I feel like the title of this post is a pretty bold statement and I hope it doesn’t ruffle some feathers. But I feel like I need to be bold and write this.
I’m a member of our local Junior League and we had our March meeting last night. Instead of having a traditional meeting we watched the documentary Miss Representation. If you haven’t seen/heard of it, here is a little bit about it:
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (87 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.
In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.
Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective. -from the film’s website
I had seen this a few years ago when it came out and really liked it (well, everything except Catherine Hardwicke’s little spiel). It didn’t really present any new information for me, but it made a pretty powerful point and I highly suggest you check it out.
During the documentary several young women (high school age) are interviewed and give their opinions on how women are represented in the media. It amazed me just how insightful these young women were. Anyway, it got to the part where they were discussing women in movies compared to men in movies. They showed all these powerful men heroes and their female counter parts. You can probably guess how the females looked.
One girl made the comment that there aren’t female protagonists like there are men. Female protagonists in movies either are trying to find love or deal with relationship drama. Female superheroes, while powerful, are glorified sex objects. And honestly… when you think about it… she was right.
Here’s where YA comes in. This documentary was made in 2010 and these women were not blessed with movies like The Hunger Games, City of Bones, and the upcoming Divergent. These are movies that feature a strong female protagonist who isn’t trying to find love and who certainly isn’t a sex object. They aren’t concerned with the things female protagonists in “chick flicks” are mostly concerned about (love, babies, men) and they aren’t dressed in skimpy pleather and expected to fight bad guys.
They are strong, heroic, flawed, awkward, curious, brave. They aren’t the most popular or the most beautiful or the most intelligent or the most anything. They are average people faced with extraordinary circumstances.
With the adaptation of so many YA novels into movies, more and more people are being introduced to these great characters, which in turn are perfect gateways to other books and fantastic characters.
It’s so important for women to find role models where they can, but when the media is throwing in our faces so much negativity towards women it’s easy to lose sight, faith, and trust in our role models. And for younger women, they are faced less with the women they need as role models and more with that negative image. This is why it’s so important that more and more strong characters get brought to life.*
*It’s also so important that positive role models be brought to the forefront and all the garbage we women are shown is pushed away so these bright, wonderful, brilliant women can be focused on. But that’s another post.
I love that one of the hottest trends is bringing YA books to life, especially ones that feature strong female protagonists. I’m not talking just the Katniss, Tris, and Clary characters; I’m talking the Hazel, the Mia, and the Hermione characters. Average people faced with extraordinary circumstances and coming out better for it.
So, tying into Top Ten Tuesday, here are some YA books with female protagonists that I feel need to be brought forth in the media as examples of what strong women are and need to be more of:
The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson
The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (already made into a movie!)
Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore
So to answer my bold statement “why YA is good for women” I can simply say this: YA books give us female protagonists who have real struggles, real issues and real triumphs without becoming sex objects or chasing after a man. Perhaps it’s because since the protagonists are too young to be sex objects (thank goodness) we get to see them in situations where they can fail and triumph, without being sexualized or put into stereotypical roles traditionally reserved for women.
Also, I may have gotten a kick-ass idea for a dystopian/futuristic government novel while watching this documentary. 🙂