“Strong female character” is one of those shorthand memes that has leached into the cultural groundwater and spawned all kinds of cinematic clichés: alpha professionals whose laserlike focus on career advancement has turned them into grim, celibate automatons; robotic, lone-wolf, ascetic action heroines whose monomaniacal devotion to their crime-fighting makes them lean and cranky and very impatient; murderous 20-something comic-book salesgirls who dream of one day sidekicking for a superhero; avenging brides; poker-faced assassins; and gloomy ninjas with commitment issues.
And while Carina is right in a lot of ways (so many authors and producers are lazy and interchange physical strength and masculine behavior with actual character development), one thing I want readers to remember is that cardboard characters are cardboard characters. It doesn’t matter if they are women or men. Any good character has to have depth!
The real problem is that in order to “show” us that a woman is strong, so many authors often pick the lazy way. Show that strength is physical. Kick ass female characters are the mainstay in action, science fiction, and fantasy movies and books.
This lazy portrait leaves out so much. Real women are complex and adding depth to their stories can only help. At it’s heart authors are saying anything “traditionally feminine” qualities are not strong, sending the message that femininity is weak. To be a strong character, to really make a difference, you have to be a man and abandon anything indescribably feminine: feelings, beauty (not related to sexual appeal of course), children, and even friendships.
But I call bullshit. History is littered with real life strong feminine women. ( Nancy Wake, aka the White Mouse. Mariya Oktyabrsakaya, Russian tank driver. Ida Bell Wells, civil rights pioneer. Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette and mother of five. The list could go on for days.) If real women can be both feminine and strong, why is it so hard to find examples of this in our fiction.
So what makes up a strong female character?
- Strong women can be sexy and embrace their sexuality, but they can also be girly, nerdy or motherly. And yes, strong women characters can also kick ass.
- Strong women can be smart. It’s always better to think before acting. Using your brain instead of your brawn is the best course of action in 9 out of 10 times. Just ask sherlock!
- Strong women can be emotional. We all have feeling. There’s nothing inherently weak about self doubt, fear, or regret. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. -Mandela
- Strong women can accept help without being weak. A good hero knows how to surround themselves with helpful allies.
- Strong women can save themselves. Accepting help is one thing, but being passive is a whole different story.
- Most important, a good strong female character is complex with many layers, like ogres Onions.
The Bechdel Test has been all the rage the last decade, and while I think it has some valid points I prefer the newly minted Strong Female Character questionnaire. The questions are valid like: Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?
But the closing statement says it all:
So maybe all the questions can boil down to this: Looking at a so-called Strong Female Character, would you—the writer, the director, the actor, the viewer—want to be her? Not want to prove you’re better than her, or to have her praise you or acknowledge your superiority. Action movies are all about wish-fulfillment. Does she fulfill any wishes for herself, rather than for other characters? When female characters are routinely “strong” enough to manage that, maybe they’ll make the “Strong Female Characters” term meaningful enough that it isn’t so often said sarcastically.
Lotus Petals by Gina Drayer
Published by Self published on Jun 20, 2014
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
The dead are easy, it’s the living you have to worry about.
Olivia Harmon keeps to herself. As an empath, her power not only allows her to experience other people’s emotions, but also influence them. It’s a heavy burden to carry, and the main reason Olivia has always been more comfortable around the dead. As a small town funeral director and assistant county coroner, she’s able to keep her distance from the day to day drama of the living.
Having power doesn't always mean you're in control.
After a series of seemingly unrelated deaths, Olivia discovers a hidden connection that puts her right in the middle of the investigation. Using her gifts to free an innocent girl from the grips of a powerful dark magic should have made her the hero. Instead, Olivia becomes the prime suspect.
Now the center of attention, Olivia must choose between keeping her distance and maintaining the carefully constructed life she's built or doing what's right and risking everything.
There are actually two giveaways here today, one for the tour, and one for this stop.
Win 1 of 5 ebook copies of Lotus Petals by Gina Drayer. To enter, please leave a comment naming one of your favourite strong female characters. Winner will be chosen at random on Sept 17, 2014.
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