Whose Social Empowerment? The Impact of Normative Constructions of Girlhood in Pure (Amanda I. & Adam R.)

In “Docile Bodies, Dangerous Bodies: Sexual Awakening and Social Resistance in Young Adult Dystopian Novels”, Sara Day argues that Western culture presents girls as “simultaneously desirable and dangerous”, requiring strict regulation of their sexuality and physical agency (75). While traditional literature contains warnings against girls exploring their physical desires, young adult dystopian literature seeks to reframe sexual awakening as impetus for social resistance. However, this positive message of a revised sense of embodiment leading to social empowerment is often undermined by incomplete reconsiderations of normative constructions of girlhood. This problematic trend is exemplified by the first novel of Julianna Baggott’s post-apocalyptic dystopian trilogy, Pure. The narrative’s failure to challenge normalized representations of race and female passivity undermines its positive message of sexual awakening inciting social agency, implying that this empowerment relies on components of normative constructions of girlhood.

In a genre characterized by the critique of existing social structures, the lack of attention to race in Pure is notably disconcerting. There are limited racial indicators or references to race throughout the novel. However, Lyda meets a redhead girl in the asylum whose face is “soft and pale”, and Ingership’s wife wears a full-body stocking that makes her skin look “so white it seems to glow” (Baggott 215, 238). Hence, the reader may infer that this is a predominantly white society, in which being white is desirable. Pressia herself is half-Japanese, however, while considering her mixed racial background she acknowledges that “none of these things means much of anything to her” (8). This narrative silence regarding race promotes a colourblind ideology, enabling white privilege to operate while seeming non-existent (Couzelis 132). The one distinctly non-white character is Ingership’s driver, described as a “meaty man” with “dark skin” (Baggott 234). The use of the word “meaty” likens an animalistic depiction, reflecting traditional racist imagery used to dehumanize African Americans (Couzelis 140). Furthermore, El Capitan violently assaults the driver to steal the black sedan, leaving him for dead among the Dusts of the Deadlands. Pressia “doesn’t ask any questions”, and the group proceeds to use the car throughout the rest of their journey to protect their own bodies and advance their personal agendas (Baggott 259). This exemplifies Couzelis’s claim that in “film and literature, African American characters appear briefly to assist in the development of a white protagonist and then either disappear after or are sacrificed … for the good of whites” (140-141). Overall, by failing to challenge racial hierarchies, the narrative implicitly enables hegemonic attitudes towards race and implies that the social agency developed through sexual awakening is dependent on girls operating within normative racial constructs.

Another prominent normalized representation of girlhood in Pure that undermines its positive message is the initial passivity of the female protagonists. As Day contends, the eventual social resistance demonstrated by female heroines is “undermined, at least partially, by the fact that these young women might never have joined such movements had they not pursued traditional romantic relationships and accepted their male partners’ goals as their own (90).” Pressia is literally drawn into rebellion by saving a boy from a Beast, arriving at Bradwell’s underground meeting in the process. At the meeting, she demonstrates her initial apathy towards social resistance, thinking “Why have conspiracy theories? It’s over. Done. Here we are. Why spin your wheels?” (Baggott 44). Bradwell proceeds to consistently motivate her to question their circumstances living among the wreckage. Hence, as Pressia’s relationship with Bradwell develops and she simultaneously becomes socially active, the reader is left to question whether this reflects social awareness or an attempt to appeal to Bradwell’s ideals. The birds fused to Bradwell’s back further portray him as an angelic figure who rescues Pressia from her social inertia, echoing the fairy tale narrative of the princess waiting for the prince.

