1. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    A question about women

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Irish87, Nov 5, 2009.

    I'm writing a novel for the NaNoWriMo contest thingamajigger and I am in desperate need of advice when it comes to women! Let me explain...

    I'm trying my hardest to avoid cliches and stereotypes, all the while writing a fantasy novel. It's been hard thus far. Nevertheless, the one thing giving me more issues than any other topic is that of strong women. I've always hated the typical waif of a woman who acts like every other woman and is in no way strong or definable other than by her endowments. It's the same, mind you, with the typical brute male who uses massive weapons and resembles more of a caveman than an actual human being.

    So to avoid both of those, but more importantly the weak/overly sexed woman stereotype, I am clearing the slate in my novel. Women are in the military, they are equal to their husbands, and they have jobs just like anyone else. The problem I am having is defining how that woman reacts to everyday situations. The biggest issue with this is that I cannot describe a strong woman as a woman who goes against the male dominated world since... well, it's pretty much equal to both genders. I've pulled examples from my own life, including my aunt who was perhaps the strongest person I've ever met, but even then I remember distinctly that much of her strength came from proving she was just as good as her husband.

    So how do I define a strong woman? I think I know the general answer to that, but I'm also coming into conflict with the idea that strength is not always what men describe it as. I was always taught that a strong man is someone who provides for his family, never shows emotions, and is willing to put himself in harms way for those he loves. So these so-called strong women I am to describe are then to be deemed emotionless? I can understand the other two, but I can't help but think emotions are one of the many reasons why women are so important.

    The reason I bring all of this up is because the main character has an argument with his wife and the wife ends up crying. As soon as I wrote that I took a pause and realized that I had fallen into my own trap. Then again, what he says is terrible and I think it would have brought him to the point of crying if she had said it to him. The only difference is I would have immediately written that he sucked it up and carried on.

    ARGH! I'm so confused by this. Do I make her emotionless or packed full of them? In our society it is acceptable for a woman to cry, while men are generally thought less of when they do it. If, however, we were all honestly equal with few exceptions would it be alright for anyone to cry? I suppose this is the problem when you live in a society such as ours, one that is defined entirely by our gender or our race, our beliefs, sexuality, or whatever group we cling onto as though it truly matters. I do not mean to start a rant, but it feels as though we divide ourselves so that we may find strength in those who are alike, rather than finding it from within and... right, I'll stop before I start preaching. Sorry.

    As always, any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. roseberryse
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    roseberryse Member

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    Strong people, regardless of whether they are male or female, cry for one reason or another. I say let her cry. What makes her strong isn't that she can hold her emotions in but that she can be comfortable with letting them out. I think using your aunt as an example is a good idea. You don't have to mimic her, but think about the traits that she possesses that make her so remarkable. I know that that strongest people I know are certainly the kindest. Maybe breaking the stereotype of what it means to be strong will be more powerful than the stereotypical characters readers are used to. Everyone is going to have a different version of what being strong actually means, so make her strong in the way that you feel most comfortable with.
     
  3. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    In a egualitarian society a strong woman is like a strong man, being equal doesn't necessary mean that all women are strong.

    For crying, take into account that Otto Von Bismark, the Iron Chancellor, bursted into tears when they informed him that the King of Prussia wanted to march on Wien after Sadowa.

    Nuff said!
     
  4. Robert Lipscombe
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    Robert Lipscombe Member

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    I love your question, which is very searching and challenging..
    my view: a strong woman is one who has deep feelings [all the normal ones] but is able to keep her cool so that she doesn't cry too much [perhaps in a way that might be manipulative], doesn't get too angry [where she might want to be spiteful and hurtful in some veiled way], doesn't get so sad that she just collapses on people..in short, she is strong; she can hold herself together, despite normal and natural emotional responses, which she owns to gladly, and does not allow herself to do damage, either to herself, or to others. For the strong woman, like the strong man, the buck stops here, even though it is good and right to reach out to people.
    good luck with your work
    RL
     
  5. Colorheart
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    Colorheart Member

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    I say let her cry.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    There are two good examples of tuff women in the TV show Lost, IMO.
     
  7. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    If strong women are the norm than maybe you need to define what makes a weak woman instead. To me, internal strength comes into play just as much as physical strength. Being able to shovel all the emotional crap to the side and get what needs to be done done is part of being strong.

    That being said, strong women still cry. They still feel emotion and being "strong" doesn't have anything to do with how they respond to it. I think what you're struggling with has more to do with personality type than inner strength.

    In the scenario you described I know a strong woman that would in turn get angry and say things meant to hurt the man that upset them--below the belt shots. I know another strong woman that would get upset and then bury it deep, martyr style. It's all in how that specific character would react to that situation, you can't generalize it so much.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Denying your emotions is, to me, a huge sign of weakness.

