Why We Need More Positive Girls Portrayal in Books

SPARKLING LETTERS BOOK BLOG- WHY WE NEED MORE POSITIVE GIRLS PORTRAYAL IN BOOKS.jpg

Hello everyone! ♥

Today we’ll be talking about something that’s been on my mind for quite a while : girls representation in books. Now you may be wondering what I’m talking about because don’t we get so many representation already? Well, we do. After all, most book covers are photos of girls. But are they positive? Well, we’ll see in a bit 😛 what pushed me to actually write this post was seeing some of my twitter friends talked about the same thing. It made me realize that my opinion was valid and not just my own… you know, that other people share the same opinion with me.

But before we talk about WHY we need more positive portrayal, let me talk about the negative portrayal first.

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One dimensional character

If you read regularly, I’m sure you must have noticed the following characters : the calm and quiet main character who prefers her own company, the bubbly best friend who keeps trying to ‘drag her out of her shell’, and the evil, mean cheerleader who’s out there to make the protagonist life a living hell. Let me tell you something, those characters are cliche. Especially the mean girls.

I’m not saying there are no mean girls in real life because the truth is, there are. They exist. But in all my years of going to school and university, I haven’t come across a truly stereotypical mean girl who’s a tall blonde, a cheerleader, dates high school quarterback, and only cares about makeup, party, and boys.

The ‘not like other girls’ trope

Honestly, we should’ve left this trope in 2016 because it’s problematic! Not like other girls is usually used to describe a main character who’s again calm, quiet, nice, and doesn’t realize she’s pretty. She’s not like other girls because other girls care about their looks, wear make up, talk a lot, and flirt with boys. It’s like a girl has to be ‘less girly’ to be special and that’s like??? I mean… what’s wrong with other girls?

A male character saying a girl is not like other girls mean that he doesn’t think other girls are worth it. It’s like saying a girl who, I don’t know, acts girly, doesn’t deserve his attention because he wants someone special? On the other hand, a female character saying “I’m not like other girls’ is condescending. It’s like saying she’s above the other girls and by all means, better than them. It also says that other girls are shallow and she’s not. It’s not uncommon for me to read a book where the female characters slut shame other girls who aren’t friends with them.

Girl hate

I don’t understand why a lot of authors have this trope in their books. In books, girl hate may take a lot of form but they exist. There’s the hate between the captain of the cheerleading team and the main character. There are girl bullies. There’s also this kind of hate where the characters seem to be friends but secretly hate each others, leading to back handed compliment or any other offensive comments.

Do you notice all the things I pointed out above? If you don’t it’s either you don’t read that much or I’ve been reading the wrong books all this time 😂

These tropes might be common, but that doesn’t mean they’re not wrong because to be perfectly honest, they are. They’re harmful. I’m not saying every girls are best friends with each others because we don’t. Girl fight exists, bullying exists, but are they as common as books portray them to be? I don’t think so. That’s why we need more positive portrayal of girls in books.

Why we need more positive portrayals.jpg

Now that we’ve talked about the negative portrayals, it’s time I tell you my reasons why we don’t need them and we need a more positive one instead.

Girls are not monolith

Just like people in general. Quiet girls aren’t always nerdy and nerdy girls aren’t always quiet. Girls who love makeup and flirt with boys aren’t always mean or shallow. Girls who like sport aren’t always tomboy. A member of cheerleading team could be socially awkward, a girl who loves reading could also like to gossip, a sweet girl could be secretly mean, and so on. My point is, girls aren’t cut out from paper, we’re multi dimensional characters who love many things. The ‘not like other girls’ trope basically saying that the other girls are just the same, which is not true at all.

Take me for example. I’m a huge nerd who prefers reading to every other activities but I also love wearing makeup and dressing up. I’d rather stay home than go to a party but I also like to gossip and talk about boys with my friends. I could be friends with both girls and boys. I’m not one dimensional, and neither are my other girl friends. Back in high school, one of my best friend was a cheerleader. She likes to sing, gossip, flirt with boys, and she’s so nice we used to share a lot of secrets. She’s not mean.

