IMHO, I've thought of this a lot and love to see it taken in this approach, because it's always irritated me how many shoujo protagonists are portrayed as weak, submissive types. Now, there can often be an advantage to being submissive; it works in Japanese shoujo because the men in the stories are often portrayed as the protector, coming to the distressed damsel's defense.
But it just doesn't work that way in America. I consider myself a strong, independent woman, who doesn't want The Man coming to my defense. Or even another woman. Like Sumire in "Tramps Like Us," I feel that I have something to prove to myself first, before I can settle down and make another person happy. Not so much in Japanese shoujo. I just picked up the latest volume of "Hot Gimmick" this weekend, and while I started out loving the series, it's finally starting to irritate me. The protagonist has still refused to grow a backbone, and she only stands up for herself when she feels there's no other choice. She lets herself be pushed around and bullied by a guy who is OBVIOUSLY the verbally and physically abusive type (and trust me, those types don't change), and I think it sends out the totally wrong message; to submit even in situations that are bad for us. And this seems to happen a lot in Japanese shoujo.
But not so much in American shoujo. While there are still hints of submissiveness used to gain the upperhand and appeal to the male characters within the story ("Mark of the Succubus," "Dramacon") it isn't so well . . . blatant. The female protagonists in these stories aren't somebody's carpet to be used and walked over--girls who stand up for themselves once push comes to shove rather than docilely submitting to the whims of their antagonists. Yet other stories take even stronger roles by knocking guys out of the picture entirely. The protagonist of "Peach Fuzz," Amanda, isn't old enough to be interested in boys, so she has all the freedom to focus on herself, therefore immediately making her stronger, if not in character (something which is gained through the interaction with her and her her pet and her and her mother), then at least in willpower.
Even when creating "Steady Beat," I intentionally made a main character similar to how I was in high school. Willful, stubborn, bull headed, intelligent :P, and oftentimes naive but not easily taken advantage of. While there are an array of personality types and character styles, every culture has it's type it nurtures and rewards most. And in America, perhaps we nurture most those girls who ARE outspoken? We are encouraged to juggle double roles--the role of the traditional female, interested in relationships and family--and the role of the strong female, interested in career and advancement and success and fame. But perhaps this isn't the case so much in Japan? As Tania points out: "To a girl reading Tramps Like Us here in the West, Sumire’s choices may not seem that amazing," but to a Japanese woman, "Sumire is also a hero--a strong woman with ambitions who, despite being ostracized because of them, continues on the path that she chooses for herself."
And Tramps Like Us is my favorite shoujo/josei manga exactly because of that. Because it's an approach an American woman can easily relate to, but is so rarely portrayed in manga. But perhaps that's changing. ^_~