STRONG female characters, Mary Sues and Manic Pixie Dream Girls… What the Heck is up with Female Characters in Books!?

thoughts orangutan

Hello all! So as you guys may know I was reading Kingdom of Ash recently. As the final book in a l-o-n-g series, you’d expect there to be some changes from the original works, and that’s fair enough. But there was one tiny issue that bugged me: most of the female characters had become warriors (though #notall). Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good kickass heroine and I didn’t by any stretch of the imagination dislike this book. Yet there were two things that struck me with this decision: a) Celaena, as she was originally known, stood out less than she had in previous books (where she’d been an exception to the rule in a world where there seemed to be few female fighters) and b) it kind of leans in to the idea that women *have to* be more masculine in order to be considered strong women.

Time and again, I’m finding that female characters are being type cast into the “strong” role of warrior. And it doesn’t seem to just be one character- it’s got to be the bulk of them. Regardless of whether the author wants to dress up this character in girly clothes and makeup, I don’t think there’s any denying the fact that their heroism predominately comes from their ability to kick ass and not their penchant for applying lipstick. Often it feels shoehorned in and doesn’t seem to be a necessary part of the character (like Clary in Mortal Instruments, who already had killer powers). It also doesn’t seem to matter if the world obeys the laws of earthly biology or not- it seems to be something we have to accept the predominance of the warrior woman in the large bulk of genre fiction (especially fantasy/sci fi, but even in historical fiction as well). Unfortunately this mentality seems to bleed into real life- I can’t tell you how many times (mostly male/female feminists) have criticised me for not being physically strong. Because, in case you didn’t know, I’m a regular girly monkey who doesn’t have the superhuman ability to kick butt.

orangutan in dress
Guess I’ll just use any excuse to get dressed up 😉

Evidently, I’m not crazy about this trend for many reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Buffy growing up and like the occasional Wonder Woman style heroine. I also think this can really work in the fantasy genre- such as with characters like Nona from Red Sister, who come across as representations of shadow and myth. HOWEVER, I don’t recall it being the case that these were the *main* and *only* kind of female characters. Even when it came to Buffy, there were a bunch of other roles fulfilled by female characters. And thank goodness for that- because Buffy wasn’t the character I gravitated towards anyway! I’ll let you in on a not-so-surreptitiously held secret: I always identified the most with adorkable-brainy-oddball Willow- cos that’s who I found relatable. And this is a bit of a trend for me. While Tamora Pierce is famous for her Lioness character, I fell in love with Daine from Wild Magic. I adored the heroines in books by Eva Ibbotson- who never went raging to war but were fearless nonetheless. And I know that a few of the heroines in Game of Thrones fall into this super strong type- yet I love the series because it plays with every type it introduces and never presents a singular view of people.

A lot of the reasons this arose in the first place was a desire to challenge the status quo, to create something different and be appealing to a wider audience. And yet it’s not relatable; and somehow it has become a type. Regardless of whether they wear dresses or not, this STRONG female character is close to becoming a caricature just like any other irritatingly unrealistic representation. Many might have heard of terms like Mary Sue and Manic Pixie Dream girls getting (over)used all over the internet. What I understand about people that have problems with both of these, is that it’s irritating to see so many poorly conceived female characters. Naturally, these don’t simply apply to female characters- there’s always the people who shout “sexist” first and ask questions later (fyi for all those offended by the term Mary Sue, Marty Stus are a thing as well). And of course sometimes the criticism can be unearned- such as the infamous example of 500 Days of Summer using the Manic Pixie Dream girl trope… when it’s actually a deconstruction of that idea. Also, naturally, as in the case of unfinished or contentious works, these terms can be open to debate (as much as I’d like to insist that Rae from Star Wars is 100% a Mary Sue). So, whether in reading or writing, I think it’s good to be careful how we apply these terms- because boy is it frustrating to see characters reduced to nothing more than a trope.

If I was a lonely voice in the crowd, one could say I was a random butthurt woman (or “wahmen” 😉 ) blowing things out of proportion. Yet, I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks this way. In recent years, I’ve seen amazing articles from fellow readers like the lovely Kelly over at Another Book in the Wall, and videos from the likes of the Authentic Observer and even Jordan Harvey on similar topics. I know there are so many more- so forgive me if I left any obvious ones out. Point is: perhaps the zeitgeist of public opinion is changing. Maybe, just maybe when people were crying out for different types of female characters, they weren’t looking to be type-cast into yet another role. All I have ever wanted in fiction is believable, interesting and realistic characters. Wielding a sword is optional.

lagertha fighting.gif

Hope you didn’t mind my somewhat rambly thoughts- I just wanted to get all this off my chest. What do you think about this trend? How do you like your female characters? Let me know in the comments!

