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