Courtney Summers’ new novel All the Rage has been hailed as an emotional, painful and unabashedly feminist look at our society’s rape culture. It follows a girl named Romy Grey, who is branded an outcast after she tries to share the truth about the behavior of Kellan, the town’s golden boy. But when a girl with ties to both Kellan and Romy goes missing after a party, Romy must decide if staying silent about Kellan is a burden too big to bear.
Summers’ All the Rage releases on April 14th, and instead of making the day about All the Rage, Summers has a better plan – to make it about the girls that inspired the book.
#ToTheGirls is a hashtag campaign designed to encourage and celebrate girls. Summers encourages’ participants to share advice, encouraging remarks, and personal stories of the girls who have made a difference in participant’s lives.
“It’s the overall sentiment of the campaign that’s important,” said Summers. “There are a variety of ways we can support girls in our personal and professional lives and #ToTheGirls is just one way I’m choosing to do that. It’s not the first campaign of its kind and it better not be the last – but if we have an opportunity to empower girls, to tell them they matter, we should always take it. We should make it. If one girl sees a message of support at a time when she needs it, and it inspires her to affect a positive change in her life, then it’s worth it.”
“I’m really hoping it will empower girls and encourage them to empower each other,” added Summers. “I hope it leaves them feeling like their voices and their stories matter – because they do, so much.”
Some might argue that, with its plethora of female authors and characters, the YA community is already a place where girls’ voices are heard. But the YA community has been a stressful place as of late, with many feeling silenced when they try to talk about prevailing sexist undertones and comments. Summers believes there is always room for improvement.
“We need to look at the way we treat women authors and women readers within our own community. I encourage everyone to read A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction by Kelly Jensen because it’s really eye-opening. And then consider that we still have women authors who choose to write under gender-neutral or male pseudonyms so they will be taken seriously. So many women are the backbone of YA – there from its beginnings to its reemergence and subsequent golden age as a category – but their contributions are often overlooked or omitted, if not outright dismissed, by the mainstream media. Especially if these news outlets are approaching the subject of YA within the context of a male author’s success. And it can become tricky for women authors and readers to push back against this issue without fear of being perceived as anti-successful male author. It should go without saying that wanting women to be recognized for their contributions in the industry isn’t about stomping on someone else’s success. It’s about making sure we don’t forget because it’s too easy to forget.”
Summers added that women readers also need to be taken seriously. “Teen girls are a driving force of the YA industry, but so many people will go out of their way to make fun of, undermine and dismiss them and the books they love.”
“There is also the issue of how we perceive and receive stories written by women, for and about girls. Lots of people consciously and unconsciously consider them of less importance simply because they are stories written by women, for and about girls. This is a very ingrained, very internalized form of sexism. It’s so insidious, it can be hard to recognize amongst your peers and yourself, but once you do, you realize how pervasive it is. It’s something I’ve encountered over the course of my career.”
So what can those in the YA community do – besides, of course, participate in the #ToTheGirls campaign?
“It’s important to be aware of how we approach books by and about women. We need to be conscious of any biases we might be bringing to the table when we do. We need to support books by women and we do that by reading, reviewing and talking about them. We need to celebrate great female characters. We need to be willing to talk about how we can improve as a community in terms of embracing women and girls–no matter how uncomfortable the conversation gets–if we want to see any improvement. I do think that conversation IS happening and I’m grateful, as a reader and author, for it.”
Courtney Summers’ #ToTheGirls campaign will take place throughout the day on April 14th. To participate, share a message of support across any and all social media sites using the #ToTheGirls.