“100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader” Ignites Controversy


When Bitch Magazine posted their list of “100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader” a few days ago, they probably didn’t expect the Internet to explode with anger, but that’s exactly what has happened. The initial reaction to the list, which includes books with strong female protagonists like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, was very positive. Librarians and book bloggers forwarded the list via email and Twitter, excited to have a resource like this to share. However, things changed when, after receiving some complaints in their comment section, the magazine decided to reevaluate the list and remove three books. They said:

A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We’ve decided to remove these books from the list — Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don’t feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.

Everyone from authors to book bloggers to librarians have been weighing in on Bitch Magazine‘s decision to remove the books from the list. Jackson Pearce, the author of Sisters Red, tweeted: “It would’ve been an honor to be on @bitchmedia’s list, if they were both real journalists and real feminists. But they aren’t. #bitchplease.” Author Scott Westerfeld had this to say:

Let’s get this straight: You put Tender Morsels on your list without having read it, then saw a handful of outraged comments appear. So you reread Tender Morsels, swiftly and with those comments uppermost in your mind, then decided they HAD to be right.

Did you talk to anyone in the non-outraged camp first? To those feminists who originally recommended it? Did you engage in a rigorous discussion at all? Or did you just cave?

Two requests:

1) Please remove my book Uglies from the list. It’s an embarrassment to be on it.

2) Perhaps change your name to something more appropriate, like EasilyIntimidatedMedia. After all, the theme of Tender Morsels is that one must eventually leave a magical, fabricated safe haven for (sometimes brutal) reality. The theme of this blog would appear to be the exact opposite.

As of this writing, Westerfeld’s request to be removed has not yet happened. And, despite the outrage, Bitch Magazine says they will not be adding the three books they removed back to the list. They’ve been replaced with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden.

So what do you think of Bitch Magazine‘s waffling and the subsequent uproar? Do you think that by removing challenging books from the list, they aren’t giving readers enough credit? Or do you think that it’s their list, so should everyone just back off?

Follow me on Twitter @kristendaemons

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  • http://www.daemonstv.com/ Sandie

    Bitch Magazine might have lost all credibility, at least to me. Because if you create a list, then I’m assuming you’ve researched it and are ready to stand by it, no matter what. But for them to decide to change just because some people didn’t agree? I’m sorry, what?! How can you let other people dictate your list? This is not a popular/reader’s vote, this is your list. So for them to decide to remove the books just because some people disagreed, that’s just weak and proof that you didn’t put much effort and research into the list in the first place.

    Plus get some freaking balls for crying out loud! If you’re going to come up with a list, stick with it. Of course people are going to disagree, you’re never going to be able to please everyone, but at least if you stick to your grounds and defend your list, you would build some respect. I mean it’s like an award show taking back some of the awards they gave out because some people disagreed about their decisions. Ridiculous!

    • Anonymous

      Sandie – you make some really good points. Lists like these always spark discussion about what was included and what was left off. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? So, like you say, they should have been prepared to defend the list. At this point, I think the whole list is just tainted and not really useful anymore, which is a shame.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Way to ruin a really good idea. The concept of this list is terrific and there are some great titles on it, but I agree that the entire thing is now tainted. Holy inappropriate and totally not feminist caving, Batman.

    Why would Bitch Magazine ever expect all feminists to agree about every book, anyway? That’s absurd on its face, not to mention insulting.

    Love the quoted comment. EasilyIntimidatedMedia, indeed. heh. That’s a Twitter hashtag waiting to happen.

    • Anonymous

      Speaking of Twitter hashtags, I do NOT recommend searching for #bitchplease. It didn’t exactly bring back the results I was looking for :)

      • http://www.daemonstv.com/ Sandie

        Oh no that’s terrible, haha.

  • http://amckiereads.wordpress.com/ Amy

    I’m not going to lie, I missed most of the controversy and haven’t really had the desire to look it up. A list is a list and I suppose it is up to them what is on it – though I would be interested to know how it was first put together. How did they decide which books to put on the list if they hadn’t read them? As to removing, well, it is their list that they are posting for a specific reason so I see nothing wrong with updating it as long as they have clear reason – the fact that they read and re-read the books to see if they were valid concerns make me think they took the decision seriously. If they just took the books off without any thought, or hadn’t read the books, (or depending how the list was first created) then I would have more issue. If that makes sense!

    As to using the #bitchplease hashtag… it makes me sad. It is quite condescending and sexist I think, which is so un-feminist!

    • http://www.daemonstv.com/ Sandie

      I see your point Amy. I guess for me if they had really put a lot of thought into it and took it really seriously, then they wouldn’t have re-evaluated it just because some people left comments disagreeing with the list.

      If you are going to put a list out there, I am assuming you researched it thoroughly and after careful reflection this is what you came up with. For them to change after putting it out there makes me think that they either weren’t really serious about it and are trying to please people, or didn’t do their research correctly. In either case it discredits the list, at least for me.

      That say, they absolutely have the right to change the list if they feel that it needs to be changed, but I think that they also need to be aware of what message it sends. But of course, some people are going to totally disagree with me and that’s ok :)

      As for the the #bitchplease harshtag, I thought it was funny! Especially since their name is Bitch Magazine :)