Welcome back to my discussion feature, Freadom Speaks!
This post was supposed to be up two days ago since Fridays are when I usually share discussions but when I scheduled my Sara 101 post during the weekend, I chose the wrong date and that one ended up posting instead. By the time I realized it, I’d already gotten a few comments and likes so I decided to leave it up and share this today but I wanted to explain that since that post references this post in the first paragraph haha.
I say this a lot but I really struggle with discussions. I have a hard time finding topics to talk about and a hard time expressing myself throughout the post. However, I don’t want to give up on myself so I decided to talk about the lack of female friendships in this book since it’s something that I’m really passionate about. It makes me really angry that there are so many toxic and unhealthy portrayals of female friendships in Ya and I want to explore how I feel about it a bit more, the kinds of red flags that classify negative female relationships and the kinds of friendships that I’d like to see.
SO let’s get started!
I’ve been thinking about discussing this in a post for a really long time. I don’t really understand why this trend has gotten so out of hand. Like I said above, I have a few different things about this that I want to touch on but I also want to mention two other bloggers who’ve discussed this before me and who inspired me to share my own two cents. Fadwa @ Word Wonders and Pupuut @ Sparking Letters have both written amazing posts on this topic so you should read them as well!
On Why This Became a Trend
One of the things that I don’t understand is how these kinds of relationships became such a big trend in YA books. It doesn’t matter what genre you read, from contemporary to fantasy to science fiction, you’ll come across a book that has a toxic or unhealthy relationship between girls. What astounds me is that YA is a genre dominated by women and I would think they would know better than anyone how important girlfriends are. I don’t know the kind of person I would be if I didn’t have strong supportive women around me. I’ve always told myself that I have more guy friends but it’s not true at all. I have some amazing ladies in my life that love and support me with whom I could not survive without. Not only the ones I see but also the blogging friends that I’ve made online who have been amazing support for me and I think that books should reflect those kinds of relationships, specially books for teens.
On Red Flags That Signify a Toxic Friendship
There are several different scenarios that happen between girls in books that display the kind of behaviors that are hurtful or that just shows lack of understanding of girl relationships.
First of these is superficial friendships or one dimensional side characters. Usually, these are the kind of relationships where the girls only talk about things on the surface or the “best friend” only actually shows up on page when the main character needs a pep talk, usually when trying to get her crushes attention or something of the sort. Contrary to popular belief, girls don’t just talk about boys. Or about romance or crushes in general. The majority of the time we have meaningful conversations about everything from school, work, mental health and family. This kind of portrayal in books makes us seem unreliable and superficial. Not only that, but it makes it seem that friendships between girls carry no substance or that we don’t really connect with each other in a meaningful way.
Secondly, we have the “not like other girls” trope which is where other characters or the main character separate the main girl from other girls by making their behavior or likes and dislikes seem different or uncommon for girls in general. This is problematic because not only does it make it seem like other girls are inferior because they like stereotypically girly things but it makes the main character feel isolated or unable to create female friendships which is generally untrue. It makes it seem like romance is the only way girls can have or create close companionship with other people. It’s such a rude way to talk about girls in general not just the one that is described as “special” but also the girls outside this description because their interests and personalities are seem as less than the main characters. Liking makeup or clothing or anything like that does not make you better or lesser than anyone else. And not liking those things don’t make you any less of a girl. Femininity or female identity has nothing to do with material possessions or hobbies and interests, at all.
Finally, the one I hate the most of all (no pun intended): girl hate. I won’t say that all girls get along or that we’ve never talked bad about other girls, because that’s not true, we’re humans. But one, it’s not a behavior that needs to be perpetuated and two, it’s usually not a group of girls against one that some books and movies make it seem. It’s just people have contrasting or clashing personalities and not everyone will get along or like everyone else who they interact with. It’s a fact of life. But it’s not about “I hate her because I feel like she’s prettier than me,” these kinds of antagonistic thoughts just make girls seem shallow and are just rude and about one’s perception. I don’t think it’s good to continue this kind of narrative since it teaches young girls to be self-conscious of their own bodies and to compare themselves to other girls when there is no need to.
On The Kind of Friendships I Want to See
I am so thankful and grateful for the ladies in my life who I have the pleasure of calling friends and I want YA books to reflect the kinds of bonds girls can have. I want to see girls working together. I want to see girls who play sports together giving their all to win. I want to see girls chowing down on a bunch of food because they’re hungry and they want to hang out together. I want to see girls sharing their mental health struggles with each other, I want to see them express their emotions, I want to see them lean on each other. I want to see girls having each other’s backs not matter what. That’s what friendships are all about for me and books for teens need to set this precedent and expectation for young girls everywhere.
So that’s it for this post! I hope it made sense, I hope I didn’t write anything really weird haha. I’d love to know if you guys see these issues in YA as well and also, what kinds of books would you recommend that you think have great examples of female friendships? I would love to know! Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!