I think the whole idea first occurred to me probably a couple years ago, but not in any huge way. I was at the ATM in my tiny, adorable neighborhood in the city, having trouble opening the door, and the person behind me offered to do it. Then she said, “Holy shit, Becky Allen?”
She was someone I went to school with. Being from a small town with a tiny school, by the way, that means she’s someone I went to school with for about twelve years. We had both ended up in Inwood, by random coincidence. And having known each other for years — never having been close, but always friendly acquaintances — of course we recognized each other.
But it was, I think, easy to recognize me regardless. So that’s where the thought came from: in my mid-20s, I looked, for all intents and purposes, exactly like I had in my early- to mid-teens. I have always had long brown hair (somewhere between a bit below my shoulders to a bit above my waist); I have always worn glasses; I have, for well over a decade, worn essentially the exact same outfit on a daily basis (sneakers, jeans, t-shirt, hoodie — yeah, every day). And I’ve always felt pretty fine with it, because I’m just not someone who’s ever really cared a whole lot about how I look. I can remember being pretty young — maybe nine or ten — and explaining to my mom that I wanted to join a nudist colony because clothes are just such a hassle. Like I said, I’ve had long hair; I’ve never done anything with it except stick it back in a pony-tail to get it out of my way. I dressed simply, didn’t put any time or thought into it, and that has never mattered to me.
But it struck me as really weird to think that at 25, I looked exactly the same as I looked at 15. Because I feel like such a different person. Or — well, I have the same core, but a lot of the traits that swirl around that core are different. And of course that’s normal, because darn near everyone will change drastically over a ten year period, especially one that sees you go from a high-school freshman to an adult with an apartment and a salary. So looking in the mirror, for the first time, I’ve been kind of unsatisfied with what has always been — due to convenience and accident, not design — my look.
Here’s some more stuff: I don’t do visuals. That is an odd statement, I get that, but I’m — best I can describe it is detail-blind. I have really poor visual recall; I don’t notice things like colors (I’m not color blind, I can differentiate them fine, but I don’t notice them) and I certainly have never noticed what people around me are wearing. (However, I have fantastic audio recall; I can memorize entire movie scenes after seeing them once, and recall conversations with near-strangers years later.) So the thought of walking through a store and trying to pick out an outfit freaks me out quite a bit. I can’t even tell you what colors clash, let alone what will flatter my body, or what styles are, uh, stylish.
And there’s a matter of time and importance and prioritizing. This stuff has just never been my priority. Ten years of a steady pattern happens in part because it’s easy. And aside from the fear of shopping, there’s also a fear of…other stuff. (Deep, I know.) Whatever phase it is in late middle/early high school, or whenever, when girls experiment with makeup? I missed. Where they learn to do things with their hair? I missed. Where they, you know, start to care about anything even remotely related to femininity? Oh wow did I miss that train. And now, at 25, when I see the makeup counter in a department store, I feel stupid. I wouldn’t know where to start, even if I wanted to.
And…it’s weird. Like, say I wanted to wear a skirt. It just has never struck me as practical for my own life. I don’t sit; I sprawl. My feet dangle in pretty much every seat (my office finally, kindly, got me a footstool for under my desk) so I tend to kick them up on something so they don’t get pins-and-needles-y all the time. That is not exactly ladylike — and I don’t really worry about being ladylike unless I’m wearing something where sprawling might, you know, show the world my underwear. I prefer to keep that somewhat private. On top of which, that whole outside temperature thing is a problem. I’m almost always cold, and skirts just don’t keep me warm like pants do. So I could only wear them in the summer anyway, and even that is very limited, because my office in the summer is kept at a crispy 50 degrees or so — we keep blankets around to huddle under — so it’s not like that would be comfortable, either. And besides, wearing a skirt always seemed to me to require wearing nice shoes, and — let’s just say I was once asked, when picking out a dress for one of the few occasions I’ve actually found it necessary to dress up, if I was going to wear a pair of Pumas with it. Because everyone who’s met me accepts that — cute little black dress and grubby sneakers together — as a serious possibility. (I didn’t. Given the bleeding and blisters that ensued, I wished I had for much of the night.)