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97 thoughts on “STRONG female characters, Mary Sues and Manic Pixie Dream Girls… What the Heck is up with Female Characters in Books!?

  1. I enjoy a strong badass leading lady. However I will admit that I have also noticed the same character traits in a lot of the books that I have been reading. They dress them up differently but the outcome is always the same. So yes, I guess it’s kind of hard to not ask yourself what type of message are they trying to send out 🤔

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  2. Same. I sometimes feel as if I’m basically reading the same books with the same characters, and I think we can do better. And I agree that the “badass warrior who also likes frilly things” is just not that different from “badass warrior who hates dresses” so we can stop pretending it is. There are different ways to be strong! And, honestly, not everyone even *has* to be that strong.

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    1. I really agree with you there- I’d just like to see more variety. And yeah- to be honest it’s a bit of a superficial difference to me. And absolutely! I love when books show all different kinds of strength and I can also respect characters who maybe aren’t as strong as others. It’s okay to show vulnerability too.

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  3. Great post! I am only on Throne of Glass and am not enjoying the main character too much. I read The Assassin’s Blade, but she is not a great character to me. Her personality flip flops from extreme girly girl to killer of men and I just don’t buy it. I am going to continue the series, but am having some iffy feelings. This is a great post! I think about the YA female main character pretty often as the majority of them are on the nose obnoxious to me.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah i can understand that- personally, I began reading it a long time ago and liked her character back then cos it felt more different. Looking back, it’s perhaps not as great as I remembered. And yeah I so relate to you there- cos I often struggle to like the mc nowadays.

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  4. I haven’t read many YA, and even less of those “warrior women” ones, so i haven’t come across many of these tropes. But it is not enjoyable when all female characters are basically just cliches and tropes and are not like actual people. Most real people are not just one thing.

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  5. I’m open to a warrior woman character in a book. Women really can be warriors, after all. I mean, would you really want Serena Williams coming after you with an axe (or even a tennis racket)? But the ‘dainty girly girl who is also a badass warrior who can beat up men twice her size with just her fists’ thing is just aggravating. Much as I like to read about a good warrior woman, I want her to be realistic. And I’d like to see women portrayed with the full spectrum of skills and abilities that real women in the world have, not just the Warrior Woman, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or the other handful of tropes that show up in so many books.

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    1. Like I said, I’m not against it and it can happen- it’s just not my favourite character type since it’s not as common as these books would make it seem. hahaha that’s a funny image!! I don’t think I’d want that either 😉 And yeah I do agree with you there. I don’t think it makes much sense when it’s always the dainty girls… but to me, that doesn’t mean girls who aren’t as physically imposing should be written out- like you, I’d appreciate seeing girls with different skill sets. And yeah I absolutely agree- I don’t want them boiled down to just a trope.

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  6. I’m also tired of the “strong female lead” only being represented by a warrior. I like strong characters, but I don’t see why strength has to be shown with a sword. In my opinion this shows just how entrenched our society is in toxic masculinity. Instead I would love to see more characters (both male and female) showing their strength in other ways. It was one of the reasons I loved The Goblin Emperor so much. Maia and other characters ARE strong, but nobody ever picks up a sword! It’s also what I’m loving so much about the Wolf Hall series! I feel like this is something especially lacking in YA, for whatever reason, and is a big part of why I’m getting so burnt out of that genre.

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    1. I really agree with you there. I love strong characters, but that doesn’t mean they have to be a warrior every time. Like you, I don’t think strength can only be shown with a sword. And I want to read both of those books- so I’m really glad to hear they both don’t conform to that (though I had an inkling with Wolf Hall 😉 ) And yeah I can understand that completely!

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  7. Agree to disagree about Game of Thrones the changes made to Brienne and Arya, in the series especially, were pretty much what brought this one to the boiling point for me. But one could write a thesis work on female representation in that book/show (and someone probably has.) You raise good points though. I think getting sick of the trope has just made me look all the harder for work that subverts it or just plain has better representation so… bright side! Great article!

