Wanted: Strong Female Character
Lately there has been a lot of attention being given to the concept of the “Strong Female Character” or SFC. As lesbians, we have spent years reading and watching and hoping beyond hope that a SFC will develop in the “real world” that isn’t reduced to becoming second fiddle or hopeless romantic interest the minute the male lead comes into play. We all know these characters, and we sit on our hands and we wait, hoping that the Knight in Shining armor that saves the day is the girl, but no, it is the bumbling idiot, the suddenly shiny one who learns how to fight and finds his backbone just in time to rescue the previously independent woman. Oh, there are near misses that don’t fall into that category…we call them the “almost lesbians”. Isn’t that horrible? You see, if there is a SFC that kicks ass and takes what she wants, she had to be a lesbian, right?
Perhaps this is how it is supposed to work, we don’t know. What we do know is that while the mainstream community rarely get the SFC right, in Lesbian fiction (Lesfic), this is what we do! We are proud to display our SFC’s to the world, our world…yes, but these are kickass women who don’t apologize for who they are, who don’t cringe and wait for the hero to rescue them— and we love it.
We find it interesting, this race we are in. Doesn’t it seem that the more LGBT characters we are seeing in mainstream, the more common the idea of an SFC is as well? We think this is a great and wonderful thing, even if the few misogynists are out there screaming that the world is going to end because women shouldn’t be taught to be independent little things, not if we want the family unit to survive.
No wonder we are so threatening! We, as a sub-culture…turn everything on its ear. Isn’t that the common joke…bring on the dykes if there is a bar fight! We will end it quick. Plumbing and construction? We got it, no need to call the professionals. We are thumbing our noses at what was considered traditionally male constructs and telling the universe that being strong and independent is not a male virtue…but a human right.
OK…soap box speeches aside. Now that we have everyone riled up and pumping their fist and yelling “Hell, yeah!” We will return to what we hold dear to my heart—Lesbian Fiction. Lesbian Fiction is chock full of SFC’s, and we do it right! We aren’t pillow princesses waiting for the prince to come rescue us, we do it all and we do it quite well. As a writer, we try to do the same in our virtual universes…create strong female characters that have their place in the world and carve their own paths.
This isn’t to say we should make characters that are so perfect they are unbelievable. No. They have their trials and tribulations, just like real people. There are obstacles to overcome and blinders to remove. They have pasts and histories that may be sources of shame or trauma. However, it is they that find their way out, who climb from the mire and refuse to be victims. Nor do they wait for someone stronger than they to cling to, like some vine finding a solid pole to prop them up.
If you look at our two novels, you will see this theme in our characters, even though the storylines are very different. In Switching Gears, Micah is troubled and has a past of violence and abuse…from both her family and through self-abuse. While how she adapts to these past issues may be disturbing to some, she found a way to pull strength from adversity. In Ladysmith, the two main characters are thrown together in a tangle of magic and fate. They travel this path together, both fighting for the other tooth and nail. You would be hard pressed to all one the heroine and the other the damsel in distress. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and they survive and thrive through developing those strengths and letting the other be weak when they have to be. In both novels, falling in love doesn’t mean one has to eclipse the other or become that Knight in Shining Armor, it is more a matter of need and circumstance that decides who picks up the sword when the dragon shows up…not a pre-existing notion that one is better suited to the role of victor and taker of spoils.
So, what we are really trying to say is: keep writing and reading Lesfic, support strong LGBT characters in the mainstream, in films and television. The Strong Female Character is evolving and will escape the pages of Lesfic. It will be done right, and it will be a reflection of who we are…and if it scares a few timid souls, so be it!! The world will be a better place for it.
Wanted: Strong Female Character