The problem that needs to be fixed is not kick all the girls out of YA, it’s teach boys that stories featuring female protagonists or written by female authors also apply to them. Boys fall in love. Boys want to be important. Boys have hopes and fears and dreams and ambitions. What boys also have is a sexist society in which they are belittled for “liking girl stuff.” Male is neutral, female is specific.
I heard someone mention that Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON would be great for boys, but they’d never read it with that cover. Friends, then the problem is NOT with the book. It’s with the society that’s raising that boy. It’s with the community who inculcated that boy with the idea that he can’t read a book with an attractive guy on the cover.
Here’s how we solve the OMG SO MANY GIRLS IN YA problem: quit treating women like secondary appendages. Quit treating women’s art like it’s a niche, novelty creation only for girls. Quit teaching boys to fear the feminine, quit insisting that it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.
Because if I can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and want to grow up to be an archaeologist, there’s no reason at all that a boy shouldn’t be able to read THE DEMON’S LEXICON with its cover on. My friends, sexism doesn’t just hurt women, and our young men’s abysmal rate of attraction to literacy is the proof of it.
If you want to fix the male literary crisis, here’s your solution:
Become a feminist.
If a young woman in middle school or high school hangs up a poster of Barack Obama in her room, this is seen as acceptable. It’s fine for women to admire men and want to be like them.
If a young man (the same age) hangs up a poster of Hillary Clinton in his room, this is seen as odd (maybe even troubling, is he gay? Oh no!).
Society tells us young men can’t think of women as role models, unless they’re a family member, whereas young women can admire and seek to emulate anyone, regardless of gender.
If you’re a young man, and if you have a poster on your wall with a woman, she had better be half-naked in a bikini, even if the Ronald Reagan or Gen. Patton poster next to it obviously features the man fully-clothed.
Young men are not to taught to think of women as role models. They are taught to think of them as either family members or sexual objects. There is no other category presented.
THIS IS SO TRUE!
so here is the thing about ariel, is that she always dreams of being on land with feet, is explicitly canonically unhappy with her body & choices way before meeting prince eric. ariel wants to read and learn and dance and stand for herself. she has this extensive meticulous collection of all the shit she wants to learn, and king triton destroys it. so she is essentially, i think, moving from a male-dominated space in which her safe personal spaces are negated and her opinions and desires are dismissed to one in which she shares power and is (LITERALLY!!!!) given free reign. like, prince eric is essentially a narrative device allowing ariel to choose her own future & self. if she can make him fall in love with her, she can stay NOT ONLY with him BUT ALSO on land, where she has always wanted to belong, notably away from her father— who ok, is frightened for her safety, but who also terrorizes and belittles her.
and yeah, she exchanges her voice to make that transition, but those are the choices marginalized people are forced to make. this is how identity works in structural oppression— ok, you can have the body you want and live with the lover you choose, but you give up some of your rights. you give up some of your social respect. you give up your voice. (whoops i queered it.) (and ariel still is never without personal expression; on her day out with eric, they do straight up everything she wants and eric is totally cool with her being in charge. JSYK.)
and ariel’s voice is meant to be not only her communication but also her beauty— how many times under the sea did we hear TRITON’S SILVER-VOICED DAUGHTER, like she was corralled and praised explicitly (solely!) because of her singing ability, to the point where her reaction to giving up her voice was not “how will i communicate” but “why would he love me.” wow!!! children’s texts about the social valuation and manipulation of women’s bodies!!!! and the little mermaid is explicitly about the bargains ruthless precious ariel chooses to make in order to get what she has always wanted— feet and freedom. she doesn’t change her body for a man; she changes it for herself.
and while we should mention about how the structural progression of beauty & the beast is deeply fucked up, belle gets the fuck out of the castle until the beast changes his behavior to her and, like ariel, negotiates for authority in a space where her desire for knowledge is celebrated and supported. you’ll remember she was otherized & mocked in the village whereas the beast a) gave her a library and b) did everything she ever said ever. (i also think it’s relevant to talk about classism in beauty & the beast, like belle is all GUYS I READ THIS BOOK and they’re like GIRL WE HAVE SHIT TO DO.) in the village she was relegated to the women’s spaces which consisted of STOP READING, GET MARRIED, REPRODUCE, like you have to be practical and useful and obedient to be a Good Woman
and her choice still entails marriage, but marriage which is not a domestication but rather an avenue to social and personal power. people forget that belle is just as wild and selfish and opinionated as the beast is; she is also an outcast. and yes, the plotline can support a romanticizing of abusive relationships, a social narrative of good women making bad men better, i am not arguing that it’s not thematically fucked up. the story, following the fairytale, focuses on the beast’s ~transformation~, but belle also changes; this is also a story about two people society has deemed monsters recognizing each other’s worth and beauty and learning to be tender to each other and to accept affection themselves. i don’t think it’s very helpful, in analyzing this story, to reduce it to good-woman-makes-bad-man-better without examining the woman as a character herself and what she gets out of it. belle is not your plot device. all of belle’s decisions in this movie are based on what she wants and values. she’s not here to redeem anybody.