And hair. I have occasionally blowdried it out of necessity, because long hair takes a lot of time to dry, and walking around in the winter turns wet hair into icicles. But…doing something with it? I’ve always felt like a pony-tail was not very flattering on me, but I’ve never had any idea what else to even consider. Getting my hair out of my way has always been way more important to me than anything else.
But the thought festered. I want to look different. Not in a huge way. Like with personality, identity: that core is still there. But I’d like the non-essentials to reflect who I am now, at 25.
So there’s a lot to overcome here. And I’ve been making progress. A few months ago, I cut 15 inches off my hair. This was a huuuuuuuuge change. It was above my shoulders for the first time — uh, I need to get it trimmed, my hair grows ridiculously fast — and too short to pull back. I luckily had a very, very kind stylist who talked with me not just about how I wanted to look, but how to do it. Products to use — yikes. And how to use them. And how much time it takes to do it. So even though this is possibly the easiest-to-maintain hair possible, it involves putting in a little bit of time, a little bit of effort. A little bit is a lot more than I ever had before.
And I try and think about it when I shop. Trying to look at things that aren’t jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. Or at least that are different from the ones I already own. And trying not to wince at spending money on these things because I’m still getting used to the idea that better clothes cost more money, and yeah, it’s okay for me to look at priorities and decide to spend more on what I wear.
Which is a whole other point. I have plenty of valid reasons to think about how I look and what I wear; to put more time and energy and cash into these things. It doesn’t mean I’m selling out who I am — like I said, who I am is a core that is still very much in tact — but I do have to remind myself, over and over, that caring about those things isn’t selling out to the patriarchy and beauty standards. Because while I’ve passively rejected a lot of those things, though laziness or nervousness or poorness or habit, I’ve also rejected them actively because that is a bullshit game I am not interested in playing. I’ve always been happy with my body and how I look. (I have no idea how that happened; if I did, I’d already have written the self-help book.) Some part of me does feel like caring and putting in effort is selling out; that if I’m happy with how I look, I shouldn’t want to change it; that if I spend money and time on it, I’m selling out. Which is just plain unfair.
Even ignoring the double standards and the whole fact that women are judged on how they look more harshly than men are, why shouldn’t I work to look how I want? What’s wrong with that? Because if this about me, and what I want, isn’t working or spending money or taking time sort of…just how that happens?
I don’t know. I don’t have a huge resolution to this entry. I know I’m happier now, with short hair (and acknowledging that I need to get it cut more than once every year or two), and I’m happier with fitted jacket instead of a hoodie in the fall. And that it’s an adjustment just to acknowledge that. But there it is. A personal essay.
It’s a lazy Sunday here. I’m sick — doing okay now, but I’ve been through a whole box of tissues since Friday — and lying around trying to convince my cat she wants to snuggle. (She doesn’t.) I was mildly productive, in that I upgraded my version of WordPress. Which worked as it was supposed to (huzzah!) with a minor side effect that now a lot of my posts contain wacky, non-English characters. Nrrrg. So I’m going through and fixing those, but in the mean time, have some links for your lazy Sunday reading pleasure:
Yeah, the trouble is, although these characters were marginally better than the original Damsels in Distress, they still ended up having to be saved in the final act by the male hero. There would usually be a scene (or three) where the “Strong Female Character” would be trapped by the villain and put into sexy clothing, I guess as a punishment of some sort. And even when she was being strong, she was always doing it in the sexiest way possible. She’d never, say, get a black eye or a broken nose in a fight. Her ability to fix cars (a powerful, masculine trait) would basically allow her to get sexy grease all over her slippery body. Her ability to shoot a gun was so the film’s advertisers could put her on a poster wearing a skimpy outfit with a big gun between her legs. All in all, the “strength” of her character was just to make her a better prize for the hero at the end – and for the horny male audience throughout.
