Let’s Talk: FE&L #4- Three Trends of Female Representation in Literature

female


 

This is part 1 of James’ 2 part post. I asked James to split his post into two parts because it was a pretty long post. I will post the 2nd part soon 🙂

*Warning- this post contains some language that I don’t normally use on my blog. If that type of thing offends you, here’s your heads-up.

 


DISCALIMER: I, James, am a feminist. Yes, I am a cishet 18 year old white boy. I should

be everything a feminist is not, I know, but I am. I fully believe that women should be

treated 100% equal to men, and that extends into things that women are typically not

thought of being equal in, such as being drafted into the military, and being encouraged to

do hard labor. No one should get a pass in either direction, so long as they receive equal

compensation. That is my stance, and that is how I will hope to critique modern literature.

Further disclaimer: I’m normally not this serious, but when treading in a minefield, one

tends to tread stiffly. Hope you guys enjoy. 🙂

WARNING: Spoilers for The Hunger Games and Shatter Me series in this post!

 

 Three Trends of Female Representation in Literature

James

        Batool was gracious enough to invite me to write a post on her blog giving a male perspective on female

empowerment in modern literature, as I’m sure youknow. Be aware that this post will be very critical of it in many

ways. Please don’t send me hate in the comments. I would actually welcome a civil, reasonable discussion if you

would like to debate me. I love doing that.

        Of course, one can’t have a debate unless one has material to debate, so let’s get to that, shall we?

        Plain and simple: I’m scared for women’s representation in modern literature. There, I said it. Most everything I

read nowadays, the female characters are either 1. Weak, helpless, and/or whiny; 2. Dominatrix misandrists who

antagonize everyone; or 3. So underdeveloped that they might not even be there. There are certainly exceptions to

these rules, which I will also talk about, but in Part 2. Generally, however, those are the three trends I see.

        To give you an idea of what I mean by the first point: Bella Swan, Juliette from the Shatter Me series, at least for

the majority of the time, and Anastasia Steele from 50 Shades of Grey. These characters are defined by the men in

their lives. Think about it. Whenever someone mentions the books that they’re in, who is the first character you think

of? Be honest. It was the men, wasn’t it? I had to look up Steele’s name, and with Twilight it was always Team

Edward vs Team Jacob. The fans always wanted to pick Bella’s match themselves, never considering what she might

want. Juliette is the same way. No one ever talks about how much they love Juliette. It’s always Warner, Warner,

Warner, who is, dare I say (I know, sacrilege) an enormous dick and abuser.* For now, though, consider what the

implications of girls reading these books and connecting with these characters means? They idolize these men,

putting themselves down and giving all of the power to the men, who are lifeless, soulless, power-hungry jerks who

want only what they can’t have (With Edward, it’s the fact that he can’t break into Bella’s mind; with Grey, it’s

Steele’s entire life, with Warner it’s Juliette’s power that he wants to use, with the added benefit of sex). In all three

cases, it looks bad on all both sexes, as neither real men nor women are all exactly like this, yet these are popular.

Yes, I will admit that there are men like that who want nothing more than power and sex and other things they can’t

have, but more often than I would like to see, nobody seems to address that there are women who submit to men like

this. And it makes me really, really sad when I see women in my own world fawning over men like this, almost

wanting to replace these unfortunate women who are trapped in these situations and go along with them. It appears

to be the norm in modern society to make young girls believe that a mentally abusive relationship IS acceptable, and

yet physically abusive ones are not. If that is so, then we still live in a rape culture society, and that these problems

appear to go unnoticed, even encouraged by women, both old and young alike, makes me very, very scared.

