Female Warriors

Where females take control

Context

For the past decade, the increase in female heroines in young adult novels is tremendous. The most popular coming of age stories such as Hunger Games have females leading the story which inspires girls to be strong and brave. Nakashima and Irvin states in an academic journal, “It is important for young women to encounter the kinds of stories that will provide them with a rich variety of strong female characters, both young protagonist and older women, to serve as role models at critical stages in their development. These stories help to shape the lives of young women.” The importance of having strong female heroines has not gone unnoticed because if anyone walks into the young adult section in a book store, would be graced with the sight of hundreds of books where the female saves herself.  As always, there are critics in this genre towards females that should be adjusted such as the girl on girl hate.  The commonality of girls hating on one another needs to stop because the message is stating that it is okay to judge another girl because she doesn’t act or look like you. In a popular book series, The Mortal Instruments, the novel City of Bones, displays hateful females. Clary Fray at the sight of Isabelle Lightwood automatically slut shames her because she is more “beautiful” than her. ( Cruger and Irvin-Mitchel) This happens repeatedly in young adult novels where female friendships barley exist because the overused trope of girl hate is used. Luckily , some progress has been made where female friendships are moving away from the back burner and being presented as such a vital story development piece. Another on going trope in young adult novels seems to be the toxic use of masculinity. In novels, it seems to be telling girls that it is okay to be treated as dirt because they “deserved it”. The shocking amount of Y.A. books that include this is too many. In Sarah J. Maas’s popular fantasy book series, Throne of Glass, presents toxic masculinity through Rowan Whitethorn and Choal Westfall, however, there are arguments for these characters because they end up being better men towards the end of the book and were just expressing their hardships. Although these male characters experience character development for the better, their actions towards the main character, Celeana Sardiothien, exhibit cruelty which is easily pushed over. The justification for the actions of boys being mean to girls is that “boys will be boys.” ( Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell) This toxic representation encourages young girls to accept this norm and not to defend themselves because “it was their fault” or “I really like him but he was just having a bad day.” In novels and real life, this situation should never be allowed to pass as the norm in relationships.  Authors write these stories because they know that young readers want to read about mean boys that turn nice but the amount of cruelty that boys push onto the girl should not be overlooked.  There also seems to be a troupe where the young unexperienced teen finds their “fated one” because even turning the age 18. This is an unreachable reality in most cases in normal everyday life because teenage love doesn’t last forever anymore. This is setting unrealistic realities to young girls that if they don’t find a boy before they turn 18 then they will never find love. Younger expresses, “Young adult fiction reflects girls lives back to them.” Personally, I have always had novels to help me cope with situations that I could not avoid in my life and the mark it left on the development of me from young teen to adult is one that should not be underrated.  Young adult literature help adolescents to identify themselves, so the author must do it correctly to make a powerful impact on the world.

Female Friendships

In young adult fantasy novels, the ever-growing female characters are dominating literature.  The Young Adult genre has taken off tremendously globally and many adolescents are influenced by the words of Y.A. authors. For this article, I am going to be focusing on specifically the fantasy genre. For some reason, many fantasy related novels have females famously portrayed with the stereotype of “different from other girls.” Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell stated,

“The message is painfully clear: there is only room in the story for one amazing girl,there is only one way to be a girl or woman, and perhaps most troublingly, it’s-impossible for girls to have meaningful friendships with one another.”

