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Women Are Delicate
"A woman's duty is not to control or take charge."
"Women's nature is passive."
A couple of Neo-Confucian proverbs.

An Omnipresent Super Trope and Sister Trope to Men Are Tough. It can be assumed to exist in every form of media unless otherwise stated. In most forms of human society, the assumption is that women are the more delicate of the sexes or are more suited for nurturing than the more active roles undertaken by males of the species. Women tend to be physically smaller than men, possess less musculature, and have more estrogen. All of these things, and many others besides, have created the assumption that women are less "hardy" than men.

The Stereotype takes two forms:
  1. Unilateral: Women are inherently delicate, incompetent, unstable, ineffectual, unreliable, precious or sensitive.
  2. Bilateral: Women are more delicate than men. In this form, even if women have toughness, strength or stability, it's less than what their male peers are capable of.

Nearly every form of media plays around with this in some way. There are some tropes (for example Stay in the Kitchen) which stereotype it while other tropes (such as Action Girl) outright subvert or avert it intentionally. From there, the combinations tend to get tricky. Some tropes treat it ironically (Waif-Fu) while others reinforce it by having the stronger of two female characters be the disposable one.

In modern day culture, it is nigh-impossible to not have some sort of variation of this trope. Only in some hypothetical, gender-neutral civilization would that be possible, and that does not describe the world as it exists today. Even if unintended by the author, the audience will take whatever tropes used and add meaning to them. A girl who puts up a fight alongside her male colleagues will still be considered an "aversion" of this trope while a girl who is meek and prefers to sit down and talk will be a straight example.

Lastly, note that the word we chose to define this trope is "delicate". That word is not just about the woman's physical or emotional toughness. Delicate also means "careful, deliberate, thorough", which are also qualities women are stereotyped with such as with Women Are Wiser and Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication. Delicate is the best word which summed up everything this trope is about. Please keep that in mind when adding/editing the subtropes.

No Examples Please. This page should be used as nothing except a listing of tropes which play with this in some way.

List of associated tropes.

