In an age where female empowerment and gender equality is garnering more attention than it used to, there can be misconceptions on what makes a strong woman. We can easily be fooled into believing that a badass woman is a woman who is strong, skilled at fighting, and needs no man. There is more to a badass woman than this, surely. What about a woman’s character, her personality? To cut things short, there are many different ways a woman can be strong, they don’t all have to fit in a certain mould.
However, there are some that complain about the fates of fictional women, especially when they take a step back in their lives. A few examples are Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Anne Shirley from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and Meg Murry from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
What people have problems with when it comes to these characters is that they used to be rather “active” when they were younger and unmarried. Katara had a strong fighting spirit, wanting to fight rather than to just heal with her waterbending. She became a waterbending master at a young age, going on to fight against the Fire Lord alongside Avatar Aang. However, after she married, she settled down and became a healer and to take care of her children .
Anne Shirley, known to reach greater heights than many of her friends from Prince Edward Island, furthered her education when it wasn’t too common among women. She had aspirations to become a writer. It was too the disappointment for many that grew up reading about her exploits in writing (including that time with the baking powder). However, after marrying, she doesn’t continue with her writing as a career or even her teaching. She becomes a housewife and had a lot of children with her husband.
Finally, Meg Murry. The stubborn, determined girl with a head for science and mathematical figures experienced many adventures in her youth and even when she was an expecting mother. To the disappointment of many, she becomes a housewife instead of a scientist. Even her mother, Mrs. Murry, who is a scientist, doesn’t appear to be as celebrated as her husband is in her career. She is mostly mentioned to cook food over the Bunsen burner in the lab and for her gorgeous looks (though the latter could be forgiven as it is Meg who envies her mother’s appearance).
When laid out like that, I have to say, it does sound horribly disappointing, especially as this happens to the characters we love and have had high hopes for. While it can be discouraging to see our favourite characters being shunned aside after being all grown up, but it is also important that these characters exist.
A big concern for many is that yes, housewives and healers are terribly important too, but these people had so much potential before them to become leaders in their worlds, and it seems uncharacteristic that they should suddenly change their mind and become softer, gentler, “feminine” versions of themselves.
My answer to that is neutral. Although in some ways I am indeed irked by these changes in these characters, I have to admit that people do change. And this change comes in the most unpredictable ways, and if this is their decision and what they want to do (fictional though they may be), then I have to respect it. However, it still leaves a sour taste for me when reading about these characters, because their husbands always have more dynamic or greater careers than their own. I acknowledge that them being housewives is important and is a marvellous job indeed. However, it would have also been nice to not have their husbands’ contributions seemingly much more valued than their own skills.
What do you think when you come across female characters like these in the media you consume?
Header photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash