Putting the Female Back in “Strong Female Character”


Honestly, I’ve been meaning to write this since the first Supergirl trailer and Age of Ultron came out, but better late than never right?  Here goes.

I’m so excited to watch Supergirl I can barely contain it. Not only is she female superhero and wonderful and all that jazz, she’s a girl. When I say that, I don’t just mean that she’s female. She’s bubbly and feminine and I love it. I feel like with the whole trope of the “Strong Female Character” all we’ve gotten is a guy with boobs, female but not allowed to be feminine.

As an example, I give you Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you haven’t seen Age of Ultron yet I find that sad and I want you to stop reading this and go watch it immediately. For the rest of you, you’ve probably heard about the Black Widow controversy. I want to call bull on that. Essentially what Joss Whedon did was he made her more human and people hated it. Why? Black Widow’s (Natasha Romanoff’s) big thing has been that we haven’t been given much backstory on her so she gets to kick butt and be Russian and we love her for it. In Age of Ultron, we get some of that backstory. As part of the Red Room, her “graduation” was being sterilized. She can’t have kids ever. Now I’m not saying that all women have to have kids. There are a lot of women that don’t want to have kids and that’s fine, but having the ability taken from you is highly traumatic. Your autonomy has been taken from you in a way. You can no longer change your mind later if you end up wanting to have kids. Not only is this emotionally traumatic, but it’s traumatic to the person herself. Sterilization can cause all kinds of problems, not the least of which is early menopause. The fact that Natasha has been sterilized is very humanizing for her character and it disrupts the mysterious persona she has been given. But why can’t she kick butt and be human, in a distinctly female way?

After this, I was watching Legally Blonde and I realized that Elle Woods was exactly the person I’d been looking for.

Yes. Elle Woods can totally own law school while wearing pink and yet we don’t call her a strong female character. Again I ask why? I think it’s because she doesn’t fit the “man with boobs and a gun” label. She’s intelligent, she’s opinionated, and she spends her free time getting her nails done. Why can’t she have it all?

In the middle of the spectrum marches the wonderful Agent Peggy Carter. She’s gorgeous, she can kick butt in heels, and she can cry because some douchebag shot her roommate in the head. She’s allowed to care and have emotion without us thinking she is weak, because we all know she could kill us with a stapler if she were ever so inclined.

This is the next step. Now that we’ve established that women can be strong, we have to establish that they don’t have to be pseudo masculine to do so. I may or may not be able to beat you senseless with a stapler. That shouldn’t be the qualification for being a strong woman.

What do y’all think?


12 thoughts on “Putting the Female Back in “Strong Female Character”

  1. While I like to see females in a lot of different variations, and that includes girly, having actually seen the Super-girl pilot I am not excited at all. They are playing the “female character” angle so hard that it comes off as sexist. It has nothing of the careful subversion of stereotypes Legally Blonde managed to do so well.
    And the Black Widow problem is way more complicated than you make it out to be, but explaining this would take too long.

      • https://swanpride.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/marvellous-and-dcent-black-widow/

        That’s easier, than taking the movie apart yet again. But in short, I have two questions for you:
        Do you believe that we will ever see a storyline in which The Winter Soldier bemoans the fact that he got castrated because it was more convenient for his wardens?
        Don’t you think that it is a little odd that after everything which was previously established about Natasha’s fears and regrets – whatever she did in the children hospital, the red in her ledger, and the fear to show the world her true self – is suddenly shoved aside in order to discuss her fertility, as if that is the most important thing in the life of every woman?

      • In regards to the first question, I find that highly irrelevant for several reasons that essentially boil down to “that’s not the same thing”.
        The second question is valid. It is a little odd, but honestly the things we fear or regret the most are the things we don’t generally talk about. The memory of her sterilization may have even been repressed and is only brought back to light after Wanda does so.

      • Why isn’t is the same thing? You can bet that you will never see an Avenger movie in which the virility of the male characters is questioned, unless it is a joke. This movie even forget that according to The Incredible Hulk, Bruce hulks out the moment he gets aroused. It is not like he can’t have children. He can’t have sex period. And yet his inability to get children is barely addressed while Natasha’s needs a whole arc.
        In the end there are half a dozen details which didn’t really go together with this particular story-line, and it doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t do better with any of the other female characters.

      • The Comics are not the MCU. If they want Bruce to be able to have sex again, they need to course correct the point. And the only Kid I know of is Hulkling, and he is from an affair Hulk had with an alien on Planet Hulk. I don’t think that he has any with Betty Ross, but then, there are always so many different stories floating around, it is hard to keep track.

      • No reason to be sorry. I am not an expert either, so I might be wrong. But really, they made a big deal around the fact that Bruce hulks out when he tries to have sex in The Incredible Hulk.

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