We at The Passed Note try to engage with the topic of YA literature through Twitter chats on a semi regular basis. This past Tuesday, we tackled the topic of feminism in YA. Here to talk about the twitter chat is Alexis Bates, our resident young person.
“We had a terrific chat about feminism in YA the other night and I’m here to recap some main points and opinions that were discussed on Twitter.
The first question centered around love triangles. It was unanimously agreed that boy-boy-girl love triangles are boring and need to be shaken up. This could be done by either changing the gender combo or even having the girl choose neither love interest in the end. People are tired of seeing love as the main goal of YA fiction. It’s repetitive and uncreative. Very rarely has a love triangle added actual substance to the book. This makes not only for bad writing but boring fiction.
The next question asked what feminist ideals people would like to see represented more in YA fiction. Across the board, people are dying to see more female empowerment and less internalized misogyny. Young women are learning how to treat others through books. Current YA is teaching girls to treat each other like garbage. Too common is the trope where a girl has to be different to be cool. This demonizes every other girl that she meets, thus teaching hatred for others of her gender.
This also gets in the way of girl-girl friendships, something else people want to see more of. Young women become portrayed as loners or dependent on male relationships. Not only is this wildly inaccurate, it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy when that’s the only relationship that girls are exposed to. If they’re taught that is the norm, they will make it the norm.
Favorite female characters mentioned were:
Jude in Pasadena
Isobel in The Night Circus
Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Violet from All The Bright Places
General stereotypes to avoid when writing a strong female protagonist are that girls have to be tough all the time to be tough. Girls can be tough and vulnerable. They have to show the positive traits rather than stereotyping girls as catty and dumb. People don’t want to see hyper feminine girls because they’re rarely real. They also don’t want the strong girl that’s basically just a male character that got gender swapped. They want to see the real struggles a young woman endures.
A lot of amazing opinions were put forth. It’s obvious there’s still a lot of work to be done towards including feminist ideals in YA fiction. Luckily, we have a new wave of writers working on including these ideas in their work.”
Alexis Bates is an emerging poet and writer that forces people to reflect on how they relate to topics such as self-perception and mental illness. You can read her work in Doll Hospital, The Passed Note, and others. Her chapbook, Fighting Pretty, is forthcoming from Varsity Goth Press.