I wanted to write a post about “strong female characters” and how confining that term can sometimes be, but I didn’t know how I wanted to write it. So much has already been said about this topic I didn’t know if I had anything new to add, but then I had an idea. Since March is women’s history month, why not write a letter to fictional female characters as a celebration of sorts? After I wrote this post, I enjoyed writing this letter so much that I thought “A Letter To. . . ” could be a really great feature for this blog. I’ll probably do it a couple of times a month, on Fridays, and each month will have a different topic(for example, this month will be to female characters). So, here’s my first ” A Letter To. . . ” feature.
Dear Female Characters,
One of the favorites phrases to toss around when describing a great female character is “strong female character”. I do this too. We like our female characters in books to be strong, but we don’t always define what we mean. Sometimes the idea can be that strong female characters are physically strong only, and we have to fight against that idea. We want role models for ourselves, sisters, and daughters. Some of us real ladies are snarky and sarcastic, and we want to find a character we can relate to. Some of us are stoic, others are emotional. Some of us like working with our brains; we want to be writers and professors and engineers Others of us like working with our hands, and we will be mechanics and pilots and explorers of the world. Some of us fit neatly into the “nurturing woman” stereotype: we seek domesticity and long to create a family and a home. For others, that idea would spell the death of part of our soul that can’t imagine such a life. All of these paths are fine for us. They should be validated. The stay-at-home mother is no less a strong woman than the female army pilot. The woman with the GED is just as strong than the women with the Doctorate degree. These are all acceptable paths for us real women, and they’re acceptable for you, dear fictional female characters, as well.
You can be emotional and still be a strong female character.
You can be stoic and still be a strong female character.
You can be Hermione, Katniss, or Lucy, and still be a strong female character, or be like none of them at all.
You can be quiet and be a strong female character. Just because a character is loud and speaks often doesn’t mean they’re strong. I’d rather have a quiet female character who only speaks up when she knows she’s speaking out against something that’s wrong than a female character who talks just to hear herself talking.
You can have flaws–buckets of them–and still be a strong female character.
You can have fears, even irrational ones, and still be a strong female character.
You can carry a weapon in a war and be a strong female character, OR you can refuse to do so if it’s against your principles and also be a strong female character.
I don’t want to fit all of you, lovely female characters, into a box, because then we just create another restrictive definition of what a strong female is and what she can do. Strong women are loud, quiet, shy, aggressive, brave, fearful, blunt, tactful, or anything in between. I am glad my female role models growing up didn’t all fit into one mold. Hermione taught me it was all right to own wit and intelligence; while Lucy Pevensie taught me that faith has its own quiet strength, and I’m thankful for both of them.
Because a strong female character doesn’t have to a be a character who can fight, is aggressive, or has amazing talents. A strong female character is any character who simply acts to influence the plot, instead of resigning themselves to a story of reactions. It’s a broad definition–which is exactly what the definition of this type of character should be.