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TALKING POINTS > Feminist Issues in Teen Books

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LilyCat (Agent of SHIELD)-- on hiatus :( (lilycat_reads) | 19 comments I read a lot of mainstream YA fiction, and have been witnessing a disturbing trend of sexism and offensive messages, even from female authors.

What YA/Teen books have strong feminist messages or strong female characters?

What are some sexist/offensive problems in YA fiction?

Personally, I think the Eon series has strong messages of feminism and gender identity. (There is also a trans woman BTW!) I also like the Falling Kingdoms series.

Some problems include "stalkery" or borderline-rapist behavior from love interests, girl-on-girl hate/slut shame, and when the female character only giggles on the sidelines while watching the male characters do all the fighting-- usually shirtless.

message 2: by Stef (new)

Stef Rozitis | 71 comments Garth Nix. His Sabriel series and eveb a stand-alone he wrote that I forget the name of

Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody

Tamora Pierce books simplistic but feminist at least.

Sorry most of the ones I know are fantasy (shows what I read)

Then some older books like one's by Madeline L'engle have some feminism in them (well I thought so when I was 16 but that was admittedly a very long time ago and I have learned more feminism since)

One of my problems is even when there is an independent woman/girl she will tend to defer too much to the boy or think too much about the boy (my mother died but he is hot; we are under siege but he is hot; oh by the way the bad guy is hot too, unimaginably bad things are happening but my only real problem is I miss him). So phallocentrism (sometimes laughably G rated but let's still call it what it is!)

message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane (catburg) | 10 comments I read a TON of YA and keep track of those that I think are feminist or at least realistic in their portrayal of issues that teenagers face.

Different books that I feel promote a positive feminist message are: The Female of the Species, Girl Mans Up, Burn Baby Burn, A Study in Charlotte, Six of Crows duology, American Girls, Tiny Pretty Things duology, All the Rage, A Thousand Nights, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Grey, Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, Up to this Pointe, Far From You, the Hired Girl, Audacity, Goodbye Stranger

So, some of this do have girls at odds with each other. Tiny Pretty Things, for example, is about three different girls in the National Ballet School (that's not the name, but you get the idea) so competition is a huge theme, as well as bullying. So, there is stuff like that going on but when I read it, it feels like a more authentic portrayal of relationships between teenage girls and how they become strained or toxic and the like. The message is never,' this girl is mean and a slut so I have to take her down because I'm better'.

I never really cared for the term 'strong female character' because to me, it feels very generic. What constitutes a strong female? Does that mean she's not allowed to cry? She can't have feelings? So, and this is me, but when I read books, I want an honest and genuine portrayal of different kinds of girls in different situations who may or may not cry, depending on what they're going through. If the author is sincere and even if there is a fight with a friend or whatever, if it's acknowledged and treated with respect, it's how the character and story develop.

What has been really grating on me in YA lately is not only the slut-shaming and girl-on-girl hate but also just the super shallow way the mean girl (or whoever) is characterized. It's unoriginal, lazy, and a cheap way to get you to supposedly cheer for a main character who is honestly kind of a jerk if they thinking someone who is sexually active is the worst. It's pointless but it's also awful to think that girls are being taught to only look at each other as competition for guys.

So, I really LOVE the Female of the Species because the main character questions rape culture and what many teens and adults have been lead to think or expect in certain situations, like when a guy leaves a girl for a hot cheerleader. It's FANTASTIC.

If you go outside of the mainstream realm, you'll find a lot of really great titles because YA is becoming such a diverse and better place. It's definitely not perfect, but it's getting better. The Wrath and the Dawn, for example, I LOVE because it's just a really sweeping, romantic retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. So, the romance is a HUGE feature but the author re-writes it in a way that is feminist and great. And so the romance is a really important part of the plot, but that's sort of the point of the story. It's not perfect and I've seen some people thing it's bad or cheesy, but I personally really loved it. A Thousand Nights is a retelling of the same story and VERY FEMINIST. Like, insanely so.

I also hate the stalker/creep boyfriend and when I read those titles I mentioned (and others) I felt like all the dudes in them were generally pretty great. Maybe flawed, like any human, but definitely not stalking or abusive.

message 4: by Stef (new)

Stef Rozitis | 71 comments There seem to be a few different books called the female of the species. Could you please add a link to the correct one? I would appreciate links to all your suggestions if possible, seem worth looking at! :) thanks

message 5: by Jane (new)

Jane (catburg) | 10 comments Stef wrote: "There seem to be a few different books called the female of the species. Could you please add a link to the correct one? I would appreciate links to all your suggestions if possible, seem worth loo..."

Sorry, I'm not very good at linking stuff, I'll do my best!

message 6: by Jane (new)

Jane (catburg) | 10 comments The Female of the Species -

Girl Mans Up -

Tiny Pretty Things -

Burn Baby Burn -

Study in Charlotte -

A Thousand Nights -

All the Rage -

Exit, Pursued by a Bear -

Far From You -

Six of Crows -

Up to this Pointe -

Goodbye Stranger -

Audacity -

The others are pretty mainstream, I think, but you can always just search my bookshelves! But these ones I feel like are more under the radar, don't get enough credit, or just NEED to be read by everyone.

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