Similar to Pressia’s initial passivity, Lyda is also originally portrayed as being socially inactive. Partridge invites her to a dance, at which she is complicit in him taking a knife from the Domesticity Display using the key that he stole from her – she accepts Partridge’s agenda as her own. Following Partridge’s escape, Lyda considers that her value is dependent on Partridge, reflecting that “If she has any value at all, it would only be because he’s alive” (Baggott 101). This is starkly contrasted by the activity of her male counterpart – Partridge rebels early on by taking his mother’s possessions from the Personal Loss Archives and deciding that “he has to get out to the other side” (40). However, immediately before he escapes the Dome, Partridge has second thoughts. “He doesn’t have to go through with this … He remembers the feel of [Lyda’s] narrow waist and her ribs as his hands moved up her silky dress while they kissed. He’d love to smell her honeyed hair again” (77). As opposed to being inspired to rebel by Lyda, he sees Lyda as a comfort he has to leave behind in search of the truth. Overall, Pressia and Lyda’s initial passivity compared to Bradwell and Partridge’s inherent rebellious nature undermines the social agency the female protagonists develop by engaging their sexuality, implying that this empowerment relies on preliminary normative female passivity.

Pure features two female protagonists who exemplify how a girl’s “willingness to explore her desire acts as a means of reconsidering her own capabilities and what her body can accomplish” (Day 83). Pressia progresses from being ashamed of the plastic doll fused to her hand to using it as a visual aid to covertly communicate rebellious messages to El Capitan. Lyda progresses from feeling “self-conscious … about the dip of her dress’s neckline” to standing up to OSR’s leader, declaring “We’ll do what we want” (Baggott 61, 414). However, the normalized representations of race and female passivity undermine the narrative’s positive message, threatening to estrange a diverse population of readers. This emphasizes the importance of non-normative narratives that represent the multiplicity of lived experiences.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you think of any other normalized representations of girlhood in Pure that potentially undermine its positive message of sexual awakening as an impetus for social agency?
  2. How would you respond to the following claim? Normalized representations of certain aspects of girlhood in young adult dystopian fiction allow for a more focused critique of select contemporary social and political constructs.

Works Cited

Baggott, Julianna. Pure. Grand Central Publishing, 2013.

Couzelis, Mary J. “The Future is Pale: Race in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Novels.” Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers, edited by Balaka Basu, Katherine R. Broad, and Carrie Hintz, Routledge, 2013, 131-144.

Day, Sara K. “Docile Bodies, Dangerous Bodies: Sexual Awakening and Social Resistance in Young Adult Dystopian Novels.” Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sara K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, and Amy L. Montz, Ashgate, 2014, 75-92.

19 thoughts on “Whose Social Empowerment? The Impact of Normative Constructions of Girlhood in Pure (Amanda I. & Adam R.)

  1. Hi Amanda & Adam,
    I want to say that I really enjoyed reading your post and thought that is was wonderfully written. Before I respond to your discussion questions I wanted to say that your comparison of Bradwell to a heavenly figure was really interesting. I never made the connection that Bradwell’s wings could be read as a form of angel wings that give him this angelic identity with which he instills his knowledge to Pressia (and others). I think this ties into your first discussion question about other features of normative girlhood depicted in Pure. In order for Bradwell to “rescue Pressia from her social inertia”, he must first instil her with his knowledge. This portrays the normative idea the men have a far superior intelligence compared to females. Bradwell is aware of the corruption surrounding the Dome and its history, while Pressia is completely oblivious to this information, instead choosing to believe that the world before the Detonation was perfect. This is seen with Pressia’s fascination with the pictures in the footlocker, specifically the one about a 3D movie, which paints her as a girl too naïve to see what is really happening; a silly girl who wishes that she could live in that world that she sees as a haven. Bradwell is seen as this all-knowing figure who has to explain to Pressia what the truth is. This normalized representation of girlhood is seen again further in the novel when Bradwell is the one to figure out the message in Partridge’s mother’s bedtime story. Bradwell is the one who connects the dots and figures out that Pressia is Partridge’s half-sister and that her father was the good king. Once again, Pressia is completely lost and doesn’t understand the message in the story so Bradwell must spell it out for her, displaying his superior intelligence.
    Of course, this representation could easily be countered by the dynamic between Pressia and Partridge. Pressia is the one who has a superior intelligence compared to Partridge, who is seen almost like a child who needs to be babysat. Pressia must continuously stress the dangers surrounding them in their travels, and explain to him how best to cover up when outside. However, this is because Partridge was raised inside the Dome and was shielded from anything happening outside the Dome. Had the roles been reversed, Partridge would be the one teaching Pressia the goings on of the Dome, and how to blend in. Pressia and Bradwell are essentially on even footing, both being raised outside the Dome. Despite that, the male is still portrayed as the more intelligent individual compared to the female, reinforcing a normalized representation of girlhood where girls can be smart but not too smart and especially not as smart as males.

