Hello Friends! I am back with another overthinking it post, and today I am talking about what makes a strong female character.
Often in reviews, I see mention of strong women, and it makes me wonder if this is just an overused phrase or if there is some substance to those words. That led me to the question of “what makes a strong female character,” and I did a little digging around the internet to gather some thoughts about that question.
I think a lot about gender roles, how women are portrayed and represented in fiction. Do we see women strong because of their disadvantages, the actions of other characters towards them or the cruelty of men? Do we see women as strong for overcoming or surviving the violence of men? If we do, what about women who are struggling? Are they weak and considered not strong? What about brave? Does a women have to be brave to be strong? Are women brave for speaking out or their willingness to take action?
So let’s talk about what makes a strong female character!
She should be a strong character first who has goals that are well-thought-out and explored—a solid character with clear traits, interests, and challenges/conflicts. She feels fear, is vulnerable, flawed, and has self-doubt.
Gender comes after that. She is well represented without falling into gender roles, norms, or harmful tropes. She doesn’t go against gender traits to make a point, but her character does challenge some of them.
She has her own goals, objectives, challenges, conflicts but doesn’t have a personal agenda. Her goals are tied to her environment(culture, family, social justice, job, etc) and the story’s plot. She takes action and drives the story. She sees the bigger picture, and through her actions, she shows us. She makes hard choices but not just for herself, and she deals with the consequences.
She doesn’t exist because of the other characters. She grounds the other characters and is not grounded by them or is at a disadvantage because of them. Characters are there to support her as she achieves her goals. She is willing to take help and support from the other characters as the story develops but is still self-sufficient. She is strong because of her actions and not the actions of the other characters..
She has a back story that shows us her flaws, and we see her grow as the story unfolds. She has setbacks but bounces back, and we see her develop with each turn to the story.
She is as selfless as she is selfish. She cares about others and shows empathy. She is self-aware of her own truths and the truths around her. She is aware of her obstacles and driven to overcome them rather than bury her head. She fights for what is right and as hard for others as she does herself while being true to herself and others.
We can learn from her!
What do you think makes a strong female character? Drop me a comment below!
4 thoughts on “Overthinking It: What Makes a Strong Female Character”
Reblogged this on Buried Under Books and commented:
Interesting thoughts and I think I agree with your conclusions. One thing I find a bit aggravating is that female characters are frequently described as “strong” but that’s rarely the case with with male characters.It’s as if male characters are assumed to be strong so nothing needs to be said about that aspect of the character whereas it’s kind of an aberration if a female is strong.
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I agree Lelia. It is frustrating. That is something I hope to see change and we see differently. A female character should be written as strong as a man. Female is to identify that the character is female. I read one article and they referred to it as Strong character/female. Character first, gender second.
It was one of the things I question when I see “strong woman”. First I think we need to think of them as characters and I don’t like the term “strong woman” It plays into those gender exceptions. Women can be portrayed as the weaker character. So it’s not all about gender but more about expecting lead characters to be more female and that she is the stronger character that drives the story forward, and she is not there to support the other characters. And she is represented well.
Thank you so much for joining my discussion and reblogging my post!
A thoughtful article and I agree with Lelia. In my Kim Reynolds mystery series, my main character is a woman of moral integrity who tries to help others with their problems. To me, that is what a strong main character is all about.
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Thank you, Jacqueline! That is what got me thinking about this post. Yes! A strong character who is female. The female is to identify that the character is a women. Strong character first, gender second. Please take a look at my reply back to Leila!
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