Not Like the Other Girls: How to Fail at Writing a Feminist Character

I’ve been reading a number of popular works on Wattpad recently. Something I’ve noticed about the novels in the increasingly popular Teen Fiction genre is that the protagonists (who are almost always female) are written as being absolutely perfect. Some authors have tried to avoid writing their characters as ‘Mary Sues’, and some have gone for ‘feminist’ protagonists who break the stereotypes you generally see in these online novels. Thing is, the authors don’t really seem to understand what feminism is. In addition, there are some dodgy ways that Wattpad authors try and fail to write feminist stories, and I’d like to talk about a few of them over time.


Not like the other girls.

This is when the author decides that it’s time to try defying stereotypes, and writes their main character  – Mia  – as a tomboy of sorts. She doesn’t wear makeup, she hates One Direction, and she loves being ‘one of the boys’. Maybe she’s into sports, maybe she doesn’t care about her looks. Hell, maybe she even orders a burger instead of a salad when she goes out.

Thing is, it doesn’t matter what Mia enjoys doing, because the focus of her personality and interests is on what she doesn’t do. This is often voiced in the story itself – because people like Mia firmly believe that they are not like the other girls.

This isn’t just about Wattpad characters, either – you see this in pop culture all the time! The main character is very proud to that they aren’t a ‘plastic’ girl who is interested in makeup and clothes and boys. They care about things that really matter!

Mia is everything that the other girls are not, and that’s what makes her good, the story tells you. Being yourself is a decent message in itself, but that isn’t what it’s about in this case. Mia isn’t a feminist character for not caring what boys think and not wearing makeup. She looks around at the other girls at her generic American high school and believes that she’s better than all of them by default. She doesn’t own a pair of high heels so she isn’t an ‘airhead’ like everyone else. So long as she’s putting people down to create a pedestal for herself, Mia is hardly a female character to root for.


If you’re going to write a character and you don’t want her to be a stereotypical Wattpad heroine, that’s good. If you want her to enjoy things that aren’t as feminine as the interests of her classmates, that’s good too! Your character can have platonic relationships with male characters and choose not to wear makeup. She can hate Starbucks and never wear dresses. She can even eat the god damn burger.

Just know that the second your character looks down on the girls around her for being ‘fake’ or wearing lipstick, you’ve failed to write a feminist character. You’re saying that the more feminine a girl appears, the less deserving of respect she is. That isn’t a message anyone should be spreading.

arid earth; arid days

Today the Daily Post’s one word prompt was ‘arid’:


arid
ˈarɪd/
adjective
                  1. (of land or a climate) having little or no rain; too dry or barren to support vegetation.
                  2. lacking in interest, excitement or meaning.

1. The Port Hills fire is still burning;   Yesterday we drove into town, and you could see where the fire had blackened the hills. It was completely burnt, the plants withered down. Just fields of charcoal – it’s a real contrast to the bright greens and yellows you usually see up there. If you look up at the hills, the ones that haven’t been burnt, you can see how dry the grass is. It’s a relief that there has been rain for the past couple days, but it still hasn’t been enough to put out the fire.
2. As of late a lot of things have felt arid to me, but I’m working on ignoring that feeling and keeping busy. Writing things for the sake of writing, watching movies, listening to a new song and really focusing on the words – anything that shifts my focus or distracts me. It’s difficult to be proud of doing any of those things when most people don’t see them as productive or useful. Thing is, they’re a lot more productive and useful than what I’d be doing otherwise. It’s better to invest my time into things that won’t matter in a few weeks than to sit and worry about how things are getting drier and drier. The fire could spread at any moment, but I can’t control that. Nobody likes to focus on a sense of impending doom, now do they?

a dystopian hideout

Daily Post’s one word prompt today was ‘hideout’ – this reminded me of something I need to work on for a creative writing piece I’m working on currently.

I started a story on Wattpad yesterday called White Sun. In true Wattpad fashion I have written the first chapter with absolutely no idea where the story is heading, and basically I’m just going to make it up as I go along. I’m not very confident about how good it is, but it’s the most creative writing I’ve done in months, so it’s definitely worth it.

White Sun is written in a dystopian setting – the story is relying quite heavily on setting at the moment as I really do have no idea what I’m actually doing with the plot. It’s set on a disaster zone of an island – White Sun Island – which serves as a place for the trademark YA dystopian Evil Government to banish anyone who threatens to disrupt their dastardly evil dystopian plans.

The main character, Myrtle, has been banished to this island, and is currently living in a shelter with a handful of other convicts. I’ve been having fun with deciding exactly why the island is so perilous. The other inhabitants of the island probably pose the most danger, but I’m brainstorming other dangers I could include.

Having radioactive bears on an island probably isn’t the most believable idea now that I think of it. Does this mean I’m going to can it? Nope. Radioactive bears sound awesome.

The Daily Post prompt made me stop to think about the next chapter of White Sun, where I want to further establish part of the setting – Myrtle and her company’s hideout. I want it to be well-concealed, so perhaps the basement of a building? Or a bomb shelter maybe?

I’m considering rewriting the first chapter as if the island as is dangerous as I’m saying it is, living in the city in the centre of Danger Island probably isn’t the best idea. To the west of the city there is a rather thick forest, and beyond that the ocean. Having a hideout in the forest, maybe on the edge of the city, might make more sense.

A hideout in the forest, then. Perhaps a shelter the convicts have built themselves. Perhaps a treehouse! A tree fort would be the ultimate hideout, and depending on how well-hidden it is, it would be a pretty safe place to live. I’m guessing the radioactive bears mainly hang out in the forest though, so I’ll have to work that out too.

