Feminism in young adult fantasy literature

The Wilding still isn’t available to the public yet, but I’m getting responses from test readers now. One of the themes readers are picking up on is the novel’s strong feminism.

This is a deliberate choice I made as an author for three reasons.

Feminists don't wear heels or kiss their husbands. Or do they?
Feminists don’t wear heels or kiss their husbands, said no feminist ever.

First, let’s get this out of the way: I am an unabashed feminist. If we carried cards, I’d have one and a name tag. There was a time when I thought it was cool to bash feminists because I hung out with boys I wanted to impress and those boys thought feminists hated men. I’m no longer interested in impressing boys by putting down feminism. I’m interested in impressing boys by showing them how kickass girls are and how we’re more alike than different. And if I need to assign a label to myself to help them understand saying putdowns like “throwing like a girl” and “being a girl” are offensive, so be it. I grew up outdoors and playing sports, and now I work in a field dominated by men. I cuss; I spit; I burp; I fart; I scratch places I shouldn’t in polite company. All of those things don’t make me manly. They make me human.

Second, why would I go through the trouble of imagining a whole different world and society, and then bring in all the hangups of sexism? It surprises me when so many fantasy pieces not only use the Medieval era time but also bring in problems like sexism and racism. If you imagine another world, there are going to be so many things that transform the society living there. It’s like the sit-com premise that if you go back in time and step on a bug, then when you come back to the present, humans all have three eyes. Human nature is not inherently sexist, so why do we always assume a fantasy world must have sexism?

That brings me to my third and final point: The Wilding is set in the horse nation of Eachann. Has anyone ever seen sexism in a band of horses? If anything, a band is a great example of feminism. The alpha mare is as important as the stallion. There is a division of sexes, yes, but no one is more equal.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: why not create a world without sexism? It’s like a world filled with horses. What’s not to like?

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3 thoughts on “Feminism in young adult fantasy literature”

  1. A lot of authors have sexism in their writing because it makes a world more authentic. Unless you go ahead and change human biology in your story (which some writers, including myself, have done), then a lack of sexism is actually quite illogical. Sexism, as with many forms of discrimination, arises from differences.

    The main difference, of course, is that females can bear children. What this meant was that women were unable to hunt or do strenuous work for long periods of time due to pregnancy and caring for the baby. With the males doing more work (this is thousands of years ago) they naturally became the leaders in their communities. This is why patriarchal societies are in evidence all across the planet, not because men are inherently better than women at leading, but because of the roles dictated by nature.

    And when generations of men all hold power, they begin to see themselves as superior. Women are relegated to the role of wife and child-bearer, and sexism becomes standard.

    So without biological or historical changes, it is actually unrealistic for sexism to not exist in a world. Would you like to know what else is unrealistic? Giant, fire-breathing lizards. What I’m saying is that by all means eradicate sexism in your world without explanation, because fantasy stories in general are comprised of unrealistic elements, but also try to understand why some authors do include it. Many authors try to ground their novels in as much realism as possible to make it easier for a reader to relate.

    Despite my disagreeing with you to a certain degree, I did very much like your article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark, thanks for your response! I don’t have an outward explanation in the book and there is no “hey there is no sexism in this country” stated. But it’s evident in the social structure that this is a country without our world’s sexism. Examples include: the villages are run by bands, which is a female council (set up like herd structure), and the rules of marriage mean the men leave their families (like horses). As I said, there is a division of sexes in horses. But I believe that division can exist without sexism (which I would define as seeing one sex as “a lesser cut of meat,” as one SC legislator put it).

    Liked by 1 person

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