Sheroes, Because We Don't Do Insignificance... Or Drugs

Rereading my latest blog posts, it occurs to me I’ve never explained my word choice for the protagonists populating my literary worlds. I write hetero romance (for now, at least), which means there’s a girl main character and a boy main character. In most of my stories, the girl protagonist is pretty clearly the main-er character, but in some of them, like Hunted Dreams, my scenes are divided pretty equally between the sexes. When speaking about these two character staples, most folks I know use the terms “main characters” or, if they’re, like me, a fan of melodrama, heroes and heroines.

I won’t use the term “heroine,” and not just because it sounds like a narcotic substance. (Creepy, right?) Words ending with “ine,” “ina,” “ita,” “ette,” and “ess” annoy the heck outta me. See, these words have one thing in common: added at the end of a word, they all represent it in a feminine and/or diminutive form. “Señorita” means “little señora,” “waitress” means “female waiter,” and “bachelorette” means “female bachelor.” As my old friend,, says of “ette,” “English nouns in which the suffix ETTE designates a feminine role or identity have been perceived by many people as implying inferiority or insignificance.” Word,

My women main characters are neither illegal substances nor inferior. Thus, I will not use “heroine.” I’m fine with calling her a hero; what’s good for the gander, and all that. But a few years ago, I heard someone – I think it might have been the indomitable fat lib activist, Marilyn Wann – use the term “shero,” and I was hooked. See, I’m not against specifying sex via words; I’m opposed to using suffixes that imply smallness and insignificance. 

My partner’s ex once grumped that “shero” shouldn’t exist because “hero” isn’t an inherently gendered term. She thought I was using it in the same way some feminists change “his-story” to “her-story.” Don’t get me wrong – I think such wordplay is thought-provoking and useful. However, while my decision is mired in gender politics, my goal is a slightly different one. I don’t hate “hero” for having the dreaded “he” in it; I simply don’t want to use a diminutive form of any word to describe the greatness of my women characters. 


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