“I’m not like other girls”: Why it’s not a good thing

IsImage result for i'm not like other girls there any sentence that’s more jarring in a novel than“I’m not like other girls”? As soon as I read it, my thoughts go something like this:

  1. Mmm-hmm. You definitely know what all other girls are like, right?
  2. Well, that’s kind of true. No two people are alike. Everyone’s unique.
  3. Really Author, you couldn’t figure out a subtler way to let your readers know the protagonist is a special snowflake?

This is a sentiment which can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Unfortunately, when authors lack a shred of imagination, it’s stated in this cliched way and it’s usually accompanied by a coy look and a toss of (low-maintenance, but glossy) hair.

At the risk of sounding like an angry, ranting feminist, I must say that this one sentence ignores all the progress third-wave feminism has made. It implies the “other girls” are shallow, mercenary, clinging women who worship at the altar of consumerism and lipstick. They’re the ones who can’t be bothered to look past the reputation (whether notoriety or fame) of the love interest to see the “man”.

Third wave feminism is all about choice. You are no less of a woman if you decide you would rather wear jeans than skirts. At the same time, if you want to be a housewife—it doesn’t make you anti-feminist. The phrase “I’m not like the other girls” makes the girl whose not like the “others” one in a million. She’s the last bastion of feminity in a world where every girl falls prey to quick judgement, ambition and boy-crazy mania. Our main character is the perfect girl (a.k.a. “manic pixie dream girl”). She can be a paragon of virtue, hang with the dudes and fight against evil—all without sweating or breaking a nail.

I sound bitter. I can’t help it because I hate it when authors (or people in general) try to make one woman look good by bashing others. You have no business praising someone if the only way you can do it is by insulting everyone else. That’s not a compliment; it’s just billions of insults.

If I see this line, I usually close the book after finishing the page. In fact I can think of only one unique instance I didn’t. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the book but it was a romance novel where a male character told the female protagonist “You’re not like the other girls” to praise her for not being shallow. The female character parries by saying something along the lines of “Well, clearly you’ve been hanging out with the wrong people.”
Well said.

For those of you who’ve considered using this sentence, please don’t. At least this way you can ensure you’re different in one important way.

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Margaret Atwood Quotables

I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.

It’s been two years since I began this blog. At that point, it was supposed to be about Young Adult Dystopian books and although I’ve stuck to the young-adult theme, I’ve moved past the dystopian part.

Maragret Atwood is most notable for her book, the Handmaiden’s tale. It’s a very creepy dystopia where women are sold to rich men for reproductive purposes. In the Handmaiden’s Tale world, women have no function other than to serve as concubines. (Talk about objectification).

I wouldn’t consider it YA by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the bread of dystopia. Staple literature which is pretty satisfying.

Plus, Margaret Atwood is a pretty interesting person. Besides being a novelist, she’s also a poet, a business-woman and environmental activist. Clearly she’s a Renaissance woman.

However, I’ve also associated her with the word feminism (Although when I looked her up today, I learned that she’s actually said she’s not a feminist writer). It’s probably because of this quote:

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.

And this one:

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.

And this one:

A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women.

I was surprised by some of the quotes that are attributed to her. I mean, I’ve heard of them, but I never realised they were her quotes.  Does anybody recognise this quote?

The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.

And the Gandhian quote, “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind” rephrased a bit.

An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.

I’ll end this post with a quote about young-adults.

I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own.

Woman: A Poem

I

am a woman.

So I must have

slender bones

and tender flesh

That snap and give way

under duress.

I should be

straight sweeping lines

A compact mass

of softer curves.

 

I

am young.

So my virtue

is my

only worth.

Passed

from father

to husband

to son.

From one owner

and then

to another.

 

I

must bear loss.

So

I must weep .

At times of hardship.  

I must cry

Validate

with liquid tears.

Assure them

Of my Aches

My Sorrows

My Many Fears.

I must cry.

Someone must be strong

to comfort me.

 

I

am angry.

So I will be humored then outright

laughed at

Like a spiky kitten

who thinks

it has claws.

Silently vowing

they will declaw me,

Find some way to make me doubt

and

pause.

 

I

I yearn

to protect.

But they’ll only let me protect

my children.

Fine.

I’ll protect them

and I’ll keep yours

safe too.

Let them grow

into fearless men

and women.

 

I

am powerful.

So I must be a witch,

A bitch

A sneaking snitch.

Because no

real woman

is powerful.

What strange charlatan

am I

to hold both-

this shape

and this power?

 

I

am human.

So I aspire

and I conspire

to be more.

Who says ambition

is the domain

of men?

And men only?

They’ll call me

what they want

As long as they want.


Just know

that all

‘female’ means

is

not-male,

not

less-than-male.

Rites of Passage: A Book Review

Book: Rites of Passage 
Author: Joy N Hensley

Rites of Passage

Blurb: 

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences

My thoughts:

When the cover came out, I was like ‘meh’ and then promptly  forgot it for a couple of months until the blurb came out… the blurb was a mega game-changer; it marketed the book as a chick-lit military fic. I’ve never made a secret of the how much I love chick-lit  (it’s my guilty pleasure) or how much I enjoy reading about the army. Just reading the blurb was enough to push me to read it.

