Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Let's Discuss the Blind Spot

Last month I wrote about breaking the Fourth Wall—that moment when the author does something that takes you out of the story—and making it impossible for readers to continue to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story.

For me, it was the moment when the author has the heroine assess her features in a mirror as a way of describing her to us.

That led to a discussion about another common trope: the heroine who doesn't realize she’s attractive.

I’ve been thinking about this way too much these past few weeks, but the more I’ve considered it, the more concerned I’ve become. 

Why is it our heroines are so blind to their own looks when I would lay bets that most of us are quite realistic in our assessment of our attractiveness even if we’d never admit it out loud?

Worse, in my readings, the woman who not only knows that she’s attractive, but is comfortable with her looks is usually the jaded mistress-slash-villainess.

So why do we do this?

Worse, what message are we sending to our readers?

So many women, even highly successful ones, struggle with their looks, feeling like they never look as they should. You have to be attractive enough to gain male interest, but not so attractive that other women would be jealous of you. And only a certain type of woman uses her looks to get what she wants (free drinks) or needs (her flat tire changed). 

In trying to make our heroines reflective of our common struggles, have we gone too far in reinforcing another impossible standard that women have to navigate daily?

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. Her medieval heroines don’t always know how pretty they are—but that’s because they don’t always have mirrors. If you want to know more about her as an author, visit her Facebook page or her Amazon page.


  1. Excellent question, Keena. I tend to gravitate toward writing strong women who don't really worry about their looks. Still, I read a lot and you are correct about the way women are sometimes portrayed.

    Whether they thought their looks needed fixing, I remember Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis. They seemed so comfortable in their skin. Was it their talent or just their inner strength that allowed them to not worry to much about what others thought?

    I'll be interested in what others have to say in answer to your question in this great post. Doris

    1. Thanks for replying (I got this up late, so I'm not sure how many people will see it). I think being comfortable in her own skin is something every woman needs to work at, but it's a worthy goal. I also think it's something we need to help each other achieve.

  2. Keena,

    You raise interesting questions. The media has such strong influence in our lives that when you look through the historical mail-order catalogues of the latter part of the 19th century (Montgomery Wards and Sears), the ads espousing beauty products, such as "The Famous White Lily Face Wash" 'for beautifying the complexion' (Sears 1900 ad) show us that women were not only aware of their 'looks', but they actively sought to make themselves more attractive according to the fads of the times.

    My point is, people are conscious of their appearance. It’s how they choose to be 'okay' with what they look like—or not okay—is what comes through in their personality, whether it manifests as confidence, self-conscienceness, insecurity, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”, and so on.

    Another media influencer who made the distinction for us in terms of what is ‘good beauty’ and what is ‘evil beauty’ is Walt Disney. Take a look at the softer beauty of the princesses compared to the harsher beauty of the temptresses and female villains.