Strong female character

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Strong female character is a term for a class of stock character. It is the opposite of the damsel in distress stock character. In the first half of the 20th century, the rise of mainstream feminism and the increased use of the concept in the later 20th century have reduced the concept to a standard item of pop culture fiction.

Whether female characters are strong enough is often used as a gauge of story quality by critics, in a similar manner to whether the story passes the Bechdel test. However, some have criticized this metric for causing authors to avoid creating female characters with realistic weaknesses.[1]


According to Carina Chocano, the strong female character has become a "cinematic cliché", resulting in character archetypes like the "alpha professional" whose laser-like focus on career advancement has caused her to become a "grim, celibate automaton", and the "gloomy ninja with commitment issues". By this metric, the strong female character is a woman with the gendered behavior taken out.[1] There is no clear consensus on the definition of "strong female character". Some believe it describes characters with powerful physical abilities, such as those of Buffy Summers or Katniss Everdeen. Others believe it to represent the quality of a character's "inner life" and their relative importance in the story.[1]


Despite the archetype arising largely through feminism, it has not been universally well received by those supportive of women's rights.[2] Sophia McDougall of the New Statesman has criticized the high prevalence of strong female characters for creating a cliché that represents women as unrealistically strong; she argues that the simplicity of this archetype does little to present women in media in a realistic, complex way.[3] Carina Chocano from The New York Times has offered similar criticism for the "shorthand meme" of strong female characters; while she sees them as a "gateway drug" to realistic representation, she takes offense at the implication that female characters are "not interesting or worth identifying with" if they are not cold, flawless, and masculine.[4] In contrast, Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed takes issue with popular interpretation of the word "strong" rather than with the archetype itself; she prefers strong female characters in the sense of well-developed ones given a legitimate point of view over "badass" ones.[5] Kelly Faircloth of the feminist blog Jezebel believes that strong female characters are not enough or required, but that women must have integral roles in the plot apart from helping men realize theirs (rather than, "seamlessly replace[able] with a floor lamp").[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ginn, Sherry (2017). Marvel's Black Widow from Spy to Superhero: Essays on an Avenger with a Very Specific Skill Set. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9780786498192. OCLC 952390126.
  2. ^ "Is Katniss Everdeen Actually A Strong Female Character?". Huffington Post. June 11, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  3. ^ McDougall, Sophia (August 15, 2013). "I hate Strong Female Characters: Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong". New Statesman. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  4. ^ Chocano, Carina (July 1, 2011). "'Tough, Cold, Terse, Taciturn and Prone to Not Saying Goodbye When They Hang Up the Phone'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  5. ^ "Roman Polanski's New Movie Explores The Real Meaning Of "Strong Female Character"". BuzzFeed. June 18, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  6. ^ Faircloth, Kelly (June 17, 2014). "'Strong Female Characters' Aren't Enough, Goddammit". Jezebel. Retrieved June 21, 2014.