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  2. I liked the way you argued how problematic representation of normative girlhoods are used to progress the novel in various aspects, especially in regards to Pressia’s reliance on Bradwell to catalyze her rebellion and Lyda’s on Patridge.
    To answer your second question, I do not believe normalized representations of girlhood are required in order to focus on specific contemporary social and political constructs. First of all, in the contemporary world race, misogyny and unjust treatment of individuals based off various factors is at the heart of most social and political constructs. Namely, the issue of unjust racial treatment is a central part of many political and social issues today, whether it be young black boys getting shot in the streets, or racial slurring used against people of colour in public places. It is an inherent and extremely problematic part of our society, and if these novels are attempting to address contemporary issues in a futuristic dystopian setting then these are issues that should be discussed. And many novels do attempt draw attention to these issues by painting their female protagonist a person of colour, such as in Parable of the Sower. It is not difficult to incorporate racial aspects into novels and not make it the focus, it can be an underlying theme that is discussed to some degree. I feel Octavia Butler did this very well as she discussed how mixed couples were targeted more and to some extent discussed racial segregation while not taking away from the main theme of her novel.
    Moreover, in Francesa Lia Block’s Love in the Time of Global Warming the main character was queer, yet she was still able to discuss a larger issue of scientific discovery and the dangers of it and “natural disaster”. This did not take away from the larger narrative, it just enhanced some other themes as well.
    Even in Pure, the main character and many of the characters present can be viewed and otherly abled as they may be fused with various objects making them adapt and use their limbs and bodies in slightly different ways.
    None of these novels take away from the greater narrative as a whole, rather they also bring up themes that are present in contemporary society in subtle ways. It is not necessary that the girlhood be normative, rather an aware author can tie in these themes and still focus on the main theme as well. It should not have to be considered a major issue or the central focus of a novel if the protagonist is not white, or not heterosexual or not able-bodied or anything outside of the normative construction of girlhood. There are many people that live in these scopes of life that persevere, and novels should not just focus on normative constructions of girlhood to critique a specific social or political construct.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog post! Like Presley mentioned in her comment, I too had never thought about the bird on Bardwell’s back as an angelic symbol, and it was interesting that you brought up this point. The quote you mentioned that said “If she has any value at all, it would only be because he’s alive” (Baggott 101) reminded me of Delirium and how Lena states that life is not worth living without Alex and that without him she would die. This is the case in many of the YA dystopian novels that paints females as weak individuals who lack impendence. This makes me question how the storyline would be different without the male companion. Would the female protagonist even participate in the rebellion? Would Pressia continue living her life in a toxic dystopia despite her unhappiness?

    To answer your first discussion question, I think that the group of woman called “the mothers” further perpetuates the female stereotype that women are responsible for being the primary caregiving of children, while the men are the breadwinners. The mothers are fused to their children for eternity and the children in some cases may act as a barrier/nuisance to the mothers. This reinforces the idea that women have no choice but to commit to being a caregiver 24/7. However, to play devil’s advocate, the leader of the group, Our Good Mother is a positive representation of female force. She is an incredibly strong feminine character who calls all men “deaths” and will not take no for an answer. She reminds the reader that all women should stick up for each other and fight for equality when she says “We believe in saving our fellow sisters”.

