Girls who kick butt

A Wrinkle in Time was written in 1962, and was exceptional for its young, strong, female heroine.  There weren’t a lot of positive representations of women, let alone young women, being put out into the pop culture at the time.

But… in 2010, books, movies and tv shows that give us a young, strong, female heroine are still exceptional.  I find that incredibly frustrating.

I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time for this class.  I actually read it first, because I bought it first and it seemed like an easy read.  I read it in lock-step with Geek Love for a few days, finishing one and starting the other, and it was a very odd experience.  The two books are very, very different.  But reading them that way was actually really good, because I could see so clearly how the “horror” of the circus was so much better than what was happening on Camazotz.  Meg and Oly both have a strong desire to fit into their groups, and an inability to actually do so.

Meg wants what so many young kids want, to fit in.  She’s a geek that I could really relate to – I was also incredibly nerdy, and had a “look” that just didn’t really fit it.  (I was also pretty clueless.  When I first got headgear in grade 4, I wore it to school.  Because I thought it was cool.  I was… well… I was wrong.)  I loved that Meg’s inability to fit in is the thing that saves her when she first meets IT.  That seems like a message that lots of young people would benefit from, I think we should scream it from billboards and bus ads and all over the pop culture “It’s best to be unique!  Be yourself!  Be nerdy and geeky and awkward!  Fitting in is not all it’s cracked up to be!”

I’m not sure how I feel about the end of Meg’s story, though.  In the end she does conform to the expectation that women will be the nurturers and the ones who hold the moral responsibility.  That weight of responsibility can be so damaging to women’s autonomy and sense of identity.  If we are responsibility for morality, how do we explore our sexuality?  And who defines the morality that we’re responsible for upholding?

In the end, Meg can’t do anything other than love other people.  She has no active role, and she just becomes part of the monolithic myth of the nurturing, selfless woman that we get bombarded with all the time.

However, I’m conflicted about it.  One of the reasons I love Buffy so much is that she died to save the world, because of love.  She took the Christ story and gave it a feminist retelling.  So not all instances of women using the “power of love” are negative.  I just don’t know if Meg’s case is positive or negative.  My gut reaction is that it’s negative, and it’s a backslide from the stronger character that she presented earlier in the book.

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~ by Gloom Fairy on June 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “Girls who kick butt”

  1. And in the subsequent texts, she marries Calvin and pops out a bunch of babies…

    In a way, it reminds me of Sex and the City: how the show begins with strong female characters, othered for their freakish life decisions, but assertive and confident about their uniqueness. They all, however, finish (at the end of the series), with men and in traditional partnerships. Meh.

  2. I felt the same way about Sex and the City! How often do you get to see sexually liberated women NOT experiencing shame and angst about it?! I loved the way the show started, but by the end they had all been stripped of their uniqueness and paired off in traditional, heterosexual partnerships. Meh, for sure!

    I know I fanwank about Buffy a lot, but one of my favorite things about the show was the Buffy *doesn’t* end up with a partner at the end of it. In fact, she rejects Angel in favour of spending more time “baking herself” – she’s finally allowed to settle down in the traditional partnership (sort of) and chooses not to. It made me very happy.

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