On Strong Female Characters7:18 PM
A little bit of a rant, today, but I think it's important nonetheless.
You hear a lot about it these days. "We need strong female characters!" "We need strong female protagonists!" "We need more female characters who don't need a man to save her!" By now, it's gotten to the point where I don't feel that we're lacking in characters like this. In attempting to avoid the damsel-in-distress stereotype, we've created a new stereotype that just might be worse, in my opinion.
And now, we have a new problem on our hands.
"We need female characters who aren't emotionless and cold!" "We need female characters who show more personality!" and so on. It's true, at least in my experience.
We don't need strong female characters.
We need strong characters in general.
Now, that isn't to say I don't take issue with female characters whose existence and mental health hangs on a relationship, or characters who simply lounge around and wait for their man to save them and don't do anything else. That is an issue. But I don't exactly want a bunch of 'strong female protagonist' clones, either. I don't care if the heroine has fears, or has a boyfriend, or cries more often than she should, or is totally and completely feminine without a tomboyish bone in her body. I really don't. I appreciate characters who have their own personalities, opinions, and motivations. I care about characters who have a life of their own, regardless of whether or not they happen to fit into a stereotype. And this goes for male characters, too. I think we have a serious problem of trying so hard to avoid stereotypes that we create completely new ones for ourselves, ones that are even more constricting.
I guess I should say before I start this next paragraph that I don't consider myself a romantic at all. I don't enjoy romance novels most of the time. I definitely agree that most romances in YA books are ridiculous. (You can see my rant about love triangles and such in last week's post.)
But what's wrong with having a man save her occasionally? What's wrong with said 'strong female protagonist' being in love while she saves the world? Can't she be self-reliant, strong, take care of herself, and still be in a good relationship? Is she really weak if she has to rely on said boyfriend sometimes? Just a thought.
That being said, I've found a couple of examples of what I would consider to be 'strong female characters', from both ends:
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
First of all, my opinions on any 'love triangle' in The Hunger Games is probably a subject for a different post. I'll leave it at saying that particular love triangle wasn't much of a typical love triangle at all, and felt much more natural than most love triangles featured in books.
But aside from that, Katniss happens to be one of my favorite female characters of all time. She's smart, she's strong, she's brave, she's dedicated to taking care of her family and her sister especially. It's definitely worth mentioning that she's caught up in some romance that she doesn't exactly welcome at first, but works out, and yet while she has that relationship she doesn't make it absolute priority.
Cress, The Lunar Chronicles
Cress isn't the sort of character I would ordinarily enjoy. She's girly, yes, dreamy, emotional, and a hopeless romantic. Her book, however, happens to be my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles series (which is fabulous and worth a read, by the way).
Cress is strong in her own ways. While she longs for a man to save her, and absolutely adores a particularly love interest (obsesses over him, at first, in fact!) she isn't lacking in her own sort of strength. She may not be very strong physically, but her determination and wits end up solving plenty of problems in the book, and Cress can definitely hold her own without sacrificing her girly, romantic nature.
So, to sum it up, there are many different varieties of strong female characters that might vary from this new stereotype we've created. I don't intend to box myself in trying so hard to create a strong female protagonist. I'd rather try my very hardest to create strong, vibrant characters with their own quirks that can hold their own in different, unique ways.
And now, for any potential commenters, a question: who's your favorite female character? Why? (not just in books. This could apply to movies, shows, etc.)