In the well known published series, The Mortal Instruments, the the Main heroine of the story, Clary Fray, makes remarks about female characters when they are introduced such as Isabelle Lightwood. Clary begins to slut shame at the sight of Isabelle because Clary isn’t as feminine as her. Younger describes how authors’ words affect the readers point of view, “In many Young Adult texts, readers are encouraged, even directed, to examine characters from the perspective of a judgmental voyeur”. If the reader is made to make this assumption of characters, then how will this reflect into their everyday lives? In City of Bones, Clary characterizes as a girl who wears jeans, baggy t-shirts, and worn out converses while Isabelle wears tighter pants and shirts with heels. Although, throughout the novels, clary’s opinion changes to a more positive outlook and they slowly become friends (Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell) . This is a poor reputation of how young girls should view each other on upon meeting one another. Authors should display this interaction without negative thoughts. Also, it seems that the main characters, such as Clary Fray, must be different from all other females in the novel and usually thats by getting rid parts of her femininity.  Authors need to expose more girls who embrace their femininity which doesn’t make them “different.” Rather have their difference be their interests and ideals rather than their appearance. Endorse having no girl hate but rather empower one another!

In an Academic Journal, Nakishma and Irvin comment on the importance of how females are represented in literature:

With emergence of mighty female heroines in recent YA literature, empowering impressions help shape how girls develop and understand their identity. Even though teens may turn to books and media for entertainment, they are inevitably impressed by social and character influences from the stories in which they immerse themselves.

The importance of having strong female heroines in literature reflects on how young teen girls will view themselves and their personal choices. Book characters are just as important as celebrities, they leave an impact on someones life. I think the increase in  heroines in literature is an amazing movement that should not be hindered, however, the heroines must be written properly to have a powerful impact in the book community.

Repetition of Toxic Gender Roles in Relationships

For one of the many reasons people get hooked into a novel, it is partially due to the romance. Readers want to witness the meet cutes and how relationships blossoms over time. It seems that in relationships in young adult literature, the unexperienced teenager always finds their “fated love” before they are even 18 years old, and sometimes endure mental and/or physical abuse from their significant other before and during their relationship. Many stories endure the story line of the girl meets the boy, and the boy is cruel to her because he simply does not like her. The girl experiences harsh treatment from the male. In the popular fantasy series, Throne of Glass, Celeana Sardothien meets Rowan Whitethorn in Heir of Fire, and instantly hate each other. Rowan hates her so much that he actually physically assaults her.  Cruger and Irvin- Mitchell states in the academic journal,

Rowan punched her the face, so hard that she bled and her lip was swollen. Not in a duel, not in training, not in defense, but simply because Celaena insulted him. This behavior is excused almost immediately. As Celaena is lying in bed later that night she would think to herself that she “deserved it.”

Obviously, this behavior is  unacceptable in every single way. Then why do authors include these type of relationships to young adult? For young teenagers to put up with someone being abusive but accept it because they end up following in love? NO! Authors are such influential voices in young readers lives,  so rather than showing young adults that it is okay to accept this type of toxic relationship, they need to represent more peaceful loving ones. Where the boy doesn’t portray the on going stereotype of, “boys will be boys”. Instead, include stories where authors want to show the young adults how to witness and expect from a true loving relationship. Im not saying that the love interest can not be frustrated or sometimes present a moment of anger because that’s what makes a character human, but to write and read about abuse and passivly accept the norm is not the right image for YA novels
                                                                               

Works Cited

Katherine Cruger, and Atiya Irvin-Mitchell. “Men Are Stronger; Women Endure: A Critical Analysis    of the Throne of Glass and the Mortal Instruments Ya Fantasy Series.” Journal of Media Critiques, Vol 3, Iss 10 (2017), no. 10, 2017. EBSCOhost, doi:10.17349/jmc117208.

 

Nakashima, Sarah, and Vanessa Irvin. “Teen Girls Read on Maui: Searching for Identity through YA Fiction.” Voice of Youth Advocates, June 2018, p. 30+. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.dax.lib.unf.edu/apps/doc/A545022860/ITOF?u=jack91990&sid=ITOF&xid=252917ec. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.

Younger, Beth. “Pleasure, Pain, and the Power of Being Thin: Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature.” NWSA Journal: National Women’s Studies Association Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2003, pp. 45–56. EBSCOhost, login.dax.lib.unf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mlf&AN=2007301147&site=eds-live&scope=site.