    Use this pearl of wisdom as you see fit ;)
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Who is the stronger woman (or man, for that matter)? The one who can cry when he or she is experiencing a powerful emotion, or the one who locks it all inside lest someone see vulnerability?

    A woman, or a man, may have good reason for not crying right now, like not wanting to upset and worry her children. But being able to express emotions without giving a damn about being judged is a form of strength, too.

    A strong person does what needs to be done. He or she has feelings, and may or may not express them openly. But the strong person finds a way to keep moving toward the goal.

    I don't tend to distinguish between what makes a women strong vs what makes a man strong. The same qualities apply, and those qualities do not include how much the person puffs up his or her chest and struts around making noise. I've known strong people who can present a powerful presence like that, and many others who quietly bend with the storm but are still standing when all the chaos blows over.
     
  10. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Some great points Cog! I gotta say I feel strength is an individual thing, overcoming your own unique personal issues. We all have weaknesses we have to combat in order to reach our goals.

    This is why I love stories where the characters have to face their own demons. This is why I write MCs and how they become strong, not strong MCs.
     
  11. Snail
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    Snail New Member

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    I think there is a difference between showing emotion, and leaning on others too much. I know many strong women, and they do cry, but they also are able to look after themselves and pick themselves back up. I tend to think relying on others to drag you to your feet shows weakness.

    So perhaps she could cry, but then work through it herself?
     
  12. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    She's gotta cry. Crying doesn't make you weak.

    The one thing that irks me about a strong women stereotype is that in order to appear strong people think she needs to behave like a man. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. What could be more of hypocrytical then a strong women who is in fact a strong man with breasts?

    Let her cry. Let her be hurt. Have her draw breaths between her teeth with wild eyes filled with hurt and rage and sorrow. Don't deny emotion just because a male stereotype is built like that. Being strong is being able to overcome the hurt.

    So she's crying, so she's hurt and showing it. If the house burnt down, she'd still go back in for the kids (as would he - don't get tetchy boys ;) )

    You know what they say: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
    It's all about overcoming things.
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Irish, not to toot my own horn here or anything, but I'd consider myself relatively strong in the mental capacities, though after some years of spending too much time in front of the computer has left me a little on the...umm...soft side of muscular definition. :) Sometimes in writing my own characters I find my lack of the "drama" emotions to pose a problem for writing drama ridden characters. I tend to write people who are more like I am, less controlled by emotions, but still able to feel emotions and process them.

    I know in myself, it took me years to get over being an emotionally reactive type of woman. The type who would probably be considered weaker, at least closer to stereotypical. Though I've always been kind of a tough cookie, even as a kid in grade school I'd beat up the playground bully if they were messing with me or my friends.

    In strength, a person can feel fear, sadness, pain(emotional or physical,) joy, and stress, but the process of feeling an emotion doesn't mean you have to react to it. While it's great to embrace joy, it can be life threatening to be paralyzed by fear. While stress is an everyday occurrence in everyone's life, when you are strong you don't let it rule your every thought. Sadness and emotional hurt still will happen, but that doesn't have to send you into a crying fit, or a deep depression.

    Times that I cry...well I cry relatively frequently, usually in response to something I've watched (movie/tv) or an actual sad moment, say at a funeral of someone close to me, or sometimes even someone I'm not close to.

    As for your scenario...I've had plenty of fights with my hubby. Crying can be out of both emotional hurt and frustration. I've shed tears, so has he (and my husband is pretty close to an emotional void.) Technically, crying is just the body's physical response to strong emotions. You can cry in joy, fear, pain, panic, hurt, and anger. It doesn't have to be a sign of weakness, but simply a sign of feeling something strongly and the hormone release associated with feeling strongly. It's all the same hormone regardless of the initiating emotion.

    So I don't think crying should be a defining point of characterizing weakness. To me someone who is emotionally weak can't handle things. They break down in hysterics over trivial things. They fly off the handle in the face of a small slight. They suffer full blown anxiety attacks when confronted with the littlest bit of stress. They aren't equipped mentally to deal with things in general life. Those are weak people. They also tend to be the first people who are eaten by the zombies. lol

    There is a broad spectrum between the weakest people and the strongest people. Stereotyping characters to be at either end of the extreme makes for boring characters. No one in real life is at either end of the extreme. From a measure of 1-100 most people will fall into place between 20 and 80, with most people averaging in the 50 range. So if you look at people like that, you can seen those around you, and even yourself, on that scale. How much a person lets their emotions control them is pretty much the deciding factor in strength, not how much you feel them.
     

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