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    1. Fair enough! I’m not saying that the tv show does a great job all the time with the characters or that the books are perfect, cos they’re not. hehe that’d be an interesting thesis! And that’s such a great point! I’ve definitely reached that point where I’m bored of it too! Thank you so much!

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  8. Yeah, it has become a bit cliched. And with all cliches, they start out strong 😉 but then they get boring because they all end up being copycats. Give me interesting characters. Real, flawed, strong… whatever. I just want characters I care about and can root for! (And like you said… Wielding a sword is optional.)

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  9. I’m fine with “strong female characters” when they feel like real, three dimensional people. I’m also OK with female characters occupying a more conventional role, if they also feel like real, well thought out people. I think that if a character has thoughts, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, etc that character will resonate because people can identify. Tastes and opinions about what a female character “should” be change over time. Different tropes gain and lose popularity. So the way to avoid making a character seem like a dated cardboard cutout is make that character three dimensional. If the reader can identify with the character as a fellow human being (even if the character isn’t technically human!) then that character will continue to resonate.

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    1. Totally get that. I’m happy with either conventional or unconventional, provided they feel real and like you said, come across as well thought out. Increasingly, I don’t feel like that’s the case and to me personally it feels like a lot of unconventional portrayals seem to be to prove a point rather than for the sake of character development (for instance, in the book I mentioned in the post, a female character who was introduced as a spy-like character became a warrior by the end of the series- which wasn’t an improvement on an already strong female character- it just suggested the only way she could express her strength was in a physical way now). And yeah, I do agree with everything you’ve said- just got a bit carried away 😉

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  10. This will be interesting because I’m on my THIRD gin of the evening but I pretty much agree with you. I don’t like any kind of stereotypes because people are multifaceted and I find them unrealistic and reductive – especially when you see them over and over.

    I think it’s really interesting what you’re saying about female characters essentially taking on more masculine traits in order to be seen as good strong role models. I hate that – I’m a tiny blonde girly looking girl (even if I am secretly quite strong and good at lots of traditionally boyish things) and I very rarely see a heroine who reflects someone like me. It’s one of the reasons I love Arya – I’m so glad she didn’t get given a whacking great big broadsword and told to fight in the same way as the men.

    I think there’s always been a lot of negative connotations attached to anything feminine and I’m really not ok with that.

    Also, who is criticising you for not being physically strong? Throw bananas at them for being so rude!

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    1. hahaha hope you enjoyed!!

      And yeah I definitely agree there!

      I can very much relate to that. It’s funny because whenever I have to think of female characters I actually relate to, it’s really hard (and usually it’s only ever the same few that come to mind) which is a shame cos a lot of what I read is dominated by female characters… and yet they don’t resonate with me a lot of the time. I really do agree with you there- Arya is a great example because she was always a tomboy, but that didn’t mean she became the next Brienne (in the books at least 😉 )

      And yeah that’s definitely true unfortunately.

      hehe it happens- I’ll do that next time 😂

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      1. I did enjoy my gin, thank you! I actually had to go and read my comment again because I’d entirely forgotten what I’d said 🙈

        Is that because you read overly simplistic YA? 😉 Seriously though, I feel like it will take YEARS before we start to value more traditionally female traits (whether they’re evidenced by male or female characters) so we’ll be waiting a good while yet.

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  11. I completely agree. Women don’t need to take on traditionally masculine characteristics in order to be strong. There are all kinds of women and all kinds of ways to strong. Usually authors can showcase this more when they have more than one female character, so I find it odd that an author would slowly transform the bulk of female characters into warriors.

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    1. I’m really glad you agree. And yes absolutely! I definitely think that. And yes it’s a real pity- especially since I was discussing one of the changes with my sister and seemed like an odd choice for them (they were a spy type of character, but transformed into a warrior by the end of the series, which negated the different kind of strength they’d shown earlier in the story and was a real shame).

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      1. That IS odd! People love spy characters! Why change her into a warrior? It also seems potentially out of character. People who like sneaking around don’t seem like they’d necessarily be the same ones charging at people with weapons.

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  12. I love warrior woman but I do hate how that’s the first thing that pops up when we think of strong female characters. Plenty of characters are deserving of being called a strong female character and they don’t wave a sword around.