That being said, everyone has their own personality and it’s complex. Girls might have some similarities in common but each of them has their own personality. There are so many ways to be a girl and there’s no right or wrong among them 🙂

Girl friendships are amazing

This. This is why I don’t get the girl hate trope because the truth is, girls don’t hate other girls. Okay, not entirely true. I’ve hated other girls and stopped being friends with some of them but it doesn’t happen that often. Even if it does, there’s always a reason. A real one. We don’t go around hating other girls just because. Of course there are girls who bully other girls, but in my experience, they don’t go around bullying nice, quiet girls just because they exist.

Most of my best friends are girls and they are amazing. My first real friendship was formed on my first year of high school. It’s a group of 4 girls. We talked a lot about clothes, boys, other people, our problems, our family, our pasts, and basically everything. They’re my closest confidante and we still keep in touch until now, almost 8 years after we met. We were separated on our second year. We didn’t share the same class, so I formed a new friendship with some new girls. It was a big group, I’m not even sure how many of us was in that group but we were all close and we didn’t secretly hate each others.

During my time in university, I met 4 more amazing girls whom I immediately became best friend with. They’re my rock. Living away from home, from your parents, means that the only family you have is your friends and that’s what they are to me, family. I went to them with every one of my problems and they’re always there for me. I’m also friends with almost all the girls on my year. We might not be besties but we get along fine.

My point is girl friendship is amazing and we should have more of that in books!

Girl readers need  positive examples

A lot of teenage girls read books, especially YA. A lot of them look up to book characters and set them as their role models. Imagine if books only portray negative stereotypes. Those young readers might use them as examples and that’s why we need positive portrayals for them.

Book recommendationsss.jpg

 As usual, I’m ending my discussion with some book recommendations so today’s recs is supposed to be about positive girls portrayal. However, I’m kind of drawing blank because it’s such a broad and vague term and not a lot of books came to my mind. So, this recs is gonna be about fantastic female friendship 😛 even then, thinking up books with truly great friendship still turned out to be difficult. I mean, how sad is that?

Here are some that I managed to recall ♥

I’LL MEET YOU THERE BY HEATHER DEMETRIOS

You know I love this book so, so much and one of my favorite element is the friendship between Sky, Dylan, and Chris. Okay it’s not exactly a female friendship because Chris is a guy, but let’s just talk about Sky and Dylan here. Their friendship is amazing! Dylan always has Sky’s back and ready to defend her and from what I gathered from the story, Sky also had Dylan’s back when she went through some tough stuffs.

PS. I LIKE YOU BY KASIE WEST

Lily and Isabel are definitely my friendship goal! They just get each other and I love how they handled their conflict. Dating your best friend’s ex could go wrong on so many level, but it could also be alright. I know this, I’ve seen in twice in real life, so I was happy to see how things turned out between Lily and Iz.

CROOKED KINGDOM BY LEIGH BARDUGO

There are tons of reasons why Six of Crows duology is absolutely amazing and one of them is because the fantastic friendship between Inej and Nina! ♥ At first I was worried they were gonna be some kind of frenemies but turned out their friendship was so, so genuine and fun and full of talk about foods! 😛

EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU BY NINA LACOUR

The award of the best book best friend is definitely going to Charlotte, Emi’s best friend! She’s amazing, fun, smart, and she gets Emi. She knows when to talk to her and she knows when to give her space. I also love the friendship between Emi, Charlotte, and Ava. It’s adorable ♥

For more recommendations about female friendship, head straight to CW’s blog! She wrote a recommendation post a few months back and it was amazing! ♣

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Alright everyone, those are my reasons of why we need more positive girls portrayal in books because the portrayals we do have are so stereotypical and well… not true! What do you think about it? Are you tired of seeing the ‘not like other girls’ and ‘girl hate’ tropes over and over again? What are your favorite books featuring positive female portrayals? I’d love to hear your thoughts! ♥

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55 thoughts on “Why We Need More Positive Girls Portrayal in Books

  1. Awesome post! I definitely agree with what you’ve said, I complained about girl hate recently on a t5w post. Like you, most of my best friends are girls so I really want books to reflect how awesome female friendships can really be.
    I have to mention though that I’ve had guys tell me I’m not like other girls in real life and it’s always made me really uncomfortable. It’s definitely not a compliment in my opinion so I don’t know why authors think it’s a good thing haha

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like this post and I definitely agree that we need so much more diverse representation of us girls and our relationships with the women around us – and it’s okay if those relationships aren’t good, as long as it’s told in a way that makes actual sense. And not just some petty arguments about things that just really aren’t that important.

