We’ve come a long way in the worldview of feminism in the last couple of years. Feminism is no longer about man hating, appearing girly or weak, or even about doing the same things that men can do. Feminism is about equality, embracing the differences of each gender and bringing the issues of being a woman to light. About treating all humans the same, whether you are male, female, gay or heterosexual with the same rights, the same liberties and the same opportunities.
I’m proud to call myself a feminist, but unfortunately, there is still that misconception out there for what it truly is about. And that’s what I still find troubling in fiction, particularly YA fiction that claims to be feminist.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for example, is a book that is widely lauded to be feminist. However, I took issue with how the main character outwardly claimed to be feminist, yet instead of embracing gender differences and letting boys be boys, she takes issue with the fact that she can’t be part of a male exclusive club. If there’s anyone with an inferiority complex about being a woman, it’s Frankie, and instead of pursuing equality she’s here criticising others.
I probably don’t have to tell you how anti-feminist books the countless books with the docile, female Bella Swans are, who sit around pining away for their knight in shining armour. I get sick of these characters who have nothing better to do than obsess about a guy’s pecs and daydream about two male leads, instead of bettering their own lives or pursuing their own passions. Or even heroines who get stuck in some sort of nasty situation and wait for the guys to save them. Save yourself, you’re a capable young woman. That’s why I hated Of Poseidon.
There’s also the tomboy notion of feminism, where liking pretty dresses, shopping and “female” activities like berry picking and sewing apparently makes you weak. You see these sorts of “feminist” heroines in fantasy fiction a lot. Being a strong heroine doesn’t mean that you have to have kickass fighting abilities, that you can wield a sword or bow and arrow and that you can even hold on your own in battle. That’s being a kickass fighter. And as much as I enjoy the stoic fighting female, there’s more to feminist than being that.
Being a feminist is more in the values that you hold – that you don’t rely on men to better your lives, that you can hold on your own no matter the situation and that sometimes – you just accept that you aren’t the best fighter so you’ll use what you have to make it work – like your intelligence or your brain. This is why I loved Kestrel in The Winner’s Curse – you can read my review here.
So what are some books that do portray feminism in a healthy and realistic manner?
2. Kestral (The Winner’s Curse Review), who has honed her strategic thinking and intelligence for the art of war. Even when things seem dire, she will find a way out of it, using her smarts and her sharp wit, instead of brawn or other men as protection.
3. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) , who puts her hand up in the face of death and danger to save her sister. She does not need a man to save her. There’s more to life than choosing which guy you’ll end up with, and Katniss is focused on overthrowing the Capitol.
4. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), who is sharp, loyal, intelligent and totally witty. I don’t know where Harry and the gang would be without her brains, loyalty and friendship.
5. Linh Cinder (Lunar Chronicles Review), who is half cyborg who understands her limitations and her goals. She will do absolutely ANYTHING to help and protect the ones that she loves, and this doesn’t mean she never gets knocked down. This means she embraces what she is, and she goes for the end goal, no matter what stands in the way.
6. Meg Corbyn (The Others Review), a physically fragile protagonist but a mentally and morally strong one. She’ll do absolutely ANYTHING to protect the ones she loves, and because of her innocence, compassion and bravery, she’s quickly earned the respect of the monsters in the world, who will actually eat you.
7. Joanne Baldwin (Weather Warden Review), who is a weather warden who gets absolutely EVERYTHING thrown at her. It’s like Murphy’s Law for this one, but she’s incredibly powerful, snarky, and isn’t phased by danger. She’s looking out for the greater good.
8. Sal Mitchell (Parasitology Review), who has to relearn everything after an amnesia causing accident. She’s quick to learn what is right and wrong, and to learn that things aren’t as easy as they seem on the surface. I loved her tenacity and her ability to see things for what they really are.
9. June Iparis (Legend Trilogy), a super smart prodigy who is tasked to hunt down the nation’s fugitive. June has gotten where she has with her intelligence and decision-making, but she’s also incredibly selfless and sympathises with others.
10. Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy), a vampire guardian who is witty, hilarious and a protector. She’s fiery, impulsive and sarcastic, incredibly loyal and resourceful. I love how she matures over the course of the series but she’s not without her flaws.
What do you think of feminism in fiction? Who are you favourite feminist heroines?
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