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  13. I actually don’t mind a cliché, I can’t kick ass, but I am one of the strongest person I know… So in my books, I don’t mind if a heroine is typecast as long as she is intelligent and does not play damsel in distress waiting for man to rescue card…. I generally don’t care how she is dressed or if she is given masculine characteristics, as long as she can think for herself… I hate simpering, fawning, vapid main characters…
    I haven’t read any of books mentioned. But I have seen Buffy, I liked her, but I didn’t like her decisions, hence I would disconnect with her depending on the episode.
    My view may not be the popular one, but this is what I like…

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    1. Well I think everyone’s entitled to like whatever they want and I don’t always dislike it- I just wish it wasn’t turning out to be the majority of strong female characters. I just think strength can be portrayed in different ways- like you said, you’re the strongest person you know, and yet that doesn’t mean you can physically kick ass. I just wish there were more characters like that in books. I’m not a fan of vapid characters either- so I agree with you there.
      And I also do like Buffy, I was just pointing out I preferred Willow, if that makes sense.
      No worries! You’re very welcome to like whatever you want 🙂

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  14. I like my female characters strong. I enjoy reading about the kickass ones precisely because I’m not. Heck, if I try to kick something I just end up hurting my toe or ankle! 😉
    But I don’t think my heroines need to be aggressive and physically strong to be great. I liked Willow more than Buffy too… cuz as much as I liked Buffy, I saw more of myself in Willow. Thankfully in the genres I read more of the females’ strength doesn’t have to play out in a physical or aggressive way. Cozy sleuths mostly have to just be clever. ☺️

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  15. Agreed. It seems a solid confrimation of the strength of the prevalent patriarchal attitude that in order to appear strong a woman must start to resemble a man. Not only in books, in movies as well. Take the movie I already criticized long and often, Thor: Ragnarok, where Hela is a character turned on her head, a lost warrior sister to Thor and Loki :/, bigger and badder than both of them.
    It’s also a rather new trend, I’d argue: women in books by Robin Hobb or Ursula le Guin, for example never needed to become warriors to show their inner strength. This trend seems strongly influenced by UF, I think 😉 And don’t get me started on Rey 😉

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    1. Well yeah it’s very frustrating to see strength portrayed as masculine a lot of the time. And yes, definitely agree that this happens *so much* in movies as well. That’s a really good example! Very much agree!
      And yes, I definitely see this as a new trend. While it did happen in older books, even books that were famous for having female warriors like Tamora Pierce, there were still characters who fit outside of that trend. hehehee better not- I had to really rein myself in from going all out on Rey in the post lol 😉

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  16. Don’t those points apply to male characters as well? Most strong male characters are shown to be warriors who kick lots of ass yet I’ve seen hardly any criticism against them. Maybe the problem is just badly written
    one dimensional characters.
    ,

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    1. Well, talking about female characters doesn’t, to my mind, preclude talking about male ones. The reason I was addressing this was because it’s a current and particular trend. And yep, I definitely have a problem with characters just being boiled down to a single trait. Incidentally, I have talked about male characters who were not warriors (like Kvothe for instance) going down the sword-wielding route unnecessarily, just because it was what’s expected of the character in order to appear “strong”.

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      1. I agree. I just feel that female characters get more flak for that sort of thing than male characters do. Not blaming you for that, don’t take it the wrong way.
        I did not know Kvothe does that (I’m currently half way through the first book). That is a bit disappointing. One thing I liked about the book so far was that there was not much emphasis on fighting unlike most fantasy books, which was refreshing.

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        1. Well, I think there are two reasons for that: 1) it’s a current trend and a new thing, which means people are bound to examine and question it and 2) it doesn’t reflect a lot of people’s reality. I’m not saying that everything has to be about realism or that there has to be conformity, but asking people to constantly suspend their disbelief is going to create more questions.

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          1. I don’t think having physically strong women who can kick a lot of ass is harder to believe than dragons and stuff. Saying that I can see it’s not for everyone.

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            1. Yes, I’m just trying to explain why people will question it more. It’s not that you can’t do it or that you shouldn’t- just explaining why people might question it. Especially if it goes against the rules of the established world (eg in a world where women are shown to be physically weaker, it’s interesting to play with the idea, but not necessarily make every female character a warrior cos that’s boring and doesn’t make sense in the established world) Also not discounting that art is often a reflection of reality, even if it’s fantastical

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  17. I wholeheartedly agree with all of what you said, love! ❤ It's such a shame when the only way a woman can be considered "strong" is if she's a kick-ass warrior. There are so many ways to show power and strength through means other than physical strength, and I wish authors would illustrate this more often. And THANK YOU for linking to my post! *sheds tear* You're too sweet! ❤

