Firstly, Happy International Women’s Day to everyone!!
Secondly, I thought today would be the perfect time to discuss the perfect female character.
And by that, I mean to break the illusion that there is ONE perfect female character.
Today I’m NOT talking about how to create a female character or what qualities make them likable. Nope. Today I’m talking about how we always go on about female role models and how that got me thinking about what we want from a heroine. Naturally I fall to qualities like strong, brave, beautiful, resilient and smart.
But then I realised…
Heroines aren’t a list of qualities they must have to be worthy of admiration. People limit what a female role model can be which is the total opposite of what empowering women is about. It isn’t about one woman. It is about every woman.
Hermione was smart and powerful.
Katniss was a fighter and powerful.
Nina was confident and powerful.
Cress was scared and powerful.
Evelyn was ambitious and powerful.
Laia was optimistic and powerful.
Yennefer was haunted and powerful.
Emika was determined and powerful.
Rin was brutal and powerful.
Izzy was sexual and powerful.
Frances was introverted and powerful.
These female characters can be admired for many different qualities. One isn’t better for what the others lack. They have different strengths; it isn’t a competition. It’s just a selection of winners. Feminism doesn’t mean saying women need to be this, it is saying I need you to be yourself.
MY 3 MAIN PROBLEMS WITH HOW WOMEN ARE TREATED: *
*some of these issues aren’t limited to females but I am focusing on that for today’s post and this obviously isn’t in every book. This is focus on the industry as a whole, not just the authors.
Women don’t need to be everything, to be everything.
There is this term ‘triple shift burden’ showing how nowadays women have to be financial independent as well as being the main caretaker and emotional support. It shows how societal changes have just led to women having to do more instead of the equality of the sexes. Now this is a term focusing on family roles in heterosexual relationships, but I can apply the logic to my point here. The fact that now women have to be everything to be worthy of being looked up to and admired. When in fact, no we don’t. Lots of women have different strengths and can be admired for those strengths, instead of hating them because they aren’t enough. It is too much pressure for them to be held up to perfect which no one can live up to no matter their gender. I’m not even going to get into the double standards where they have to be sexy but innocent.
Imperfect Characteristics and Complex Females
Women should have less than perfect qualities because women aren’t perfect (as perfect is a myth). I like women who are angry, annoying, ambitious, dangerous, lazy, selfish, rude, cowardly, arrogant, dishonest, mean, proud and rebellious. Often female characters aren’t given the complexity of male characters, they sadly aren’t as well received as males. Sometimes audiences can be straight up like ‘I only like morally grey characters when they are white males’. Or ‘arrogance is only attractive in white males’. But they should be written because they are well-rounded, well written females who reflect reality. Females characters shouldn’t just be written for the male character to show his strength and his heart or because you like the way they look.
Stereotypical feminine qualities shouldn’t make a female character seem boring or become less valued because of it.
Yes, we are trying to show that women can be anything so naturally we might pull away from the stereotypical feminine qualities to highlight women are more than these old stereotypes. BUT it is important to remember that pink isn’t weak, liking iced lattes isn’t basic and wearing make-up isn’t wrong. The only thing that is wrong is this mind set. My grandma once said to me ‘I was so disappointed when you liked barbies’, I didn’t need it then and I don’t need it now. Feminism values choice and these women who are called ‘basic’ are not as simple as you want them to be. End of conversation.
RELATED: This video is amazing and is similar to what I am talking about but focusing on the film industry. Please do watch it, it’s clever but in truth really heart-breaking.
OKAY, SOME REAL ISSUES WITH FEMINISM IN BOOK:
She’s strong but only because I’m being told that aka failure to execute
You keep telling me she is all these qualities but fail to execute it. Woman can be whoever they want to be but if you want a female character to be, say, a strong warrior, you can’t have her always in the need of being rescued and especially always by men. You can’t have all the power in the words, and none in the actions. You have to back up your characteristics so she can be a real figure to look up to, otherwise it doesn’t really count.
You can’t pick and mix characteristics/appearances
Let women be apologetically themselves. I’ve seen in a few times where people are unwilling to give the women proper qualities to match how they are presented. For example, female warriors described as thin when, in reality, they would have a lot of muscle. Or them being an outspoken person but they act refined all of the time. You want them to have all the different traits and strengths but still box them in what a ‘woman’ should look and act like.
Sexism is a big thing, I’ve written a whole post about feminism and how females are portrayed but the world is complex and unfortunately there are many inequalities from racism, homophobia, ableism, islamophobia and more. You must recognise other inequalities and not just focus on sexism, letting it overshadow other issues because it has privileged supporters. There is such thing as white feminism, just don’t let it be your thing. And speaking as a white, middle class, straight female I may experience sexism, but I am in the best position for females and still have a lot of privilege. There are a lot of difference within women as well for example lesbian, bisexual, race, religion, poverty and trans women. They will all face different, individual experiences which should 100% be seen and not ignored. You need to listen to these important voices.
So, I want the damsel in distress (because I don’t need to be told that I can’t be saved, it can leave me very alone, just have them saved by other female characters), I want the female warrior (who has the appropriate muscles), I want the arrogant women, the quiet women, the women with different shapes and appearances. There are so many wonderful women who can be role models to so many people and I don’t want this to be restricted to one woman. I want it to be every woman. I need it to be every woman.
There is no guideline to a perfect female character, I hope you know that. All I ask in that you make sure every girl growing up and every person reading a story knows they can be anything they want and that is all they need to be.