WARNING: If you haven’t read the books yet (and really, what have you been doing with your life if you haven’t?) this post contains spoilers.
When The Hunger Games hit shelves in 2008, its feisty main character quickly earned the “strong female character” seal of approval from fans of young adult lit. Hot-tempered, bow-wielding Katniss is fiercely independent, scornful of feminine frills, and barred off to any emotion that could render her vulnerable. Essentially, as one Tor.com blogger pointed out recently, she’s the anti-Bella Swan, a golden girl for all those YA readers who like their female protagonists to do something more worthwhile than choose between two men.
But amidst the flurry of excitement over Katniss’s complete and utter BAMFness (to use the technical term), it’s easy to forget what keeps her alive is not superior strength, speed, or intelligence, but rather a characteristic that no one else in the arena embraces. Ultimately, it’s not the weapons Katniss wields but the relationships she nurtures that save her life.
And I’m convinced that she’s a feminist character not because she wields a bow like Bella never could, but because while in the arena she learns to recognize, value, and eventually embrace feminine strengths. It’s her ability to find strength in other women—and to support them in return—that makes the girl on fire a feminist.