We aren't all ditzy damsels in distress or designed to look pretty next to a male protagonist. We're not a completely different species — we're just like men. Strong female characters are not hard to create and we need to shine a light on the ones that do exist as well as create more.
Why is portraying a strong female character so difficult to do? Take Katniss Everdeen for example — some may think she's strong, but I think she's a good example of how not to portray a badass female. She tries her hardest throughout The Hunger Games to appear as unfeminine as possible so that she is not perceived as weak or an easy target. Personally, I don't think you have to be masculine, tom-boyish, or keep your emotions hidden to be a strong woman.
My views on what makes a woman strong are based on the women I grew up with, and this has made me realize that people's perceptions of what makes a woman strong may differ. Before scouring the internet for badass female characters, I asked some of my fellow Creators this: What does "strong female" mean to you?
"Being unapologetically female. Writers often make the mistake of thinking their female character needs to be more masculine, but this is inherently sexist, because it implies that women simply cannot be strong." — Lucy Morris
"Someone who can be fierce and powerful yet emotional and vulnerable. They can fall from their pedestal and get back up again." — Dimaris Walker-Visala
"I love women who feel things without shame, can cry without embarrassment, and are at peace with the fact that emotions are intrinsically human, and don't make us weaker while they make men stronger." — Rebecca Raymer
With that in mind, here are eight women from TV and film who I think show us what it means to be a strong female.
8. Hermione Granger — Harry Potter
This brave and intelligent witch is pretty much skilled in everything, and no one can deny that Hermione Jean Granger is a fighter. She's also an incredibly caring individual, for example, campaigning for House-Elves' rights in the Harry Potter books, and definitely fits the bill of "strong female character" in my eyes. She's a character with substance. Nothing can stop her from doing the right thing, even if it means risking her own life. The bookish "know-it-all" has a fierce side to her and is also an outstanding friend. I can't praise Hermione enough, so of course she belongs in my list of badass women.
7. Clarice Starling — The Silence Of The Lambs
Clarice is unbelievably courageous, yet shows her vulnerable side in Silence of the Lambs when talking about her childhood to Hannibal Lecter and when finding Buffalo Bill. Her evident sadness and fear doesn't make her look weak but emphasizes her bravery and skill as well as evoking sympathy and warmth from us. Clarice is definitely a valuable asset to the FBI and teaches us that women can be whatever they want to be, and as "the lesser sex" we cannot be as easily intimidated as some may think. Clarice is human; she feels fear, but she manages to put it aside to do her job to the best of her abilities. Her ambition and bravery is admirable. If a cannibal can't stop her then no one can!
6. Lana Winters — American Horror Story: Asylum
It amazes me how Lana Winters managed to carry on and keep surviving after everything she went through. It's impossible to see Lana as anything but a strong female character. There are several women that I could have chosen for this list from American Horror Story, but Lana stands out for me because from experience I know that one of the hardest things is to keep getting up after things hit you at full force one after the other in quick succession. In AHS: Asylum, Lana simply cannot catch a break, but she doesn't stop searching for the life she deserves. Somehow, her horrific experiences don't dent her ambition and determination — I think she's inspirational!
5. Karen — Love Actually
I feel very fond of Karen. I felt so sorry for her when she realized that her husband was having an affair. She showed us how much she loves her family by crying over the disloyalty of the man she loved behind closed doors purely to protect her children and not upset them. On top of all that, she is dealing with her brother's grief after he's lost his wife. She's a lovely woman and obviously kind. Maybe I see Karen as strong because I know the strength required to be a mother, and I can easily feel empathy for her. I don't know if I would be able to keep it together so well if I was dealing with everything Karen is in Love Actually.
4. The Bride — Kill Bill
The Bride is pushed to the limit in the Kill Bill movies, and shows us that no matter what life throws at her she is far from a quitter. But she's not just a badass, sword-wielding ninja. I believe a strong female has many faces and The Bride is the perfect example of this. She's a fighter, she's felt hatred and love, she's a student willing to learn, transforming into a master of her craft, and she's a mother. She doesn't pretend to be unaffected by everything that's going on around her. We see her cry and scream as well as feel rage. Does it make her look like a weak little girl? Far from it.
3. Sansa Stark — Game Of Thrones
Choosing one tough cookie from GoT is an incredibly difficult decision to make, but there is a personal reason why I wanted to include Sansa Stark in my list of strong women. She reminds me of someone in my life who has been perceived as sensitive and weak but has a lot of strength deep down. Despite what Joffrey and the Lannisters put her through, she is still able to maintain impassiveness and loyalty toward them. She occasionally stands up to Joffrey — an act I find extremely brave considering she knows what Joffrey is capable of. I admire her gentleness; she shows us that being gentle and caring doesn't make you weak because despite everything, she carries on and fights.
She becomes stronger and more mature throughout GoT and doesn't pretend to be something she's not unless her life depends on it. She's strong in my eyes because she fights through her fear, like when she stands up to Myranda after she and Theon catch Sansa trying to escape her chambers despite Sansa's fear that she may be killed by Myranda.
2. Maggie Greene — The Walking Dead
Maggie is intelligent, caring, and extremely brave — she has to be in this list. She was the very first person that came to mind when thinking of strong females from TWD. Despite being hardened by the apocalypse she's still a kind person. Her ordeal is a true test of character and Maggie passes with flying colors — she is a selfless and inspirational badass! I know Maggie isn't the only one in TWD who has suffered, but some of the others have made questionable choices (e.g. Carol's decision to kill Karen and David) but Maggie has remained in my eyes honest and loving and untainted by her circumstances. In a strange way, the apocalypse has had a positive effect on her — it's made her good qualities stand out (such as her skill and her loyalty to the group) and she will make an outstanding mother too. Maggie would willingly die for her loved ones, and shows us how fierce women can be in the face of danger (she doesn't need a man to protect her). I feel that I would be in safe hands if Maggie was by my side in a zombie apocalypse!
1. Marcia Clark — American Crime Story: The People V. OJ Simpson
Marsha Clark has drawn something positive out of her pain, something which can require an enormous amount of strength. Marsha was raped as a teenager, and uses this experience to motivate her to seek justice for victims:
"When I had my first rape case, what happened to me of course came flying out of whatever rock I'd jammed it under, and I had to deal with it. It was hell all over again in a way, but it made something very, very clear to me. I had something, this thing in me that wanted vengeance, vengeance for victims. That's what justice is to me."
To me, Marsha isn't just a strong female inspiring women, but inspires survivors too.
I feel that there are too many shows and movies that think being a strong female means being frosty, emotionally impenetrable and "acting like a man." To me, being a strong female means having the bravery to be yourself and carrying on no matter how hard life hits you. It means making sacrifices without a second thought and not letting life alter your likability and individuality.
Why do I think this? Because these are the traits of the strong females in my life. They have struggled and suffered, yet they've remained selfless, just, and fought through the fear for the sake of others. They're unafraid to show emotion and stay true to themselves. These women have been my rock. This list is for them. Thank you for teaching me how to be and to never ever feel held back by my gender. This is why it's so important for girls to have strong female role models. The women in my life are my inspiration and continue to inspire me everyday.
Thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it. Don't forget to leave a comment and follow me!
Check out some of some of the most badass female characters in film and TV in the video below: