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

This is a continuation of Part I of James’ post, which you can read here.


 

Now, let’s not be negative anymore, shall we? Believe me that stung a lot for me, too. I

don’t like to be patronizing, I just want people to be mindful of their surroundings. But let’s

move past that and look at some of the more positive moments in female literature recently.

Personal favorite: The Hunger Games. Yes, I know it’s cliché and blah, blah, blah. It’s still one

of the greatest examples of a strong female in literature today. People always think of Katniss

immediately when they hear “The Hunger Games” which is a major step in and of itself. If that

weren’t enough, it’s Katniss who always determines her own fate in the Games. Everyone who

tries otherwise always fails. Sure she may be emotionally unstable and sad, but that is well

shown in the books to be because she has been through a war, and before the traumatic events,

she was a stable, strong, powerful-hearted person. The books very cleverly and successfully

create a strong independent female character by NOT focusing on gender roles and instead

focusing on the fact that war is hell. Throughout it all, though, Katniss remains a focused,

independent character who is well-developed and very, very complex. One of the great reasons,

in fact, why I think Mockingjay is the greatest of the Hunger Games books is that it uses Katniss

as a metaphor for women as a whole and it shows Katniss taking a journey that is reminiscent of

a girl becoming a woman. For example, she starts the book by being a complacent, nigh

vegetative, servant to District 13, relying on them for guidance for the better part of a few

chapters, but then, as the novel goes on, and they try to force her into certain roles, she keeps

breaking out, and resulting in a betterment of the rest of the group as whole when she does,

though District 13 refuses to acknowledge this, or at least dilutes her importance to themselves,

still trying to tell her what to do. It’s a perfect parallel for feminism, honestly. Katniss, like real-

life feminists, is forced to fight hard against forces that do not want her to be independent and

want her to live her life their way, but she defies them at every turn, yet feels like she’s making

no actual progress. Eventually she gets to the point where she is forced to pick: kill the person

who tormented her for her entire life, or kill the person who’s urging her to kill the first person as

well as control her life in a very real sense, and stands to inherit the power vacated by the first

person when they die. Katniss chooses the latter, and, knowing she will be drawn over the coals

by the radicals who will take power anyway, she nearly commits suicide, but she is saved by the

person she thought would most want her dead, Peeta, a man. A man who had been until recently

controlled by the forces now taken from power. A man who entered the same system she did at

the time she did, and who was initially supportive and thoughtful with her, but was torn away by

that system in their second phase of life. If Katniss is the metaphor for feminists, Peeta is the

metaphor for most men of the world, brainwashed by modern society into believing that society

as it stands is perfect and supporting it, though they know deep down, it’s wrong, and they

continue to struggle with it, despite having remembered the memories. Gale, on the other hand,

is the metaphor for the lower class, anti-poverty movement. He stands by Katniss’ side for as

long as it suits him, but in the end, he is willing to betray her trust in order to achieve his own

agenda, and for that reason, Katniss is forced to split from him, because she (and metaphorically,

her movement) needs an actual person, not an idea by her side. Peeta is a person. He’s not

consumed by an idea anymore. He’s just a person who Katniss can be herself with, and she can

exist in harmony with him, rather than have to keep fighting, because her fight is won, and

though it may not be completely stable (Peeta’s occasional flashbacks and hallucinations,

Katniss’ nightmares), the end result is a world much better off, and there may still be injustices

to correct, but war is a wearying endeavor, and some long for it more than others. Therein lies

the great genius of Mockingjay. It shows all of these various issues, and connects and clarifies all

of these metaphors that Suzanne Collins had been building throughout the series. It’s one of the

deftest conclusions I’ve ever read. And it truly shows that with feminism, like any movement,

hate winning over hate is not better, which is why Katniss kills Coin instead of Snow. The

Hunger Games also really stands as a triumph in female literature being empowering because of

the fact that in the main romantic relationship of the book, Katniss is not set under Peeta in terms

of power. In fact, if anything, Peeta is under her, but they are relatively balanced, all in all. And

while one could argue that Katniss is dependent upon Peeta emotionally, I would argue that it is

a mutual dependence, especially after Peeta is hijacked. They rely on each other to be

emotionally supportive, especially of their own faults and weaknesses, to be each other’s

strength where they have none. In other words, a healthy, good relationship. Again, this stands as

a metaphor for feminism, because a truly equal society will not have men and women at each

other’s throats, but will instead have them supporting each other when necessary and only then.

Treating one another like porcelain dolls isn’t going to help anyone, either, in fact, that’s

basically what 13 did to Katniss. Bottom line, be equal, and don’t hate, no matter how much you

want to.