    But I have to say, sometimes girls are just down right mean and bully because they CAN. If they are of the popular kind and have friends behind them who will support everything they do? They can get nasty. I’ve had my fair share of that kind of bullying in middle school especially.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh thank you! I know, it would be totally unrealistic if all the portrayals are positive, so it really is about balance and how real authors portray them to be 😀 Ohh yes I’m aware, I’ve seen girls bullied their juniors in high school but it really isn’t as cliche as books portray them to be. I’m sorry you had to go through it! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an amazing post!
    I didn’t have a lot of problems with female representation before, but recently I have read a few books that left me very annoyed. The common thing between all of them is that they’re all written by male authors.
    I think there’s a very sexualized view of women in some books and this bothers me a lot. When a book focuses on male characters, they tend to add girls to be nothing else but love interests. And the worst part is that the guy only focuses on their physical, instead of saying nice things about his girlfriend. It’s 2017 and I was reading about two boys, discussing which girl was better based on their boob size. Really?!
    In mangas/graphic novels, I realize that this is even more predominant. Even when we have female characters, they’re always portrayed in this sexual way, with beautiful bodies and sometimes in very suggestive poses.
    It annoys me that we still have this type of representation in novels nowadays. I know some people could say: “oh, but this is what boys think”, but if we just allow books that have men as their target audience to talk about girls like that, then we’re just perpetuating sexism.
    Okay, this was a huge rant, sorry about that! But what I wanted to say is: I agree with you! And I hope we can have better representation in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG REALLY? What is the title? I need to know so I could stay away from it hahaha it’s very offensive and objectifying and omg I hate the “boys will be boys” mantra. It’s more like a get out of jail free card to excuse boys and their behavior! 😦 and it’s okay, I don’t mind your rant hahaha but yes, cheers to a better female representation in books! ❤

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  4. Such a great post, I agree with everything you’ve said! It’s a shame as well because I can’t really think about many books that portray great female characters. Far too many times I read a book that has the mean girl trope and I’m just so fed up of it. Not all popular girls are mean and I think it’s just enforcing stereotypes to write things like that.

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  5. Loved this post! I actually did one on slut-shaming just two days ago, and I feel like this is such an important topic…

    I’d like to say I have never hated another girls, but I definitely have, in the past. I don’t anymore, because I try to understand everyone’s point of view and if someone does me wrong they probably have a reason, whether it’s something I did or a self-esteem problem. I love it so much when girls have strong female friendships, and in Crooked Kingdom, Nina and Inej had the best relationship ever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Maya! 😀 oohhh really? I’m gonna head straight to that post right after hahaha exactly, I think it’s normal and realistic to hate other girls. But for it to happen so often, not to mention in a stereotypical way, is just… weird and nothing new. Oh same! Ever since I studied psychology I find it harder to hate people because I know there’s always reasons behind people’s behavior hahaha but yes to Nina and Inej! Can’t wait to read more about them tbh 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, I agree with your post! While toxic friendships and cattiness does happen, there isn’t nearly enough positive girl friendships in books. I also feel like friendship woes are often used to create drama, but that gets old fast. We need to focus on lifting each other up, in books and in real life.

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    • I know right!! I think the fact that it was difficult for me to come up with book recommendations in positive female portrayal is saying something, especially because most books I read are narrated by female protagonists :’) truuuuuue we don’t see enough of that! Cheers to a better female rep in the future ❤

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  7. I think that we see so many of the quiet, nerdy girls who don’t think their beautiful because a lot of books are written by introverts who were that girl growing up. I assume these authors are trying to encourage shy girls and tell them that they are beautiful, that someone will notice them, that they can be the heroine of a story. But I agree that we’re at a point where this character isn’t so new and empowering anymore because it’s so common and expected now. And I don’t think the girls need to be in competition in the book, especially not for guys. For a scholarship, maybe.

