Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Calling all Ladies

Sexism is a social disease. - Author Unknown

I recently read a blog post by one of my absolute favorite authors, Tamora Pierce.  She takes the entertainment industry to task for their take "past" sexism and then points out some pretty immediate and current stuff still going on today. Seriously, check it out.

In reading Ms. Pierce's wise rant, I started thinking about the special responsibility (or maybe not) placed on young adult (YA) writers. Sure, adults read YA. And sure, most of us can look at a YA book with a love-struck heroine... er... damsel in distress, and know the difference between that and "real" life. And who's to say that tweens/teens don't see that? (except for those frequenting several Twilight forums on Goodreads.com)

Now, I'm not advocating for censored writing. But Ms. Pierce can come at this social commentary about sexism being a disease in our society (all the while lecturing the geniuses behind such gems as The Playboy Club) from the pristine perspective of a writer, who has in almost in all cases stood her feminism ground. And proudly. Her characters ooze girl-power. They value self-identity and actualization before falling head over heels. That's not to say that Pierce's characters don't fall in love - they do. But it's after the grand adventure of learning who they are.

Isn't that refreshing? It is for me. But is it as refreshing for young girls reading the stories? Or are they flipping through pages to get to the romance? So often I feel like books from my childhood and young adult years had more heroines like in Ms. Pierce's books. Sure, Anne Shirley became Anne Blythe at the end of her many-books (or middle, if you count the Anne of later series with her as mom), but she was a fierce little thing with a fire in her belly that burned with independence. Anne knew who she was before she married her true love, Gilbert.

How many YA books do that now? It seems like so many are warapped in the romance that girl-power has taken a backseat. There are exceptions, I know. (Thank you Katniss & Suzanne Collins for putting her first) But that style does not seem to be the rule anymore. With so many YA books focusing on the romance aspect, what is the message for young girls?

Is there a larger overarching responsibility we have as YA writers to deliver stronger female leads? What say you?