Creating A Kickass Heroine
Previous Theme-Character Integration entries are indexed here:
Google Sexual Harassment and you get thousands of magazine and newspaper articles, maybe millions of online posts or tweets, on this topic of how many men, especially those who wield power in our society, will not take "no" for an answer.
blog is about Alien-Human Relationships - even if the "alien" is a ghost, magic user, creature from another dimension -- we scrutinize human relationships, dissect the emotional dynamics and create fictional worlds from the resulting pieces.
One of the prime aspects of human relationships is sexuality, and in the 21st Century the entire definition of "gender" is shifting fast and hard to something never envisioned or advised about by our ancestors. We might be viewed as the Aliens by our ancestors visiting up this timeline.
The blogs by Jacqueline Lichtenberg posted here on Tuesdays are about how someone who wants to write (and sell) a mixed-genre Romance novel can process the observations of the reality surrounding readers to target a readership that wants to explore this alien-human dimension in Relationship.
Everyone knows what a good Relationship can, should, and ought to be.
And everyone recognizes (from kindergarten age) what a bad Relationship is. Little kids don't have to be taught to hit back. They have to be taught ways of handling conflict without hitting. Humans are primates. Primates hit.
In the Romance genre premise, Humans are also something else.
On this writing craft blog we talk about that "something else" a lot -- because we are all about Romance, and the envelope theme: Love Conquers All.
We explore (with suitable skepticism) the path from the here and now to the Happily Ever After.
And the crucial element in achieving a Happily Ever After (HEA) position in life, is bonding to your Soul Mate. So the premise is that Souls are real. That is one huge lump for some readers to swallow.
That overall purpose of this blog -- the writing craft techniques that can be used to cast the magical image of a life with a Soul where Love Conquers Obstacles and the Couple Arrives At The Happily Ever After situation -- makes the eruption of the issues of Sexual Harassment - especially in the workplace - a topic Romance writers must think about.
That is think -- not feel.
Yes, Romance novels are all about feelings. The shift and change of feelings the Characters have for each other are the story.
In reality, the truth is that feelings are actually more important than facts in determining Character Motivation.
Character Motivation is derived from and explains the novel's theme.
So while theme is, as we have discussed in several series of blog posts, a very abstract and theoretical "take" on reality, very intellectual, cold, and even remorseless truth behind Reality, nevertheless theme is also where you explain the Character's emotions to the Reader.
"Explain" is an intellectual exercise, and "Emotion" is very non-intellectual -- in fact emotion may be thematically regarded as anti-Intellectual.
We see this in the explosive popularity of the TV Series Character Spock.
presents the intellect vs emotion theme -- one or the other, a choice, a decision.
But it is a TV Show, and because of the medium it was created for, had to strip the issue down to the very basic, over-simplified truth.
Novelists have an advantage because we can explore nuances, and complex models of reality by creating Characters who look at the world in various ways.
A TV Series must limit the number of Characters, and how much time they spend just talking to each other about abstract matters. Novelists, likewise, must limit the number of Characters (and pages of conversation), but our limits are much wider, much greater.
So while a TV show has to portray sexual harassment in a few seconds of screaming conflict or teeth-gritted, iron-faced acceptance, a novelist can spend more time -- and employ more tools (symbolism, description, internal dialogue, etc. ) and even plan long series of novels to bring the miscreant to Poetic Justice.
Poetic Justice, done in TV Series Brevity always looks contrived, artificial, and way too quick to be real.
A 2017 TV Series episode is a good case in point. HAWAII 5-O revival, Season 7, Episode 16 (available usually on Netflix) is about a guy perpetrating a fraud by purporting to teach men how to approach and "get" "women" (note plural, women, not a woman, not your soul mate). One student in his course is described as having been dumped by a woman, and being utterly crushed, so he got a course to build confidence. The fraud is that the course-giver hires prostitutes to accept the student's pick-up line. Note: "women" is the signature of success.
There are a few salient scenes where this fraud is holding forth before his class, and the dialog describes exactly how to integrate theme and character, and understand the ambient mentality (the unquestioned assumptions) of today's male population. The exceptions among today's males are starkly noticeable to any woman.
