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Oh, look, a CAN OF WORMS! Let's watch Mary open it again! :D - Sing Until Your Lungs Give Out
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sharpest_rose
sharpest_rose
Isn't moral anarchy kind of the point?
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 10:24 am
Oh, look, a CAN OF WORMS! Let's watch Mary open it again! :D

This may seem kind of bolt-from-the-blue-ish, but it's been stewing in my head for a long time and, while it's still not as articulate and clear as I'd like, I thought I might as well get it out here so I can try to refine it again in the future.

I've thought a lot, in the months since the Buffy/Spn argument that exploderated in this journal, about whether or not my views on gender and equality are outdated -- starting with the fact that I still frequently and wholeheartedly refer to myself as a feminist, but also including my need to see strong female characters present as often as possible, rather than just throwing the gates open and letting the genders fall as they will amongst characters.

It's actually eaten me up quite a bit -- am I totally wrongheaded? Am I causing more problems with my insistence on an equal heroine:hero ratio?

A lot of the people I know, online and off, identify a lot more easily with male characters than with female characters, which I suspect is one of the major stumbling blocks when we all try to discuss this stuff from equally well-meaning but very different positions. Because I don't identify more easily with men than with women. I don't know why that is. It wasn't, when I was a little girl, a political choice I made. It's just part of who I am, and it influenced the way I grew up and the beliefs I hold as an adult.

There's a book I have called Fearless Girls, and in the introduction the writer talks about going to a school and reading a picture book to a kindergarten class. At the end of the story, she asked the kids who they'd 'been'. Who had they identified with in the story. And one of the little girls flipped through the pages to a crowd scene, and pointed out a girl in the background -- the only female character in the story. That's how I feel sometimes. It's why I end up fixated on hobbits who show up for two scenes at the end of a three-book trilogy.

There are certainly male characters I'm fond of; that's no revelation to anyone reading this, I'm sure. But I want Sarah Connor as well as Mad Max; Zoe as well as Jayne; Jessica Jones as well as John Constantine, Stephanie Brown as well as Tim Drake. I want the option to identify with a female to be available to me.

It's not fair for a black kid to watch tv and only see white people when they'd also like to see black people. It's not fair for a gay teen to watch tv and see only straight people when they'd also like to see gay people. And it's not fair for me to watch tv and only see male people when I'd also like to see female people.

Your mileage may vary; I know it does for a lot of you. But my mileage is as valid as yours, and isn't as reflected by what I can watch, and that's why I haven't shut up about it yet.

159CommentReply

brown_betty
brown_betty
Betty
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)

I can't see how this is wormlike, but I'm totally watching your comments with bated breath anyway.


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sharpest_rose
sharpest_rose
Isn't moral anarchy kind of the point?
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC)

*snort* I've learned that Mary griping about gender = worms. Which, were I a wiser woman, might make me shut up.


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rubynye
rubynye
rubynye
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)

Um, yes. And yes, and also yes!


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mmymoon
mmymoon
Mmy
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)

I agree with everything you just said. I'd often not BE anybody in male-dominated tales. And there's probably a reason why I read soooo mucccccccch crappy fantasy growing up: Strong female heroines are normal there. (I'm talking about McKinley/Lackey/McCaffery newer type crappy fantasy here, of course.) And why I wasn't interested in a lot of the OMGCLASSIC sci-fi/fantasy as a kid -- wow, another male messiah type, that's so interesting and relevant to my life experience! *eyeroll*

It kind of struck me as wrong and uncomfortable when I went from reading fantasy to reading comics... if there are princesses who forsake the knights to run off with the dragons, where the female heroes?

An heh, Jessica Jones might the MOST empowered female hero in all of the Marvel U at the moment. The one who doesn't use her powers -- and it's her choice -- compared to the one who gets married off, or the one who is the comedic relief, or the one who is defined by her marital problems... beh.


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burntcopper
burntcopper
Gunbunny
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)

'Classic' sci-fi? Oh, christ yes. All the (men, normally) who go on about how I really should read _insert book here_ ... and everything I ever read (yes, this includes Asimov) of all the classic sci-fi was either boring, about how wonderful earther patriarchy was, or similar. BORING.

