Thoughtful Thursday: Protagonists & Gender

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

Do you prefer to read books with a male or female protagonist? Does the author’s gender matter?

Two innocent little questions…

First, some stats. In 2013, I read 63 books. I excluded mixed anthologies and books about non-person subjects (13 books). In the case of non-fiction about a particular person, I counted the gender of that person as protagonist gender. In some cases, like Gone Girl, I counted a book as having both male and female protagonists. This doesn’t count books that I did not finished.

  • Percentage of books read with Male Protags: 78%
    • average rating for books with male protags: 3.14 stars (out of 5)
  • Percentage of books read with Female Protag: 28%
    • average rating for books with female protags: 2.5 stars

For comparison:

  • Average rating overall in 2013: 2.96 stars
  • Percentage of books by Female Authors: 22%
    • average rating for books by female authors rating: 2.46

Is last year a good indicator of my reading habits? In 2013, I reread a bit of Sherlock Holmes and a few Doctor Who novels. I read 18 books that were related in some manner to stage magic and/or spiritualism. All these things are male-heavy. But these are things I *wanted* to read. So, yes, fairly indicative of my reading habits.

I want to say that male/female doesn’t matter, but obviously it does. I’m not the girly-ist of girls and I’ve never required a protagonist to be female in order to relate to the character. In light of the previous plot v. character question, I’d say that I’m less interested in character development (often tagged as a “thing female authors do”) than in how characters consistently interact with the plot and the world.

The following are things I associate with female writers and stories with female protagonists that I am not interested in: YA, first person perspective, too much discussion or description of clothes, petty politics. I’m not saying those associations are valid, but those are my prejudices. I’m not saying that there are no female authors I like or that I never choose to read female characters,  but male authors just seem to write more stories I want to read and those stories usually feature male characters.


3 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday: Protagonists & Gender

  1. The other thing that comes into play is that women learn early on to be able to identify with male protagonist, since white male is English language default. Everything else is a specialist or niche market that is understood to be somehow “not universal,” and so you get stuff happening like J. K. Rowling publishing with her initials because her agent (or publisher? forget which, but it was one of them) was convinced the book wouldn’t sell as well if it had a woman’s name on the cover.

    Now, of course, Jrowls is a literary rockstar and can do as she damn well pleases, but how many more future Rowlingses will be told to neuter their names because the market still thinks “by/about women = niche and lesser”?

    (Stopping in from #ArmchairBEA and reading through a whole bunch of new blogs’ older posts on my feed and sometimes I have ~opinions~ about gender representation. Also, we are both Katherines. Hi!!)

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by! (And doesn’t Pamela have some great prompt?)

      You’d think the publishing industry would learn that women, you know, read. And buy books! Especially fiction. I grew up reading D.C. Fontana and James Tiptree, Jr. My mom was always pointing out that these authors were women, writing SF in the 60s & 70s. Honestly, it is a little sad that we haven’t moved on from that.

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