         To my second archetype of modern female literature, it’s not exactly one that really appears in modern

LITERATURE, so much as modern LIFE. For too often, I’m seeing young women in various media harshly attacking

anyone who dares criticize feminism or attempt to see an alternate, not necessarily defensive, mind you, view of a

certain event that has feminist implications. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone who could be making a

perfectly rational point about something almost immediately get “FUCK YOU, WHITE CISHET FUCKBOY TRASH!”

or something to that effect. It makes me really sad, because it wounds me as a person that stereotyping and

assumption of this nature is accepted, and often encouraged, by the poster’s peers. It wounds me because I am a

white cishet boy and I am nothing like those misogynistic assholes who write things like “I’d fuck her pussy, then

cum on her face.” on a picture of Ellen Page in sweatpants. In fact, I am positively repulsed and disgusted. Those are

the kinds of people who deserve a punch in the head, but I wish it wasn’t assumed by every single woman in the

world that white men of any age are raging, sex-crazed misogynists. In fact, if they turn right around and say that

they want someone like any of the previously mentioned men, then it’s downright hypocritical. Yes, I understand

you’ve endured it for thousands of years. Yes, I know you want to be treated equally now. Yes, I know it looks like

nothing is happening, but please, please, don’t assume. Things are changing, and for the better. Lashing out isn’t

going to help your case. In fact, it’s going to make it look really bad in the eyes of everyone. Martin Luther King Jr.

knew the value of not being the aggressor. That was how he achieved change, Quiet demonstration en masse, with no

yelling insults, throwing stones, or causing damage. Just sitting in an area that will cause a disturbance and letting

the other people make a mistake. By lashing out, anyone who intends to cause change not only invalidates their

cause, but they also run the great risk of setting it back by any number of steps. Now this does not mean I

want women or other minorities to ignore or not question any critiques that people have on events. In fact, I

encourage them to seek it out and question it, but I truly wish that argument skills were better taught worldwide,

because the way to win is again, to seem like the peaceful defender, or else make the other person look like an

absolute fool. Stephen Colbert knew how to do that with the Colbert Report. Using words and policies from people he

disagreed with IRL and making them into a joke, using himself as the channel. It’s a brilliant form of humor and

protest, and it reminds us all that questions, not punches, lead to change. So yes, question everything, comment on

posts. Be angry, but do not lash out with an insult, assumption, or stereotype, because you yourself can easily look

foolish or radical. Arguments need to be made, but they need to be made smartly and carefully. The internet may

encourage immediacy, but train yourself to be considerate and thoughtful in your immediacy, and funnel your rage

into productive advancement.

        And I can already see some of you scrolling down into the comments to type “Oh, look at the butthurt fuckboy

crying about how his dick has been swatted. Boo hoo, must be so hard having every advantage in life.” right now. I

would urge you to please reconsider. I may have some advantage in my future, and if I do, yes, I’m probably going to

be ignorant of sexual profiling is going on, but that’s the big problem: Few, if any actual men know if they are

being given an advantage. Far more often, the profiling happens above where the majority of us are. The powerful

men may be sexist, but power is a pyramid, the more one has, the fewer fellows you have among you. And power

corrupts. Power is the single most addictive drug that humanity possesses. Therefore, the more power one acquires,

the more one fights to exclude others from becoming involved with it, and the far more likely one is to share it, when

one does, with one close in ideals with oneself. And often, those who are really addicted to power or the idea thereof,

will be far more ruthless in going about acquiring it, and if men are already in power, they will be more likely to trust

men to continue to carry it, and if one man who is seriously addicted is hired by a mild addict, the addiction cycle is

much more likely to intensify. The classic example is the good king who unwittingly passes his throne onto the evil

son, who excels at everything and is therefore assumed to be the better candidate, than the son, or even the

daughter, who is more like the father, but perhaps has some flaw that prevents them from getting the throne,

whether it be oppression by the other sibling, unwillingness to kiss butt for the throne, or simple tradition. My basic

point is, men may have an advantage, yes, but more often than is assumed, they do not actively seek it. The most

effective solution I can see to this problem is to have some men and women both who are hungry for their own

power, but then consciously look for people who are more moderate and fair in their power policies and install them

as successors. Moderation is the key to everything. Nobody likes a radical, except other radicals.

