I've always believed strong female characters and their representation are super important. I'm an aerospace engineer. A women in a male dominated field. I spend a lot of my time trying to defend women in STEM fields, and serve as a role model for future females pursuing STEM fields. It's not an easy task. It seems to be never ending.
But starting at comic con this weekend, I witnessed some interesting things with respect to strong female characters. It started with a lovely discussion about strong female characters at a leading ladies panel Friday night at comic con. And no one in the room denied that strong female characters are not only critical, but they are necessary. We named strong female characters, and the qualities that made them so. It seemed so obvious to me then. But I don't think I had a full understanding of how essential strong female characters are until I showed up to comic con in my Rey cosplay and started walking around in the crowds.
First, I must note, that Rey was by far one of the most popular costumes at comic con. And while that isn't overly shocking, it's Star Wars, it's a fairly easy costume, and she's awesome, keep in mind only a handful of those Rey cosplays were adults. That's right, most of the 25 or so Rey's I saw, were young girls.
Every time I passed one, they smiled so hugely at me, and as I waved, they waved back. Without a doubt, it's an amazing thing to see that many young girls identifying with a character enough to want to portray her.
But of bigger note was the number of girls, who ran up to me and asked to take a picture. Including these two, who without any inhibition ran up and hugged me then told me how Rey was their favorite character.
And I see some of you rolling your eyes through your computer screen right now, but it wasn't just girls who responded to Rey. Let's talk about this little Kylo Ren, who I only had to hold out my light saber before he lunged at me ready for a fight. He didn't care that I was bigger than him, that I was girl or about the standard female stereotypes we often face when it comes to female heroes. The only thing that mattered was he knew Kylo Ren and Rey were supposed to fight and I held out a lightsaber. So he went for it and loved every minute of it!
There was also this boy who really wanted to take a picture with two strong female leads, but was so afraid to ask. So I asked him if he wanted a photo and he nodded shyly. You can't beat that grin on his face. He clearly loved being able to pose with two awesome female characters.
And I wont even go into the number of adults who screamed REY at me all weekend or smiled widely as I walked by. People love her and it's for so so many reasons. She's strong, she's a fighter, she's caring, she's a pilot, she's a budding jedi, she's so many wonderful and amazing things. She feels real. She feels human.
So after all of this, the excited young boys and girls, and enthusiastic adults, why are we still having to defend strong female characters? Why are we having to fight to get our female lead movies?
There's clearly a love for these kinds of characters. There's an audience there. We need to keep giving these examples to children. Girls need these role models. They need strong women to look up to. They need to know women can do anything. Boys need these role models. They need to see strong women are amazing. That they aren't a threat to them.
The more we see them, the more normal they are in the world. Their representation is important.
SCREAM THEIR PRESENCE FROM THE ROOFTOPS!
After this weekend, I know how much impact one strong female character can have. Let's flood the world with them in any way possible. Recognize them, write them, draw them, defend them, whatever it takes. Let's make a difference.
Who are your favorite strong female characters and why? And who is missing from the big screen? Let's bring these awesome characters to the surface.
And if you have strong female REAL LIFE role models, I want to hear about them too. Sound off in the comments. :)