Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strong Girls Like Pink Too

This particular subject is so close to my heart that though I know I've touched on it before, I'm doing it again.

I recently read a book that to be quite honest, disturbed me.  The writing was beautiful, and the story engaging, but the MC was a role model I would hate little girls to have.  It feels to me that ever since the feminist movement began, there's been this faction who believes that what makes a girl feminine also makes her weak.  And in order to truly embrace our strength, we must become more like men.

The MC of this book (and no I'm not going to say the name of it) was physically strong.  In fact, she was the strongest person in her world.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, that alone is a beautiful thing to teach a little girl--that she can be the strongest person she knows.  Where it went bad was in the MC's relationships.  She only deigned to be surrounded by weak men who admitted CONSTANTLY how vastly superior she was to them.  And if that wasn't enough, she found it necessary to remind her love interest of how much stronger she was than him all. the. time.  And everything that was feminine about her (her long hair, the way she dressed, etc.), she rejected.

And that is what disturbed me.

Now, don't get me wrong here.  I don't think all girls should feel that in order to be all woman they have to outwardly express their femininity in the way they look.  The only reason I mention it here is because as the view point character, we knew what was going on inside her head.  The MC's long hair and clothes were the last feminine things the author left to her.

For one, I've read quite a few books that have had very strong female protagonists who DID embrace their feminine side, in whatever form that was.  Evie from PARANORMALCY is a perfect example.  She is wonderfully strong even before she learns just how vastly kick ass she really is.  I mean, this is a girl who takes on hordes of vampires, evil fairies, and other paranormal creatures that would probably give people nightmares.  This is a character girls can look up to.  But you know what?  She also LOVES pink (tasey, anyone?), dressing up, flirting with boys (not just beating them down physically and emotionally), and going to dances.  Not only that but, ****SPOILER ALERT--ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK******

She gave up what she wanted most--a soul--to save the person she loved.

And that's the stuff that will make girls not only look up to her, but respond to her as well.  She's someone they can relate to!  And don't we want role models girls can relate to, not just aspire to be?

Queen Elizabeth I was a real life super hero woman.  Not only was she feminine, she realized her femininity was the very thing that made her strong.  She married herself to England and gave them the picture of a woman they could look up to.  Who knows what she really wanted out of life?  It doesn't matter because what she DID do was give herself up for those who needed her.  And doing this didn't make them despise her; it made them adore her.

The real reason I bring all this up is because from all the books I've read where the female protagonists showed strength in non-conventional ways (i.e. self-sacrifice), there have been people who have complained about what kind of message that would send to young girls.  I believe it sends a wonderful message.  Do I think the message was intended for girls in abusive relationships?  Of course not!  That's a whole different monster.  But it IS a message that is intended for your average jane who maybe can't slay dragons with her bare hands but CAN work her butt off to enrich all the lives around her.  That's the trait that makes women different from men.  It's a good thing.  And it should be portrayed as a good thing in books, or else we risk making all those little girls who aren't the picture of masculine strength feel inferior.

Side note: MATCHED showed up in Fluffy this morning!  Yay!


  1. strong women CAN like pink. but women can HATE pink and still be feminine.
    you can have short hair, wear jeans, and be able to dominate a fight- and still be feminine. short hair can be WAY more convenient. i'm not athletic, but i'm guessing that pants would be less restricting to wear in a fight.
    you can be practical and be just as much of a woman as a gal who loves kitten heels.

    i don't think it's a good message to tell girls they can't like rainbows and puppies if they want to be strong...
    but i don't think it's a good message to tell girls they must like pink and have long hair to be feminine either.

    can you tell i hate pink? :)

    and men can (and should) be self-sacrificial too... i'm sure you know WAY more about that than me from your time in the service.

    funny thing though- when i read paranormalcy, i kept imaging you as Evie! :)

  2. Vic--You're right, and I'm not trying to say a girl HAS to be a certain way to be considered a well-rounded woman. However, there are already a LOT of arguments for girls being these tough little bruisers who hate dolls and ponies. I wanted to give an argument for the other girls, too. It seems they're getting less and less of a voice lately.

  3. Oh, and I just saw your last line about Evie! Hehehehe! I imagined me as her, too! :D

  4. Great post, Emily, well said. Gah, let's not go overboard with the anti-feminine characters! Strong AND feminine...I like that. Now I have to go ponder my own characters....

  5. This is a great point. There is no reason one can't be feminine AND strong AND smart. It's completely true in real life and I would prefer for my daughters to read stories where it is true as well.

  6. Emily, I can't even tell you how much I agree. People who believe that to be feminine is a weakness are anti-woman, even if they call themselves feminists. They haven't even realised their own selves yet. That's a serious problem because they'll never be happy until they recognise themselves.

    There are strong women throughout history who utilised the power of their womanhood and did great things. They didn't behave like men, or make apologies for their femininity. They didn't have to.

    There's nothing more beautiful than sacrifice. And self-sacrifice is a Godly act. Whether a man or a woman does it, it's beautiful. It's got nothing to do with gender and everything to do with humanity and compassion.


  7. I agree with you. I think there should be a balance somewhere; and besides, no one's the same way. If some people like pink, great. If they don't, that's perfectly fine too. It's up to the person--by insisting on forgetting pink or something like that, it's like pressing someone into a stereotype.

  8. Totally agree! Although I have to admit I'm not into pink myself I think strong girls being feminine is totally realistic. I feel like a really strong girl would love pink and be proud too ;)

    And I haven't read Paranormalcy yet but eeeee! I can't wait!


  9. I hated pink while I was growing up. Especially Barbie-Pepto-Bismal pink. But I was still very feminine. I loved skirts and dresses, but those--and my long hair--made me weird among my classmates. Sigh.

    But yes, young girls need to see all sorts of rolemodels where different strengths play a key. But I don't like reverse sexism, which is what it sounds like that book was doing combined with denigrating wonderful feminine traits.

    One of my favorite books took those weaker traits of tenderness, willingness to see good in people, and gentleness and turned them into assets even in the eyes of the very supporting characters who'd considered her weak in the beginning. The MC didn't change that much, or even try to change the people around her, but she and her new friends came to realize that she was stronger than she looked. (Danielle of The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines)

  10. Last night I finished watching the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. And something in some of the final episodes made me think of this post. There are two female characters in the series who are very well done.

    One is a general in the State Military who is commander of the Northern Forces which she has trained to be an incredibly tough, self sufficient, and unified troop of soldiers. She's a tough cookie herself with a deepish voice who is always accusing everyone around her of being weak compared to her and her soldiers. She fights her brother at one point, a really big muscular guy and a powerful alchemist, and totally kicks his ass. Her last name is even Armstrong.

    Then there's the woman who taught the main characters alchemy when they were young boys. She's a very powerful alchemist and a strong fighter in her own right. But every time she introduces herself to anyone she say, "Who, me? I'm just a housewife." And that's what she is first and foremost. She's a devoted wife and very maternal. In her past she risked everything she was to try to bring her dead baby back to life (but was unsuccessful). She acts like a mother figure for the main characters, she's always there for them, though she never coddles them.

    The point is that both of these characters are incredibly strong women in totally different ways. And it jumped right out of the screen at me after seeing them work together during the climax of the series. One is a soldier. One is a housewife. Both are terrific characters.


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