Badass Girls and Their Importance

NicoletteElzie.com // Why Badass Girls Are Important To YA

Strong female leads tend to get a bad rap. You’ve seen it before in reviews where the strong leading lady is accused of being hard to connect with because she is too headstrong, or maybe she is just overly negative, or perhaps it’s because she came off as whiny or, you know what, maybe she’s just downright unlikeable.

It always baffles me when I see these types of criticisms. It concerns me because while the girls in YA are targeted for their badass behavior as being hard to connect to, their male counterparts don’t suffer from any of the disconnect. Why?

What is the real reason strong leading ladies are so hard to connect to? Is it because they have a voice and they aren’t afraid to use it? It is because they’re not mousey and submissive? Is it because they aren’t cowering in a corner waiting for prince charming to save them, save the day, and think for them all in the same chapter?

I think the answer is ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ to all of the above.

I think the real reason why strong female leads in YA are so “hard to connect to” is because they challenge the cultural norms of what has traditionally been expected of females in literature.

NicoletteElzie.com // Why Badass Girls Are Important To YA

So to all the Katniss Everdeen’s, Tris Prior’s, and Celaena Sardothien’s, to all my Clarke Griffin’s, Octavia Blake’s, and all my Willow Kent’s, I’m talking to you my June Iparis’s, Juliette Ferrars’s, and my Hermione Granger’s: I’m here to tell you why you’re important to YA literature, why it’s important that you’re a badass, and why it doesn’t matter if people “like” you or not. (As if you didn’t know all of this already!)

  1. You stood up for what you believed in
    It’s important for readers, both girls and boys, to see that they have every right to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. Seeing your courage to do it first can inspire them to do something similar in their own lives. While they won’t be volunteering as tribute, maybe they’ll be telling the school bully to back off. Small acts of courage make a world of difference and do wonders for personal growth.
  2. You fought and were ready to sacrifice for what you wanted most
    It’s important for readers to know that sometimes it’s not enough to simply take a stand, that action beyond that is required and there are tough decisions to make when you go down a road like that. Sometimes that road is lonely. Readers can relate to being different and not fitting into any one particular place and the need to push against those barriers. But, for example, as Tris learned, pushing against an established system has repercussions.
  3. You made mistakes
    It’s important for readers to know that you’re not perfect, because neither are they. You made mistake as so do they. It makes you human, it makes you multifaceted and it definitely makes you interesting. You learn from your mistakes though and that’s the lesson they take from that.
  4. You got knocked down
    It’s important for readers to see that victory isn’t always imminent, that you can work your ass off and still fail. That sometimes failing is okay, because there’s always a lesson and an opportunity to transcend.
  5. You got back up again
    It’s also important for readers to see that regardless of failing, you brushed yourself off and kept going, you kept fighting. You didn’t give up and neither should they. You pushed through the blood and the tears and sometimes a morally questionable struggle. You worked and you grew and your scars are proof of that.
  6. You were vulnerable
    It’s important for readers to see that despite how much of a badass you are, how many people you can take down single handedly, how strategic your mind is to plot the next move against the enemy, that beneath all of that you’re still a person. You’re still human and you still crack underneath the pressure. So it’s okay if they crack underneath the pressure too, because sometimes breaking down is the scariest part of all. Letting someone in, showing them those cracks takes more courage than kicking someone’s ass. It’s okay to be broken for as long as you need to be, so long as they get back up again at the end of it.

So regardless of whether or not people “like” you or find it hard to connect to you, you are important to YA literature. Your stories are important and what you had to say was important. You paved the way for more characters like you to take the stage, so more strong female leads, I’m talking real girls, could show the world their stories without fear and hopefully inspire more girls, more women and more people in general to live their own lives without fear, without shame and without pressure.

You don’t have to be likable, you just have to be you.

Because at the end of the day, your confidence and courage to break down the barriers and challenge societal norms are just what we need in this world. The more we challenge that which we think we know, the more we move towards forward progress and the more change we will see in our world.

Keep Reading and Keep Writing,

❤ Nicolette

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17 thoughts on “Badass Girls and Their Importance

  1. Yes! I agree so much with you! Kick-ass females are so important, especially in YA. I’d like to think that I’ve got a couple of those in my trilogy, too.
    I think ‘weak’ male characters are just as important as well. Girls need to see that it’s a good thing to stand up for themselves, but boys need to know that it’s fine to rely on others and follow rather than lead, too.

    1. So true Sarina!! Boys and girls alike need to know that it’s okay to both take a stand and to follow strong leaders make and female. Both kinds of characters are important roles in life and should be portrayed that way in the books we read and the ones we write. Supporting characters definitely deserve more love for their loyalty and the value they provide to their fierce counterparts.

