Have you ever noticed that a “strong” woman is one that’s almost as good as a man? Oh, I’m not saying that women are the same as men, but equal doesn’t mean identical. I’m a strong woman. I can’t lift much more than 50 pounds at a time, but I can run my own business. One is not better than the other, but both types of strength deserve to be valued for what they are.
I’m a voracious reader. In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of female leads. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and so many more. Angelina Jolie played Salt. Ghost Busters is being redone with an all female cast. Someone has figured out that women can actually do more than wear bikinis and be available for easy sex. Oddly, that hasn’t resulted in a lot of STRONG female characters.
A lot of “not weak” ladies doesn’t mean they should be called strong. Here’s how I see it:
A weak female character is the typical damsel in distress. She’s picked up and held in the tower to further some man’s storyline. She has no agency of her own. She isn’t allowed to do anything that might have any effect on anything. Her only job is to have some nice boobs and fall madly in love with the man who rescues her. She’s a prop. She’s no more human than a vase sitting on a shelf, but there’s a good chance that she’s awfully nice to look at.
Then we have today’s modern women characters. Some people call them strong simply because they have agency. These ladies can make up their mind and have unique ideas. The problem is that they can’t do anything about them on their own. When they are kidnapped and taken to the tower, they say, “I need to get out of here.” The man in the cell beside them tells them how to do it, then proceeds to hold her hand the entire time. Without HIM, she never would have managed to get a thing done. Oh, she’s capable, but only as a part of a team. She’s the ever present sidekick. The Harley Quinn to their Joker.
After them are the Strong Female Characters. These women get kidnapped and placed in the tower, work with the man to form the plan, and then do exactly as much good as him to get free. They are strong. They are capable. Yet, they are never allowed to do a single thing BETTER than their partner. She kills the exact same number of evil villains as he does. She frees exactly the same number of people. If he unlocks the door to their cell, she unlocks the door that gets them out of the tower. I love reading/watching these ladies in modern stories. To me, they are wonderful, strong, and such a refreshing change of pace. But they aren’t MY strong ladies.
When I write stories, I like to make insanely strong female characters. If the bad guy does kidnap them and lock them in the tower, she’ll be the one that breaks out the hottie in the cell beside her, probably making him worship her in the process. Then, she’ll save all the slaves, show her boy toy how to get out, using the strength of the person most capable to do it, and send everyone off to live happily ever after – but she’s not done. As soon as her friends are safe, she’ll blow up the tower, ride to the villain’s lair, kick his ass, get revenge for every wrong, and take part in not only overthrowing the corrupt government, but also instilling a new and better designed one. After which she goes home to cry on her daddy’s shoulder, introduce the hottie to her mom, and maybe have a wonderful family.
In other words, I don’t think the ladies can never be better than the man. Sometimes she’s the brain and he’s the brawn. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Just like men can be the hero, so can the women. You see, I grew up playing games, watching movies, and reading books, wishing that I could be bad ass, too. The world told me I wasn’t pretty enough (no matter how pretty I was, it wasn’t enough), I couldn’t be smart enough unless I was pretty enough, and I would never ever be as good as a man in the same field – unless I wanted to specialize in raising babies. Problem is, I kinda hate kids.
I would hate to see another generation of girls who grow up thinking that they are almost good enough to save the world. My stories may not appeal to everyone, but if just one girl reads one and thinks, “Hey, if I put my mind to it, I can do it!” then I’ve done my job as an author. If one boy reads my books and thinks, “Wow, women are just like me.” then I’ve changed the world – one mind at a time.
Being strong isn’t about how much a person can lift. It’s about something so much deeper than that. It’s the strength to fall down seven times and get up eight. That’s it.