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    1. I would argue that by taking on socially active roles, the mothers with child-fusions represent an embracement of motherhood as empowering to the female body, echoing Day’s argument that sexual maturation serves as an impetus for females to reconsider what their bodies are capable of. This reconsideration of social agency is further developed when Ingership’s wife takes Pressia into their kitchen – a stereotypically feminine, domestic setting – to secretly tell her that she has a plan to keep her out of harm’s way, handing her “a small white card with a red line down its center” like the rebellion flag prior to the Detonations (Baggott 244). We learn later in the novel that Ingership’s wife did not activate Pressia’s ticker when they bugged her in a room that, ostensibly, was once a nursery. By rebelling in traditionally feminine, domestic settings, Ingership’s wife further challenges the notion that women operating in these arenas have limited social agency.

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      1. As said in the post, “Lyda considers that her value is dependent on Partridge.” While that may be true for the character, the quote that was used to exemplify this is contentiously connected to this message. Lyda does say, “If she has any value at all, it would only be because he’s alive” (Baggott 101). However, this passage should be read in the context of the scene it comes from in the novel. Lyda is being held in a white padded room by Dome administrators. The value she is referring to is not evidently her own self-worth, but the value she has to the administrators. I think it is important to explore the value of girls to the administrators of the Dome. Four pages before the line previously mentioned, Lyda comments on how she will not be able to have children, saying, “she wouldn’t be permitted to have children. Ill fit for genetic repopulation- the end” (Baggott 98). This line precedes Lyda’s comment that she fears she will not be valuable to the administrators, which shows that the officials in the Dome value girls primarily for their ability to reproduce. The fact that the ability to be a mother can be taken away from her by these officials clearly shows the restrictions on women’s sexuality in the Dome. While the original line from the blog post- that is also discussed in this comment- could be interpreted as Lyda’s personal value, I believe the novel intended it to mean her value to the Dome officials. This still leaves the line with several implications for how normative girlhood is represented. Not through her relationship with Partridge, but the officials’ relationship with girls.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this post! I am going to respond to the second discussion point. The phrase “Normalized representations of certain aspects of girlhood in young adult dystopian fiction allow for a more focused critique of select contemporary social and political constructs” is something that I do in fact agree with, but I think it leaves the reader with a responsibility. When girls in any form of media are normalized or generalized, it makes a statement on societal norms and stereotypes that we all encounter in our everyday lives. By having girls represented in as standardized way of life, it makes the comment that they are subjective characters, who change to fit their expected roles. This theory then can be tied to girls in real life. As active consumers, it is essential for us to recognize this. There is only a more focused critique if we, the readers, refuse to accept this stereotyping as normal. As you have stated, Pressia is depicted as a passive, unwilling character. She initially has no motivation to stand up for something that goes against societal norms. You two have done the first step in the active critique, which is bringing the depiction to the attention of a larger audience. In order to truly make a difference, the problem needs to be widely addressed and protested in effort to work towards the proper, diverse representation of girlhood in literature. Girls are not carbon copies of one another; they are complete individuals. It is time that literature starts to acknowledge this attribute and celebrating it.

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    1. I agree that we have an ethical obligation to be socially-conscious readers, but do feel that authors have a significant onus to be conscious of the dynamic interrelation between fiction and culture and challenge alienating, normative constructions of girlhood in their work.

      This is not to say that Baggott completely neglects this onus. In “Girl Power and Girl Activism”, Fritz examines how Taft’s theoretical framework may be applied to fiction to “replicate and reconfigure” traditional constructions of femininity in order to account for gender-based identities while giving them a new meaning and significance. In Pure, I would argue that Baggott employs this framework in the form of Pressia’s empathy – presenting a stereotypically feminine virtue as fundamental to fostering the loyalty of the individuals who assist in advancing her rebellious agenda. Partridge reflects that, “[Pressia] saved his life before she could have possibly known who he was or what he could do for her. He trusts her; that’s the bottom line” (Baggott 151). El Capitan considers that, “There’s something about [Pressia]. She’s good-hearted” (271). While presenting Pressia’s empathy as critical to her social agency challenges conventional notions of femininity, the heteronormativity, passivity, and other normalized representations of girlhood in Pure undermine this subversive message.

