I did not think that writing my first post on feminism in literature would be as hard as I’m finding it. I just spent over a year working on a writing project incorporating feminism for crying out loud! But it’s hard. And it’s subjective. However –I think I’ve found a good starting place.
If you’re afraid of the F word you should probably stop reading this post, if you haven’t already. On the other hand, if you believe that women are human beings that deserve equal rights and the same consideration and control over their lives as men, please read on.
I think Feminism is so much more than politics. And, despite its major misconception, it isn’t about man-hating. Feminism is a way of life –a tough one– and it’s a really bumpy road, even in 2013.
Right now, it seems that women are the hot topic in literature, movies, and the media no matter where you’re living in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, women deserve the spotlight, but it’s not enough to have women as elements on the page or screen. Those elements need to mean something. And they need to be presented correctly and thoughtfully. No, I’m not about to spout Miss Representation information at you, although it’s quite valid. I’m going to go down another avenue, one I feel a bit more qualified to travel as a great consumer of female stories.
Have you ever really thought about the kick ass fictional women you hear about? I’m not talking looks or love triangles, I’m thinking more along the lines of skills and personality. They’re usually tough right? I mean, that’s kind of a prerequisite to being kick ass. But are they interesting on a basic human level? Are they smart? Inquisitive? Adept? Funny? Witty? Quirky? Do they solve their own problems? Or is luck always on their side?
A lot of women I can think of fall into a few of those categories but there isn’t a lot of crossover. And I find that very annoying. Women, even fictional ones, are multidimensional creatures. Most are funny. Most have a sense of humour. All are smart. Most are inquisitive. And most are adept, you kind of have to be when the odds are against you and our society makes you work twice as hard. And I don’t know about anyone else, but luck is not my best pal, I’m usually working my butt off instead of relying on chance.
So, where does that leave us? Hopefully wondering why feminism needs to be incorporated into all writing. And how.
Going back to our broad little definition above, it’s about realizing that women are human beings, which means they should crossover into multiple categories. Take Rowling’s Hermione for instance, she’s smart, adept, and thoughtful, amongst other things. She solves her own problems by working hard and being tenacious. She pushes back. Even though she never gets the credit at the end of the book. Not really, anyway. After all that her, Ron, and Harry have gone through I’d say she’s tough –but she’s also so much more than that.
Compare Hermione to Collins’s Katniss. I love The Hunger Games, but the more I think about Katniss, the louder the voice in my head says something just isn’t right. What are Katniss’s major personality traits? … Exactly. She’s the quiet type. She’s skilled at hunting with that bow of hers. She understands the rules of the world she lives in and she knows how to work below detection –but Gail, an older boy, taught her most of these skills (at least the ones her father didn’t). She does stand up for herself against Haymitch, President Snow, and most of the freaks in the Capitol, eventually. And she’s honourable. I do recall that. But, for the most part, she still acts in a passive aggressive way while doing so. A lot happens to Katniss, which causes her to react. That’s what stands out for me.
Alas, this is the curse of the English major –over analyzing the books you love. But it must be done.
I hope my point is starting to come across. In a nutshell, it’s like this:
I want people. I want women. I don’t want types. And I hope you feel the same way.
So, writers, it’s homework time. If you want your work to stand out, be multidimensional, be riveting, and have a wider readership, you need to incorporate women who aren’t cardboard cut-outs. They need to do stuff for themselves, i.e. act upon motivation. And they need to have personality. Skills. And a backbone. Those are just the basics.
Good luck! I know you’re more than capable.
This post was inspired by (thanks Kate):
If you’re interested in any of the ideas expressed here and want to go on to learn more, here are some good places to start:
Or, if you like, contact Anxiety Ink and some awesome book titles can be sent your way.