There’s been a steadily increasing amount of books that follow the what can almost be called “trend” of portraying strong female characters in books—girls like Katniss from The Hunger Games, who are physically strong and skillful, and just as capable as their male counterparts, if not more—but something I haven’t seen promoted and talked about enough, as well as represented in books, are female characters who are confident.
Female characters like Hermione, who is smart, and doesn’t hesitate to showcase it, and Luna, who stays true to her beliefs and opinions, despite what others think, and despite the ridicule she faces as a result thereof.
“You can laugh! But people used to believe there were no such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack!”
Female characters, in short, who are unafraid of being themselves, don’t worry about fitting in, and don’t bend to societal norms and expectations.
Why am I putting an emphasis on confident female characters?
Because boys, on the whole, have been raised, and are taught to be confident, to “be a man” (which is pretty much synonymous to “tough, confident, and self-assured” in most scenarios), while girls are taught to be “likable”.
Whereas boys, and later on men, are admired and respected for saying “I’m good at [insert a skill]”, the same sentence, coming from a girl, or a woman, is much more often met with raised eyebrows, accompanied by a not-so-subtle—at times unconscious—thought: “well, aren’t you a bit full of yourself”.
Consequently, men in powerful positions, or at work in general, can be tough, and ruthless, and are lauded for their grit, while women are often labelled far less favorable adjectives, and speaking out about issues, and raising a voice, can easily earn comments that range from “maybe it’s that time of the month” to “well, someone’s overreacting/overly emotional” and “wow, what a binch*”.
*I have a severe dislike for the word that is actually used, so I’m censoring it … in a way.
(And this kind of judgement doesn’t even merely come from males, which is so sad, because what happened to feminism, and girl power?)
The fact is, that as a female, you grow up learning that it’s oftentimes much more beneficial to stay silent, be easy-going, and modest in order to be likable—something that is so detrimental for girls, especially when it comes to being able to develop our personality, as well as discovering, and being confident in who we are.
I still remember how a female classmate of mine once said “I’m a very good dancer”, when we had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class, and tell them a fact about us. I didn’t think too much of it, until the girl sitting next to me started talking about her derisively to another girl, after she left the room, and one of the words she used were “stuck up”.
Whom she didn’t talk about was the male classmate who’d said “I’m a great football player”.
But, looking back, what strikes me about witnessing this scene—next to not saying anything, when I should have, because I didn’t want them to dislike me—I actually took note of what made her their topic of discussion in the first place, and it only reinforced my already deeply ingrained notion of not making the same “mistake” of so openly declaring my talents.
(And I’m cringing silently, while typing this, because that means I’m alluding to having talents, which immediately makes me go “AHHH will this make me seem stuck up??”)
See the vicious cycle?
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in doing these things:
(Yes, I’m talking in the present tense, because I still do them, but I’m working on it!!)
- I achieve something (pretty great), and the first thing I do, when someone congratulates me, is follow up my thank-you with “I couldn’t have done it without [lists a million people, who may or may not have directly or indirectly had the tiniest influence on me in the course of my entire life]
- Instead of saying “Thank you”, I say “Oh, no, it’s really nothing. Anyone could do it!”
- I get a high score on an exam/win a competition, but I’ll say “I was lucky”, “[he/she/they could have done just as well, but probably had a bad day” … &c.
- I hide/don’t talk about my test scores, when I know that I’ve done better than others
- I hold back from raising my hand in class, when no one else does, because doing so feels like being a show-off, or saying “I know something all of you don’t!”
- I don’t correct classmates in a group assignment, because I don’t want to come off as a know-it-all, or as if I’m lecturing them, and if I do
- I always start my sentences with “I think …” or “maybe …”, or “in my opinion …”, even if it’s a fact, or I know that I’m right
I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with thanking, and thereby accepting praises or compliments I receive, because saying “thank you” means I agree with the person, and “does this sound like I’m bragging? Is this making me unlikable?”.
But I also know that I shouldn’t.
Which is why I think it’s so important that young girls can find these kinds of characters in books; so that they realize that it’s okay to be proud of their achievements, and say things such as “I’m a great dancer” without feeling like they’re bragging—and so that others who hear it, will only admire them for their self-assurance, instead of judging them for it.
So that they can voice their opinions, without feeling like they need to justify it, or be afraid of it coming off the wrong way. So that they know they can be themselves, and don’t have to try and fit in, because the right people will love and accept them for who they are.
Also, please keep in mind that I’m talking about confidence, not arrogance. Confidence has only to do with how you see and feel about yourself, and nothing about you in relation to other people.
Do you consider yourself to be a confident person?
Do you talk about your talents, skills, or achievements without feeling a twinge of discomfort?
Have you ever made yourself “smaller”, so as not to stand out?
What kind of personality traits do you wish were more frequently represented in characters?
Bonus question: A girl answers the question “Do you think you’re beautiful?” with “Yes, I’m very beautiful.”—be completely honest: does this reflect negatively on your opinion of her (even if only a tiny bit)?