An Ordinary Girl: Delirium and Female Stereotypes (Marin L. Starr L. May M.)

Lena is a self-proclaimed ordinary girl. She follows the rules, navigates through an overbearing parent figure, lack of self-esteems and fights with her best friend. It’s possible to see ourselves in her since she doesn’t need to worry about dying at any moment. Although she lives under an oppressive government, Delirium is not about a strong willed rebel capable of empowering a generation. Lena falls in love in a world where love is outlawed, yet we never see her take actions towards a full scale rebellion. As such, we argue that readers don’t want to relate to her story because Lena’s character embodies feminine stereotypes that subjugates girls strength. This can be seen through her willingness to conform to society and finding meaning in life through heterosexual love.

Lauren Oliver portrays Lena as an “ordinary girl”, this makes her more relatable and allows readers to have a greater connection with her personality. When compared to novels such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, both Butler and Collins have portrayed their female protagonists as “extraordinary”, creating a block between the reader’s connections with the lead character. From the beginning of their stories, Katniss and Lauren are empowering since they have clear goals. They know their society is oppressive and  they are ready to become leaders and make a change. Young girls want to relate to these characters and imagine themselves as “extraordinary”. Even though in reality most readers are like Lena. Lena believes her world is perfect, she doesn’t question the rules or authorities, and instead embraces the status quo. She is just like everyone else. The most relatable part about Lena is although she believes she lives in a Utopia and doesn’t fight against her government, deep down hidden inside of her she wants to be “extraordinary.” “I feel as though there are two me’s one coasting directly on top of the other: the superficial me, who nods when she’s supposed to and says what she’s supposed to say, and some other, deeper part, the part that worries and dreams and says ‘Gray’”  (Oliver 50).  Girls are more pressured to follow society’s guidelines and regulations without question or else we’ll be labelled as problematic. Still, there will always be times in our lives that we question our society. There will be some “extraordinary” girls who will voice their opinions to make a change just as Katniss and Lauren did. A lot of girls will be bystanders. The only time we’ll disagree with authorities will be when no one can hear our opinions, deep in the voices of our minds. The majority of girls are encouraged to be “ordinary” just like Lena. Oliver describes the way Lena thinks about her society’s laws as being “like a giant warm embrace, keeping us all in our places, keeping us all safe” (Oliver 172). Readers can relate because our laws and rules are put into place for the safety and well being of society. People do not go against or break these rules because then the safety will be broken alongside it. Overall, Oliver portrays Lena as a relatable, “ordinary” female protagonist. Everything that makes Lena herself readers can relate to in one way or another. Even though Lena is not your exciting, powerful, leader that you see in Katniss and Lauren, her most important quality is that Lena is real and therefore relatable.

YA dystopias introduced strong female characters who Fritz claims “embody masculine strength while still remaining feminine, and unconventional rebels who resist dominant expectations of femininity.” (Fritz 19). Lena is rarely masculine, nor does she oppose female stereotypes. She’s passive and lives as her society requires. Once she falls in love with Alex; she realises that “every single second of every single day that has come before [him meant] nothing” (Oliver 232). Oliver promotes the idea that a girl’s life has no meaning if she is not in a heterosexual relationship. Even after she falls in love, Lena doesn’t take action to change her society. Her boldest move is attempting to warn Hana about raid night, which led to her being saved. In an opportunity to demonstrate Lena’s strength, she becomes the damsel in distress, not the hero. Lena is always dependent on others, never on herself. When she’s confide in her room, she prays that “Alex will come and rescue me—like in one of the fairy tales […] where the prince springs a princess from a locked tower” (Oliver 420). Lena never thinks of saving herself, her plan is to wait for Alex. The focus of her coming of age story is a boy. Childs explains that “many studies […] find that “by age eight many boys and girls already identify passivity and waiting for the prince as the girl’s ultimate role” (Child’s 190-191). Oliver reinforces this mentality. Although Lena’s personality is relatable, she’s not empowering. She restricts herself and is weakened by her dependency on Alex.

