Too often, when we see stories about girls or women who are strong and powerful in their own right, it’s about “wow, she’s a woman and she’s strong and powerful.” But Katniss’s womanhood in no way effects her story, which is incredibly impressive as much of the plot is influenced by her love life.
I’m not saying that love stories have to play up a woman’s femininity or make a point of the fact that she’s not overly feminine, but almost all of them do. To be perfectly honest, I think – plot wise, not regarding how people perceive the novels – it would not make too much of a difference to the overall plot if Katniss/ Peeta and Gale was/were a boy/girls (This would be assuming that sexual orientation doesn’t matter in Panem).
Sure, we’d lose all the wedding dress stuff, but that doesn’t mean the plot would change. Hell, fashion’s so important, even if Katniss was male, there’d still probably be a fuss over what he’d wear to the wedding. Likewise, it wouldn’t change her status as a sex-symbol, getting dolled up so that people will like her. Look at Finnick, his masculinity did change how the Capitol played up his sexuality.
We see people doubt Katniss all the time, which is unsurprising. But her sex is never the cause of people’s doubts. They doubt her because she’s a poor, starving child from the Seam – but that would still be true if she were a boy. They doubt her because she’s a radical and because they disagree with her. But no one ever doubt her because she’s a woman.
In a lot of literature and film today, what we perceive a a feminist work really isn’t that feminist. Pro-woman, yes. But feminist? Often not. Most of what we think of as feminist movies or books is about a woman or girl who struggles obviously against the patriarchy because she’s female. All this really does is say “Hey, look! It’s a woman struggling against a patriarchal society. Life’s hard for her because she’s a woman and therefore is oppressed.”
What makes The Hunger Games truly a feminist novel is that it features a strong, female protagonist who’s sex has absolutely nothing to do with the story. In fact, if you went through and changed the pronouns to their masculine counterparts, the majority of the story would probably still make sense. It’s truly feminist because it’s not about a woman – it’s about a person undefined by their sex without ever acknowledging it.