Gee, I wonder why this article is of interest to me? (New category, but it seemed necessary.)
Simply saying that a heroine is smart doesn’t mean that she isn’t dumb as a stump. We readers have to be SHOWN through her actions and behavior that she actually has an IQ higher than a lumberjack’s leavings. If she makes a boneheaded mistake, she has to acknowledge it, not ignore it, deny it or, god forbid, be praised for it. If she owns her bad behavior, it actually raises her favorables. So lead her into the dark alley, allow her to be saved and then have her acknowledge its a stupid thing and then agree to stay home the next time that some type of combat is taking place or until she learns how to wield a gun or sword or lightsaber.
(Via Jennifer Kesler of The Hathor Legacy)
This article makes a really good point — making a female character perfect (or trying to) doesn’t make her likable. Characters don’t need to be perfect, they need to be interesting, and they need to actually face consequences for their actions. That’s actually part of why I like Casey from Greek so much — she’s not an especially nice, wonderful person. Sometimes she’s actively horrible. But she (mostly) has to deal with the fallout from being horrible, and I’d rather watch an interesting person screw up and deal than a perfect person be…perfect.
Ever since Dr. Frankenstein reanimated a woman to serve as his monster’s bride and she said no, the zombie woman has been a weird figure for female resistance to control. Zombie feminism is an uneasy subgenre, daring to use freakish gore and death slapstick to pose questions about what it might take for women to become unrapeable. Or for men to see women the way women see themselves.
Not a lot to say about this one — horror and zombies are not really my thing. I didn’t know zombie feminism was even, you know, a thing.
“When kids see the movie and then use that word to tease someone — or call someone ‘Simple Jack’ — they’re not making fun of Hollywood,” says Alex Plank, founder of WrongPlanet.net, a prominent online forum for people with autism and other neurological differences, and a member organization of the “Tropic Thunder” protest coalition. Or, in the words of one blogger whose son has Down syndrome, “When we award tacit acceptance to a term such as ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ in casual conversation — or worse, when millions of people watch a movie that also awards that tacit acceptance — it most certainly will gain even more acceptance,” she wrote last month. “My son will be going back to school in a couple of weeks. And all around him — I guarantee it — kids will be telling other kids not to go ‘full retard.’ And everyone will think it’s OK to say ‘retard,’ or that this or that is ‘retarded.’ And my son will walk through the halls, and more people will think of Nick as a ‘retard’ than did a few months ago. Nick deserves better than that.”
(Via Chaos Theory)
I’m someone who believes that language is important. I grew up with the very strong message in my school that the word “retarded” was just wrong — absolutely off-limits. I slipped into using it on occasion post-college sometime; I think, as the article points out, there is a lot of online snark that embraces the word. And I don’t think it should be normalized. Like all language, I don’t think it should be banned or censored — but I don’t think it should be normalized. Just because you can use a word doesn’t mean you ought to, and as I think the words we use can and do effect people around us, I choose not to use it.
The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it. Witness the last two Democratic presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry: one each from Harvard and Yale, both earnest, decent, intelligent men, both utterly incapable of communicating with the larger electorate.
(Via The Swivet)
I don’t entirely agree with this article*, but it raises some good points — and some things I’ve personally struggled with. Brandeis is not Ivy League, but desperately wishes it was; so on the one hand, I’ve got an elite education, and on the other hand, I’m from a very rural, economically depressed farm town. The two come into conflict a lot. And I do think it’s important to not get academia tunnel vision — something I know I’ve had at various points — because there is a lot of the world where academic excellence is entirely unimportant, and its very, very easy to get so secure in the academic world that you lose track of everything else.
* And you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of the phrase “Ivy retardation.”
