The programming starts at a very early age. Young girls are bombarded with subliminal messages that to have any self-worth, to be happy, desired and successful, they must fit a certain image. These images are spoon-fed to them at every turn, starting with pre-school picture books, picking up steam from there in cartoons, G-rated movies and especially in advertising. Toys like Barbie, the “perfect” female image, with her perfect boyfriend and all the accessories. We can’t even escape the onslaught with our superheroes.
As much as audiences love Wonder Woman and Catwoman, these fabulous ladies are all dressed in skin-tight clothing exploiting their sexuality. Why can’t Wonder Woman get a cool flying suit of armor? Why can’t Catwoman turn into a giant green rage monster? It is unfortunate that our female superheroes reinforce the stereotypes that in today’s society, in order to be liked and successful, women have to fit the mold of malnourished supermodels.
Frustrated by this lack of strong female role models in movies, TV and literature, when I was fifteen I started writing a young adult/Fantasy novel called M.A.J.I.C. and the Oracle at Delphi. M.A.J.I.C. follows five teenage girls who are endowed with the powers of the Greek gods to defeat the Titans. The characters are focused on defeating Cronus’ army, not how much they weigh, being popular, or wearing the right amount of make-up.
M.A.J.I.C. is targeted for girls 10-17, and anyone of any age who enjoys Fantasy novels. When I began shopping the book to major publishers, one very well-known publishing house told me that even though the story showed tremendous promise, they were going to pass on the project because the story wasn’t ‘edgy’ enough. Translation: If my 16 year-old characters were in steamy relationships, promiscuous and dressed sexier, then I’d have a better chance at getting published. I’m appalled by this thought because of the message this would send to impressionable young girls, my target audience. The book is about the characters finding their inner courage to fight the biggest challenge in their lives; to become strong, confident young women. That’s the message I think young girls today should be exposed to and these are the superheroes I want a 12 year-old to aspire to be like.
We need more stories of self-reliant, confident young heroines like the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. Growing up is hard enough, especially when magnified by the insecurities of every teenage girl who worries about being pretty enough and popular. It’s time to promote characters and stories that can spread the message to young women that they are strong, capable, empowered and beautiful as is, and all they need to do is find their inner courage to be who they are.
Katie Mattie grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she fell in love with writing at a young age. During her sophomore year of high school, she began M.A.J.I.C. and the Oracle at Delphi. In 2010, she was the youngest author ever to be invited to the Ann Arbor Book Festival. She is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Film, Television and Theatre and looks forward to the publication of the next two novels in her M.A.J.I.C. trilogy. Follow her on Twitter @katiemattie.