Oliver takes stereotypical characteristics that are often associated with girlhood and portrays them through Lena. This relatability simultaneously positions Lena as a character that readers do not necessarily want to relate to. The idea of “boy craziness” is deeply connected to girlhood through stereotypical methods. Lena, who has always been terrified of the deliria and who has looked forward to the procedure, suddenly discards her beliefs and becomes passionately consumed with a boy. One look from Alex makes Lena disregard her entire being and become “boy crazed” with little relation to the person she once was. This aspect commonly constructed into girlhood is frustrating to experience through Lena. For one, it reinforces heteronormativity through its methods but it also works to suggest that a boy is worth throwing away much of who you are for. Throughout the novel it is evident that Lena deals with an internal conflict of low self-esteem. This is commonly shown through the ways she constantly compares herself to Hanna. For example she says, “she’s absolutely gorgeous – even when she just twists her blond hair into a messy knot on the top of her head, she looks as though she’s just had it styled” (Oliver 15). Insecurity is something most young women will experience throughout times in their lives. This aspect of Lena is relatable and is constructed by countless influences that work to construct a gendered girlhood. However, this assurance that Lena seems to constantly be searching for can be irritating for the readers who are hoping to be inspired by a confident rebellious female protagonist.

We have argued that Lena is positioned as a relatable character who readers do not necessarily want to relate to because of the ways she embodies feminine stereotypes of girlhood suppressing girls’ strengths. Unlike other female protagonists of dystopian novels, Lena is largely portrayed as an “ordinary girl” whom conforms to the life that society has determined for her. Through heterosexual love, Lena accepts stereotypical feminine behaviors. This femininity is closely connected to characteristics such as weak or passive, making her a character that most would not wish to relate to. Oliver re-works and re-codes gender in familiar ways through Lena. By the end of the novel Oliver ultimately reaffirms gender stereotypes to make Lena relatable, but uninspiring.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Lena was influenced by fairy tales to wait and sit for Alex to come and save her, how do fairytailes encourage young girls to become dependent on men instead of honing their own strength?
  2. How important is it for female protagonist to have masculine traits for them to be empowering? Does this subconsciously suggest to girls that boys are naturally meant for leadership roles?

Works Cited

Childs, Ann M. M. “The Incompatibility of Female Friendships and Rebellion.”in: Day, Sara K., Green-Barteet, Miranda A. and Montz, Amy L. eds. Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. Farnham: UK: Ashgate, 2014. p. 187-201.

Fritz, Sonya S. “Girl Power and Girl Activism in the Fiction of Suzanne Collins, Scott

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper, 2011. Print.


16 thoughts on “An Ordinary Girl: Delirium and Female Stereotypes (Marin L. Starr L. May M.)

  1. Great analysis of female stereotypes!
    The second discussion question you posed really interested me. In the last few years, the trend of “strong female characters” has developed and led to a slew of action-oriented women in fiction. These women tend to demonstrate stereotypical masculine traits as a means of empowerment (e.g. physical strength, leadership, active roles, determination, etc.), while still being presented as attractive and desirable. The demand for these types of female characters seemed to be a way of countering the stereotypes of femininity, but the over-saturation of the Strong Female Character also seemed to become the ideal representation of womanhood/girlhood, dismissing any forms outside of this new definition. More recently, I have seen responses to this character type calling for more complex, diverse representations of femininity, but what is reflected in popular culture is still largely on the opposite ends of the spectrum with the Strong Female Character at one end and the passive female character at the other.
    I think these two oppositional depictions of women demonstrate that traditionally masculine characteristics are what is respected in leadership roles, but do not suggest only boys are naturally meant for leadership. These traits are not inherent to one gender or another, but are certainly associated with specific gender roles. I think traits like determination and leadership can be seen in a number of female characters (who may or may not otherwise fit the “strong female character” type), but they are only perceived as masculine because of how masculinity has been strictly defined.
    I don’t think “masculinized” depictions of women suggest to girls that boys are naturally meant for leadership roles, as any gender can possess these traits. However, by prioritizing some qualities over another, it may suggest that traditional femininity is not suitable for these roles.


