A panel of professors at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention, this time held in Austin, Texas, argued about feminism and sexism in today’s young adult (YA) novels in “The Hunger Games” and other similar dystopian novels.
Erin Kingsley, an associate professor of English at King University (Tennessee), started her remarks proclaiming her love for young adult novels, “I love YA [young adult]…I do not want to offend.” She issued a trigger warning, “If you have an issue with any of the words I use today, please come to me and talk to me,” she said.
Katniss Everdeen, the main character and heroine of ‘The Hunger Games’ series, “uses her body to shoot those wicked arrows” throughout the three-book series. She pointed out the gender role of women in the novels, where feminism kowtows to masculinity. A constant problematic theme, in her mind, “like Katniss picking up her arrows,” offended her. She said, “I don’t even know what to be offended for” in reading these novels. Kingsley stated, “A thin, white attractive woman” is the new normal in YA novels. She brought up the mini-controversy of Rey, a main female character in the most recent Star Wars movie, where she is “noticeably absent from toy aisles.”
She tried to rouse the audience, “That’s the new normal people, let’s get angry!” Kingsley asked, based on YA novels and the Rey controversy, “The female gender still operates in direct ability to inspire attraction in the male sex?” She said, “Does it matter that Rey is a Jedi…not just a girl?” Kingsley criticized this “heteronormativity” because “each experience [has] the same cultural policing” of fatness and homosexuality.
Kingsley continued on this topic, “In an age where diversity is given much lip service, there is diversity that does not appear.” She told the audience, “I would encourage you to do a Google search on fat” and see the dominance of “heterosexual love” in YA novels. Too often, in her mind, this dominance of heterosexual love “means that the female must be passive.” “Young women,” she said, “have been empowered to destroy their preordained roles.”
She criticized the media’s refusal to talk about fat bodies.“Rarely does popular media…privilege the fat body” and Kingsley noted her expertise because, “I read YA novels voraciously.” Kingsley felt that bodies typically “conform to stringent standards,” even when there are deviant characters in today’s YA novels which feature “hetero-normatively attractive” characters. Also, she was unhappy with YA novels, where “It was the same story wherever I looked.” She blamed this uniformity in YA novels on the U.S., where “Dominant in America is heterosexual policing.”
Photo by JeepersMedia
Photo by JeepersMedia