By Natalie Issa
Before we start, let me say one thing—I am all for women characters kicking butt and taking names. I am totally down for empowering women who have a nasty right hook or a killer roundhouse kick. But lately, it seems that that’s all we’re getting for “strong” female characters.
Let me backtrack a bit—a while ago, in the age of Bella Swan-esque characters, there seemed to be an outcry for strong female characters to be role models for young women. Some authors heard our cries, and we were graced with a few strong female characters in fiction.
But for the most part, we were granted with female characters such as these: sexy, butt-kicking, scantily clad ladies who utter phrases such as “I’m not like other girls” (gag) or “You punch like a girl” (ugh) or “Stop being such a girl” (BLECH) all the while portraying an emotional constipation typically reserved for their action-hero male counterparts.
To be clear, I enjoy seeing ladies kick butt as much as the next gal. It can be empowering to watch. But when that’s all we’re presented with as “strong female characters”, it gets kind of old. And discouraging. And unrealistic. Like, am I only considered strong if I can take down a dude twice my size?
Why is that strong female characters are constantly portrayed as tough, hard, and emotionally distant? Why do they have to be so dang tough? Why do they put down other women? Why are they so sexy?? Why??
It baffles me. Because when I look around in my own life, I see a ton of strong women that aren’t being portrayed in the entertainment world. I see a bunch of kind moms, BA teachers, creative businesswomen, intelligent students, and tough saleswomen.
All of these ladies are complicated. They’re not perfect—they have their strengths and their weaknesses. They’re real. And they’re strong.
You can’t just stick women into one category. It just doesn’t make sense. A women isn’t just “kind” or “intelligent”. And women aren’t just “strong”. Especially since, nowadays, strong is often defined as tough, punch throwing, and emotionally distant.
Do you know what’s actually strong? Ladies who are real and flawed. In a world where women are expected to be so much, women who unapologetically fall short are undeniably BA. Being kind and soft and feminine in a hard world is strong. Women who are terrified but keep moving forward are strong. Even women who are terrified and don’t move forward, but try again the next day and the next—they’re strong too.
So to all my writers out there—write ladies who are real. Who are unapologetically imperfect. Write tough and ruthless women characters. Write soft and kind characters. Write morally-strong, academically-strong, or even emotionally-strong ladies.
It’s time that we get real. Women are complicated, and we should celebrate that. So ladies—be yourself. Revel in your strengths and your imperfections. In a world where we’re constantly being told what to be and how to act, being completely you is absolutely, and undeniably strong.