While it isn’t practical to keep eyeliner and hair on point while going on a quest, I want to see more female characters that see their reflection and love the way their hair, their face, and their body looks. It would go a long way to present girls with characters such as this from an early age, instead of the protagonist who has never paid much attention to her physical appearance or thought of herself as beautiful.
When it comes to YA, feminine traits are often seen as flaws. If a female character takes care of her appearance she is vain. Or worse, she is sexualized —I’m looking at you superhero franchises—. And the matter goes well beyond physical appearance. If she is graceful and kind she is often portrayed as weak. Characters that start their journey with these traits are commonly forced to change them during the course of the story. Transform them into traditionally masculine traits, to prove that they are strong and independent. See the problem?
It is strange how when we are little, girls are given books about princesses to read. And when we grow up, we look at movies where the main character wants to be anything but a princess.
We have seen the construct of being a “female boss” being used to devalue feminine women and roles. It tells us that to make a path for ourselves we need to adopt masculine traits. Well, I want to see a character that likes to cook for her loved ones, and still be able to swordfight or start a business. Women who know their finances and like to treat themselves to a salon appointment. Not all respected queens need to be ruthless. Most romance novels and boy bands deserve all the hype they get. And, let me tell you right now, ballet dancers are incredibly strong. Traditional femininity and empowerment are not mutually exclusive, even if the media commonly portrays it as so. I think it is time that we reshape the “girl boss” archetype.
Also, let’s turn maternity into a strength. Female characters can want children. Wanting to bring down the government to build a country where she can settle down with her family. Where her children can grow up safely. Or how about a mother that will tear down the world if something happens to her children? They are all motivations that have so much potential.
Our society tends to degrade traditionally feminine roles. Cutting and editing films used to be regarded as a role of minor importance when women primarily did it. This changed drastically when male names started gaining fame editing in the film industry (for more information about this, I encourage you to read this article). But this is not only a problem of the past. Nowadays, housewives can be seen as unsuccessful, and female nurses and preschool teachers are not given as much recognition as they deserve. This needs to stop.
I believe that this change includes the media we consume. The characters that we read about. I want little girls and teens to open a book that empowers them, that reminds them of their worth. That tells them that they don’t need to change what they like to be strong. And I want this for myself too.
Now, let me make myself clear. I am not saying that traditionally feminine characters cannot be outspoken or loud. I am saying that we, as writers and readers, owe them much more respect. Because someday, I want to wear skirts and heels to work and not be undervalued or sexualized. I do not want to be judged for the amount of makeup I use. I do not want to be borderline rude to be able to make a stand. If I want to find empowerment in my femininity, I should be able to do so.
And damn it, if I cannot find enough books with characters like this, I will write one myself.
is a young planster with too much passion and too little time on a day. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, whether they are thoroughly researched flash fiction pieces or improvised bedtime stories.
MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR: