Shonda Rhimes is beloved for creating “strong female leads” on television from Meredith Grey to Olivia Pope to Annalise Keating — but she thinks it’s high time to abandon the popular phrase.
In a new Twitter post Thursday, the esteemed producer and writer of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, and more sparked a conversation about how we talk about women on television.
“Okay,” Rhimes tweeted. “Entertainment industry, time to stop using the phrases ‘Smart Strong Women’ and ‘Strong Female Leads’. There are no Dumb Weak Women. A smart strong woman is just a WOMAN. Also? ‘Women’ are not a TV trend — we’re half the planet.”
Her point, of course, is that “strong female leads” are still seen as something of a phenomenon, while the phrase “strong male leads” is never used to describe men on TV — perhaps because there is an assumption that all male characters are already “strong.”
Rhimes’ tweet started a conversation on the platform about how we speak about female characters, and why we feel the need to clarify “strong females” or “strong women” as if they aren’t ubiquitous. Some people also took the opportunity to examine how the phrasing could be seen as ableist, or how it makes it difficult for female characters to have nuances and vulnerabilities.
While “shows featuring a strong female lead” may be a favorite Netflix category for many of us, Rhimes’ point that the term is redundant, and indicates how far our society has to go to achieve gender equality, is a valid one.