  2. I think you make an interesting argument in how Lena’s character is relateable to a YA audience, but that this type of sameness also enforces female stereotypes which condemn girls’ strengths. However, how is it specifically relatability that lessens female strength? If not most, but some YA readers can associate themselves as being interested/intrigued or consumed by the idea of love, insecure about their appearance and depending on other figures (such as Alex) to help them in areas of life where they do not feel strong. If this is the case, perhaps this relatability does not condemn girls’ strengths, but amplifies the pure truth of working through adolescence. I think the point you make about Lena’s personality as being relatable, but not empowering is important. The reason why Lena’s relatability isn’t seen as empowering is because we associate ’empowering’ with a type of hero like Katniss or Lauren, who goes to great lengths in order to make a bold statement. I would agree that Lauren Oliver’s choice to portray Lena as ordinary is not necessarily empowering, but an unlikely, unique and refreshing take on YA literature.

    In regards to your first discussion questions, fairy tales teach us that females are not happy until they have love in their life or are ‘saved’ by the male. Fairy tales also tell females to focus on their appearance and remain passive and pretty and that hard work and resilience is the man’s job. It is unfortunate that this concept has been laid out for so many young individuals because love is a sacred thing if valued properly. When love is depicted as a disease specifically in Delirium, it forces more negativity upon the subject.


  3. Lena’s character brings out the behavior of most girls making her an ordinary girl who is relatable but not inspiring to the readers. Lena’s insecurity is seen as she admires Hana’s body; most girls admire each other making them concerned about their bodily outlook. Lena is seen and conceptualized as a girl who follows most of the rules and tries to be safe with everyone and everything as most girls in society. In today’s world, many girls are like Lena but aspire to be like Katniss and Lauren who are daring, brave, and always challenge the society’s view. These girls aspire to be great but most of them accept who the society expects them to be. Lena portrays an ordinary girl who is weak and is in constant support of someone or something. Lena was dependent on the society’s laws and Alex; she finds the meaning of life in this two. Lastly, as seen in delirium heterosexual love is considered a character of an ordinary girl, and that a girl is only completed once they experience love such as that of Alex and Lena.


  4. I thought your first discussion questions was really interesting, and surprisingly, was something I hadn’t considered before.
    When I think of fairy tales my mind immediately goes to the classics: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty – the princesses. These stories all have one major thing in common – a happy ending with a prince who saves the day in one way or another. For young girls, who tend to watch movies like these over and over again, this becomes their norm. As a child if things go array your parents swoop in to save you, as a teen-young adult why shouldn’t it be your prince that saves the day just like in the movies.
    I think its very interesting how Disney – arguably the place to go for your fill of fairy tales – is attempting to change this. Movies like Moana, and Frozen focus on other aspects of life to save the day, such as family and self discovery. I believe these movies will be part of “the classics” when the kids growing up watching them become young adults. Perhaps, and hopefully, the stereotype that the guy will always save the day will fade over time, as more movies like this are made.


  5. Marin L, Starr L and May M, you have constructed a post discussing Lena and how she is a stereotypical girl, something that most of us readers recognized. Before even getting to your discussion questions, I was already relating Lena’s acts toward Alex to fairytales and Disney movies that we watch as kids. The topic of fairytales and Disney movies and how the reinforce stereotypes of girlhood is a very relevant topic that is being discussed globally today. It is hard to ignore movies such as; Snow White, Rapunzel and Cinderella. All these movies are based on a damsel in distress awaiting her strong prince to save her. These movies teach young girls and boys who are watching, that girls are weak, passive and in need of a male to make their lives complete. They are taught that to get a man you have to be pretty, and helpless and unable to care for yourself. They are also taught that girls are not to have jobs, that they are obedient and have skills in cooking and cleaning. With saying that, we also have to think of the era that these movies were made in. The era they were created in directly reflects the norms and standards that women of those times were held to. We can see in the past decade that numerous new Disney movies have come out that represent stronger and more independent women, such as; Princess and the Frog, Brave and Frozen. So, where I start to question Delirium is the era it was written in. Delirium was written in the mid 2000’s, which is an era where females are being regarded as strong and independent. So I don’t understand why Lena is constructed as such a love crazy and passive character. I would be interested in other peoples opinions on this topic?