Played Straight

  • All Abusers Are Male: Commonly believed because of this trope, but not true in any capacity.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Even the most Butch Lesbian should be a slave to her nurturing instinct.
  • All Periods Are PMS: Women are so weak that even their own bodies conspire against them and turn them into raving maniacs. And it does so all the time.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Because women are delicate, they must treat their virginity and/or sexuality as a precious gem to be protected.
  • Baby Factory: A woman is tied to her biology, and some force conspires to use her for that purpose.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: The man is cold or cruel toward his more delicate lover, but the relationship is meant to arouse the audience.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: An enslaved woman attracts The Hero's (and the audience's) sympathy because she her enslavement makes her more vulnerable than normal.
  • Black Magician Girl/Lady of Black Magic: For the girls who like to destroy she has a better grasp of the intricacies of Functional Magic then heaving a heavy metal weapon. This trope also helps her fit the Squishy Wizard archetype.
  • Broken Bird: Life has been hard enough to shatter this delicate girl.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: She mustn't, but damn if it wouldn't feel GREAT!
  • Chickification: When the Action Girl is defanged to become today's Damsel in Distress.
  • Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: A very delicate and demure pose to invoke feelings of gentleness in a romantic target.
  • Damsel in Distress: Women are too delicate to fight for themselves; they must be protected and rescued.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: When the daughter knows that nothing will press her father's Berserk Button faster than the thought of her boyfriends uncouth hands on her precious body.
  • Declaration of Protection: A delicate woman inspires a man to pledge his protection.
  • Defiled Forever: A very repugnant trope commonly believed about a woman's sexuality. Namely, no man will want a woman after her virginity has been spoiled or she has been "violated". Even rape victims believe this about themselves, which leads to horrible implications both in Real Life and fiction.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: Motherhood draws out a woman's inner gentleness and nurturting.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: The hero leaps to the defense of a woman, even if he barely knows her, because of this trope. She might be able to talk her way out but not punch her way out.
  • Earth Mother: She creates, protects and nurtures all life on the planet. Her more dangerous counterpart is Mother Nature (below).
  • Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: He embraces feminine attributes, but still believes in this trope.
  • Emotionless Girl: Serves the double purpose of letting you know something's wrong with her and making her seem more vulnerable as a result of her "condition".
  • English Rose: She's posh and proper, and maintains her feminine delicacy with noblesque. She drinks tea from china that's as delicate and refined as she is.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: With all the implied formal dresses and big, heavy skirts to make this possible.
  • Fainting: Played for Drama for girls; Played for Laughs for guys.
  • Farmer's Daughter: She's an innocent wildflower who can't seem to resist the exotic city men who wander onto Daddy's farm. Possibly uneducated, and always emphasizes the Madonna-Whore Complex (she's either a naive virgin the city man seduces or a jezebel man-trap). Beware of the Shotgun Wedding.
  • Faux Action Girl: She's hyped up as an Action Girl, but her delicateness means her actions are more effective when keeping peace within her group then making violence against another group.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: Angels are beautiful, kind, and merciful and thus are women. Demons are hideous, cruel, and aggressive and thus are men.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Every woman is more sensitive, wise, and pure than a man. If one or more of those qualities is missing, a man is probably to blame.
  • Female Feline, Male Mutt: The graceful, crafty cat will usually be female and the brutish, simple dog will usually be male.
  • Female Misogynist: She believes that guys have it right and most girls are inferior (in extreme cases, even herself).
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: A delicate woman can cook because she's careful, thoughful, notices subtle details in taste etc.
  • Final Girl: Enforced in Hollywood because a lone female will seem more vulnerable than a lone male.
  • Fragile Flower: These are most often female because they are both sensitive by way of "easy to hurt" and in "sensing the grief of others."
  • The General's Daughter: She's typically seduced by the Military Maverick and daddy will fiercely protect his little girl.
  • Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies: Because she's so sensitive, a girl will cower before danger even when it's fictional.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Due to "maternal instinct", all girls love cuddly things.
  • Girly Girl: She's the archetypical delicate and feminine girl.
