This particular subject is so close to my heart that though I know I've touched on it before, I'm doing it again.
I recently read a book that to be quite honest, disturbed me. The writing was beautiful, and the story engaging, but the MC was a role model I would hate little girls to have. It feels to me that ever since the feminist movement began, there's been this faction who believes that what makes a girl feminine also makes her weak. And in order to truly embrace our strength, we must become more like men.
The MC of this book (and no I'm not going to say the name of it) was physically strong. In fact, she was the strongest person in her world. This is not a bad thing. In fact, that alone is a beautiful thing to teach a little girl--that she can be the strongest person she knows. Where it went bad was in the MC's relationships. She only deigned to be surrounded by weak men who admitted CONSTANTLY how vastly superior she was to them. And if that wasn't enough, she found it necessary to remind her love interest of how much stronger she was than him all. the. time. And everything that was feminine about her (her long hair, the way she dressed, etc.), she rejected.
And that is what disturbed me.
Now, don't get me wrong here. I don't think all girls should feel that in order to be all woman they have to outwardly express their femininity in the way they look. The only reason I mention it here is because as the view point character, we knew what was going on inside her head. The MC's long hair and clothes were the last feminine things the author left to her.
For one, I've read quite a few books that have had very strong female protagonists who DID embrace their feminine side, in whatever form that was. Evie from PARANORMALCY is a perfect example. She is wonderfully strong even before she learns just how vastly kick ass she really is. I mean, this is a girl who takes on hordes of vampires, evil fairies, and other paranormal creatures that would probably give people nightmares. This is a character girls can look up to. But you know what? She also LOVES pink (tasey, anyone?), dressing up, flirting with boys (not just beating them down physically and emotionally), and going to dances. Not only that but, ****SPOILER ALERT--ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK******
She gave up what she wanted most--a soul--to save the person she loved.
And that's the stuff that will make girls not only look up to her, but respond to her as well. She's someone they can relate to! And don't we want role models girls can relate to, not just aspire to be?
Queen Elizabeth I was a real life super hero woman. Not only was she feminine, she realized her femininity was the very thing that made her strong. She married herself to England and gave them the picture of a woman they could look up to. Who knows what she really wanted out of life? It doesn't matter because what she DID do was give herself up for those who needed her. And doing this didn't make them despise her; it made them adore her.
The real reason I bring all this up is because from all the books I've read where the female protagonists showed strength in non-conventional ways (i.e. self-sacrifice), there have been people who have complained about what kind of message that would send to young girls. I believe it sends a wonderful message. Do I think the message was intended for girls in abusive relationships? Of course not! That's a whole different monster. But it IS a message that is intended for your average jane who maybe can't slay dragons with her bare hands but CAN work her butt off to enrich all the lives around her. That's the trait that makes women different from men. It's a good thing. And it should be portrayed as a good thing in books, or else we risk making all those little girls who aren't the picture of masculine strength feel inferior.
Side note: MATCHED showed up in Fluffy this morning! Yay!