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  5. Thanks for the great blog post, it was really interesting! With regards to your second discussion question, I think the claim is dangerous in so far as it risks potentially erasing the lived realities of those who are in more disadvantaged positions. Although a normative narrative can be potentially used to criticise the perpetuation of harmful norms, such as what we do in our class, the majority of young adult dystopian readers are often impressionable young adults who look to these novels to learn about what is acceptable and expected of them in their own society. This means that most young adults are not reading young adult dystopian fiction with a critical eye, but rather are actually reading it for pleasure and are insidiously taught about how they should and should not be acting. By ignoring and not addressing certain issues that are rooted in our society through years of racism and sexism, for example, we are teaching young adults that these issues no longer exist. Not to mention that the majority of the time, these young adult dystopian fictions have a female protagonist who is often white, able-bodied, middle to upper class, cis-gender, heterosexual and so on. This further illustrates to readers what kinds of bodies are valued and are worth talking about. I believe normative narratives in young adult dystopian novels are often more of a reflection of what is going on in the current society at the time in sense that it often treats racism and sexism as a thing of the past, while continuously presenting only privileged bodies in their novels, or by not addressing the disadvantages certain bodies face.

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  6. Hi both,

    Interesting post! I’d like to reply to your second question, regarding normalized representations of girlhood as allowing for a more focused critique of social and political issues. I don’t think this is true, and I think that we have seen disruptions of this idea within the books that we have read over the semester. By denormalizing aspects of girlhood, the protagonists in these books seem to have more connection to their rebellion. Consider, for example, Katniss in “The Hunger Games.” A “normal girl” is upper-middle class; Katniss, on the other hand, is very obviously living in poverty and deals with issues of food insecurity daily. She therefore has more of a “stake” in humiliating (and later defeating) the Capitol then, say, one of the Careers who are reasonably “normal,” class wise. Similarly, Lena in “Delirium” is, in the context of her society, considered mentally ill when she falls in love with Alex. Because she is not neurotypical, she has a defined reason to rebel. In both examples, it is because the protagonist is non-normative that they are able to bring attention to the privileges that other groups in their society enjoy.
    As Jasveen said above, positioning protagonists as non-normative does not take away from the dystopian narrative as a whole, but rather enhances the story. Without representations of differently abled folks in “Pure,” the story would be miss out on the very interesting discussions that non-normative portrayals of disabled girlhood generate. Indeed, representing aspects of normative girlhood at times does create holes in the story–I am thinking again of “Delirium,” where queerness is not addressed, leaving the readers to question why everyone in the story seems to ignore non-heteronormative love.

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    1. I think we may have different understandings of what their discussion question was asking. I think the ‘normalizing’ refers to how the characters are normative representations of girlhood in our society, not the societies of the novels. While you can consider Lena non-normative to her society in the novel, she is a very normative character to represent girlhood in our society. My own answer to the second discussion question would be that these normative representations of girlhood are necessary for social critique. The normativity is necessary in order to reflect our world. When I try to create an image in my head of what a non-normative female dystopian character would look like, I realize that this character would not have to same relatable qualities to the general reader population as many of the protagonists we studied do. This is paradoxically evident because; if this non-normative character was relatable to the majority of girl readers, would she not then be normative? Normativity exists for a reason, it is built on certain aspects that are true about our society. As professor Green-Barteet said herself, it is easy to relate to Lena, and Lena is a normative representation of girlhood in many aspects. It would be much harder to connect to a non-normative character and put ourselves in their shoes, and therefore the didactic messaging of social critique could lose its power.

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      1. I agree with your statement! As you pointed out, Lena is adheres to many aspects of normative girlhood and this makes her a lot more relatable. As a result, we as readers are able to reflect upon our world and society and be critical of it. Not only this, but having a character that is more relatable, who is rebellious within her own society, allows for self-critiquing. If somebody like Lena can come become aware of the faults of her society and rebel against it, can’t I do the same?
        Essentially, I agree with what you are saying! Having a normative representation of girlhood helps us critique our society and it’s social and political aspects in a more focused manner! Rather than tackling all problematic aspects of society, it allows us to focus on a few in a more detailed manner.

