They say that every person, no matter the gender, has both male and female energy. I know this is true in my case ... I don't care about organized sports, I don't give a rat's ass about cars or motorcycles, and I do a whole lotta cooking and gardening. On the other hand, I do have a pretty serious crush on power tools and few things give me as much satisfaction as rough carpentry, especially if ladders and eye protection are involved. So you know, I go both ways.
It's a challenge, I think, to write an accurate character of the opposite gender, at least for me. I've said it before—ladies, i love you and all, but you confuse me. I don't understand how anyone can take Oprah seriously. I honestly don't. And the dense, predatory, tearful, supportive, heartfelt, shallow politics of your average cheerleading team or sewing circle would likely reduce me to a quivering mess. You operate on levels of which I'm only dimly aware.
So I'm writing a female now. She's about 15 and she's a thief. She's an orphan who claims she has no parents because all of her early memories are too horrible to confront. As I'm writing her, I'm thinking about what makes a strong female character. She could be a bad-ass—beating up guys, smart and sassy, brash. But I think that's a bit of a cop-out. That kind of ass-kicking Bruce Lee stuff is more a sign of typical male strength than female. The strong women I know are defined instead by consistency in the face of pressure and emotional and moral courage. And I know this is a stereotype in some quarters, but they are not self-centered. They have figured out a way to lift everyone around them, even as they lift themselves.
Maybe that's one of the features of female strength: it's extroverted, as opposed to introverted. By this I mean that male strength tends to be inwardly focused. Guys are strong when they crush the competition, gather tremendous resources to themselves, carve out their niche in the world and defend it against all comers. Women are strong when they are embedded in a complex web of relationships, feeding and being fed by this web and improving the lives of everyone in it (including their own—this cannot be underestimated because it seems that lots of women fall prey to the idea of doing for everyone else what they refuse to do for themselves).
But I'm just guessing ... I want to get this girl right. So I'm curious, what do you think makes a strong woman?