I’m a sucker for girls who have to prove to the world just how worthy they are. Sam is one of them – one of the first females to be allowed into a military school!  Right from the beginning, Sam realises that she doesn’t have to be just as good as the boys-she has to be better. And she is-she’s better at doing pushups, at maintaining her uniform and generally at being a recruit.  However, sexism plays a huge part in the army and there are a lot of guys who think she doesn’t deserve to be there no matter how good she is. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book. She is humiliated in millions of ways, forced to do strenuous physical training (which reminds me just how out of shape I am) and is ostracised by her peers and leaders (even her own brother) at every opportunity. At times, this book made me sick with anger and disgust. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book; this book made me desperate for Sam to prove everyone wrong and make it through.

Sam rose to every occasion. She was fierce, determined…and a total badass. At the same time, she wasn’t perfect. At several points throughout the book, she is almost ready to give up in despair and anger,her respect problems (I sometimes felt that she gave authority figures waaay too much respect) and serious lack of tact are enough to keep her out of the Mary-Sue box.

While there are a whole lot of jerks at school, Joy makes sure to develop back-stories and characters for all the cadets Sam comes in contact with. There’s a major emphasis on the girls there but some of the boys are well-rounded too.

The romance doesn’t play a major role in the book. There are two romances taking place (not simultaneously though, thank the gods!) but they remain light and seem more like a good friendship than epic declarations of love.

A lot of people were unsatisfied with the ending but I’m going to go ahead and be a little unpopular. I think the ending was fine for this book. After all, there were no loose ends left to wrap up and the book had succeeded in presenting the problem of sexism and how Sam fought against it; there was a introduction, character development, rise of action, climax, fall of action and a cute enough resolution. What more do you want? That being said, I wouldn’t say no to a sequel.<winks>

What I like most about the book is the message that it promotes. The strongest theme of the book is feminism and it’s splashed everywhere in this book in black, white and pink but the book takes a very serious stance against homophobia and bullying,  showing how -even now- the military is pretty close-minded. The book is inspiring; motivating and encouraging us (sorry to be cliche) to follow our dreams and never give up. Like any good YA book it sweetly cover what family is really about and the truth behind deep friendships.

My Ratings:

Cover: 1/5

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Romance: 3/5

Ending: 3/5 

 Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Books like this:  If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

One thing that I really love about young adult fiction is the huge variety of female characters we get here. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, Tris Prior from Divergent, Tally Youngblood from the Uglies… the list goes on. The truth is that young adult novel’s are way ahead of the curve in terms of the Bechdel’s test  (a test in which the main requirement is that in a piece of fictional work ,two named female characters talk about something other than men) as compared to adult fiction or movies. In young adult there are no (or very few) token female characters. You know what I mean by token female characters. This pretty girls  who hang around looking awkward and probably feeling awkward because they have no real role. Movie directors hire them to prove a point. They hire them so they can say something like : “What do you mean we discriminate between genders. Jane (or Elizabeth or Lind or any female name can be inserted here) here has a role in the movie.” But the awesome thing about young adult novels is that the female characters do actually have a role

.            

But that’s not saying that they’re perfect. Sometimes even in young adult novels, it seems like the author is trying too hard. She’s pretty, she fights, she has badass weapon skills, she’s the face of a rebellion, she’s definitely as good as a boy. In the process they stamp out all of the other female traits. The girls are not allowed to like dresses (unless they’re sidekicks) or hair or makeup. I’m not saying that all girls love fancy dresses, makeup and messing with their hair but sometimes it seems like author’s are trying way too hard to make it clear that their main character is above all that shallow frivolousness. But seriously if James Bond can take a break and have his masculine  ‘martini shaken, not stirred’ then why can’t a female character enjoy something feminine without criticism.

Another pet peeve (for me) is the fact that the best compliment a female character in a young adult novel is strong. If someone’s asked to describe Katniss they’ll probably use the word strong. If someone has to describe Tris, they’ll use the word strong. When it comes to describing female characters, why has everyone’s vocabulary suddenly become so limited? More importantly, when we describe male characters why do we never use the word strong. Take Sherlock Holmes. He’s arguably  the most complex and interesting fictional character. Is he strong? Not physically;that’s what sidekicks like Watson are for. But Sherlock Holmes doesn’t need to be strong. What we remember him most for is him mental acumen, his cleverness and observational skills. And for his witty dialogue, of course. He’s like an onion. Layered and good enough to make you cry. On the other hand. take Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Again, she’s arguably the best female fictional character. But I guarantee that if you look at any character sketch of Elizabeth Bennet, you’ll find the word strong somewhere in there. And is she strong? Yeah, I guess she is . But that’s not the point here. The point is male characters don’t need to be strong. We automatically assume they are. Female characters on the other hand go around doing crazy things like  picking fights for the sake of it, ticking off  their loved one, throwing punches to prove that they are ‘just as good as the boys’. Why is having anger management issues automatically assumed to be equal to being ‘strong’ for female characters?  The whole point is that just because they are female, characters shouldn’t have to prove that they are strong! Take a look at Sophia McDougal’s article I hate strong female characters. She’s written the same idea pretty beautifully.

So while having angry, badass female characters who replace their emotions with weapons is better than having weepy, damsels in distress who wait for Prince Charming to come and save them, it’s not ideal. We need more realistic, holistic female characters. Ones who don’t have the pressure of being strong thrust on them but still don’t let that be an excuse to be weak themselves.