I read an article earlier this month that really struck a chord. It was headlined “The Protagonist Problem” (tinyurl.com/vox-protagonists). In it, the writer posits that men (especially straight white men) are raised to believe that they are the protagonists of their story, as well as the stories of those around them. With this belief that everything should go their way, they are taught to believe that anything that does not go their way is an affront to the natural order of things. The author pulls out several examples of this from just the past few months. That author is not a woman rallying for another #MeToo movement moment, but a white man.
The author also posits that women are raised with the idea that they are supporting characters who on occasion find the spotlight. They are not raised to believe that they are the protagonists of their own story. Women are instead raised to take life as it comes and not expect everything will go their way.
Of course these are over-generalizations, but the more I pay attention, the more I see what the author’s seeing in popular culture, the news, and even book titles.
This article and my subsequent observations have led me to our current book display, “She has a Name!”. Too often, book titles represent women by the way that they relate to men or simply as “girl”. But “The Girl on the Train” was actually a hot mess named Rachel and “The Zookeeper’s Wife” was an actual brave woman named Antonina. There are so many more examples of this.
I think it’s time that these characters take back their narratives. I hope you enjoy the library’s companion book display introducing you to the women behind the book titles. (Check out the new display on the second floor of the library, near the Reference Desk.)
By Stephanie, WFPL Reference Librarian