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The Lesser-Known Fifth Horseman

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Average Everygirl #3, "No low self-esteem?" | Panel 1: The Narrator says, "Average, if you have self-esteem, you're no longer an Average Everygirl." Average replies, "I disagree. Every girl needs self-esteem. It should be the average." | Panel 2: the Narrator says, "Careful there. People might brand you as a feminist " to which Average says, "The same people who expect me to have low self-esteem? Color me devastated." | Panel 3: The Narrator says, "Sarcasm duly noted." Average replies, "Look. I'm keeping my self-esteem. It sets a bad example otherwise." | Panel 4: the Narrator says, "...Fine. Just don't blame me when everything implodes." Average, deadpan, replies, "Yes. An average girl who respects herself. It's a sign of the Apocalypse."

The Narrator says feminist like it’s a bad thing. Silly Narrator.

As I said at the beginning, this comic series mainly serves as a light-hearted mechanism for me to vent my literary frustrations. I expected maybe a courtesy chuckle here or there. Instead I’ve had many good conversations this week, both online and off, regarding self-esteem in literature and in life. I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed to the experience. It has been wonderful and uplifting (for me, at least).

Feminist? Maybe, maybe not

So, commentary for this installment: the narrator’s line, “Careful there. People might brand you as a feminist.” Feminist, as with many -ist terms, is one of those labels that a person must assume for his or herself. When someone else comes along and slaps it on you, it’s as though they are dictating your beliefs instead of allowing you to determine those beliefs yourself. It’s objectifying, in other words, yet another reinforcement of Girl-as-Object—or more broadly, Person-as-Object—and Average, as a girl with healthy self-esteem, can dismiss it offhand.

We don’t get to choose one another’s labels any more than we get to choose one another’s clothes. Maybe you don’t like the shirt I’m wearing. Maybe I wouldn’t be caught dead in that pair of jeans.

(Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t fit into that pair of jeans, so getting caught dead in it isn’t an option. And my shirt is fabulous, by the way.)

Person A slapping Person B with a label doesn’t mean Person B has to accept it or even react negatively. Part of a healthy self-esteem is understanding that one’s worth is not affected by the opinions or actions of others. Would that I could live this philosophy as easily as I can describe it. It’s much harder to put into practice, as rare in real life as it is in the literary world. Reactionary characters are so much more tempting, because OH, THE DRAMA!!!

And yet, there is something wholly satisfying about a woman who can slough off an attempted barb with nothing more than a dismissive shrug of her shoulder. When I read a character like that, I instinctively want to be like her. And I certainly want to create others like her.

Final thoughts:

I haven’t decided exactly how to proceed with this series (this is only the first set of comics—my apologies to anyone who was hoping I had finished), so for now, I’ll continue posting them here to my blog. Most are in sets of three, but I’m kind of overwhelmed at the thought of posting three times a week. (I feel like I’m spamming my own blog. How terrible is that?) We’ll see how it goes.

Again, thank you for the thoughtful responses, the provocative conversations, and the cheerful encouragements. All combined, it gives me great hope for days and books to come. You are all wonderful.

Now let’s bring on the Apocalypse, shall we?

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