The Strength Of A Woman - Strong Females in Writing
Updated: Apr 3, 2021
Strong Female Characters, hey?
In other words: Prepare Yourselves, Because I'm About To Go On A Rant™.
This is a theme that's definitely rising in popularity, and we're seeing it pop up left right and centre. I, for one, love to see a strong female lead in a movie or a book. It's inspiring. Provided they're done correctly, that is. Or at least realistically.
Now, I've seen a lot of attempts at making a strong female character turn into some gal with an I've-got-the-power-to-beat-everyone-up attitude. This, to me, does not represent the true strength of a woman. If anything, it's a desperate, overly feminist plea for attention that neglects all details about the character, herself. And, quite frankly, it's insulting to all women.
To me, strength implies the ability to overcome adversity, not to be impervious to it. Strength should come from the character; her background, her personality, the way she reacts to people and scenarios. If I'm reading about a woman who only speaks in snark, beats up everyone who steps in her path (including super buff guys that are ten-times her weight in pure, solid muscle), and never shows a hint of vulnerable emotion, then as a reader, all I'm seeing is a shallow shell; an unrealistic object with far too much attitude and physical aggression, and not nearly enough personality. Does that sound like a role-model woman to you?
The strength of a woman does not come from her ability to best her male counterpart in every single way, and I don't believe anyone should be promoting this, fictionally or otherwise. People don't like it when masculine strength is shown by males constantly outcompeting females, so they shouldn't go all hypocrite and enact the reverse. Just like any other character; a good, strong, well-rounded female protagonist should be made out of a healthy balance of strengths and weaknesses. If nothing can really get to her, then how can she prove just how strong she is? How is she supposed to inspire the rest of us?
Look at strong male characters, like Batman, or Mr. Darcy, or Samwise Gamgee (who, in my opinion, is the real hero of that series). They don't get everything they want handed to them on a silver platter, do they? They're forced to fight for it, or assist someone less fortunate, or change/prove themselves in some way. And even then, in a good story, that fight's going to be a tough one. Added to that, they're surrounded by, or up against, people that are typically almost as good, just as good, or better than they are, themselves. Why should strong female characters be any different? Why should they be surrounded by weaklings in order to be seen as strong? Why does everything have to come easily to them in order for them to be successful? C'mon ladies, we're better than that!
I mean, sure, it'd be great if we could do anything we wanted at the drop of a hat, but that's not going to build us into a better person. And it's certainly not going to make for an interesting character.
As a reader, I want to know that she can be broken, that she can cry when she has to. I want to see her fears rise up and haunt her, and her emotions sometimes get the best of her. I want to see her struggle before she rises to success. I want to see her stretched to her very limits. Let her have her victory, but don't go and hand it to her. Make her fight for it. That's what shows her strength.
A perfect quote (I love quotes) to accompany this is by Bob Marley, and it's something that you've probably heard before:
"You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have."
When applied to this topic, a philosophy like this implies that, through your writing, you're not only showing the readers how strong your character is. Your showing the character how strong she can be. And that, to me, is the kind of strength we should be enforcing. The hidden strength that's been secretly building up through one's whole life - through every experience, good and bad - only to finally show itself when you're just about to reach breaking point, when you're just about ready to give up, but can't because someone's depending on you, or something is depending on you, or you're depending on yourself to get through this.
Our characters, after all, are people first. Make them real, and make their strength seem real (even if they're based on fantasy or something supernatural, give it a believable edge). The best strong female characters that I've ever read are the ones that regular people can relate to, because they're the ones that are going to inspire your readers the most. Use your words and your characters and your plot to show your readers just how strong they can be, too.
Alright, that's my Rant™ over, thank you for taking the time to read through my opinion on this very important matter :)
Happy reading and writing, everyone!