I do love strong female characters in fiction—I’m particularly drawn to badass ones that are tougher than I am, and also to the reluctant, mousy girl who turns out to be a hero. Why do I need them to be female though? Aren’t I actually drawn to male characters in a similar way?
Perhaps I am drawn to male characters for slightly different reasons, they are different, vulnerable yet tough. I like being inside the head of the tough hero, privy to all his self-doubt and struggles.
The truth is, I like inhabiting the world of female characters as much as I do a male one. I did go through a stage of purposefully only seeking out books with female leads. And yes, I will always be happy to celebrate the wonderful breadth of strong female leads in fiction and I will always enjoy reading them. However, I recognise now that I was cutting myself off from a heap of awesome books and intriguing male leads.
I worry sometimes that some forms of feminism and supporting everything female is not done from a place of promoting equality. I want to enjoy a character or a writer, because of the quality of the writing and the complex well fleshed out character, not because of their gender. I like the character I like because of how they’ve been written. If I’m hooked in by something intriguing about a character, I will usually read to the end.
I guess in the end perhaps we all subconsciously or not, look for traits in characters that we either recognise in ourselves or admire. Gender does and doesn’t come in to that.