Strong Female Characters
March 6, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

 
And WHUMP! goes my face straight into the NYT paywall. Oh well, I'm sure it was an interesting article.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nobody says goodbye when they hang up the phone in a movie. But good to know the Times is ON IT.
posted by incessant at 9:59 AM on March 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Paywall problem here too. help!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


WHUMP!

Sorry about that. Not getting it here, I think it's a bit random.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on March 6, 2012


How about this link?
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody says goodbye when they hang up the phone in a movie. But good to know the Times is ON IT.

Which may or may not be just a U.S. thing.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2012


(1) Carina Chocano bemoans the "strong female character" shorthand meme;

(2) Mur Lafferty, apparently under the impression that Chocano is against strong female characters rather than "strong female characters," writes a counterpoint essay that actually agrees with Chocano on every point;

(3) Kate Beaton FTW.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 10:15 AM on March 6, 2012


From the NYT article: Every time I hear someone use the term “strong female character,” I want to punch them.

I understand, really I do, because every time I hear someone say, "Every time I hear someone use the term 'strong female character,' I want to punch them," I want to punch them.

But I don't, because I am a strong female (non-fictional) character and I am capable of more complex thought, feelings, and actions than just rage and punching.
posted by Elsa at 10:28 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


All the Russian women I know just always answer the phone with an irritated-sounding "Da?"
posted by newdaddy at 10:29 AM on March 6, 2012


I dunno. I remember disliking this article when I first read it, though on re-read, I think she has a good point here:

The insistence on “strong female character” is not bad because it aspires to engender respect, it’s bad because it tries to compensate for an existing imbalance by stacking the deck in favor of the female character, by making her better, more deserving, higher-toned, more virtuous and deserving of respect, somehow.

Otherwise, it seems very black-and-white. The solution for too many "unrealistically" stoic strong female characters is to have more weak, anxiety-filled ones? It's a big world, I think there's room for both Bridget Jones and Sarah Conner.
posted by missix at 10:29 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, we're talking about Kate Beaton? (Also) obligatory Sexy Batman.

I think there's room for both Bridget Jones and Sarah Conner.

I agree, but Sarah in the second movie had pretty clear emotional trauma. It wasn't that she was "strong and stoic" so much as extremely damaged. Which was perfectly understandable after what she'd gone through in the first movie. She has happy and joking about sex and being a spinster with her roommate in the opening of the first movie.

I really see no difference between the strong female character the author is describing and the quiet, taciturn hero played by Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. See: Ryan Gosling in Driver. It's a style of character. So really, the article just makes me throw up my hands and want to explain the varying ways to portray a character.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:38 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coincidentally, Kate Beaton was in an argument on Twitter earlier today (with some guy who was under the impression that the propensity of courts to award custody to the mother in divorce proceedings meant that the entire USA was heavily slanted in favour of women), and it gave rise to a couple of excellent comics on feminism.
posted by ZsigE at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm of the opinion nothing can get more awesome than Ripley in Aliens. At first she wants nothing to do with it and defers to the marines until gradually taking more and more control of the situation and fucking up some Aliens.

I love Ripley in that movie.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


obligatory Sexy Batman.

I'm a big fan of her Wonder Woman.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The insistence on “strong female character” is not bad because it aspires to engender respect, it’s bad because it tries to compensate for an existing imbalance by stacking the deck in favor of the female character, by making her better, more deserving, higher-toned, more virtuous and deserving of respect, somehow.

Same general angle as my argument with "Affirmative action", that.
posted by Decani at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2012


oh mah gah, i had not seen Wonder Woman. I am so happy. I haven't read Kate Beaton in awhile! THANKS, ARTW.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:42 AM on March 6, 2012


I love Ripley in that movie.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:39 PM on March 6


She said "bitch", and is therefore unsound. Sorry.
posted by Decani at 10:42 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


She said "bitch", and is therefore unsound. Sorry.

It is really sad to me that some people might think this.