Tells you something when the victorian/edwardian originals are more fun to read. I'll read HG Wells and Tarzan books any day, because they may be full of victorian attitudes and patronising and so on, but at least they weren't full of their own self-importance. Seriously. Jane in the Tarzan books? More well-rounded and feminist than 99.99999% of characters in 'classic' sci-fi.


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glossing
glossing
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)

Like you, I need female characters present and accounted for. I think I *also* need, however, a narrative universe where women are, even a little bit, respected and taken into account. So, really, commence laughing at my love for the DCU, but I like the version in my head, where Babs and others rule. There's *room*, at least, for fannish interpretations that take them seriously.


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petronelle
Petra
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)

The ways I interact with fiction don't always require women to be there for me to be happy, but I can't see any bad in having them there, particularly given that some women *need* them there.

I'm commenting on this comment in part because in my brain, Barbara Gordon knows more than anyone in the DCU, and other people know *that* and defer to her knowledge. That's contrary to canon in a lot of ways, but in the places that it's not true, I love the universe less.


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scribbleomania
scribbleomania
Scribbles
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)

I don't believe you're wrong at all. Guy characters are generally more interesting, in both their strengths are faults; they're always the only human-seeming characters. I need girls to identify with, too, and they just...aren't there. (or they die >: )


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papervolcano
papervolcano
papervolcano
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)

Being overdosed on both flu meds and cider, I will not attempt to offer anything approaching a coherent comment. But one of the reasons The Authority will forever remain close to my heart is that it gave me the chance to be Jenny Sparks or the Engineer. I remember reading Angie's comments in the Secret History of the Authority trade - something along the lines of 'I was a blue collar kid from Queens - the only way I was going to become a superhero is if I made myself into one' - and she *did*. She made herself into one of the foremost scientists in the world, and then into one of the foremost superheroes. And she's still Angie. I have considerable difficulty identifying with Mr Fantastic, or Mr Terrific. But The Engineer? I can see myself in Angie Spica.


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karenhealey
karenhealey
chocolate in the fruit bowl
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)

God, yes, I love Angie for precisely the same reason.

And then Mark Millar put her on her knees in the Oval Office.


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femmenerd
femmenerd
nancy drew is cool
Fri, Jan. 12th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)

I too tend to identify with female characters, male ones too, but.

I just want there to be *enough* female characters that there can be both heros AND villains, interesting ones.

I actually just posted about women on SPN but I was mostly talking about fandom reactions and I don't know that I was entirely cohesive in my discussion. Mostly I was trying to say that I am unapologetic about liking women on SPN, not even specific characters, but that their presence in general. And I think they've been doing a better job with that this season, which makes me glad.


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morchades
Ragnell the Foul, Unlicensed Ethernaut
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)

I just wanted to point out that its so awesome to hear from someone else who has read this book.

Seriously, that book should be in every household.


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hradzka
hradzka
David Hines
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)

There are different issues in this for me. I don't usually identify with characters; for me, it's usually whether I find them interesting or not, so when I do identify with characters it's outside the norm. And I'm a white boy, so I do have a fair number of opportunities. But when I usually identify with characters, it's typically in individual scenes. So I identify with male and female characters, to some degree. I don't want my heroes to resemble who I am; I want my heroes to resemble *who I'd like to be.*

(I went for SUPERNATURAL because of Dean Winchester. Not because I saw myself in him -- okay, trunk full of guns, slight resemblance there -- but because Dean is a throwback to the traditional active masculine hero that I knew I'd been missing, but didn't realize I'd missed quite so hard. I like Sam okay, but he is more in the WB hero mold, and I care for that character type much less.)

I like diverse casting for a very shallow reason. Yeah, it's important to have different folks on the show, and reflect different viewpoints, because it respects your audience and makes your story better -- but me? I really like that it adds visual interest. I get really bored of blandly pretty young white people; I like interesting faces, and when you vary characters' ethnicities, ages, and gender, it's more interesting to watch and -- especially for me, as I have a lousy time with faces -- a hell of a lot easier to keep track of minor characters.