  • Girliness Upgrade: She's gone from Tomboy to more feminine after Character Development.
  • Girls Behind Bars: The innate delicacy of women make women's prisons a cosy, comfy and safe place where nothing bad ever happens.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Women in combat attack from range, so they won't suffer indelicacies like broken noses or blood under their fingernails.
  • Haunted Heroine: Congratulations; you're a girl in a ghost story. Now watch as you slowly lose any and all sense of reason.
  • Heroic Build: In American comic books (and some other forms of media) the omnipresent body type is that of a hulking adonis for males and a slender, curvaceous figure for women.
  • Hero's Muse: The Hero is on a harsh journey, but he has a special woman to keep him motivated.
  • High Heel-Face Turn: Females Are More Innocent and, thus, will always turn to good when presented with the opportunity.
  • Housewife: The role that most women were expected to play until about the mid-point of the 20th Century. Now considered a Discredited Trope.
  • Hysterical Woman: A woman descends into helpless hysterics, usually during situations where men would or do keep their cool or act more pragmatically.
  • I Broke a Nail: When played straight, it's used to show that woman is more concerned with her delicate appearance than the more important task at hand. When used ironically, it's used to show that even an Action Girl cares about her appearance.
  • Ice Queen: A woman who is hard, cold, and indifferent to the male hero must be afraid of getting hurt or hiding a wounded inner self.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: The men in her life want to make sure she's well taken care of, and because they're not delicate like she is, they guarantee it with threats of bodily violence.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The villain sexually molests his female captives. Since he is male, this shows what a bastard he is. Gender-inverted scenes, with a villainess molesting the male hero, are far less likely to be evidence that she is evil (and far more likely to rouse the male audience's envy!)
  • I Have Your Wife: The villain kidnaps the hero's wife (or daughter) far more often than he kidnaps the heroine's husband.
  • Ill Girl: This trope is taken Up to Eleven; already delicate girl is made even more delicate with an illness.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: If women are delicate, pregnant women are even more so.
  • The Ingenue: Young women with a "proper" upbringing are so innocent that they are easy prey for men with bad intentions.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: She's pure and kind, associated with the gentle flower.
  • Lady and Knight: It is a knight's duty to protect and serve the delicate lady.
  • Lady of Adventure: Even a woman who likes to be in the thick of danger won't resort to physical exertion or force.
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Most often, it's the more delicate, light colors which are associated with "good" women.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: Fragile little girl + red = dead little girl.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: A woman with long, well-cared-for hair must have lived a sheltered life and/or must have the free time needed to manage her delicate tresses. Active men, on the other hand, can't be bothered with such things.
  • Love Goddess: Almost every pantheon, real and fictional, has at least one goddess dedicated to love, sex, matrimony and/or commitment.
  • MacGuffin Girl: The MacGuffin's desirability and need to be protected from the forces of evil is represented by making it female.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: She's ripe for a High Heel-Face Turn after she meets our strong, heroic protagonist.
  • Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: Curvers are visibly softer and more delicate than lines, which makes them perfect for drawing women while straight lines are perfect for drawing men.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Male characters get everything done, or do the hard work. The female characters are simply there to look good or to invoke audience sympathy.
  • Men Are Better Than Women: Because they're not "delicate".
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: A male character is considered "normal" by default. A female character, by virtue of simply being female, is treated as special under the circumstances or is characterized with stereotypically womanly traits.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: The primary virtue of a man is to be strong, capable, tough and daring. The primary virtue for a woman is to look pretty. Even if she displays the other virtues above, her looks, sex appeal, or beauty is still one of, if not THE, most important thing about her.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: One of the more Unfortunate Implications of this super trope.
  • Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: Because men are strong, violence is their main method of problem-solving. Because women are delicate, they talk things out to find a solution that pleases everyone, or manipulate others into getting what they want.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Nature is about emotions, intuition, warmth, birth, and nurture. Science is about logic, death, cold fact, and radical progress.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: When a woman's value or appeal is inversely proportional to how often she has had sex.
