Female Stereotypes

I don’t know if I’ve made some poor choices lately or if it’s a reflection of ongoing gender stereotyping, but the female characters in the fantasy books I’ve been reading have played into some pretty shitty tropes: the meek and caring girl, the hapless love-driven schemer, the whore with a heart of gold, and the woman requiring rape in order to ‘grow’.

Where is the strong, independent female character whose self-worth and growth is not predicated on a dominant, masculine force?

I’m not saying that a female character can’t look for love or enjoy sexual freedom (hell, yes!), but why does it have to be her most defining contribution to the story? And let’s not even go there on the whole rape trope.

Seriously. What the hell, people.

And, sorry, making a female character a mercenary, sword fighter or ship’s captain doesn’t automatically make them ‘strong’ women. Strong characters aren’t defined by their physicality. It’s the inherent core of their being—their personality, flaws, foibles and decisions—that defines the character.

By plonking women into traditionally male positions which require physical strength, the writer can skip over any real sort of character development and still wave their hands around, saying, ‘See? Strong woman character over here!’ But what the writer is really saying is that these female characters are ‘strong’ despite their gender. They act like men. They fight like men. They’re essentially men with shapely breasts.

This type of writing is lazy, divisive and patronising. And I’m done reading it.

Come on, writers, we can do better than this.

Rant over.

10 thoughts on “Female Stereotypes

  1. You are so right!
    If i could just posit this thought…. the word/idea/concept of strength perhaps warrants a redefinition. It seems that inevitably it falls back on some sense of either physicality or masculinity and thereby, as you described, these portrayals and descriptions of strength are merely caricatures of actual strength.
    The interesting thing about real strength is that it will vary from person to person, depending on what they have to go through… so why is “strength” always viewed in essentially the same way – as a physical marker of someone, or the inevitable overcoming of intense trauma… of course they too are forms of strength, but a character choosing to go left instead of right for what may look like the most simple or obvious reason – could be the most incredible show of strength this world has ever seen, can’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ellen Ripley is fierce! She and her cohorts should be the norm. It may just take people like us to make it happen, either by creating them or refusing to spend time and money on books and movies that don’t value women.


  2. Two female characters I loved were Lady Mara of the Acoma and Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell. Lady Mara was from a book by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurtz. Kahlan Amnell was from the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. Terry Goodkind is my all-time number one favorite author, although I could rack up some serious death threats for that one. He doesn’t hold his philosophies back, so you either seriously love him or seriously hate him.


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