Strong Women :: Bright Lights and Hot Messes

Strong women create strong relationships when matched with a strong man.  Yet strong with weak is out of balance and will ultimately fail.

Don’t be a woman that needs a man.  Be a woman that a man needs. ~ Modern Proverb

Pixar's 2008 film
Eve in Wall-E: a strong woman against a strong man yet eventually allying with him

Why is it that strong women are often viewed as a negative?

In the workplace, a strong man is called “assertive”.  A strong woman defending the same idea / process / change is considered “too aggressive.”  Strong women can be called “bitches” when in fact they are merely Alpha Females defending their positions.

Women who question men are often see as interfering when they are usually just trying to point out a better way or a different way.  Strong women usually don’t think this or that / yes or no.  They think “this and that and other”.

Strong women are often antagonists for heroes to overcome.

Strong Women in Ancient Days

This pattern of viewing  strong women as monsters to be overcome harks back to mythology.  In Greek mythology, especially, heroes often fought monsters that were half-woman.

  • Perseus and the 3 Graiae (Grey Women): half woman / half swan
  • Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa (a winged beauty with snakes for hair)
  • Odysseus and the Sirens (more bird-women)
  • Odysseus and Circe . . . and Calypso
  • Oedipus and the Sphinx (a woman with a lion’s body and bird wings)
  • Jason and the Harpies (raptors with women’s faces and bodies)

Mythology also has

Mythology uses Symbolic Number
the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  •  The 3 Fates :: in the Greek form as the Moonspinners: Clotho, Lachesis, and the dreaded Atropos who determined the moment of death).  In the Norse form as Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld (past / present / future, Maiden / Matron / Crone)
  • The 3 Furies: the Erinyes, Zeus’ goddesses of vengeance
  • Nemesis, the goddess of Divine Retribution
  • Memory and Justice are both women in Greek myth.  Don’t cross them.
  • Jason against his wife Medea, one of the truly horrific women in all of literature.
  • And Sygny of Norse Mythology is scary in her vengeance.

The ancients understood much about women:  We remember everything, and we let go of nothing.  Read the stories of Medea and Sygny, and tremble.




Yet strong women are heroic as well.

Their heroism is often more courageous than men’s since they go against the tide of what culture—and weak men—want them to be.

Strong Women as Alphas

This ruler’s competitive side sets her apart from other strong women.

Positive Side :: the Queen Negative Side :: the Bitch
Influences and Unifies

Intimidates (emotional and intellectual) and Manipulates

Brings people together to work for a common good Focuses on $$ and appearance
Finds and promotes people’s strengths Goals are always selfish

Strong Women as Betas

Much like the male version of the Beta, the female Beta as a strong woman will quietly challenge a bad leader.  She is a seeker.  She will not waver from a primary goal, although she is willing to alter her goal to achieve a better one.

Positive:  Counselor Negative: Courtier
Trouble-shooter Ego-stroker for the Bitch
Supports a leader she can respect and who can implement a viable plan Survives by being a toadie and unites with the Bitch to create a front against the world
Sees difficulties approaching and to the attention of the more competitive Queen Jealously guards her position and never analyzes the Leader;  just takes actions, sometimes on her own, to achieve what the Leader wants

Strong Women as Gammas

The Gamma strong women are Destroyers of the Status Quo.

Positive: Non-Conformist Negative: Little Miss Independent
Rebel with a Cause Rebel for no Cause
Knows the reason that the status quo doesn’t work and seeks a new way, a new perspective Claims her individuality above all else—but that individuality is usually associated with a Clique outside her current sphere
Seeks the flaws in the established system and is often viewed as Quirky or an Isolate Craves attention as much as the Bitch does but uses a different method.  The 1st Goth or the 1st Emo, she is always the 1st to Do and always the first onto the new fad.


Strong Women as Deltas

Both versions of the Delta are caregivers.  Strong women see a need for change through those who are in need.  They find a need that needs an initiative to fulfill it, and both can inspire others to aid them in fulfilling their goals.
Positive: Visionary Negative: Missionary
Like Mother Theresa, sets up an initiative to respond to a need. Gloms onto an initiative then attempts to claim it as her own
Her contagious enthusiasm lures others to help her. A holier-than-thou attitude drives her crusade and may drive others away.
Throughout her work, she continues to see others in need—even those working with her—and responds to issues they have. Whether crusading for medical marijuana or the local Angel food drive, she either manipulates through guilt or actively commands others to help.

