In modern fictional media, strong female characters have an arguably formulaic design. A strong female character is typically depicted as athletic and stoic to a degree, both of which are traditionally masculine traits. But are strong female characters truly the answer to the call for greater gender equality in fictional media? In many ways, strong female characters are hardly better than the distressed damsels of the past who were in need of constant rescuing. Even purely in terms of physical strength, strong female characters are rarely as strong or as competent as the male characters; these females are strong, but only enough that they do not pose a true threat to the males.
A female lead can have a wealth of qualities that make them conventionally strong, yet still be a badly-written, one-dimensional character. The problem is not that female characters are portrayed as weak or overly-feminine; rather, the true problem is that females in all forms of storytelling are rarely written to be as complex or compelling as their male counterparts. Females in stories often exist either as decoration or they are mere symbols who act as motivators for the more interesting and dynamic male leads, the characters that the narrative truly centers around. By turning women into symbols rather than fully fleshed-out characters, these narratives essentially portray women as passive objects whose lives entirely center on the deeds of males.
In the end, the characteristics of a story’s female characters do not matter as much as the overall role they play in the story. Instead of creating supposedly strong females, writers should instead be consciously aware of how they are using their female characters: in what ways do your females contribute to or enhance your story? Do your females have their own goals that are separate from the goals of the male characters? And most importantly, do your females have interesting and compelling stories of their own or do they require the presence of the male characters to give their lives meaning?