Strong female characters should not be copy and pasted stereotypes


Digital Spy

One of the most popular strong female characters, Captain Marvel.

I love the typical “strong” female character in any type of media—her no-nonsense approach to encounters, her lack of need for a man in her life, and her rough and tumble or dignified and professional manner. While these are all awe-inspiring characters, they fit into a stereotype that is pretty limited.

The words “strong” and “powerful” usually spark a thought of physical prime or high social standing. However, in the case of women in the media, it tends to mean emotionally stable and independent. These are fine traits and thoroughly admirable, but it’s not realistic. Women void of emotion are stiff portrayals of what men think is strong. All humans have emotions—sadness, happiness, anger, and numerous other undefined feelings. So there is absolutely no reason that in order for women to be seen as strong, they should not be able to express any vulnerable emotions.

In fact, showing such a sensitive side enforces the idea that a woman has confidence and strength. Being able to be open and truthful is a sure sign of being comfortable with oneself, and it leads to empowerment and the ability to act of one’s own volition. Unfortunately, the media seems to believe that this is not the case, and female characters that will satisfy the under-represented side of women are to only feel anger and numbness, which ultimately stems from the twisted and incorrect definitions of “power” and “strength.”

Additionally, strong women in movies, books, and other works are almost always successful or become successful, whether it be through saving the world or creating a business that dominates the economy. This is a stereotype that is extraordinarily unrealistic because there are very few people who dominate the world in such a way. Personally, I find strong women commonly in my classrooms, extracurricular activities, and family. There are many local strong people, and they do not have to have world-changing accomplishments to radiate a strong aura. 

Men in the media, on the other hand, can be strong without being accomplished, for some reason. Even if they started on the streets, they’re always at the helm of the adventure and defeating every roadblock while unquestionably being the overpowered protagonist. Usually, they have some sort of female companion who needs saving and emotionally supports the main male. Emotional support is a great trait, but when a woman’s only purpose in the story is to aid the man, that is not a woman who is strong to me.

There is plenty of misrepresentation of men as well, making them immune to stereotypical “feminine” emotions. Despite this, there are still plenty of loveable male characters with their own defined personalities, while female characters are typically limited to being either mean and brutal or totally reliant on the male characters.

Despite this, there are still plenty of loveable male characters with their own defined personalities, while female characters are typically limited to being either mean and brutal or totally reliant on the male characters.”

This begs the question: what does make a powerful woman then? Everyone has their own definition of this since the adjectives can be quite subjective. My personal interpretation, though, includes things that are realistic and within near proximity to me. Confidence is the seedling of all other powers. Though arrogance is dependent on personality, having the ability to believe in oneself is crucial to all other aspects of strength.

Independence is something that must be formulated well in order to be realistic. Everyone in this world is interconnected and, therefore, interdependent. On the other hand, in the media, female characters need to have goals that are not based on helping one of the male characters. I see this all too often, even in my favorite TV shows.

Likable female characters are hard to come by—they are either made out to be “strong” by disliking men, being sassy, and being successful, or no attempt is made to make the character significant; they are completely along for the ride with the male character. This is an inaccurate portrayal and stereotype of women, and it needs to be lost—I appreciate attempts to make “powerful” women, but they should not have to be replications of the same personality over and over.