Attributes that are often praised in male characters, such as strength, confidence, and assertiveness are often villainized in female characters. Female characters who show these attributes are often perceived as arrogant and full of themselves. They are also perceived as pushy and demanding for knowing their worth and asking for better. As an audience, we have to stop and ask: why is it that we judge female characters so harshly compared to male characters? For female characters, there’s often no winning. When female characters are hard working and successful, they are often portrayed as being lonely and sad, while similar male characters are portrayed as having the time of their lives. When female characters have a more traditional women’s role, they are portrayed as unambitious and boring. Female characters who make choices rooted in emotion are too emotional, and not to be trusted because they lack logic. Female characters who make decisions rooted in logic are viewed as cold and not to be trusted because they lack compassion. Regardless of what female characters do, they are unfairly judged.

In movies featuring female leads, they are torn apart for any flaws they have, despite the fact that this is what gives any story plot. Stories are stories because characters have flaws, yet female characters are villainized for this. When the main conflict of the story is a character having to step up to an unexpected responsibility, female characters who hesitate to do so are viewed as selfish, while those who eagerly accept the challenge are viewed as overconfident and arrogant. Meanwhile, male characters in the same situation are heroes regardless of how they react. It is understandable for male characters to be hesitant, because taking on this new responsibility will completely alter their life, and they are noble and caring if they take on the challenge with confidence. Why is it that for women, any reaction is a losing one, while for men any reaction is a winning one. Male characters are given much more grace when it comes to being both perfect and imperfect.

Female characters are especially judged in traditionally male dominated genres such as sports and superhero genres. A show that addresses this subject is “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law”. In the show the main character, Jennifer Walters, is accidentally turned into a Hulk after coming into contact with radioactive blood from her cousin, Bruce Banner. As soon as her powers are revealed to the world, there are men upset about her power. Although she acquired her powers through an accident, she is harshly judged for having them. In the show, there is a section of the internet dedicated to men that hate her. Their arguments for disliking her mirror real life reasons for disliking female characters: she is not deserving of her powers, there doesn’t need to be a female equivalent for male characters, she would be nothing without men, and that she overall is not qualified.

There are fair criticisms of all characters. Not all characters are well written, and everyone likes different things. However, when all judgements of a female character begin with “I’m not sexist but…” or end with “it’s not because she’s a woman, I swear” it’s time to question whether those are fair judgements, or judgements rooted in sexism. The unfair judgement of female character connects back to a larger problem we have in society: women are judged much more unfairly than men. Unfair judgement of women does not end when we walk out of a movie theatre or turn off the TV. Women are judged in real life the same way as female characters are judged, and women internalize comments about female characters. The media we consume has the power to shape us into who we are. Finding a character that inspires you can be life changing. Finding a character you relate to, whether it is because of their personality, career aspirations, or looks, then hearing criticism about those attributes, can be just as hurtful as if those criticisms were directed at you.

About the Author

Hi! My name is Tiana, and I'm a third year Immunology and Infection major. This is my first year working with WEW, and I'm super excited to be working with such an amazing group to spread awareness about important issues. When I'm not studying or writing I enjoy baking, reading, and doing sudoku puzzles.