Anyway, so this created some heated tweets about how bad the #reviewpeeves hashtag was and how it was basically telling reviewers how to do what they do. How they should review a book. And, yeah, I can see that. I'm not okay with someone telling me how to think and feel, let alone write. When I review, it's my honest opinion. MY opinion, which I am entitled to have. No one can take that away from me or tell me how to review a book. And that's why this hashtag is harmful. It's basically telling people that THIS and THIS and THAT are not okay to use as reasons for how you rate and review a book. And NO reviewer wants to be told that.
Two of the person's review peeves in that article were the TSTL (too stupid to live) characters and the ones who are called selfish. I'll be the first to admit that I will call out a character for being selfish and unlikable and stupid. Because, here's the thing, a book has to have a little something called CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Sure, they make mistakes as people do. Of course they should be flawed and not always at their best. That makes them more realistic and relatable. But if there's no development, then I'm sorry but I'll find most of what the character does to be unlikable. There has to be growth, there have to be reasons for their flaws. They can't be there for no underlying explanation or just to move along a relationship or plotline. As for downsizing this to just talking about YA, yeah teens do stupid things and are selfish. They can be pretty damn unlikable. Setting them to a higher standard probably isn't that fair, but that can't be an excuse for a character who does things for seemingly no reason or warning. Not to mention, there are plenty of people in real life whom I think are selfish and unlikable, and I can think the same damn thing about a character. It doesn't matter what age level they are at.
As to the other review peeve of that person, I don't actually see much of it. But yay for a person continuing to read a genre that has disappointed them time and time again. Sure, it's probably the reason why they don't like it and they're probably setting themselves up for failure each time, but they're entitled to their opinion, no? Yeah, they could just mention that it wasn't for them, and they should probably branch out into other genres and types of books if this one is just not cutting it for them. But again, that's their opinion and their choice!
Even though I think this hashtag was harmful, some of the tweets got me thinking about how I review. Certainly I'm not going to change how I review, but that doesn't mean that I could possibly be perpetuating the cycle of sexsim and female characters being shafted for so many impossibly unfair expectations. Elizabeth May (author of The Falconer) tweeted, "I've noticed how many of my #reviewpeeves have to do with character critiques that are often (I believe unintentionally) gendered." And I totally agree with her. I can't tell you how many times I've seen male characters praised for being assholes (and certainly, I've loved those types of book boyfriends before) while female characters are put down for just being a girl. For being emotional and making mistakes when it comes to guys. For being soft and simple and jealous and envious and overreacting to something that's been said. Basically, it doesn't matter what they do because you can always find something to criticize. And I can't tell you how many times I encounter this with female characters who are confident in their sexuality. Males can generally get away with more than females can, especially when it comes to sex. Because, as much as we don't want to admit it, females (in real life and in books) are set to higher standards. And, therefore, they're judged to a higher level.
They're not fair, these standards. To be judged for something that a male is praised for is not only sexist but harmful. Often, female characters can't get away with the same things as males. And that makes me wonder and think about how I judge female characters myself. There have probably been moments where I put higher standards on them and criticized them too harshly for something that I should have given them more leniency on. Not just on females, but teens in general. I used to think that YA was nothing more than fluff and simplistic, and I have definitely held teens to a higher standard before. It's easy to judge a character for doing something that you would not normally do. It's easy to forget that humans are full of conflicting emotions and make mistakes. Have their moments of jealousy and rage, their moments of hurt and guilt. They put their foot in their mouths and overreact. They can be stubborn to the point of wanting to stab them. But again, I believe female characters are judged more harshly for all of this.
And it kind of kills me that I could have unintentionally perpetuated this sexism in books and the stereotypes of genders. I need to be more conscious of this. I think more people need to be conscious of this. And how their own gender socializations play into how they feel, think, and judge a character in a book. Sure, they're not real. It isn't life. But books are just one of many tools that continually reinforce old stereotypes and society's many diminishing views, perpetuate sexism and traditional gender roles. Not all of them are like that, no. However, they haven't exactly helped to make them better. And that's why I am so, so happy that there are many diverse books coming in the next few years. Ones that challenge society and gender roles and old-fashioned values. Ones that need to be written. #WeNeedDiverseBooks. :)
I've honestly been thinking about this a lot, especially after all of the books I read where people shame women for having sex, hooking up with more than one guy, or flaunting their confidence in their sexuality. I almost wrote a whole post about it, about casual sex in books and how it's portrayed in both males and females in particular, but never finished it. This whole gender inequality is especially present in romances. I love romances; I love contemporaries. I love New Adult. But those genres are so terrible when it comes to gender stereotypes, sexism, and misogyny. And I become annoyed and seriously pissed off at the constant slut shaming and male leads whose best charm is that they're an asshole to everyone. Let's just stop the never-ending cycle of bullshit, shall we?
This wasn't meant to be a feminist piece about how women are unequal even in books. And it wasn't meant to bash the person who wrote that article. It was just meant to take a closer look at reviewing and how both male and female characters are portrayed and talked about in general. Something that has bothered me for a very long time but only recently taken root in my mind. I'm not going to change anything about how I review because of this hashtag, but I do know that I'm going to be more conscious of how I'm looking at the characters (secondary ones too) and what they say, especially the females.
How do you feel about this #reviewpeeves hashtag? Do you think that characters are judged more harshly in books than they would be in real life? Do you think there's an unequal balance in female and male characters when it comes to reviews and criticisms?