In this 5-O episode, our woman officer (who is now married to a former gangster) voices the Kickass Heroine attitude toward this fraud and the "women" assumptions behind his pick-up lines.
There is a fascinating sub-theme/sub-plot in this episode about lost sun glasses. Danny thinks a kid stole his sunglasses and pursues the kid, finds the sun glasses the kid wore and discovers (honestly) that these are not Danny's own sunglasses. Then he sits down, and by accident crushes his own sunglasses which he left on a chair. The Fraud Perp gets his poetic justice, and Danny gets his.
The two themes are joined at the point of "Assumptions" -- the Fraud makes a fortune playing on the unexamined assumptions of men, and Danny loses on the unexamined assumptions of teen kids.
Overall, it is a very solid, well crafted script. It reveals the profile of the audience it is aimed at, and is a cautionary tale about Assumptions and Poetic Justice. (it takes place on Valentine's Day)
TV shows do deal with these giant, abstract themes -- but the statements are bald, truncated, and ultimately either a joke, or laughable in some way. Life just is not like that.
Here is a further discussion of Justice:
14 Fat novels can make Poetic Justice natural, inevitable, and a long time coming. Women prefer "long time coming" -- at least a bit longer than men, generally speaking.
Poetic Justice is a revelation about the nature of Reality.
The advent of the Kickass Heroine coincides with the rise of the Independent Woman -- who, being independent, has the freedom to choose to bind her future to a man.
We love the image of that kind of freedom, and we are still fighting for it.
We still have few men who really like a world where women are free to say "NO" -- and kickass enough to make "no" stick, regardless of the man's opinion.
But there is a curious dichotomy here. And a double-standard that most people are not consciously aware of. Therefore, there could arise a whole new genre of novels -- which would use thematic worldbuilding. This would be a world where Men accused of Sexual Harassment (or even women, for that matter), would have a way to prove (in a court of law) they did not Harass.
That proof used to be called a Marriage License -- valid even in arranged or forced marriages in any Historical Romance set, say 100 years ago or more. Men were licensed to rape or beat a particular woman (or woefully, women).
Once married, a female had no personal sovereignty at all.
In various societies through the millennia that situation shifted -- in Ancient Rome women could inherit their husband's property (wow, motive for murder!)
As far as property is concerned, the Jewish marriage of today is a signed contract (often posted on a couple's bedroom wall) which obligates the man to give all his property -- even the shirt off his back -- to his wife. She owns him in so many ways -- written often in huge letters on the bedroom wall. (in Aramaic). It is called a Ketubah -- look it up. Marriage is the incorporation of a business entity.
So through the ages women have fought for, and won to various degrees, a defined amount of personal sovereignty.
It is very possible that today, women in some countries have won more personal sovereignty than ever before in human pre-history or history.
But society has not had time to adjust to this change. That Hawaii 5-O episode is a case in point, a stark caricature of the reality of today's workplace, but caricatures reveal much that is hidden.
In the USA, the tool "society" is an abstract, intellectual concept for something that does not actually exist. Society uses Law to impose change on the laggard elements posing as members of that "society".
So whenever neighbors seem to be misbehaving (or in this case, workplace bosses, co-workers, customers, self-help fraudsters), the first tool we reach for is Law.
Long ago, there was a cartoon titled, There Ought To Be A Law -- which presented the case for using Law to squash egregious misbehavior with laws that were against the law to make, and which now are in fact laws.
But how do you know when something is illegal, especially some behavior that was legal and lauded when you were a child growing up? Think about the fraudster teaching pickup lines and postures. He was teaching what every teenage boy learns today without being told.
So we have a generation (or two) of men who know in their gut that targeting "women" is correct, proper behavior because male value is about collecting many women, scoring, not bonding. They see sexy clothing, and feel, and react, and attack -- and consider themselves laudable for it.
Should you act on how you feel, or on what you know? If you guess wrong, did you do something illegal or just crass? It has been shown scientifically that anti-sexual-harassment sensitivity training does not work.
There has been, from the dawn of time, the profound thematic issue of whether Emotion or Cognition should dominate behavior. 21st Century America is opting for Emotion, so sensitivity training based on cognition (learn this - behave this way) will not work.
