Why I’ll Never Be a Heroine in YA Literature

I wear make-up.

I don’t like trousers.

I paint my nails.

I love lipstick.

According to most young adult novels this would make me decidedly not leading lady material.

I mean, on one hand, I get it. It’s rallying against the preconceived ideas of what women should be, it’s also a move to appeal to girls who feel alienated by the ‘popular’ clique at school. We all know that clique, right? The perfect hair, lots of make-up, full of social power, group?

Why are all heroines naturally beautiful? Why are they all petite and shy and bookish? Why do I feel like a social anomaly?

I’ve always been an avid reader, books were my refuge as I was growing up. I lived vicariously through heroines and their adventures. I felt free when I was reading. I saw a future full of possibilities and freedom. As I grew up and created a real life for myself I made choices about who I was that clashed with what books had taught me.

I love red lipstick. I love to wear dresses and skirts. Those are choices that I’ve made, I’ve spent a long period of my life wearing trousers and no make-up. I frequently have make-up-less days, and by that I don’t just mean days where I sit around the flat doing work, I mean days where I run errands and go to work.

If I can’t be bothered to wear make-up. dress nicely or do my hair then I don’t. But most days I enjoy it. That’s feminism for me, that’s freedom.

I feel like I can’t identify with heroines in young adult novels any more, which is sad, because I still enjoy them. I want to be able to lose myself in a world and I can’t.

It makes me uncomfortable that in order to be taken seriously as a woman you have to be a tomboy. I used to be a tomboy, I’m not anymore. Although we’ve come on in leaps and bounds it seems that we’re still struggling to get the balance right, why can’t I be an intelligent, strong, kick-arse woman who wears lipstick and heels?

The balance that we’re trying to reach is hard, but we can do it. Women are people, we’re not stereotypes. Let’s stop generalising and create believable characters who are just as complex as real women.

’til next time,

Wren x

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