      1. Oh definitely! Supporting characters are very important in their own right! A lot of main characters, no matter how strong, rely on their sidekicks to keep them in line or sane. It’s important to portray that your gender shouldn’t have to influence how you behave. Screw gender stereotypes, people should be whoever they want to be. Writing books is a fantastic way to encourage people 🙂

    1. HAHA!! Yay! I’m soooo glad! You know, I was suuuuper nervous to post and I sent it to my CP because she’s amazing and tells me the honest truth all the time of when things are just not on track and thanks to her encouragement I went through with it. IDK why, I just felt scared to stand up for the badasses I guess because I feel like so many readers out there rag on them. (Which isn’t cool to me!) Lol.

      1. Oh no, there was really no reason to be nervous! It was a great post and I agree that all these badass females can keep coming (even if a lot of them tend to suddenly be pros in archery). You didn’t get any bad comments though, right? I at least share your opinion 🙂

      2. LOL!!! That’s so true, they do tend to suddenly be archery goddesses. I’d like to see a dagger babe once and a while myself. >.<

        And you're absolutely right! I had no reason to be nervous. The response has been so positive. Girl power! ^.^

      3. Yep, or fencing! There are all kinds of other weapons they could use. I guess archery is good for having to go hunting though … to provide for the family 😀
        See! As long as you are passionate about what you are talking about, people will recognise that enthusiasm and value it.

  2. Gald to have found your blog. It is a well kept blog I must say. The most important point in this post is “THEY GET BACK UP AFTER FALLING.” I wish I could double bold it in red letters. It is often such things that can be inspiring in real life depressing situations

    1. Hi Susan! I’m so glad that you did find my blog! Thank you for being here and for commenting ^.^

      That is one of my favorite aspect of strong female characters (strong characters who go through hardship in general), is the fact that even when they get knocked down they get back up! It’s such an important concept to learn and remember at any age. That we can fail and that regardless of that failure, we MUST try again.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. oh I totally agree that badass girls in fiction are needed AND epic AND I love them an endless 100% amount. I kind of don’t really think, however, that the reason they can be unliked is because they’re not mousey or submissive? I mean, I’m sure that’s a thing for some people! For me, though, when I don’t connect to a character, it’s not because of how many people they did or did not punch, it’s just…personality? I LOVED Katniss and connected to her 100%. But I didn’t get Tris. So I honestly think just clashing personalities can have something to do with it sometimes. xD (And I’m like as totally tough in my critiques on the male characters, too, if they’re all punchy punchy with no emotion. *shrugs* XDXD)
    But I love your list on why tough YA heroines are so important. COULDN’T AGREE MORE. ❤ I look up to them soooo much. :')
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. Yay to the Girl Power love!!!

      I think the problem I’ve had with some of the critique I’ve seen of these boss girls is that there are some reviewers out there that didn’t try to think deeper about why they didn’t connect to the leading female. When, for example, her male counterpart was pretty much a replica of her own attributes, and the reviewer was all googoo eyes for him. That to me is a double standard and I’m not cool with it.

      What’s nice is that NOT A LOT of reviewers do that (none who I actively follow, because I only follow amazing penguins like YOU, ^.^). But what’s not so good is that OUTSIDE of the blogging community, those are some of the TOP reviews being seen by impressionable minds looking for books to read. And that makes me sad.

      So in a general sense, I do have a problem with critiques not trying harder to pinpoint particular aspects of a strong heroine that was hard to connect to, because when flippant language is used like “oh she was just too headstrong” and there is nothing present to back it up, something like this can give a young girl the impression that headstrong is a terrible attribute to possess.

      I know we cannot take ownership of another person’s interpretation of what we say in our reviews, that’s definitely NOT what I’m saying we should do. I just wish the bashing of our strong heroines would stop already.

      And I love that you’re as tough on the males! We should be tough on both sexes because we should expect nothing less of both sexes. Male and female badasses, both are important. I just wanted to focus on the girls today. 😉

  4. Love this! *shakes fist at the patriarchy* It’s the whole thing about women being “bitches” just because they actually have some power/authority for once and USE it. Guys get away with so much more. I’ll always love my girl Katniss 🙂

    1. Ah, yes, the sad truth of being a bitch if we have any semblance of power or authority. Well said Emily.

      We’re the bitch if we use our voice. We’re the bitch if we take control. We’re the bitch if we make more money…etc. The list is pretty endless of all the reasons why women are “bitches” and it usually (always?) stems from the dominant party feeling threatened.

      I think that more books are showing that it’s not okay for guys get away with more and as readers it’s part of our role to voice that we don’t want to read those kinds of stories. So if it makes us “bitches” for saying it, then so be it.

      I love all my badass girls! Katniss has a special place in my heart ^.^

  5. Not doing much, just leaving a comment by Shonda Rhimes here because I think it’s relevant 😛

    “I strive for badassery,” Shonda Rhimes wrote in her book Year Of Yes. “Men do it all the time. Take the compliment and run. They don’t make themselves smaller. They don’t apologize for being powerful. They don’t downplay their accomplishments. Badassery is a new level of confidence in both yourself and those around you.”

    ANOTHER reason why we need to see these types of girls in more books!

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