In a discussion with some colleagues at work about a book that I suggested would be great to use in school a question I was greeted with was “does it include strong female characters?” The book featured quite a kick-ass female so I was happy to answer in the affirmative but later as I got home I started to think about that term: “strong female character” and what exactly it constitutes.
I asked my husband to list some “strong female characters” from fiction and unsurprisingly the list he came up with were all pretty bad ass: Katniss Everdeen, Lara Croft, Hit Girl, The Bride (Beatrix Kiddo), Xena. However, when you think about it these characters are defined mainly by their strength- their physical power and their feistiness. Now, I love a feisty female in fiction and in real life but in my opinion there is more to a strong female character that simply knowing your own mind and being able to kick some arse. I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly feisty person but it doesn’t mean that I lack strength. Sometimes (particularly in the last year or so) I didn’t really know who I was as a person… but I don’t think that a character going through this type of crisis cannot be depicted in fiction as a strong character. Surely it is the journey and the act of going through these sorts of crises that create a strong character?
Maybe when we talk about strong female characters we mean well developed, fleshed out characters rather than those that kick ass? Maybe it’s the word ‘strong’ that gives the wrong impression? We’re talking about the strength of the writing as opposed to the strength of the character. We’re talking about a character that is more than just a Mary Sue but also more than just a kick ass woman in a skin tight outfit and a gun. We’re talking fully fledged female characters who are as interesting, vulnerable, flawed and strange as their male counterparts.