The tired trope of Strong Women

Every so often I get fed up with Strong Women and I have to blog about it. In fact, I’ve blogged about it several other times.

What filled up my meter this time were comments on a couple of writers groups that I frequent. First off, a writer was asking for help writing a character. This character is the kickass girl who features in much of Urban Fantasy. In fact, the author had made her SO kickass that they couldn’t relate to her at all. They simply could not write this character. She was shallow as a puddle. The thread was full of helpful advice, including “don’t write her, write the people around her”. So … kind of a Rand al’Thor kind of situation.

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A New Friend by Natsuakai

The other one was a poll about “which would you rather read about: shieldmaidens or sorceresses?”

I yawned at both categories. They’re both Strong Women who would be equally interesting as men. There’s nothing to them.

In an earlier blog post, I said:


In books, I enjoy a strong woman as much as anyone. David Balducci seems to write about tough women with handguns who still manage to be vulnerable. And women are tough. Speaking from experience, you have to be tough to raise kids. When the five-year-old stands there and screams, “NO!” you have to have the willpower to punish him and not let him have his way.

And yet women have this streak of Damsel in Distress, and men instinctively find it attractive. It’s the feminine mystique. Men love to care for their women by doing things for them–putting gas in her car, buying her a coveted item, working long hours to keep her clothed and fed.

Sometimes it’s hard for a woman to let her man do these things. Feminism whispers constantly that she should be out winning those things for herself, and not depend on any mere man.

But as soon as a woman swings a sword, she’s just another man. She’s lost the mystique. (And technically, women don’t have the upper-body strength for swords anyway.)

I recently saw another debate that was splitting hairs about misogyny in movies, and they were complaining about how many times Buffy got rescued by her man-friends verses doing the rescuing. It sounded about 50/50 to me, but man, these women were throwing a FIT.

And yet, I’ll bet you these women read romance novels by the cartload. What happens in romance novels? The heroine is charmed off her feet and into bed by a handsome manporn hero. MISOGYNY!

Source


 

In this blog post, I listed four characteristics of a strong (female) character. They are Strong Moral Foundation, Gentleness, Listening, and Service. For example, this is what Listening means:


The strong character must be a good listener, empathetic to others. Women are exceptional at empathy, but often this is overlooked in exchange for her leet katana skillz. We want our urban fantasy heroine to dice up demons! We don’t want a Doctor Who character who first seeks to understand the monster. Pff, nobody watches that Doctor Who show anymore, anyway!


(And now with Femme Doctor on the way, I wonder how much of his/her character will be inverted in favor of the Strong Woman trope.)

Elizabeth Elliot talked on her radio show about meeting Betty Greene, one of the founders of Missionary Aviation Fellowship. (You can read more about Betty’s astonishing accomplishments in World War I as a WASP, and how she was the first woman to fly over the Andes, here.) Elizabeth Elliot remarked about how she expected a really rough character, but Betty was soft-spoken and very feminine. She asked Betty how she held on to her femininity in the middle of such a male-dominated field as aviation.

Betty replied that she looked around at all the men she would be working with, and she resolved that she would be as feminine as possible. And she said that the men always treated her respectfully.

So, was Betty Greene a Strong Woman? You bet she was. But she wasn’t a feminist, because the goal of feminism is to become the same as a man. She was, instead, a woman. There’s a reason I’m not writing feminist books.

I want to read more heroines who embrace their femininity. If I want to read about someone acting masculine, I’ll read about men. Heck, most male characters have more vulnerabilities than Strong Woman characters. I complain about that here. (Loki, heyo!)

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2 thoughts on “The tired trope of Strong Women

  1. I am so glad you have that link for Betty Greene. I have often wanted to track her down. Elisabeth Goudge has a female person in one of her books, The Bishop’s Watch. The lady is in a wheel chair, and she is such an strong person, yet she doesn’t say or do much she just listens. Its very interesting to read that book.
    I always wish I could figure out how you are able to put into words thoughts I struggle with. Excellent. Mommy brain and all. I hope you had a nice day. Now on to vacuuming! Viva strong women. 🙂 Who needs a sword?

    Like

  2. A fascinating post. Lots of good points to consider. Strong isn’t just physically strong, and anytime we make the persona too simple, we risk writing cardboard rather than nuanced characters.

    Like

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