Why are masculine traits so annoying in a woman?

Masculine traits don’t have to be annoying in a woman, but they often are.

I noticed a tendency among some girl friends and myself to find female movie/literature/game characters profoundly annoying if they are masculine and have these “tough girl” traits. They are called “strong female characters”, but for some reason it fails to produce admiration. One of my gamer friends never plays girl characters in games for that reason. Playing as an old man is so much better, she says. Some guy friends I know said they laugh when they see these action girls in movies, often under 100 lbs, beat the hell out of a bunch of 200lbs+ men.

However, there ARE some good female fictional characters with strength and even masculinity that don’t produce negative feelings. I’m burning with curiosity to find out what exactly makes them different. I always liked Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. I even liked the military woman Vasquez. Heck, I even kinda liked Charlie’s Angels, even though the movies were stupid.  I hated Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie (not Angelina herself), and I hated the Bride from Kill Bill.

I’m also into making long adventure stories. In my teens, I felt it was hard to create a really good and strong female character, as a lot of my “strong female character” creation attempts ended up in just another Lara Croft.  When trying to create my own characters, I always wondered why my female characters, possessing the same traits as my favorite male movie characters, just don’t feel as cool as the original, while my coolest characters that my friends love are always male.

However, with age I managed to create much better female characters. Yet even after I fixed the problem, I can’t articulate what I changed.  Strong female character – I know it when I see it!

Why do people create “Lara Crofts”? Perhaps their writer is turned on by action chicks (Tarantino was called both feminist and misogynist for his Kill Bill, but I think he just thinks it’s cool and possibly hot to have women fighting).  Or perhaps their writer wants to be like them and is creating a shameless Mary Sue. Perhaps these characters seem annoying, because they are only there for satisfying desires of certain people’s ego. Like Twilight.

“Ellen Ripleys” are, on the other hand, possessing greatness of their own, and don’t inspire annoyance. You are engaged by this character,you’re interested in their mental processes, you care what happens to them, you want her to defeat the alien and be home safely. Ellen Ripleys are like Shakespeare, rather than Twilight.

The annoying “strong female characters” have nothing more to them than their femaleness and their toughness. They don’t have enough depth to care about them. They feel like carbon copies of one-dimensional male action heroes, but with boobs. They are a cardboard cutout of a cardboard cutout. The genuine ones, like Ripley, feel like real humans with real personalities. They can be admirable, they can be stupid and funny, but they are always intriguing.

This leads me to believe that masculinity itself (or strength) is not in general the problem, it’s lack of character development. And I think this might even apply to real women, and not only fictional women.  Present yourself the right way and you will be seen as admirable. Present yourself wrong and you’re seen as a bitchy upstart.

However, I want readers’ opinions. Is masculinity itself annoying in a woman, or the lack of positive traits?



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29 Responses to Why are masculine traits so annoying in a woman?

  1. Peter Panther says:

    >Why do people create “Lara Crofts”?

    That is quite easy: Tomb Raider is a game in which you see the backside of a person for the ENTIRE game. Which nerd _wouldn’t_ prefer that backside to be a well shaped female one?

    When I was 10 I read all the books by Karl May, a prolific german author, whose main heroes are young, handsome, extremely competent, speak every language, best every opponent in every form of combat etc.
    When I was 14 I was bored by that kind of superhero. The kind that by definition is superiour to everyone else.
    I still enjoy shows like e.g. Psych, where the hero is superiour to all others in some respect but normal or even inferiour in all others. More examples: Sherlock, Glades, the Witch-Books by Terry Pratchett.
    The latter have an interesting twist: Granny Weatherwax is more competent than everyone else in most respects; the question is: is she competent enough for the problem at hand?
    The best Superman stories follow that idea; no matter how powerful you are, life will present problems that may be beyond you.

  2. Peter Panther says:

    I just noticed that I didn’t really answer the question 😉

    Imagine films where nerds bed every woman they want. But in all seriousness. Austin Powers without comedy.
    Imagine films where fat ugly women have plenty of attractive male admirors. Matterr of fact, this is normal it should and can happen style.
    How much more transparently can it be that someone has a bad ego or a political agenda?


