Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and today I want to talk for a bit about the stereotyping of girls in young adult literature. Namely, I want to talk about why I think it’s wrong and would love nothing more than to see it stop.
Let’s go with the stereotype that riles me up more than any other:
the cheerleader. Lots of times . . . (and for the record here I will
attempt to refrain from generalizations. Yes, for everything I say, I am
*sure* someone will be able to refute it. And I don’t want to go there.
So anyway . . . ) lots of times when I read books with cheerleaders in
them, there are certain defining characteristics of said cheerleader.
For example, she’s got a really rocking figure. She also very pretty.
And yes, she’s very popular. I mean, she is the personification of what
so many others want to attain. And sure, having a nice figure is a
pretty enviable character trait, but there are other traits that are not
so enviable. Like this cheerleader is often bitchy. She’s cruel to
those less popular than her (many times our sympathetic main character).
She’s scheming. And let’s not forget the slutty factor. This poor
cheerleader is often seen in the halls making out with her boyfriend of
Am I seriously the only one who doesn’t see a problem with this
stereotype? No? I’m not? Then why do we consistently see it in book
after book after book? Is this simply the easiest writing solution?
It’s time for me to point out the fact that I was a cheerleader all
through junior high and high school. Not only that, I was the captain of
the varsity cheerleading squad. I am that girl. And now, with that out
in the open, I have to mention the following things. I was not in
general a bitchy person. I was not the most popular gal in the school. I
was not bitchy and scheming. And I never took pleasure in making others
feel bad. I was not a slut. I never wanted to embarrass people in front
of others. Was I pretty? I don’t know. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell
you yes, but that’s not exactly an objective opinion.
Did I ever make mistakes? Sure. That’s called being human. Every
single one of our characters in our books should exhibit this quality,
not just the cheerleaders.
So what was I? What defined me? Well, I worked hard and practiced to
earn my spot on the team. I attempted to be a role model that others
could follow. I was smart. I was good at math and science and loved
reading fantasy and science fiction books. I had plenty of friends. I
skirted around the edges of the “popular” crowd, friends with them but
not quite one of them.
What I want is a book for the girl I was: a girl who breaks the stereotypes.
P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book,
SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book,
TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE
FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her
and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.