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.

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.