By Natalie C. Parker
I’m a feminist and was from a very young age. For this I thank my mother, whose brand of feminism at the time might be summarized by her insistence that my sister and I were welcome to paint our nails as long as we kept them short enough to make a fist. This early pairing of ideas—that a gendered activity like painting fingernails was compatible with a differently-gendered activity like fighting—has remained an influential one in my life. And while I’m certain that the reason she was so insistent her daughters be capable of throwing a punch was grounded in her belief that the world was a dangerous place for girls, it was also a message about strength. I grew up knowing that painting my fingernails didn’t make my punches any less powerful, which might seem like a small lesson in the ways our society uses gender, but it was a foundational one.
My early lessons in gender and power eventually lead me to pursue a graduate degree in gender studies where I analyzed literature with a critical focus on the ways women and girls were given space in stories. There is much to be said on this topic, but one of the tropes that continues to haunt contemporary storytelling is that of the girl who is “not like other girls.”
This trope is one of the most insidious tools of patriarchal storytelling because it’s delivered in the guise of a compliment. It is the wolf in sheep’s clothing of sexist tropes! The girl who isn’t like other girls is one who typically eschews habits and hobbies that are traditionally gendered female (and that therefore have less social value) and surrounds herself with boys because she doesn’t enjoy the company of other girls. We see her appear repeatedly in film and fiction and she’s presented as someone who is more desirable specifically because she has actively divorced herself from traits that are closely aligned with being female. In other words, taking on habits and hobbies that are considered masculine (she’s not like other girls because she likes computers or cars or watching football!), and isolating herself from other girls, makes her better.
*cue head explosion*
There are many sexist tropes alive and well today, but this one gets under my skin because it suggests that the only way for girls to be valued is to accept that girls and women aren’t valuable to begin with. When it appears in stories, we see girls turning on each other, holding each other down while they reach for approval from the very force that fed them the lie that girls are less than boys in the first place.
*cue secondary head explosion*
In more ways than one, Seafire is an answer to this trope: a rebuttal and a challenge. One of my greatest hopes for this novel is that it contributes to the rising tide of stories that seek to interrupt this narrative. Instead of suggesting girls in a group must be in competition with one another, I want stories in which girls are in collaboration with one another, where they are capable of disagreeing without tearing each other down, where they push back against the forces that want to disempower them by driving them apart.
The girls of Seafire aren’t here for the patriarchy. They resist it with every weapon in their arsenal: they sail ships and plot battles; they go on raids and fix each other’s hair; they argue about what to do next and teach each other to read; they are smart and skilled and brave and gentle. Not a single one of them is like the other, and they are all just like other girls.
Seafire is available for pre-order now! Don’t forget to submit your receipt for our pre-order giveaway!
And if you want more awesome Seafire content from Natalie C. Parker check out these book recs for the Seafire crew mates!