Chinese Art Techniques

What are the four Chinese Art Techniques doing in a discussion of strong women who are Bright Lights and Hot Messes?

The Art Techniques show the development of strong teams.
See the centering leader, its follower on the right, the opposing stroke on the far left, and the harmonizing fourth to the immediate left of the centering leader?

Actually, the four Art Techniques tell us about leaders and team building.

Ch’i:  the lead stroke.  This first one starts the work and establishes the goal and orientation.  Alpha, Queen.

Ch’eng: the following stroke.  The second supports and reinforces the leader’s intention.  Beta, Counselor.

Ch’uan: the advocate,  opposing  direction.  The third is a “how-about-trying-this-for-a-change person to introduce variation and diversity.  Gamma, Rebel.

Ho: the unifier, the stroke that brings the first three into harmony.  The unifier brings all members of a team into agreement, usually by finding common ground upon which to build consensus.  Delta, Visionary.

 Next Up

We continue our look at women and archetype with a contemplation of the difference between the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey.

Following that our final discussion about Jung’s List of 12 Character Archetypes.  These are last but not least.  Protagonists (and heroes) can be these concluding four, as can antagonists.

Visit us in April to meet more Strong Women and then the Everyman Orphan, the Lover, the Innocent, and the Fool/Jester (sometimes called the Trickster).

~~M. A. Lee

Unheroic heroes are fascinating even as they disappoint the audience.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

The Warrior archetype surprises people looking for heroes.  We expect him (or her) to be a savior.  The warrior assaults problems with all intentions of winning.  And he never analyzes to determine when the moment of achievement actually occurs.  Or he never analyzes to determine when his pursuit turns in the wrong direction.  Boromir in the Lord of the Rings is a great example of the unthinking Warrior.

The Creator archetype also surprises us.  We expect creativity to help us progress.  Undisciplined creativity and innovation, however, merely create change that might hinder as much as help.

Frankenstein never considered the consequences of his creation.  He didn’t consider if he should bring man back to life, only if he could.

Both Warrior and Creator, however, will not anticipate that they can cause evil in their pursuit of good.  This is not the case with the Magician and the Sage.

These other two Unheroic Hero Archetypes in Jung’s List of 12 have a definite inclination toward evil.

The Alchemist / Magician Seeking Gold

The Magician

The Magician focuses on transformation.

He seeks change—whether that change is needed or not.  In this respect, the Magician is like the unthinking Warrior.  He wants change so much that he may destroy a good thing.

Yet transformative catalysts like these unheroic heroes do have great power.  They can achieve the nobler ideals through discipline focused on benefitting others.  The best traits of the magician:

  • Extremely long-sighted in viewing any project.
  • Remaining stalwart as old systems collapse.
  • Steadily guiding new systems into place.

The negative form of the Magician is the Machiavellian:  the ultimate manipulator.  Machiavellians can charm people as they deconstruct and reconstruct systems, whatever those systems may be.

The Machiavellian may also manipulate others into transforming processes without letting the disciples know the destruction that will occur—or more horrifically, convincing the disciples that such destruction is necessary to change and achieve a utopia.  This version of the unheroic hero becomes a seductive antagonist.

In their pursuit of changing lead to gold, Machiavellians may use up valuable resources that others depend upon.  When confronted, their argument will always be, “Look.  We’re going to get gold.  Just give it a little more time.”  And people starve as the process never quite works out.  But those people go to their doom blinded by the master manipulator, believing the dream.

Iron Man Attempts to Charm

The Magician in Film

The Magician will appear charming to those who do not have to deal with his day-to-day single-minded transformations.  Then the charmed spell is broken when people must cope with the consequences of this catalyst.

Iron Man presents the magician archetype across a series of films.

In the first film, he delights in his invention.  Then he must play back-up and finally catch-up as he deals with the consequences of his invention falling into the wrong hands.  He charms his world audience.  He has the talismatic charm that keeps the official military on his side.

Pepper, whom he loves, must deal with his focus on his transformations.  She loses patience as she realizes his charm does not change the consequences of his actions to the company and to their relationship.

Notice how carefully the writers have crafted Iron Man in the third film.  He must sacrifice his talismatic charms to rescue what is most important.  He tempers his transforming powers because he no longer needs those catalystic abilities.  And he is now satisfied with what he has achieved in life.

