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Inclusivity and Exclusivity in Fiction: Where Are the Female Villains?


My friend James Maxey recently invited fellow Solaris writer Rowena Cory Daniells to guest post on his blog, and her blog post explores the problem of there being very, very few powerful female villains in literature. I don’t know if this idea surprises you, but it does me. First of all, I hadn’t realized there were so few, but she’s right: when I try to think of some, I come up with Disney villains, Madame Defarge and then not much else outside children’s stories, though of course there are always exceptions to this kind of thing.

Second, though, it surprised me to be told that a certain group being underrepresented as villains was a problem. Yet I think Daniells is right on the money: the lack of powerful female villains seems to reflect attributing relatively little power to women. Not only do women seem to be less likely to tote around guns, for instance, but they also seem less likely to shoot you even if they have them.

I recommend the post for anyone interested in inclusivity in fiction: you can read it at .



  1. Tony Maxey  •  Jul 29, 2012 @2:47 pm

    I think female villains are becoming more widely accepted, perhaps more in in cinema and television. But consider these evil female characters: Queen Cersei in ‘Game of Thrones’, the evil queen in Snow White (Charlize Theron in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ and Lana Perillo as Regina in the TV show ‘Once Upon A Time’. Also Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox in ‘Natural Born Killers,’ Kristanna Loken as T-X in ‘Terminator: Rise of the Machines’ to name just a few.

  2. Luc  •  Jul 29, 2012 @3:32 pm

    There are some great examples there–but it still seems as though these are a tiny fraction of villains in major TV and movie productions, not to mention books. I mean, I’m not sure we’re even looking at 5%, and that seems like a huge disparity to me (even if I’m substantially off in one direction or the other). What do you think the proportions might be?

  3. Alisa  •  Jan 21, 2013 @4:11 pm

    One of my favorite villains of all time is Milady from the Three Musketeers. But–I can think of two brilliant female villains in contemporary fantasy (both in stories with female protagonists in books written by men): Baroness Nicola Ceausescu in Paul Park’s ‘Princess of Roumania’ trilogy and Mrs. Coulter in Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’. These aren’t just female villains, there are classic, chilling villains at the top of their villainy game.

  4. Luc  •  Jan 22, 2013 @11:13 am

    I especially like the Mrs. Coulter example! The Golden Compass is one of my favorite novels.

  5. Brittney  •  Nov 18, 2013 @5:32 pm

    Honestly, you named some great female villains, but are they really villains? Many of those you called villains were anti-heroes, or villains that end up turning good, or villains that are not really villainous. Xenia Onatopp is one of the few true female villains that is villainous from start to finish. Why can’t there be more of them? They are either henchwomen, or lovers of the villain who are mislead and can’t think for themselves, or they are victims of the villain’s cruelty, they are never acting out of their own greed or selfishness…like they are not evil enough. That needs to change.

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