Monday, July 16, 2012

The Definition of Badass

So this past weekend, I was at Ascendio, the Harry Potter conference run by HPEF. Which was fantabulous. So much fun. Partly because Libba Bray is my new hero. Also because anything associated with Harry Potter = awesome.

One of the panels was Katniss, Bella, and Hermione: Finding the Balance Between Asskicking Prowess and Emotional Realism in the Girls of YA Fiction.

Which I am I very happy to say turned out to be more along the lines of Let's Talk About All the Awesome Ways Books Are Fighting the Good Fight for Feminism.

Keeping in mind, of course, that my definition of feminism is: women deserve equal rights and anyone who wants to take those rights away deserves to be kicked in the face.

So. The panel. It was epic. I was a tad bit afraid it would end up as people comparing characters to the point that one would be downplayed more than others, but our excellent moderator started us off on a positive note by pointing out that being a badass doesn't necessarily mean fighting--that there is a certain courage toward going after whatever it is you want, even if it's not something grand like winning a rebellion. There is strength in knowing that what you want is love, and going after that.

I ended up summing our panel conversation up thusly:

If you are someone who consciously decides what you want
and make the choice to go after it,
you are badass. 

And honestly? This might be one of the most important things I've ever said. Another way of saying it is thought comparisons. Passiveness and apathy are the exact opposite of choices and actions. 

When I was a teacher, that was the number one thing I tried to instill in my students: to determine what you want, and to go for it. I centered whole units around identifying and eradicating apathy--particularly through the works of Elie Wiesel, who is one of the greatest minds and most beautiful souls of our century, but it was the underlying message of every lesson I taught (I hope). 

I blogged about this before--how the saddest thing I've ever seen was the student who had no dream. I think there's a valid argument to be made that apathy is one of the greatest evils of mankind. 

Another great evil? Trying to take away someone else's choice. Choice comes in many different varieties--the girl who goes after romance is no less valid than the one who starts (or finishes) a war. It's silly to belittle a book character (or a person) for not wanting the same thing you do. You might think a person should choose a certain path, but it's not up to you. The heroine of a romance will want something different from the one who lives in a dystopian novel. But they're not wrong. Just different.

It's when someone else makes a decision that someone doesn't deserve the right to choose something, tries to take away a person's freedom, or try to counterattack an idea when things go wrong.

This sort of evil takes many different forms. At it's extreme, you see it in dystopian literature where the government won't give people the freedoms to choose their own lives. At a smaller--but just as evil--form, you have individuals who want to control others, take away rights, or make others inferior just because they can. These are the bullies of the world, and they exist every bit as much in real life as they do in books.

Which led me to continue my classy statement in summing up the panel thusly:

If you are someone who tries to take away
choices from someone else, then
you are a douche bag. 

Those are words I can live by. 

Also? That's basically the theme of all my books. 

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