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Women Are Delicate
"A woman's duty is not to control or take charge."
"Disorder is not sent down by Heaven, it is produced by women."
"Women's nature is passive."
A handful 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 such as Vasquez Always Dies 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, idealistically 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 appears meek and physically lacking will be a straight example.

And 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.
    • But I Would Really Enjoy It: She mustn't, but damn if it wouldn't feel GREAT!
    • Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: A very delicate and demure pose to invoke feelings of gentleness and vulnerability in a romantic target.
    • 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.
    • My Girl Is Not a Slut: When a woman's value or appeal is inversely proportional to how often she has had sex.
    • 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.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: The man is cold or cruel toward his more delicate lover, but the relationship is meant to arouse the audience.
  • Broken Bird: Life has been hard enough to shatter this delicate girl.
  • Career Versus Man: Our heroine must choose between love and family or a difficult, lonely career.
  • Cuckold: Implications of this trope insist that women are always at risk of being "stolen" from their men by "better" men.
  • Damsel in Distress: Women are too delicate to fight for themselves; they must be protected and rescued.
  • 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".
  • Fainting: Played for Drama for girls; Played for Laughs for guys.
  • 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.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: As long as a woman has more "feminine" traits, she'll be able to cook.
  • Fragile Flower: The personification of this trope.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Due to "maternal instinct", all girls love cuddly things.
  • Girly Girl: She's the archetypical delicate and feminine girl.
  • 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.
    • The Ladys Favor: The brave hero is going off an adventure. She gives him a token of her love to ensure his return.
  • 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 man under extreme circumstances will get angrier, more focused, and more violent. A woman in the same situation will descend into helpless hysterics.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Because apparently, there's nothing she could ever do to hurt him.
  • 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.
  • 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 Are Better Than Women
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: A male character needs to have a personality and motivation to make him sympathetic. A woman merely has to exist, so her personality and motivation are optional extras. Doubly so if she's beautiful.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: One of the more Unfortunate Implications of this super trope.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Nature is about emotions, intuition, warmth, birth, and nurture. Science is about logic, death, cold fact, and radical progress.
  • Mysterious Waif: A fragile woman who hides a secret and typically seeks a liberator.
  • Mystical Waif: A fragile young woman infused with magical power.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: A Man Is Always Eager, but it's unattractive when their women are more eager.
  • The Ophelia: When a Broken Bird is taken Up to Eleven. 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.
  • Pregnancy Tropes
  • Proper Lady: Violence? Force? Harsh words? How unladylike.
    • English Rose: She's posh and proper, and maintains her feminine delicacy with noblesque.
    • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: With all the implied formal dresses and big, heavy skirts to make this possible.
    • 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).
    • Princess Classic: Characterized by her beauty, extravagance, poise, and non-aggressive demeanor, she is the archetypical princess, at least 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.
    • 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.
  • Tampon Run: Another one of those strange little quirks of femininity; her body always seems to betray her at the least convenient moment. (Having a stock of menstrual supplies on hand — you know, like actual women do — would be too self-sufficient for this trope).
  • Team Mom: The teammate who looks after the physical and emotional well-being of the others is always 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 and thus lowering himself.
  • Woman Scorned: The one permissible outlet of violence for a woman is against a man who has insulted her delicacy. Any man who does this is absolute scum and deserves what he gets.
  • Women Are Wiser: A form of Positive Discrimination where women always the more sensible gender. (Conceals the less-flattering assumption that a hysterical, irrational woman is the worst thing ever).
    • Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: Because men are stronger, that's their main method of problem-solving. A woman, however, due to being weak and physically incompetent, is obliged to resort to compromise and may only use direct violence as the very last resort.
  • 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.

Aversions and subversions

  • Action Girl: She isn't delicate at all, and can kick as much ass (or more) as some men.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Not only is she not shy or protective of her virginity or sexuality, but she seemingly can't get enough sex.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: A woman lifts someone or something equal or greater to her body weight to show just how abnormally Badass she is.
  • Gender Is No Object: A true aversion of this trope. Even with that, however, any gender role variations will appear somewhere else on this list.
  • 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.
  • Lad-ette: This type of woman enjoys many of the same boorish, vulgar, and physical activities as men.
  • 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.
  • No Woman's Land: Where home sweet home is progressive toward gender equality, but every other place imaginable outright enforces this trope with sociopathic fervor.
  • 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 pretty much 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: Where this trope is ultimately subverted, showing that the woman is not delicate at all despite all appearances.
  • Tomboy: When "delicacy" just isn't practical. Traditionally, any girl who likes any sort of job or activity attributed to men is considered a tomboy.
    • Biker Babe: Motorcycles tend to be seen as a symbol of the phallus and masculinity, so a woman riding one tends to invoke Fetish Fuel.
    • Butch Lesbian: A tomboyish homosexual woman who eschews many delicate characteristics; often considered the "man" in a lesbian relationship with a more feminine partner.
    • 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 above, but with sports.
    • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: She's more butch than her boyfriend.
    • One of the Boys: There's virtually no distinction between her ad her male friends.
    • Outdoorsy Gal: She'll probably 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.
    • Wrench Wench: Mechanics is sometimes a dirty, heavy business. But she can hang with the best of them.
  • Weakness Turns Her On: Being stronger than her man is her fetish.

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

  • Action Mom
    • Mama Bear: She may be a very delicate and sensitive at heart, but God help you if you mess with her kids.
    • Monster Is a Mommy: When you find out a badass, terrifying monsters is mostly badass and terrifying because you messed with the aforementioned kids.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Deliberately subverts this trope, but only because it was played straight originally.
  • 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, but she uses more vinegar than honey (and sometimes flat out violence) to take care of them.
  • Badass Damsel: Yeah, she's delicate enough to get in trouble, but she's also Badass enough to get herself out.
  • The Baroness: Typically the militant female The Dragon of the Big Bad. Variations can fit anywhere between sexy and feminine or butch and unattractive.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Fake Cutie
  • Girls Need Role Models: In order to avert or subvert 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.
  • Good Bad Girl: Good girls don't do the things she does, but she's the exception to the rule.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: A girl is unusually huge for her gender, and thus is self-conscious about her size.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: The Pollyanna has just felt anger for the first time.
  • 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.
  • 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 to create a more combat-oriented version of this genre.
  • Magical Girlfriend: She's more powerful than her boyfriend, but is usually still subsservient to him.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Her sassy and lively nature is her best asset to nurture and inspire her brooding and lonely boyfriend.
  • 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.
  • 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 much more interesting 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.
  • Statuesque Stunner
  • Short Tank: Her attempt at being feminine is genuinely cute.
  • 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 Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: She would normally be more delicate, but she's in charge, and can't afford to show weakness.

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

alternative title(s): All Women Are Delicate
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