Real women kick butt

I once read a great opinion piece in Maclean’s magazine comparing the merits of Xena, Warrior Princess, against anime heroine Sailor Moon as a role model for girls.

Naturally, as soon as I saw the headline I was hooked. Because my eldest child was a little girl at the time, I naturally gravitated to anything that smacked of parenting advice. But wha--? Xena, a role model for girls? Are you serious?

Sure, I enjoyed watching the TV show. The ridiculous appeals to me, and I will admit to a weakness for sword-and-sandal anything.

The basic premise of the article: Sailor Moon, while on the surface a super hero, is really an angsty, mean, whiny schoolgirl. Worse, whenever she takes on more than she can handle – which is all the time – the male lead, Tuxedo Mask, comes to the rescue. And nevermind the mockery the show makes of eating disorders. Sailor Moon is not really meant for children, despite the marketing. Skimpy schoolgirl outfit, anyone?

Xena, on the other hand, is a onetime warlord-turned-mercenary who is seeking redemption for her bad deeds by championing the downtrodden and oppressed. She did terrible things. She regrets them. She’s doing what she can to be a better person. Oh, and she kicks butt, without a big, strong man swooping in to the rescue. Lesson: take responsibility for your mistakes, try to do good, and don’t whine while you’re doing it.

All right, so she’s got a costume that fuels its own share of male fantasies, but at least she’s a grown woman.

Yeah, I’d take Xena over Sailor Moon any day as a female role model.

Alas, I tried to Google the piece, but came up empty. Still, it was thought-provoking enough that it has stuck with me as these years.

Perhaps unconsciously, I prefer to write my heroines as less than perfect. I want them to be as real as I can make them – flawed, but trying to be good people the best way they know how.

I’m sure the same can be said about a heck of a lot of real women out there.
Flawed, but trying to be good. Because real women kick butt.

A genie grants Cassie Parker her hidden heart's desire - David Michalek as her dream lover, past, present and future. But are her dreams spilling into reality?
Cassie almost dropped the bottle.
She juggled it in her hand a moment before managing to get the stemmed cap back in place. It was hard to concentrate on her coordination when a strange woman appeared to be making herself at home on Cassie’s loveseat.
The stranger wore black leather pants, spiky black heels and a soft purple sweater that emphasized the golden tint of her skin and thick-lashed, tip-tilted brown eyes. Blue-black hair tumbled in sleep-tousled curls around an exotically gorgeous face and spilled down the woman’s shoulders to her elbows.
Casually, she rested her arms along the top of the loveseat and crossed one knee over the other. Her heel-shod foot bounced slightly to some unheard beat.
“One of the top male fantasies going. Well, that and Princess Leia-Slave Girl. Or Jeannie and Princess Leia-Slave Girl.”
The woman nodded at the TV, where Major Tony stomped around on the white-sand beach of an apparently deserted island, screaming at Jeannie to get him out of there. The screen cut to the bouncy blonde in a red-and-pink harem outfit, sprawled in the cushioned elegance of her magic bottle. Her pose bore an eerie resemblance to that of the woman currently sprawled in Cassie’s living room.
“A Jeannie harem fantasy, minus the cute blouse under the jacket and with a few strategic body piercings. One of my top-sellers. Go figure. I’d take Princess Leia-Slave Girl, myself.”
Cassie gaped at the woman. “Who are you? And what are you doing in my apartment?” Her head swiveled from the stranger to the front door and back again. “How did you get in my apartment?”
“I’m the genie of the bottle, sweetie.”
“Uh-huh. I think you need to leave. I’d really hate to have to call the police.” To herself, she mumbled, “Must have drifted off, or something.”
“Nope, sorry,” the woman said. “You’re wide awake, sweetie, and I didn’t wander through your door while you were in La-La Land. I suppose you could call the police, but it would be so embarrassing – for you – when they showed up and there was no one here but you and the dust bunnies.”
“Dust bunnies! Look, you, I keep a clean house.” Honesty forced her to add, “Mostly.”
The woman looked pointedly at the teetering stack of romance novels perched on the shelf with Cassie’s equally disorganized array of CDs, but limited her response to, “You can call me Jane.”
“Jane. Right.” Cassie closed her eyes. Blindly, she put the perfume bottle back in the box on her lap, then pinched her nose between thumb and forefinger. Even as she did so, the intriguing scent of the droplet on her wrist tickled her nostrils. “I’m dreaming. I was watching I Dream of Jeannie and fell asleep. Maybe the wine went bad in the fridge, or the cheese – I knew I shouldn’t have splurged on that non-pasteurized stuff! – and that’s why I’m having a really weird, bizarre, freako dream.”
The woman laughed, pure sex in the throaty sound. “Keep thinking that, doll.”
Cassie took a few fortifyingly deep breaths. Then a few more. She listened, hard. All she could hear was the patter of the sitcom on the TV and the distant, very distant, sound of a car driving by on the street three stories below. She pinched the skin on the back of one hand, and bit back a cheeping sound at the sharp pain. Yup. She was awake. Cautiously, she opened her eyes.
The woman on the loveseat waggled her fingers at Cassie in a cutsie wave. “Still here,” she said. “And, no, you’re not dreaming.”
She spoke with the non-regional accent perfected by TV newscasters across North America, but there was something undeniably different about Jane’s voice. Cassie couldn’t pin it down. Not that it mattered, since she’d lost her mind and all.
“Okay.” Cassie picked up her glass and bolted down the last of her wine like a hardened drunk slugging back shots of whiskey. “It’s finally happened. I’ve gone crazy. Nuts. Certifiable.” Staring wistfully at the dregs of wine in the glass, she moaned. “I bet that witch Amber is going to laugh her skinny ass off when she finds out.” And then she’ll seduce David, just like she’s always wanted. That thought made Cassie tip the glass to her mouth, trying to catch the last of the wine with the tip of her tongue.
“Back up the crazy train, Cassandra,” Jane said. “You’re not dreaming, you’re not nuts, and this is really happening. Believe it.”
Stung, Cassie said stiffly, “Well, excuse me if you don’t look like any genie I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh, you mean like this?” Jane snapped her fingers. From one blink to the next, she went from lounging on the loveseat in leather and angora to hovering over a brass, Aladdin-style lamp, wearing nothing more than strings of jewels and transparent purple veils. Not one part of her body touched the floor. Cassie’s jaw dropped. With a jangle of gold bracelets, Jane snapped her fingers again. Away went the veils and lamp. The supple leather pants barely made a sound as Jane settled back on the loveseat, propped her heels on the ottoman and crossed her long legs at the ankles.  
“What is it with people? Always with the theatrics,” she said. “Sorry to disappoint you, Princess Jasmine, but I don’t do a song-and-dance routine with an elephant and a flying carpet with language issues.” Jane muttered something that sounded like, “Damn that Disney guy, anyway.”
“All right, Jane. Let’s say I believe you. You’re a genie.” Cassie was proud of herself for not stumbling over the word. “The genie of the bottle.” Swallowing the half-nervous, half-hysterical titter was harder. “Why are you here?”
“To make all your dreams come true,” Jane said in a low, melodramatic voice with an obviously exaggerated accent that sounded a little like a B-movie Dracula.
“I knew it was a dream!”
Jane sighed. “Try to have a little fun … No, Cassandra, you are not dreaming. I’m here, you’re here. Get the picture?”
“Then let me repeat: Why are you here?”
 Jane twirled a lock of midnight black hair around one finger, the nail of which had been shaped into a perfect oval painted a pretty shell pink. “Your three wishes, of course.”
Raina James

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