Modern-day English has very few words, where there are separate forms to describe men and women (e.g. actor and actress). But even they are still being reduced. For example, the gender-neutral flight attendant has become the accepted politically term. But what has does that have to do with Valerie, the protagonist of my novel, calling herself a hero rather than a heroine?
There is something called linguistic determinism. In simple terms the essence of this concept is that we perceive the world within the limits of the words we have to express our experiences. This concept is proven by studies, which have also supported such decisions as to introduce gender-neutral terms like fire fighter.
So why is fire fighter better than fireman? These studies showed that male-dominated language can cause inequalities to women. If the only way, in which we can describe a person who professionally puts out fires is fireman, it tells little girls that women can’t work as “firemen” because they are not men. Therefore, gender-neutral forms are important. Then why did I use the male-dominated form?
When you look up the word hero in dictionaries you get such definitions as “A person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities” from the Oxford English Dictionary. Since a fireman and a firewoman do the same job, one would expect that a hero and heroine are regarded equally as well. Unfortunately, the word heroine is still often understood in terms of a romantic heroine, whose only adventure is falling in love and procuring the interest of a man. Of course the meaning of heroine is shifting to a more equal one but I wanted to be absolutely clear from the start that Valerie aspires to be a hero with all of its connotations of courage and achievements, rather than fooling the reader into thinking this story will be about her looking for a boyfriend.
Read more about Valerie in To be a Hero
Valerie has loved stories about heroes ever since she was a child. Now it’s her chance to become one herself.
When a masked, self-proclaimed hero called Shadow appears in her hometown, she decides to team up with him and become a hero herself. Valerie is an unlikely adventurer. She can’t run fast and she is a little insecure. But she is passionate about turning her life into an interesting story.
However, soon she has to learn that living a story is not as easy as she had thought. In a small town with no big adventures, the person underneath Shadow’s mask is the only mystery worth exploring. When Shadow’s secrets pile up, she has to learn to face problems without her mask.
In a world that believes it no longer needs heroes, can Valerie and Shadow prove it wrong?