    1. I don’t agree with the idea that Lena is passive or boy-crazy, to be totally honest. I understand that she’s maybe not as exciting as a character like Katniss or Lauren, but I also don’t think that she is someone we should be ashamed of relating to. Lena is average and unfortunately for most of us, we are too. I think a lot of us are reading negative stereotypes into her character that aren’t necessarily there. I think she is an average girl, but not a stereotypical girl. She isn’t stereotypically masculine either, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think presenting female characters that we’re supposed to look up to as masculine speaks negatively about being a girl and therefore counters the inspiration we’re supposed to feel. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with our heroine’s being feminine. I think Lena is actually more inspiring because she is more real. In terms of the passive comments, I don’t consider Lena to be a passive girl, and I really don’t understand why the vast majority of the class seems to. By definition, passivity is “accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance” and Lena defies this definition throughout most of the book, most notably by coming to Hana’s rescue. Regardless of whether or not she did save her, she had every intention of doing so and literally risked her life for her best friend. She is an active character by going to meet Alex, visiting the wilds and planning an escape.. she doesn’t just sit back and lets things happen. She actively disobeys tons of laws that she disagrees with, and while she may not have started a revolution, she embodied her cause in the same way that Katniss and Lauren did.. it’s just not a cause that all readers want to get behind. On that note, I also disagree that she is boy-crazy. She fell in love, and honestly I don’t understand what’s so wrong with that! When any of us have fallen in love, no matter who with, many of us have acted how she did and spent tons of time thinking about that person and how their presence changes our lives… ESPECIALLY as a teenager. I think if her love interest hadn’t been male many of the comments about her being love-obsessed would disappear, and people would applaud Lena for her actions, although in that society it would be much easier to get away with being gay because there aren’t segregating rules for same-sex uncureds as there are for opposite-sex. I think if Lena went around falling in love with every boy she saw, that would be one thing. I think it’s an entirely different thing to just fall in love with someone, and I don’t understand why people are constructing that as boy-crazy. I don’t think it was Oliver’s intention to create such a controversial character, but when I read Delirium at 14 I found her a much more relatable character than any of the others, and if I could be as brave as Lena to be so ordinary and put my life in danger anyways for something I believed in, I think I’d be pretty damn proud. I think it’s interesting how so many others feel quite opposite though. I don’t think Oliver is suggesting with the book that we should find meaning in our lives through heterosexual relationships, but rather the act of falling in love was set up as the turning point for Lena’s life, and I think that’s realistic for both men and women in a lot of situations in the real world. Love (whether romantic, platonic, or familial) is a powerful thing.


  6. The media is such a big part of today’s society that it has the power to leave an impact on young impressionable minds. Fairy tales written about beautiful princesses often end with a strong prince saving the damsel in distress. The ending of Delirium follows the stereotypical idea presented in fairy tales that a princess cannot survive without her prince. While waiting for Alex to save her like the princess he has told her she is, she vows to kill herself if he does not show up. This ending gives young girls the impression that a woman cannot survive on her own without a man taking care of her. One fairy tale that goes against this stenotype is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. The princess in this book does not fit the appearance of a regular princess, she looks dirty and sloppy. She is also able to fight her own battels and defeats the dragon without the help of the prince. When the prince tells her to “come back when she looks like a real princess” she is not heartbroken like the reader would expect and instead skips into the sunlight without him. In Chapter 18 of Delirium, Lena claims that she knows she belongs with Alex. I wonder if Lena would be attracted to any boy who was her first love or if there is a real connection between her and Alex? In fairy tales, the princess often falls in love at first sight and must wait for her saviour, the prince to rescue her so they can get married and live happily ever after!


