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What makes a strong woman?

January 2, 2014

In a recent BBC special, an interviewer asked Neil Gaiman how he writes such strong female characters. He responded with: 

‘Well I write people.’ Approximately half of the people I know are female and they’re cool, and they’re interesting, and so, why wouldn’t I?

It puzzles me that this interviewer would expect a formula for how to write strong female characters, especially because female strength has many forms. I think action films have tried to grasp on to this formula where there’s a physically strong superhero or female lead who can keep up with the men. I’m thinking about Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel in the new Hobbit film who is impressive in battle while being the center of a love triangle. Lilly shares how important her character is for female fans in a recent article. Yet, I find that the women I admire the most have a quiet strength about them. They choose jobs they are passionate about, support ideas that may go against mainstream culture, and show kindness to people who need it. I think writing a strong female character becomes so difficult because of the stereotypes about women. For example, you speak up too much and you are a bitch or you don’t speak up enough and you’re passive. Or maybe you’re sexually promiscuous or too much of tease. The list goes on and on, possibly justifying why we are still having conversations about who a strong female character is. 

However, I will point out a giant double standard: An interviewer would never ask how you create complex, strong male characters! Men are often allotted the luxury of having multiple dimensions while female characters fall into one-dimensional bores. 

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Love this! 

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