Friday, April 6, 2012
"Everyone should be allowed to dream, and we writers are architects of dreams."
One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Twelfth Night. It's ridiculous, it's romantic, and it has cross-dressing. I mean seriously, what could be better?

Cross-dressing isn't the only way to play with gender in stories, though. Girls in boy clothes (and vice versa) make for great entertainment, but girls in boy roles (and vice versa) make for a great statement.

In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss is the hunter, the emotionally clueless bumbler, while Peeta grew up in a kitchen and is very in tune with his feelings. In CATCHING JORDAN, the star high school quarterback is a girl who knows more about throwing passes to boys than making passes at them. All 3 of these characters are breaking stereotypes, yet they're still believable and compelling. Why? Because gender has nothing to do with it.

Catching JordanPeeta isn't "girly" simply because he makes cakes and bread. Remember, he can throw a 100 lb. bag of flour across the room like it's a pillow. And Katniss isn't "butch" just because she can shoot and skin a deer. Jordan... well, okay, she IS a tomboy, but what's wrong with that? Nothing, nothing at all.

Because gender has nothing to do with her ability to throw a perfect spiral or evade a tackle on the field. And gender has nothing to do with the way she and her teammates stick up for each other. And gender has nothing to do with her longing for her father's approval.

Gender doesn't define Jordan, unless we let it.

Okay, yes, in this day and age, a female quarterback is statistically unusual. But is that because girls can't play football, or because they don't try to? And if they don't try, is it because they don't want to, or because they think they're not supposed to?

Those questions are the reason that characters like Jordan and Peeta and Katniss need to exist. So that people will realize their gender doesn't have to define them -- doesn't have to limit them. It might be entertaining to dress girls in boys clothes (or vice versa) but entertainment isn't enough. Books need to show a wide variety of experiences for both boys and girls, offer them a full spectrum of choices.

A full spectrum of dreams.

4 comments:

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I think I'd like this theme even more if we saw more boys with traditionally feminine hobbies or character traits. Because it really is way more okay for a girl to act like a guy, but for a guy to be "girly"? Kind of unheard of. I'd love to see characters like this, for sure.

Kristan Hoffman said...

Agreed. Peeta is probably the only good example we can think of from YA lit. There's the baker/football player in High School Musical... but he's a side character.

Andria Buchanan said...

I agree completely. Nothing drove me more nuts when I taught then female students telling me that they couldn't "do" math and science because it was a guy thing or male students telling me that they couldn't enjoy the arts (even when they were hugely talented) because of "what would the guys say".

We Heart YA said...

Yikes! That is so disheartening to hear. Hopefully literature and entertainment can help those students see that they can do whatever they want, regardless of gender norms.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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