I must have listened to "You Don't Own Me" 30 times yesterday, and I woke up thinking about what it means to write a "strong female character" in the context of crime fiction, and why do people seem to think "strong" means muscles when we pair it with "female character" but if I said a book had "strong characters" you would know I clearly meant fully fleshed out, well rounded characters?
As a woman writer who deals in mostly women protagonists these questions nag, because when men say they "don't know how to write women" I want to punch them, or at least scream at them "HAVE YOU MET A WOMAN?!" Because I'm not a bank robber or a dude recently out of prison, and yet somehow I trust myself to write a character that's both. But if a woman writer writing women protagonists lets a one dimensional "strong" chick through, whoo boy.
Back to the song: a woman who refuses to be owned, who revels in her freedom, and refuses to play by the rules? Yes, please. And why is it just as subversive and amazing now as it was in 1964? I don't want to dwell on that, too much. This would make a great theme song for my protagonist, whose goal is to remain untethered. Is she strong? I mean, kind of. She's cool and calculating, performs well under pressure, and usually gets out alive. But the beauty of a good crime story is that nothing ever goes to plan, so when I throw my girl into these situations, she comes out the other side defeated as often as she's the victor.
One thing I wanted to do in this story, was take the action movie trope of the guy who has been injured, beat down, shot, kicked in the ribs, fallen off of high places, etc. throughout the story but is still stubbornly dragging his ass toward his victory at the end, and put that on my protagonist, a woman thief who is used to things going as planned.
And is she "strong" in the sense of "strong characters" or in the sense of "strong female characters" as a result? Well, revisions aren't quite done, but I think she shows weakness and strength, a full range of emotions, and, because this is crime fiction after all, a whole shit load of flaws.