THEME: It Matters Most How I Feel
If you make me feel uncomfortable, I can throw you in jail. (Potiphar's Wife -- to "Off With Their Heads" -- to inconvenient people dropping dead in Communist Russia).
We have now enshrined in LAW -- the validity of EMOTION (over facts).
Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.
THEME: It Matters Most What The Facts Are
If you ignore the fact that 50 degree below zero F. winds can kill you, and walk out in summer shorts and a tank top, you die. I don't have to do anything. Facts prevail.
Long ago, there was a short story titled The Cold Equations about a stowaway on an orbital spacecraft whose weight would have caused re-entry to go awry killing everyone aboard -- so they spaced him. This story was popular because the social argument at that time was roaring on about emotions being more important than facts. It was argued that Christian morality requires one not to space the miscreant -- so what would "good" people do? Science trumps Christianity. Facts supplant morality.
It is the "lifeboat" dilemma that has generated many stories throughout time.
Marriage is another version of the "lifeboat dilemma." When do you throw the bum out to save yourself and the children? That 5-O episode depicted the violent rage of a twice-scorned man, and a prostitute's understanding of his Character. When do you bail on a guy?
After WWII, women stayed in the workplace -- while many raised their children to school age, and returned to work. Over decades, the trend accelerated as "labor saving devices" like clothes washing machines and dishwashers (and pizza delivery) built the current world we live in.
By gaining an income, women gained personal sovereignty -- and could bail on a guy.
Build your Alien's World with as much care. Trends and the social changes to accommodate trends come about over generations. How many generations has your Alien species been space traveling? How many other species have they met up with? How has their home world changed because of that?
Now look at how humans are handling "change" --- the emancipation of women? The enfranchisement of the Independent Woman? The Woman of Independent Means? The Working Woman? The Kickass Heroine.
Look at that legal definition of harassment.
How is a guy supposed to KNOW his behavior "offends" or "is unwelcome" or makes a person feel "threatened" or that his language is deemed "lewd" ???
If he didn't intend to do any of those emotional things, does that mean he didn't do them? If he was sure he was welcomed then he was not unwelcome, right? Scrutinize that 5-O episode!
How can a guy who is an Alpha Male, a winner, ever even consider that anything he does is not welcome? By the very definition of Alpha Male, it is unthinkable to him. That is what that fraudulent course was teaching right before our eyes, on TV. A guy had to have his self-confidence restored, instead of learning his lesson about why he was rejected. Who needs "a woman" when there are "women" to be had. Plural.
To understand this mindset, if you are not an Alpha Male, you have to do your Character-Point-Of-View switch exercise.
We have discussed Point of View at considerable depth in various series of posts.
Getting inside the head of a Character so you can chart his/her moves through the plot starts with "people watching" at the mall, reading self-help books, and generally being someone who is not you.
Do that, and reconsider that legal paragraph.
Guys growing up in our world today are not given any chance to comprehend that they will be punished for winning.
Sexually harassing a woman into compliance is winning. How unfair is punishing winning? It is all in the point of view.
All sports is about winning -- winners get rewarded.
All academic test taking is about getting an A -- and teachers have been taught (most haven't discovered how false what they learned in school really is) that it is "right" (and therefore righteous) to grade on a curve. After all, you can't fail the whole class and keep your job, even if the whole class fails. So test taking is a competition, and winning is rewarded. Somebody has to get the F, and it isn't going to be me.
All job-search endeavors are about winning -- competing against other applicants and winning.
Winning is about getting what you want by denying others what they want.
Want is an emotion.
Winning is about assuaging a desire for a particular emotion, generating endorphins. Winning triggers a kind of pleasure response akin to orgasm.
They still call it "The Battle of the Sexes" -- and battles must be won, no matter what.
We examined "The Battle of the Sexes" in this post:
By winning, by defeating the female, you get pleasure, the more so if you defeat the female in front of other males, elevating your position in the pack by winning.
We write a lot about how sexy the Alpha Male -- the dominant one, the winner in the pack -- is, and how attractive Alphas are to us.
Men read Romance novels, too. Men learn early in manhood that we want an Alpha -- that being dominated by an Alpha is our wet dream.
