The Misogyny Of Thrillers

I love a good thriller. I love spy novels, police thrillers, military thrillers, and detective novels. Always have. But, of late, I have noticed that many, many books in the genre are very misogynistic. And I am having an increasingly hard time with that.

I have noticed that women in these books – for the most part – fit into three categories: (1) tough-as-nails broad who doesn’t need help, but who men can’t help but notice her “smoking” body, (2) damsel in distress, or (3) devious evildoer. Or they are side characters like wives or evil, ambitious politicians whose mission is to destroy the men who are trying to protect our country. All of the women are vapid and superficial. They serve the purpose of being a bitch or a sex object.

I used to read these books in the same way I listen to old-school hip-hop or 80s hairbands – knowing they are misogynistic, but excusing it because I was entertained. (Side note: one of the reasons a lot of women like Tupac is because he didn’t rap about women as objects.) I used to be able to look past the horrible caricatures and enjoy the ride. But, as of late, I am having a hard time ignoring just how horrible women are written in these novels.

Not all thriller writers do this. Some write really good female characters, who are human. (The Russian badass in the Grey Man novels comes to mind.) But the vast majority do. (See my review of Brad Thor’s Code of Conduct.) I understand that the world of military badasses are primarily men. But. That doesn’t mean that female characters HAVE to be sex objects or bitches. There is a middle ground. A human ground.

One of my favorite television shows in recent history was The Brave, which of course, did not get renewed. What I liked about this show was that the female member of the team was truly a badass. Not only was she truly a badass, the men she worked with saw her not as a sex object, or a lesbo bitch, but as a teammate, capable of doing her job just as effectively as they do. Certain thriller writers could take note of this. If you want a larger female readership, write some decent women into your worlds.

Yes, I keep reading these books, just like I keep listening to “Golddigger” and other misogynistic music. It probably makes me a hypocrite, but humans are full of contradictions. And good writers write their characters that way. I just wish that more thriller writers would do the same.

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