In every movie, every book, and quite a few TV shows, we hear people talking about “strong female characters” but what are they? Is a strong woman someone who can lift 100 pounds? 200? More? Is she the person who can’t feel hurt by something as pathetic as an insult? Are these fictitious creatures able to bend steel with their mind?
Maybe – or maybe not. You see, a strong woman is one that fails and tries again. She’s the one who took a risk because the chance of reward seemed worth it. Her strength may be physical, mental, emotional, or any combination of those.
It does not mean she’s invincible.
Strong female characters are the ones that get bullied, cry their eyes out, and still go to school the next day. They’re the ones who get pushed into a new situation and make the most of it, even when it’s hard. These are the ladies who realize that no one else is going to do it – whatever it is – for them, so they decide to do it themselves.
That’s basically it. They aren’t SuperGirl. They don’t have to be butch, girly, or androgynous. They sure as hell don’t have to be pretty. They just need to face a challenge and at least try to deal with it on their own. Weak female characters are the ones who whine, cry, and break the heel of their shoe just before the bad guy gets them.
Oh, sounds easy to write/film, you think? Uh, no. See, the moment you put in a man who’s ten times better, you just destroyed your strong female character. In modern movies, she’s the girl that can be as good, but never better than, the leading guy. Just look at Rogue One as an example!
According to the trailers for that film, some scenes didn’t make it to the final cut. Jyn kicked ass, right up until suddenly, the hero arrives (who she hated for most of the movie) and then she swoons as he cuts down the baddie for her. You know how it goes because we’ve all seen this before. Dude looks dead, but at the last minute, he summons up just enough strength to save the day, because that poor chick couldn’t do it without a penis around to…
Er. Sorry. I think I let my bitterness show a bit there. The irony here is that I loved that movie. I typically love all Star Wars things, but I was very disappointed to see that Hollywood had reshot the ending to be more in line with modern mentality. SAY WHAT?! Yeah. The idea of that girl being a bad-ass was just too much, and you know that would definitely kill sales (or something).
And this is why women get so annoyed with the whole strong female character thing. Granted, some of us don’t notice it. My mother, for instance, was raised at a time when the women in our fiction would be considered shockingly equal. To her, it’s nice to see women who aren’t scorned for acting like Princess Leia. Me? I was raised to think critically, and I kinda like the idea of a strong woman being perfectly ok without a man to back her up. Know what? I also like the idea of a weak male character being portrayed as heroic.
The problem is that “strong female character” has become a buzzword, and so few people really understand what it means. It doesn’t mean having a smart mouth, just so you know. It doesn’t mean spending the whole book fighting against what has to be done, just to trip and fall into it at the last minute. Those books/movies have their place, but they are NOT strong women.
In a world where women are still judged by their perceived value to men (usually by their looks) most of us find ourselves drawn to the strong women who can fall in love but don’t NEED to in order to complete the task at hand. We like the women who are leaders, regardless of whether anyone likes it or not. And, deep down, we want her to have a few insecurities inside, too. Being strong doesn’t mean being invincible. It means falling down seven times, but standing up eight, even when everyone is screaming at you to just give up already.