Boys are not raised to be gentlemen (defined as one who takes no for an answer and is rewarded for knuckling under when a woman frowns at them). A 5 year old, maybe. A 15 year old, never.
Why is that? Why isn't the image of the Alpha Male, the winner of all battles, an image of the one who takes no for an answer?
There is a reason that thousands of years of history have let men create governments, run armies, create businesses, and do dangerous things, but not women. As a species we can afford to lose a lot of males, but not females or the species dies. One winner-male can marry many women, keep them pregnant, and make more winner-males.
The reason men govern and fight is not, as many academics hold, that men are 'better suited' to competition, to wielding power of the throne, the sword, or the almighty dollar, but rather that men have created the mechanisms of the world to suit male emotions.
The mechanism of the world does not have to be configured to pander to male emotional satisfaction, but neither does it have to be created only by women and thus pander only to women's emotions.
Think about that when you create your Aliens. Study our recent history to find things to change about your Aliens.
The generation of men born in the early 1900's were dead set against allowing women into the workplace -- not because women could not do the work, but because to those men "the workplace" was not a place of work, but rather a place of DOMINANCE.
"Work" to the men of that generation meant "winning" and in particular, it meant winning in the "dog eat dog" world they had built. Not dog eat bitch. Dog eat dog.
Fighting your way up the ladder meant proving you are stronger, meaner, more dominant, and in fact Alpha. And you know you're an Alpha Male because you WIN -- and you know you are a WINNER when you get rewarded. The emotional payoff is that others in the workplace yield to you, bow down, stop fighting and take your orders.
In other words, boys who start out "winning" in school, and keep "winning" get used to "winning" -- which means as reward they get whatever they emotionally want. Refused, they are justified in using force -- any force at their disposal -- to take what they want, which proves they are winners and thus have the pick of the "women" plural (consider the High School Captain of the Team.)
In the workplace, that force can be the threat of firing the uppity person who does not acknowledge their Alpha position, or otherwise derailing that uppity person's career.
To be successful, you beat out the competition and win.
Enter women: they expect to be promoted for completing their assigned tasks properly. No man would have expected such a ridiculous thing. Every man knew promotions go to the dominant winner, not the good worker. Women are usually better at the job, and we can't have them promoted over us or we won't be winners, right?
Now reread the blog entry on how being defeated reduces a man's testosterone levels (and winning elevates it). Having a wife and children lowers testosterone levels, and thus aggression. Fathers become just a tad more risk-averse, but more dangerous for it because they become harder to kill, smarter, more reliant on cognition than emotion.
Being bested by a woman destroys a man's testosterone level -- just wipes him out (do get that 5-O episode and see what I mean here). Thus the derogatory term "hen-pecked" is mostly leveled at men by men.
Our society -- (but not the Law) -- admires a winner, rewards a winner, but not if the winner is female.
Would all Aliens have that problem? Maybe they had it and resolved it? How?
What would your Aliens make of humans who reward winners? I played with the human adulation of winners and heroism in two Mass Market paperback novels, now in Kindle-only editions.
To figure out what your Aliens would see in human obsession with winning, look at how we have elevated "winners" to the top decision making positions, at how we make celebrities from box office winners regardless of their acting ability, at how we choose who wins and who loses.
What qualities of Character guarantee a "Happily Ever After" point, somewhere in mid-life?
How do you "win" happiness?
Is Happiness always Winning?
Is it possible your readers don't believe in the HEA simply because it can not be "Won" - like a prize? What good is the HEA if you don't get to WIN?
For millennia, governments, international affairs, tribal war, and business has been shaped and crafted by "winners" - who assume that winning is good because it feels good (to them, not the losers).
And the rest of the people stand on the sidelines and cheer on the winners. We root for the underdog to become a winner, not stay an underdog.
Winning is all about creating losers -- being "better" than someone else, not being the best you can be. Just make sure the other guy fails more than you did.
Well, after WWII, men of that generation did not want to see their women attacked by testosterone driven males who had to WIN a competition against women who wanted their jobs. Men want their women (plural) to themselves (singular) - conquered possessions won fair and square away from other males. So women should not be exposed to other males playing to win, hence women do not belong in the workplace. Right? The times they are a'changin'!