Dear Adam Carolla,
Let me just thank you for informing me that I deserve a meal fit for a man! I shall run out to Taco Bell — I think that was it — immediately. I think it’s awesome the way you reach out to female (dare I say feminist?) viewers of ESPN who really just want to enjoy a final goodbye to Yankee Stadium by embracing us and reminding us that it’s true: along with things like the right to vote, and equal pay for equal work, we’ve too often forgotten the right to eat the same meal as a man — wow! I can’t believe the importance. Tragically, that’s one that is overlooked all too often!
Thanks, Adam. And thank you, Taco Bell.
PS: I do have your motives and message correct, don’t I?
Things and people spotted on the my daily commute that made me smile:
- A guy intently reading a book on astrophysics, but who kept looking up furtively when he changed pages. I ended up sitting next to him. Glanced down at the page he was reading and discovered the book only had an astrophysics cover — inside was You: The Owner’s Manual. Good luck self-helping, subway guy! (Meant sincerely. Goodness knows I could have handled a fake cover for, say, Hot Target, the cover of which is much more neon pink that that image shows.)
- “Scary” teenagers — mohawks, lots of piercings, studded leather jackets, the works (picture the guys from Star Trek IV, who hassled Kirk and Spock when they were taking public transit, except with music-playing cellphones instead of boomboxes) — who got up and gave their seats to a group of little old ladies.
- A panicked tourist who caught me on my way to work this morning, and demanded to know where the nearest Starbucks was. (There are four within four blocks of my office. But it was clearly a coffee crisis. I sympathize.)
And finally, perhaps my favorite thing I’ve ever seen during my commute…
- An off-duty clown. I actually noticed the shoes first — they were huge and bright red. I wondered why someone was wearing clown shoes in real life, then actually looked up at the guy and saw a baggy clown suit — with a regular demin jacket over it. He’d apparently washed his face, but smears of white makeup remained around his hairline. He was holding a large box labeled ‘TRICKS’ on his lap, and — like pretty much everyone else on the subway — listening to an iPod and zoning out. Hey, the commute home is universal, I guess.
So. I have ranted before about my experience as a female geek trying to have a conversation with male geeks, and the prove-your-credentials bullshit that goes on. The more I pay attention, the more I see this bullshit is everywhere; it’s a fucked up game that, when I see it going on, I refuse to play. It pisses me off.
I have also written that I think that, generally speaking, I think that happens less in sports fandom because women have been “allowed” to like sports for longer. Actually, what I wrote specifically was:
That said, I’ve still been, um…initiated by male sports fans, by which I mean skeptically asked to prove that I’m part of a group. Let’s just say I’ve never heard anyone ask a dude if he’s really a fan or if he’s just wearing the hat. But (while I wouldn’t be surprised if it had happened to others) I’ve never run into anything as malicious or defensive as I did in the comic book situation.
Spoke too soon, it turns out. Now, I still suspect that’s generally true, but all I’m working with is personal anecdotes, so I shall refrain from drawing any specific conclusions. But I did run into a pretty parallel, this-isn’t-how-you-treat-male-fans situation on Friday, that I need to rant about because it’s still pissing me off.
Traditional, old-fashioned, House-that-Ruth-Built Yankee Stadium is closing after this season, to be replaced by a shinier, more expensive House that Steinbrenner Built. So Jess and I decided to go see one last game together (err… one last game at the stadium, the first one we’d seen together) and snagged a couple of bleacher seats. The bleachers definitely used to be known as the home of the drunken assholes in the stadium, but in recent years alcohol has been forbidden in that area, so they’ve become more family friendly. But that didn’t stop a couple of drunken douchebags from congregating outside the stadium to yell at people as they walked by. Specifically, a drunk dude screamed at us, “HEY LADIES, you like baseball?”
Tee-hee, no! We just thought the hats were totally cute and felt like dropping $80 so we could admire the players in tight pants!
Wait, no, the other thing. The game. Yes, we enjoy that. I froze up because I had no idea how to answer, and probably shouldn’t have answered at all. Then again, I’m someone who smiles at everyone and stops to chat when random strangers talk to me — still trying to shake my small-town upbringing. So I said, “Yeah…?”
