Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top Ten Female Characters Who Are Strong Without Being Kick-Arse

This is something I feel really strongly about - too often, it seems that female characters are dismissed as weak just because they can't use a bow and arrow like Katniss or jump off a building like Tris. Conversely, girls who CAN do these kinds of things are automatically labelled as strong even if they are actually inherently weak characters. Basically, as Melina Marchetta has pointed out several times, strong and kick-arse are not the same things. So here are my fave strong (not kick-arse) female characters.


1. Phaedra from The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. MM has sooo many amazing strong female characters in all her books, but I'm rereading this series at the moment and I have such a soft spot for Phaedra. She is the antithesis of the "kick-arse" heroine, and seems weak at first, but she turns out to be one of the strongest characters in the series.

2. Sansa from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Sansa gets a lot of hate which makes me really mad. I feel like she is disdained for being traditionally feminine, which people interpret as "weak" in contrast to Arya's cross-dressing kick-arsery. Now I love Arya, but Sansa displays a different kind of strength. The fact that she has survived so long shows her emotional and mental power. Indeed, in that respect she is probably stronger than Arya. I just love Sansa and anyone who doesn't is clearly wrong.

3. Judith from All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry. Judith has been through all sorts of trauma but she remains strong and determined to get what she wants. She uses her outsider status to her advantage and gets things done.

4. Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Oh, Anne with an E. She is one of my favourite characters of all time. She is fierce, brave, strong-willed, intelligent, imaginative, creative, fun-loving, and more than a little bit ridiculous. Her flaws are what make her so perfect.

5. Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane knows her own mind and doesn't let anyone try and convince her otherwise. She never betrays her own sense of self, even when it means giving up the love of her life. She is no bird.

6. June from The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. June has her heart broken early on, but instead of wallowing she does what she can to heal and then forges on with a rich, full, unconventional and awesome life.

7. Charlotte-Rose from Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. This character is based on a real person, which just makes her even more brilliant. Charlotte-Rose defies convention to follow her heart and get what she wants, and is punished for it. But she doesn't let that dampen her spirit.

8. Lou from Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Lou is quiet, reserved, grieving, broken but oh, so strong. I just want to hug her.

9. Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I debated including Hermione because she actually is quite kick-arse, but I listed her because it's her organisation, studying, and planning that really allow her to win. Her strength in holding the other characters together when they're falling apart, and keeping a level head in the most dire circumstances, are some of my favourite things about her.

10. Amy from Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Poor Amy. She is treated like a slave by her whole family, and grows up in a prison because of her father. The man she loves is too blind to see it for a big chunk of the book. She puts up with so much and just gets on with it. She's resilient and smart, and so while she is tiny and perceived as weak, her character is really the strongest in the book.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

32 comments:

  1. Anne with an e is such a wonderful character, I agree with you. Her flaws are what make her so spectacularly great. Hermione is a great addition too!

    Shelly at Books and Writing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always good to see another Anne Shirley fan :)

      Delete
  2. This is a really cool idea for a list. I still prefer Arya, but Sansa has grown on me since book 2. I think a lot of the reason for all the hate is that the TV show aged her up, so it has made a lot of people forget how young she is in the books..

    ReplyDelete
  3. this is a great list. i love Melina Marchetta's heroines because they are all dimensional and power women in their character and not necessarily their skill set. I have to admit I haven't read about half of the other books so I'm not as familiar with the heroines. But it's a good reason to go check them out :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, MM does characters so well.

      Delete
  4. What a great list! AND THANK YOU FOR MENTIONING SANSA. I hate it as well when people downplay her. She obviously is smart because she has survived for so long - she knows when to keep silence but also when to make her witty remarks without getting a punishment for it. It's true that she was really naive in the beginning, but she definitely has learned her lesson now and is a real contender in the game of thrones. Great list. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is naive but she is also so young! I think people forget that.

      Delete
  5. I love this take!! It is a very interesting idea to consider. Hermione is popping up on lists all over for a variety of topics - and I love that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hermione is a fave everywhere I think haha.

      Delete
  6. I love this topic and the characters on your list especially since your first two are Phaedra and Sansa. I've got such a weak spot for both characters, I remember skipping ahead in the Lumatere Chroincles because I needed to see more of her. x) I get very defensive about Sansa with my friends, she does receive a lot of hate, and initially she really pissed me off, but she's grown so much and I'm really looking forward to her development (I'm only midway through the third book).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think I did the same with Phaedra! Such a good series.

      Delete
  7. So agree with Sansa, sometimes she seems like she is just there, but her being there has to be so difficult!
    New follower :)
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, if she so much as looks the wrong way she could be dead! Poor Sansa.

      Delete
  8. I did like Phaedra for her quiet spunk in telling off Lucien for being an idiot. But I haven't listened to the third audiobook yet so I may be missing the main facets of her brilliance.

    Anne with an E should of course be on every list ever and Hermione is so many levels of kick ass there's not enough numbers in the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She really shines in the third!!

      Delete
  9. I think that a character who can make an impact on a reader with kicking any butt is the best kind of character. It shows that there are stronger ways to be brave. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree! More approachable too.

      Delete
  10. YES TO EVERYTHING IN THIS POST.

    Sansa is one of the strongest characters in Westeros. I can't wait to see where GRRM takes her story arc in the final books.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I absolutely love this list. One of the hardest, and thereby strongest, things to do is survive and Phaedra, Sansa and Judith are perfect examples of that. Oh, and Charlotte Rose -- thank you so much for bringing that fantastic book to my attention. Lou… oh Lou. Basically, this list is perfect, Belle.

    -Maggie

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great idea for a post! I've only read Melina Marchetta's contemporary realistic books - I need to check out her others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her fantasy books are amazing

      Delete
  13. This is such a great idea for a post/list, and you are so right that sometimes the girls that seem strong because they action (often without thought) aren't always the strongest characters!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

    ReplyDelete