  7. Marin, Starr and May,
    I thought your post was very informative and found that it connected well to our debate in class, seeing as we discussed the relatability of Lena’s character and why many of us refrained from comparing ourselves to her. I agree that many of us (myself personally) don’t want to think of ourselves as just “ordinary.” We want to be remembered as someone who did something of importance and made a difference; someone like Katniss or Lauren. Be that as it may, the majority of us are most likely a “Lena” and after giving it some thought I found myself asking “What is wrong with being an ‘ordinary girl’?” If I’m being honest I am definitely an ‘ordinary girl’ and I don’t think that should be seen as a bad thing. Not everyone can save the world.

    In regards to your first discussion question, I agree with you in the fact that fairytales can be particularly dangerous with the messages that they send to girls. However, I argue that those kinds of narratives in fairytales (the ones that portray the girl as waiting for the boy to save her) have long fallen out of favour. When I was growing up I remember Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the traditional Rapunzel story, all of which depicted the female as dependent on the male. Those movies were still popular in the ‘90s, however, the Disney movies released in the ‘90s when I was growing up were a drastic change from the traditional fairytale narrative discussed previously. Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning, Belle saves the Beast from falling, and Pocahontas and Meg sacrifice themselves to save John Smith and Hercules, respectively. Of course, those movies still have their share of problematic issues, but one could see that even in the ‘90s that things were beginning to change for girls. Flash forward to present day and Disney movies have almost completely gone away with the trope of females solely depending on their male partners, with movies such as Moana and Brave (which doesn’t even have a long interest). They are also not exclusively focused on heterosexual romance, instead discussing the importance of platonic love in Frozen and Brave, mental illness in Inside Out and duty, pride and responsibility in Moana and Princess and the Frog. I believe that this shift in the didactic nature of the new princess/Disney movies is heading in the right direction and will hopefully stop girls, such as Lena, believing that they have to wait for a male to save them.


  8. In response to the first discussion question, I believe that young girls are first influenced by princess movies by the passivity of the princesses. In their respective narratives, each princess does not act for herself. They are oppressed and helpless until a prince presents himself. It is only when the male companion is introduced that the storyline of these events take place. For example, in Cinderella, arguably the most classic and iconic Disney movie, Cinderella is treated like scum by her step-mother and step-sisters. Despite their actions, Cinderella stays in the house and obeys them. I sincerely hope that a modern day girl would have the common sense to get out of that house and find a better life for herself. She submits to those around her, making her a docile body. It is not until her legitimate Prince Charming comes that the idea of leaving her awful house comes to her head. He is the one to pull her from her oppression and to a better life. This notion, while extremely romantic, is medieval. The idea that a girl needs to be saved by a man, and does not have the competence to govern her own life choice is baffling. Young girls watching these movies will dream of one day meeting their “prince.” These movies construct a heteronormative goal for girls to sit around and wait for their “prince” to come by and thus commence the start of their lives. It is essential for these ideologies to be recognized and critiqued, so that young girls do not attempt to follow these same patterns.


