Hey y’all, this is my 150th post! Today we have the fabulous Rebecca Maizel, author of the Vampire Queen trilogy, here to talk about gender. (And she’s offered the whole trilogy as a giveaway this month to the person who comments the most–I’m jealous!)
I first met Rebecca, like so many talented writers, at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. We shared a workshop together her first semester, and I was very impressed with her writing at the time. I also remember that Infinite Days, her first novel, had just come out and she was so anxious about how it would be received.
As I have said before, I love that book. But I’ve invited her on here today because of her thoughts on portrayal of females in fiction. She gave her graduate lecture on this topic, and she has some really interesting things to say about it. So without further ado:
Me: What tropes do you see represented the most? and how do these portrayals affect young folk?
Rebecca: I think the trope that is most often represented in young adult and middle grade literature is the “gossiping girl” as the antagonist. I’ve even fallen victim to this myself in my own work. It’s hard when charting the map of your own understanding of gender and social pressures to make the best choice – meaning how to best represent women outside of traditional stereotype. In hindsight, I’m not sure I would have made The Three Piece so gossipy (from Infinite Days). Nevertheless, this is the trope that I see the most. If you look at endless covers of YA novels (more so in Middle Grade, IMHO), there are rarely girls looking at one another in a way that isn’t conspiratorial or competitive in nature. I think the impact of this is subtle but powerful. If we associate not only females with gossip but our female antagonists as well, it perpetuates the stereotype.
Me: What should we be aiming for in terms of gender representation?
Rebecca: To represent our women and girls outside of stereotype. It’s simple and a bit general but I think this is really important – at least in my own life. I have tried to do this in my own work though I am not sure how successful I have been. I am reading a book presently called Blind Spot: Hidden Biases Of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaj and Anthony G. Greenwald. One of the theories in the book is that if something is unconscious, say a bias about a group of people, gender, etc, and this unconscious bias is brought into your conscious mind, you can then temper your behavior once this realization has occurred. I think this is similar to theories about therapy (though I can’t say for sure), but I hope that the more I educate myself the more I can recognize stereotypes in books or media and attempt to break them in my written work for teens.
Me: What questions should we be asking that we aren’t?
Rebecca: I am not sure of a specific question I think we should be asking though one that constantly comes to mind is: Why aren’t we educating young men more? I went to a lecture given by Byron Hurt last year about the race, gender, class, within popular culture, with a particular focus on hip hop and rap music and it was transformative for some of the young men in the audience. I know there has been some movement and there are people advocating for young men but I’m not sure how much access young men are given to these kinds of conversations. I think this is a conversation we need to have with both sexes – not just women.
Me: And when you sit down to write, how do you think about all of this?
Thanks for stopping by!