In the last decade, there has been debate on what makes a strong female character. With feminism demanding equality in everything, what a girl can and cannot do has become a sensitive topic.
Unfortunately, the first response in empowering women was to make women just like men. While this might initially sound fair, the problem is that women aren’t men, and for good reasons. Distinct differences exist between the sexes in order to provide contrast, diversity, and to meet a variety of needs.
Feminism, in my opinion, should be about what women can do and already do, rather than what they should or should be able to do. After all the arguments, men and women still have strengths and weaknesses not possessed by the other.
Making a Strong Character
What makes a strong woman is one that lives up to her potential. Accomplishing the best she can do by utilizing her strengths.
Strong female characters are real characters with their own unique package of complications, strengths, and weaknesses. The next step of creating a strong character is not making them feel restricted by who they are. In place of talking or complaining about challenges, a strong female character with utilize her personal strengths, even and especially the feminine ones, to accomplish what they set out to do. A strong character rises up to the challenge.
A woman’s accomplishments don’t have to be winning a battle or being the best in a man’s career. Accomplishments may be being strong despite the challenges faced, pushing through when it would be easier to give up. Working harder when the odds are against her. Maybe the accomplishment is simply caring for a child when others wouldn’t.
A female warrior may not be the strongest, but she might be the fastest, or full of mercy. The difference is what makes her strong. She may not the most elite doctor, but as a woman, she might be the most empathetic doctor, and that’s what makes her incredible.
Literature and Feminism
I’ve heard in a number conferences that what makes a strong female character is a strong character that happens to be female. I agree that the primary step is to create a strong character, however, I think that being true to who they are is what contributes to their strength. No woman needs to be like a man to be strong. And no woman has to match the societal expectations of what defines a woman.
Fiction is a powerful way to redefine the views and expectations of women. Rather than a character begging for equality, a character who utilizes their abilities and natural talents is a role model of strength. Write stories with strong characters and strong females that rise to their potential because of who they already are.