jasmine is sort of an outlier in that her movie is not actually about her! this is disney’s first movie aBOUT a BOY?!?!? and so like yes, obviously, in the film ALADDIN, we focus on… aladdin… and the thematic and narrative climaxes are based on aladdin’s character and choices. but that does not inherently mean that jasmine is abused by the narrative. i also think it’s really relevant first to talk about the ways that she’s exotified— jasmine, disney’s first woc princess, has a gendered oppression more linked with her specific culture than any white princess’ gendered oppression of equal or greater value. that’s not okay. and jasmine’s personal sub-arc is primarily about the way that she is valued for her sexuality and the way that she argues for and regains control of herself as sexual being.
jasmine is one of the least passive princesses of the entire disney canon, y’all. the entire plot is set in motion when jasmine runs away because she doesn’t want to marry any of her current options, and she comes back when that goes to shit, but she’s still not willing to obey anyone. this super hotcake prince ali comes into town and she’s like you’ve got the moves, but have you got the touch???, and it turns out he does!, and she’s real into it so she’s like welp get ready to be the sultan and aladdin is like hey to the what, but jasmine’s made up her mind. jafar tries to hypnotize her into loving him and she uses his conception of her sexuality against him. she straight up femme fatales him. she is not some prize to be won.
it is jasmine alone who bestows political power: jasmine may not be able to inherit or rule alone, but she will rule, and she is determined to choose herself with whom. her personal sexual authority and political authority are inextricably linked, of which she and the movie are both cognizant. it’s fucked up, especially within the context of all the white princesses, that her body is so explicitly commodified. but that doesn’t negate her authority over her body and the way she weaponizes it. and there’s a lot of ~feminist criticism~ that’s like JASMINE TEACHES WOMEN THAT THEY’RE ONLY VALUABLE FOR THEIR SEXUALITY, but i think feminist criticism is also examining the ways women find power in their social spaces, the ways they express or attain their own desires by manipulating their contexts. jasmine also teaches women that they are in charge of their sexuality, that their bodies are theirs alone.
which is all to say, there is a lot of feminist criticism to be made of the disney princesses, but that’s not where feminist analysis has to end. these are still children’s movies about women’s choices, y’all. there are not a lot of those these days.
To see this is to reblog it, goddammit.
When I was just a little girl I asked my mom, “what should I be?” “Fuck should,” she said.
never not reblog
“We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins… We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive as our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers… We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything.””
all women were bigger and stronger than you
And thought they were smarter
women were the ones who started wars
too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos
and no K-Y Jelly
the state trooper
who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike
was a woman
and carried a gun
the ability to menstruate
was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs
your attractiveness to women depended
on the size of your penis
every time women saw you
they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands
women were always making jokes
about how ugly penises are
and how bad sperm tastes
you had to explain what’s wrong with your car
to big sweaty women with greasy hands
who stared at your crotch
In a garage where you are surrounded
by posters of naked men with hard-ons
men’s magazines featured cover photos
of 14-year-old boys
tucked into the front of their jeans
and articles like:
“How to tell if your wife is unfaithful”
“What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate”
“The truth about impotence”
the doctor who examined your prostate
was a woman
and called you “Honey”
You had to inhale your boss’s stale cigar breath
as she insisted that sleeping with her
was part of the job
You couldn’t get away because
the company dress code required
you wear shoes
designed to keep you from running
And what if
after all that
women still wanted you
to love them.
- Carol Diehl
What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?
The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.
Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - “For Those Light Bachelor Days,” and Robert “Baretta” Blake Maxi-Pads.)
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“men-struation”) as proof that only men could serve in the Army (“you have to give blood to take blood”), occupy political office (“can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?”), be priest and ministers (“how could a woman give her blood for our sins?”) or rabbis (“without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean”).
I love this so much.
“As soon as teenage girls start to profess love for something, everyone else becomes totally dismissive of it. Teenage girls are open season for the cruelest bullying that our society can dream up. Everyone’s vicious to them. They’re vicious to each other. Hell, they’re even vicious to themselves. It’s terrible.
“So if teenage girls have something that they love, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it better for them to find some words they believe in, words like the ‘fire-proof and fearless’ lyrics that Jacqui wrote? Isn’t it better for them to put those words on their arm in a tattoo than for them to cut gashes in that same skin? Shouldn’t we be grateful when teenage girls love our work? Shouldn’t that be a fucking honor?
“It’s used as the cheapest, easiest test of crap, isn’t it? If teenage girls love a movie, a book, a band, then it’s immediately classified as mediocre shit. Well, I’m not going to stand for that. Someone needs to treat them like they’re precious, and if nobody else is ready to step up, I guess it’s up to us to put them on the path to recognizing that about themselves.”
a character from The Devil’s Mixtape. (via valjeans)
Every now and then, something comes along on your dash that opens your eyes and makes you question assumptions you didn’t even realize you were making.
This former teenage girl fell in love with Rush, RPGs, Russian literature, ancient history, sci fi flicks, and Led Zeppelin. I’d say she had pretty good taste. So why have I always defaulted to marginalizing or dismissing the tastes of other teenage girls? Why have I always counted the large teenage female presence in fandom as a black mark against it, or at least something that needs to be explained or surmounted for older fans to participate or engage? Why have I assumed that teenage girls as a whole are incapable of critical analysis or meaningful engagement with the same media that I enjoy, when it was the critical analysis and meaningful engagement of a teenage girl that got me into much of the same media I enjoy now?
Wow. Talk about not even recognizing the patriarchy at work.
seriously, this just made me feel like a fucking asshole, which is always a sign that i’ve learned something important.
I think I like the commentary above more than even the quote itself. It’s cool when just a quote can make people really rethink their positions.
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