Those former soldiers knew men went off to work geared up to win -- testosterone flooding, aggression maximized.
They also knew many women would be better at the men's jobs, which would mean being conquered by a woman (a hormonal disaster) or conquering the woman to make sure she stayed an underbitch.
And that is exactly what has happened. Today women can get into any university, learn and get A's, and take any profession by storm. We now have allowed women into front line combat jobs -- on the way to becoming Pentagon Generals, Admirals etc. And even President.
When Gene Roddenberry put Uhura on the Enterprise Bridge, all hell broke loose. In fact, the network execs (winners all, remember, dominant males) would not let him have Number One be female, so they combined First Officer with Science Officer.
The execs told GR you can't show men taking orders from a woman. Nobody would believe it. GR outsmarted them. He was a winner. And he behaved like one -- just check out the behavior of top Hollywood Names today. He was cut from that mold.
Today, women are the bosses in a lot of workplaces where men are employed.
And even more (perhaps even smarter) women are climbing the ladder to those powerful positions.
Look again at the legal definition of Sexual Harassment. Can you imagine a man feeling that way -- on the bridge of the Enterprise?
Think of the Hero in a novel you love so much you want to write one like it.
Would he lodge a complaint with HR about harassment from his female boss?
If he did lodge such a complaint, would it be part of a larger strategy? Maybe he's trying to smoke out disloyal men in his work-group?
When his feelings are hurt, when someone does something he doesn't like, what does a guy do?
So what is the definition of a Kickass Heroine and why do we read those novels? (and love them!)
Is a Kickass Heroine a woman who behaves like a man? Would a kickass heroine sexually harass men under her command just to WIN?
We admire the Kickass Heroine because she's a WINNER - whatever the situation and over whomever opposes her. A Kickass Heroine is a STRONG CHARACTER (as defined by editorial standards in calls for submission.)
What does a WINNER, who is a STRONG CHARACTER (i.e. kickass) do when ...
...annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim...
What does a Kickass Heroine do when "annoyed?"
One of the Character Traits of admirable people (not "winners" but truly Strong Characters) is that it is very hard to "annoy" them. Strong Characters are slow to anger -- very slow -- and do not stop thinking strategically when angry (or when flooded with post-sex endorphins).
In other words, being annoyed, even all the way to being enraged, is an emotion, but in Strong Characters, Emotion does not oppose, conflict with, or impair, rational cognitive functions.
Weak Characters are characterized by volatile emotions, easily offended.
Our modern workplace environment has been crafted by thousands of years of men elevating to decision-making positions the other men who do not have volatile emotions (OK, we know of one exception, but we're speaking in general about crafting fictional aliens.)
A Strong Character can not be threatened. Being secure in their "winner" personality, they ignore threats, deal directly with actions. (Oh do watch that 5-O episode!)
A Strong Character can not be intimidated, because that's the definition of strong. A strong character does the intimidating, in well-disciplined careful and deliberate, strategically sound measure.
A Strong Character may become alarmed, but the emotion barely moves the needle off dead center.
A Strong Character knows she can handle whatever is happening. A Strong Character is secure in her preparedness but never overconfident enough to brag about it. Weak Characters brag.
A Strong Character just does not fear, or contemplate failure.
A Strong Character has grown up as a winner, and thus projects a formidable aura. Only a Stronger Character would dare challenge, especially using unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim.
In fact, a Strong Character is composed of such traits that it is not possible to demean, threaten or even offend them. Anyone who tries is seen as laughable, or stupid, even pitiable. But the true Gentlewoman does not let amusement show, because that might hurt or offend the Weak Character.
Here is a discussion of how the Hero, or Strong Character's inner dialogue might go.
Feeling offended is a sure sign of a Weak Character (a beta not an alpha).
Appearing to be, or actually feeling like, a Victim is a clear, unique sign of a Weak Character.
To climb the corporate ladder, one must be a Strong Character.
Those on the rungs above you will test you to see if you are worthy of promotion, and fire you if you do not have the right stuff to climb that ladder (which right stuff does not include competence at the tasks). Handling sexual blackmail with efficiency and dispatch is a sign of a Strong Character worthy of promotion. (do please watch that 5-O episode).
