When you hear the overused phrase “strong female character,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Maybe it’s Hermione Granger. Shy. Studious. Brave.
Maybe it’s Katniss Everdeen. Badass with a bow. Self-sacrificing.
Maybe it’s Elizabeth Bennet. As independent as an unmarried woman of the time could be. Strong-willed. Sharp-minded.
So who or what was it that you first thought about? Now, answer this: was your first thought someone/something that fits the stereotypes of a strong female character? Type that phrase into any search engine and just watch the endless results load.
On November 20, 2015, K.M. Weiland wrote an entry on her website, Busting 6 Strong Female Character Stereotypes (What I Learned Writing Storming), that goes over 6 common stereotypes that writers let their characters fall into when creating their person. Listed below are the 6 stereotypes she discusses in far greater detail.
- Strong Does Not Equal Violent
- Strong Does Not Equal Bossy
- Strong Doesn’t Mean She Won’t Need to Be Rescued or Coached or Guided in Her Personal Journey by Another Character
- Strong Doesn’t Mean the Character Can’t Be Loved or in Love
- Strong Doesn’t Mean Putting Women in Male Roles
- Strong Doesn’t Have to Draw Attention to Itself
I hate to admit it, but I’m guilty of writing characters that fit into these stereotypes, as well. It’s difficult not to. I think one of the main things about stereotypes is that they exist for a reason. People have expectations (as horrible as it sounds) for people, but they have those same expectations for characters. These stereotypical strong female characters are fun to read. That’s what it is. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Creating new characters that are more realistic is a challenging task that every writer should be up to taking on, though. So, let’s see how the strong female characters in literature will be in 20 or 30 years. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to write the next greatest strong female character and others will start basing theirs off of yours. Or maybe there will always be stereotypical features, no matter how original she seems.
[Credit Note: Image was found through Google Images on an opinion piece by Liz Luu.]