Are You an Anti-Strong Female Protagonist Protester?

Have you read the protests? Did you nod your head and agree? Are you Anti-Strong Female Protagonist? You say you’re not against strong female characters, you’re against the label, the marketing term. Perhaps you’ve overlooked the reasons we need book and movie categories for strong female characters. Consider rethinking and rephrasing your argument.

Yes, there are reasons to wish we didn’t need this label and there are lots of books and movies that get the strong female character wrong. But not all women recognize a strong woman or know how to be one. For now, we need all the strong female protagonist examples we can get.

Drawing of non-gendered humans, one with a bull horn yelling at another one who wears a black tie and is jumping back, startled--the anti-strong female protagonist protesters yell, sometimes without examining what they really mean.

Where the Anti-Strong-Female-Protagonist Protesters Get it Wrong

It’s a sign of male oppression, so say the anti-strong-female character devotees. Yes and no. Yes, the patriarchal societies of the world often/usually/always suppress the females in their societies. That oppression is wrong-headed, but real. Like it or hate it, it still exists in far too much of the world.

“Male characters aren’t labeled that way so female characters shouldn’t be.” It would be a wonderful world if we all naturally understood that both males and females are powerful characters. Too bad that’s not reality.

To say that we shouldn’t have a label identifying strong female characters seems to imply that all females know they are strong therefore we shouldn’t need the label.

Let’s take a moment and agree that oppression of one gender by another, oppression of one race by another, and oppression of one religion or ethnicity by another, is wrong. Let’s be clear: all oppression of one set of people by another is wrong. Oppression exists on all kinds of levels. Pretending it doesn’t exist is also wrong. To pretend that we’ve overcome oppression is wrongheaded.

Let’s Rephrase It

When you read the posts by members of the anti-Strong-Female-Protagonists movement, they claim the label has somehow led to a proliferation of females with male characteristics. It is this that they contend is the problem. They believe that somehow authors have bought into the idea that to be strong, females must shoot and kill and “act like a man.”

Hopefully, they are not suggesting that it’s unrealistic for females to shoot or kill or “act like a man.”

When you examine their complaints, it appears the are talking about poorly developed characters. Characters who exist solely to forward the plot. Or characters with less than deep and believable motivations.

So instead of protesting the label because of poorly written characters, let’s rephrase and complain about flat characters. Flat characters are unsatisfying, especially when the flat character is a female.

Why the Label is a Good Thing

Few matriarchal or true egalitarian societies exist today. Many women from patriarchal societies or relationships have had no mentors to teach them how strong they are. Some need to learn how to be strong. They need mentors and examples in books, movies, and in real life. Some of those examples may not meet everyone’s definition of a strong female. That’s okay. The woman next to you may see herself in that character.

Despite more and more authors stepping up to portray female leads, stories with female protagonists remain a small percentage of all stories published. Some readers seek stories with female protagonists. The label “strong female” is a marketing tool that helps readers find these stories.

Needed: Strong Females 

Your mother, aunt, or grandmother may have been a self-actualized, powerful female and mentored you. That’s great. Not all of us are so fortunate. 

Some of us need print and movie examples. Many of us need to be shown all the ways we are strong. If you haven’t had the life experience to help you identify your own strengths, examples help. Giving the world lots of fictional examples, all kinds of strong females, allow girls and women to see and test what kind of strong female they want to be. Please, allow them that opportunity.

It would be ideal for every female to have examples of the perfect, self-actualizing females surrounding her. But then we’d have to all agree upon what the perfect self-actualized female looks and acts like. And that’s not respectful of the diversity of human society.

Why Not Strong?

Is it truly the word strong you are protesting? Would you prefer simply female protagonist? That’s not a very compelling label for marketing.

Perhaps you would prefer using the same labels used in stories with male protagonists. For example: action hero, dumb jock, rogue, strong and silent, etc. The list goes on.

How would you rephrase “strong female protagonist” so readers can find those stories?

Don’t Throw Out the Label, Yet

Are you a part of the anti-strong female protagonist movement? Please protest patriarchal oppression. And protest poorly written, flat characters. Don’t throw the label “strong female characters” out. Some day the label will have fulfilled its purpose. But not today. Today we need strong females–everywhere.

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