Until the Top 5 feature starts up and running again by Shana at Bionic Bookworm, I’m going to use Tuesdays to discuss things about books. The tropes, character types and everything in between. I used to write about this on the blog ages ago when I first launched The Secret Library and I kinda feel like giving it a bit of a revival for a little while. It’s fun!
Ages ago I wrote a post about Why We Still Need “Damsel in Distress” Stories (which you can read here) and this week I’m going to talk about something similar: the pros and cons of strong, female characters.
In children’s literature, there is a ridiculous gender imbalance portraying a huge number of boys protagonists and very few girl leads. (There’s a whole Guardian article about it here in case you want to check my sources). When the indie book world began to grow, female protagonists took centre stage and now you can’t move for strong, female leads.
I love it, I’m not going to lie.
But like loads of tropes, this one has its ups and downs. Here are the pros and cons of the strong, female protagonist.
- They make ace role models – role models for kids are so important and sometimes, they’re just as important for adults. To inspire us to be who we are and to live up to our full potentials. When I was growing up I wanted to be just like Matilda and Hermione. Having these kinds of role models made me a little more confident that I could achieve my dreams and it’s important that everyone has that, girl or boy.
- It shakes things up a bit – for the same reason that it’s important to include protagonists from every background, deviating from the norm is exciting. We love reading the same kind of stories sometimes but there’s nothing quite like a fresh perspective. It might be surprising what we can learn seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.
- It encourages inclusivity – history has been kinder to some more than others and it’s about time we broke some glass ceilings. This time one hundred years ago, women were only just allowed to vote, so the world didn’t think much of us. Having a broad range of characters in the adventures we read teaches us that everyone should be allowed a seat at the table. When we are the ones that previously weren’t invited, we finally get to read about ourselves and our lives through the glorified magnifying glass of literature.
- It’s turning cliche – having strong, female leads was very empowering in the beginning and while the message is still loud and clear, it is slightly overused. I’m ready to read some books led by a flowery young lady with her head in the clouds who is just as capable as her hardened counterparts. Maybe she just chases butterflies a little more than most.
- It’s a bit polarising – The hardened women in our books often show no gentleness or softness at all and it downplays the importance of not just being a hardened shell. Hard times create hard people but there are people that exist in between those wearing steel armour and those who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
- There isn’t a three – really, I can’t think of one.
I love the strong, female protagonist trope and I will never not love it. I hope it continues without becoming a cliché, but similarly, I hope that the strong ladies leading the way in the books we read evolve into more complex people that don’t battle with their emotions as if they are afflictions.
Let the armour-clad ladies of literature reign!
Thanks for reading!