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    • Oh I heard that! About the introverts haha it actually makes sense that they do it to tell shy girls that they are beautiful no matter what! But I think authors have to keep up with trends too, they got to be aware that these tropes are getting so old? And you’re right it’s no longer empowering. Also yes hahaha I’d love to see girls get competitive over scholarship 😛

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  9. Totally agree, I am fed up of all the mean girls and the attacks on other girls and the one-dimensional characterisations. We need fully developed characters, characters who have strong female friendships and books which call out other characters when they’re being mean. We need good representation and we’re on the right path with books but there can always be more.

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  10. Yas!!!!! I loved this post! I am going to share it all over the show because dammit this needs to change! I wrote a post a while back where I spoke about my problem with female narrators in YA books ( http://readandseek.co.za/issue-female-narrators-ya-contemporary-books/ ) and I touched on some of these points you made. It sucks that I cannot connect with female narrators or characters. I cannot stand the fact that women authors are still perpetuating these harmful stereotypes.

    I tried writing a post to share books with female characters that I really love and it was so hard for me to come up with ten books that I just canned that post… But I’ll try these titles out and then maybe I can go ahead with that post.

    Fantastic post!

    Nihaad | Read & Seek

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you this means a lot to me! 😀 *brb checking out your post* but sameeeee I feel like lately I can’t connect with most female protagonists! That’s why yesterday I asked for book recommendations narrated by male protagonist on twitter hahaha 😛 that’s true, I feel like it’s weir that female authors are the ones that empower girls stereotypes. I mean, don’t they want to see a positive representation of THEMSELVES in books? Hmm, anyway, I feel you! I had a hard time coming up with these titles too hahaha but I really recommend these 4 books ❤

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  11. This is such a great post, Puput! I’m not really a friends person; maybe I’m just really anti-social, but even the people I consider my best friends aren’t people I’m super attached to. It’s weird. 😂

    But, yeah, I find most stereotypes don’t exist. Besides the mean cheerleader, there’s always the player or whatever, and I’ve never seen them in my school ever. The “I’m not like other girls” thing drives me nuts; it makes me roll my eyes when I see it. I do guess it’s a good thing that I can name a lot of female protagonists that I consider to be good role models and awesome characters. I guess I’m reading the right books! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mikaela! 😀 ahh it’s okay if it’s what you’re comfortable with ❤ oh yes true, even the meanest girl on my high school isn't that stereotypical hahaha I knooooow it's like, what's wrong with other girls??? Yayyy to you! Care to share some recommendations with me? 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol, yeah, I have yet to see the “mean girl” in my school. Honestly, my school is divided into groups, so even if we did have a mean girl, unless you’re “friends” with her, you wouldn’t be affected or anything. I’ve just never seen a place where someone will publicly bully someone and everyone sits around and says literally nothing? And, oh, there pretty much all popular series, you’ve probably read Angelfall, Unearthly, Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, The Legend trilogy. I probably don’t stumble upon this trope because I’m not a huge contemporary reader. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hope you never will! Or do you want to… just to know what it’s like?hahaha ugh yes I see a lot of that particular scene in movie & tv shows (& in real life once) and I hope girls would stop doing that. You’re right I’ve read them all but OMG UNEARTHLY!! I love Clara and Tucker and Wendy ❤

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  12. I actually think a lot of these things are just issues with cardboard characters in general. It’s so much easier to just write stereotypical “mean girls” than to write someone as a complex person who makes both good and bad decisions. Unfortunately there ARE people in this world who treat others badly—both girls and guys—but those people wouldn’t see themselves as villains, and they have positive interactions too. If an author wants to show the bad behavior in order to call it out, they have to acknowledge that their character (even a secondary character) is a real person with real motivations—even if those motivations sometimes lead them astray. And I agree that we should see more variance with those stereotypical roles. I recently read a book where they kept talking about the main character as being “weird” because she liked theatre and didn’t wear super matchy outfits. I kept thinking, “Um, that doesn’t seem all that weird to me. She’s just a girl who happens to like theatre and isn’t into fashion. That was pretty much me and half my friends in high school.”