Tattle-tailing to Authority claiming you've been victimized is a sign of Weak Character.
Emotional stability -- not impunity, not imperviousness or coldness, but stability -- is the first necessary (but not sufficient) condition for being allowed into the fellowship of winners.
Now, this is not always the case. There is such a thing as "being kicked upstairs" (getting a promotion that shoves you out of the way of winners swarming up the ladder behind you.)
Incompetence also rises to the top -- but all the winners know who the loser is. And they use that knowledge strategically, to compete.
So if women are to climb that corporate ladder in any workplace environment, they must be Kickass Heroines - of Strong Character.
So what does a Kickass Heroine do when some testosterone driven bozo behaves lewdly in semi-public so everyone is watching her react, and judging her accordingly?
The Kickass Heroine knows that the person behaving lewdly is a Weak Character, and reacts accordingly.
Power (decision making, budgetary, hire/fire decision power) in the hands of a Weak Character is far more dangerous than in the hands of a Strong Character who is a declared enemy.
Strong Characters with power are predictable.
Weak Characters with power are like 3 year olds with a loaded gun.
Strong Character is built, not born.
Here is an article from last December on raising kids to have Strong Character -- this article focuses on risk taking.
Difficult situations help kids foster self-assurance. Flickr/Blondinrikard Fröberg
Anxiety has become a widespread mental illness in children and teens.
Researchers have found a link between anxiety and the over-protection of children.
Parents should allow kids some level of physical and risky play.
Physical play helps children have hands-on experience with difficult or frightening experiences, and fosters self-assurance for later in life.
Anxiety has become an epidemic, now eclipsing depression as the most common health disorder, particularly among younger people.
While several hypotheses exist which try to point blame for the increasingly common condition, Norwegian researchers have found that the overprotection of children may have something to do with it.
So, the Winners on the higher rungs of the ladder got there through a lifetime of building Strong Character (or fooling others into thinking so). They are the gatekeepers who prevent weakness from dominating.
They test the up-and-coming youngsters in school or workplace by figuring out the up-and-comer's weakest spot and attacking that to see what sort of response they get. Volatile emotional responses are a sign of Weak Character -- a sign of a loser who must be eliminated from the team. Or, if the Character has other Strong Character areas, the weak spot may be seen as the Character Flaw to be remedied by repeated hits -- to toughen the Character up.
Sexual harassers see themselves as doing the woman a favor by torturing her. If she passes the torture test, she can join the team of winners. If not, good riddance. All of this is sex based behavior -- if your Aliens have differently configured biology (think Spock) they will solidify teams of winners differently.
One of the Characteristics of a Winner is accurate Risk Calculation.
Wrecklessness is a sign of Weak Character.
Winning long-shot risks because of sheer-grit-and-determination or other Strong Character Traits, is the sign of a Strong Character.
So our Kickass Heroine in the workplace becoming the office's favorite target for sexual harassment will not respond emotionally, or quickly -- no emotional volatility allowed. But 10 years later, all those bozos are gone, and she rules the roost. Long-range planning is a sign of a Strong Character.
To the men who built the business world, the office is a battlefield. There is a reason football imagery became so dominant in describing business transactions -- a gentrified warfare with strategy and tactics where emotional volatility loses. If your feelings can be hurt, you lose, good riddance.
The losing football team never sees themselves as the VICTIM.
The losing football team plots their comeback play.
Likewise, in the office -- the person who will be tagged for promotion will be the one who does not see themselves as a victim or their attacker as a victimizer.
The attacker may in fact be a bully. We, as a society, tend to elevate bullies to winner status, so there is a hefty proportion of bullies in the daily workplace.
Yet, we all know the best way to handle a Bully is to out-Bully them -- bust their chops, kick their ass, best them at their own game.
That may be why, for thousands of years, men have allowed bullies into their fellowship of winners. Bullies are cowards, underdogs, and very weak -- so power in the hands of a bully is very dangerous. But they can make good underlings to a qualified Alpha who controls their power-use.
A Kickass Character proves they belong in a fellowship by besting the local bully - while keeping the emotional environment on an even keel and the fellowship intact. (think of the prison stories you've read.) There were a few White Collar episodes that describe this process of beating people up to find out what they are made of and where they belong in the pack. Teach the underdog his place.
