Who’s sick of strong female characters? Not me, that’s for sure. And hopefully, not you either.
Here’s the deal. I think people tend to equate strength with physical power. And in that context, well, I can see how ass-kicking females of the literal variety might get old after awhile. (Although, hmmm…Buffy, and Rose from Vampire Academy? I can’t ever get enough of them). But strength comes in many forms, most of them way more important than the purely physical type.
There’s the strength to get out of an abusive relationship (Caitlin in Dreamland by Sarah Dessen), the strength to change something you don’t like about yourself (Sam in Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver), the strength to use your brains to stay alive (Katniss in Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). There’s the strength to not bow to peer pressure, to support your family if someone is ill, to reject stereotypes. The strength to drag yourself up from the brink of despair and survive (Melinda in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson).
Why do I think strength is so important to female characters, especially in YA?
First off—I don’t want to read about ANY characters that are complete wimps, male or female. I mean, what’s the point? And I’m not saying I want to read about Superwoman either. The only thing as bad as an utterly wimpy MC is one that is perfect–*yawn*. Yes, characters should have flaws and weaknesses, but good story-telling shows us how a character changes, and learns from her mistakes. Or, if your character doesn’t change, then shows us the negative impact this failure to change has on her life.
What’s guaranteed to get fellow YA writers up in arms? To NOT show us the repercussions of the MC failing to become strong, and instead saying by default–hey, it’s okay to be a victim and a wimp. Especially if you get the hot guy at the end. That’s more than a tad unsettling.
Which brings me to the second reason why I think it’s so key to write strong female characters. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s 2010, women are still battling a lot of power imbalances and extremely disturbing gender stereotypes. Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself the question Tracey asks in her post—would anyone be saying they’re sick of strong MALE characters? I rest my case.
I mean, we still live in a society where many young girls—and women—define their self-worth in terms of who their boyfriends are or how many guys think they’re pretty. I don’t buy into that, and I certainly don’t want my MC to, either. And if she does at the beginning of the novel? She sure as hell better not by the end.
Wait, whoa, what? How did I get from writing strong MCs to gender roles to self-esteem in girls? You know what? I think I’m going to let you figure that one out.
Check out my awesome writer friends who blogged on the same subject, probably a billion times more eloquently than I did:Share on Facebook