The 'Strong Female Protagonist' Problem7:00 AM
Strong female characters.
If you know much about the world of books and especially YA right now, you'll know that there's a push to write 'strong female characters'. We write blog posts about 'strong female characters'. We rave over books featuring 'strong female characters'. Well, this week I'm going to be blogging about 'strong female characters', but not necessarily in the sense I usually hear it.
Who do you think of when you think of a 'strong female protagonist'? Katniss Everdeen, that-girl-from-Throne of Glass-whose-name-I-can never-spell, Tris (apparently), and so on. The girls who kick butt and don't need no man to save them.
This frustrates me.
Now, not always. Katniss is a favorite character of mine, and there's a time and a place for this, as with most things in fiction. Every once in a while, you just need a character who can beat up on everyone and shoot some guns and punch someone. Sometimes it's necessary for the plot -- you need a character like Katniss to be able to survive the Hunger Games.
But this is not the definition of a strong female protagonist.
I don't know, I just feel like this is an important distinction to make. Because I've read a lot of books where this kind of character feels the need to shame other characters in the book for being more girly, or she's painted as never needing help ever, or she's just plain rude to guys and we're told she's just standing up for herself. There's the implication that 'strong female protagonists' can't be girly, or less physical, or want a boyfriend (you know what? they're teenage girls. That's totally realistic and okay.) or any of that. I dislike this greatly.
Strong female characters have unique personalities, because people do.
Strong female characters have likes and dislikes and favorite types of music and favorite types of clothes to wear and
Strong female characters can have boyfriends. Strong female characters can want to have boyfriends, or be boy-crazy, or whatever the heck they happen to be like.
Strong female characters rock those old jeans.
Strong female characters rock those sparkly sundresses.
Strong female characters are introverted or extroverted and partiers or bookworms and they don't have to feel stupid for whatever it is that they like.
Strong female characters are people, and dang it, they deserve to be written as such in all their different nuances. (Just like male characters deserve to be written in complex ways, because they're people too. Heck, why don't we just approach writing all characters as fully complicated and developed people?)
Strong female characters are well-developed, well-written people, and come in all different types, and they're all awesome.
Yes, this is a bit of rant, but I just felt like I needed to get that off my chest and into the world, because it's something that annoys me. It's also worth mentioning that just like real life, 'strong female protagonists don't always fall into the categories of shy-bookworm or blonde-cheerleader or hardcore-warrior. I mean, look at me! I like being a bookworm, but I also like being a fabulous princess or a karate master (I wish) now and then. Because guess what? Girls are complicated. Girls are awesome in how wildly varied they are.
Who's your favorite 'strong female protagonist'? How do you approach writing female characters in general? (On Thursday I'll be posting about my favorite non-standard 'strong female protagonists', so stay tuned for that.)