  3. darlingdoll says:

    I find masculine traits annoying in women when they are trying sooooo hard to prove that they are as tough as men, as strong as men, that they don’t *need* a man. I find it far less annoying when the female (real life or fictional) retains a sense of vulnerability and has her decidedly emotional moments.

  4. Liz says:

    Interesting topic, Emma!
    I think Darlingdoll brings up a good point. Perhaps the key lies in the character’s vulnerabilities, rather than her “strengths”?

  5. Ashley says:

    I think it boils down to strength and weakness. Femininity is sees as weaker and less than masculinity. On a grand scale, it’s much more socially acceptable for women to portray masculine characters and roles than it is for men to portray feminine characters and roles. You don’t see too many straight men trying to associate with femininity. Why? Because they would be called a pussy which is slang to refer to someone who is weak. No one wants to be seen as weak, not even women these days because they don’t want to feel limited to what they can do. They are tired of being damsels in distress. Why? They don’t want their lives to depend on a man to be able to function and when that relationship is over, her quality of life suffers. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing as a whole. Both men and women can gain from women gaining a little bit of backbone and independence. However, it is annoying to me if either a man or a women refuse to accept their own circumstantial weaknesses or admit when they could benefit from a little help. My relationships have been affected by men trying too hard to be tough and rugged and shut me out of lending a helping hand emotionally. It’s quite endearing to me when a man is comfortable to cry around me. The same with women. Women have vulnerabilities too and they would be doing themselves a disservice by ignoring those. We are all humans, no one has to be tough 100% of the time. I hope I make sense here.

  6. M3 says:

    I simply find i cannot suspend disbelief long enough to take seriously a waif like teenage woman kicking the crap out of dozens of beasts / vampires / assasins / you pick it..

    it sums up the phrase ‘Trying too hard’.

    Here’s a great summation as to why the Ripley character WAS so strong and important a female character and why we grew to love her as a real strong independent woman.. rather than having it forced down our throats to accept it.


    • emmatheemo says:

      Wow, that is a good article. Thanks 🙂 If I understood it correctly, Ripley was enjoyable as a main character because there was no feminist snarking from her, or any in-your-face “look, a woman can do anything a man can do!” moments in the movie. Just an interesting character moving through a good plot. The key here seems to be the old story-telling rule of “show, don’t tell”.

      It rubs me the wrong way that she is called a feminist icon though. I won’t associate her with feminism, until feminism is associated with personal responsibility.

  7. M3 says:

    @ Ashley

    I want to take the opportunity to hit this trope. Since Madonna famously sung about it in her song “What it feels like for a girl”
    Her message was that boys don’t want to dress like a woman, that dressing like a woman would be degrading, because you think that being a woman is degrading.

    Not true.

    When you say “You don’t see too many straight men trying to associate with femininity. Why?” It’s simple.

    Because women do not find femininity in a male sexually attractive. Full stop. If women were clamoring to have sex with effeminate men.. jocks would become extinct.

    • Eric says:

      ‘women do not find femininity in a male sexually attractive.’

      I not sure I agree with that. If you mean NORMAL women, true; but feminized women want to feel superior to men always. The fact that effeminate male models and metrosexual actors top ’10 Hottest Guys’ lists all the time speaks for itself.

      • M3 says:

        They’re on the 10 hottest guys list because they are movie stars with high status, wealth and earning potential, look attractive enough to put on the big screen.

        This does not mean they want men in dresses doing crotchet talking about girl issues.

  8. M3 says:

    In fact, you could view the whole manosphere’s attempts to guide women back towards acting more feminine as the surest sign that we do not view women behaving as women as degrading, we consider it your strength.

    What is degrading is putting a man in a skirt and asking him to suppress his masculinity while the girls silently laugh at him behind his back.

  9. M3 says:

    I know im on a roll here but hear me out..

    I think the revolting visceral reaction a man might feel to being asked to behave feminine is not because he views femininity itself revolting (because he loves seeing women act feminine/dress feminine/etc.)

