(Because it’s helpful to understand how you got into an unfortunate situation in the first place in order to extricate yourself from it, let’s preface this with the presumable origins of Strong Female Characters™.) For a certain period of time, the general assumption was that to identify as a woman was to identify as weak, the fictional fall-out being the birth of a host of troublesome stereotypes from women-in-fridges to damsels-in-distress and so forth, femininity having become defined as something that was vulnerable and in need of continual saving whilst strength, rationality and bravery belonged to the stable of men. More recently, a counter-attack has been launched through the invention of female characters who are Strong capital S: these ladies typically kick butt, keep up stoic facades and generally do typically “manly” things as well as the dudes that surround them.
Which should be…great, right? Well, not entirely. The problem with the conventional Strong Female Character is that she’s a stick-figure, forcibly placed in the landscape of a story to appease the imagined desires of Modern Feminist Consumers of Culture (hear us roar!) who are incensed by the prominence of “weak” women representing their sex. Essentially, a vital lapse in communication has occurred between the people who write these stories and those who read/watch them. When audiences voice their discontent with “weak” female characters, its not weakness itself that’s being disregarded as a plausible (or sympathetic) character trait, just the relegation of an entire gender to being weak without foundation or cause. Therefore, to counter this by pioneering characters who are “strong” with just as little basis is….well, not a solution at all. Strength is not something that exists as a vacuum, strength is something that comes into being by characters overcoming their weaknesses, their fears, their vulnerabilities. So strength without anything underpinning it is essentially narrative white noise: a big ol’ nothing taking up space in your story where something of import might have gone. If your characters are weak, people want to know why they’re weak (“because they’re female” not being sufficient justification) and if they’re strong, people want to know the reasons for that as well. They don’t just want Strong Female Characters because they’re superior to weak ones, what they want is human characters who possess the same fragilities and fallibility as everyone else does, not 2-dimensional cut-outs of what women should be like.
So considering that, can we please - both in terms of fandom discourse and character creation - relegate the Strong Female Character™ to the trash heap where it belongs?