According to Merriam-Webster, personality means:
a : the quality or state of being a person
b : personal existence
2a : the condition or fact of relating to a particular person; specifically : the condition of referring directly to or being aimed disparagingly or hostilely at an individualb : an offensively personal remark <angrily resorted to personalities>
3a : the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially : the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristicsb : a set of distinctive traits and characteristics <the energetic personality of the city>
4a : distinction or excellence of personal and social traits; also : a person having such qualityb : a person of importance, prominence, renown, or notoriety <a TV personality>
And that is a lot of words. For this post, I’m focusing on number 3: “the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially : the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristicsb : a set of distinctive traits and characteristics <the energetic personality of the city>”
Basically, the point I’m trying to make with that big blob of words is that a personality is a collective group of traits. So why is being a “strong female character” treated like it’s a personality?
Strong is not a personality. Tough is not a personality. Independent is not a personality. They aren’t treated like personalities in male characters, so why are they being treated like personalities in female characters? Female characters shouldn’t be dumbed down to one trait.
A strong female character in fiction is often seen as a set personality – cold, vicious, doesn’t take any BS type of girl. But a real-life “strong” female might be the friendliest, girliest person on Earth. A real-life “strong” female might like being flirted with. A real-life “strong” female might be a pacifist.
A “strong” female character, to me, is a catalyst. Check out this article for a better explanation, but a catalyst basically does something. A “strong” female character just means that she doesn’t sit around and wait for things to happen. It means that she has an affect on the plot, on what happens, and things would happen differently if she wasn’t involved.
A character that has an affect on the plot doesn’t need to be cold, or vicious, and can even take some BS once in a while because that’s life. A strong female character doesn’t have to wear black all the time or have epic fighting skills. She just needs to do something.
Check out my post on my other blog Shadowlife about how Girliness =/= Weakness
Image from http://www.hypable.com/jk-rowling-hermione-relationship/