  9. I agree with your argument that Lena is constructed by Oliver as a passive ordinary girl. I too found myself growing irritated when I first read this novel, I did not understand understand why she had to be so docile and obedient when it came to following the strict rules that Portland had placed on its citizens. I wanted her to actively attempt to make a change and do something. However, the bulk of the rebellion came from her kissing, spending time or really just doing anything with or for Alex. Although Lena just learned of fairytales when she was a teenager they still seemed to have an impact on her – just from her short amount of exposure to them they reinforced her passivity in the novel. She justified her waiting for Alex in relation to the damsels in distress in fairytales. I think Oliver is trying to draw attention to an interesting motif here – the impact that fairytales have on enhancing gender roles. Fairytales in our society are quite rampant in the sense that everyone grows up hearing them and they are drilled into our minds – whether we care to know them or not – from constant repetition all throughout preschool to elementary school. I believe they have an interesting effect on girls; girls are taught that this is the ideal situation and what they should strive to be. Beautiful enough so when they are in distress instead of solving it themselves they can wait for a man to come fix it for them. Rather than teaching young girls that they can help themselves these fairytales send a message that not only undermines the strength of woman, but also teaches young girls to undermine themselves and to always doubt their own strength and trust in a mans. Furthermore, these fairytales teach young boys hetero-normative values that they must follow to be seen as a “real man” in our society. Fairytales off pseudo-guidelines teaching children from a young age the values of a hetero-normative, male-dominated relationships in society. Fairytales teach girls to be dependent on boys by constantly depicting to them that the only way to find true happiness is through a male – whether they call him Prince Charming or their one true love. To be passive is a virtue in these stories and this same virtue can be seen reflected in Lena’s behaviour throughout most of Delirium.


  10. How important is it for a female protagonist to have masculine traits for them to be empowering? Does this subconsciously suggest to girls that boys are naturally meant for leadership roles?
    I honestly found Hanna to be the most empowering character from this series, and she does not exemplify any masculine traits. *SPOILERS AHEAD* Hanna takes control of her life when she feels uncomfortable in her marriage (albeit, it was a bit drastic) and kills her husband. But, focusing on Delirium, Hanna is the first to want to run away to the Wilds. She tells Lena about how she thinks to be happy you have to be unhappy sometimes, which is (sort of) an act of rebellion as she is speaking against the government’s mandatory surgery that removes emotions from people (although it doesn’t seem to do a good job with Hanna’s).
    Also with this question in mind, I looked up Delirium’s publication date (January 1, 2011). No, I don’t think so because Projansky gave numerous examples in Spectacular Girls of TV Shows and real-life girls from the early 2000s onwards for girls to look up to. For example, she gave Hannah Montana as one of these girls, and from my recollection, she didn’t have masculine traits.
    I’d also like to point out that it is problematic to characterize traits as masculine or feminine. I think it would be better to deem them “typically associated with males” instead because traits don’t have genders and so by giving them genders we are creating a boundary.


  11. I believe the topic of whether or not it is necessary for a female figure to take on stereotypically masculine traits in order to be seen as a good leader and as an overall liked character is interesting to think about.

    Being a product of our surroundings and docile within our society in many ways is very relevant in our society as well as in Delirium’s. By creating a character that is so un-liked by the readers of the novel because of such a stereotypically feminine characteristic, in a sense, tells readers that docility is bad, and that engaging in other feminine behaviors is also bad. This is made even more evident when it took a male character, Alex, in order to get Lena to act in any sort of way that rebelled against her typical docility – associating the positive leadership trait with the male character and the passive and docile trait with the female character.

    To answer your question, I do not think it is necessary to have female protagonists to engage in stereotypically male traits in order to be liked or seen as an empowering character. I believe it all depends on how the story is framed, and is also a matter of changing our society’s perpetuation of gender stereotypes and the elimination of the evident hierarchy when talking about traits that are associated with certain types of individuals. Furthermore, I do think that the way the author presents the female character as passive, for the majority of the book, and as only taking a lead in her own life when a male character pushes her to do so furthers the stereotype that males are meant for leadership roles and females are meant to be docile and passive. The perpetuation of gender stereotypes and the association of negativity with stereotypically female characteristics are emphasized when the author creates a female protagonist that is, for the most part, not liked by the readers.


