Somewhere along the line the word “feminist” got a bad rap, so much so that people seem to be confused about what it really means to be a feminist. Feminism is simply “. So if you think women should have equal rights as men, then you’re a feminist. No man-hating or bra burning required!
When the heck did feminism become a bad thing anyway? Turns out a simple Internet search turns up plenty of discussion on that topic already. See “When Did Feminism Become a Bad Thing?” by Daisy Lindlar; “Why men have a problem with the word ‘feminism'” by Martin Daubney; and “Feminism: Has it Become a Dirty Word?” by Barbara & Shannon Kelley…just to name a few.
The idea of feminism has been so construed to some kind of men vs. women mantra that even these 10 really famous women celebrities (including Madonna and Susan Sarandon) have come out and said point-blank that they are not feminists. Many of whom go out of their way to say they are “humanist” (whatever the hell that means…can anyone who isn’t a sociopath not be a humanist?), but I suspect that they are actually feminists and are simply under the delusion that feminism is a bad thing. There’s even a hashtag on Twitter #womenagainstfeminism. Really?
C’mon, ladies, let’s get our shite together and take back the word. (Initially I wrote “our word” but changed it because men can be and should be feminists, too.) Still not convinced you’re a feminist? Check out the article “Not Sure What Feminism Is? Allow These Famous Authors To Explain” by Maddie Crum. Even as I write this rally cry, it seems someone may have beaten me to the punch.
I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.
Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.
Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?”
After this speech, Watson faced both praise and criticism (see the article “Emma Watson’s UN speech: what our reaction says about feminism” by Michelle Smith), and also threats to release nude photos–which didn’t actually exist–of Watson (see “The Emma Watson Threats Were A Hoax, But Women Face Similar Intimidation Online Every Day” by Emma Gray). In my mind, it was yet one more thing to confirm that we do need feminism and that we need to show what being a feminist really is.
So by now you’re probably asking, “Ummmm, Katie, when are we going to get to the part about YA?” Patience, dearies, and you shall be rewarded! Before we get to the YA part, let me point you to one more article, “Teen spirit: young feminist heroes” by Kira Cochrane, showcasing real, non-celebrity young people and their insights on feminism.
Okay, so now we’ve finally reached the YA part of all this. Writers of YA have a huge impact on the lives of teenagers. We can take our own messages of feminism and weave them into our narratives (in a non-didactic way of course). And I, for one, think we not only can, but we should. Let’s not pretend that gender inequality hasn’t infiltrated not only the fictional world of YA but also the real world in which women and men writers are treated differently (see “A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction” by Kelly Jensen).
Will feminism be a central issue in every piece we write? Certainly not. But even when we write about something else, like first love or a daring adventure, I think it’s important to understand what messages, even indirectly, we are sending to our readers. Is every character we are going to write be a feminist? Again, of course not. But it’s important to examine our work and wonder if in it we are buying into and maybe even feeding into gender inequality. Let’s not pigeonhole our characters, thereby not pigeonholing our teen readers.
And just in case I haven’t given you enough reading to do already with all those links, here are a few more that make me hopeful for the idea of feminism in YA: “13 Contemporary Novels All Feminists Should Read” by Emma Cueto, “13 Female Young Adult Fiction Authors That Owned 2014” by Caitlin White, and “2015 Is the Year of the Feminist YA Novel” by Kelly Jensen.
Finally, let me state for the record that I, Katie Carroll, YA author, am a feminist.