Another one of my favorite examples of empowered women in literature is in Harry

Potter, a virtual cornucopia of strong women. Professor McGonagall, Hermione, Luna, Ginny,

Mrs. Weasley, even Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy to some degree. JK Rowling, with

her landmark series, has, in my opinion, created perhaps the most diverse and strong group of

female characters in literature since Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. All of those women have

admirable qualities and strengths to look up to, but none of them are without flaws or

weaknesses, and that, I think is what causes the second archetype of female characters I mention.

A completely flawless, can-do-no-wrong character, regardless of gender, is not only

uninteresting, but also runs the risk of being very easily turned into a dominatrix. Neither is the

case in Harry Potter. Hermione, for example, is constantly driven to tears as a result of being

seen as “too smart” and occasionally gets bossy, but she is still, at heart, a loving, caring

individual capable of doing almost anything. Weaknesses don’t mean you’re not strong.

Everyone has their Achilles heel. Keeping with strong women, Professor McGonagall is one of

the strongest and most capable witches alive, and though she is strict, she also has a present and

deep sense of humor and wit and is in a sense, the perfect grandmother figure. Luna may seem

like a dumb blonde, but there is much more to her than that. She, in fact, represents alternative

ways of looking at the world, which allows her to have a great sense of optimism. She also

proves herself to be a more than capable fighter and loyal, caring friend. Ginny, in the books at

least (damn you Kloves), is also a leader, fighter, and fiercely independent woman who learns

early on that devoting her life to a man does not do her justice, and though she struggles with

stable relationships, she speaks to a percentage of the populations of both sexes who feel the

same way. Ginny proves that however many people you’ve been with in any capacity doesn’t

make you weak, submissive or naïve, nor does it make you a bitch, unless someone accuses you

of that, in which case all bets are off. And Mrs. Weasley dispels the stereotype that housewives

have to be submissive. In fact, if anything, she’s the dominant one in the relationship, except on

occasion. That’s the great thing about the elder Weasleys’ relationship; they balance the powers

within the house, and they both genuinely care for each other, even if they do get on each other’s

nerves every once in a while. As for Bellatrix and Narcissa, they are two representations of

women corrupted by ideals. Bellatrix is corrupted by blind devotion to Voldemort. She’s the

Harley Quinn of the Harry Potter universe, though she still has a radical sort of strength within

her character, within her devotion. Narcissa is corrupted by the devoted housewife ideal. She

carries this commitment to her husband and true love for her son within her, more resembling

Cersei from Game of Throne s, except she has no will or motivation to leave her husband. She’s

a woman corrupted by both traditional values and class, as she often sees others as inferior by

nature, such as her house elf, Dobby. And yet, Narcissa, when all grows worse than she can or

will tolerate, she takes the situation into her own hands and manipulates it so that it works out for

the better. A moment of quiet strength for a woman just beginning to have her own sense of self.

In conclusion, to the eyes of this young man, female empowerment has certainly come a

long way over the years, but I am very concerned that it may be taking steps back instead of

forward. The true path to empowerment is not in segregation, it is in integration. Men and

women standing side-by-side, not miles apart or at each others’ throats. Be Katniss, not Bella. Be

Hermione, or Luna, or Ginny. Don’t take crap, but make sure you clean your filter every so often

so that the non-crap can get through. There may seem like there’s a lot of crap, but the truth is,

the crap is only a lot heavier. It falls to your filter first. Please don’t assume that because you’ve

come across a lot of crap in your time that everything that hits your filter will be crap, because

that’s exactly what the crap wants out of you, to hurl more crap back. Be above the crap, climb

through it. Find your light. And keep on reading. 🙂 Thanks for reading, guys. See you around.


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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5 thoughts on “LET’S TALK: FE&L #4 (Part II)- THREE TRENDS OF FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN LITERATURE

  1. Excellent insights, Batool. I haven’t read the books and have watched the movies so intermittently that I’m lost by the next release. I suggested to my husband, who even likes the movies, that we should do a marathon and watch all movies in one day. Now reading your analysis, I think I’ll get the collection of books instead. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post! I so much love Katniss from Hunger Games. The point that Katniss is who you think of when you hear “Hunger Games” was interesting to me. I immediately started thinking of other books about women and the first to come to mind was “Twilight” and the first person that comes to mind for me is Edward, not Bella (this isn’t a punch at Twilight, just an observation). I’m probably going to be thinking of titles and names for a while now just to see what happens, ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! James makes such an interesting point. I realize now that when I think of certain books, such as Throne of Glass, the female will be the first character to come to mind. Other books, however, lead me to think of the love interests.

      Liked by 1 person

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