  12. Hi all,

    I’d like to address your second question, regarding masculine traits and empowerment. First, I think there’s something damaging in considering the word “masculine” to imply desirable traits, for example being strong, determined, or a leader. Doing so reinforces the binary of female/passive versus male/active. That said, though, I think that we as a culture erroneously associate stereotypically masculine traits with power. I don’t think that female protagonists need to adopt traditionally masculine characteristics to be considered empowered; to do so simply reinforces that masculinity is the desirable state of being, and anything opposite masculinity is weak and therefore less valuable. This is a pervasive idea in our society which is damaging to both men and women; indeed, one of my favourite things about Delirium was that both Hana and Lena seemed to keep a balance of stereotypically masculine and feminine traits (i.e. in the beginning of the novel, Lena notes that Hana is interested in makeup and fashion (15), but is also outspoken and fearless (20)).

    Regarding the second part of your question, I do think that associating masculine traits and empowerment subconsciously primes girls to accept a connection between men and leadership. The connection also impacts boys, as it teaches that traditionally feminine traits (i.e. being caring and kind) are weak and that they therefore should not embody them–consider the common refrain “boys don’t cry.” Ultimately, I think that there is a lot in Delirium that can be criticized (compulsory heterosexuality, lack of racial diversity, ect.), but I don’t think that Oliver’s decision to characterize Lena as an ordinary, primarily feminine-presenting young woman is necessarily a problem.


  13. I think the reason fairytales encourage young girls to become dependent on men instead of honing their own strength is because most fairytales are stories originated hundreds years ago that seem outdated in today’s view. And that’s why Disney begins to create new independent girls to  meet market demands as it is criticized by media for portraying flat princesses based on bedtime fairytales. Today free wills are encouraged and I think we need more diverse stories to tell young girls that you have rights to choose what kind of women(or men if you wish:))you want to be. Fairytale adaption novels like Cinder now begin to challenge the norm in our bedtime stories and I find it meaningful. Mayer admitted that when she was a young girl she was boy-crazy and “who wasn’t”, but her protagonist is a different Cinderella who isn’t.
    I find the phrase “masculine traits” stereotypical. To be empowering it requires confidence, determination or any other qualities of leadership, but these traits are not male exclusive. As more and more girls become leaders I think we will use words like “leadership traits” to replace “masculine traits”.


  14. Hey Marin and May,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! In response to your first question, I think there are so many ways in which fairytales encourage young girls to become dependent on men instead of honing their own strength. The princesses in fairytales are painted as the ideal women – they dress in beautiful gowns, live in castles and experience happily ever afters. Most importantly, they win the affections of the Prince, which is depicted as the ultimate prize. Since young girls look to princesses as role models, this encourages them to also rely on men for personal happiness. The best example of a woman being passive and dependent on a man in a fairytale is in the story of Sleeping Beauty. The female protagonist, Aurora, isn’t even awake until the end of the story. She spends the entire time completely passive and waiting for the Prince to come and save her.

    In response to your second question, I think its important to add the word “conventionally” in front of masculine. I do think that the character traits typically associated with men and women lead us to believe that men are better suited to assume positions of leadership. In this way, society or pop culture may suggest to girls that boys are naturally better suited for leadership roles, however, I think there are also great female role models that girls can look to as leaders they can aspire to be. Michelle Obama, for example, is a great female leader who is strong, outspoken, active in her local and global community – all conventionally “masculine traits”.


  15. After reading Hunger Games and Parable of the Sower, Lena felt mismatched to Katniss and Lauren. Lena’s actions read as passive and comfortable within her normative girlhood expectations. She was hardly overtly rebellious and only reacted to her oppressive surroundings once encouraged by Alex. Though, it could be argued that Lena plainly falling in love was rebellious within her own positionality and social structures, her personal rebellion of escaping the government was catalyzed by male intervention. Regarding your discussion question, Lena’s actions did echo the damsel in distress trope of fairytales. As this trope is repeated notoriously in classic fairytales and modern narratives as well, girls internalize the notion of needing to be saved, rather than being their own savior. This ideology is toxic as it feeds into the ideals of normative girlhood that continues to strip girls of their self-agency, by promoting helplessness and obedience.


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