The Strong Female Character Clarification

Vox Day gives the response I’ve been waiting for:

“Right. Olivier Armstrong is a good example here, I think, because she is respected by her troops, tough, has a very masculine demeanor, and is a superior fighter to most men.”

Which shows both a) why you are completely wrong, and, b) why she is a ridiculous character.

They might have more credibly given her a tail. There is not a single woman of the 3.6 billion on the planet who is a superior fighter to 1.8 billion men. There is not one who is a superior fighter to 3 billion men.

This isn’t that hard. Everyone understands that women can’t fly, so why do you have such a hard time understanding that women can’t fight either?

I am actually glad Vox said this, because it’s a good opportunity for me to explain what I meant. His whole comment rests on a complete misunderstanding of what I wrote.

I’ll try to make this as clear as I can:

I *did not say* that women can *actually* fight – at least as a rule – better than men can. Now will I say that, nor do I think that.

What I *did* say is that for the *reader to accept* a character who is strong in masculine ways, like hand to hand or close-quarters weapon combat, or even as a tough as nails battle-hardened soldier, they need to follow at least one of my two rules.

A female character with super fighting abilities granted to her by the gods, or by super-science, or magic, who does not follow one of the two characteristics – who does not relate to men in a humble, respectful way or sacrifice some of her femininity – *still will not work as a character*, no matter how technically realistic it is for her to be a great fighter or soldier in universe. She will comes across as stupid, or a bitch (when we’re not supposed to think of her as one), or both. See: Rey, “The Force Awakens” (having not seen “The Last Jedi” I can’t say if she improves or not).

This is about how to make a character interesting, likable, relateable, fun, and believable *as a character*, not as an actual human being. We can accept men with superior fighting ability, even to ridiculous lengths – but not women unless they relate to men in a humble, respectful way.

Olivier Armstrong does look ridiculous, and when she beats up Major Armstrong, it is played for laughs for that reason. Izumi Curtis throwing a giant monster against a wall is also played for laughs. But while what they’re doing looks funny we still like, respect, and relate to the characters because they both follow one of the two rules.

Note, too, that interesting and fun doesn’t necessarily mean they’re one of the good guys (so they may not be likable or relateable for other, unrelated reasons). Stellenbosch, the ridiculous roided-up female body-builder of the Alex Rider novel “Point Blank”, is a very fun character who you believe in because she’s a freak, and is called a freak numerous times. That’s why she’s so memorable – I haven’t read “Point Blank” in years and can bring up an image of her immediately.

No matter how much we dislike it, no matter how misogynistic it might sound, that’s how it has to work.

Now, you can still think that masculine, combat-effective female characters can never, ever, ever work. You can disagree with Miyazaki, Arakawa, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien, all of whom used the Brotherhood Principle to great effect.

But I think I’ll side with them.