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?


  1. As a mother and a woman, I say, yes, I have a responsibility to write female protagonists who are strong and independent. As an artist, I'm not so sure. The hardest thing for me is to write about something I don't feel some passion for, even if I downright hate the topic.

    However, I couldn't imagine writing a book where my heroine sat around and wallowed in self-pity. A whiny character is not attractive to me. And while I recall whining a lot as a teen, now I want to tell whiners to take action and do something about it. With compassionate, of course. :)

    Excellent post! Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Jenn! I love the division you've drawn between being a woman and a mother and being an artist. Really interesting perspective. :)

  3. Loved this post, Min. It's funny that you bring this up because this was the very discussion at an author panel at a book signing I went to about a week and a 1/2 ago. The authors (Saundra Mitchell, Rhonda Stapleton, Christine Johnson, Lara Zielen, and Aimee Carter) talked about having strong female MC's.

    They indicated that it was important for girls to read strong females. They might get knocked down (the characters) but it was important for them to be able to pick themselves up. Whether it be facing a death, or getting super powers, or maybe a girl gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby etc...it was about the overcoming whatever obstacles came at them.

    I wish, I would've recorded it because the name of the tour was Girls Taking Over The World. But yeah very awesome.

  4. Teens face so many things and are so torn between wanting to be grown up and wanting to remain young. I think showcasing girls strengths is important. Girls dream big and they encounter obstacles, even in romance....most of them though don't curl up in the fetal position in a forest and forget the world around them.

    Yes discovering love was an obsession of mine in my teen years, but it was filled with hurdles that threatened to undo me. Girls are strong. They have to be to endure all they do in life. It is what makes us beautiful and unique.

  5. Awesome contribution, ladies. I would have loved to hear that talk, Rebekah. :) And Joey, I think you're on to something there. Girls have a lot to go through when they are super young.

  6. Your raise an excellent point, Miranda. It shouldn't be all about romance, but the journey of self-discovery. Hopefully, more writers will open their eyes to that truth and we'll have a better selection for teens to read.

    I'm not stopping by empty-handed, lady. I have TWO awards for you. Please go to www.trackenworth.wordpress.com to find out more.