That’s What She Said: Why Female role models stand out in literature

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   They’re the women everyone wants to be  —  from their magic book bags to their bows and arrows, every young woman in the world wants to take at least one step in Hermione Granger’s or Katniss Everdeen’s shoes.

   At least, that’s what I’ve thought.

   I used to think female characters in literature were worlds apart from female characters in movies and television. More often than not, it would seem the role of women in a film is for eye-candy  —  something pretty to look at. The media are all about visuals and too often lack the inside perspective of a character’s thoughts that books have to offer.

   That’s why I prefer reading about strong women more  than watching them. But, I’m scared women my age are being influenced by poor examples of female characters in literature who aren’t true to reality or to themselves.

   Little girls are conditioned to admire what they see in movies and on television. But those sexy superheroes and Disney princesses are not what women are really like. In books, female characters are more like us. They are unique but ordinary in the sense that they wish for a simple life.

   The best example of this is in “The Hunger Games” because Everdeen’s thoughts carried me through the story. I could read what she’s thinking as everything happened: how scared she was for her life, how unsure she was of her decisions, or how she wished everything was back to normal. These are the things more women of my generation should be thinking about  —  women who fear failure like the rest of us but don’t let their insecurities define them.

   Granger from the “Harry Potter” series is another prime candidate for the perfect female role model in literature. J.K. Rowling got everything right with the most brilliant witch in the wizarding world. Granger puts books before boys, is loyal and protective over her friends, and keeps fighting against Lord Voldemort even when her true love, Ron Weasley, leaves her.

   What worries me most is that too many up-and-coming authors are misrepresenting young women with characters like Anastasia Steele from “Fifty Shades of Grey” and, heavens forgive me, Bella Swan from “Twilight.” These poor characters couldn’t be further from the truth about us women in real life.

   I recently read “Fifty Shades of Grey” around Valentine’s Day, thinking I might be in for a sappy romance with the bonus of explicit and erotic sex scenes. Oh boy, was I ever wrong.

   I was met face-to-face with the most submissive, wishy-washy and air-headed girl I’d ever encountered in a book. Steele is the worst example of a strong female character.

   She succumbs to a rich man’s sick sexual advances, and, although I give her props for attempting to exercise her sexual freedom, she still got caught in his web. I’d be a terrible feminist, though, to say I blame her and only her for the sad situation she got herself in. On that note, Christian Grey can go jump in a well.

   But Steele became a mainstream icon, and who knows how many women identify with her.

   Listen ladies, don’t let poorly written females make you want to behave like them. I encourage women to find the authors who create the women who are more like them and more likely to be remembered for their bravery and their brains.

   To read more about strong female characters you may identify with, stylist.co.uk offers a list titled “Literature’s Feistiest Females” on its website.