Yesterday was almost a really good day for me. I was off, I got to cuddle with my boyfriend, and I even had some downtime to screw around on the internet. It’s that last one which led me to discover that there’s a terrible, terrible person trying to write a book for young girls.
I’ve always tried to be socially conscious when writing. After all, books had a profound impact on me as a young teen. Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I try to crate real characters. They’re people of different races, from different cultures and backgrounds. I’m of the view that minorities shouldn’t be tokens you get gold stars for (such as: “my main character has a black friend, so I did a good job”). They deserve to be main characters, and our increasingly diverse population of young people deserve to see themselves reflected as heroes in literature.
Hijabs do not equal oppression, a boy crying does not make him weak, and having a mental disorder does not make someone violent or evil. These are some of the messages I try to send. Young female characters, in particular, hold a special place in my heart.
As a child, I read dozens and dozens of adventures with boys as the main character. Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Kidnapped, Oliver Twist, The Yearling and even Watership Down (which was about rabbits) all had male heroes. Modern day books such as Holes, Harry Potter, Airborn, Looking for Alaska, and Unwind also feature male heroes. Needless to say, there were a lot of heroic, adventurous boys on my schools’ required reading lists and not a lot of girls. Thankfully, things have started to change.
In the YA genre, female writers have been making great strides, and they’ve brought a lot of their girl power with them. Female-centered stories with strong leads began to emerge in rapid succession once a new generation of writers got their turn at the plate. Now, a huge section of the YA market is dedicated to female protagonists. Male writers have also started creating stronger female characters. Kenneth Oppel’s Kate de Vries and Scott Westerfield’s Deryn Sharp played hugely important and powerful roles throughout their respective trilogies. It was a change I was glad to see happen.
It always pleases me when I see girls being depicted as powerful, be it though traditional or nontraditional roles. Diverse female characters send the message that women can be masters of their own story. This should be true of every female, regardless of their race, if they are boyish or girly, fat or thin, weak or strong.
Girls hold up half the sky, and they deserve the same respect and rights as men – be it in literature or real life. This is a message I am always trying to send through my female characters. After all, it’s hard to be a girl. Every woman on television is thin, beautiful, rich, well-dressed, and overwhelmingly white. Our lives are determined by corporations and governments that are 80% to 97% male. Women are 51% of the population, but we are voiceless when it comes to determining the laws that govern us. This is one of many reasons why we need feminism to achieve equality. In literature, I feel like women are finally starting to gain ground.
But there’s always that one nut job who likes to ruin progress.
Last night, I stumbled upon a blog by a very vocal men’s rights activist. Having apparently way more time than any normal person should, she’s spends her day harassing feminists on the internet and then crying and blaming everyone else when she finally gets banned from social media sites (she ironically calls feminists blubbering babies). While I tend to ignore her irrational rants, yesterday’s announcement hit me in a personal spot, and it was one I couldn’t ignore.
You see, she’s writing a YA book for young girls. It’s all about a sixteen year-old teenager who lives in post-apocalyptic North America. This girl is part of a society that believes in survival of the fittest. The author had the gall to compare her book to The Hunger Games, Manchurian Candidate, Gattaca, Gone Girl, and Blade Runner.
Lack of creativity and inflated ego aside, the real disturbing part of this announcement came with her description of the main character. The protagonist is described as being a feminist. In the writer’s own words, her character has a victim complex and…
“…is an entitled, narcissistic, self-absorbed, vain, cruel and utterly clueless young woman who can take any situation and make it about herself.”
Terrible writing and completely unlikeable characters aside, this book is awful. Not only does the above description demonstrate a complete lack of understanding for what feminism actually is, but it more accurately describes the very MRA movement she aligns herself with (if you don’t believe me, check out an MRA site sometime and go look at the forums). This writer is consciously creating a story without any regard for her intended readers.
Young girls already face a lifetime of glass ceilings, unrealistic expectations, and constant harassment. To write a book that tells them feminism will turn girls into terrible anti-heroes is like a comic where the Kents convince Superman he’s allergic to the sun. Purposefully leading girls away from their own empowerment is abusive, plain and simple.
The worst part? She’s writing this for her 12 year-old daughter.
Now, I’m not going to fret too much. The author is self-publishing (because no sane person would sell this at Barnes and Noble). She wants her readers to give her feedback since she hasn’t edited a single chapter. Even though she claims to be a doctoral student, I’ve read a few of her articles and I’d rank them at being early undergraduate level at best. Her writing is littered with typos, grammatical errors, and her essay structure leaves something to be desired. I doubt her work will ever fall into the hands of any child but her own. Even so, I can’t help but feel sorry for her daughter. You don’t feed your child poison and call it “love.”