Weird as it seems, we still seem to live in a world where women are socially, economically and politically vulnerable to men, some of whom (in this day and age!) still think of us as mostly a collection of breasts and vaginas and possibly an ovary or two. Like a Stepford wife. Some assembly required.
Here is the problem: we sometimes seek to "prove" our equality with men by featuring in our fiction the “kick-ass” heroine. She has special powers, like the ability to work two jobs while starting her own business, maintaining fulfilling relationships with other women, eating like a stevedore without gaining an ounce unless it's during her daily 90 minutes at the gym, then finishing up with great sex every night after which, she only needs about fifteen minutes of sleep. All without the aid of cocaine.
Or she knows her way around guns, swords, and martial arts. Social inequality doesn’t apply to her because she earns the status of a kind of honorary male. She appears in male fantasy, too: the girl who is truly his equal because she loves guns. Lesser women are boring with all the whining about the oppression and ooh, the mean old men don’t let us have the same pay for the same job.
The KAH doesn't whine. She puts on her thigh-high black leather boots with the four-inch heels and kicks the crap out of the boss until he gives her a raise. And she gets away with it, too. An ordinary woman would get at least 10 years for assault, but nobody would dare try to press charges against a KAH. Why can’t regular women be more like that instead of all the time with the sob stories?
The kick-ass heroine “proves” that women are powerful and truly the equals of men. She achieves this by being tougher and stronger and smarter than men and by beating them up when they mess with her. See? Life is fair as long as you can get a pair of those thigh-high boots.
But whether she’s created by a woman or a man, she’s a towering pinnacle of inequality, a wish-fulfillment object, a standard we can never achieve, and she gives the chauvinists something to point to when women demand equality. See? You’re equal, it’s just you who’s feeling all sorry for yourself instead of getting out there and kicking ass.
Women, even heroines, shouldn't have to be stronger, faster, tougher and sexier than men in order to get the same pay for the same work or to avoid being raped or beaten up by a significant other or to have the right to do as she sees fit with her body. Think a KAH would let some legislator stick an ultrasound want into any orifice in her body? She'd go to Washington D.C. in her thigh-high boots, and the law would be changed post-haste. Of course, the KAH wouldn't be pregnant if she didn't want to be. She can have unprotected sex three times daily and ovulates on command.
Ordinary women are vulnerable to a lot of things. It's scary. The KAH gives us some relief from that anxiety, but we're in a lot of trouble if we make the mistake of thinking the KAH is a realistic portrayal of women. Being ordinary doesn't make us weak. We shouldn't have to choose between the roles of KAH or victim.