Thursday, May 9, 2013

Just That Strong

Joss Whedon, a personal hero of mine and writer/producer/director of so many wonderful titles and characters was once asked in an interview, “Why do you write strong women characters?”

I love this question.  It says so much that is right (and wrong) with our society.  Whedon’s answer is now bordering on the culturally axiomatic.  It is so well known (at least in my circles) that it can be thrown out as casually as “sword of Damocles” or “Pyrrhic victory” and actually be used correctly.

Whedon's finalresolution is: “Because you’re still asking me the question.”

I’ve been writing (hopefully) strong female characters for a couple of decades now.  I didn’t set out to do so.  There was no conscious effort to make my work specifically male or female.  My very first, very immature story was just about my group of friends.  Because I was, have been and always will be interested in heroic fantasy, it was set in a heroic fantasy setting.  Everyone carried swords, everyone was heroic with their swords, and that was essentially that.  It was a story meant for my friends, and I thought highly of all of them, regardless of their gender.

That was really all there was to it.

One of my favorite characters in that story (and perhaps this was because she was one of my favorite people in high school) was an average girl who carried an extremely above-average sword.  There was nothing Freudian in this.  I just liked the joke.  Initially, in my un-realistic, fantasy way, she was just that strong.  The sword/girl had no specific magic power making such an unwieldy weapon wieldy.

She was just that strong.

That character stuck with me, and as I met other, strong women in my life, and honored them (if you can call it that) with characters in my writing, I found more and more that I was telling their story (the female characters, not the real-life women).  So much so that I wrote whole universes specifically for these characters, not to the exclusion of male characters, but simply with the traditional genre roles leveled out.

So, while I prefer Whedon’s response very much, agree with it, and wish I could have said it myself, my answer to the question is somewhat different.

Why do I write strong women characters?  Because women are strong.  They are just that strong.

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