Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Hunger Games Challenges Gender Stereotypes

Already within the first hundred pages of Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins sets up her characters in ways that truly defy what have become the typical gender roles. My focus, is on Katniss and Peeta, of course. These two have entirely opposite characteristics, both between each other, and with their gender. Let's start with Katniss.
First off, Katniss is strong, independent, and free thinking. She is cunning and brave. Right away she is identified as the hunter and gatherer (literally) for her family, a role traditionally thought of as that of the "man of the house." Now, granted she is the oldest in her family, and there are no more men left, but she doesn't simply rely on others, particularly a man to help her family. She hunts and kills as a team with Gale, not even needing his help, but like that of a group of men hunting together, knows that it is easier when someone has your back. I will admit, when I first read the book, and had no prior knowledge of its characters, or its plot, but simply going off the rave reviews by my friends, that I thought Katniss was a guy. Before Collins uses personal pronouns, or the name "Katniss" she does not portray any feminine characteristics for Katniss' character within the first few pages. Katniss wears leather boots, a leather jacket, hunts with a bow and arrow, and fends for her family. These are all seemingly masculine qualities, but the beauty of Katniss' character is that it's believable that she could do all of this. Collins takes some of the most famous masculine characteristics and creates a kick ass female character, one of my favorite characters in fact.
Now, there's Peeta. He is not the oldest, nor the strongest in his family. In fact he's a baker and a cake decorator, and while he still has to work hard for his family, it is no where near what Katniss has to do, and he knows this. Being a cake and bread maker, and even being in the kitchen at all is one of the biggest stereotypes for women. This role of home maker has traditionally been solely a female role. Once we get further into the book, there are also many other characteristics that can also be seen as "traditionally feminine" that Peeta portrays, but at the same time, Peeta is strong, and cunning. He is able to be both sweet and kind, but also strong and determined and intelligent. During the reaping, Katniss steps up for her sister, an act of courage like I imagine a Knight would do in an old fairytale, whereas none of Peeta's older brothers do the same for him.
By having the roles reversed Collins is able to thwart all gender stereotypes and portray two lovable and believable characters. For me, this inspires a sort of feministic side of me that believes that gender doesn't have to be a sole identifier. Genders shouldn't be degrading, or have stereotypes that follow them around. I believe that Suzanne Collins crafted two characters that have helped me greater understand that gender is simply a label, but that we are all human. We all have similar mentalities and feelings regardless of gender.


  1. I liked how you set up the binary of male and female in the context of the Peeta and Katniss. Reading the book, I get so caught up with the plot that I haven't even realize this. Katniss is definitely not your stereotypical girl. She is able to put food on the table and fend for herself. Likewise, Peeta also deviates from the norm. He is the specialized cake/ icing decorator, thus is skill in camouflaging. In addition, I agree with you that by setting up these contrasts of characterizations, Collins fashions Katniss and Peeta to be believable and appealing for many audiences.

  2. I agree with your post. While reading the Hunger Games, I certainly realized that Katniss didn't fit female stereotypes. She is powerful and courageous, and her strength as a fighter is undeniable. But I didn't realize how much Peeta's character strays from common male stereotypes. I just took him as being an artistic person, but your perspective is certainly correct. The fact that he is a baker and enjoys to decorate cakes categorizes him with female tendencies rather than common male ones. However, despite such tendencies, Peeta is still portrayed as a likable, strong male character. Collins masterful role reversals definitely makes for a fresh, new, and absolutely feminist-thinking story.

  3. Your blog post makes a lot of great points. Another aspect that puts Peeta in stereotypically female role is that he is head of heels in love with Katniss. While he has hopelessly fallen for her, Katniss takes advantage of this to help them win the games. Though in many cases portraying women as stereotypically women tends to make them look weak, I thought characterizing Peeta with this traits did not do that at all. Instead it made him a more relatable character that had me rooting for him.


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