Katniss Unites Feminine + Masculine 

The Hunger Games Katniss (Jennifer Lawarence)

The Hunger Games Katniss (Jennifer Lawarence)

The Hunger Games’ “Katniss” is a break-out heroine,

Exist(ing) outside the traditional confines of the feminine-masculine split.

So says Manohla Dargis in her New York Times review.

As heroes go, Katniss — played by Jennifer Lawrence — is far more complex than the unemotional and invulnerable “macho” who typically saves the day.

Nor is she not trapped by the usual feminine virgin-whore divide.

Katniss has been described as both:

  • personal and communal
  • strong and soft
  • hunter and nurturer
  • tough and teary
  • fighter and lover
  • stoic and sentimental

But at least one reviewer complained that the [spoiler alert] ending is conservative. For in the end we find:

Katniss in a utopian pastoral setting, holding her baby girl as she watches Peeta play with their towheaded son in the distance. Donning a ’50s-era housedress, she coos to the restless baby about her “game” of reminding herself of every good thing that she has ever seen someone do anytime she has a nightmare. Acknowledging that this practice gets tedious, she closes the film with the same line that closed the book “there are much worse games to play.”

…wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see Katniss choose something other than heteronormative, monogamous parenthood with Peeta?

Well, she has a point.

Yet, the scene continues the unity of feminine and masculine on two levels:

  1. the symbolic union of Katniss and Peeta
  2. the union of (feminine) family and (masculine) warrior that weaves through the series

For Katniss begins with family, turns warrior, and returns to family. Having transformed existence from brutality into something far better. That is actually a common hero arch.

And actually, ending up as “mom and dad” is not necessarily conservative.

After all, the human notion of deity began as a mother goddess, like Gaia and Tiamat and Isis. Who mated with a powerful father god. Celebrating the unity of feminine + masculine power. And bringing new life.

Really, that’s pretty powerful.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 9, 2015, in feminism, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I’m glad to see a post discussing the issues of misrepresentation of women in pop-culture / media. I agree with the points brought up in this post, particularly in that Katniss Everdeen’s character is a powerful step into a world where gender stereotypes are no longer linked to specific genders. The writers could have put Katniss as the main heroine but attributed “feminine” qualities to her which, while still potent, ultimately serves to preserve the form of the stereotype. By mixing both masculine and feminine qualities into one character we begin to perceive things in a different light.

    One parallel I immediately drew when I read this article was to the main character, Rey, from the new Star Wars film. She, thematically, walks a similar path to Katniss, and I think, seeing something like this in a major franchise like Star Wars is truly refreshing. The character Rey is a strong, independent survivor. At some point, a male grabs her hand to escape in an emergency situation to which she responds “I don’t need you to hold my hand”. But at the same time, she expresses qualities that are more traditionally “feminine” in that she is ultimately familial (waiting for her family to return for her), is emotional, and focuses on nurturing and caring others. Her initial response to wielding a weapon is disgust — but there comes a time towards the end of the film where she embraces her inner-warrior to overcome the primary antagonist, and further illustrates the idea that strength is more than just physical size.

  2. I completely agree with the fact that Katniss “unites feminine and masculine”. The Hunger Games is so great because of the fact that Katniss is the main character of the series, and she’s female. I enjoy the fact that you explain that the feminine side of Katniss is her taking care of her family, whereas the masculine side of Katniss is the warrior that she is during the Hunger Games itself. If you notice in other movies and/or shows, the female characters are usually sexualized in some way, whereas in The Hunger Games, she is definitely shown as a 50% feminine and 50% masculine.

  3. I don’t know the books or the movies, but I do know that there’s nothing weak about motherhood. Maybe it’s not “just” that she’s a wife and mother, it’s that there’s a warrior in all women.

    • Yes, all humans have the full range of capability. And then we try to put people into boxes — gendered ones. But Katniss is a role model for being in touch with your whole self.

  4. What I really enjoyed about these Hinger Games series is the Katniss character. I found that she could be strong yet feminine at the same time with her love twists with Peeta and Gail. I loved that she was this tough badass girl when in the arena, but also played this role of being so much in love with her district 12 lover. I think that it was really cool to watch her go through different transitions from warrior to big sister and partner for life.

  5. interesting read about Katniss. I never got beyond the first book because I found her unbelievably annoying!

  6. …wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see Katniss choose something other than heteronormative, monogamous parenthood with Peeta?

    In my view, there is nothing wrong with her choosing a hetrosexual, monogamous relationship. What conservative about that?

    She can still break gender roles by being a strong, alpha woman who leads within her relationship and family.

    Maybe she IS the family matriarch and the disappointed reviewer just doesn’t realize that…

    She can still unite masculine with the feminine. They are not mutual exclusive.

  7. I agree. A lot of people had a problem with the heteronormative ending, but I don’t understand how Katniss wearing a dress and holding her younger child while Peeta plays with the older is, perhaps, defeating the “cause” of Katniss and what readers and fans would have liked her to be. I haven’t read the books, but her relationship with Peeta as depicted in the films is far from heteronormative. In fact, it is refreshing that the baker boy, Peeta, may seem shy and vulnerable to Katniss, the skilled archer, but it doesn’t emasculate him. Throughout, their relationship has developed on a mutually agreement of equality and loyalty. In fact, I’d say both Katniss and Peeta embody masculine and feminine qualities, and isn’t your stereotypical ‘one completes what the other lacks’ relationship. They are partners, equals.
    A friend of mine pointed out that there is a scene towards the end in the book where Katniss kills a helpless civilian, written to show the effects of war on her. This is especially significant because she has throughout resisted killing, unless it was absolutely “necessary”. I don’t know why the filmmakers ignored this important sequence of character development, but my friend guessed it might have something to do with Jennifer Lawrence’s popularity and the overall heroism of Katniss.

  8. I haven’t seen the final film, but from the book: It’s an interesting ending, in that it’s not a romantic happily-ever-after. Throughout the books, Katniss is rarely if ever romantic, always being more concerned about other more important things. In this light, the ending becomes more about how much Katniss and Peeta need each other after all they’ve been through. It’s even possible to read her as an aromantic heroine, and thus unique in a whole new way. The films, of course, emphasise the romantic elements, making such an interpretation impossible.

    • And romance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a part of the human experience. Since she is such a Warrior it may help to round her out. (And help sell tickets.)

      • “[Romance] is a part of the human experience” is a problematic statement because it implies that people who do not experience romantic attraction are somehow less that human. Romance is undeniably a good thing for box office receipts, but it’s not a necessary thing for Katniss. Rather, it is her compassionate nature that drives her heroism.

      • Well, it’s part of the human capacity, and in that way part of the human experience whether any of us are personally tied into it. But you’re right, I do know people who are aromantic, and that’s fine if it works for you. But being romantic isn’t a bad thing. Of course, being compassionate is of a higher order.

  9. Good point too. Considering the ride they have been on and the fact that they had no other family left outside of each other if I’m not mistaken, I think it makes sense that we end with them starting a family of their own.

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