In general, I prefer to write male protagonists.
I have nothing against female protagonists at all, I just feel that it’s important to make boy characters that were designed with Feminist Ideology in mind.
I dont feel like our commercial children’s literature is saturated with enough feminist male characters. That there are certain aspects of boyhood that a lot of other writers don’t feel like expressing. And even more aspects of boyhood that are directly subverted. Whether out of (un)intentional sexism, or forgetfulness.
And it bothers me.
I need books where boys are allowed to announce when they’re scared.
Boys who deal with self image issues.
Boys who like a girl and never ever tell her ever because they’re so fucking nervous.
Boys who have female role models, or see women as inherently powerful.
Boys who love and identify with their mothers without there being negative drama about that.
Boys who are caretakers.
Boys who can be both gentle and strong.
Boys who respect the girls around them. Who listen to them when they’re talking and value their input.
Boys who think girls are cool without simultaneously having a crush on them or wanting to sleep with them.
Boys who ask for help when they need it, who don’t think they have to shoulder everything and lead.
Boys who get embarrassed and don’t have to lash out to live it down.
Boys that cry when no one is looking. Boys that cry when everyone is looking.
Boys that are uncomfortable with sex and being sexual.
Boys that are really comfortable with sex, but who are really into consent.
Boys that aren’t 100% confident in their current sexual preferences.
Boys that can have close and emotional friendships with other boys.
Boys that decorate themselves and care about the way they look. WITHOUT it being a plot device or indicator of sexual preference.
Boys who are discovering themselves and their bodies.
Boys that let girls protect them when they need protection—without making a huge deal about it.
Boys that understand the patriarchy and stand up for their female friends when it is damaging them.
Boys who can be emotionally vulnerable with other characters without it detracting from their leadership narrative if they have one.
Boys who are written as “popular” working really hard so that people will think they’re cool.
Boys who don’t think they’re entitled to any of the female characters’ affection and don’t lash out when they’re rejected.
Boys who don’t relentlessly and stalkerishly pursue a love interest after rejection. AND books where that narrative isn’t designed for a reader to perceive such behaviour as romantic.
Boys who don’t fall in love with anyone in the book. Who are all about getting the job done and being a supportive friend.
Boys who are very tender and fall in love easily and quickly.
Trans boys and everything that that narrative entails.
Trans boys in a story that isn’t sad.
More than one YA/MG series springs to mind where a lot of these are taken care of very neatly (Ranger’s Apprentice, The Golden Compass, Anything by Garth Nix, Anything by Lemony Snicket, The Pendragon Adventure, The Hunger Games). But there are much more where these traits simply aren’t there. Or boys are doing really problematic shit that is just never addressed by the narrative (Harry Potter, Anything by John Green) .
In order for boys to grow up feeling comfortable doing and feeling all of those things, we must work to change their portrayal in our popular media. Because Sexism Hurts Boys Too and often times, damages them irreparably. Children and teenagers learn from what they see and read. We need to be showing and giving them characters who are designed with care. Or they will grow up into adults that we are ashamed of.
I write characters with these traits because I’m really not that old, and I know boys in real life who feel and do all of those things, but who hide it or dismiss it because they feel that they shouldn’t or aren’t meant to.
And that always breaks my heart.
Snarky characters are huge right now. It seems like you can’t crack a book in any genre without cracking wise in the process. Certainly no love interest is complete without a few pointed barbs that he can fling out on command, and no Strong Female Character is worth…