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  18. Sorry about the previous comment. My mobile keypad was malfunctioning.
    I disagree with the idea that strong warrior type female characters are a result of the idea that women have to be like men to be strong. In settings where there is an emphasis on war, fighting etc. there is very little scope for non action characters. If you don’t write women who physically kick ass in such settings, you’d end up having no female characters at all, or only damsel in distress type characters. Women who kick ass do exist and in certain settings, those are the type of women who would get to do things. I’ve heard characters like that being dismissed as ‘men with boobs’ which I think is rather insulting towards women who don’t confirm to traditional ideas of femininity.
    Of course, it would be nice if we could have more well-rounded characters and not physical badasses. However I don’t think that’s necessarily a gendered issue. It is unlikely most male readers would be able to kick ass the way male characters do in books.

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    1. No worries. I think I’d disagree with you there- because there are most definitely other types of characters (and also a lot of the genres I’m talking of don’t specifically *have to* have a war setting). But even if they did, in fantasy, there are magical roles, and in both historical fiction and fantasy there are roles such as healers, strategists, politicians, ladies of the court, performers, spiritual leaders etc. I think it’s very limiting to only think of these things in terms of warriors vs not warriors- and to see anyone else who’s not a warrior type as a “damsel”. And yes, this can be applied to male characters as well. But the reason I focus on women, particularly in settings where this is relevant, is that there is a biological and physical difference that would mean the prevalence of women in certain roles does shift. In my view, women don’t have to conform, but it would be nice if some books could recognise the existence of femininity beyond superficial things like wearing a dress or putting on makeup.

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      1. I do agree that there are other roles. However in some settings the number of characters in less and the warriors are the focus and in such a setting it would be realistic to have the main characters be warriors regardless of gender. Regarding biological differences, I don’t think that matters that much in a fantasy setting. A lot of authors create unrealistic characters and still manage a willing suspension of disbelief . A lot of cases it is wish fulfilment- for instance I’m not the type who could kick ass in real life but I like imagining myself to be like that while reading fiction. However I do realize that may not be for everyone, nor is it applicable to all genres.

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        1. I don’t agree that that’s the case- because there are physical attributes that make some people more desirable warriors than others. I think it does matter if the author engages with human characteristics and biology. And even made up worlds have to have rules. If the rule is that there is no difference biologically, then have at it, but bear in mind this won’t necessarily resonate with a female audience. And yes, I do agree that this can be wish fulfilment- and like I’ve already said, I’m not opposed to this on occasion- I just think it occurs more frequently than one would expect.

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  19. Another wonderful discussiob post! Ok my two cents speaking “in general” I agree with you. The best example is Kestrel from the Wiiner’s Curse. Not a warrior but strong female MC. Now for KoA I think we overlook that in time of war people change and rise to the occasion! At WWII many women had to learn new “manly” skills because it was needed! Also maybe Aelin drew in women with a warrior potential bacause that’s what would be needed later? But I do agree that she does not shine alone any longer.

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    1. Thank you very much! Ah yes I loved Kestrel as a character- she was brilliant!! And that’s true- except that in WWII the large majority of women entering male roles didn’t mean they physically fought- women showed their strength and bravery in other ways (and this is also reflected in women’s choices after the war as well). To me, strength doesn’t necessarily have to be physical and I feel like that’s overlooked a lot of the time in some fiction. I think that could have been a fair view (much like how the lioness in Tamora Pierce books later inspired other women) but I think in the time allotted there wasn’t room for that to manifest and it also meant that previously established characters developed in a way that wasn’t necessarily true to them (Lysandra is a good example, because she had a fascinating, subtle role as a spy, which showed a different kind of strength… but morphed into kicking butt by the end- which, to me, made her less interesting). Also by introducing a lot of characters who were warriors all along (and who Aelin might have known about) made the whole part about her being special for being a female assassin less relevant to begin with. That shock of her being a young girl *and* an assassin wouldn’t have had such an impact- so it kind of becomes a plot hole that suddenly all these people who were femlae fighters turn up. Anyway, hope all that made sense!

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  20. I am not a fan of the strong female character mostly because when an author uses this trope, it becomes the one defining feature of that character. They never seem to have any other personality trait other than kickass.

