Getting rid of the token female – part 3 -But what can an artist do?

token1So, as discussed in part 1 and ranted in part 2, token females are not a good thing. So what’s an artist to do? We don’t decide on stories, or hire the cast. But we decide what people look like! If you get a job designing characters, it’s up to you to make sure that they all have a personality! And if the lone female of the gang looks like more than just a generic hot chick, she’s a lot less token. Really. The problem with token characters is more than just how there is just one of them, it’s also that they are there as a generic archetype.

Let’s take the smurfette as an example, what does she do? She gets in trouble and is saved, she waters flowers and tags along with the other smurfs. She doesn’t even get to be vain! They already have another smurf for that job. They also have one to be strong, and one who’s handy and one who’s a dork, and one for every single job or personality aspect. The smurfette only gets to be female. We, as artists, get to draw females who are strong, or vain, or handy, dorks, tough, old, young, spindly, fat.


Too often in mass media, especially games, we see guys old or young, wise or frivolous, slender or muscular, or fat. Girls, well usually they are hot, thin, preferably with big boobs. Hot girls are sometimes evil but ugly one always are. The plain ones are the ones who get squished by cars in open world games or turned into zombies.

But there are also good examples to follow. Belleville triplets come to mind. Given that a bunch of old ladies save the day! And what delightful design on these characters too. Strangers in paradise the comic by Terry Moore.  With the slender but wary Katchoo and the slightly chubby but usually cheerfuland sometimes sexy Francine. And an awesome support cast. Geeze, even Dora the explorer is better than most!

So, what’s an artist to do? Draw females, and make them all fun, and interesting and different! token3

Lastly, 3 related articles:

Center for media literacy What makes a good female character. A short but comprehensive list of criteria.

Overthinking it  Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women, using the live action Transformers movie. You know that they can’t really be nice to it.

Lorem Ipsum  More on female characters in fiction or is your story anti-women.

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