So, yesterday, I heard about some drama happening the Young Adult twittersphere. Once again, it was due to yet another journalist taking pot shots at the Young Adult literature market as a whole. I’m not going to link the article because I don’t believe it deserves anymore attention and reading it would be a waste of your time; it’s saying what all the others say – Young Adult sucks for X, Y and Z reasons, wah wah, I hate this ‘genre’ (btw YA is NOT a genre), so I’m going to write another article de-legitimizing it like all the other 1009809234 articles written on this subject.
As I was thinking about this article, I wondered about whether or not other types of kidlit get as much hate as YA. And I wrote a thread on twitter that got a bit of attention:
The crux of the thread is that middle grade especially doesn’t seem to earn as much hatred and ire from journalists and I wondered why that was. If it was really about hating stories for youth in general, than why aren’t people writing articles trying to de-legitimize middle grade or picture books? Or chapter books?
It’s not just about youth. It’s about teenagers. Most importantly, it’s about women. That brings us to the crux of today’s lesson.
White Male Resentment.
As I write in the tweet thread, middle grade gets less hate from the mainstream because it has a larger percentage of straight white males writing it and reading it. On the other hand, Young Adult literature is largely written by and for females. The stories largely feature girls as the main protagonists, privileging their agency, their perspectives. Most importantly, their sexualities are not simply present to provide something for a male readership to get off on. Their hopes, dreams, sexual desires and goals are put at the forefront.
This is what I think bends a lot of people out of shape.
Now there’s a lot that can be said of the quality of some of the popular YA stories that have been adapted to movies. However, in a world where Transformers can make billions and have several sequels, I think we have to look a bit deeper at the kind of white male resentment that seems to simmer beneath so many of the articles bashing YA lit and YA lit-adaptations. This is the kind of resentment that has Young Adult Literature pegged as trash before a single word of it is read.
What I find in these articles is not a legitimate critique or close reading of these texts. What I find is the underlying anger that these texts exist and are popular and lucrative in the first place.
Samantha Bee just did a great piece on White Male Resentment when she correctly tied the rise of alternative facts Nazi-owned ‘news’ (I used that term lightly, while shuddering) sites like Brietfart (yes I changed the ‘b’ to an ‘f’) to the kind of angry, misogynistic, maladjusted white male resentment to be found online, the kind that was the driving force behind Gamergate (ie: “We hate women, but mysteriously also expect women to fu** us, and somehow we can’t get a date, so we’re lonely, angry, and sexually frustrated, and now there’s a woman saying things we don’t agree with on the Internet, come on you guys, let’s threaten to rape her!” Gate).
The white male resentment that brought Trump and Steve Bannon all the way to the White House is actually what a lot of women online and offline have been dealing with for years. And although its extremist forms had been growing in the secluded bowls of reddit hell, it always had a lifeline to the mainstream because its ideology IS mainstream, albeit in a more lowkey, normalized form.
I’m talking about the normalization of the idea that anything women like must be trash, from books, to TV, to music. Connected to this is the de-legitimization of women’s voices, experiences and POVs (which are privileged in YA). Connected to this also is the suspicion towards any women who exist and thrive in male dominated spaces (like the publishing world, or like the gaming world, or the geek world – which is why some white men felt that seeing an all-female cast in Ghostbusters was somehow a contamination of their geeky white male childhood).
The thing is, it didn’t really take Bannon all that much effort to unleash the power of white male resentment in order to win his place as the Hand to America’s very own Benjamin-Button-flavored Prince Joffrey. When mainstream society already normalizes white male resentment and misogyny as a way of life in almost every aspect of society, the door is already wide open for reddit and 4chan to act up and mess up the world with their distorted views born from sexual frustration and pent up rage.
I guess in that way you can think of the “Rootless white males who spend all their time online” as quoted in the Samantha Bee video, as having a twin in mainstream journalists and critics who go out of their way to tell female creators that their work is meaningless, and tell girls that what they read, listen to, play, and watch on television is crap by virtue of the fact that they are consuming it, and particularly if it was designed for them to consume (let’s not forget Young Justice was canceled in the first place because too many girls were watching it).
And I’m 100% sure that if Middle Grade books were more predominantly consumed and written by women, it would also be trashed.
Certain journalists are determined to never take YA seriously.
But unlucky for them, we take their misogyny seriously. And we’ll continue to call them out.