Checklist to Stereotypical Female Characters

April 1 marks the end of Women’s History Month, and Ooligan Press is going out with a bang. Today at the AWP Conference & Bookfair in Los Angeles, we are launching Memories Flow in Our Veins, an anthology of prolific women writers that was collected in partnership with CALYX Press. After months of hard work, Ooligan is making sure Women’s History Month continues on throughout the rest of the year.

To celebrate the amazing contribution women have made to literature, both as the authors of works and the characters within them, have a satirical checklist guide to creating a stereotypical, commercially-approved “strong female character.” Let’s see how many popular heroines we can check off this list, shall we?

  • Have her beat up a man within the first twenty pages. The closer you make the beating to her introduction, the stronger a female character she will be. In the best case scenario, she enters the story already karate kicking. Bonus points if she knows science-y stuff.
  • Avoid femininity in favor of a sexual militant look. This sexual militant look must be effortless and accidental, because strong female characters are too strong to put time into their appearance. That would mean they were shallow or weak (except for that one scene where she wears the slinky dress and we realize she’s human … or at least a viable sexual partner).
  • Give her a generous amount of dialogue relating to her independence and autonomy. This is to make sure that people understand she is a strong female character. If possible, throw in some jabs at the male characters and their maleness, because the best way to eradicate the objectification of one gender is to objectify another gender.
  • Emotional scarring is a must. Emotional damage is a good way to explain her lack of soft, feminine values, especially if this damage relates back in some way to a man. This adds complexity, making the strength of your female character actually a flaw that needs to be fixed (probably by the hero).
  • Keep her alone on her pedestal of perfect strong female character-ness. While male characters can be surrounded by buddies without losing integrity, it is best if your strong female character is a lone wolf. Too many strong female characters may push the story into “feminist” territory, and no one wants that. (The one exception to this rule is if you have another strong female character and they are in conflict with one another. Everyone likes catfights.)
  • Multitask, and knock out the diversity requirement by making her a minority. Let’s face it, modern stories don’t just require that women be included. They also need diversity. A clever way to meet this requirement is to knock out both at once and make your strong female character black or Asian or Latina. Now you’ve got more room for more white male characters.

If you are looking for some realistic, engaging female characters to counter these stereotypes, consider purchasing your own copy of Memories Flow in Our Veins. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for more information about our Memories launch party on April 21, with Feminist Pub Trivia Night at Bazi Bierbrasserie.

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