So maybe what we mean instead of “strong” women is women with agency or “girls/women who do things” as Robin McKinley called them in ber 1985 Newberry acceptance speech:
I know that my stories are not the only ones on bookshelves today that feature female heroes — someday, indeed, I want to write a long, graphic essay or teach an arduous course on Real Heroines in Victorian Literature — but there are still far too few. There are still far too many stories in which the female lead is paid only lip service to her potential usefulness; who proves she is worth the hero’s time by being “spirited,” as if she were a horse to be broken to saddle, which is, in fact, a dismayingly frequent metaphor; or who is lucky enough to have the traditional, accredited female virtues of sympathy and patience and gets along just fine by being patient and sympathetic with the right people.
Not all girls are patient and sympathetic any more than all boys are going to join the French Foreign Legion when things get sticky at home. I wished desperately for books like Hero when I was young: books that didn’t require me to be untrue to my gender if I wished to fantasize about having my sort of adventures, not about wearing long, trailing dresses and casting languorous looks into pools with rose petals floating in them as the setting sun glimmers through my translucent white fingers and I think about my lover who is off somewhere having interesting adventures.