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Why We Don’t Always Need Strong Female Characters

“Strong female character” is a phrase commonly used to appeal to readers and viewers. A “strong female character” is typically defined as a Katniss Everdeen type. Someone that is physically strong as well as mentally, someone that is a leader, someone that doesn’t need help. I transitioned from watching Disney princesses getting saved by princes to YA heroines saving themselves. I grew up reading about badass women in lead roles. I learned what our society depicts as strong female characters.


These characters literally kicked-ass. They were strong physically and mentally. They didn’t take anything from anyone. People respected them. They stood up for themselves. They were smart and cunning. They proved time and time again how “strong” they were.


But here’s the problem with that. Strong is an adjective. Sure, one can be strong. One can be of strong physically and mentally. But strong should not be the only thing describing these characters. Strong is a word that cannot encompass any one person. People are more than that. They are complex and have many layers to them. Female characters have always been classified as either incredibly weak or incredibly strong. But this isn’t and shouldn’t be true in any form of media, whether it be literature or television. Women are complex and multidimensional, they are human, and should be written as so.


Don’t get me wrong. Female characters that are physically and mentally strong are vital. We all need role models that can hold their ground and are in leadership roles. But why can’t we look up to the characters that aren’t traditionally strong? Why can’t we have role models that mess up? That are what we perceive to be weak? Why can’t we look up to a women that waits for the prince to save her? And why should that be the only characteristic to her? Why can’t we have a female character that kicks ass but also wants to be in love? Why does wanting love make someone weak? What is so wrong about someone that takes time on their appearance? What’s wrong with someone who doesn’t? Why aren’t women that aren’t our traditional bad-asses weak and petty? There are different ways to be strong. I want to read real women. There is nothing wrong with being a damsel in distress.


Women have so many layers to them. You can’t simply define them as either strong or weak. I want to be able to look up to people. We can’t all be like Katniss or Hermione, as hard as we try. I want to mess up and be able to look at my favorite character and see that they did the same, and that that’s okay. That it doesn’t make me weak but it can make me stronger. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be like Katniss and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be like Rapunzel. What I get from every women now being written as strong is that you think anyone else is weak, and what’s wrong about that?

No one ever questions if the male leads are strong. But female characters must prove over and over that they are strong and capable. Maybe if we wrote both male and female characters as human beings this would stop.

I don’t want to read about someone perfect.

Give me characters that I hate. Give me characters that are petty. Give me ones that are jealous. Give me ones that make mistakes. Give me ones who cry every day and give me ones that never cry. Give me characters with depth. Give me someone I can relate to. Give me someone that I could never be like but I can understand.

Salinna Lor is a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. She's addicted to coffee, frozen yogurt, vloggers, Kate Spade, and writing. You can catch her on Instagram or Twitter (@salinnalor)
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