There’s no wrong way to be a girl.
In light of all the discussion about the Hunger Games and The Legend of Korra and their strong female leads, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what makes strong female characters strong.
Often in our discourse about female characters in the media, we focus on female characters like Korra and Katniss, like Toph (from the original Avatar) and Girl!Shepard from Mass Effect; even Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic; female characters that are strong, bad ass, and deadly. In essence, women who take on the classic characteristics of action hero men. There’s no doubt that these women DO represent strong, likable, female characters.
But as a result, we tend to overlook strong female characters that are more….classically feminine.
Certainly, in our efforts to break down harmful gender roles, we encourage girls to be tom boys, to be active, to be ambitious and strong. But we should not stigmatize girls who DO like dolls, and pink and glitter. Girls, and Women are are “traditionally feminine”, who like pink, and babies, and flowers, who want to be house wives, and take great pride in being mothers are NOT inherently oppressed. They have not inherently internalized misogyny.
While Toph is no doubt a VERY strong female character, she isn’t inherently more so than Ty Lee or Katara. Katniss is a role model, but so is her sister Prim. Rainbow Dash is amazing, but so are Fluttershy and Rarity.
You can be strong and feminine. You can be liberated and wear make up. You can be a feminist and shave your legs.
By telling girls that the only way to be a strong girl is to ACT LIKE A BOY, tells them that BEING A BOY IS BETTER than being a girl. And that’s not true. Both are equally valid.
Every end of the spectrum, from butch tom boys, to super girly girls are equally, wonderful ways to be a girl, and to be a woman.