I might write some more updates here on if White Sun progresses anymore. In the meantime, here’s a link to the current story! I’m keen to hear any feedback people might have for it. It’s not perfect, and there’s a lot of room for improvement and ideas.

[feb 20] will this post count?

I have a week of freedom left before I begin full-time study. During this time I’ve mostly been wasting time on the internet, but I’ve also been trying to declutter my online accounts. I’ve deleted a number of blogs and accounts so far, which has been ridiculously satisfying to do. Begone, old Wattpad fics. Fanfiction.net account, I banish thee!

Nothing on the internet is ever really gone forever, but being able to hit that delete button always feels like a relief to me. It also makes me doubt that anything I write is going to survive long enough to matter to anyone, because in a couple months chances are I’m going to be deleting this blog too, and turning to yet another WordPress under another ‘___ blogs’ name. My curse is never being able to stick to anything, and what it gets me is half a dozen blogs with three posts each, about eight email accounts I need to delete, and forum posts that need to be killed with fire.

It’s all because of the same reason the internet is so appealing I guess – unlike real life, you can share only your best ideas and moments on the internet. You can essentially create a completely artificial, heavily filtered version of yourself that you display for all the world to see. And it feels good because you know you have complete control over that filter. With the delete button, you’re able to take back anything you’ve decided you don’t want attached to you anymore. Convenient.

So yeah, as good as getting rid of all my accounts feels, it’s making me think a lot about what the point is in writing anything on the internet at all. I don’t write many original posts on Tumblr because I figure I’m just going to have to go back and delete them later. Is there any point in writing on this blog even? And why after so long am I still making more accounts? Why write under so many different names when everyone knows they don’t belong to me?

[feb 16th] the port hills fires

Now that I’ve submitted my final assessment for this trimester, I’m free to write on here some more. The major event of this week has been the fires that have been spreading across the Port Hills and threatening some suburbs in Christchurch.

full_original_port_hills_fire

The fire started four days ago; the air was filled with so much smoke that the harbour looked blue, and little pieces of ash were raining from the sky. More than 1000 people have evacuated their homes and I think 11 houses have been burned down.

I’m lucky enough to be far enough away from the fire that my house isn’t in immediate danger. It feels weird right now because even in the middle of something bad happening, I feel kind of detached from it. Like I’m seeing it as something bad that’s already over, something that’s in the distant past? I don’t know. I deal with a lot of things by pretending they’re not happening, which is good in some situations but not so good when I apply this to essay deadlines.

[feb 13th]

This is just a quick post about what I’m doing at the moment! I think it’d be a nice idea to try microblogging as well as proper posts on this WordPress. Pretty much everything on this blog is just me testing out different things – can’t commit to writing about a certain thing in a certain way until I’m sure it’s for me!

So, at the moment I’m working on a final assignment for my library studies this trimester; that’s due in about three days so I’ve mostly been spending time on that. Once I’m finished with that I’ve completed all of my Trimester 3 work! And then about two weeks later Trimester 1 of 2017 begins. That means another attempt at managing my time better and taking aesthetically pleasing notes and even blogging about how very Tumblr my study habits are. This happens every trimester until my motivation dies about two weeks later and it’s back to scribbled notes and no I won’t be tracking how much water I’ve been drinking thank you very much. Still, now that I’m going to be a full time student I’m going to have to get better at time management (or rather, energy management) if I want to pass my courses.

I’m currently reading both The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera. Particularly looking forward to reviewing Juliet Takes A Breath; it’s been a really spectacular read so far. I reserved it at the library around early January and I picked it up a few days ago. I’ve been really happy with how much I’ve been reading this year; reading more was pretty much one of my only New Year resolutions. I made another Goodreads account to record what I read this year, and of course this WordPress is here for that too. And this is probably the 12th WordPress I’ve started :/

Here’s to getting things done and moving forward, then. Hopefully I have a review of Juliet Takes a Breath up here soon!

the handmaid’s tale [review]

1308_the_handmaids_tale_cover-2-e1437454547809I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale last night and wanted to write down my thoughts on it while they were still fresh.

The world-building in this one was really something. The style of the writing was poetic in this unusual way that shouldn’t really work, but does anyway. I loved the way the story unfolds; as the book progresses the chapters get shorter and disordered, which adds to the building tension in the story. Offred keeps apologising to the reader. The story gets more erratic and unsure of itself because it’s Offred’s story. As time goes on she doesn’t lose control, but I think she does lose hope, and because of this starts to exercise control over her situation and make more and more risky decisions.

The ending felt abrupt, but it was meant to. We don’t know what happens to Offred in the end. So long as she was the narrator she was more to us than just another handmaid in a red dress, bowing her head and saying nothing, and I felt as though being robbed of the end of her story made her feel faceless again. The other handmaids didn’t feel like characters worth caring about because Gilead silenced them.

Moira was my favourite character but really she was one of the only characters; Offred knew her before Gilead and that’s the only reason why Moira has a name and a past and a personality. It’s only because of Offred that she isn’t another handmaid to us. The fact that we don’t know what happens to her really hurts, because she is given the same ending as the handmaidens who were stripped of their personalities and freedom.

I really enjoyed this read, it was completely absorbing and very well paced. It’s being made into a TV series this year (starring Samira Wiley as Moira, which I’m excited about), and I’m keen to see how they’ll tell Offred’s story.

                     ☕☕ [5/5 cups]