    It’s because he KNOWS deep down that what is being asked of him is in effect an order to make himself extinct.

    Tough brash grrrrl power women want to ape male masculinity because they actually view femininity as weak (so you could say tough grrrl feminism is inherently misogynistic but ill leave that for another day) These women view the very same male traits they find attractive in men as traits they themselves want to be valued for.

    Doesn’t work that way.

    We don’t give a shit if you’re a cashier or a doctor. As long as you have a job to pay your debts/bills, we’re fine. We don’t care if you got high school or university. As long as you aren’t socially stupid or dumb enough not to know how to operate a toaster, you’re good.

    We don’t value in females what females value in males. As Private Man always says:

    The Feminine attracts the Masculine, the Masculine attracts the Feminine.

    So by asking a Man to act and dress like a female.. he isn’t disgusted because he views femininity as weak, he’s disgusted because he knows you’re consigning him to be a sexual outcast among the very women he desires to mate with. You’re asking him to commit genetic lineage suicide and end his line.

    Don’t ever mistake a man not wanting to wear a dress with him loathing femininity. He loathes the fact you will pass him over to fuck the badboy on the motorcycle whose wearing jeans.. not a skirt.


    • emmatheemo says:

      I think you’re right about that. I also think that since we had different evolutionary pressures on us, we evolved to like different things. A man can’t fill the female role, he doesn’t have a uterus, and most women aren’t looking for that. There is no reason at all for him to try. For most men it would be disastrous to develop a desire to be feminine. A woman ,on the other hand, can get away with being masculine. She can provide for herself and get pregnant from a sexy guy who won’t commit. It’s still better not to have to provide everything for yourself and not be an overworked single mom with troublemaker kids, so it’s a handicap. Just not such a dramatic one, like being feminine is for a man.

      So I suspect a man, when asked to wear a skirt, will often feel disgust even without knowing why. But it’s his DNA “telling” him it’s low status and genetic suicide. Socialization probably reinforces this, but socialization depends on biological sex differentiation anyway.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Did you read recent posts on how women invade men’s spaces? I wonder what that is all about. I noticed women way more often want what men have, than the other way around, at least in countries where they have the same rights (I dunno about what women think in other countries). It is one question I still can’t completely answer. Is this just a speciality on western culture? If it’s an evolutionary adaptation, what benefits was it supposed to bring women? Maybe it’s a by-product? Or maybe just a logic fail that sometimes happens, apex fallacy, wanting what the top men have, rather than what most men have?

      • Eric says:

        I think it comes from feminist brainwashing that women have to be more powerful than men. However, since they lack the creative facility (men evolved that over women’s creativity in reproduction), they invade male spaces and root out the men.

  10. Eric says:

    Masculinity is repulsive in a woman. A lot of Hollywood and media moguls today, I think, suffer from Gender Identity Disorder and confuse ideas like masculinity and strength. There is a type of feminine strength, one that bears up under hardships and shows planning and determination, for example.

    When I was in college, I used to work on projects recovering and restoring silent films. A lot of the women in those old dramas came across as both strong and feminine. I remember seeing a movie where the actress Lillian Gish (a beautiful, fragile blonde) went through a blizzard to save her child’s life. That’s both strong and feminine. The audiences back then would have laughed if she’d played a WW1 commando; but our modern audiences are too dumbed-down to object to similar portrayals today.

  11. Radical Suburbanite says:

    I think M3 hit on this before but I think a big part of the problem is that women are trying to be the men they want to attract. Feminism has sold us this message that we need to be “empowered” and that translates into full time careers that put family and more “womanly” pursuits on the sideline. Men clearly are not loving this trend but it’s not something that women have really begun to understand yet.