        The third archetype is one that has started to be moved away from, thanks to large outcry in recent years, but it

has not entirely gone away. Honestly, it might have started to morph into something potentially worse. Good news:

Yes, I am seeing the trends towards marginalized female characters being shifted away from now, and I am very

happy for that. Bad, very bad, news: I’ve started to see marginalized male characters, especially in female-centric

media. Things that have all-female lead casts (Bridesmaids, the new Ghostbusters, etc) always have that hot male

character who is just there for the sex appeal and for some stupid jokes. This is the same trend as in the past except

now it is going in the opposite direction. This is bad, bad, bad. It’s starting to slip into the same realm as previous

media, but with the genders reversed, which is a major Don’t in any minority-coming-to-prominence sort of protest.

In fact, that’s beginning to mislabel and twist the word “feminist”. By creating a two-sided group of media, one

creates polarization of issues, which leads nowhere. An integrated cast of male and female cast members in the new

Ghostbusters film, for example, would’ve been much better, and it would’ve opened the doors for a breakdown of the

assumption that equally mixed teams by gender have to be romantically linked in some way. In fact, there was a

glaring opportunity to have a male character try to be romantically involved with one of the female leads, dating and

such, perhaps, and then have her realize it won’t work out, and there’s some conflict about whether they can work

together because of the tension, but then at the final battle they have a moment of friendship and they realize that

despite not being romantic partners, they can still be fantastic friends. It provides a perfect metaphor for feminism

and equality, and it’s not possible to get if the woman, OR the man, is the focus of the book/film. There needs to be

equal focus for it to be truly progressive, or else it just becomes an effective war of the sexes, which is not what is

needed. No film, nor book, can go without marginalized characters, of course, but neither can a film that is meant to

be made with the intent of showing equality between the genders be equal if one gender is left out. All-

female=/=equal. And now, of course, I’ve sufficiently pissed off a large portion of this group by sounding like a

meninist, which I am not, for the record. I’m not saying I am repressed, not by any means. I’m simply trying to

prevent things from going too far, like the colleges who were accepting black students who were clearly unqualified

for their admittance only because they were black and they had to have a quota, I’m trying to address that writing

anything in the present or future that has a female character in it only for the sake of having a female character at the

cost of perhaps dragging out or weighing down a story that would’ve been better otherwise is not helping anyone. My

point is, don’t market something as equality-minded when it clearly is not. Sure, write a book with all-female

characters. Be my guest, but don’t take something as iconic as, say, Lord of The Flies and rewrite it with all girls

and say “Hey, haha! We can do this, too!” and then get people to say “Oh, what a great step forward in feminism.”

when it clearly is not. Feminism is about equality, not a cheap rehash. I could say more on the subject of lack of

originality in modern life, but that’s for another time. For now, though, I encourage all of you young female authors

and publishers out there to be mindful of how you want to market your work and please don’t give a false impression

simply for the sake of sales.

(Part 2 is far more positive, believe me.)

*If you choose to follow this tangent, I am grateful to you. The fact that Warner is idolized by so

many young girls nowadays is positively frightening to me, so thank you for taking the time to

read this. In regards to how I see Warner: He’s an abusive, power-hungry, whiny idiot who only

cares about Juliette’s power and how he can make her do what he wants he to. He doesn’t care

about her at all. I can see Tahereh Mafi trying to make him seem like a good guy at times

throughout her series, but she never really succeeds and all of the attempts end up seeming like

Warner’s feeble struggles with his own humanity, which he ultimately rejects. Think about it.

