1) thank you! 2) GOSH BIG QUESTIONS MONDAY!!!!!!!
so agency is basically the capacity or space to do shit— meaning, power or authority to act and to make one’s own decisions within a story or situation.
for female characters, agency is a big deal because female characters often spend a lot of time being very passive and are acted upon, rather than acting themselves. and if we wanna stroll through i guess the predominant progression of shit, like, in your very traditional sort of folktale, you have a prince or knight or whatever who goes off to rescue a princess in a tower and her role is essentially first to be imprisoned and then to be rescued, after which she is married off to the prince. and we don’t get any of her motives or desires or fears or decisions— she does not make any decisions except for saying yes to the male hero as is expected, nigh demanded by the narrative. and this is a very dominant idea of feminine oppression which dogs feminist discourse— like, we spend most of our time talking about this particular idea of oppression, but only select thin ‘beautiful’ white straight cis women actually get to be princesses in the tower, and that is a form of exclusion and oppression both, but it is also a sort of value and priority which is only given to them, whereas most women are not valued or do not exist either in the stories or in discourse about them.
so then you have, sort of in reaction to the tower narrative, a bunch of stories like I’M NOT A PRINCESS MOTHERFUCKER where the (strong (white straight cis) female character) runs around with a sword or something and goes on an adventure. and those also often have negotiated agency— like, if you look at the hunger games, katniss, who seems like an incredibly powerful character and who does do a ton of shit, also has increasingly fewer choices to make as the series progresses. she’s pushed along by the action and is iirc totally unconscious for most of the climax of the book. i mean that the ways we’ve been taught to think about women’s behavior and choices and role in stories is so much broader and more intricate than just like, does she appear to be physically doing things— but rather, is her perspective respected, are her opinions undervalued or demeaned by the narrative voice, is she given the space to make her own judgments and decisions, does she want things, is she able to get them for herself, is she able to analyze and deal with her own problems herself, do we get to listen to her talk
there’s this SORRY POLITICAL THEORY DORK there’s this idea about positive and negative liberty, such that negative liberty is the absence of limitations and positive liberty is the ability to move within that space— like, even if abortion is legal (negative), if you don’t have an affordable close clinic, or if you have a domestic situation that does not permit you to go to it (positive), you still do not have the liberty to have an abortion
which i mention because i think people writing female characters often super fuck up on positive liberty, like yeah she appears to be able to do all of these things, to go to all of these places, but does she actually have any genuine power or authority in her circumstance or over herself?
so then strong female characters are you know, all kinds of fucked up because people writing them are still almost entirely reacting to this very focalized idea of female oppression and so they are writing characters that are revolutionary or progressive only according to the most widely discussed oppressive tool— the tower— which is the most widely discussed bcs it is about the most privileged women. and so now we have a lot of ideas about what makes women strong and we have a lot of thin beautiful (and yet generally convinced that they are not) white straight cis women you know, holding guns and not being princesses, and yet we do not attend to whether even they have genuine agency
and agency is so complicated!!!! like if you look at even twilight, bella spends most of her time being shepherded and bossed around by various incredibly abusive men who are romantically interested in her, but then she also is able to negotiate for what she wants and gets it, even if what she wants is a very traditionally conservative, constrained lifestyle. so you have both bella claiming her fetus and refusing to let anyone destroy her fetus and bella incapable of doing literally anything until she is turned into a vampire. which is also what she wants. like, shit is complicated, for vampires, i guess.
i don’t know, i’m more about new original female characters, and complex flawed interesting female characters who are wholly their own, and female characters who get what they want because they take it, and female characters who are given genuine narrative space and respect, and female characters who challenge societal expectations and demands which have not yet been explored, oppressions beyond just some girls being princesses because like really
I’M NOT A PRINCESS MOTHERFUCKER is not longer a useful or revolutionary thesis
Reading my wiki and
Trivia: The title “Riot Grrrls” is a reference to the feminist punk movement in the 1990’s.
FEMINIST PUNKS CASS AND STEPH
how could i forget