Episode 178: The Gender-Centric Version

On March 12, 2022, Kasie and Rex continued discussion of the heroine’s journey with the gender-specific version of the structure. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

The Heroine’s Journey Part 2: It IS about gender


  • Carriger’s Heroine’s Journey Unfinished Points
  • A second model for the heroine’s journey – focused on the gender
  • Shared characteristics of the hero and heroine tales
Photo by Kamil Rybarski on Pexels.com

Segment 1

The South Carolina Writers Association is excited to proud to present Angela Belcher Epps speaking in the Become an Author series on the topic of Get Into Your Writing Space. It’s an evening zoom session. Follow the link to register.

Last week we introduced the Heroine’s Journey through Gail Carriger by comparing it to the Hero’s Journey. Here are the main points of comparison in Carriger’s model:

  • Purpose – while the hero is looking to defeat someone, the heroine is looking for reunification with someone who was taken from her, connecting with others, finding family
  • Approach – while the hero is on the offensive most of the time, actively pursuing his goal, the heroine is achieving hers through information gathering. She is not conqueror, she is builder.
  • Strength – the hero must eventually go it alone, his strength is in his ability to do so (finally). The heroine is the opposite. Requesting aid is a sign of strength, it does not diminish her journey or her character to seek help.
  • Power – when the hero is at his most powerful, he is alone (companions knocked unconscious or left behind), the heroine is at her most powerful in community; powerful moments occur with others.
  • Ending – the hero has sacrificed so much for his goal that in the end, his journey is bittersweet in that he’s grown too powerful to go back to what and who he was, or he’s too far isolated from others to share in his success. The heroine, though, finds herself surrounded by friends and family – reunited – since that was the goal from the very beginning.

Segment 2/3

SCWA’s next live event is Shared Writing Time, a midday Zoom sesh where writers gather to respond to prompts and share space and purpose. It’s been hosted by our Columbia II chapter and the Aiken chapter as well. May 17 – St Patty’s Day! – is the next session for this and it’s limited to members-only, so become a member of SCWA today.

So after I adopted Gail Carriger’s Heroine’s Journey model last week that seems to think of gender as being as equally irrelevant as the Hero’s Journey, I came across an alternative Heroine’s Journey that puts the feminine front-and-center indicating that the protagonist’s gender is, in fact, very important. Observe:

In this reading, the journey begins not at the loss of family, but at separation from the feminine which absolutely takes us to Aria Stark and of course, Merida from Brave which is the example used on this blog explaining the whole thing.

Here are the steps:

  1. Separation from the feminine – could be the protagonist’s mother dies, or it could be the protagonist rejects the feminine wanting to be something more, or something not overtly sexualized
  2. Identification with the masculine – could be the protagonist thrust into a masculine world – think Katniss becoming the breadwinner in her father’s absence – or the protagonist intentionally choosing masculine occupations like archery (Merida) or masculine dress (corporate / business, politics) and mannerisms (language, suppression of emotion).
  3. The road of trials – earns skills and accolades, overcomes challenges and dangers, proves herself as competent and worthy
  4. Achievement of the illusory boon of success – protagonist gets what she thinks she wants – becomes a knight (Alanna), achieves a title, position, or power
  5. Awakens to spiritual emptiness – despite the success, she’s not fulfilled; she needs something other than what she originally thought would make this all work
  6. Isolation and descent – heroine must face her shadow, the thing that’s really the problem, not that illusion she thought it was – in Brave this is Merida getting the spell from the witch to change her mom, only to turn her mother into a bear. Yikes!
  7. Yearning to reconnect with the feminine – the protagonist works to reconnect mind-body-spirit and find harmony ahead of what’s next; the blog linked above says “purify” but I have issues with that word, so we’ll go with ready herself – think training montage.
  8. Healing the mother/daughter split – heroine comes to recognize the strength in nurture and caring, identifies with those feminine traits she originally saw as weak and appreciates them in herself, allows them to emerge and thrive
  9. Healing the wounded masculine – the protagonist now recognizes the toxicity of the masculine mantle s/he pursued and attempts to put the masculine in perspective, character identifies and commits to the values and things that have meaning to them
  10. Integration of the masculine and feminine – male and female aspects of the person are unified into one union of ego and self; satisfaction is achieved.

This model is from Maureen Murdock and has its roots in the feminism movement of the 60s and 70s which sought to reconcile traditional feminine roles of nurture and compassion with the masculine requirement of providing for and protecting the family.

Segment 4

Some of the common elements:

  • Call to Action & Rejection the call = Separation from the feminine

When we think of someone being told their destiny and scoffing, we can see how that would play when a female sees the limitations placed upon her because of her gender; to reject the feminine, then, is to take action, or start the journey.

  • Trials and Successes

For a while, things look like they’ll work for both the hero and the heroine. During trials, the protagonist is learning and employing new skills. Fighting demons and monsters, experiencing setbacks and injuries but victories, too. Strengthening relationships and building alliances. Meanwhile also sacrificing parts of themselves to achieve these things.

  • Moment of Doubt or Point of no return

Things cannot go back to how they were; the protagonist wonders if they’ve chosen the right path, The sacrifices seem to big, the vision for success diminished in the shadow of the sacrifices – maybe someone important dies.

  • Continue the journey / do what they must

Maybe changing tactic (reconnecting with the feminine) or admitting they need help, the protagonist pushes forward, a renewed sense of purpose (maybe because of the dead friend); in this stage, the character has to look within for strength they didn’t know they had

  • Final balance

Once the journey is over, the reconciliation of the masculine and feminine (heroine) or final condition of supreme winner (hero) is a position of completion, wholeness, despite the scars or maybe because of the changes they’ve undergone.

Next week, the virgin’s promise. Yep, yet another version of this heroine’s journey model.

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