In a society that is so used to watching movies and reading books where women are portrayed as damsels in distress, it is refreshing to come across a work featuring a powerful female heroin. So often we hear that we don’t have enough strong women in literature and cinema today. However, I question what constitutes as “a strong female character”. Is this characterization made from how much power or wealth a woman has? Or rather is it their lack of ever relying on men? Personally, when I think of a strong female character I think of something different. I think of a woman who is not afraid to express herself or stand up for what she wants. I think of a woman who is strong in a way that does not necessarily require dominance or money or special powers. I think of a woman who knows who she is, asks for help when she needs it, and though flawed, has “strength” anyway.
These are women that I personally deem as “strong female characters”, and as good role models for young girls. Each one of these women has shown strength in one way or another but also possessed other great qualities such as selflessness, perseverance, courage, and honesty.
1. Hermione Granger- Harry Potter
Hermione is perhaps one of the greatest female characters of all time. One of my favorite qualities about her was that she was a nerd and had absolutely no problem with it. Her passion for knowledge and learning was what set her apart from others. Not only was she a fiercely loyal friend but she valued integrity and persistence. She was flawed and often showed fear, but she never gave up and never allowed others to take advantage of her. She never hesitated to defend herself and those she loved.
2. Olivia Pope- Scandal
Perhaps one of the most bad-ass women on television today, Olivia Pope exudes strength and grace. Upon aiding Fitz Grant in winning his campaign for President of the United States, Olivia sets out to help others in need with crisis management. Throughout the series we watch her go through unimaginable pain, disappointment, and betrayal. Yet through all of it she remains composed and fiercely determined, willing to commit dark acts in the face of the greater good. Sometimes she makes mistakes, yet she does not quit and is never down for long.
3. Leslie Knope- Parks and Recreation
One of my personal favorite characters ever, Leslie Knope is the definition of a strong female character. She is almost annoyingly optimistic and not afraid to come off as pushy when she is trying to accomplish something. No task is too unimportant for her when it concerns making Pawnee, Indiana a better place for all. During her time working for the Parks Department we see her removing drunks from playground slides, dealing with unreasonable citizens, and locking down a role as City Councilor. She jumps back after failure, takes little time off, and doesn’t ever try to conceal her passion and enthusiasm for life. She takes no shortcuts, knows her priorities, and values her friendships even more than her job.
4. Christina Yang- Grey’s Anatomy
Even as an intern, Christina Yang never limited herself in what she was able to accomplish. She was competitive and never backed away from a challenge no matter how big it was. She executed risky surgeries without ever losing her composure or questioning whether or not she was capable. She knew she could have any romantic partner she desired but that she did not need one. Even after going through countless occasions of trauma and disappointment, she learned to grow and lean on others when she needed to. Through all of this she was able to become a part-owner of the hospital and a board member.
5. Lizzie Bennett- Pride and Prejudice
Lizzie Bennett is a definite combination of intelligence and strength. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. Despite the fact that she was living during a time when women were treated very unfairly, she persistently spoke her mind and was not afraid of offending those around her with her courage.
6. Katniss Everdeen- The Hunger Games
Confronted with insurmountable obstacles, Katniss was willing to do whatever it took to make it through the games and return home to her mother and little sister. Despite every effort of the Capital to “own” her, she holds on to her identity and morals even after withstanding loss after loss. Fueled by love and the determination to protect her little sister, she finds the strength within her to survive against all odds.
7. Jo March- Little Women
There are many characteristics about Jo that may have been seen as unbecoming for a young girl living during this time. Instead of being graceful and reserved, she is impulsive and argumentative. When she doesn’t like something she’s not afraid to let everyone know. Finally, when her family falls upon hard times and needs some cash, she doesn’t hesitate to cut off all her hair and sell it.
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ―Nora Ephron