Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Reply To: On the TV portrayal of the "Strong Woman"


I’m writing from the perspective of someone that identifies as Gender Neutral/Fluid, so I am aware that my perspective is quite different than most. I’m sure that on some level we are all aware that Gender is a social construct, that varies from culture to culture. The dominant culture in the United States goes by the concept of a gender binary, while there are many subcultures within the country that have lived with the idea of multiple(2+) genders for centuries. There are something like 16 countries in the world that legally recognize third-gender as an option. The distinction between sex and gener is as simple as some women have penises and some men have a period, that is a reality of being gender-nonconforming.

So that it doesn’t seem like I’m attempting to lecture the class, or sell you something from amway (sorry if any of you do that). I just want to be clear about why I feel the way I do.

Mrs Parker said:
[quote quote=7031]I do love me some good gender politics discussion…I like that Outlander flips these stereotypes, but as we discuss strong female lead, I agree that we never say strong male lead (we just say male lead) or weak male lead when he shows more feminine traits.

The lead is always the strongest character on the show, so I would say this phrase has less to do with gender identity and more to do with the focal character on the show. We’re seeing more shows carried by women so maybe soon we can one day do away with the moniker of strong FEMALE lead as if it’s something different.

I love everything about this, because you’ve taken the time to make the distinction that the moniker of strong female should be unnecessary as a description. In using the term we are silently reinforcing the “otherness” of there being a female lead, instead of accepting that she’s the same as any lead character regardless of gender. This is similar, in my opinion, to qualifying something as gay. I went to a gay wedding yesterday, and it was lovely. You wouldn’t say; I went to a straight wedding yesterday, and it was lovely. Language is important because it can exclude or include a group of people. Please understand that I’m not attempting to shame anyone here, or to even accuse anyone of doing this. I’ve noticed that many take the time to add “” around “strong” to denote how unnecessary it is, but it is the central theme of the thread. I love that this discussion is happening, because these things need to be viewed in the light of day. Systemic marginalization, such as the typecasting of women as mainly the damsel in distress, can only change if we start to take note of it happening in our media.

[quote quote=7020]
Welcome to the world, idealists. :)
So this is the kind of thing I keep in mind when I think about how the world should be rather than is, because in the meantime we still have to deal with the now.

I think that list is a great start.

You know that they say in the treatment of addiction, the first step to solving your problem is admitting you have one. The first steps to creating the world as it should be are to challenge the way it is now, and sometimes that is a painful and damaging thing to do. Thank you for sharing the story from your class. It helps to understand the experience of others.


To follow up on the flipping of traditional roles that Mrs. Parker commented on, I found that I could relate to Jamie more (book & Tv) because DG wrote him in a very well rounded way. Yes, he’s the traditional burly scotsman at times, but he’s also well read, gentle, empathetic, caring, and emotional. Claire, for me, does the same, except that at times TV-Claire seems to fall into traditional type-cast responses that undermine her strength from the book.

Ultimately; what I look for in a strong Female character is that no matter what tragedy befalls the character, they work through it to the best of their ability. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and hell; I prefer that it’s not. Sometimes we all need to be rescued, but if that is the reoccurring theme for a character then that character isn’t a strong lead to me.

Hopefully this didn’t come across as a college lecture, but if so…well…I spend roughly 50+ hours a week immersed in College work and it’s hard to break out of that pattern. 🙂