Posts tagged: gender
If you want a group of soldiers to stop teasing you about being a female spy, just drop a grenade in the middle of their lunch table and watch them run.
"Die Like A Man"
At Wired, Laura Hudson writes about masculinity and Breaking Bad: “Taken to its furthest extent,…
Dear Jake Vale,
Today, I saw the videos you posted where you “pranked” teenage girls by running up behind them, grabbing them around the waist, and then running away with them while they were trying to get into VidCon. I’m one of the people who was instantly upset and disgusted by your behavior,…
Romance Editor Chris has some things to say about strength and strong female characters.
Ever have one of those months in which several disparate threads from different aspects of your life all suddenly seem to be part of the same cloth? I’m having one right now. The recent truly excellent articles by carol and alex combined with the current interwebs-fueled firestorm over ‘fake geek girls’ and the collective cognitive failure of the Texas legislature have combined to give me some deeper insight into why I so dislike the ever-growing trend of the ‘kick-ass’ Romance heroine. More specifically, the way ‘kick-ass’ has become the default instead of ‘strong’.
The kick-ass heroine possesses at least moderate physical skill, often carries a weapon, and tends towards snark. She’s usually in leather clothing and/or stompy boots (and probably has a tattoo or two). To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with any of those attributes, taken singly or even together. But the combination is now so prevalent that it’s become the standard of ‘strong heroine’ when it is only one example of what is truly an infinite variety -and not the most interesting at that. The clothes, the one-liners, the boots: those are just accessories. A character isn’t strong because of how tough she looks, or talks, or even how many punches she takes: she is strong because of what she does.
"Strength" from the Visconti Tarot Deck (15th Century)
For the first time ever, this year’s Women Who Kick Ass panel at ComicCon was held in the convention’s largest venue, Hall H. Entertainment Weekly covers the panel here and it sounds incredible. A full transcript of the panel is here.
Unfortunately, the audience’s response to this panel was sexist and predictable.
A panel called “Women Who Kick Ass” follows Hunger Games. It’s in its fourth iteration, and the fact that it’s in Hall H on Saturday is a surprise. On the surface, it makes sense for this to follow Hunger Games, and it’s also likely the Con intended it to be something that would allow for the room to clear out a bit while shuffling in more people from the line that still snakes off across the street outside. But, all the same, there’s something gutsy about placing a frank discussion of Hollywood sexism, feminism, and the limited opportunities for women in the entertainment industry right before 20th Century Fox and Marvel come out to present superhero-heavy slates.
And “Women Who Kick Ass” is the most fascinating and enriching panel I attend at Comic-Con. In particular, its discussion of how sexism still rules far too often in Hollywood is terrific, with panelist Katee Sackhoff (of Battlestar Galactica fame) discussing a time an unnamed male actor pulled her arms out of their sockets while filming a fight sequence, in what she believes was recourse for her questioning him earlier in the shoot; and fellow panelist Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black discussing how a male crew member inappropriately hit on her when she was just 18 and bound to a bed for a shot. The moderator is good, in that she knows to get out of the way when the women on the panel — particularly Michelle Rodriguez — cut loose, and the content is engaging throughout.
For the most part, the dudes I’m sitting near either pay respectful attention or check Twitter, though there are some jokes from an older guy in front of me about how stupid he finds all of this. Then Rodriguez uses the phrase “destructive male culture” — as part of a larger answer about how women need to take more agency in telling their own stories — and something in the crowd flips. A certain subset of the audience begins to get more and more vocal, and when the panel runs slightly over, as all panels have done during the day, the vocalizations begin to get easier to hear, even to someone sitting clear across a giant room in a place that tends to eat sound from specific individuals in the audience; one really has to make a ruckus to be heard.
The final question — from a young woman about what aspects the perfect kick-ass woman would have — turns into a digression about the many roles that women play in real life and the few that they are asked to play onscreen. It’s all fascinating stuff, with Sackhoff talking about wanting to see someone as kind and strong as her mother onscreen, and Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira talking about the effectiveness of female political protestors in her native Zimbabwe, the sort of story that would almost never appear in a Hollywood film — but the longer it goes on, the more restless the crowd gets. When Rodriguez grabs the microphone again to follow up on a point made by another panelist, for the first time, the audience ripples with something close to jeering anger. When the panel finally ends and the five women on it proceed off to the side for photographs, something done at the end of most Hall H panels, someone shouts something from the audience, to a mixture of supportive laughs and horrified gasps, and the women quickly leave the stage. (I was not sitting close enough to hear what was said, but I confirmed with several people sitting in the immediate vicinity that it was a young man shouting “Women who talk too much!” after the loudspeaker asked attendees to voice their appreciation for the participants in the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel.)
It’s an ugly moment, an unfortunate capper to a great session, to be followed by many of the guys sitting around me offering up tired lines like “I hope they feel empowered now!” and several recitations of the Twilight mantra about ruining the Con. To be sure, most people in the room were respectful. But at a certain point, there needs to be an accounting for the fact that there is an ugliness that burbles beneath the surface of too many Comic-Con events, sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional. That’s not a task for the Con itself. It’s a task for nerd culture, and one that will require an earnest attempt to understand why this sort of ugliness rises up so often around women, lest all the nerd culture stereotypes prove unfortunately true.
Just going to leave this here for a while
Not just a good write-up of the Women Who Kick Ass panel at Comic-Con, but also an important one to read.
Comics Editor Carol shares why the phrase “strong female character” bothers her a bit and then shares some of her favorite female characters.
A little while ago, a friend told me that I was a “strong woman.” It was a compliment and I took it as one. Part of me knows what he means, that I keep trying, that I pick myself up as best I can after things go to hell, that I try to keep moving. But part of me chafes at it, because I hear “strong female character” so much when people are talking about stories, whether comics, fiction, film, games or tv. And it’s starting to become a meaningless sound to me.
Kirk and Spock, Tristan and Iseult
At Teach Me Tonight, Kate Laity writes about Joanna Russ’ 1985 essay, “Pornography by Women for…
Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Writing and Doctor Who
“Writing about Doctor Whothis week got me thinking about sexism in storytelling, and how we rely on…