Over the decades, the number of fantastical stories starring female characters has slowly but significantly risen. As that number has gone up, so too have the number of lady action heroes. Girls and women are no longer relegated to the roles of “white mage” or “brainiac”; they can sling spells, slay vampires, and punch supervillains in the face right alongside the menfolk.
And this is a good thing… for the most part. But the ability to enact violence shouldn’t be the only way we measure someone’s value. It’s important to showcase a variety of roles—not just soldiers, but politicians, doctors, mediators, artists, caretakers, and so on—to highlight the different ways of doing good or being a hero. This is as true of fantastical escapist fiction as it is grounded slice-of-life stories.
So, how do we tell these stories without falling back into the old gendered stereotypes of “man fight, woman heal”? One subgenre in particular provides us with a useful template: shoujo fantasy, which features a number of action-packed tales with protagonists as diverse as their worlds.
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