Hello, Dear readers! Today I make my final post on the Queen of Teen subject - by reposting a guest post that the lovely folks at the Walker Undercover Blog asked me to write last week. Basically, if this doesn't convince you to get in there and vote for me (or some other author you love)? Nothing will. Read on!
Shhhh. *Looks around furtively* I need to tell you a secret, OK?
It's really embarrassing. You won't tell anyone, right? This is just between you and me?
I really... kind of... love... pink.
When I was a little girl and my mum tried to put me in a pair of jeans, I threw an epic tantrum and wouldn't leave the house, even though said jeans had been specially bought because they had pink embroidered flowers all over them. When my cousin didn't invite me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding I cried for hours because I swear to you, I wanted that big pink puffy meringue dress more than I wanted to live. One of my favourite toys for years was a troll doll with hot-pink hair in a full ballerina's outfit including hot-pink tutu and toe shoes. It never left my sight.
And these days, I love something else which is very pink and sparkly. I love... the Queen of Teen Award.
I know, right!? Me! Me, with my martial arts and Feminism and fantasy/sci-fi nerdery. Me, with all the big talk about sexism and diversity and trying to write the change you want to see in the world. Me, with my powerful heroines that go around fighting and casting spells and rescuing the heroes and freeing nations.
I feel so ashamed of myself! I'm letting the side down! Right? Right?
Or how about: OH HECK NO.
What you see before you here is a dichotomy which many of us ladies face in our day to day lives. We want to be fierce, strong, independent people, fighting back against stereotypes of what femininity can and cannot be. We want respect and we are prepared to kick butt and take names until we get it.
But we also really, really, really want that pair of pink suede kitten heel slingbacks we saw on sale last week...
Humans have a problem, and it is this: we like to put things in boxes. We like to be able to put Hairy Chested Manly Things in one box, and Fragrant Pink Girly things in another. Girls may sometimes, and with a large application of effort, be allowed to play in the Hairy Chested Manly Things box and borrow some stuff (like, you know, wearing trousers, voting, owning property). But we're not allowed to have everything we might want, and we're often under threat of someone coming along and taking those things back from us. And if we like the stuff out of the boys box too much, we'll probably have some very unkind names thrown at us. And men are pretty much never allowed to glance at the Fragrant Pink Girly Box without getting sneered at and possibly beaten up by others, some of whom might even be women.
And ladies - many ladies - including me! - have seen this and they say: 'I shall not play in the Fragrant Pink Girly Box! I shall not be forced into certain roles and choices in life! I shall partake only of the Hairy Chested Manly things - like being tough and strong, and not caring about personal hygiene - AND THAT WILL JUST SHOW YOU!'
Ladies. Comrades. Sisters in arms and sisters in pink suede kitten heel slingbacks. I am here to tell you that you do not have to chose.
Many, many of the things our society has put in the Hairy Chested Manly Box, like wearing trousers, and kicking butts, and being strong, are awesome. And many, many things society has put in the Fragrant Pink Girly Box, like falling in love, and caring about relationships, are also awesome.
The thing that is very not awesome? Is the label there on the box that says 'Manly' or 'Girly'.
Because this makes those of us who like stuff from both boxes feel bad. It makes us scared. It makes us allow other people to tell us that things we like and care about and enjoy are wrong, merely because of the private parts assigned to us by fate. That is not awesome at all. It's so far from awesome that I'd quite like to catch it and put it in a box all of its very own. And then hit the box with a stick. And then drop the box off a very high cliff.
It's 2012, and all of us, boys and girls, should feel free to play in both boxes and take what we like out of both of them and then construct our own, personal idea of what it is to be a man or a woman. Pink is not essentially girly, no matter what those box loving people think (in fact, until a couple of hundred years ago pink was traditionally a boy's colour, did you know that?). And being hairy is just as much a girly thing as a man thing - anyone who has seen a woman's collection of hair removing products cannot doubt this. We do not live as hunter-gatherers anymore. The natural order of things is the way that feels natural to each of us as individuals.
My dears, the Queen of Teen award is about celebrating women's contributions to the field of Young Adult writing and all those amazing, life affirming books out there which are aimed at young women. I think we can all agree that this is a wonderful thing. And as such, I would very much like to win it, and take that sparkly Queen of Teen crown for my very own.
But now I'm the one with a problem, and my problem is this: my books... my books are not really very pink and sparkly. They are not like the books which have won the sparkly crown in the past. My books are fantasy, and they have sword-fights and magic, and blood and passion, and honour, and self-sacrifice. And on occasion, things blowing up. And even though I know very well that a lot of girls love books like this, I am worried that no one would ever think of nominating me for the Queen of Teen.
I am worried that they won't let me and my books out of the box.
You, my Dear Readers, are the only ones who can lift the lid and free me from that box. And you are the only ones who can free the Teen of Queen award from its box too. You are the ones who can make a new, box-free space where a woman who just wants to write books about magic and sword fights can win the sparkly crown she wants so so dearly. Where the award itself can be shown to be embracing all kinds of girls, including those who may not love pink things at all.
So this is a plea to you. All of you girls who love pink and sparkly things. And all of you girls who love sword fights and magic. And all of you girls who love both. The world may not want you to have strength and independence AND your suede kitten heels - but I think you can. I think we can. And if you believe it too?