Young Adult fiction has introduced a lot of strong female role models for teenage girls. I’m sure most teenage girls are familiar with Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Tris Prior (Divergent) and Clary Fray (Mortal Instruments), either via the books or the film adaptations. They are all strong, intelligent and independent girls.
However, I’ve also noticed a trend when reading reviews of these (and similar) books and films. There’s a tendency to class a female character as weak if she relies on others for help, especially if she turns to a boy for help. It’s a growing trend in our society to consider a need for help a weakness. It makes girls needy, fragile and defined not by their own actions but by the boy that helps them. Apparently.
Personally, I find this attitude towards female characters who turn to others for help is an unhealthy one. When I was in high school I was bullied on a daily basis. I didn’t feel that I could ask for help: who would believe me? What could anyone do to help anyway? By the time I did ask for help, in my final year, I was utterly miserable. But people did believe me and they did find a way to help me. I was able to complete my exams and do well and for the first time in years I didn’t feel like I was constantly looking over my shoulder, or waiting for tirade of cruel words. I knew I should have asked for help sooner.
Refusing to ask for help makes us weak.
It’s a lesson my heroine, Kim, has to learn the hard way in the third book in the Hidden series, Shrouded Soul. By keeping secrets from her friends and family, she not only weakens herself but also puts them in danger. She tries to do everything alone and fails. Kim, like all of us, has to learn her limits. Of course it’s good to achieve things on our own. However we all need to accept that we can’t do everything and that sometimes we do need help.
The strongest female role models in fiction, are those who are capable of acting independently and of recognising when they need to ask for help. Of course, this is equally true of male characters. After all, we all need a little help sometimes, don’t we?