I just...we're put into SO MANY BOXES already, as real people, that I hate to do the same to our fictional characters. Because it's really not acceptable to put us (or them) into boxes. One of the things I love about our world is that everything isn't always totally black or white. There are so many subtle differences between people and yes, while people can be categorized into being "smart" or "tough" or "hilarious" or "badass" it doesn't mean we should be.
Nor should the color of someone's hair, or eyes, or skin, completely define who they are. Yes, it can be part of someone's identity, and sometimes it may even be the identity someone identifies with most/leads with, but that's not all there is to someone. And please, whatever you do, if you're trying to sound knowledgeable about the ways society assigns stereotypes based on different "physical aspects" of a character, please don't only make your post accessible to one race. It's extremely exclusive and just not okay --or, better yet, just stop perpetuating the stereotypes.
I get it, the whole putting people in boxes/using archetypes thing. Sometimes it's comforting to know that we're part of a group, that there are others like us, or that yeah, we've written someone who's just as badass as Katniss Everdeen. I'm not saying we should all abandon every box we've ever put ourselves into (whether voluntarily or not). I certainly have no problem claiming that I'm biracial, or a Hufflepuff, or that I'm lucky enough to have received a college education, or that I write YA.
I'm just saying that we need to look, to really look, at the way we're characterizing young women in our books. Physical attributes can be helpful to some readers when "picturing" a character, but, at the end of the day, I don't care** about what a person looks like. I care about how a person acts. I can empathize with anyone as long as I care about what they're going through, or can understand why they made a choice (and, even if I don't understand why they made a choice, I'll still care). I want someone that I can root for, or root against. For someone that will make choices I agree with and choices that will make me want to throw a book against the wall.
I want a character who's as well-rounded and real as any person I know.
What message are we sending to girls, or anyone who reads our books, if we're constantly adhering to the same tropes we grew up with, just because they're familiar? If we always have a heroine who sits around, with little agency (or desire for agency) until some really hot guy comes along and then, only then, does she decide it's time to take control of her life? Or what are we telling them if we make things like "smart" and "attractive" mutually exclusive? Can't intelligence be beautiful? And, even if you do happen to be the studious sort, that doesn't mean you can't still have a social life, or that all your free time is spent doing homework.
We need to break the cycle --to let everyone, not just girls, know that it's fine to be just them. No, it's more than fine. It's great, wonderful, amazing, terrifying, beautiful, confusing, and so much more. Because THAT'S what life is. That's what YOU are.
People, and characters, aren't one dimensional.
I want to be more than what I look like. More than my hair color, eye color, skin color. I want to be what I act like. I want to be someone who can love, hate, cry, be angry, crack a joke. I want to be smart, I want to make mistakes. I want to be different, but sometimes I want to be the same as others. But, most of all, I just want to be me.
Stereotypes and boxes exist -- but that doesn't mean we need to use them.
**I'm still a fan of putting more diverse characters in stories. I'm just saying that, if someone doesn't look like me, I'll still be able to empathize with them. I don't care if they have purple skin, three arms, and happen to be a dinosaur/alien hybrid. I'll still care about what happens to them if they're a well-rounded, three dimensional character.