Sexist Tropes in Books that We’ve All Had Enough Of

Helloo! Today we’re gonna rant about something I’m very passionate about- smashing the patriarchy. Sexist tropes in books are the bane of my existence, and so here I am to rant about what some of them are, and why they need to get the hell out. Let’s get to it!

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1. Damsel in Distress

Is it even possible for this trope to be more overdone thank it already is? If the only use of a female character is to be saved by some dude in a shining armour, just to prove his strength and courage and what not, we’ve got a problem. If the only way you can get a female character to contribute to the plot is by getting in trouble sos he can be saved, clearly something is being done wrong, because she can sure as hell do a lot more than that. She may need help at times, but she does not need some guy to rescue her in every damn battle.

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2. The Overly Jealous Boyfriend/Girlfriend

This is pretty common in YA books, and it’s normalised like it’s no big deal, which really bothers me. There are so many overly jealous and aggressive partners in YA now, and they’re usually all male. They imply that if you don’t control every aspect of your life, including your girlfriend and HER life, you aren’t a “real man”. The toxic masculinity in these books is insane, and the way it’s normalised makes girls think that that’s what they need to look for in a relationship. This trope is toxic, annoying, and just straight up stupid.

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3. “I’m not like other girls”

UGFHHF THIS HAS TO BE THE ONE I HATE THE MOST. As if there’s something WRONG in being like other girls. This is the “cool” female character who lOVES sports, likes science and math, doesn’t wear make up, wears sweatpants, has 7 brothers, and is only friends with guys because girls are “too much drama”. I hate this kind of trope, because though there’s nothing wrong with any of those things I listed (except the “girls are too much drama”), it makes it seem like a girl who is interested in these things is inherently superior than a girl who likes “girlier” things, as if there’s something wrong with liking fashion and makeup and other such stuff. You don’t have to be catty to other girls to be friends with guys, and being good at this stuff doesn’t set you apart and make you cooler

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4. The overly hunky, incredibly sexualised guy

This is also super prevalent in YA books these days, and I have to say that Sarah J. Maas is one of those authors. Though I really enjoy her books, some aspects are definitely problematic, especially how every single guy in her book is a muscled, chiseled, broody and hot dude. The way they are talked about is overtly sexual and a bit gross, and it really makes some double standards clear, because if a male author wrote about a female character the same way, he’d probably be facing a lawsuit. It’s important for authors to realise that most guys in the real world look nothing like the guys they describe, and all these overly sexualised guys with the personality of potatoes really don’t add anything to the plot.

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5. Physical Strength > Mental Strength

Nowadays, a character is only considered badass if she can punch through a wall and can fight, but god forbid you be an intelligent and complex character, albeit you can’t hold a knife. The ability to fight isn’t a personality trait, and just because someone can shoot a gun and kick ass doesn’t mean they’re super strong. Just because a character can punch someone in the face doesn’t make them strong and badass, in fact most of the times, the strongest character is the one who makes all the emotional and morally ambiguous decisions. A character can be badass even if she can’t hold a weapon, but has the brains and the mental strength that you actually need to be strong.

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And that’s it! I want to recommend some books that I think smash the patriarchy, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

What do you think of these tropes? Do you like any of them? Do any of them annoy you? What are some sexist tropes you hate? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

-Rhea

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6 thoughts on “Sexist Tropes in Books that We’ve All Had Enough Of

Add yours

  1. Such a great post! THis is not enough times but it really needs to be mor​e popularis​e​d. This is true and well, it needs to be acknowledged and spre​ad.
    The truth is, these tropes are the worst out there – it is not only the sexism but also the judgement that goes into these that makes me hate them.
    I completely agree with you!
    Once again, great post! xx

    Like

  2. I hate it even more when the love interest says ‘You’re not like the other girls’ and I just wish she would answer, ‘How many girls do you know?!’ Girls are individuals not just a mass!
    I also dislike the overly-sexualised descriptions. It’s okay to have a bit of insta-lust, but the long descriptions of physical attributes are just unnecessary and boring.
    I also think you make a great point about physical strength being over-rated.

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  3. Great post! This reminded me how irked I was when Isabelle Lightwood got super possessive with Simon Lewis in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and he told her to cool it. Then everyone gets mad at SIMON for standing up for himself and setting boundaries and saying Isabelle is “fragile.” One: Isabelle Lightwood is NOT fragile. Two: Simon has the right to put his foot down when his partner is getting too jealous. The whole situation was an insult to both their characters.

    Your post only goes to show how normal this behavior has become in YA. I’m glad someone pointed this out, finally.

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  4. Totally agree with these. I’m particularly struggling with the latest Sarah J. Maas right now (in fact, I’ve got the audiobook to try and push through it because it’s, like, five million pages long). I’m persevering because I absolutely loved Throne of Glass and when Aelin was Celaena, and I want to have the resolution of an ending to the series. HOWEVER, Sarah J. Maas has massively descended into the mega-jealous and unrealistically hunky “male mate” (both those words make me squirm, like they’re a a bulldog or something). The rage these characters feel when someone so much as looks at their “mates” wrong is really not normal and should not be normalised. I’ve tried COTAR too, but that’s very similar with “males” tearing themselves to pieces over the freedoms of their “mates”. So I don’t think I’ll be reading any more from Sarah J. Maas from now on.

    I think it’s worse when you consider the target audience for YA. These books with these toxic tropes are in the hands of teenage girls who are just about learning what romantic relationships are all about and what it means to be a woman. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of fiction and a bit of fantasy, but as an author, you have a responsibility to send out positive, realistic messages to impressionable minds, and romanticising being controlled by a violently jealous and possessive partner (but it’s okay because he’s an Adonis, and btw this is the only acceptable type of male) is not a good one. Bring on the clever, independent, strong-minded, decision-making girls with plain but kind love interests (or no love interests at all – shocker!).

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