If I were an action hero, I would still say goodbye. Damn my polite midwestern upbringing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:44 AM on March 6, 2012


She beats up a mother of 158 with a power loader!
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Based on population of Hadleys Hope and a 1:1 count of children to residents. Actually she'd account for one of them, so it would be 157, give or take a marine or too. It does seem like quite a small number given how many the Autoguns chew through on that version of the story.)
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on March 6, 2012


But good to know the Times is ON IT.

Just wanted to add the link incessant left out.
posted by straight at 11:29 AM on March 6, 2012


I think Mur Lafferty really hit the nail on the head there with "Cardboard characters are cardboard characters."

Plus -1000 points for quoting Kloesterman who is a poorly written cardboard cutout himself.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:39 AM on March 6, 2012


The difference between a strong female character and a "strong female character" is the male gaze. If a character is written primarily with a male audience in mind (like Lisbeth Salander) then she's a "strong female character."

The term "fanservice" is useful in this context.

A female character (like Lisbeth) who doesn't talk much is obviously designed to appeal to a particular kind of guy. The kind of guy who claims that women are bad drivers, and who makes that horrible hand puppet "yak yak yak" gesture when he thinks he can get away with it.

"Strong female characters" frequently experience some kind of on-screen (in both books and movies) sexual assault which is as degrading as it is lovingly detailed. That's a sure tip-off that the character was written with the male gaze in mind.

On the other hand, a female character with her own agency, who is typically dressed in outfits which are reasonable for the situation*, and who is more than just a two-dimensional foil for the male protagonist... that's an actual strong female character.

* Ripley's panties. Discuss.
posted by ErikaB at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Whoops... I said "The difference" when I meant "One difference." Sorry, I didn't mean to make it sound so "I HAVE THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION"-y.
posted by ErikaB at 12:06 PM on March 6, 2012


Not denying that as a character Lisbeth is basically Poochy only 20% cooler, but boy does she have a lot of female fans.
posted by Artw at 12:10 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


it’s bad because it tries to compensate for an existing imbalance by stacking the deck

what's the other way to compensate for imbalance
posted by LogicalDash at 1:19 PM on March 6, 2012


Tough, Cold, Terse, Taciturn and Prone to Not Saying Goodbye When They Hang Up the Phone

They sound like Klingons.

Except that instead of huge foreheads, they always have huge chins.

 
posted by Herodios at 1:31 PM on March 6, 2012




Within about 15 seconds of stepping inside the shooting range, before the guy behind the counter could take my gun order, I burst into tears, ran outside and spent the next couple of hours alone in the car reading Jane Austen.

So here is the question I’m posing: If this story were a scene in a movie, and the movie were being told from the point of view of a young woman, would you describe that protagonist as a “strong female character”? Or would you consider her to be weak?
Thought experiment. Flip the genders. Not that I'm condoning this viewpoint, etc, etc, but if that were a young man he'd be a huge (ahem) pussy that no one would sympathize with.

It's tricky, right? I don't want to associate strength with manliness and manliness with emotional repression and or agency, but it's up there. Strength in my mind is associated with stoicism and taking one for the team. Not that I think the emotional palette accessible to men is healthy or whatever.

Strength is not breaking down and having a hissy fit because you've been culturally alienated for a couple of a days. It's having your little cry, and then going back out to the gun range because it's what's expected of you, and it will make everyone happy and it'll be over before you know it.
posted by pmv at 2:39 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our culture places a huge emphasis on toughness and independence. So 'strength' is about not needing other people. That short changes both men and women. The 'strong female character' is the woman who is independent and doesn't need other people. Which is bullshit, in my experience very few people and particularly very few women are happy not needing others. (Few men are either but they have a greater range of ways of kidding themselves about it I think).
posted by zipadee at 3:35 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


From an article about the psychologist Abraham Maslow: "After an abortive attempt at medical school, Maslow secured a fellowship at Columbia — a real prize in the worst of the Depression — and used it to study sex and dominance in human beings. High-dominance women, he found, enjoyed the greatest sexual variety and pleasure, while low-dominance women found the whole business onerous and degrading."
posted by RichardS at 4:40 PM on March 6, 2012


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