What’s A Strong Female Character Anyway?

Howdy!

You always hear about the strong female characters in books or movies. But what does it actually mean? I think most of the time when we hear it now a certain image pops into our mind. A girl/woman who wears clingy leather and kicks butt and takes names and don’t need no man.

I do really like Natasha though

But really. How often does that work out for them? It seems like half the time they have a super empowering image, but spend critical moments either failing at being this superb martial artist we’re led to believe they are and/or the guy has to come in and save them in the nick of time.

So I don’t really get the label as we perceive it these days. I mean, sure she’s the greatest assassin to ever walk the earth, but when it comes down to it, she’s either really terrible or does no assassinating or falls in love with the conveniently hot womanizing prince she’s supposed to kill. (I’m looking at you, every YA book with this plot.) But that’s ok, because at some point she kicks butt and takes names because she’s a strong female character and don’t need no man. Except said super hot dude who she can’t stop thinking about and can’t bring herself to kill.

But put her in a dress or give her no fighting skills and suddenly there might be a different perception. But…but how can you be “strong” in a dress? Does she have secret knife fighting skills? Does she keep a dainty pistol or a knife in a sheath on her leg under the dress? Because that’s obviously what makes her strong.

Does she have to be the female version of B.A. Barracus? (Minus the jewelry obviously because she’s a strong female character.)

Either we have leather wearing girls or we have the complete opposite. Please refer to the Transformers girl who spent the movie wearing white skinny jeans and stilettos, scurrying after the guy, and wailing his name every time something moderately dangerous occurred.

I’m not really sure why anyone would want to be Katniss.

See? Leather. 😛

Sure she was brave and sacrificed herself for her sister but then look what happened. She got PTSD, spent most of book 3 hiding in her room and refusing to help anyone, and then a ton of people she knew died. But hey, she got Peeta, the bread dude.

Why would you want to be Elsa when you could be Anna, the girl who went after her dramatic sister to apologize and try and bring back summer? And, oh look, snagged the honest, dependable, Kristoff.

Eowyn defeats the witch-king, recovers, puts the dress back on and then marries Faramir.

She also has an awesome brother. 😛

I’m also of the opinion that Eowyn struggles with depression, so hey look, there’s some realism for you.

So you’re probably thinking, what the heck do you think a strong female character is? Well, I’ll tell you. And keep in mind, these are just my humble opinions and what I like seeing in stories. Because being strong doesn’t mean being a physical specimen. Also, these are going to be more tailored to fantasy.sci-fi since that’s what I read/write the most. 

Maybe she doesn’t actually like fighting. Or know how to at all.

Maybe she learned how to fight to defend her home when the men are away.

Maybe she does like getting flowers.

Maybe she ties off her braid with a ribbon.

Maybe when the fighting’s done, she puts away her sword, puts the dress back on, and marries the soldier who’s been waiting patiently for her.

Maybe she should fall for the dependable non-royal character.

Maybe she actually does want a family.

Maybe she’s an amazing cook.

Maybe she actually likes talking clothes/makeup/guys with other random female characters.

Maybe she likes wearing dresses. It’s my opinion that the greater female population actually enjoys wearing dresses. I know I wear gym shorts and t-shirts constantly, but give me a dress with a full enough skirt and I will spin.

Maybe she doesn’t fight at all. Maybe she’s the strong moral support behind the hero. After all “behind every great man, there is a great woman.”

Maybe she’s just the servant girl sleeping by the fireplace and dreaming of better things.

Maybe she’s the merchant’s daughter who sacrifices her freedom in order to save her family. And ends up with a husband and a giant library. But whatever.

Maybe she makes a mistake for the first major plot point, but then *gasp* admits to it and spends the rest of the book trying to fix it. Maybe a guy even helps her. *gasp again*.

Maybe she faces an arranged marriage and actually goes through with it since it’s for the good of her people/land/country/empire/etc. and ooh, I don’t know, maybe his too.

Maybe she’s the noble who comes up with the plan to save the rebel outlaw leader in the dungeons and sneaks off to tell his men.

Maybe she actually listens to those in authority.

Maybe she’s not a special snowflake in her dystopian society. Maybe she actually gets sorted into one of the super lame and boring divisions and takes down the government from there.

So what about you? What do you think makes a strong female character? Who’s one of your favorite female characters?

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29 thoughts on “What’s A Strong Female Character Anyway?

  1. An awesome list.
    I have to say, I’m interested in the women of Game of Thrones as well. For me, Samsa is also a strong women character…
    And I also think what is meant by the term is that the character is developed beyond the stereotypes of her gender. It can be a women who has all the stereotypes, even, maybe, but that these are gone through, point by point, in the character’s development and nothing is taken for granted. She may like getting flowers, but it’s a unique trait for her, not assumed because she’s a girl…

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  2. Good post. A strong character (male or female) is one with strength of character, not one with strength of abilities. If a character has a strong character (that sounds weird, but hopefully you know what I mean), it doesn’t matter if they have all these super cool abilities because they’ll do what’s right no matter what. And honestly, doing what’s right when it’s so much easier to do what’s wrong takes a lot more true strength than facing down the bad guy with your friends at your back.

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    • Characters with character ( 😛 ) are so important. I’d rather read about doing the right thing no matter the consequences than a giant showdown with the bad guy I think.

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  3. Good post. I do like Katniss a lot in the first book/movie and maybe part of the time in the second one. The third is pretty bad. The hero/heroine should be a strong moral character, honorable, honest, and just all the the time. As a loyal LOTR fan I choose Eowyn as a good female example with Aragorn, Legolas, and Faramir as good male examples. (Hey, there was another one I could have named but I don’t think that’s necessary considering who the author of this post is. Ask Claire if you don’t know who I’m talking about. She’ll be happy to tell you.;))

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  4. Interesting article.
    I think the way to get a strong female character, or any character, is make sure their choices are what moves the plot forward.
    Even if the girl is a secondary character, not the main one, she should have her own goals, not be something jerked around by the hero. Many characters, especially romantic interests and mentors, have goals that seem to revolve around the hero, which makes them a pretty weak character.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay for LOTRs gals! Eowyn is cool!
    Great post, Claire. It’s so true that a female character can be strong without all the tight leather and stuff.
    I also really liked Lucy from Narnia. She isn’t your typical heroine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Claire! I really appreciated the message and your insight, and your examples remind me a lot of my own female characters. 😉 I agree that female characters can and should be strong inwardly even if they don’t wield weapons or have any other outward and typically “strong” traits. And of course I agree with everyone else that Eowyn is the ultimate in this regard!! 😀 She is incredibly strong not because of her physical toughness and bravery, but because of her wonderful inner traits!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eowyn is an amazing character!! 🙂
      Glad you liked the post! Your point about being strong inwardly goes for any type of character, female or male. Sometimes it’s hard to strike a good balance, especially as I tend to like writing sword wielding women. 😉
      Thanks for commenting, Mary!

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  7. ^EOWYN FOR THE WIN!!! Who, btw, did put the dress back on and raise a family with the dependable soldier (who was also the most romantic and awesome dude in the whole series and that’s saying something).

    “Strong female character” has also become synonymous with “violent, arrogant slut.” We really need more gentle, kind female leads who aren’t portrayed as helpless waifs. Get over yourself, modern media.

    Liked by 1 person

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