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Debates > What Does it Mean to Be a Strong Female Lead?

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message 1: by Kaelyn (new)

Kaelyn (kaelyn_h) | 194 comments With the recent growth of feminist movements these past few months, I've been looking through GR lists for ya contemporary books with a strong female lead. https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3..., titled "YA Books with Strong Female Characters."

In the ya list mentioned above, the first 50 slots are all occupied by fantasy books ( Throne of Glass, The Hunger Games, Graceling Realm and Divergent ), with contemporary novels occasionally popping up further down the list. Searching through other similar lists on google, most of the top seats belong to fantasy/dystopian/non-contemporary books whose characters exist in worlds vastly different from 'normal' ones.

In fact, most of the popularized feminist books out there are also fantasy novels. That instead--many of the empowering female leads we read about and fall in love with cannot possibly exist in our real world today.

And while there are many contemporary ya books with a strong female lead out there, personally, when I think of strong female book teens, the first dozen teens that pop into mind are all characters who inhabit worlds that don't look like, and essentially can never really be ours.

What do you guys think? Is it time to reframe the trend and reimagine empowered girls who can be strong in our contemporary world too?


message 2: by Natalia (new)

Natalia Heaney | 23 comments I think a big problem is that - for so long - "strong female' has only been interpreted as physical strength. People equate power with being a warrior or someone with superpowers. It's been like that for a long time - I grew up with the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who I love, by the way!).

There is a lot of scope for realistic strong female characters in contemporary YA. Strength comes from intelligence, independence, and other kinds of action (just look at the teen activists in America at the moment).

The problem is that a lot of non-fantasy YA has focused on pitting girls against each other. Too many YA books are about love triangles or rivalries, where the heroine is the only nice girl - but she is often also a doormat. (In fact, it's the case in fantasy/paranormal books too - look at Twilight!)


message 3: by Lynne (last edited Mar 17, 2018 10:12PM) (new)

Lynne Stringer | 321 comments I think there are already a lot of female characters out there who are strong, but, as Natalia said, we have such a limited view of what 'strong' is. Most people seem to think that the definition of a strong female is one who goes through hideous trauma of any sort and comes out unscathed or kicking butt. That's unrealistic.

However, people also seem to think that if a (particularly female) character gets upset or has to rely on someone at any point and isn't the one always leading and encouraging and being the front runner then she's weak. The truth is, no one can live up to that ideal, and I don't think it should be encouraged.

But these elements have become synonymous with our understanding of strength, particularly with females.


message 4: by Kaelyn (new)

Kaelyn (kaelyn_h) | 194 comments I agree with you guys. In crafting 'stronger' girls in ya novels, I think we inadvertently make them fit into more unrealistic boundaries (in a fantasy genre, or give them too much 'Rambo' power) and thus, give off the wrong message that "true female strength" is unrealistic. Which is completely untrue.


message 5: by Lilly (new)

Lilly  Amechi (lillyamechi) I never really thought of this before. This problem reminds me of a quote, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong, women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” - G.D. Anderson

Referring to the original question, I think we absolutely need to put “strong” women in contemporary novels. Instead of focusing on strength in mental, emotional, and physical, we tend to rely on the last to show that women are just as powerful as men.

People of the younger generation definitely need to see that women can be strong in our day to day lives, and not just in imaginary worlds.


message 6: by Hunter (new)

Hunter | 136 comments Absolutely - we need more strong female leads in contemporary settings. The influx of strong girls in fantasy/sci-fi was fun while it was new, but it's been overdone for a long time now.

(Also, in my honest opinion, a woman doesn't have to be perfect to be strong - they can be as flawed as any other character, but if they have good values and a reasonable sense of right and wrong, they may perhaps be able to triumph over the antagonist. That being said, it irritates me when people overdo it; isn't the point to make the lady and her personality believable?)


message 7: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Valladares | 2 comments Lilly wrote: "I never really thought of this before. This problem reminds me of a quote, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong, women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that ..."

I love that quote! You're right. It's about perception. I think authors just have to catch up with the new emerging perception.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Evans (marktheflamebook) I love seeing the rise of the woman’s movement. I hope that more books are written showing visions of what a strong woman’s lead will look like from a woman’s perspective, and not from a mans perspective of what a strong female should be.


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