Having been a part of the YA blogging community for almost three and a half years, I’ve seen a lot of stuff happen and read a lot of different opinions. One thing that I have seen often repeated is that people want more male protagonists in YA. People celebrate and cheer when they discover a new book told from a male’s point of view, and I have to admit, I used to be one of those people. Discovering a new book told from a male’s point of view would fill me with joy, because in the YA Bookosphere these books are pretty much an endangered species.
I haven’t conducted any research myself, but you can tell just from browsing your own bookshelves that the amount of female protagonists compared to male in YA is staggering. Anyone could tell you that the scales are certainly tipped in favour of women. And I’m here to tell you why I don’t care.
Let’s look at some real figures, from real experiments that actual people have conducted. People who are a lot more organised than I am. Did you know that women take up 51% of the U.S. population? That’s right, there are slightly more women in the U.S.A than men. And yet, women are outnumbered by men in the media by a staggering amount. In movies, males out number females 3:1.
This number is crazy to me, because it’s not even close to equal, nor is it close to being realistic. People who watch movies are being subjected to a skewed ratio, even though half of movie-goers are women. No matter your gender, when you watch a movie, there’s a good chance that there will be a male main protagonist, whether he’s saving the world from zombies in a high budget action flick, or the awkward nerd in a romantic comedy. There’s a reason everyone is saying that Disney’s new movie, Frozen, is a breakthrough, with its two leading females and refreshing views on love.
“Even among the top-grossing G-rated family films, girl characters are out numbered by boys three-to-one.”
And it’s not just movie buffs who are subjected to this.
I watch a lot of TV shows. Seriously. At one point I was in the middle of at least twenty, both currently airing and finished series. I love TV, I really do, but even on the small screen women are outnumbered and under-represented in favour of men. The figures are similar to the movie ones, with women only being 37% of prime-time TV characters.
“Women are about 37% of prime-time TV characters (they are 51% of the U.S. population). Women 45 and older are only 15% of prime-time TV characters.”
This whole situation saddens me, because it means that even from a young age, girls are shown that we live in a male-dominated society, and they’re told that it’s the norm. They’re shown that men will save them from the alien invasion, while women make a brief appearance in one or two scenes, usually to provide eye candy. I’m looking at you, Star Trek Into Darkness. But YA changes this. In YA we have many strong, powerful female protagonists that young girls and teenage readers can look up to an admire. If you asked me to name strong YA protagonists, I would be able to provide you with a very long scroll of parchment. The same cannot be said for movie characters.
How many of us grew up wanting to be Hermione Granger? And have you seen the amount of Katniss cosplays among younger readers?
Young girls, teenagers, and women alike need idols to look up to, to provide escapism from their everyday lives, to relate to, and they can get that within YA. My five year old sister could walk into my room and be greeted by an armada of women who could potentially be her new best friend, and I want her to be able to grow up with this option. I want her to be able to find comfort within the pages of a fantastic book with a main character that she can relate to; one that can teach her, comfort her, to make her laugh – things that she sure as hell would not be able to get out of watching movies 66% of the time.
This is not to say that I think there should be absolutely no male protagonists in YA. This post is not a hate-post. I’m not pulling off some misandry bullshit here. I don’t hate guys, and I do often really enjoy reading from their points of view. Harry Potter, Chaos Walking, Unwind, Percy Jackson – these are all series that I love that feature male protagonists. I am just saying that, in a male-dominated industry and society, females deserve more representation and recognition. And while the Young Adult genre isn’t perfect, this is the place where women can get that.
Having a balance is important, yes, but this is one instance in which I really don’t care. Because YA is the one place where women rule. The one place in the media where girls can find their heroes.