Strong Women in Fiction

By Katie Briggs @DiAnnMills

This week’s blog post is written by Katie Briggs

Think of your top ten favorite characters in literature and cinema.

How many are women?

If you’re like me, your number of leading men outweighs your favorite ladies. Even worse, you might also be a writer and find female characters difficult to create!

So, I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends who their favorite female characters are and why. I wanted an eye-catching photo to include with my poll and logged into a website that offers free public domain images. I typed “woman” and clicked search. The PG-13 results dropped my jaw. Is that what “woman” is? I must shout, “No!”

My experience is that depictions of women often fall into one of four categories:

  1. She is only skin.
  2. She is strong and independent, but uncaring, compromising, even crass.
  3. She is kind, gentle, yet spineless.
  4. She is perfect, which neglects honesty.

These examples do not satisfy my heroine bill.

When my poll answers were divided between brains, strength, heart, and character, the majority of votes belonged to character. My friends love seeing weaknesses and strengths lived through someone who, above all, fights for what is right no matter the cost.

Happily, many creators have crafted fantastic female characters. Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and portrayed through Gal Gadot, demonstrates facets of both power and compassion. Suzanne Collins’s Katniss from The Hunger Games is tough but sacrificial. I love detective’s wife Nora from The Thin Man series, and actress Myrna Loy gives her wit, femininity, and determination.

But I needed to go further, and I believe I cannot study anyone with greater skill than the Creator of women Himself.

Dorcas is recorded in Acts 9:36-42. She lived a life filled with acts of kindness, like sewing clothes for widows. Hers is a servant’s heart that toiled behind the curtain for society’s forgotten. However, when she took ill and passed away, the apostle Peter raised her to life and returned her to those she served. Her role was backstage, but I cannot imagine the joy captured and bravery mustered to taste death and live again.

Then there’s the Proverbs 31 woman. Hello, Bible rock star! She is wise, and her family loves her. She fears the Lord, the foundation of her knowledge, and He enables her to accomplish her ovation-worthy, endless to-do list (but not in one day, my wise mother pointed out, relieving my intimidation!). Her combination of strength and dignity strike me. I rarely find this valued in media, but isn’t it breathtaking to see?

Finally, Wisdom is referred to as “she.” I love how Proverbs 3:13-26 and 4:4-13 describe her. Proverbs 8 is written from her point of view, and it is she who explains what fearing the Lord means. Wisdom stands without price and holds a wealth of good things. She is peaceful and pleasant and life giving. Evil disgusts her and it cannot entice her to compromise. She is guardian, teacher, leader, and God’s first task. By her He founded the heavens and the earth. She is His master craftsman, cheering His works, and He delights in her.

Maybe biblical womanhood becomes confused when we pick colors instead of embracing the full painting. First Peter 3:4 is a beautiful verse instructing wives that true beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit. But this shouldn’t be translated to “a weak and flaky spirit.” Gentleness and quietness speak contentment and trust, and these are powerful. Second Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT) May we and our characters be gentle and compassionate toward others, peaceful in contentment and trust, and powerful, noble, and loving. And let love never be shown weak. Authentic love dies for someone else.

Thank you, DiAnn, for this opportunity to join your blog, and thank you for being an artist determined to paint strong women! I am far from completely understanding God’s plan for womanhood and the cultural and historical wounds we have inflicted upon it, but I am excited to grow forward.

Thank Katie for sharing! If you would like to connect with Katie directly, check out her new website here >>
Readers, who are your favorite female characters and why?

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn’s Library Corner

Librarian Tip – Ask your patrons for their favorite female characters and create a display of the books featuring them. In two weeks, ask your patrons for their favorite male characters and create a disply of the books featuring them. Have fun!