The problem with feminist characters

During the past few days, I have read at least two or three separate articles on why Katniss Everdeen is such a great female role model. Katniss is the lead protagonist of The Hunger Games series of books and films. She is a very human character with flaws and vulnerabilities. She is also determined, strong and she does things on her own terms. In her fictional dystopian universe, a futuristic imagining of the United States, inequalities between social classes are a bigger problem than inequalities between gender.

The most recent movie, adapted from the book, focuses partly on revolutions and uprisings in the twelve districts which are controlled by the totalitarian regime of the Capitol. And Katniss’s refusal to define herself by relationships with men, unlike some other mainstream franchise characters (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you), has led to her character being acclaimed as a pop culture feminist role model.

Photo credit: © 2013 - Lionsgate Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

Photo credit: © 2013 – Lionsgate
Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

The issue of gender discrimination in film is nothing new. The Bechdel test was developed in 1985 and it scores movies and other works of fiction based on the criteria that “it has to have at least two [named] women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man” (Bechdel Test). Recently, a few independent Swedish cinemas have started rating the movies they show and giving them a grade based on whether they pass the Bechdel test. I think there are flaws with this: a movie can still be sexist or demonstrate gender inequalities even if it contains two female characters who talk about something other than relationships. But it does highlight the fact that a lot of movies are based on models of gender bias which do not fit the feminist ideology of equality. Perhaps needless to say, The Hunger Games passes the Bechdel Test with an A grade.

However, the fact that we need to make a point out of having strong female characters demonstrates that we have a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great to have feminist characters, especially in mainstream franchises. But I think the fact that we have to make such a big deal out of it is representative of a wider problem: of inequalities which still linger. It highlights the issue, at least in my eyes, that it is necessary to define characters by feminist and non-feminist. By all means, we still need to work towards equality but I hope that it will become standard for women to be represented in all forms of media without gender discrimination. Only then will we know that true and meaningful progress has been made.

The perfect gift for book-lovers

Last week I clicked on a link I saw on Facebook and I found this:

Photo credit: Dorothy

Photo credit: Dorothy

I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you all. It is a creative and delightful book map from We Are Dorothy. Over 600 titles from all types of literature are included. There are areas of the map which are dedicated to the Harry Potter series, others to Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. Many of my readers love books and literature as much as I do and I think you will agree that this is rather wonderful.

A close-up view of part of the book map. How many titles can you spot? (photo credit: Dorothy

A close-up view of part of the book map. How many titles can you spot? (photo credit: Dorothy)

To view more images of the book map, purchase it and explore We Are Dorothy’s other creations, hop over to their website here and follow on Twitter @Dorothy_______

The best apple cake you will ever taste

Okay, maybe the title of this post is a little hyperbolic, but the apple cake recipe I am about to show you definitely merits recognition!

My young nieces go to a kindergarten which is run along the lines of the Waldorf philosophy of education developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s (if you’re interested, you can read more about Waldorf education by clicking here).

Waldorf has German and Austrian origins and many of the recipes that the schools use are traditional German recipes. The cakes are excellent — wholesome but incredibly tasty. I have long wanted to visit Austria just so I can sample the amazing kuchen and torten! The preschool/kindergarten, teacher recently gave my sister this recipe and she passed it along to me. It’s a perfect recipe if you have apples in abundance — simple, quick to make and delicious with a cup of coffee.

GERMAN APPLE CAKE

Ingredients

270 g butter or margarine
180 g brown sugar
5 medium eggs
270 g flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 – 4 peeled cooking apples, either sliced in small cubes or thin slices.
80 g raisins or sultanas

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). If you’re using a convection oven, you may need to slightly reduce the temperature.
2. Mix the butter/margarine and sugar until it is well blended. Gradually add the beaten eggs and continue to mix together.
3. Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and finely slicing them. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sultanas/raisins and apples. Mix together.
4. Line a square or oblong baking dish with baking parchment/greaseproof paper. Pour your cake mixture into the dish and level it with a spoon.
5. Bake for around 45 minutes. You might need to reduce the temperature slightly during the last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking to ensure the top does not brown too much.
6. The cake is done when you can insert a knife into it and it comes out clean. Cut into squares and enjoy!