The word feminism commands a lot of attention in the modern day world, evidently due to the dynamic shift in women’s roles, rights, and capabilities in the society. Primarily, the theory of feminism which was birthed in the late twentieth century is founded upon ensuring equality in terms of rights and privileges to both sexes. In this regard, there have been several feministic movements across the globe in recent history to inform, educate and campaign for the emancipation of the girl child by avoiding repression in modern society from a dominantly patriarchal community. Consequently, there have come up feminist scholars such as Susan Bordo who have shed light on the theory of feminism and how it is manifested in the society (Leitch et al., 2010). In her discourse presented in Unbearable Weight, Susan describes the transformation of roles of women in modern society (Leitch et al., 2010). She goes further to illuminate and expound on the dysfunctional behavior expressed by women in the society such as anorexia and agoraphobia, and their relationship to feminism. According to Susan, women have become overwhelmingly preoccupied with the pursuit of idealistic femininity that it is actually detrimental to their own development (Leitch et al., 2010). In summation, the culture in modern times has seen women in a constant search for self-improvement which however is self-defeating in the pursuit of gender equality.
In the fictional works of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the theme of feminism is predominant where the lead character is chosen, is a heroine named Katniss. In the narration, Katniss is shown to contain a high level of skill especially in domains of combat, evident from her exceptional archery and skills in hunting (Collins, 2009). Her athletic prowess creates an indomitable character that is able to triumph in the fatal competition that is the hunger games where she played tribute of District 12, the coal mining district (Collins, 2009). Despite the intentional choice by the writer of the book to choose a female protagonist, in order to suit the plot of the story, the heroine had to be seen to have skills worthy of defeating a male opponent. Therefore, Katniss was nurtured to train tirelessly in the absence of her father who died when she was young in order to fulfill the patriarchal void (Collins, 2008). She had to be great as an archer and a hunter in order to provide and protect her younger sister Prim and her sickly mother (Collins, 2008). Therefore, it is evident of the role of the lead character in displaying feminism in The Hunger Games.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss role has been developed to show traits that display her autonomy and efficiency as effectively as a male character which is the essence of feminism. One of the most fundamental roles of Katniss is her relationship with her younger sister Prim. The lead character is shown to be a protector, a provider, a friend and even showing motherly love to her younger sister (Collins, 2008). She practically raises her sister in the absence of her father and her incapable sickly mother. Moreover, Katniss is also able to make a crucial decision to be the tribute to represent her sister who was first elected (Collins, 2008). Her decision to become tribute is explained by Bordo as the innate tendency for women to cater to other people’s needs before their own (Leitch et al., 2010). Consequently, the lead character is shown to have enough strength to play the role of a father in the life of her sister while maintaining a friendly and loving relationship with her altogether.
Also important to note on the theory of feminism from The Hunger Games is the role of the relationships that Katniss has with fellow women and how they shape her into the woman that she is. Despite the role she plays to nurture and protect her sister, Katniss relationship with her mother is shown to be rather complex. Right before she is due for isolation prior to entering the competition, Katniss has a moment to address her family for the last time because she might not see them again after the competition start (Collins, 2008). As Katniss addresses her mother asking her not to cry but to make sure she takes care of Prim, it is clear that she dislikes her mother’s traits which she regards as excessive emotional (Collins, 2008). However, later in the book, she is seen to have attributes that are arguably alike to her mother’s erratic emotional makeup. She expresses herself while in love similarly to the way her mother would have responded to her father’s loving gestures. Therefore, it is safe to say that relationships between female characters are very important in developing strength and character in women.
Finally, it is important to note the role of dress and makeup to modern-day femininity. Bordo explains the modern woman’s body has been cultured to be docile and normalized through the discipline of diet, makeup, and dress (Leitch et al., 2010). According to Bordo, the dress has become an essential part of expressing feminine self, whose purpose is self-defeating (Leitch et al., 2010). She argues that women become less socially oriented and end up succumbing to modifying or improving their bodies through the elements of dress, makeup, and body. This presents a dysfunction in the sense that modern women are always seeking to improve themselves as if to claim that they are not essentially good enough as they are without these disciplinary elements of normalization. In The Hunger Games, Katniss has a whole array of stylists that she has to face before she enters the arena for the games which are broadcasted on the local television network. After the process of being beautified, Katniss is grateful for the result which seems pleasing to her. Therefore, this is a subliminal statement that the female lead character has to exude emphasized feminine traits of beauty as well as feats of physical prowess in order to fit well into her role.
In conclusion, even though the narration of The Hunger Games is set to reveal through the action of a strong lead heroine, the importance of equality of sexes, the purpose is self-defeating. The exceptional skills that the lead character attains are only acquired when she has to fill the shoes of her father to protect and provide for her family whom she loves. Once again, she is shown to have the emotional makeup that is predominantly masculine, unlike her mother whom she considers weak. In contrast, she eventually ends up displaying the same emotional traits as her mother’s later on in the text. In addition, before battle or being broadcast, she has to go through an intense makeover session with her stylists in order to be more appealing to the audience. However, her male counterparts need not go through such a session and are only judged by their physical strength and combat prowess. Therefore, the overall impression created is that in the pursuit of the elusive femininity, instead of changing the existing gender disposition it only serves to reassert them.
- Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York, Scholastic press.
- Leitch, V.B., et al., (2010). Norton anthology of theory and criticism. New York: W. W. Norton.