Tough Girls Can’t be Girly?


I’m a little late on getting this blog out because I’ve been working on revisions for Balfor’s Salvation and got caught up in a tricky couple of scenes that just weren’t coming out the way I wanted them to. I finally realized that I need to just take a break and get back to them later.

What better way to take a break from writing than to blog, right? 😉

Actually, though this is enforced separation from my manuscript, it is also a blog that I’ve been meaning to write for a while. The subject seems simple on the surface, but there is a whole iceberg under that surface that I don’t even want to touch, so I’ll try to stick to the very basic situation.

During a critique session, one of the female members of my very talented writers’ group expressed dissatisfaction with my female characters because they were too, to quote her word, “girly.” I was honestly a bit surprised, since I always try to write strong-willed, competent female characters who all have talents and abilities which demonstrate both strength and individuality. While she acknowledged that I presented them as strong women initially, she felt that the addition of “feminine” interests like clothes, shoes, and makeup made them suddenly less believable as strong women.

And I said “Hahaha… wait, you’re serious?”

Seriously cat

Obviously, I disagree with her assessment. Tough girls can be “girly”. They can like wearing makeup (because it’s fun and artistic), they can like shopping for cute clothes, and they can LOVE shoes (because who doesn’t love shoes?).

My tough girls can also handle a grenade launcher, fly a cruiser through a combat zone, and produce a hacking module that saves an entire species from extinction. Afterwards, they hit the mall for smoothies and some serious shopping (not covered in the books due to story requirements 😉 ). Because there isn’t a rulebook saying that girls who can fight for themselves or think for themselves can’t find appeal in “feminine” pursuits.

Heck, I might have them knitting and sewing, baking cookies, scrapbooking, designing jewelry, or trying out new hairstyles. (Not in these books, but someday, why not?) My point is, them having an interest in those pursuits does not disqualify them from also being able to kick butt. One does NOT cancel out the other.

Makeup. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.

I’ve seen the trend of the “man in a woman-suit” whenever a female character is supposed to be tough. It drives me nuts, honestly. Not that there’s anything wrong with a woman who prefers what are considered more “masculine” hobbies (and behaviors) and thinks shoe-shopping and makeup are the devil’s own inventions. You do you. I’m all for being true to yourself. I just have a problem when the general consensus becomes that tough girls have to fit that mold and that it is somehow morally superior to reject all “femininity” in a quest for equality.

Like I said, there’s an iceberg here big enough to sink the Titanic all over again. I’m not interested in battering myself on the ice, but I will defend any woman’s right to be herself, pursue the hobbies she enjoys, love the things she loves openly, without fear of being judged.

I will also defend the assertion that a strong woman can still be girly. I write what I know. My female characters are based on women I admire and respect in real life. These women are opinionated, intelligent, wise, physically adept, calm under pressure, talented in many career fields, and have no problem getting the job done, whatever that job might happen to be. These same women enjoy being girly. It is not, as the critique said, an inconsistency in my female characters. It is reality.

Women, in all our variety, are awesome! It’s disappointing that it was a woman who felt the need to see my female characters limited in their expression in order to conform to some arbitrary ideal.

What do you think? Are tough female characters too often pigeonholed into rejecting “girly” things in order to sell their strength? Do you feel women can be both strong and feminine? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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