Great piece. Totally recommended:
…[C]alls for strong female characters start to run into trouble with trans women, nonwhite women, and women of colour in pop culture. Because women in all three of these categories are automatically expected to be strong. It is, in fact, part of their characterisation. Trans women are frequently framed as secret men (ah!) and thus can be expected to display physical strength and emotional toughness, because it’s part of the game the creator wants to play with you. These women aren’t ‘real women,’ because they’re strong. Those masculine traits aren’t empowering, in this case, aren’t an affirmation that girls can do anything. Just the opposite. They are dehumanising and violent. They are a reminder to viewers that trans women are not real because they are really, at heart, masculine. Yet, to depict them as emotionally vulnerable, even fragile, is to play into other stereotypes about women, leaving them in a double bind; they cannot be strong, they cannot be weak. They cannot exist.
Women of colour and nonwhite women have also been subjected to the physically strong, solemn or stoic archetype since time immemorial. When pop culture bothers to include them at all, they are often heavily masculinised. Loud. Oversexed. Spicy. Overwhelming in their physicality. Or, on the flip side of things, especially for Asian women, meek and submissive; objects of sexual fetish. Bodies inherently charged with sexuality that are treated as objects in pop culture narratives. Do we need more ‘strong female characters’ when it comes to women of colour, in a media that repeatedly reiterates stereotypes about stoic, unemotional, physically strong Black women, for example?
…[W]hat people are usually talking about when they talk about the need for ‘strong female characters’ is white cis women, specifically. [….] “…you have to be assumed weak in the first place for it to be groundbreaking.”