Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

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


Sorry, I’m a bit behind on this forum and read all your comments at once, so I apologize if I misunderstood or repeat something. I also apologize for the length of this post :S

You have all raised interesting points. My concern (and this comes up a lot in my personal and professional life) is that traditional or stereotypical feminine qualities (eg. emotion, empathy) tend to be devalued or considered weaker relative to traditional or stereotypical masculine qualities (eg. pragmatism, logic, rationalism). Sometimes characters who demonstrate more pragmatism, logic, etc. are considered to be strong characters. Sidenote: thanks Celtic Glamazon for raising gender and gender binary as a social construct. Also, thanks so much for your comment about the significance of language. I try to be careful about language and oftentimes use language that could be excluding – please feel free to call me out on it! Our personal experiences and who we are sometimes craft and inform the language we use, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations of our own experience. (eg. sometimes individuals in my personal experience – not on this forum, you’ve all been lovely – will say certain things and use certain language that can be excluding to those of other “races” (and I put that in quotations because, as with gender, “race” is a social construct)…I often have to remind myself that I’m part of a fandom that’s predominately “white”)…sorry totally sidetracked there.

Is pragmatism, logic and rationalism > emotion and empathy in a character? (I just realized that Mrs. Parker sorta already asked this question, I quote it below – sorry for the repeat!) I personally don’t think either is greater than the other and I’m concerned about it being a dichotomy – you’re either logical or emotional. However, if one character is predominately or exclusively logical/rational or predominately or exclusively emotional – then that to me is unrealistic and not relatable (this brings me back to the PBU – do I HAVE to be a pushy bitch to be considered strong? why aren’t my actions and thoughts that are informed out of emotion and empathy considered strong and valued in our society?). I have no problem seeing TV!Claire more emotional in the Wedding episode or in episode 8 (though I do miss the POV – I knew there was something missing in the Wedding episode, but my lazy brain didn’t figure it out, and thanks to you all for pointing that out! Also, I didn’t really notice a difference between Book!Claire and TV!Claire during those scenes…I may need to reread the book. Just a question because of my sucky memory – wasn’t Book!Claire also pretty emotional in the Wedding episode, talking about how it felt like Jamie was holding her up throughout the ceremony?).

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in other thoughts:
I think you can have a strong female lead without her having more airtime–think Scully and Mulder sharing the stage. Sometimes he saved her; sometimes she saved him. Sometimes she cried; sometimes he cried. Sometimes she inhaled the poison mushroom spore; sometimes he did. And they were stronger IN THEIR PARTNERSHIP, rather the way LaterBook!Claire and Jamie are. (I’m totally stealing Mrs.Parkers’ exclamation points though in my head i keep putting in the tongue click.)

Thank you for the X-Files reference! (I really miss that show…have you seen Gillian Anderson in The Fall? Now, her character is an interesting one). As for your comment about sharing airtime, I think also of Olivia/Fauxlivia and Peter on Fringe.

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I think you’ve touched on something interesting. I admired Book!Claire in a different way than TV!Claire, and I think it’s because Book!Claire is less emotional and more logical. So do we identify more with female character when she’s vulnerable, because that’s something we expect from females? And is logic valued more than emotion?
Could admiring Book!Claire have to do with our our ability to hear her perspective on various issues rather than her being less emotional and more logical? I just raise this question because often we can relate to or identify with individuals more once you hear their side of the story…they may be totally unpragmatic (is that a word?…), and yet emotion may be understandable in their circumstances once you hear their perspective. I think of Laoghaire on this point. I have to say, though, that Claire maintaining any pragmatism/logic, however little, in her circumstances is admirable…if I was thrown back into time, I’d be totally traumatized and freaking out (even though it’s always been a life long dream to time travel).

Also, here’s a fun link for you all  (though I gotta say, it should say Feminist Jamie Fraser and Sam Heughan given that there’s pictures of both) http://feministjamiefraser.tumblr.com/tagged/james-alexander-malcolm-mackenzie-fraser