Feminism

At one point this year I tried to write a post about feminism. The post just sat in my drafts for months and months and I couldn’t find the right words. I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism this year, mostly because at some point early in the year I realized that my years of being “one of the guys” and rolling with the raunchy / sexist jokes just didn’t feel right anymore. But I’m still trying to come to grips with where I stand on this issue.

In my youth I struggled a lot with calling myself a “feminist.” Mostly because the term “feminist” was tightly linked in pop culture to man-hating women such as those portrayed in this classic clip from the movie PCU (kind of like a mid-nineties version of Animal House).

However, I don’t think it’s worth denying any more. I’m a feminist, because at the end of the day I think it all boils down to this (buy the tote bag here):

Cartoon by MariNaomi

My feelings on the topic are still very mixed and I’m sorting through where I stand on many issues. So, instead of using my words, I think I’ll just link you to a bunch of articles I read this year that got me thinking more and more about feminism and what I think about feminism.

This was a big year of articles about women in technology. Mostly it was all about the Adria Richards thing (this Forbes article has a good summary and a ton of links to more info). And *maybe* that was what got me thinking about all this to begin with. But I think it started before that.

Around the same time there was a big kerfuffle in the publishing world about sexism. John Scalzi (award winning, best selling SciFi author) decided not to speak at any more conferences where there wasn’t a policy in place for dealing with sexual harassment. He wrote this amazing take-down blog post called “To the Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist.” Around the same time Chuck Wendig started blogging about “hetero-normative white-dude mountain” and his thoughts on sexism / racism in writing / publishing. And someone did a deep dive analysis on the New York Times YA Best Seller List to determine if the “gut feeling” that women “dominate” that list was based on any shred of evidence. (Spoiler: it’s not true.)

I read a lot of scifi / fantasy / fiction. I always have. It’s great that there is a proliferation of “strong” female characters popping up in all types of genre fiction lately. And while more stories with heroines are great, I worry that we’re moving in the wrong direction with this whole concept of “strong” female characters. Several articles have written about this lately, most notably, this article about Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) from Entertainment Weekly , and this article entitled “I Hate Strong Female Characters” by Sophia McDougall for the New Statesman.

The stand-out quote from Joss in the Entertainment Weekly article I link to above, the thing he said that had me thinking, YES! That! was this (emphasis mine):

The thing about Buffy for me is–on a show-by-show basis–are there female characters who are being empowered, who are driving the narrative? The Twilight thing and a lot of these franchise attempts coming out, everything rests on what this girl will do, but she’s completely passive, or not really knowing what the hell is going on. And that’s incredibly frustrating to me because a lot of what’s taking on the oeuvre of Buffy, is actually a reaction against it. Everything is there — except for the Buffy. A lot of things aimed at the younger kids is just Choosing Boyfriends: The Movie.

And, basically Ms. McDougall’s (long and thoughtful) rant boils down to this:

Are our best-loved male heroes Strong Male Characters? Is, say, Sherlock Holmes strong?… It’s not just that the answer is “of course”, it’s that it’s the wrong question….

A better question would be – “What is Sherlock Holmes like?”

He’s a brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius.

Adding the word “strong” to that list doesn’t seem to me to enhance it much.

I had mixed feelings about this New Yorker article about feminism and Free Speech and Twitter Trolls: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/08/how-free-should-speech-be-on-twitter.html

I can never understand all the difference between all these “waves” of feminism, but this article in The Guardian talks about the “New Wave of Feminism”: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/27/new-generation-of-feminists-set-agenda

And I can relate with a lot of this article in Rookie, especially this: “I built my feminism Lego-tower-style, brick by brick, adding, removing, and changing components as I went along.”

I found this eye opening intro to the currently popular “Retro / Ironic Sexism”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD0Faha2gow

And then this series of videos detailing sexist tropes in movies and video games (which can also be applied to books / writing):

  1. Manic Pixie Dream Girl
  2. Women in Refrigerators
  3. The Smurfette Principle
  4. The Evil Demon Seductress
  5. The Mystical Pregnancy
  6. The Straw Feminist

I bought several books on feminism, but haven’t been able to bring myself to read any of them yet… in my to-be-read (TBR) pile are:

So, 2013 could be said to be the year where I got a little more in touch with my feminist roots. Or the year that I added a bunch of bricks to my Feminism Lego Tower. It’s not done yet, but it’s definitely a stronger tower than it was last year.

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