All my life, books transported me far away to worlds I could hardly imagine in my everyday life. Rapturously, I followed Tarzan’s adventures in the jungle, Robin Hood’s exploits in Sherwood Forest, Michael Strogoff’s journey through Siberia and Ivanhoe’s struggle to return justice to England at the time of the crusades. I adored these heroes. I wanted to emulate them. I wished to be a hero myself.
Girls readers today have more female literary role models, heroines who fight for justice, peace, and freedom, than I had growing up. Whether it is Katniss in The Hunger Games, Katsa of Graceling, Beatrice in Divergent, or Celaena of Throne of Glass, teen literature overflows with female characters who are survivors. They are physically and mentally strong and capable of defending themselves even under the most extreme circumstances. Girls today need no longer dream of being a hero: they can become a heroine.
I recently read an article by Sarah Blackwood which discusses the character of Bella from the popular Twilight Saga. Blackwood describes Bella thus: “Bella waits, she wallows, she thinks, and feels, and worries, and wonders. She does not actualize in the sense we have come to expect from our heroines....” Blackwood mentions Katniss and Katsa as contrasts to Bella, yet she wonders: do these strong, actualized and empowered girl characters in fact represent a male perspective on what it means to be actualized and empowered? Have we feminists fallen into a new trap where, in an attempt to carve our equal status in the world, we define our strength by male guidelines? Have we rejected the passive, gentle, forgiving woman -- the traditional definition of the feminine -- to become nothing more than a tiny man?
To read more:
The article about Twilight’s Bella.
My review of The Thief.
My review of Graceling.