My Problem With the “Strong Female Character”

Alright, I am going to be honest here, I hate the term “strong female character.” I find it almost insulting and here’s why: Why does a female have to be “strong?” Why can’t she just be a female character without the empowering adjective as part of the description? WHY?

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In my third post, I applauded how the representation of women on television has shifted dramatically in recent years and I still stand by that statement. HOWEVER, I think the “strong female character” trope has a negative connotation that shouldn’t exist. The New York Times described the “strong female character” as a robotic, unemotional women that choose their career over love. And as outtake.net points out, we are essentially turning the “strong female character” into a man by having women be the hero and save the day. Even the word “strong” is usually associated with men.

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And since we are on the subject, another thing that bothers me about the “strong female character” is that for most, something in their past made them embody the trope. Take Mellie Grant from ABC’s Scandal, she is a complex character that weaves between callous and scorned so effortlessly it’s scary. As the show goes on, the audience learns that Mellie was raped by her husband’s father. According to Entertainment Weekly, having female characters be raped is a common thread on television, occurring not just on Scandal, but on Game of Thrones with Sansa and Downton Abbey with Anna Bates. It’s not fair that the reason a female character is considered strong is because she was pinned under a man.

What is ironic about this whole “strong female character” is that in trying to make a female character “strong,” writers make them bland by refusing to show moments of weakness. Invulnerable and emotionless is uninteresting, Bustle.com says and I agree with them. There has to be a combination of strength and weakness to make a character worth watching, regardless of gender.

The term “strong female character” doesn’t sound that ridiculous until you apply it to men. Have you ever heard of a “strong male character?” I haven’t and most likely, you haven’t either because it doesn’t exist. Men are simply written as men, so why can’t women have the same respect?

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2 thoughts on “My Problem With the “Strong Female Character”

  1. Technically the strong male characters, a term i have heard used, do have something in their past which turned them into what they are.
    Oliver Queen witnessed his father’s suicide, lost Shado, and spent 5 years on the island.
    Barry Allen watched his mother get killed and his father wrongfully imprisoned.
    Castle witnessed a murder as a child.
    Booth victim of child abuse by his father.
    House abused by his father.
    Morgan molested by a coach.
    Nick on Grimm lost his parents as a child.

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  2. Really interesting topic, and I agree. It’s insulting and problematic to imply that a woman needs to sacrifice her femininity to be ‘strong’ or valuable. There are many types of strength, and a woman doesn’t necessarily need to shoot guns and beat up bad guys to prove herself a valid character. Intelligence, loyalty, wit, bravery; they’re all strengths as well.

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