  • Mysterious Waif: A fragile woman who hides a secret and typically seeks a liberator.
  • Mystical Waif: A fragile young woman infused with magical power.
  • Naïve Everygirl: She's innocent and clueless. Just like our target demographic.
  • Neutral Female: The Damsel in Distress makes no effort to help when The Hero arrives to rescue her.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Women are expected to act demure and defensive about sex and relationships; men don't like it when they're the aggressors.
  • The Ophelia: This poor girl has seen so much that she's lost her sanity (but not her beauty).
  • Overprotective Dad: What loving father wouldn't do everything in his power to protect his fragile daughter from the outside world?
  • Pale Females, Dark Males: When you also need contrasting hues to emphasize the point.
  • The President's Daughter: The way to a powerful authority figure is through his daughter.
  • Pregnancy Tropes: A lot of tropes about women involve giving birth and its various stages.
  • Pregnant Hostage: A delicate woman in an even more delicate condition is placed in immediate danger.
  • Princess Classic: Characterized by her beauty, extravagance, poise, and non-aggressive demeanor, she is the archetypical princess, since Victorian times.
  • Princess Phase: The period in a young girl's life where she wants to be a beautiful and graceful princess, complete with pretty clothes and a handsome knight or prince to come rescue her.
  • Proper Lady: Violence? Force? Harsh words? How unladylike.
  • Rebellious Princess: She wants the hero to have his Standard Hero Reward and/or smite evil with him etc. Daddy is not enthused.
  • Save the Princess: The oldest one in the book. Knights go off on adventures to save a royal lady.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: A woman who goes evil will wear less, while a man who goes evil will wear more. He becomes bulkier and more intimidating, while she becomes more seductive and titillating.
  • Slut Shaming: A woman who had sex should feel bad about it.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Sister Trope to Men Are the Expendable Gender. Even though the love of her life is gone, he is still "with" her in the person of their child (who is usually male).
  • Southern Belle: Large frilly dresses, perfect nails, curls, and perfect social graces make the archetypical (white) woman of the American South. (Black women? They don't count).
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Any woman, no matter how Badass, can be rendered helpless if the villain grabs her upper arm.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Character or narration tells a female character that they can only be a homemaker.
  • Talented Princess, Regular Guy: The female character has both high status and highly developed skills while the guy is just there.
  • Tampon Run: Another one of those strange little quirks of femininity; her body always seems to betray her at the least convenient moment.
  • Team Mom: The teammate who looks after the physical and emotional well-being of the others is usually female. (The one who does most of the strategic planning or fighting is usually male).
  • Territorial Smurfette: The sole woman will always feel insecure and threatened when another woman is in her territory.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Delicate or time-consuming tasks are for women, not men.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: The internet has often been seen as a place where nerds come to congregate, and many said nerds do not know many (or ANY) Real Life women who are interested in the things they like. Thus, for a long time, it has been assumed that any girl on the internet was either a man in disguise or a precious, rare gem that needed to be treasured (and flirted with) fiercely.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Physical beauty is delicate, so women care about it more than men. A man who cares about his appearance is acting more like a woman.
  • Wacky Cravings: If a woman is "expecting," don't expect her to be able to control the irrational desires of her pregnant body.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: The Hero has awesome, or dangerous, things to do. His Love Interest, however, pleads or nags him not to do it, for reasons that may be valid, but not conducive to the plot.
  • White Magician Girl: For the girls who like to heal, they have Healing Hands in addition to a healing personality.
  • Woman Scorned: A woman is most likely to use physical force against a man who has insulted her delicacy. Any man who does this is absolute scum and deserves what he gets.
  • Women Are Wiser: Women always the more sensible gender, because they are less clumsy and more sensitive.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Since woman are delicate, it is wrong to hit them. If a hero firmly believes this, he will be in trouble if his assailant is female.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: She moves very slightly and deliberately, is soft-spoken, and remains at home while her husband (usually a merchant or samurai) takes care of the everyday busywork. She is the archetypical woman of Japanese culture.

