Saturday, September 10

Royal Rantings: Feminism in YA


A couple of days back, I woke up in the morning with a jerk. I’d just had the worst nightmare, and what’s worse is that I woke up blaming myself for what had happened. Let me tell you why. It started off as just any other regular boring dream…and then one thing led to another and as clich├ęd as it may sound, I found myself cornered by an intimidating guy making inappropriate advances towards me. I wish I had kicked some ass and miraculously saved myself. I wish I had at least kneed him in the groin and run away, but no…I found myself thinking that it would be easier if I just let it happen because at least it would be done with and he’d let me go away sooner. As much as I was screaming at my dream self, I couldn’t stop bracing myself for the worst of it. 

Thankfully I woke up before anything awful happened. However, dream or not, it was really terrifying and…like, WHAT?! Why was my brain being so stupid? Why did I let myself feel so intimidated that I was prepared to let a guy get do something like that without even putting up a fight? As much as it stood against everything I believed in, I was prepared to let something like that happen because I was too scared? I hated myself for it, and I hated everything that led me towards thinking that way in such a situation. Even if it was a dream, doesn’t that just go on to show that I  think of myself, on a subconscious level, as so vulnerable and helpless that I’d rather let a guy take advantage of me, than fight back?


This reminded me of another incident, in real life this time. In high school, my friend and I always used to take the longer way to our class because of a guy who used to lie in wait for us in a corridor in the route we usually took. We didn’t even think twice about it- we stumbled upon him once, saw him lying in wait for us the second and third days and then just stuck to taking the longer route to class because it was easier than all the hassle it took to just cross that corridor…the jeers, the catcalls. We didn’t think of telling any of our other friends about it. We didn’t think of reaching out to a teacher or someone in a place of authority. We just stuck to taking the longer way because we didn’t think it was worth the fight, and we eventually let the guy win, didn’t we? 

Coming back to the dream now- three years after high school and I haven’t changed at all, have I? As much as I hate to admit it, if I was in such a situation even now, even after all the thinking I did after that dream, even after all the contemplating I did about my high school self, even after reading some truly wonderful books like the ones I’ll be talking about shortly, I’d still take the longer route. Doesn’t this show us that something is clearly lacking? Despite the many talks being done about feminism, I don’t think girls are any more empowered than they were before, and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. But is it worth giving a try? Is it worth talking about? Is it worth shouting about? You bet it is, and this is exactly why I think there should be more books that touch on this subject.


The majority of books I've been reading these past few months has been YA, and I was really surprised, when on thinking about it, that I found that I could think of not one book that dealt with feminism. For real. Not one. That is, of course, until I read the Spinster Club series by Holly Bourne, an author I regret not discovering sooner.

    

This series can be taken as the perfect example as to how you can very well talk about topics like mental illness, friendship, family issues, first love and various other things and still shed light on something like feminism, which is so less talked about that it took someone like me, someone who considers herself an avid reader, 21 whole years to come to terms with being a feminist. Wouldn't I have given this more thought, much earlier on, if books- which make up a very huge part of my life- talked about this more?


It was not until last year that I seriously began thinking about feminism and accepted that deep down, I myself had feminist beliefs. But feminism itself is such an...alien, stigmatized concept in a patriarchal society like ours that it's not even talked about much. Note that this is from a Muslim from a conservative family in Sri Lanka. Not all Sri Lankans or Muslims may have this problem, and I'm very well aware that it's not as taboo a topic in other parts of the world, but then, why isn't it talked about more? Why don't books, which are a very huge part of our lives, touch on this topic more? 

I personally consider the YA age group to be very impressionable. So isn't it very dangerous, toxic even, when authors fail to address this issue properly? Don't authors have the responsibility to think about this when catering to such a receptive age group? There has been a lot of talks about diversity going on recently, and that has made me think...isn't feminism an issue worth some thought too? 


Sure, there has been an increasing amount of powerful female characters in YA literature in recent times and I'm very thankful for it, but I believe that feminism should be more talked about. We should be shown what it is to be a feminist. We should be shown that even when the battle might seem uphill, it's a battle worth fighting. We should be shown that there are characters like Lottie in What's a Girl Gotta Do? who are prepared to fight patriarchy head on, and we should be shown that we can do it too...and what better way to do it than through books? I rest my case.

What do you think? 
Do you believe that feminism matters? 
Do you think feminism has been adequately 
represented in YA books? 
Tell me what you think in the comments below! 

PS: Stay tuned for my review of What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne, which will be going live later this week. I  loved it, and I'm sure you would too! I also created a Pinterest board inspired by the Spinster Club series! You can check it out here.

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Ironically enough, I had a similar dream once! That time though, I did kick the crap out of the guys in my dream and I woke up feeling very proud of myself.

    I've been watching a lot of Law and Order: SVU recently, which, if you're familiar with the show deals with sex crimes, so a lot of the episodes deal with women being abused and the assholes that deny any wrong doing. It's very frustrating, even in a fictional world, when men get away with basically anything.

    I love the idea of feminism in YA because it contradicts what most men perceive as feminism, which is man hating. The amount of guys in my school who role their eyes at the f word is ridiculous. I'm proud of identifying as a feminist and I think it's books that made me that way. They teach us how to stand up for ourselves, and how to shut up the so called meninists. I definitely need to check out those Holly Bourne books now!

