Battlefields and Birthing Rooms: Young Women in Dystopian Fiction

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Dorothy McQuaid
Showrunner for Pycera/Social Media for BWP
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What do you think of when you hear “young woman protagonist in a YA dystopian novel?” Do you think of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, not terribly ladylike, bowhunting for meat and enemies, reluctantly leading revolutions in a gray or black uniform? Or maybe Tris Pryor from Divergent, learning to fight and getting tattoos to blend into an aggressive, military-esque faction in her divided society, despite her more gentle nature? Although their worlds are different, these characters have some similarities, primarily in the challenges they face: they need to run, jump, fight, shoot, and participate in other activities that wouldn’t be too far out of place in military boot camp.

But there’s another breed of dystopian women, whose battlefields are bedrooms and boardrooms, whose strengths are in flirting, networking, and perhaps even…. birthing? I’m talking about women like America Singer from The Selection, Mare Barrow from Red Queen, and twins Harmony and Melody from Bumped. Obviously, there are some overlaps: Katniss and Tris do have romantic moments, and Mare has some action sequences, but distilled to the books’ elevator pitches, there do seem to be at least two types of dystopian women: the fighters and the talkers. It’s more of a spectrum than a binary, but all dystopian women must be flexible in a world that is changing around and against them.

Please note: this post may feature minor spoilers from the series listed above, though I will try to keep them about overarching themes rather than specific events.

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