Women Are Delicate

Such beauty, such fragility.

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

This is an Omnipresent Trope. 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:
  • Unilateral: Women are inherently delicate, incompetent, unstable, vulnerable, ineffectual, unreliable, lovely, precious or sensitive.
  • 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, defy 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 more masucline of two female characters be the disposable one. Under this belief, it's also commonly assumed that beauty is a woman's "hat", and thus what women naturally lack in power or capability, they make up for in appearance.

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.

A Sister Trope to Men Are Tough.

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

A Super Trope to:

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 her enslavement makes her more vulnerable than normal.
  • Behind Every Great Man: A great man has a woman behind him to assist his greatness.
  • Black Magician Girl: 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. The Lady of Black Magic is similar.
  • 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: Casting daughters as either naive enough to date a person their father knows is rotten or spiteful enough to date them as part of their Daddy Issues.
  • 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 nurturing.
  • Dojikko: A Japanese variant of the Cute Clumsy Girl that plays far more on the cuteness and delicateness. Can be male or female, but male versions tend to be effeminate also.
  • 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).
  • 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 she doesn't pull her weight as equally as the male characters because of her delicateness.
  • 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. Tomboys don't have this ability because they're more masculine.
  • 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.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Girls who have abortions are portrayed as bad, emotionally damaged, or sexual deviants who want to "avoid" consequences. Also, she will typically be portrayed as victim to archaic and unsafe abortion methods which put her life in danger. Even if a story does involve a woman deciding to abort, it's with great emotional indecision and torment. Just casually deciding to terminate a pregnancy without drama is out of the question.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Women in combat attack from range, for a variety of reasons. Men use melee or direct physical attack.
  • Haunted Heroine: Congratulations; you're a girl in a ghost story. Now watch as you slowly lose any and all sense of reason. After all, you're far too delicate and sensitive for such spooky happenings.
  • 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.
  • Human Mom Non Human Dad: Frequently used for instances where weak human mothers are abducted, raped, or otherwise inseminated with the child of a more powerful non-human species.
  • 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 be fetish).
  • 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.
  • Lady of Black Magic: A more elegant, graceful, and often wise type of combatant, which is why the role is typically female. Also often overlaps with Guys Smash, Girls Shoot.
  • Leg Cling: A Stock Pose in which a powerful man stands in a dominant fashion while a woman (usually under-dressed) clings to his leg in submissive, helpless fashion.
  • Let Her Grow Up, Dear: A father exerts some sort of control over his daughter's life, because he doesn't want to trust her to make her own decisions. Often, the mother calls him out on this.
  • 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.
  • Maid and Maiden: A very archaic trope where a beautiful (and important) young woman is accompanied somewhere by an older woman. This is a carryover from the times when girls were discouraged from going anywhere by themselves to preserve virginity and purity.
  • 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: Men are more all-around capable, reliable, or flat out superior, than women.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Because women are delicate, they can appreciate fine culture like opera and classical painting. Men, because they are brutes, cannot.
  • 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.
  • Not Wanting Kids Is Weird: A woman who isn't eager to become a mother is seen as abnormal because it implies a lack of nuturing maternal instinct.
  • 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 delicate point.
  • 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.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Females from three categories together: wife material, seductress material, and child material. All three are feminine and delicate.
  • Third-Person Seductress: An end result of Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, Most Gamers Are Male and Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty, this trope has a developer create an attractive female Player Avatar so that the "default" male audience will have something pretty to look at while they play their game.
  • Vain Sorceress: The first (and often primary) application of a witch or sorceress's magical abilities is to enhance her beauty or make it last forever.
  • 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.
  • Vapor Queen: A woman who seems cold and indifferent, but is actually extremely oversensitive. Inverse of Ice Queen.
  • 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.
  • Wife Husbandry: A much older man is involved in the raising/development of a young girl he plans to eventually take as a wife. It is widely ridiculed in most 21st century societies because of the inherent power imbalance. Naturally, this would be the case with either gender but has been more commonly done with girls, often to ensure her chastity and virginity and because of their preceived "delicate" nature.
  • Woman Scorned: A woman makes life hell for a man who has hurt her delicate heart. Often, we're not intended to sympathize with the man, but are supposed to see him as scum who deserves what he gets no matter how severe.
  • 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.
  • Yoko Oh No: The wife of a musician/artist that is blamed for destroying their career; specifically, she is considered a corrosive, distracting, or destructive force to them.

