This is a response to Kate at katereadslit and her recent piece on strong female characters in literature (I suggest you check it out!). Her piece got me thinking a lot about this trend and what it means and the messages it sends to girls. Lately there has been the rise of “strong female characters” in literature, especially in YA. And I want to first stress that this is a great thing!
…But there’s a problem with this (actually many problems with this, but I’ll start out with a whopper): THESE STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS ALL LOOK THE SAME! The smart, physically strong, capable, brave, clever, sassy, bold heroine who’s the chosen one leader of the uprising. My problem with that: IT’S UNREALISTIC!
As women–hell, as human beings–we are unique and diverse. We are born with great qualities, but lack in other areas and that’s OKAY. You don’t have to have every good quality on earth to change the world, you just have to be you and the good things you bring to the table will be enough! You can be brave and shy. Or selfless but not too smart. Or bold but not clever. You can be anything and not everything!
My other major problem with the “strong female protagonist” is that I feel like she sets unrealistic expectations for girls. She says, essentially, “If you’re not everything, you’re nothing.” And that’s a horrible message to send (and I think it’s exactly the opposite of what authors and publishers are trying to say).
So I say to girls: You don’t have to be brave AND selfless AND kind AND bold AND smart AND clever AND everything else under the moon! Being just one of those things is an accomplishment!
My main point: I’d like to see more diversity in the kinds of strengths and weaknesses we see female characters have. I want to see someone who is brave but physically weak. Who is morally strong but not stubborn or determined. Who is emotionally weak but brave. I want to see someone who’s human. Because that’s a beautiful thing in my opinion.
Anyway, that’s all. I’ve made my point and given you my two cents. Thanks again to Kate for sparking a great discussion! Tell me in the comments your thoughts and opinions on the strong female protagonist!
Until Next Time