Un savant dans son cabinet, avec lecon de vanite :: Jacob van Spreeuwen, 1630

The Sage  

The Sage is a problematic hero.  Seeker of wisdom, he has a keen-edged blade that cuts the difference between truth and deceit, reality and artificiality, knowledge and stupidity.

Although they are unheroic heroes, the best sages become teachers.  True teachers will question the status quo, point out its flaws, and then guide toward a replacing perspective.

Wisdom, however, is problematic.  The Sage is an unheroic hero that we may admire but should not emulate.

  • What may be wise for the immediate future is not always wise for the long-term situation.
  • What may seem like wisdom, cast into a different form, becomes hidebound belief rather than wisdom.
  • Wisdom can have puzzling forms.  The Sage may become so impressed with cleverness that he must cast everything in a riddle.

The Sage may mentor the protagonist, but a good hero will judge whether or not to follow the Sage’s imparted wisdom.

The Warrior will not judge the validity of the wisdom, which is his weakness.  The Creator will try to twist the wisdom into a form that he can work with, thus twisting the truth from the wisdom.  The Magician may bypass the Sage entirely.

A negative Sage becomes robotic in her/his arrogant stance on the truth pedestal.  All those who do not meet the truth standard are criticized by the Robot with “Why can’t you see it?  It’s so clear.”

The negative Sage may also seem so rational as to appear cold and merciless.  With such a Sage, the heart will be missing.

As a writer, consider the problematic wisdom bulleted above.  All three can individually drive a conflict for a protagonist.  Sages, rather than perform as unheroic heroes, may elevate the story when they are presented as shapeshifters or shadows.

The Sage in Film

Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in the Star Trek series is the perfect example of the aloof Sage, filled with wisdom.

Nimoy’s Spock is beloved by many only because we fans caught glimpses of his angst.  He fought against his admiration for the intelligent yet emotionally driven humans that his society told him were fools.  His wisdom told him that the humans held the truth needed for the universe to remain progressive as opposed to regressive.

A truly tortured Sage is Bobby Goren of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  The mind that so truly understood the psychological twists that produced criminals created a barrier between himself and what he wanted most in life.

Next Up

I’ve been discussing hero archetypes as if they could only be male—which is totally wrong.  Every aspect of archetype can have a masculine and a feminine and even both through a yin/yang dynamic.

In celebration of Spring and the rebirth of the land, on March 20 we discuss . . .

Women Leaders >> Bright Lights & Hot Messes

After our focus on women, giving them extra time, we will continue our expanded look at Jung’s List of 12 Character Archetypes.

~~ M. A. Lee

M. A. Lee has released the next book in the Hearts in Hazard series.  The Dangers of Secrets just published on Amazon Kindle.  On sale for the introductory price of a penny less than a dollar.

The fifth and sixth books in the Hearts in Hazard series ~ The Dangers for Spies and The Dangers to Hearts ~ will published in March and April.

D4Spies brings back the character of Toby Kennitt from A Game of Spies while D2Hearts brings back Jess Carter from A Game of Secrets.

Secrets of family.  Secrets of hearts.  Secrets of blood and pain.

Secrets can kill.

Maddy Whittaker, on the shelf for years, never expects the man of her dreams will be the one she once called a stick in the mud.

Banished from a country party so she won’t ruin her sisters’ chances in snaring husbands, Maddy is sent to visit a cousin named Simon Jespers, who is hosting his own Valentine’s party.  She expects three weeks of boredom.

Gordon, Lord Musgrove, expects he will propose to a biddable lady and live unhappily ever after.

He escapes his mother’s country party (where the dowager Musgrove expects her only son to snare a wife) for one last bid at freedom.  He decides to retreat to his friend Simon Jespers.  Gordon never expects that his friend will be hosting a Valentine’s party.  He does expect days and days of boredom.

Secrets of Hearts

On arrival at Jespers’ country manor, Maddy and Gordon meet for the first time.  A quick flirtation finds them well matched in mind and soul, and the flirtation changes into romance.

Yet a secret from Maddy’s past threatens their future.

And a serial murderer threatens Maddy’s life.

Can Gordon overcome past secrets and present dangers to marry his perfect match?

The Dangers of Secrets is a romantic Regency suspense of approximately 56,000 words.

A Game of Spies, published in the fall of 2015, introduced the character of Gordon, Lord Musgrove.

Warning: While the romance is sweet, the murders have been described as sordid.  Unwanted memories of abuse may be triggered.  Please be cautious.