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    • That makes sense! Girl hate and not like other girls trope probably come from the stereotype of girls in general, right? That actually explains a lot, hahaha. Trueeee, people are complex. Good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Unless they’re Lord Voldemort, high school girls must have at least one good qualities. Even among the mean ones haha. Ugh I hate that, it’s like a girl ONLY likes fashion to be considered normal.

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  13. I love this post. I’ve been noticing more and more that so many girls in YA are being put in certain boxes whic is weird to me because I find myself fitting into all of those boxes. It’s not as one dimensional as authors tend to write it. Each of us are so many things and you can’t possibly have those boxes in real life. So important.

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  14. PREACH! This is so important. Thanks for the recommendations! I especially HATE the “you’re not like other girls” trope. UGGGHH. What are other girls? What does that even mean?? Yeah. Hate it. Haha, great post!!!

    Like

  15. Awesome post! I agree with everything you’ve said here! 🙂
    I hate those cliche characters of ‘the mean cheerleader’ and the ‘not like other girls heroine’, because they’re not only boring to read about (we’ve seen them so many times!), but they’re really damaging as representations. I did get bullied in my school, but if I’m honest it was more by boys than girls, and the ‘mean girls’ in my school weren’t anything like the stereotypical mean girls in books.
    I do have lots of great female friends though, and I do think those friendships are underrepresented in books. I’d love to see more female friendships than girl hate, for sure! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Laura! 😀 I know rightttt the not like other girls probably started out as something unique and empowering, to make shy and quiet girls feel good about themselves but now it’s so overused, cliche, and no longer empowering </3 oohh I'm so sorry you had to go through it! But I'm glad you have a lot of great female friends to lean on 😀 cheers to better and more amazing female friendship in the future! ❤

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  16. I can’t lie, when I was younger, the books with terrible portrayals of girls definitely influenced my life and my terrible way of dealing with boy troubles. I definitely needed some positive portrayals, and unfortunately, I didn’t get them. I relied on what I’d read, it shaped my world view. It’s SO important that young women get positive role models from reading. I know my life would have been very different if I had them.

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  17. I agree! With all of these negative portrayals, I feel like it can influence all people, not just girls! Hopefully that’ll change though, I feel like it’s started a bit in YA, but hopefully It’ll branch out to other genres!
    Good post! Have an AMAZING DAY!
    -Jared

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knoooow it’s so unfortunate. A blogger commented in this post and said that these tropes had influenced her so much when she was younger and how she wishes she had more positive portrayals back then 😦 I never thought of how boys will perceive these tropes though! What do you think?hehe but yes I hope it’s gonna change for the better 😀

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  18. I just have to start by saying that I love how we’re sort of taking turns recommending I’ll Meet You There! 😂😂 It’s like READ IT EVERYONE! That book. I swear it will always be on of my top YA contemporaries.
    Anyway! I completely agree with every single point you made in this. Especially about girl hate. That is one thing that I absolutely can’t stand seeing in a book. I’ve actually closed a book and walked away from it because of girl hate. That’s just something I feel really shouldn’t be promoted in YA. Younger readers can definitely be more impressionable and it’s better to spread positivity instead of hate. Which is exactly why we need more great female friendships in YA. And I love your recommendations/examples using I’ll Meet You There, P.S. I Like You, and Crooked Kingdom (I haven’t read Everything Leads To You yet). Those three have some of my favorite YA female friendships. Especially Crooked Kingdom and I’ll Meet You There. Great discussion, Puput!! 💕😁

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Love this and agree so much! (Although, I totally had that cliche tall blonde mean girl in high school). I was also bullied when I was in high school so I think it’s important to HAVE that in a book sometimes. However, I hate when it doesn’t actually serve any purpose in the story. I’d love to read a book ABOUT bullying and what happens, but I don’t like a book that is about some meteor about to destroy the world and there is just the mean girl there to give the “not like other girls” girl a hard time. That’s annoying. haha

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

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    • I’m so sorry you had to go through it Molly! 😦 but I would LOVE to read books about bullying! It’s suuuuch an important issue to tackle. And yeahhh, I see your points. Sometimes the mean girls are there just because it’s the default. I also hate it when “mean girls” trope is used to emphasize the “not like other girls” trope. There’s surely another way to show why a girl is special!

      Like

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