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  21. Personally I think that we like characters that we can relate to or admire; when this new wave of feminism started we started seeing powerful female central characters and people got behind them. Now, however, I think the bandwagon has been jumped on too many times and, what was once new and exciting, has become cliched. Therefore, in attempts to recreate the popularity that these characters had in the beginning, they become more and more exaggerated and therefore less relateable. When you add in the long legs, perfect hair, pouty lips and an excess of leather to the mix the ‘strong’ female lead just becomes a parody.
    ps. I started reading Scythe yesterday – you were right, it’s very good :O) x

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  22. This is a wonderful topic, one I’ve been thinking for long – thus it made me to pick up my YA fantasy books carefully.

    Just like you, I’m so over this “kick ass women who rely more on brawn than brain” trope. I mean, a female lead can save the world through number crunching as well!

    She doesn’t have to throw that spear every goddamtime. Also, such emphasis on “making women more masculine” in books got me into thinking that- the authors should mention what happens to female warriors when their bodies go through transformations- be it menstruation, menopause or childbirth.

    I mean these things can’t be swept under carpet. *Sorry for hogging your space * 😛

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    1. Thank you so much! I really relate to that- I’m increasingly avoiding certain books where I just know it’s going to fall into this trap.

      Ah I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Absolutely!!

      YES!! And yeah I really agree with you there!!

      Ah I so agree! No worries- I enjoyed your comment 😀

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  23. This is definitely true and I think it’s effects are seen across media from books to TV shows and films. I think this came from a desire for female characters to be front and centre and to be the protagonists of their own stories but as a result, they’ve been written to be masculine. And speaking of Buffy, while I loved that show and her character, I always saw her reliance on her physical strength as being a weakness at points. The number of times she tries to punch her way out of a situation rather than talking it through (especially with Spike) was huge and I thought it was a solid character flaw that was linked to her superpowers. Great discussion!

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    1. Yeah I’ve definitely seen this across all mediums. And yeah, I definitely understand where it’s come from. And that’s a great point- I really agree with you there. I think it’s generally great when any strength is exposed as a weakness as well. And that’s explored to great effect in Buffy (gosh I loved that show 😉 ) Thank you!

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  24. I think sometimes, people assume that a “strong woman” is basically the opposite of a “feminine woman”, which I don’t agree with. It’s a pity that more modern novels don’t explore different facets of what ‘strong’ means – for example, I think Fanny Price for Mansfield Park is a strong character, in that she stands up for what she believes in even though she’s generally very meek and mild.

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  25. Such a fantastic post. Kate Elliott has written about this at length, I think she may have even had an article on Tor about the topic of ‘strong women characters’ and how strength doesn’t just mean physically strong but just a well fleshed out character in whichever role and also how people should write more than one type of female character into their works and all of that stuff.
    This is also one of the reasons why I really liked the newest Mackenzi Lee book, because one of the messages is that women can be strong in various ways and you can still love frilly dresses and be a feminist. 🙂

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  26. This is a great post, and I loved reading your thoughts on the topic too. I haven’t read Kingdom of Ash yet (it’s on my TBR list so it’s probably going to end up a priority of mine for 2019) but yeah I’ve noticed there tend to be a lot of women-warriors in books now. Don’t get me wrong it’s great to see kick-ass female characters in books but sometimes you do need a bit of variety.
    I’m read The Lady’s Guide by Mackenzi Lee and someone else in the comments pointed this out too but there’s a great character who is smart and definitely kick-ass but loves feminine dresses and make-up and she doesn’t let anyone look down on her or discount her for those likes. All the female characters in Mackenzi Lee’s books are so well written and so different too. 🙂

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    1. Thank you! Oh cool! Hope you like it! And yes, I really agree with you- I don’t actually dislike it, but I wish it wasn’t the only role for a lot of characters in books nowadays.
      Oh I just heard somebody else praising that exact same author and it makes me really excited to read her work! I actually have the first book on my kindle 😀 So that’s really great to hear!!

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  27. I like it when females are known for more than just being female. Like the Strong Woman is still identified as being a Woman, you know what I mean? It’s almost as if by identifying some one by their gender forces them to be stereotyped. Take Doctor Who. The latest doctor is now known as the “Female Doctor.” None of the male Doctors were ever known as the “Male Doctor.” But maybe I’m just being nitpicky.

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    1. Ah that’s a really good point! Personally, the reason I’ve made the distinction is cos it’s made a big deal of in the book. If it had been integrated in a way that it wasn’t a big deal, I wouldn’t have noticed. But the thing is, particularly with this trope, the desire to reflect reality is naturally going to draw attention to this. And that’s a good point about Doctor who.

