Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Improper Poll: Superheroine
It’s well known how poorly represented women have been in literature throughout history. All Shakespeare gave us was Lady Macbeth, and we all know what that woman screwed to the sticking post. We’ve been demonized, sanctified, and objectified. Second to the devil but ranked far below men, we bite apples and offer them to innocents. We are responsible for original sin, the death of the family, and we can launch a thousand ships. We are Madonnas, whores, and jiggly dashboard decor. We are literal (but not figurative—go figure) Figureheads. We are, in contests, little more than our figures. We are storms and vehicles and various and sundry possessions.
But now here we are in the midst of an overwhelming change in societal roles, yet we’re allowing ourselves to be represented in such shallow pursuits that we’re sort of being demoralized all over again in “reality” TV that makes us go to war over dresses and tiaras. That’s not really who the true American woman is, either.
I just read something at critique group that I felt spoke in the voice of genuine American girls. I am those girls, I’ve known those girls, and I see those girls in schools every day. They are not little women in that sense (though I loved the book); they are not paragons of virtue. Even now, YA heroines are often what society tells us women should be rather than what we are. As if what we are isn’t good enough. We are not allowed to be imperfect, and we're not allowed to have the struggles that real women face. The more we “evolve,” the more society hands us. We must sacrifice all, do it all, take care of all and win it all.
Look at Katniss Everdeen. She’s a warrior, an Amazon. This teenaged girl rescues her own mother and takes on her job, sacrifices herself for her sister, feeds her family, fights her own battles, saves her man’s life by outsmarting the government, looks pretty for cameras, fights in an army and then rescues a nation and all future children in it. That girl really is on fire.
And then there’s little Bella Swan, surviving attacks, charming her predators, loving the one who wants to consume her and accepting his arrogance and stalking, then managing to attain her goal of becoming the undead while sacrificing herself for her child and turning out to be not only the lone vampire mother in the world, but a veritable demon-Madonna who can resist eating her baby. But wait—there's more. Turns out she can also whup vampire ass while rescuing her entire family against armies.
I did enjoy those books, but I’m ready now to read about real girls. Or aren’t real girls good enough? Why can’t we just be…people?
Who is your favorite heroine?