The ‘Strong’ Female Character Archetype

This post was inspired by Samantha Shannon, as some of you know, I saw her at Cymera Fest and again last month at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Both times, something that really hit home for me was her take on ‘the strong female character’ because she was 200% right.

This stereotype is such a shit excuse for people to try and make masculine qualities the strong qualities but while also watering down complex female characters to only their ‘strong’ qualities. Not to mention we would never do this to male characters, compare their strengths based on such shallow identifiers.

Don’t praise masculine qualities and put down feminine qualities” – Samantha Shannon

[^^ Haha, don’t know if it’s paraphrased or not but we’ll say it is, this was like in June and I can’t remember ^^]

The dichotomy of Bellas and Katniss [again based on Samantha Shannon’s words] is something that I see all too much of in this world.]

Why is there a dichotomy? We don’t do this -typically- for male characters.

Samantha Shannon’s point comes from the fact that someone once asked her why Paige from The Bone Season wasn’t like Katniss from The Hunger Games.

Why? Why was that question even necessary? And who were they to say that Paige wasn’t strong just because she wasn’t Katniss??

It really angers me and I’ve actually found myself getting more annoyed with it the longer I’ve thought about it.

One reason is it just utterly baffles me how a character like Katniss whom I love and adore can be taken and have her vulnerabilities ripped away and praised only for her masculinity.

Because I don’t know if you’ve read The Hunger Games but Kat’s strength wasn’t in her masculine qualities, it was in her feminine ones. And I don’t know who these people are remembering but I remember a girl that was strong because of her weaknesses and who made many mistakes and had this amazing role with Peeta in switching gender expectations. This was something else Samantha Shannon has brought up, and she’s so right, Collins turned the stereotypes on their heads and people tried to sweep it away by making it a stereotype itself and not giving credit to it.

This is the Katniss people seem to only think of:

And no doubt these gifs represent a part of Katniss, but I’m going to show you what I think of when I think of Katniss:

 

She idolized her sister Primrose, who had more ‘feminine’ qualities, she was younger yes but she was ‘sweet’ and kind, a healer not a warrior. She saw Primrose as the strong one, the one to look up to, so why do we do Katniss and Primrose and female characters a disservice by stripping them down to how masculine they are?

Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair uses her feminine qualities to try and rise in the world and yet she’s seen as the villain for not being ‘womanly’ enough in the sense that she’s not meek and sweet and honourable.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables has been transformed into a darker character, having been too ‘light’ for the likes of Netflix audiences. Bella is universally hated, for being a teenager in love, and in general ‘girly’ teenagers are written off. We expect the ditzy blond females to die first in a horror film and almost delight in it, why, because they like makeup? [I mean probably because they’re annoying but work with me here lol]

And now disregard Elizabeth Bennett as weak as a general whole, we see these women as inconsequential, and why? Because they’re feminine?

Let’s think back to The Chronicles of Narnia, I’m going to drop some spoilers here so please skip this section if you want.

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Susan Pevensie is essentially denied a chance to rejoin her family in the afterlife, because, wait for it.

Wait for it.

She liked to be girly, to wear lipstick and have fun.

Susan, who was a Queen of Narnia, denied ‘heaven’ because she liked nylons and red lipstick.

WTF.

I LOVE this series so much but to water Susan down just because she had normal interests for a girl her age felt so harsh to me.

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-End Spoilers-

My rant is really just me saying, feminine, masculine, they are all worthy, they all have their strengths, please stop putting down those who show feminine qualities and let’s raise up our female characters, they’re worth more than just being watered down to one of two archetypes.

Let them be themselves, admire them for what they are, which is more than their 2-D labels



 

20 thoughts on “The ‘Strong’ Female Character Archetype”

  1. YES!!! I was vigorously nodding the whole time I read this. People love to build up these strong female characters by their masculine traits but ignore that what makes these characters so great is the combination of these traits. Also don’t get me started on how the girls of Narnia are treated, I always get so angry. Why girls are punished for being too girly in media but are then told by the media that they need to be girly astounds me. It’s like no matter what girls do we can’t win. Anyways, I could rant about this topic for days but thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a brilliant post !!! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. People always want to pit women against each other and try to prove one is better than the other . All women are good and should be loved and respected for who they are. 💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OOOOH. I love your take on masculinity and feminine attributes and damn I remember thinking/feeling this way but so many other things happen that distract from this thought. Lovely insight! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Woah lady. You spilled all the tea in England. And that’s a hella lot of tea. I’m also pretty sure that’s a high crime.

    I recently wrote a post about a female protagonist I thought was completely different and needed but I actually think if may have been for opposite reasons for you.

    Doesnt matter. I have all respect fod this right here. Die on that Hill! I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. yes!!! I agree! Not just learn but she was willing to learn from a sworn enemy- against everything her gut told her and what everyone around said. That takes a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!!!
    Women are not just strong because they are seen to be held to a mens standard; not because they can run around in mud; not because they can fight a guard; not because they can fire a gun!
    They are strong because of WHO they are, like Katniss!
    She has vulnerabilities, and idols, and fears, and so many other things that make her a BEAUTIFUL CHARACTER!

    And like you said with Susan — WHAT THE HECK IS THAT!?!?
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Katniss is such a strong female character but for me when I read the books, she wasn’t strong because of her “masculine” qualities. She was strong because she wanted to protect her younger sister Primrose, her love for her sister, her need to make it out alive is what made her strong. Her compassion for Roo, her love for Roo as well when she died you could see how it broke her. Yet by breaking her, it made her stronger….

    Also I thought Susan was denied because she stopped believing in Narnia? But YASSSSS to this entire post. I love reading about complex characters, and they can be strong in so many different ways. Being strong isn’t just a physical thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was implied that the reason she didn’t believe anymore was because she was too frivolous, enjoying girly things and going out with boys, so, lol you are definitely right, I just wanted to rant lolol, thanks so much for commenting ❤ I'm so glad you agreed, and I totally agree with your opinion on Katniss!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I see you have a gif of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series. Have you read the books or watched the movies? Do you have any thoughts about her? I read the book almost 10 years go and I really liked her character because I hadn’t seen many female characters like her before at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read the first book, not the other two yet and I’ve seen the three movies, I think I really enjoyed her as a character, she’s different, she’s in this morally gray area while still being like ultimately well intentioned and I loved her

      Like

  8. This stereotype is such a shit excuse for people to try and make masculine qualities the strong qualities but while also watering down complex female characters to only their ‘strong’ qualities.

    YES YES YES
    I love this archetype because I am just sick of feminine characters being depicted as weak, but it is honestly still rooted in sexism and it makes me mad that we even have the archetype.

    Liked by 1 person

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