Aversions, subversions and inversions

  • Action Girl: She isn't delicate at all, and can kick as much ass (or more) as some men.
  • Action Girlfriend: The girlfriend is the more Badass person in the couple. Considered an aversion of this trope which juxtaposes traditional gender roles. .
  • Amazon Brigade: When you have an entire squad of nothing but Action Girls.
  • Badass Princess: An aversion of Princess Classic; the princess is as tough as, or tougher than, her guards.
  • Battle Couple: When she's just as tough as her fight happy boyfriend.
  • Biker Babe: Motorcycles are not suited for a "delicate female".
  • Bodyguard Babes: When a group of women protect the person in charge.
  • Butch Lesbian: A tomboyish homosexual woman who eschews many delicate characteristics; often considered the "man" in a lesbian relationship with a more feminine partner.
  • Determined Homesteader's Wife: A tough homesteader requires an equally tough wife.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: A woman lifts someone or something equal or greater to her body weight to show just how abnormally strong she is.
  • Feminist Fantasy: A story which is about a woman, or women in general, who are major characters making things happen of their own agency and volition and saving the day under their own power.
  • Gender Is No Object: A true aversion of this trope but even with that, any gender role variations will appear somewhere else on this list.
  • Glacier Waif: She can do impossible amounts of damage for a girl her size.
  • Go-Getter Girl: She wants to achieve something and she will do it herself, no matter how hard it may be.
  • Improbably Female Cast: For some reason, there are next to no men in this setting. Women do everything, plain and simple.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: A charismatic woman leads armies into battle.
  • Lad-ette: This type of woman enjoys many of the same boorish, vulgar, and physical activities as men.
  • Lesbian Cop: Since being a cop is "man's work", the woman is thus as man-like as could be.
  • Lesbian Jock: The same as Lesbian Cop, but with sports.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Her boyfriend is the delicate one.
  • Mistress and Servant Boy: The older, more worldly woman is the superior towards her younger, male assistant.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Because we automatically assume this trope, situations where it's the opposite (such as in other species, both real and fictional) are quaint and fascinating.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: When the guy is turned on by her promiscuity, i.e. lack of delicateness.
  • No Woman's Land: Women are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and abuse.
  • One of the Boys: There's no distinction between her and her male friends.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: She'll be outside getting dirty before the boys.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: A girl who is passionate about sporty, physical activities which are usually only of interest to boys.
  • Plucky Girl: No one would fault her if she became broken, but she refuses to let that happen.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Used in games where gender is a Palette Swap. The character is statistically the same regardless of gender.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: The trope that tries to defy this trope by going in the opposite extreme.
  • Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl: The woman is not delicate at all despite all appearances.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Hurting a woman is considered okay when it provides sufficient comedy.
  • Tomboy: When "delicacy" isn't practical. Traditionally, any girl who likes any sort of job or activity attributed to men is considered a tomboy.
  • Tomboy Princess: A monarch's daughter that does not partake in feminine activities or interests. Instead, she's more likely to partake in princely activities.
  • Weakness Turns Her On: Being stronger than her man is her fetish.
  • Wrench Wench: Mechanics is sometimes a dirty, heavy business but she can hang with the best of them.
  • Xenafication: The practice of making a more delicate woman into an Adaptational Badass just to avert this trope.

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

Alternative Title(s):

All Women Are Delicate