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Let’s Talk Bookish: Male or Female protagonists?

This question comes to us from Mahita @ Amateur Teen Writer, who asks:

Do you prefer male or female protagonists?

When it comes to books, do you prefer male or female protagonists and why? Do you not have a preference? Have you ever not read a book because the protagonist was male/female? Do you think it’s important for children to read protagonists of the opposite gender from them? Do you feel like certain genres have more of a certain gender of protagonist than the other? 

In a society with increasingly fluid approaches to gender, this is a question with so many levels…however, I get what she is asking, and since most people still largely identify with a gender binary, I’m going to answer it in the spirit that it was asked.

My gut tells me that I prefer male protagonists, but I don’t think by much, at least not any more. I used to read a TON of mysteries, and preferred my Spenser and my Myron and my Elvis to any Kinseys and VIs and Eve Dallases. And I think that preference is likely still true today, although Rachel Howzell Hall and her Lou Norton have gone a long way toward turning the tide.

On the other hand, I have read more Urban Fantasy/Urban Paranormal these last few years, and the protagonists in those are almost universally female, and I think I prefer that. The idea of a male protagonist in that space seems jarring.

So. Yes, male protagonists…but really by a 51-49 margin.

I have recently read a book with a non-binary protagonist, and plan to seek out more diverse, gender fluid protagonists in the future. Because books are here to show us that our experiences are not all experiences, and that people are amazing in their not-at-all sameness. So, if you have any recs for non-binary protagonists, I’ll be happily taking them in the comments.

The Let’s Talk Bookish meme is hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Male or Female protagonists?

  1. If you like fantasy, I would recommend The Black Tides of Heaven (first in the Tensorate series) by Neon Yang. (Originally published under J.Y. Yang.) That world has all people start out with no gender identified, and it’s a really neat take on gender.

    I’m also currently reading In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu, featuring a non-binary protagonist who uses æ/ær pronouns.

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  2. Looking over books I’ve read and enjoyed that are currently on myself, it’s clear that male protagonists dominate, but I can’t say that I’ve got an actual preference; I’ve certainly enjoyed books with female protagonists at least as much as books with male protagonists.

    Especially for my favorite genre, SF, there’s definitely a skew towards male (and often, white male) in both authors and characters that’s at times regretful, and certainly not necessary. I wish both that the population of authors was more diverse, and the characters they write to be more diverse as well.

    I really do enjoy when works get revisited and some of these issues get tweaked… see the upcoming Foundation series on Apple+ where they’ve distinctly shifted some genders and ethnicities.

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    1. That’s one of the reasons that I am constantly promoting Rachel Howzell Hall, who is a black woman, who is writing a mystery series with a black, female lead, in a space that is still largely written by and about white men. I mean, there are a few female protagonists, but not nearly enough, and even the ones we do have are still white. So, yeah. Rachel Howzell Hall. 🙂

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  3. I prefer well written protagonists.

    I’ve loved books with female protagonists and loved books with male protagonists. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if by volume the collected protagonists of the books I’ve read skewed male — but it’s simply not a criteria by which I’m picking my books.

    (Though a quick skim through goodreads shows that this year, at least, female protagonists seems to be winning out at about 62% of the books I’ve read with an identifiable protagonist)

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  4. I like to read a variety of genres and most of the time the gender of the protagonist depends on the genre I am reading. I only have read westerns, mysteries, fantasy, sf, and romance. I really don’t have a particular preference when it comes to the gender of the mc or the gender of the writer or writers. Mostly I just read romance stories lately and I prefer dual POV

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