    REALLY sorry for the long comment Ruzaika but with a topic like this I could go on and on! Thank you for this amazing post :)

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    1. I wish I had kicked that jerk too, ugh. It really is frustrating seeing people get away with such appalling crimes, and what's even worse is that some of them don't even realize they've committed something horrendous. Oh, people these days. Seeing stuff like this happen on a daily basis is enough to make me give up on all hope for this world honestly.
      You should definitely consider picking these books up, Em! I'm sure you'd love it- the third one, especially has a lot to say about the so-called meninists and equalists!
      Don't be sorry for the long comment- they are my favorite kind ;) Thank you, Em!

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  3. Ruzi! You're awesome :).

    So sorry you had a bad dream like that, not only for the nightmare itself, but for the outcome. I very rarely have nightmares about men trying to take advantage of me (maybe a couple or three in my whole life), but this one time I dreamt that someone was, and I ended up being saved by Dr. Carter from the series "E.R.". Now, I dream about TV characters ALL THE TIME, so I didn't read much into it back then, but still - you got me thinking. I didn't save myself. And...a MAN did.

    I haven't read a ton of YA books like the vast majority of you bookish people out there, but I agree. Not much representation of the subject. Maybe it's because feminism is still equated with man-hating (like Paperbackprincess said), or with a power trip in which women want to overturn the world and reduce men to slaves, or whatever. Maybe it's because - and I'm talking about the less conservative countries, because I don't really know what happens in the others, if not superficially - women have gained a few rights and stuff along the way, and they literally sat up on them after they did. like the fight was over. The fact is, not only the fight is far from over, but our conquers are - oh, so subtly! - taken away from us more often than not. And we don't even notice. So...books should reflect that. Especially books for young adults. Though maybe the subtle approach has its own merits, because it shows that women's strenght is a given, that they are capable of standing for themselves or reverse the usual roles without actually turning into men's clones, and so on.

    Maybe you could do a feminism feature on the blog - not only about books, but about real life too. It would be great. Just an idea...

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    1. P.S.: "reversing the usual roles" ;D...

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    2. Thanks, Roby! See, you got exactly what I meant- we are so used to the idea that women are feeble or helpless or vulnerable that we think that we need men to save us or we are doomed. However much we think otherwise, somehow or the other, even on a subconscious level, we seem to be thinking that way and it annoys me so much!
      That's so true! People tend to think that they've achieved enough soon and literally stop fighting for more because they are thankful for what they do have and it's quite very disheartening indeed! And yes, the subtle approach is helpful too, but I'd love to see more books focus on what it means to be a feminist itself since that term has been twisted to mean so many things that it does not!
      I LOVE the idea of a feminist feature! We'll definitely give it some thought, though I'm afraid it won't be materializing anytime soon what with both me and Vera being busy with uni now. Oh well. I love the idea anyway!

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  4. Great discussion! :D I'm also a Muslim and I come from an Asian family. I personally almost never give feminism much thought because... well, I kinda enjoy my right as a woman and the privileges given to us, such as ladies parking and everything :P But on the more serious matters, I want more equality between genders. I don't approve for men to feel superior over us, like they think they could harass us or do whatever they want because they're above us? Big no! But I totally get you, I choose to avoid men who do catcalls because I thought it was never worth the fight. I think feminism is an important issue to be address in YA fiction. I hate it when a woman lose all sense of self over a guy or when a guy treats her like crap, she's still so hung up on him. I mean, women aren't defined by men only. YA fiction should deliver that message, especially for young readers. Great post! <3

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    1. Of course! There are perks when it comes to being a woman too, and I wouldn't want to give them up either- no denying that ;) However, like you so rightly say, we really need to think more about gender equality! There are certain YA books that romanticize abuse and stuff like that and it needs to stop! Women definitely aren't defined by men only- you put that perfectly. Thank you!

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  5. That sounds like such a horrible dream! I'd be lying if I said I've never had some of the same dreams. Feminism definitely matters and it makes me feel so angry when people discount it as the word meaning the people who support it are 'man-haters'. I just want us to be equal in the ways that matter. I understand there are differences between the sexes but everyone should be accepted and respected. Excellent discussion, Ruzaika!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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    1. It really was horrible- I'm surprised at how many people seem to have had the same kind of dreams, though. Scary! I absolutely detest people reducing the word feminism to being man-haters, but the thing is, such people are so strong on their viewpoints that it's really difficult to make them see sense. Gah. Everyone definitely deserves to be respected and accepted. Thanks, Laura!

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  6. Such an amazing post! Thank you for writing it! And I am so sorry about your dream -- that sounds completely awful! So scary.

    But yes, FEMINISM MATTERS! Wish I could scream it through the rooftops. It is necessary and it is BEYOND necessary in YA. It is sad that there isn't more of it in YA. I don't think there is adequate appreciation or discussion regarding feminism or even feminist thoughts or matters in YA. Sometimes I am frustrated and even go for periods of time where I don't read YA necessarily because so much of the focus is on love and romance.

    I had not heard of the books your mention before but now I am anxious to go look them up! They sound wonderful.

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    1. Thank you, Eva! I'm glad you agree with me about there being a lack of feminism in YA. What surprises me most is that I don't see that many people talking about it! I do that at times too- there are periods when I really don't feel like picking up any YA books because love and romance is all they seem to be focusing on. Meh.

      You should definitely consider picking these books up! I'm sure you'd love them!

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