Why do our heroines have to be ‘beautiful’? Can a female character… just be? What is it saying about literature that we as women still produce, if our heroines have to be beautiful? Does it not say more about the society in which it’s written? I’ve recently been a part of a shortlisting process and the experience left me disturbed and depressed. I can’t begin to count the amount of times I was told, by a writer, how ‘beautiful’ the heroine was. How her ‘beauty’ then motivates the other characters and the story. What? Beauty is neither a character trait nor plot device. You cannot use beauty as a kind of shorthand to explain who a character is, it’s lazy writing and just plain wrong. Just as being female is not a character trait, neither is beauty.
Thus opens Desiree Reynolds' excellent essay on women characters in literature. The essay at Afropean is a vital read for readers and writers, we suggest you check it out.