Thursday, May 25, 2017

You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Strong Female Lead

Welcome to the sixth "You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your ___________"!
Yes this is late.  I'm not terribly sorry.

Maggie at Maggie's Musings helped me brainstorm this post!  She's really awesome, you should check out her blog.

Strong female leads:  In all honesty, out of all the tropes I've done so far this one is the least bad, in my opinion.  Yeah, it's full of stereotypes and overused in the name of feminism, but the concept is good.  I'm all for women having as many great and glorious adventures as men.

So if they're not that bad at all (and even good), what is it about them that I don't like?

One: girl is an emotionless abyss.
See, people have this idea that if a girl is strong, SHE HAS NO EMOTIONS.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  This is either because things have happened to her which have made her try to cut them off, or because she doesn't understand them because that's just who she is as a person.  And if she does have emotions, they come in the form of ONE MASSIVE BREAKDOWN WHICH POSSIBLY RUINS EVERYTHING AND CONFUSES A LOT OF PEOPLE.
*cue ugly crying*
The problem with this cliche is it just isn't true.  While there are girls who don't have strong emotions and solve problems logically, there are lots of other girls who are on the other side of the picture and are extremely emotionally driven.  And then there's girls like me, who are in the middle, and let their heart and their head work together to solve problems.  Instead of girls being really mysterious and feeling nothing, LET THEM FEEL THINGS!  Make logical characters, but make emotional characters too!  And make characters who can never decide anything because their heart tells them one thing and their head tells them another and their intuition is telling everything else to just SHUT UP AND LISTEN ALREADY I AM HERE but yet they don't follow their gut and then everything goes haywire!

That was a run-on sentence about my brain.

Writing me as a main character would be an absolute nightmare.


Two: girl is good at everything but insecure.
I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THIS COMING UP EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!  
*stunningly gorgeous girl and stunningly handsome guy are talking*
Girl: I'm so uglyyyyy....
Boy: No!  You're beautiful!
Girl: No I'm not, I'm ugly!  Don't lie to me!

Girl: I can't shoot a bow and arrow!  I have such bad aim!
Boy: Here, try this one!
*girl hits every target ever and also an apple on the rooftop of a house in Spain despite her being in America*

Girl: I can't lead, I can't fight, I can't cook, I can't make speeches, I can't stand up for what I believe in.........
*girl leads entire army into battle and wins on the first try*

So yeah.  This is waaaaay too common and needs to stop.  Maybe it's true that there are people who have talents they don't know about or don't recognize, but REALLY?  EVERY SINGLE GIRL IN EVERY BOOK IS UNWITTINGLY GOOD AT EVERYTHING!  It's really getting on my nerves.  Can I shoot a bow and arrow on the first try?  No!  Can I lead an entire army into battle with terrible leadership skills?  No!  

(also about the bow and arrow: why is it that's all girl's ever use as weapons?  why can't I see a girl wielding a sword as big as she is, forged from the blood of her enemies?)


Three: girl is pretty (but not too pretty).
Lest we mistake her for a movie star or a toad, it must be specified that she is NOT UGLY, but she is NOT DROP DEAD GORGEOUS EITHER.  Nope.  Always the happy medium.  Always floating right in between, a happy cloud of not-too-prettiness.  I guess this is because we can't have ugly main characters, but we also can't have characters that look better than our readers because that's not normal.  Even though we know the actress that plays her in the film is going to be 839,294,000% better looking than all of us lowly worms.

Oh, and we always get this information while she's looking at a mirror contemplating her life and pitiful destiny.  You know, that scene in the first chapter of the book where she talks about her ordinary life and is thrown into a tumultuous plot immediately afterwards?  Yeah.  That scene.  


Four: girl is the one telling the story.
Now I've got nothing against first person present tense.  

BUT WHY ARE THEY ALL LIKE THAT???????

I'm not joking.  It feels like every book I've read with a "strong female lead" has the girl telling the story as it happens.  Why can't we have a different perspective some of the time?  WHYYYYY!??!?


Five: girl is caught in a love triangle.
This is just like, standard, factory-made stuff now.  Of course there's a love triangle.  Why wouldn't there be?  It's like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no jelly.  

And it makes me SO FRUSTRATED!  I don't care about her love life!  STOP KISSING ALREADY AND FIGHT YOUR STUPID REVOLUTION THAT YOU STARTED!  I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIENDS!  NOBODY ELSE DOES EITHER!

For a further rant on this topic please see a previous post.  There will be a link at the end of this one.


Six: girl wears fitting, figure-enhancing clothing.
Granted, this is much more prevalent in films than in novels.  It still frustrates me, though.  In my opinion, the only times it's okay to give a girl a form-fitting, skimpy outfit are:
1. If there are also men in tight-fitting outfits and it's for a purpose.
2. If her job has something specifically to do with wearing clothing like that.
3. If her character is the type of person who would enjoy wearing that kind of clothing.

Star Wars has done a FANTASTIC job with practical clothing:

Jynn Erso from Rogue One

Captain Phasma from The Force Awakens

You see that armor?  You see how it looks almost identical to the rest of the Stormtroopers' armor?  It's just on a woman.  That's it.  Everything else is the same.  It's not hard to figure out.  And it's much more practical.  Instead of a skintight leather suit, or armor that only covers the midsection, try FULL ARMOR, or try loose, flexible clothing.  


So there's my rant.
If you know of any YA books that throw away these cliches, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!  I would love to read them. 


The Love Triangle Post (and the first one in this series):
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Love Triangle

2 comments:

  1. Hehe...the armor one is always funny. Like, you don't see men wearing armor that exposes all of their vital organs. (Although I think that'd be amazing..)

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    1. Yeah. And in reality, it makes no sense at all to wear something like that into battle. Most of the stuff they put women in will do absolutely nothing for you, protection-wise.

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