To which he answered, “So then, like… Do you know how many outs are there in an inning?”
At which point I exploded with, “OH MY GOD, DO YOU THINK WE ARE STUPID, YOU JACKASSES!” and stormed in to the bag-check line while Jess stared at me in surprise. I rarely scream at strangers. I rarely scream at all, actually. But like I said, I won’t play that game anymore, and it seriously enrages me.
Here’s the thing: six outs per inning is kind of the most basic, standard thing you know about baseball. Three strikes, you’re out; three outs per half-inning. I don’t know when I learned that, but it was ages before I actually became a baseball fan. It may not be universal knowledge, but it’s pretty standard; it’s especially standard among people who are attending a baseball game, whether they’re big fans or not. To ask someone attending a baseball game if he or she knows that is insulting and yes: in this situation, it was a sexist thing. It wasn’t a good faith question. It may have been a severely misguided attempt at flirting, or it may just have been some douchebags being douchebags because they could, but they weren’t yelling insults at men. They were targeting women, questioning our intelligence, and questioning our reasons for attending.
It didn’t ruin the night: the Yankees pulled off a 2-1 win, and I got to see Mariano Rivera (my very favorite player) get a 5-out save. We had a great time. It just sucks that in order to get in to have a great time, we were slapped with yet another reminder that, as women, there are still people who are at best surprised (and sometimes hostile) when we venture outside of our specifically-designated woman-places (the kitchen, I guess?) and enjoy life as if we were actually just people.
I love my office: not only do we do good work, but I really like most of the people I work with. A very high percentage of my coworkers are either really into scifi, really into baseball, or really into both. Obviously, this is fantastic. Sadly, though, tonight we had a goodbye party — my coworker Erika (a lovely person who invited me to join the feminist SF bookclub she attends) is leaving the company. Sad for the company, but awesome for her: she’s actually off to get her Master’s degree.
A Master’s degree in science fiction. How freaking awesome is that?
Anyway, I bring this up here not just to congratulate her (hi, Erika!), but also because she has a blog. It’s just starting out, but so far, so awesome. Consider this a high recommendation.
(Unrelated PS: I’ve installed a plugin that allows me to put in an avatar with each post. Not sure how I feel about it yet, but the image to the left is from faceyourmanga.com and is actually a pretty decent likeness…)
(A second ETA: Damn, I didn’t see this until after I’d posted, but it’s pretty awesome. The excellent people at Girl-Wonder.org have organized a Con Anti-Harassment Project, because cons should be fun, damn it.)
So my blogging roll was killed by non-blogging-related stress, unfortunately. (Though hey, two posts in a month is better than I’ve managed at points in the past.) I don’t have anything real for tonight, but here’s some smart stuff other people have written:
The Dark Knight, Part 2: Yes, I’m Still Mad About This, another excellent post on The Dark Knight by Poison Ivory. (Psst: spoilers included.) I point this one out not only because it’s smart and interesting, but because there’s been a little discussion in comments here about the question of if and when feminism enhances or detracts from storytelling. I think Poison Ivory makes a good case for how, if TDK had been less sexist, it would have been a better movie.
Second, via Seeking Avalon, an International Blog Against Racism Week post: Smilla’s Not all cats are grey: 25 years of cover whitewashing in Joan Vinge’s “Cat” series. This post had my jaw pretty much on the floor because, here’s the thing: I’ve read Vinge’s “Cat” series. Twice, in fact; I was really excited when I found they were reprinted and bought copies (which I promptly lost somehow). I really enjoyed the series.
And I’d never noticed Cat was a character of color.
