Female Role Models in Fiction: Are They Lacking?

As a lot of you may know, I’m active in the world of social media. I have a Twitter, Facebook, and an Instagram. I love YouTube. Another thing I love is politics. So it’s only natural that I use social media to get involved in politics. For better or worse.

One trend that I’ve been noticing is that people are saying they grew up without female characters in TV, literature, or movies that they could look up to. My question to these people, what exactly were you watching? Because I have never had a shortage of amazing female characters to look up to.

When I was little, Inez and Jackie from Cyberchase were super cool female characters. I always thought they were amazing! I loved Kim Possible and Shego. Princess Leia from Star Wars was another amazing female character in my life. I devoured all of the American Girl books, each one with loads of smart and strong female characters. Another incredible show I watched when I was little was Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. The cat Blossom was always one of my favorites. She was smart and funny and she had a way of speaking without ever saying a word.

When I got a little older, seven or eight, I was introduced to the world of Harry Potter. Out of this came Hermione Granger, a girl who showed me that being super nerdy and clever wasn’t such a bad thing. Being smart and studious was cool! Luna Lovegood showed me that it was okay to embrace your quirks, and to not let anyone’s opinions change who you are. I still admire Luna to this day. She’s shown me so much.

Entering my teenage years, I found Tris Prior from the book Divergent. She was my role model, and got me through some seriously difficult times. When I wanted to give up, I remembered her strength, and how she was both vulnerable and strong at the same time. I love her so much. The lessons I learned through her are invaluable.

But now, I am finding a lack of female representation. And not because there aren’t enough girl characters, there are plenty, but because all of them seem forced. People have become so obsessed with the idea of ‘strong female representation’ that female characters have basically become boys. ‘Strong’ females characters have become defined by their muscle, and how many bad guys they can take down at once. Feminists call it empowering, but I don’t need politically correct female power force fed to me to make me aware of my own strength. I’ve always had that. The characters I grew up with taught me that. They were raw, emotional, and strong. And sure, some of them helped around the house, did chores, cooked meals, helped take care of their siblings, and had crushes on boys but it’s okay for some woman to want that. Everyone, man and woman, should aspire to be helpful, responsible, and willing to do their part. The world would be so much better if we all helped and loved each other more. We need to break down this new idea of woman like men: more stubborn, brutal, emotionless, vulgar, and crude. I feel like this is what modern day woman aspire to be, at least a lot of the feminists I see on social media. I think more woman should aspire to be like the characters I grew up with. Smart, studious, helpful, kind, empathetic, and loyal. Of course we should stand our ground, not as woman, but as people. There is a time and place to fight and take down bad guys, but it shouldn’t be the base of who we are as people. We were created to balance out our opposite gender, and they were created to balance us. And no, I’m not saying girls can’t enjoy ‘boy things’ and boys can’t enjoy ‘girl things’. I’m only saying that there is a balance between the two genders, and modern day feminism is taking a gigantic step across that line.

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One thought on “Female Role Models in Fiction: Are They Lacking?

  1. Interesting post! I agree with a lot of what you said. For the sake of conversation I have a few things to pose to you and expound upon for interest’s sake:

    In the beginning, you mention how you never had a lack of female characters to look up to and I think that’s great! I would agree that for the most part, I’ve always had some sort of female character to look up to. There was never a COMPLETE lack, and the female characters that were represented were, in my opinion, pretty strong characters.

    However, I want to take this analysis a step further. Even as a child, I recognized that there was, compared to male characters in mainstream media, a distinct and significant difference in representation between the sexes; in most media, the ratio of female characters to male characters is almost exclusively about 1:3 (1:2 at the very least). What does that say about female representation in media? Additionally, women have been almost exclusively reserved to secondary roles in media aimed towards the general public (rather than media aimed towards girls or boys exclusively). Things are getting a lot better, but the divide is still somewhat apparent. Men make up the majority of main characters in all media. I’m reminded of a tumblr post making fun of the whole “heroic team” thing where all of the characters are male except for one or two females (for example, Power Rangers, Avengers, Justice League, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Harry Potter, etc.).

    I totally agree with your argument on femininity in female characters. In the recent past especially, female characters have been increasingly masculine (which isn’t necessarily bad, but the overwhelming amount of it does send even more negative vibes towards femininity than it already gets). However, I think there is an explanation for it (though I don’t think this is an excuse).

    In the past, women have always been not only secondary characters but often just plot devices for male main character’s heroic deeds. Take, for example, the “damsel in distress” trope. In a lot of older media especially, women were used to verify a male character’s heroic-ness and/or masculinity rather than being their own characters. If a female character (or any character, really) is in a story solely as a plot device or for the uplifting of another character’s hero narrative, we usually deem that as a weak characterization since they play no real purpose in the story as an individual.

    Consequently, a lot of people, because of this outdated trope, associate femininity in female characters with this “damsel in distress” and with the “mary sue” trope, meaning female characters are perfect and without flaw (again, weak characterization!). Most of the Disney princesses (with the exception of recent ones like Mulan, Tiana, etc) fit into the mary sue trope. Because of these all-to-common tropes and stereotypes and the lack of real use of female characters in a lot of media, female characters are consistently weaker than male characters.

    I think the recent uprising in “masculine” female characters is a combination of two things: 1) overcompensation of creating “strong” female characters and 2) society’s (men’s) unconscious negative attitudes towards femininity (for the most part). Masculinity is definitely prized over femininity these days, in both men and women in my opinion, and I think the toxic idea of hyper masculinity is only being reinforced by the overwhelming amount of “punch and shoot” female characters out there right now.

    Ultimately, the whole idea of “femininity is for girls” and “masculinity is for boys” needs to go tbh, or else the world just needs to change it’s opinion on femininity. The whole idea of femininity as being “soft, kind, sweet, innocent, emotional, etc” vs. masculinity being “strong, brave, responsible, powerful, etc” is so dangerous to both boys and girls. This rhetoric implies that men cannot be emotional and women cannot be powerful. Ultimately, I think that’s what this problem boils down to: gender stereotypes.

    To end this ramble/discussion/explanation/research paper (lol) on a light note, I do think things are taking a positive turn for female characters! More than ever, females are taking lead roles in mainstream media, and their characters are more often an excellent and REALISTIC combination of “masculine” and “feminine”. Two of my favorite characters that come to mind are Rey from the new Star Wars movies and Wonder Woman.

    Okay, I gotta stop now. Anyway, great post, very though provoking, and sorry for writing an ENTIRE FREAKING RESEARCH PAPER IN YOUR COMMENTS LOL I started talking and kept thinking of things. Hope this sheds some further light on the subject or at least opens up some new topics for you to think about!

    Like

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