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  28. This is so true! Many a time I’ve been trying to figure out why “strong female characters” have to lean towards the tough warrior type. I agree that it’s all fine and alright, but that this shouldn’t be the only way to depict feminine strength. A random example I thought up on the spot is Queenie Goldstein from J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts. Compared to her sister Tina who is much more tougher in appearance and mannerisms, Queenie (who adores pink and is leaning towards the pastel aesthetic type – if this makes sense), is in no way weaker. She displays a different strength (the only difference being her exterior, I guess)!

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  29. What a brilliant posts. 👌 You managed to articulate extremely well what has been going through my mind recently, bravo! 👏

    These so called STRONG female characters really bug me too. I love Tamora Pierce’s books because her heroines don’t mind asking for help and their strengths are in their vulnerabilities, not their abilities to kick some butts (even though they can do that too lol). And I also preferred Daine to the Lioness… And Willow… 💕 She was my fav character in Buffy as well. ❤️

    I think it’s important to show that being brave doesn’t always mean screaming and roaring. That bravery has many forms. That saying: I’ll try again tomorrow, I love you, I can’t do it alone, I don’t know how to do this… are all forms of bravery. 😊

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  30. I completely agree with this. This was actually one of my issues with the particular series mentioned from the get-go. There are so many types of strength, but I feel like lately there’s a very specific type of woman being portrayed particularly in YA fantasy and it definitely is becoming a type of Mary Sue. She’s got to be sassy, brash, and butt-kicking while still being physically desirable. I loved the Tamora Pierce reference. Daine was actually my favorite.

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m really glad to hear I’m not the only one. And yes I really agree with you about there being other kinds of strength- which unfortunately rarely get portrayed in books! And yeah that’s so true. That’s awesome!

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  31. The strong, fighter type of girl has really annoyed me in books and movies over the last couple of years. I agree with this post. I never got passed Throne of Glass, but I remember that there were a lot of complaints about Calaena being an assassin who never killed anyone for several books. I don’t know how the changes later helped or hurt her character development, but that was the reason for the changes.

    The only time I’m into the strong female trope is when it’s used more appropriately, like Katniss Everdeen or Mac from Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley. Katniss had to be this tough to survive the harsh realities of living in District 13, and she’s shown in other lights when she has to visit the Capitol or fight to be out of the 75th Hunger Games. I like Mac because she is someone who wanted to go to this military school where she is in the first class that allowed girls in, and she is forced to deal with hazing and figure out who in her group that she could trust to not let her get literally killed. She even has to accept help from a hacker girl and watch as the other girls find different ways to try to survive. These books give good reasons for making the strong, fighter girl type and complicate it in a way that would make sense if this were real life.

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  32. Oh! Yes! Brilliant! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What get’s me is how people seem to forget that much of what women “are” is from homones: more nurturing, less muscled, and less prone to violence. I keep pointing out to people how wrong it is to celebrate and support boys who want to be princesses (which is great), but then turn around and judge girls who want to be princesses. They will also cheer on transgendered people getting hormone therapy when they start feeling and acting more emotional, but then scold other women for being too emotional. As long as it’s not hurting themselves or others everyone should just be allowed to be happy. And you are right, there need to be more female characters who are strong in hormonally female ways. 👍✨

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  33. What a fascinating topic! I’ve never really thought about the labeling of female characters as “strong” tends to be the ones that are physically strong. There are so many different forms of strength. There are those that are emotionally strong, intellectually strong, spiritually strong, morally strong, etc. I agree, just because a woman is not physically strong, doesn’t mean she is not a “strong” female character.

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  34. Great post! I do think women can be strong warrior characters it’s just when that idea is over used too many times and it starts to get old. They do need to be realistic as well. But it is nice to see character development when a weak character becomes stronger through certain events xx

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  35. We subconsciously cater to patriarchal standards when we insist on female characters being strong like a “man.” Excuse me?! The strongest people I know are those who possess feminine qualities, they’re gentle, sensitive, they cry (including men) and they’re freakin’ resilient. Women as women are strong. It’s about time we see more feminine characters. Not only that, I think it demonstrates just how deep internalised misogyny goes and it’s sad to see female readers lack this self-awareness, like come on, root for your own team. I wish Characters like Fleur were given more pages because I think she’s an excellent example of a feminine strong character.

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