Yeah. The descriptions of Cat, while rare in the books, are pretty clear on that. And I’m a reader who skims for dialogue and action, a bad habit which I now realize is even worse than I’d thought. This post was a huge privilege check for me, because while I generally try to be conscious, I clearly have blind spots. It never would have occurred to me that being able to skim books and just plain not notice the characters’ ethnicities was one of them. I think — hope — I notice more than I used to, but it’s always good to have a reminder that I can do better and pay more attention. I will push myself to do so.
Apparently, when I promise to blog more I stop blogging for months at a time; when I say I’m too busy to blog, I get out a record number of entries (for me) in a month. Go figure. But one of the cool things to come out of the Dr. Horrible discussion (at least for me) was a long list of things to blog about.
Here’s one thing that came up a lot in that discussion: Strong Women. Because I felt very much that Penny was a weak character, and many people responded that she was very strong in nontraditional ways; in other places I saw a lot of angry muttering that not every female character needs to kick ass, and that Penny would have been ruined if she’d kicked someone in the face, in response to people wishing that she had been stronger. And the thing is, all of the above are true, and non-contradictory.
The heart of the problem is this: there are two meanings of “strong” in play here, and that’s making the discussion a lot harder to have. In one of my very first entries, I actually wrote this in a footnote:
I call them dynamic female characters rather than strong female characters to avoid conflating the idea of a well fleshed out, well written female character with a female character who is physically strong.
Still true! Basically, what we’re looking at is two definitions: physically strong (or emotionally/mentally/etc), referring to a character trait; and strong characterization, referring to well-written, three-dimensional characters. Penny from Dr. Horrible was, I think, emotionally strong — she was quietly, optimistically trying to make a difference in the world, from what little we saw of her personality — but was weakly written because we saw so little of her personality in a story that could have given us much more. What motivated her to help the homeless? What was it about Hammer that enamored her to him? What would her idea of a happy ending have been? I’ve got no idea. I know she was nice, and pretty, and very well-acted. But her presence in the story wasn’t as a character, it was as a prop; she provided motivation and a point of contention between the men. Penny may have been a strong person, but she was a weak character.
I suspect that the fact that Dr. Horrible was by Joss Whedon made the distinction even less clear — after all, Buffy is an iconic character. She’s strong, in that she’s able to throw her enemies across the room; she’s strong, in that she has her own motivations, a developed personality, and she was able to grow and change through the course of even just the handful of episodes that I watched. So I was disappointed that Penny was “weak”: not that she didn’t have Buffy’s superpowers, but that she didn’t have Buffy’s agency.
This is why I prefer the word dynamic to strong when discussing the quality of presentation of female characters. But overall I don’t think it’s a very hard concept — but often the two meanings of strong are mistaken and it’s rarely a good thing. I’d much rather read a story about a dynamic woman who is rescued from danger by a man than read a story about a physically strong female caricature who always rescues herself. Either way can be done well, but to tack physical strength on to a dynamic hero who doesn’t need it — who’s dynamic in other ways — can be confusing and detrimental. So to illustrate this, I’m going to critique a movie I actually really enjoy (Ever After) behind the cut.
Read this article »
(Note: the conclusion of this piece non-specifically references elements of Dr. Horrible and The Dark Knight that could be spoilery, but gets in to no detail.)
An anecdote: sophomore year of college, I took an American Literature class (ranging from Native American narratives through about 1900, so… pretty vast) as part of the requirement for my major. As we got to the later part of the course, we read works by Thoreau, Emerson, Melville, and Hawthorne. My professor made an off-handed comment about how the books didn’t actually sell that well when they were first published, and the authors didn’t quite get why. After all, their works were important and intelligent, and in fairness, history did indeed prove them right on that count.
“So what were people reading?” I asked. Evidently, the answer is dime novels: romances, mysteries, and general silliness. Pretty much the same thing they’d read since the products became available, and the same things they read now. So, my question was, why weren’t we reading or discussing what most people were interested in?
The professor didn’t really get why I asked.
Here’s my stance: I think that what people — most people, the majority of people — consume is of deep importance. Culture is an inescapable influence on everyone; for better or worse, it creates the status quo and maintains it. It defines normal and exerts a constant invisible pressure that pushes people towards that norm.
