Repeat after me, folks: romantic plotlines don’t ruin female characters.
A female character isn’t weak because she has normal human emotions. She isn’t anti-feminist because she has vulnerabilities. There’s a difference between a female character existing entirely to be in love with the male character and a female character who happens to have a romantic subplot as part of her story.
It isn’t feminist to insist that female characters have to be “badass” unfeeling robots, detached from absolutely anything considered “feminine,” including, apparently, emotions. Sure, we don’t want female characters to be damsels in distress, but swinging in the other direction, to cardboard-cutout-badass-making-quips, isn’t much better. Good female characters appear human. And sorry, romance-haters, but love is a part of that.
If you are female, expressing hatred for your own body is not just acceptable, it’s practically de rigeur. Failure to indulge in the requisite amount of self-flagellation – my thighs! my skin! my face! – isn’t just negligent, it’s unfeminine. Self-hatred is fundamental to how femininity is constructed, more fundamental than any of the more obvious external symbols (dress, make-up, shoes). What matters is not that you are beautiful, but you know your place in the beauty hierarchy (and since every woman ages, every woman’s place will eventually be somewhere at the bottom).
Young women are encouraged to bond over their dislike of excess body hair, surplus flesh and “uneven” skin. They are meant to do so in a jovial way, egged on by perky adverts informing them what “real women” do: worry about having underarms beautiful enough for a sleeveless top, celebrate curves with apologetic booty shakes and cackle ruefully over miserable Sex-and-the-City-style lunches of Ryvita and Dulcolax. It’s a gendered ritual; men get football and booze, women get control pants and detoxes. We are supposed, of course, to be grateful. Hey, you don’t have to be perfect! Just know you’re not perfect and act accordingly, with the appropriate levels of guilt and shame!
Fairy tale after fairy tale tells us that what matters is being beautiful “on the inside” but what does that really mean? It means submission, obedience and the suppression of one’s own desires. Don’t be haughty and proud. Clean the hearth. Kiss the frog. Love the beast. Suck it up when you’re replaced by a younger model. Sure, you may look fine, but you mustn’t feel fine. You mustn’t be vain. You mustn’t be angry. All fury and pain must be turned back on itself. That way you’ll be a real princess: silent, fragile and never threatening to challenge the status quo.
“Sometimes this really seems to shock people. They appear genuinely upset when I say ‘this conversation is over’ or ‘I’m actually not interested in debating this with you.’ There’s an expectation that if you care about social justice and political issues, you’re always ‘on.’ You’re always ready to debate, you’re always ready to have theoretical discussions about your own lived experiences and the issues you care about, you’re always ready to defend yourself. That’s manifestly ridiculous and unjust, an expectation that’s simply not reasonable.”—Sometimes, I Just Don’t Have Time for Individual Fights | this ain’t livin’ (via brutereason)