Aversions, subversions and inversions

Zig-zagged (neither plays it straight nor averts it)

  • Action Mom: Baking cookies and whoopass in a bullet-proof apron.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Deliberately averts this trope, but only because it was played straight originally.
  • All Women Are Doms All Men Are Subs: Because the image of a dominant woman is (usually) more attractive and invites less Unfortunate Implications than the inverse.
  • All Women Are Lustful: The far opposite stereotype to All Women Are Prudes, but still sexist in its own way. Women are portrayed as incapable of controlling their basic urges once they get started, while men can keep cool and collected heads. Related to Hysterical Woman.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: She has the power to destroy the world, and more often than not, it's up to a male protagonist to prevent that from happening.
  • Apron Matron: She's in charge of the little ones and the house they live in but she uses more vinegar than honey (and sometimes flat out violence) to take care of them.
  • The Baroness: Typically the militant female The Dragon of the Big Bad. Variations can fit anywhere between sexy and feminine or butch and unattractive.
  • Bastard Girlfriend: The female in the relationship is the abuser.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: She's a Badass Action Girl, but she will only be courted by a man who can conquer her.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl/Dojikko: She's considered to be "atypical" of most girls because she's more accident-prone, which in turn makes her seem MORE delicate.
  • Dainty Combat: Side-stepping the issue of how a more delicate character can fight.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Yeah, she's delicate enough to get in trouble, but she's also Badass enough to get herself out.
  • Decoy Damsel: When the Distressed Damsel is truly a trap, i.e. exploiting delicateness.
  • Dominatrix: A woman who dominates men for the erotic satisfaction.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Because men have been portrayed as the stronger, more dominant sex, this trope is usually Played for Laughs because the role-reversal is ironic.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Same as Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male except regarding rape.
  • The Fake Cutie: Pretending to be The Cutie by banking on this trope.
  • Femme Fatale: Letting her into your heart is extremely risky.
  • Girly Bruiser: Sweet, feminine little badass ball of destruction.
  • Girls Need Role Models: In order to avoid this trope, Media Watchdogs and The Powers That Be insert strong feminine characters into a story to act as role models, leading to any of the many tropes on this list.
  • Girls With Mustaches: Instead of a smooth, clean-shaven face, she has groomed and styled facial hair like that which you'd find on a man.
  • Good Bad Girl: Good girls don't do the things she does, but she's the exception to the rule.
  • Hairy Girl: She's hairy, which makes her unusual for women who are usually smoother and softer.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: A girl is unusually huge for her gender, and thus is self-conscious about her size.
  • Iron Lady: The woman in charge and she's as delicate as iron.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: The Pollyanna has just felt anger for the first time.
  • Kick Chick: She lacks the upper body strength of men. Thus, she relies on her long legs to do the fighting for her.
  • Lady Land/Matriarchy: This could fall anywhere on the scale, depending on the writer's own discretions. There is no way to write such a place without producing some sort of accidental theme or Aesop about gender in general.
  • Lady of War: She's a warrior but with the flourish and poise of a Proper Lady.
  • Little Girls Kick Shins: She's small and cute, but she knows where it hurts. Her targets are usually male, and this is usually Played for Laughs due to irony.
  • Little Miss Badass: She's cute, she's adorable, she's tiny, and she'll kick your ass.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: She's cute and adorable, and will play you for a sucker.
  • Little Miss Almighty: She's cute, she's adorable, she's tiny and she's God.
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: The Little Red Riding Hood has a bloody hood because she just killed something.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: She's either an innocent, virginal flower or a total, shameless slut. There is no in-between.
  • Magical Girl: This genre of Anime zig-zags on the type of heroine which fits the style. In the 70s, Tomboy heroines began making an appearance specifically to avert this trope. The Magical Girl Warrior subgenre was then created for a more combat-oriented version of this genre.
  • Magical Girlfriend: She's more powerful physically than her boyfriend.
  • Mama Bear: She may be a very delicate and sensitive at heart, but God help you if you mess with her kids.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Her sassy and lively nature is her best asset to nurture and inspire her brooding and lonely boyfriend.
  • Mata Hari: The beautiful seductress who is a spy under the enemy's very noses.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: When you find out a badass, terrifying monsters is mostly badass and terrifying because you messed with the aforementioned kids.
  • Mother Nature: Can be ferocious and deadly, but at the same time, takes care of her "children" (namely all living things).
  • Muscle Angst: Women are not "supposed" to be muscular, so being an outlier tends to result in a lot of teasing and angsting.
  • Never Mess with Granny: The tender, elderly old lady will beat you to a pulp.
  • Pregnant Badass: Pregnant women are even more delicate than normal, which makes a woman who can be Badass in that condition extremely exceptional.
  • Psycho Lesbian: An antiquated (but still persistent) attitude that any woman who doesn't like men has something wrong with her.
  • Quickly Demoted Woman: Getting our strong, successful woman out of the way so we can make way for the male lead.
  • Sassy Black Woman: A result of both racial stereotypes and aggressive feminism. More often than not, she is juxtaposed with women of other races and cultures to show how much more assertive, confident, and "real" she is.
  • Sexist Used Car Salesman: Either played straight to demonstrate how clueless women are about anything outside of their "scope" or used to demonstrate the exact opposite.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: The woman unofficially in charge by using subtlty and indirect influence. She's likely also a Proper Lady.
  • Statuesque Stunner: She's the opposite of petite.
  • She-Fu: The more slender and delicate woman can perform more acrobatic maneuvers. Necessary, because she usually can't take a punch.
  • Short Tank: Her attempt at being feminine is genuinely cute.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: She's bigger than her man, and it's played for irony.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: An easy way to make the tough tomboy suddenly melt into a little girl.
  • The Unfair Sex: Women are held to a different standard than men for arbitrary things. Most often, this trope is the reason why, even if it's inconsequential.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Enforced in Hollywood because butch women are too taboo to become protagonists and thus gain Plot Armor.
  • The Vamp: She's pure evil, but she knows how to get what she wants.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: She would normally be more delicate, but she's in charge, and can't afford to show weakness.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit / Honey Trap: In this trope, a woman uses her delicacy (whether actual or feigned) to fool others.

Where Da White Women At?StereotypeWomen Prefer Strong Men
Vanity Is FeminineGirly GirlYamato Nadeshiko
Villain AntagonistOmnipresent Tropes    
Vasquez Always DiesFemininity TropesYamato Nadeshiko
White Male LeadGender and Sexuality TropesWomen Are Wiser
Vanity Is FeminineAcceptable Feminine Goals and Traits    

alternative title(s): All Women Are Delicate
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