Literally the first thing Warner does to Juliette is to kill a man in front of her, no context, no

nothing. Then he proceeds to oppose her will at every possible occasion, never once actually

listening to her and letting her have some free will. It’s always take, take, take, no give. “But he

was doing that to show her her own power!” Really? Really? Yeah, no. If he wanted to do that,

he would’ve actually TOLD HER TO HER FACE, “Hey, I don’t think you should be in here. I

think you have a gift that could be something great for the world. Please, come with me and I’ll

see if I can help you learn how to control it.” What does he do instead? Sticks her in a death

chamber with a fake little boy and tells her to save him or have his blood on your hands. That’s

not nurturing, that’s mental abuse. Not to mention that every opportunity he gets he’s putting his

hands all over her like a little creepy urchin. Not to mention every time Juliette tells him to leave

her alone, he comes creeping right back to her like the perverted psychopath he is. “But his dad

made him that way!” So? Doesn’t mean he’s a good person. Take Joffrey Baratheon from Game

of Thrones. Same sort of deal. His father neglected and beat him and didn’t care for him at all

except to teach him how to play with weapons, and yet everyone wants Joffrey dead when he and

Warner say and do almost exactly the same things. Why, I ask all of you? Why? It makes no

sense. Even in Warner’s own powers you can see what he does to his world. He takes from

others, always taking, never giving. He literally can not do anything to Juliette but rob her.

Adam, by contrast blocks everything, keeps everyone away, keeping her outside of him, leaving

her vulnerable and fighting to get in. Kenji turns invisible and removes himself from the world,

and the situation, and people’s lives, but still there even if they don’t see him, a silent sense of

security, ready to come back any time he’s needed, but able to go if not. I think it’s obvious who

Juliette really should’ve been with and I’m kinda sad how the story was resolved. Kenji was the

only person who was there for her unconditionally. She never felt uncomfortable around him and

he always treated her like a person, like she actually had more to her than a hot body or a strong

power or a fragile psyche. No, Kenji treated her like a complex human being. And so what if

they’re best friends? Best friends becoming more than friends are the best kinds of relationships

because they’re the ones who can respect each other beyond “Oh, hey, you feel good when I

touch myself to you.” Kenji, not Adam or Warner, is Juliette’s true match.


 

Well, hello, Batool’s readers! My name is James. @felofHe on Twitter,

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/30420091-james on Goodreads (don’t have a custom

URL), and ihearthawkeye.wordpress.com on WordPress for those of you who are interested in

Marvel stuff.

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: FE&L #4- Three Trends of Female Representation in Literature

  1. Okay so I want to bring up some points to “counter” your points, James.

    Firstly, you discussed how you have seen cases of females/ feminists responding in harsh ways rather than trying to have a discussion with their opponents. While I agree that this happens and I’ve seen it as well, these people are not the majority. Also, most people who react that way tend to be people who hide behind their keyboards, not people who are taken seriously. To make a claim about a group of people based on the minority, who aren’t even publicly outspoken, seems unfair.

    Secondly, you also discussed how there are cases in the media where the men are made to be the accessories and the females are given the leading roles. Again, I agree that this happens, but my question is how often? In my opinion, it seems far more common to see it the other way around. The video game industry has some of the most disgusting examples of this. I agree, however, that our goal should be equality on the big screen (i.e a combination of male and female leads with equally important roles).

    Lastly, you stated how you think that literature has been glorifying abusive relationships. For this point, I wouldn’t disagree with you, but I want to throw this question out there: How harmful are these depictions of relationships for females in the real world? Eden and I discussed this earlier in her post as well, but is there any proof that these books cause girls to look for a boyfriend/lover/husband/whatever with the same negative qualities as these male characters? In my opinion, girls and women are not as naive and simpleminded as people think. Even a younger girl can look at a relationship in a book and think “Well maybe this ISN’T something I’d want to happen to me”. We don’t talk about how Katniss’ use of a bow to kill people might cause girls to want to act violently as well, even though plenty of people see Katniss as a role model. So why is it that we view this whole relationship thing differently?

    Like

  2. Pingback: LET’S TALK: FE&L #4 (Part II)- THREE TRENDS OF FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN LITERATURE |

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