Because it’s been in conversation recently and because it’s been on my mind lately, I thought I’d round up some of the things I’ve written about girls and about feminism in the last year or so.
No matter who you are or where you stand or what your reproductive organs are, you’re going to be judged on some level for what you say and how you say it. But there is something particularly tricky in being a woman and expressing an opinion. It’s difficult to hold your ground, to push back against what other people tell you or suggest you should do or say or think or behave. It’s risky to be assertive and stand up for yourself. Because no matter what, your words and your actions are scrutinized on the basis of your being a woman.
— from To Be A Woman and Speak Your Mind (or you don’t have to “be nice”)
But, we also need books that show female characters experiencing and enjoying physical pleasure. We need books that show it can be empowering. That it can be good. That it can be done alone or with a partner. That it can be safe and that it can be a valuable part of a relationship — whether it’s a relationship that’s long term or one that’s not.
Just like we need a wide variety of female characters in our stories, those who are easy to like and those who are challenging, we need this variety of sexual exploration in YA, too. It’s honest to the world around us, and it’s honest to readers who deserve to experience via those characters the range of possibilities that exist. That remind them their bodies are their own, and they have the power to do with them what they wish to. That enjoying them is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.
— from Female Sexuality in YA Fiction
Despite many of the books being about “girl problems,” there’s no such thing as “girl problems.” These are people problems. And if we keep devaluing people problems by calling them “girl problems” or “typical girl problems,” we inherently devalue the girl. We keep her silenced. We keep her from making choices and pursuing her destiny on her own terms. We make her an every girl. And we keep her scared that she’s always going to be just a teenage girl.
— from When We Talk About Girl Problems
On one breath, we tell boys that they don’t have an internal life to fulfill and then we tell anyone — boys or girls — who like things that are “girly” that their internal lives don’t matter. We tell boys they’re special snowflakes who need extra attention in order to find things to read because they should be doing any number of other more exciting things with their time. We tell girls that they don’t have external lives and, more frequently, that their interests don’t matter. That their status as a gender is a pejorative. We tell boys they are the hero in all stories and offer them examples of stories where this plays out; boys act in adventures. We tell girls to be flexible, that their status as a hero isn’t guaranteed. Girls need to enjoy the adventure, whether they’re the heroine or, more often than not, watching from the sidelines (or are not a part of the story at all).
— from Books for Boys and Books for Girls: The Problems with Gendered Reading
In the YA fiction realm — and beyond it, too — we trap teen girl characters into two mythologies. The first is that girls should only have decorated edges, smooth and palatable. The second is that of the girl who is “not like” other girls, who often doesn’t know what it even means to be a girl.
It’s these mythologies that stir those intense reader reactions, and these mythologies continue because both authors and readers perpetuate them.
— from The Girl Myth in YA Fiction and Beyond