So someone recently commented and called me on the fact that I had said I would elaborate on the statement that I very rarely read stories with male leads and feel more connected to female characters.
Now this wasn’t always the case I can clearly remember being younger and reading a whole lot of F/SF without regard to what gender the lead character was. As I got older (10-12) I started to find that the books that had male leads started to not satisfy me in the same way that the ones with female leads did. I connected more with the female characters, was more invested in their journey, cared about their trials and tribulations in a way that I didn’t when it came to the male leads.
This is also around the age that I started to become more aware, mostly subconsciously, that being African-American separated me from most of my friends in a really profound way. The large majority of my friends were white and a lot of that had to do with where I went to school (Private School, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, Chino Hills), not to say there weren’t people of color or that I wasn’t friends with them but the majority of my friends were white. I felt isolated a lot throughout high school and didn’t really know why consciously except that I saw that some teachers treated differently, some people were colder to me, I was ignored sometimes compared to the way my white friends were treated.
I felt that I needed to be on guard a lot, that I was alone. Now this is often the the storyline of a lot of F/SF: the loner that is outcast for some reason and might be more than she seems. Yes, it’s true of male characters as well but I felt the deep kinship for the female characters because often in that storyline it was their gender that was hated: something they were born into, something they couldn’t change/alter and just had to deal with. The normal resolution of such a storyline is the protagonist finding their own way to accept themselves and yet still be accepted by society in some way. But at the end of the story the women were still women, it was nothing they could change and they often had to prove themselves over and over, sometimes to the same person. It was something I could relate to.
Often with the male protags, the story ended, they got the girl and everyone accepted the magic/mutation/choice that had made them an outcast before. With female protags it was like I could see that the fight wasn’t over, that they would continue fighting for respect and acceptance the rest of their lives and that’s something I can really connect with.
This is not to say that all People of Color feel this way, or should feel this way but this was where my experience led me. And the more I read of female protags the more I wanted to, the more I connected with them, the more the ideas of feminism became entrenched in me. At the time I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as POC Sci-Fi and I don’t know if that would have changed my perceptions or politics, it’s something I can never really answer. Now with my feminist politics and my years long connection with female characters my reading is almost exclusively female protagonists. Although if something is amazing or transgressive or if there is a good population of female characters that aren’t caricatures then I’ll read a male character but that’s a rare thing. I mean there are always exceptions.
It’s very cyclical, the more I connected with female characters the more I liked them and the more I wanted to connect with them. It also influenced my feminist leanings and the more I became a feminist, the more I started reading works by Barbara Smith, Angela Davis, Judith Butler, bell hooks, etc.As I read these books my understanding of gender (and race w/ some) deepened and the more I was angry at the books with male leads for often simply tweaking a real life sexist stereotype and making that a character for the protag to fight/fall in love with/etc.
And it’s beyond books at this point if there’s not a reasonably strong female presence in film/tv I don’t connect with the story as well and it can get boring pretty quick. Although there is much more leeway with film/tv than with books there does usually need to be at least some female presence for me to become engrossed or connected with the story.
So yes , that is my reasoning. I don’t know if it’s completely coherent but that’s why 95 – 99% of the stuff I read has female leads. I find their struggles more realistic, I find their reactions more believable and I simply find them more interesting.