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  7. Hi there, I think the birds on Bradwell’s back symbolize freedom as he is so active in rebellion, but I like the angelic figure idea.
    I do not agree that normalized representations of certain aspects of girlhood in young adult dystopian fiction allow for a more focused critique of select contemporary social and political constructs. Take Lena as an example. She is probably the most “normal” female protagonist in all the texts we have talked about, but her normality doesn’t stop us to question about her personality in spite of the loveless society. Just like the comments above have mentioned, Lauren’s race and Pen’s queerness do not take away from the main theme of their novels, but Delirium shows us even an ordinary girl can do something extraordinary.

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  8. HI. I am responding to your second question: How would you respond to the following claim? Normalized representations of certain aspects of girlhood in young adult dystopian fiction allow for a more focused critique of select contemporary social and political constructs.
    I find this to be a very problematic claim because the things we should be critiquing a lot of the time are the things left out of books. We critique the fact that we have racialized problems, and that the LGBTQ+ communities have little representatives for their needs, and yet these issues are hardly ever raised in YA fiction. While it is important to critique what some would say are larger aspects of our society, we must also keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Perhaps instead of using these novels to critique what is currently going wrong, we should use them to critique the things that aren’t going at all.

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  9. To somewhat answer your second question I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason so many mainstream YA dystopian stories don’t focus on issues regarding race, queerness and disabled bodies (alternative girlhoods) is because they don’t want their stories to have “that” message. They simplify the structure of their world, to avoid mentioning alternative girlhoods. The general public isn’t bothered by this because conversions about marginalised groups can make people uncomfortable and feel targeted. Additionally, if one were to talk about alternative aspects of girlhood it might seem as if the author is trying to make a political statement, a lot of authors actually believe that that would distract from the story they want to tell and so they find a way to erase issues of alternative girlhoods. For example, had Katniss actually been a person of colour, like a lot of readers interpreted her to be, maybe the rhetoric of her being the girl on fire would have been different. Maybe, people would rave about her being the first female of colour to win the Games. The Capitol might even have treated her relationship with Peeta differently because the way the media talk about interracial couples are completely different from the way the media treat couples of the same colour. Also, Rue and Thresh coming from a pseudo-slave district would have had a bigger impact on the overall story. However, doing that would have forced Collins to actually talk about racial differences, acknowledge that someone’s race affects how they are treated and that we aren’t all equal. Something that she might not know how to do, because we live in a multicultural society and race probably doesn’t matter to her. The sad part about this is that Hunger Games would still overall had been the same story had Katniss been a person of colour, the only difference is that it wouldn’t be promoting colour blindness. But, people don’t want to be labeled as politically correct and seem as if they are forcing an agenda on others. Authors want to tell their story, if their story didn’t initially challenge alternative girlhoods from conception they won’t force themselves to change their narrative. With that said, authors critique selective social and political issues, as seen with a lot of the novels we have studied. But by doing so, they will avoid critiquing other issues regarding marginalised people because they believe it goes against the vision they had set out for themselves.

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  10. Hey Amanda and Adam,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Your blog post was extremely well written and it was a pleasure to read. When you mentioned how Ingership’s driver was the only character in the novel described to have dark skin and was simultaneously described as “meaty” in an animalistic manner, it immediately reminded me of how Suzanne Collins described Thresh to have “dark brown skin” and be “built like an ox”. Moreover, both authors seem to have either subconsciously or consciously commented on race and status. Ingership’s driver takes on a service role with little authority. Similarly, Thresh comes from District 11 where the residents work on orchards and farms, making them reminiscent of slaves working on a plantation. I find these coincidences very concerning because they do appear to reflect traditional racist imagery.

    In response to your second question, I think that to a degree normalized representations of certain aspects of girlhood in YA dystopian literature allows us to critique select contemporary social and political constructs. I don’t know about you, but when something upsets me, I make a bigger fuss out of critiquing it then I would praising something that I agree with. I think that when we study novels like Pure that have normalized representations of girlhood in academic settings like this 2200 level Women’s Studies course, we are equipped with the tools to deconstruct it. In that way, it’s actually GOOD that Julianna Baggott doesn’t do a great job of challenging normative narratives because we are able to critique that lack. However, outside of an academic setting or a place of privilege where we are aware of things like the importance of social agency or representing a multiplicity of lived experiences, for example, it can be problematic because young female readers will just read, believe, and move on instead of read and challenge.

