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I work with teens and I frequently see YA novels described as "feminist". Sometimes all this seems to be is that the protagonist is a queer girl, usually badass in some way. Sometimes it's on a feminist subject - often rape.

I don't know. I'd like something more than this. I'd love to see YA novels where teen girls really question the fundamentals of patriarchy, and get political, even philosophical about it. Like there are books about fighting dress codes but the girls never really confront social norms with regards to female dress. They're just like "yay! we can wear camis".

What do you all think makes a novel feminist? What are some good feminist novels for teens?

I work with teens and I frequently see YA novels described as "feminist". Sometimes all this seems to be is that the protagonist is a queer girl, usually badass in some way. Sometimes it's on a feminist subject - often rape. I don't know. I'd like something more than this. I'd love to see YA novels where teen girls really question the fundamentals of patriarchy, and get political, even philosophical about it. Like there are books about fighting dress codes but the girls never really confront social norms with regards to female dress. They're just like "yay! we can wear camis". What do you all think makes a novel feminist? What are some good feminist novels for teens?

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[–] [Deleted] 1 points Edited

I don't know if this is specifically classed as YA fiction or not (I don't keep up with the genre as I honestly am not keen on a lot of the stereotypical subject matter of such stories), but The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden is a series set in medieval Russia with folklore and fantasy aspects. It has a romance subplot (of course), but it also contains instances of a girl dressing in boys clothing, and this situation is not romanticized at all, nor is it taken as a sign that she's 'really a boy', in fact [SPOILER] she suffers some rather severe consequences for doing so that highlight the underlying issues of the patriarchal society she lives in. There are likewise several additional explorations misogyny/sex-based oppression, as well as examples of female solidarity within the story (especially later on as the story progresses). I would certainly recommend this series to any teens who are interested in history, fantasy, folklore, and fairytale retellings.

And regarding your question... hmm. I would say what makes a novel feminist will be at least somewhat subjective for each reader at times, and I don't feel comfortable making some kind of hard definition of that. (Especially since I don't consider myself strictly a radical feminist, I don't feel qualified to speak specifically on that side of it.) Rather, my own approach these days is more along the lines of recognizing what is not feminist (aka most of what tends to considered such from a liberal feminist view). In other words, understanding that just because there's a main female character who does 'strong' things as an individual, doesn't automatically mean that the story itself offers any feminist views. If set in a world that mirrors our own, then there needs to at least be some greater analysis, exploration, or critique of patriarchy, misogyny, and/or sex-based oppression. Alternatively, if the story is happening in a more ideal world (futuristic, sci fi, fantasy, utopian, whatever) that is being put forth as 'feminist', then it probably needs to explore at least a little bit about the structure and benefits of a female-run society. Since we are talking about teen/YA stories here, then I wouldn't necessarily expect a super heavy level of analysis or critique, but I do think it's important that female characters are depicted in relation to the struggles of other girls and women in some way, rather than just as 'badass' characters floating through a man/boy's world.