This might be my most personal blog post ever, but I want to talk about why I've made the choice to have girls as the protagonists of my novels.
Growing up, I loved adventure stories. I was obsessed with Star Wars, could recite Jurassic Park front to back, plowed through every fantasy book series I could get my hands on, and daydreamed about the day I'd get to go on my own epic quest. I listened to John Williams soundtracks on repeat, and when Harry Potter hit, I dived into that with wild abandon.
The stories that meant the most to me all had male leads. Girls had varying degrees of prominence, but were almost always there to supply a romantic interest for one of the main male characters. None of them were ever the focus of the adventure. They were never the "chosen one". Never the central character who everyone rallied around. They just weren't.
As I was internalizing the female role of being a sidenote to the male, I was barreling through my teenage years, being told I needed to start wearing makeup and sexier clothes because getting a boy's attention was of top priority. My nerdy side was not attractive, and as I was reminded over and over, I needed to hide what I was really interested in if I ever wanted a date.
But I didn't want a date, I wanted an adventure! The combination of societal pressures and the fictional worlds I practically lived in told me that I was supposed to want romance. Duh, I was female, that's our entire focus, right? But this just confused the hell out of me. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the things I was meant to care about, and no amount of faking it could hide the real me.
On top of not caring that much about boys, I hated shopping, I hated smelly fragrances, I hated dresses, and I hated gossip. And I decided girls who DID like these things were the problem. Because of them, I had the entire world telling me I was supposed to be someone I just wasn't.
I put girls in a box. All of them. "Girl" became a label that meant something flighty, stupid, and shallow. I was furious when someone would try to label me as one. It got to the point in college that I refused to call myself a girl. Flat out refused. Being a girl was the most insulting thing I could think of to be. It disgusted me. Girls were the root of all of my problems. I wished they didn't exist.
I literally wanted to erase my sex from the planet.
When I began to seriously consider what this meant for me, I realized that while I claimed to wish I'd been born a boy, I wasn't interested in actually being a boy. I didn't feel like I was male deep down. This isn't a story about a trans discovery. What I was deep down was female, it felt female, it just wasn't what I'd internalized "female" to mean. I was better than "female".
And when I hit upon that realization, I felt sicker than ever.
What's wrong with being female? What? Why did it have such a negative connotation to me? Why was so I nauseated by my own sex?
It's still a work in progress, but from that moment on, I've begun to reclaim that identity. I am female. I'm a girl. I'm a woman. And I'm a pretty awesome person. Those shouldn't be exclusive!
No, girls never got to be the action heroes (unless they knew five martial arts, slept with a million guys and broke all their hearts, and wore skin-tight black catsuits--none of which remotely described me). Girls were scarcely in adventure stories at all, except for the token few there to provide a romantic side story. But WHY NOT?
I grew up learning that unless it was a romance story, main characters were boys. What did that say about me--the main character of my OWN life? As someone who wasn't that interested in romance, I identified with the action heroes who were always male. And this fed into my twisted view of girls, and caused a lot of self-loathing through my teens and early twenties.
That's not okay.
ANYONE should be able to see themselves of the hero of the story, without having to change a basic aspect of their identity. When I started writing seriously, I focused on the fictional girls who drove this point home. Hermione. Polgara. Mara Jade. But even they were only there as side characters.
So I made the choice to make my main characters girls. Sometimes people tell me that my writing is more of a classic "boy adventure" mold, and I should consider that in my protagonist choice.
...Trust me. I have.
That's pretty much the entire point.
Nowadays, we are getting more True Adventures starring girls, which is great. But we've got a long, long way to go. We've barely made a dent in the male-dominated hero world. Until things are 50/50, it's not good enough.
If I can save any other young girl from the deep self-hatred I felt, I feel like I owe it to her. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that being a girl is just as cool as being a boy, but I can't.
This is why my protagonists are girls. And this is why I'm not backing down from that.