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  11. Hi Adam and Amanda,
    In response to your second question: The description of all girls in the novel make them white, this portrays Racism, and the African American describe is a driver who is later beaten up and left for dead. No one cares about him, as he is just in the story to support the rebel theme. This is visible even in contemporary stories in the film as African American as mostly used to support certain roles. Female heroines in the novel appear as rebels at first just as in our today society when they fight for what is wrong they get prosecuted before understood. Pressia questions the dystopian society she is in and seen as a rebel. Female passivity is seen as the girls had help in realizing their potential, Pressia is helped by Bradwell while Lyda is helped by Partridge. Female passivity has been fought and women are even vying for presidential seats just to show that women can do it all.

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  12. I really enjoyed this post speaking about how ambiguity when it comes to race pushes readers often to believe it is white dominated society, even without outright saying it. Relating this back to our overall society, even though our society is not predominantly white, it is still ingrained into our minds that whiteness is the default category. Bringing in the idea that black bodies are put into books and movies as a driving force for the protagonist to move forward, mainly through the killing of a black body, or as you point out in Pure the assault of a man with dark skin. To answer your first question, the biggest thing I relate to normalized representations of girlhood in Pure is within the Dome. Women are viewed as baby makers, those who are considered ‘Pure’ were able to not get effected by the Detonation and now are inside the Dome going to school or getting prepared to have children. Having children for women is expected, within the book and within our society. This trope is pressured onto young women in the Dome and removes all sexuality, turning sex basically into a business plan removing their agency. I think it is also important to note her doll and the representation of normalized girlhood that comes with her doll from childhood being fused to her hand to ultimately push Pressia to believe she is a girl and always will be. Thus putting a barrier for her to grow up which in the beginning undermines her ability and belief for a sexual awakening.

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  13. I really enjoyed your post. I think you brought up some excellent and well thought out arguments. In terms of your second question, I think focusing on one aspect of progression, while maintaining other normative aspects of girlhood makes it seem like this protagonist is an exception to the rule. This as opposed to creating a dystopian society in which all the norms are questioned, and the readers can recognize them as problematic in real life, otherwise the female protagonist in question seems exceptional and not reflective of girls in general. We should not be aiming to frame one young female protagonist as bold, progressive, rebellious, etc.; rather, we should be making her character the normal representation of girlhood. In order for this to occur, authors need to create societies that promote this idea entirely, on all levels, and in doing so reveal the problematic nature of all normalizations of girlhood.

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  14. Great post! I appreciated the acknowledgment of colorblindness that was seen in Pure, and how significant ignorance of race or racialized characters is within young adult dystopian literature. Pure was yet another example of a dystopian novel with characters who’s default race is assumed to be white, with the exception of Pressia, because she is described as “half-Japanese”. The comparison of the “meaty” and “dark skinned” cab driver as dehumanizing to African-American’s, as it exemplifies their depictions to animals, was a very valuable and insightful argument. To answer the first question, another normalized representation of girlhood in Pure that undermine its positive message of sexual awakening as an impetus for social agency, was the significance put on Pressia’s heterosexual relationship with Bradwell. Like other female protagonists such as Katniss and Lena, Pressia was reliant on Bradwell for motivation to rebel against the OSR, and through her rebellion, Pressia gained some sense of empowerment. The positive message of sexual awakening is diminished in Pure because the female protagonist is always reliant on a male character, and the development of a heterosexual relationship, in order to gain a meaningful social agency. As stated in the post, Pressia was hesitant towards rebellion until Bradwell convinced her the important of rebelling against the OSR, leading Pressia to comply with her male love interest. The compliance to male characters in Pure is telling of the damaging messages being presented to readers about normalizations of girlhood.

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