Here is a post on the Hero Vs. the Bully
And here is one on the Hero marries the Bully
To use your Theme to generate a Kickass Heroine and get the modern Romance Reader to believe the world you create contains a genuine HEA, study your readers.
QUESTION: Why does a generation of women raised on Action Romances about the Kickass Heroine not kick ass in the workplace but see themselves as harassment victims?
Could it be that the "harassment" definition, enshrinement in law, and current usage as a weapon to bring down powerful men, is actually defined by winner-men, voted for by winner-men, judged in court by winner-men, reported in public scandal by winner-men -- as a strategy to bring down other powerful men? Could those invisible winner-men be using women as weapons against the winner-men's opponents?
Or is the flood of harassment allegations actually the appropriate comeback to obviously egregious behavior. Is the Harassment definition a tool for women to re-configure the nature of the business world, maybe warfare itself, and certainly sports?
Why do these real women, who are your readers, not manifest the courage, risk-management, and emotional stability of the Kickass Heroine (to yank the weapon from their attacker's hand and beat him over the head with it) when challenged by men who target their sensitivity to sexual harassment?
The "workplace" environment is a sex-based environment (still is, after thousands of years). It is not a hostile environment when based on sexual jousting for dominance. Jousting for dominance is fun! Good, innocent, fun!!! It's just winning, after all.
Work (bringing home the bacon) is about winning, and testosterone is the main ingredient in winning.
Beating down Beta Males and becoming the Dominant Alpha is not an act of hostility -- it is the primary act of the civilized male, the creation of a fellowship, alliance, and smooth functioning team, all for the purpose of feeding his children.
That's why "women don't belong in the workplace" -- because women just aren't aggressive enough.
Or if they are aggressive enough, they are worthy of derision not promotion.
The attempt to change "men" into gentlemen while on the hunt (which is what workplace environment is - a hunter's camp) may be doomed to failure.
Remember in the Victorian Romance novel, the gentlemanly behavior was adopted only in the Drawing Room -- not while off camping through India, fighting and subduing Natives.
He-men cleaned up nicely - but didn't respect the women who followed them on campaign.
The Workplace is their modern field of battle as well as hunting ground.
So instead of changing human nature, (which we can do these days with gene splicing etc) - we might consider changing the workplace. How would your Aliens configure business? Would only human women be able to win in the Alien workplace?
Or perhaps consider what changes will swamp out the workplace-battlefield when Artificial Intelligence (A.I. or robots, androids and other mechanicals) swamps out human labor.
The advent of A.I. in the workplace (already well in progress) is termed "The Singularity." There will come a tipping point where A.I. is more crucial to human life than other humans are.
If we plan strategically, like any ordinary Kickass Heroine would, we can guide A.I. into workplace use, shifting the workplace from a battlefield where you win by dominance into an environment where we don't compete, but rather we complete good work. In such a workplace, dominance behavior would be despised.
Is that the level of civilization your Aliens have reached? Is their workplace environment devoid of sexual dominance?
Is that because they made laws about emotions, or because they evolved so that one gender is not dominant over another?
How would a sexual harasser human fare in that Alien workplace?
Remember, a Kickass Heroine is a Strong Character and would not be annoyed or the least bit disturbed by sexual harassment.
If the behavior is so far out of bounds (such as "service me or you're fired" ) that the job is not worth the trouble, the Kickass Heroine finds another job and quits. Or quits and finds (or makes herself) another job.
A Strong Character can not be blackmailed.
The Kickass Heroine (human version) can not be intimidated by threatening her employment.
If she is intimidated (such as being threatened while she's being divorced while pregnant), she isn't a Kickass Heroine.
The Maternal Instincts, Cozy Mystery series by Diana Orgain is a great example of a Kickass Heroine whose livelihood is threatened -- though nobody tries to harass her sexually because she's truly Kickass.
So why have your readers not emulated the Kickass Heroine in the modern harassment-driven workplaces?
The answer to that question is your THEME.
What would be different for your Aliens?
Is your Alien Character Kickass material - or an ass to be kicked?