It’s amazing how one person can answer the same question more than once. It’s even more amazing how many times someone has to repeat themselves before they get to the point where they reply to the same question with multiple choice answers. Joss Whedon–the creator of Buffy, Angel, and the Avengers film– is always asked, time and again, “Why do you write these strong women characters?” I’m not going to recap everything that he has already said. Whedon has more than done his part in answering this question and if you would like to see his responses, please watch the video linked above. Instead, I’m going to do something else.
I am going to answer this question.
Why do you write these strong women characters? This question can be modified further. For instance, the question could also be “Why do you write about strong women characters?” or “Why do you like writing about strong women characters?” or better yet, “Why do you like writing these strong women characters and why is this so important?” But now I am just being annoying in the gadfly Socratic way: answering a question with other questions. So let me give you an answer without a question mark punctuating it for a while. Women are a part of our world. They are half of the global human population. They are a part of us. They are us.
At the same time, women have different experiences. And for the longest time, even to this day and probably beyond it, the default setting in many cultures has always focused on men: on male desire, conflict, and experience: which is very one-sided. Frankly, there is a whole other segment of the global population that is also born with self-awareness, desire, wants, dreams, fears, flaws, thoughts, feelings, and something to say: and there is a lot that can be written, created, made, and said about that. And then you add the rest of it: the discrimination, the stereotyping, the impossible and contradictory cultural and societal standards, the hurting, and the imposed silences–the ones that people impose from the outside and the one that people create inside themselves out of genuine mortal and spiritual fear–where every day is more often than not an unwanted comment, a gesture, a touch, a violation, and ridicule that eats up your metaphorical life-bar faster than if you were Samus Aran in lava or acid baths, and then ask a different question.
Where do you see the inspiration for these strong women characters?
My own answer is that I see and hear about them everywhere and more is never too many.
So why am I talking about all of this? Why am I rehashing what should be old ground and said much better than me by people better than me? I am a writer. I write fiction and non-fiction. I am also male. So is Joss Whedon, but I am not Joss Whedon. I am nowhere near as established or even as cognizant. When this video was first linked to me, I hesitated. Who am I to talk about writing strong women characters? I have tried. Sometimes, I even think I succeeded, while other times I’ve realized I still need to improve to that regard: both as a creator and as a human being. Whedon says something in his speech about how a strong female protagonist can help a man express a part of himself that he might not be comfortable looking at from any other perspective. And I have to admit: I am not entirely sure what he means by that and yet it’s definitely something that can be explored further and it should be. I want to write strong women characters. I want to identify and acknowledge and put into words the strong female personalities from my own life and do them justice: to show that they have power, courage and humanity, and that, as Whedon put it, there are men who respect, acknowledge, and love those elements.
If someone asked me, again, why I like to write strong women characters I would say that I would like to write weak female characters, angry female characters, sad female characters, intelligent female characters and the whole wide gamut of female characters because, in the end, the ultimate secret here is that female characters are people: and people are interesting to write about and explore.
This all being said and hopefully done, and even more hopefully made into a redundant discussion one day that will continue to go on regardless, if someone kept badgering me about why (if and when I get to this point in the future) I write strong women characters, I would just stare them in the face and ask them the following question.
Feel free to click on the following link to the entirety of Joss Whedon’s Equality Now Speech. Also, if you do, notice how they are talking about the “upcoming Wonder Woman movie.” This video was uploaded in 2006 and this film has still not been made. That is definitely one strong female character that I want to see.