What is wrong with being blond and liking the color pink?
No, seriously—what is wrong with it?
I know I say I don’t read reviews, but sometimes I catch snippets of them while looking at/for other things. And nothing makes me madder than when reviewers dismiss Evie—MY EVIE—as a ditz. (Okay, fine, one thing makes me madder: a reviewer who said Paranormalcy was a Twilight knock-off. Umm, WHAT BOOK DID YOU READ?? Because it certainly wasn’t one I wrote.)
Their ditz rationale usually revolves around three things: Evie likes boys, Evie likes the color pink, and Evie likes to look pretty.
Umm, were you ever a teenage girl? (My twelve guy readers simultaneously answer, “Umm, no!” Smart alecks. Shut up and keep reading.) Because I was a teen girl, and let me tell you something. Boys? Pretty much 75% of my waking thoughts. Boys, boys, BOYS BOYS BOYS. I thought about boys all the time. Cute boys, boys that bugged me, boys that were so cute it bugged me, how I could get those particular boys to notice me, what I would do if they did ever end up noticing me, etc. And you know what? I wasn’t a ditz. I was kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum. (You wanna see my medals from the Academic Decathlon? Who needs sports when you are really good at taking tests!) I was smart and motivated and mature and I LIKED BOYS.
Teen Kiersten! Far left. Odds are I was thinking about boys.
(Or about how pale I was.)
(Or how much I hated my prom dress.)
(But probably boys.)*
As far as the color pink, it’s a bit head-scratching. What’s wrong with liking a color? I love the color green. I’m irrationally swayed by it. I have been known to buy books JUST BECAUSE they featured green heavily on the cover. I refuse to buy Maggie Stiefvater’s Linger on my Kindle even though it’d be cheaper because the ink is green in the hardcover and it wouldn’t be on the screen.
Yes, the color pink is “girly.” But Evie’s obsessive love of it is more an indication of her desperation to conform to her idea of “normal” than anything else. She loves pink, and teen television dramas, and fashion magazines because she loves the idea of being a normal teenager and those things, to her, represent that ideal. And, quite frankly, with her coloring she looks fabulous in the color pink, and that’s a good enough reason for me.
And finally, wanting to look pretty. This ties in to the previous issue of her loving such a “girly” color. What on earth is wrong with being feminine? I’m a card-carrying feminist (okay, not literally, no one has issued me a “100% Genuine Feminist Club” card yet, although I have been checking the mail regularly for the last twelve years) and I say getting to wear skirts is an advantage we have over guys. Skirts are cute and comfortable. Guys have to wear button-up shirts and ties. It’s pretty much one of the only ways in which our fashion is easier than theirs. Take THAT, guys! Unless you wanna rock the kilt, we totally own you in this category.
I’ve noticed lately a trend where authors feel compelled to insert into their novels that the female MC rarely wears makeup, or feels uncomfortable dressed up, or doesn’t want to try and be pretty. Like they want to make sure you know their MC isn’t one of “those” girls.
What is wrong with wanting to look nice? If it makes you feel good, and you enjoy it, I say more power to you. One of my favorite MCs for a book you can’t read yet is probably the toughest, most contrary, rebellious character I’ve ever written. And she loves wearing makeup. Why? Because it makes her happy and she enjoys playing around with it. She doesn’t do it for other people, or to impress boys. She does it for herself. And if that isn’t feminist, what the crap is?
If a teen girl likes wearing jeans and t-shirts and doesn’t like makeup, awesome! If a teen girl likes wearing skirts and dresses and putting on makeup, awesome! Neither makes you inherently a ditz, or stupid, or smart, or whatever else. It just makes you you.
What’s interesting is that it’s never guy reviewers complaining about this stuff—it’s girl reviewers. Why do we feel that we have to kick back against these things, or tear girls down who like them? That’s a rhetorical question. I don’t know the answer to why it’s “bad” to like girly things, or why it somehow makes you dumb. But I do know that the vast majority of readers and reviewers love that Evie is girly, and she is boy crazy, and she is pretty, and she is tough, and she is smart, and she is brave. Because you can be all of those things, it turns out. You don’t have to choose to either be smart or like being pretty. You don’t have to choose to either like pink or be taken seriously. We can have it all!
Except sparkly pink Tasers with rhinestones, because they aren’t legal in some states.
*Special thanks to Amy, for posting old pictures on Facebook. And special thanks for our ridiculous facial expressions to going to prom with a group of drama kids.