Tavi Gevinson On Reconceiving Strong Female Characters

The TED lecture series has expanded to a TEDxTeen program, and one of the first participants is Rookie Magazine founder and style icon Tavi Gevinson, who raises some important points about the much-maligned archetype of the so-called “strong female character”:

“I think the question of what makes a strong female character often goes misinterpreted and we get these two-dimensional superwomen,” Gevinson suggests. “They’re not strong characters who happen to be female. They’re completely flat.”

I’d actually go further. The evaluation of whether a female character is strong shouldn’t be about whether or not the character herself demonstrates physical or emotional resilience, but about whether the execution of the character, whether she is personally weak or strong, decisive or lost, is precise and unique. The “strong,” if we’re going to keep using the term, should be an indicator of quality, rather than of type. A personality can be strong and distinct without being positive. And there should be a lot more room for women to be compelling without being nice, to exist with a network of support rather than needing to do everything for themselves, and for stories about them to make them worthy of our investment because of those things. Going from one very narrow lane to the next isn’t an improvement. I want female characters to be able to drive all over the highway.