Culture changes with time, but it’s slow to do so, and it takes a lot of people putting a lot of effort in to change it. This happens on many fronts, the most obvious being political, but social change is also a huge part of culture. For example, President Truman signed the order to integrate the army in 1948 — the year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. It seems to me that there needs to be a cultural tipping point for change to happen, but it doesn’t just happen. People need to work to create that tipping point, to raise consciousness, to shove cultural norms in a new direction inch by inch. Nothing happens easily or automatically.
I am a feminist.* I believe that, while there have been many, many positive changes in this culture, that we’ve got miles to go. I look around and see a culture that dismisses women as just bodies, that feels entitled to tell women what their bodies should look like, and what they should and shouldn’t do with said bodies.
I’m a fairly huge consumer of media. And I get really excited on the rare occasion I find a female character I can really identify with, because they are just that: rare. And yeah, that has everything to do with the sexism of culture, which is reinforced in myriad ways. These ways are hard to see, especially if you have privilege. But they don’t have to be blatant, because there are millions of them, so they can be each be tiny still exert great pressure. That’s why I speak of things in terms of trends and tropes and cultural context: because each individual problem may be tiny, but then you look at how many examples of a problem there are, you actually start to see scope and the influence of the mostly-invisible culture.
So to go back to my anecdote: I think pop culture is hugely important. I think studying the past can reveal those fought-for and hard-won inches of change. When did dime novels first feature characters of color? How were they represented? When did the first character of color show up as the protagonist? How about queer characters? How about women in non-traditional female roles? If I had the time and the funding, I would loooooove to actually do a massive examination of dime novels.
And of course, if you look at current media, you can see a reflection of the current culture. In light of recent discussion, some examples: the problem isn’t that a couple of movies fail the Bechdel test, the problem is that so many do. The problem isn’t that one superhero’s girlfriend died horribly so he could angst, it’s that so many do. Look: the actual problem is a cultural normal doesn’t treat women as people, and those are two examples that I run across all the time when I look at this culture. And like so many others, they’re things you might not notice at first glance, because they seem small, or completely unimportant until you notice them stacking up.
So I think it’s important to pay attention to pop culture, and to analyze it. Think about it. Talk about it. Write about it. Put a viewpoint out there so that maybe someone else can run across it and have a lightbulb moment, realizing that there’s a problem and it takes consciousness-raising to fix it. Because people have to be aware that there’s a problem in order to shift the cultural norms; the cultural norms have to shift so people’s attitudes will change. It’s a cycle, and all pieces of it are important.
I’m not kidding myself about this blog. It doesn’t have much of a readership (my traffic the day of the Dr. Horrible post skyrocketed to, quite literally, a hundred times what it normally gets). But at least it’s a place for me to throw my thoughts out there, which is what I want. So I absolutely have a specific outlook when I analyze and review media. And I can’t turn it off. I can’t un-notice these things; I can’t not care about them. I can and often do enjoy things despite their shortcomings, but I have high standards and something like a female character getting fridged can really destroy my enjoyment. Sometimes it’s a slap in the face, because I’ve been enjoying a product, as happened with Dr. Horrible. Sometimes it’s what I expect and I’m braced for it, but not left unannoyed, as with The Dark Knight. In all cases, I’d have liked the end product much better if the sexism hadn’t been there.
* Please note: that does not mean that I am only a feminist.
This is a total blogging cop-out, but I’m in the midst of moving at the moment, and my cable is shut off until it’s hooked up at the new place, and I’m
drinkingpacking all night tonight, so I just don’t have time to do a full post about it. (Also: I will answer the rest of the Dr. Horrible post’s comments when I do have time!)
Luckily, I saw the movie with my BFF Poison Ivory, and she hit all of my major comments in this post right here. Spoilers included, obvs.
And now back to taping boxes and finishing that bottle of wine.