Friday, December 6, 2013


One of my friends from the ol' college days recently posted this article about gender roles in the Hunger Games to Facebook.

Before we get into the meat of this entry, let it be known that I have read the trilogy. I've seen the first movie, am pretty "meh" about seeing the second movie. I thought the story was decent except for the whole "omg what boy will she like" plot line. Although, now that I think about it, it's a pretty decent way to establish the fact that Katniss was basically a "typical" teenage girl except for the whole, "having to kill other people for the entertainment of an insane bureaucracy" thing. So let's say it was an interesting device to establish Katniss as a character, but I still feel like it was too much of a focus in the story overall.

(Christ, I feel like I'm writing a fucking book report. Let's get on with the actual entry, shall we?)

NPR's Linda Holmes wrote a great article about the gender dynamics in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire...

Whoa whoa whoa. Hold the phone. You mean the Linda Holmes? Of NPR?

This feels like a name drop, but it's not really a name drop that's worth anything. It's like two academics getting together and rubbing leathery-patched elbows. "Did you see I mentioned you in my latest analysis?" And then a lot of this happens, back and forth for infinity:

Oh, and if you're interested, you can find the "great article" from the Linda Holmes of NPR here. I put "great" in quotes, because it's one of those pieces where I agree with the general idea being presented, but the way it's actually put together makes me rage face. The tl;dr is that Katniss is the "dude" in her relationship with Peeta, and the "chick" in her relationship with Gale. The problem with presentation is in the way stereotyped gender roles are presented. It's like: woman doing stereotypically woman things equals bad. Man doing stereotypically woman things equals worthy of academic-ish articles on the Internet. They're the same stereotypes, and it's just as shitty to define a man as "feminine" for having said qualities as it is to define women that way. What happens if Katniss is good at archery and baking pie? Does everybody's head explode because it's not possible to contain both aspects of masculinity and femininity in one character? No, then we get to have the argument about whether the pie making helps Katniss be more "relatable" as a "tough girl" that still likes to bake, or if it's some sort of feminist cut-down because women can't have masculine traits unless they're balanced out with feminine ones.

I'm mostly okay with the rest of the original article I linked to. It's an interesting premise, the idea that Katniss could choose both Petta and Gale, and format a relationship that would be incredibly beneficial for her. The only grudge argument I hold onto is this whole idea of who's playing the "woman" and who's playing the "man" in the relationship. It's like that ever-common confusion amongst straight people on how lesbian and/or gay relationships work because, "how do you know which one is the man?"

...we do gender in relationship to other people. It's a conversation or volley in which we're expected to play the part to the way others are doing gender. 

Relationships aren't just a compromise and discussion between two people, they're a specifically gendered compromise and discussion. Does one of you like their steak prepared medium and the other likes it medium rare? You better figure out which meat preparation is more "manly" or your relationship is fucking doomed. 

What if she could be in a relationship with Peeta and get her needs for being understood, nurtured, and protective while also getting her girl on with Gale? In other words, imagine a world without compulsory monogamy where having two or more boyfriends or girlfriends was possible.

Better yet, imagine a world where Katniss didn't have to evaluate her entire life and all the relationships she's forming based on which of the binary gender roles she's encompassing? Interesting side note, availability of multiple partners? Good. Availability of multiple ways of portraying and expressing gender? Bad.

If Katniss wants to keep both Peeta and Gale (no spoilers on what actually happens, peekers), it should be because she fucking wants to. Not because she's got some convoluted need to balance out her "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" sides. The relationship should be respectful and beneficial and Katniss should feel like she's got the ability to grow as a person and express herself freely, regardless of how many partners she chooses or which stereotyped gender activities she feels like partaking in.

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