    My main beef with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft is that she just isn’t believable in the role. She can do attitude but no one that skinny is credible in a fight scene. I didn’t mind Uma in “Kill Bill” because it was so over-the-top that it was almost cartoonish to me. I also always liked Linda Hamilton in the Terminator films because her overall drive was to protect her son. She might have gone over the edge, but her maternal instinct is what pushed her.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Hmm, I dunno why I disliked Uma in Kill Bill. She was just dating this murderous man, then ran from him and was surprised he killed her in return. Maybe it was not masculine pretense I disliked, but dumb behavior. But I kind of liked her for killing Gogo Yubari with a plank, so she’s not the worst in my list of annoying tough girls 🙂

  12. The reason that Ripley is an attractive female protagonist is much simpler than the article M3 linked. The reason is as follows:

    Ripley is feminine, and only become -just- as masculine as she needs to in order to get a job done and survive.

    To see this, you have to go back to the original Alien movie. She’s a normal female scientist, on a routine mission, with a group of men and women that get attacked by a crazy alien life form. She sees everyone die, and rises to the challenge. Yet she still endangers herself for her cat. She endangers herself for others. She does it not out of pride but out of a very feminine love for the other people. At no point is she portrayed as being stronger than she is or very masculine at all.

    This continues into the second. She’s the one taking care of the child they find. Mothering her. She’s the one taking care of the troops, submitting to orders, filling the roles the team needs. She rises up only when needed to save lives, and doesn’t over compensate by trying to be something she’s not.

    As bad as the movies are after the second, Ripley has an interesting character arc through 3, resurrection, etc. The more time she has to spend being masculine, the harder her heart becomes and the more she resembles a careerist bitch. But then something will come along to break through to her feminine side and you’ll see a soft, tender moment and remember she’s a woman somewhere deep inside.

    No other modern female protagonist I can think of has that.

    • emmatheemo says:

      I don’t think Ripley was terribly feminine. There were moments during the first two movies where she’d grab some guy and push him into a wall, and scream at him for endangering innocent people and stuff. It was justifiable anger, but hardly feminine.

      I also think showing vulnerability now and then is not exclusively feminine. I’d say this is common for good male heroes too.

      Her fight with the alien queen was probably the most feminine moment in the movie, but I think the Newt/Ripley relationship might have worked with a fatherly man too (this reminds me of Korean movie Gwoemul). It’s just a lot more fitting that a mom fights a mom.

  13. As for men getting in touch with their ‘feminine side’ as Ashley puts it….

    I challenge anyone to watch a male targetted Rom-Com in the last 15 years and tell me there aren’t portrayals of men getting in touch with their feminine side. Hitch, What a Woman Wants, whatever one where two firefighters pretend to be gay. There’s a plethora of them out there, and many men who do ‘get in touch with their feminine side’. I mean, seriously, what do you think all the overly emotional betas and omegas are doing? Where do you think they come from if not from being told that masculinity is evil, feminine is godly, and to be more emotionally aware/conversive?

    Men don’t naturally want to do this, but when they’re raised that way they have a great deal of challenging changes to go through to become a healthy man as an adult.

    As to the opposite, and women wanting to be masculine… I would claim that women simply have a desire to rebel built into them, but want to be put in their place. I’ve seen it in life enough for me to accept it as true, and the biblical fall and rebellion by Eve against Adam has my back on the issue as well. They don’t want to be masculine, they just want a masculine man to stop them. Until they find one, they’ll invade places of masculine energy in hopes of finding a man who is man enough to put her in her place.

  14. Liz says:

    My all time favorite “strong” movie heroine is Selene from Underworld (Kate Beckinsale).

  15. DJ says:

    Its very simple. Most of the time women don’t have explicit no boys allowed spaces, while men often create no girls allowed spaces. Its the exclusivity that attract ppl trying to invade the space. If women began createing many no boys allowed spaces the dynamic would most likely reverse.

    • M3 says:

      If that were true.. i’d see a line up of men trying to invade the ‘Women’s Only’ gym.

      I’d see men trying to invade female sports leagues.

      I’d see men trying to invade the salons and beauty spa’s.

      Martel wrote up and excellent piece here about the ‘invasion’ dynamic playing out and how women just love to encroach into male territory.

      Men could give a damn about do the opposite.


      • DJ says:

        I forgot to add the no boys allowed club should be secretive as well.
        Also those places generally have men in some position of power within the establishment. No boys allowed would need to be exclusively female to create the right dynamic

      • DJ says:

        Ive read the article

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