“Strong Female Character” by Kirstyn McDermott – The Feminist Wire

“Strong Female Character” by Kirstyn McDermott



You say strong, you mean:



midriff bared like body amour



little girl-woman seeming fragile, vulnerable, weak when

– surprise! –

she is anything but.


I say strong, I mean:

like coffee

rich, complex

developed over time

a thousand different flavours

from a thousand different beans

savoured in all its forms

from double-shot-espresso

to frothy fulsome cream


not one thing to any one person.


You say strong, you mean:

invincible, unbreakable, impenetrable

polished steel

kicking it with the boys

just one of the boys

just another boy

just a boy

in a girl-suit

who by any other name would still smell

of testosterone.


I say strong, I mean:

a woman who breaks

allows herself to break

picks up the pieces

allows others to pick up the pieces

puts herself back together

with or without help

not the same way

never the same way

perspective cracks different each time

her steel is a chain



repurposed to suit each new place

each new person

each new way of being



You say strong, you mean:


splendid in her isolation

cracking cynical

when beaten

looking good

when bleeding

secret trauma worn rigid in her spine


only for the most deserving

that special someone

just a little bit taller, broader, worthier

than her.



I say strong, I mean:

like equations


their validity autonomous of approval

mathematical engines

that will drive the world

if ever the world will let them.


I say strong.

Are you listening?




Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.07.14 PMKirstyn McDermott is an Australian novelist, short story writer and sometime poet who generally works in the darker alleyways of speculative fiction. Her most recent book is Caution: Contains Small Parts, a collection of short fiction published by Twelfth Planet Press. When not wearing her writing hat, she produces and co-hosts a literary discussion podcast, The Writer and the Critic. After many years based in Melbourne, Kirstyn now lives in Ballarat and is pursuing a creative PhD at Federation University. She can be found online (usually far too often) at