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January 25 2016

Katniss Everdeen, Sexist Stereotype

Charlotte Allen

Even the most feminist of feminist heroines will eventually be attacked by other feminists for...not being feminist enough.

Google "Katniss Everdeen Role Model," and you will get an eyeful of idolizing goo from the feminist media about the Hunger Games YA heroine: she of the bow and arrow and, as played by Jennifer Lawrence  in the movie versions, the to-die-for black leather leggings and matching jerkin.

From the U.K. Guardian's Suzanne Moore in 2013:

If you are the mother of a pre-teen girl, you will know the whispered relief around these films. "About time. Go!" If you would like your teenage daughter to see something other than the underclass sobbing on a crass talent show, orange twentysomethings Botoxing themselves, or girls who are just "naturally thin" and who giggle when their clothes just drop off, then you will already know about them. If, like me, you simply would like to see a young woman not defined by her relationship to men, crack open the pick 'n' mix....

Sure, Katniss is an idealised fantasy anti-authoriatarian heroine. She is also confused, stubborn and vulnerable. What she isn't is either "girly" or interested in riches. She makes her bow and arrows to bring down the system.

From Rolling Stone's Michelle Dean in 2014:

But the individualism Arya (Stark of Game of Thrones] and Katniss represent is not philosophical. It was not acquired from reading the collected works of Ayn Rand or the speeches of Rand Paul. It's the province of every woman who did not report a sexual assault because she knew she would not be believed. It is the province of every person of color who did not call the cops because they knew the police were not there to serve and protect them.

From the Huffington Post's Cate Montana in 2015:

The astonishing thing about Katniss -- and her kick-ass blonde film peer, Tris Prior of the equally box-office smashing Divergent series -- is how both players boldly display long socially undervalued feminine characteristics like compassion, empathy, gentleness, availability, vulnerability and forgiveness.

They expand (no, they explode) the ubiquitous, highly masculine Western image of the hero -- the brawny, brave, take-no-prisoners, show no weakness, give-no-quarter, steely-eyed mercenary and adventurer (think Bruce Willis). This clearly gives us a different kind of role model to emulate: heroes just as effective, just as brave and physically skilled and just as inspiring.

Maybe more so.

But that was 2013, 2014, and 2015. Now it's 2016, and we have this report from Accuracy in Academia about the latest take on Katniss, from English professor Erin Kingsley of King University in Tennessee, speaking at the Modern Language Association's January convention in Austin, Texas. To Kingsley, author of such works as "‘Nothing could be that grotesque and live’: Mapping Abject Body Space in Robert Coover’s Pinocchio in Venice," and “Bloodless Birth: Reproduction and the Masculine Mind in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own," Katniss Everdeen isn't fighting sexism. She is sexism.

Katniss Everdeen, the main character and heroine of ‘The Hunger Games’ series, “uses her body to shoot those wicked arrows” throughout the three-book series. She pointed out the gender role of women in the novels, where feminism kowtows to masculinity. A constant problematic theme, in her mind, “like Katniss picking up her arrows,” offended her. She said, “I don’t even know what to be offended for” in reading these novels. Kingsley stated, “A thin, white attractive woman” is the new normal in YA novels....

“The female gender still operates in direct ability to inspire attraction in the male sex?”...Kingsley criticized this “heteronormativity” because “each experience [has] the same cultural policing” of fatness and homosexuality. Kingsley continued on this topic, “In an age where diversity is given much lip service, there is diversity that does not appear.” She told the audience, “I would encourage you to do a Google search on fat” and see the dominance of “heterosexual love” in YA novels....

She criticized the media’s refusal to talk about fat bodies.“Rarely does popular media…privilege the fat body”...

How the tables have turned! Now, being brave and standing up to the system isn't enough. You've also got to be overweight and non-"heteronormative."

Seems that you just can't please a feminist.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 



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