagine that Nerve deserves her tough as nails reputation; however, read between the lines and a different picture emerges. With Miss Lyme, Nerve knows she has a friend who understands her tragic past and will move heaven and earth for her; hence she has no reason to be alert or have her defences up. She can be Galen and know that Miss Lyme will never betray her.

With others, she has to be more careful, though she has two other allies who also adore her and her ways, but for others, they learn not to mess with the woman who can break them in half if they think they can outfox her.

Even if Nerve is so far more confined than the Doyenne Assassin, she still has  a chance to be brutal to some, and a powerful friend to others. She is not a typical character. She is an enforcer for a global cabal who also is a first-rate art forger. Though she is not a killer, she terrifies her charges so much, some opt for suicide rather than her brand of punishment.

Tough women in dirty jobs aren’t the only atypical characters who thrive in the Matriarchal. Dr. Verity Lake is not your average psychology professor. She hollers at people who annoy her or say something nasty to her younger sister. She makes people do weird things in the name of science. She writes on walls even if she does not own them, and goes into trances. She has a biting wit and can cut men to size in a heartbeat.

She is gorgeous and dresses glamourously, but her ambition is to uncover all of the deepest truths of the universe, even if it means blindfolding her sister’s boyfriend and having him talk to himself for hours before revealing to him that he did not do it in private but in front of her amused students.

In the Patriarchal, she would be punished for being an eccentric and self-indulgent feminist.

In the Matriarchal, she is allowed to roar in her own idiosyncratic way.

The Matriarchal develops female characters in open spaces as it gives them time to develop. The Patriarchal is an assembly line where all characters must fit, but the Matriarchal is a garden that gives new characters a chance to blossom and be appreciated for their unconventional beauty and strengths.