Exposed: Feminism in Literature

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Over time reading books and discussing literary matters has taught me many things. Some of them being thinking in a more diverse manner and seeing things from another point of view than I was used to. I’m rather glad to behold this progress for it was hardly earned.

So, now you’re probably asking yourself: “Laura what is your point?” I tell you just that; it is not only about taking in what seems strikingly odd but rather forming your own opinion regarding an often discussed issue in literature, and in this case that would be feminism.

We all have read this one book where we came to the conclusion that we don’t like the main character because he or she appears weak and therefore annoying. These days one thing can’t seem to go without the other. But does it really have to be this way or is it only a figment that seemingly drains away all will from us?

I, for my part, read mostly YA which is directed to an audience between the ages of, let’s say, thirteen and twenty. I am in the center of this and rather often I found myself surrounded by some dubious displays of characters and how people seem to absorb these meetings with their own eyes. It is always a waiting game as to when the first reader just has to put in his or her two cents regarding said character’s traits and personalities. And first off, nothing is wrong with forming your own opinion and sticking to it but what makes me cringe is the fact that some people just don’t know that there’s a thin line between being of a certain opinion and being offensive and insulting towards not only said character but also the author. It is understandable for an author to be able of bearing critic. At the end it is an essential way of improving your writing but what most people don’t seem to understand is that the writer is also just a person. And who would’ve thought, they also possess, what you would call, feelings! I’m wandering off course but this just had to be said.

But to get back to the main topic, just think about it; we are all human beings. And what does that say about us? Right, we are all individuals and we all bear the mark of flaws. And I see nothing wrong with displaying this pattern in literature as well. Books are a place where fiction and reality can collide and we readers are the witnesses of this glory. So why is it, that when girls cry they seem week and annoying and as for the male characters it’s all attracting and handsome because they show true emotions? You can’t name a solid and satisfying answer to this question because there is none!

History shows us that this gender role allocation was there all along and even though it does not compare to the extent as we had it back then it is still a heavily discussed topic. Quite rightly so!

So what is it about YA? YA offers a big variety of heroines, even more so than male heroes. And do they always have to make the right decisions and to be strong in the literal sense to count as such? The answer should be simple but sadly that’s not the case. Men are the stronger sex. It has always been this way and it shall be like this today as well how it seems. Imperfection is a part of being human and not everyone can be strong and all hero-like. We have to accept this fact and see not only the bad but the good sides of a person because we have so much more to offer than our stigmas.

To involve a bit of literary as well; I bet you have already heard of the Winner’s trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. It is about a girl named Kestrel who lives in a fantastical world. The story is very politically-heavy and this is reflected in our main character either. She isn’t the typical strong heroine but rather a calculating and cunning mastermind who needs nothing but her knowledge to win her battles. In my opinion this concept is so much better than fighting your enemies with your fist, in many ways. It shows that we are capable of so much more than violence and recklessness.

Did you get my point? We, as the readers, have the power to change how we view these types of things but most just stick to what’s old and advocated for. It’s correct that, especially in the YA genre, this major movement has already settled in but it has the potential to show the true extent of what could be. So the next time, before you start criticizing a character, just take your time and question your earlier intentions. Perhaps you come to terms with it and even though it’s just a small step toward equality it is one more than we have reached before and can still make a difference.

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Prejudices among non-readers

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I think all of us, as avid readers, can relate to this topic to a certain extent. There are always people who think they know what our personalities and traits must look like based on the simple fact that we are this alien species called book lovers, may it be strangers, acquaintances or even friends and relatives.

Even though the tension decreased and this seemingly never-ending fight between us readers and non-readers lost a bit of its gun powder over the course of the last few years there’s still this huge pit separating us from each other. This can even result in insecurity and anxiety on the reader’s part which leads to our asking whether they are right or wrong. Every single one of us is affected by this on a different level and I think we all questioned ourselves more or less already. So I picked some notorious stereotypes that need be proven wrong once and for all.

 

I. Book lovers are automatically geeks and nerds

This stereotype in particular is the one that gets to me the most. Reading doesn’t makes us eager beavers and please stop referring to us as such. Our love for books isn’t to be compared to the willingness to learn. Those two things might go along on some level and I also might be interested in some things but we still have our preferences. I love history but I hate math. I like biology but I despise physics. You see, it’s not like we fall to our knees and start pleading for more answers. It’s just annoying to be degraded as something that we are not and even if we are willing to learn new stuff I can’t see where this could be a bad thing.

II. We live in our own fictional worlds and don’t know where to draw the line

Please, we are perfectly capable of deciding on what’s fictional and what’s not. Reading books doesn’t drive all sense of reality out of us after all. Yes, we like spending time in fictional worlds. I mean who wouldn’t love to go to Hogwarts or voyage to the core of Narnia at least once? But we do know that those aren’t real and only made up. But that also won’t stop us from wishing and hoping we could visit those places anytime soon.

III. Readers are socially inept

We might spend a lot of time cuddled up in our beds with a hot cup of tea or coffee and a good book at our side but does that make us socially inept? No! Everyone is different. There are all sorts of readers such as there are all sorts of non-readers. There are the blunt ones, the funny ones, the shy ones,… You see, it’s a big variety to choose from. I’m shy myself but I’m not anti-social. I do have wonderful friends and yes, I also talk to them. You know, I’m talking about the whole package here: having a full-length conversation and not hiding behind the pages of a book in the middle of it.

IV. We don’t do anything besides reading all day

This might come as a shock to you now but yes, we do have a life. It’s not like reading is our only purpose and aspiration. Yes, we do find pleasure in reading books and discussing them afterwards but that doesn’t mean that we don’t like other things as well. I, for my part, love traveling and taking photos just as much as I love books. And I know that others feel the same way. We don’t dedicate ourselves to reading and it would be ridiculous to pretend otherwise.

V. Literature and books are boring

I always say: If you don’t enjoy reading then you just haven’t found the right book yet. Mostly I get snarls for an answer but I hope you get my point here. If my first movie ever turned out to be a bad one does that mean every single movie in the universe is bad either? No and it’s just the same with books. You have to find the right genre for you and then you  can feel your way to this one book that sucks you in and will leave you begging for more. As I was a child I thought reading was a bad thing because everyone told me so but my parents forced me to and I’ll be honest; I hated it at first. But who likes things that are being forced upon you? I think everyone can agree with me on that. But then I came across YA and that changed my life for the better. Meanwhile my reading taste has enhanced a lot and I also found pleasure in reading NA, classics, et cetera.

VI. Just because we are readers doesn’t makes us love every single book

Just to get that out of the way: We are not all-devouring maniacs. As I’ve already mentioned everyone of us is different and thus has different preferences. My go-to genre would be fantasy but I also love historical fiction and magical realism. YA contemporary is something I rarely ever pick up though. But let’s stick with my favorites first. Just because I’m a sucker for fantasy doesn’t mean I love every single book within this genre. It’s just the direction I prefer to go to. Perhaps you’re just the opposite and love YA contemporary and loathe fantasy but that’s alright as well. Everyone’s taste is different and we all should respect that.

 

 

This is something I’ve wanted to discuss for quite a while now because I just felt that these words had to be spoken sooner or later. And now it feels like this heavy weight I’ve carried with me has finally been lifted off my shoulders. So thank you for bearing with me and hopefully you are of the same mind as I am.