I’m what I like to call a “non-practicing feminist.” I’m a feminist according to the dictionary definition, but the modern “feminist” movement champions a lot of things I disagree with. When western feminism stops complaining about a fictional $0.75 wage gap (Forbes) and starts fighting for the rights of women who have to worry about being honor killed by their father for refusing to marry a cousin. (CNN) I will proudly join you. I will even wear one of your ugly pink pussy hats.
I normally don’t get bothered by feminist writers sprinkling girl power messages into their teen fiction. It’s just fiction, they’re not citing false statistics or anything, and encouraging girls to achieve what they want in life, is a good thing. But this book annoyed me. Let me explain:
I read all three books in Amy Ewing’s The Jewel series. Set in a world with a stark social hierarchy. The nobility is so inbred they are sterile and low born girls with magic powers are rounded up to be surrogate mothers. Good looking low born boys are rounded up to be “companions,” sexual playthings of high born women.
The main character is Violet. She is bought by the Duchess of the Lake. Violet has to learn the ins and outs of courtly life and makes the mistake of falling for the Duchess’ companion, Ash. With the help of a male “lady-in-waiting” (It’s just a job title) and Garnet, the Duchess’ son, Violet learns that all surrogates die giving birth. Why is never explained.
Would they die giving birth to their own kids? It’s really vague, and there are no answers. The girls are only safe if they are infertile. Since these girls are sold at an auction for the purpose of popping out royal kids you would think that they would screen the girls with fertility tests, but apparently not.
Anyway, Ash and Violet eventually escape the city and flee to the remote farming community where they meet the only surrogate who has ever survived giving birth: the Duchess’ birth mother. She teaches Violet and the other runaway surrogates how to use their magic, and soon enough it’s time for a revolution because this is a YA dystopia novel damn it!
At first, I thought the main antagonists were the high born women artificially inseminating these slave girls, and we would explore issues of rape, abortion, and motherhood. But oh no we can’t have that, the real villain here is the patriarchy! Yep, it’s the male-dominated society that pushes women to these extremes. That’s the real villain.
Can we get a YA dystopia novel where the males get to be masculine? Is that so much to ask? No wonder boys don’t read!
All the surrogates have magic vagina powers because. . . reasons. It’s the noble savage concept, but with women. They have powers because their maternal ancestors had a mystical connection to the earth, to heal the land blah, blah, blah and when their vagina powers combine they summon Captain Planet!
I have a number of issues with this series and it’s unthought out feminist worldview. First and foremost is the fact that all the “good” male characters are emasculated. Male ladies-in-waiting are literally castrated by law.
Garnet is under the thumb of his mother and the issue is ignored. Garnet’s story arc never even brings him to confront his horrible mother, who saw him as a chess piece instead of as a son.
Ash is completely controlled by the women around him. His female pimp, the Duchess, and even Violet. Violet doesn’t want him fighting in the revolution and turns down his idea to use companions as a secret task force in the capital, because apparently in Violet’s mind, Ash only exists as a life support system for a dick. I’ve read silver era Superman comics where Lois Lane was treated with more respect!
So why are the young men being treated like this?!
This novel made me notice a very disturbing trend in YA dystopian novels. There seems to be a thing in YA novels lately about making strong female characters at the cost of the male characters. Do we literally have to put men down to lift ourselves up?
Can we get a YA dystopian novel where the males get to be masculine? Is that so much to ask? No wonder boys don’t read!