(I know what it's like to desperately want to see yourself on television; when I was a kid, I got all excited once because an episode of FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES just *mentioned* a rabbi. I think that went away, though the way Jews are handled on TV, when we're onscreen at all, still kind of annoys me.)


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tamerterra
tamerterra
TamerTerra
Sun, Jan. 14th, 2007 11:49 am (UTC)

especially for me, as I have a lousy time with faces -- a hell of a lot easier to keep track of minor characters Heh, word. I went to see Grease on stage when I was younger, and until about three-quarters of the way through I thought that two of the characters were the same person because all the boys had the same clothes and hair. *facepalm*


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musical_emjay
musical_emjay
difficult difficult lemon difficult
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)

First, can I say that I think you're an awesome person? Like, really, really awesome? Because you are. That's the reason I friended you. You're smart and well spoken and funny and god, just so amazingly passionate.

That being said, boy do I ever differ from you in matters of feminism and gender equality. To be entirely truthful, the SPN/Buffy essay you wrote, and the ensuing conversations made me very upset and angry. I so violently disagreed with you, (and yet didn't have the balls to say so at the time), and I felt incredibly insulted by some of the comments you and a few other people were passing back and forth.

That being said, don't stop what you're doing. Really, don't. If I disagree with you, that's my problem, and if other people disagree with you, that's their problem. I have a back button and I know how to use it. What you have to say is always interesting, and always important and always relevant, at least to me, even if I really do disagree.

This is all just a really longwinded and stupid way of me trying to say: "Keep on truckin', Mary. U R AWESOME."


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liviapenn
liviapenn
PROBE UNIVERSE
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)


[warning: Long digression before comment gets to the point]

There was this interesting discussion on Pandagon last week about Changing Your Name When You Get Married. And one of the points the blogger brought up was that there are a lot of "Very Good Reasons" that people always bring up to bludgeon the woman into giving up her name-- it's good for kids to have the same name as both their parents, after a few generations hyphenation is going to get unwieldy, etc.,-- but oddly enough, these always seem to be used as reasons why SHE should change her name, when really, it should be just as simple and unremarked upon for him to change *his* last name to *hers*. And yet somehow that never is considered, or ever happens. (For statistically significant values of "never.") You know, you get plenty of women who say "Well, my name was silly/hard to say/hard to spell, so I was just as glad to take his," but somehow guys seem to manage when their names are silly/hard to say/hard to spell, just fine.

Anyway. One of the things that was brought up during the discussion was that, although it's *also* a lame patriarchy-reinforcing excuse, a lot of women *really do* feel less of a connection to their own last names-- because from birth we're indoctrinated with the expectation that we *will* have to give them up-- it's a normal part of a *girl's* childhood to go around writing "Mrs. Livia Winchester" or "Mrs. Livia Momoa" on her notebooks.

And obviously that makes me kind of sad-- we don't even get to own our NAMES!-- and in the same way, someone who says "well, I've *always* preferred male heroes and I *never* like female characters, and I can *always* see myself better in the male characters than the female characters" ... it kind of makes me sad, too. It's not that such a person has some kind of inherent character flaw, but it's a combination of (1) male characters historically being more *present* and *interesting* and (2) the cultural indoctrination that guys are interesting and active and deep, and women are passive and boring and don't DO stuff. And the total inability, or *inclination*, to see past that indoctrination and be like "hey, wait! There's women on this show! And they're kinda cool!"

I mean, especially in fandom when we spend so much time spackling over the faults and creating elaborate imaginary backstory and theorizing over tiny clues and details for MALE characters. And female characters don't get any of that energy. And then people say "Well, she's just not interesting." Sigh.


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minim_calibre
minim_calibre
Minim Calibre
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)

I have a cousin who changed her short, appealling last name to something appalling when she got married. It horrified me. I mean, why??

My husband's last name is hard to spell. Nice enough name, but hard to spell. Plus it would sound stupid with my first name. And I'd just ordered checks. And I was kind of attached to my name, thank you kindly.

It's not that such a person has some kind of inherent character flaw, but it's a combination of (1) male characters historically being more *present* and *interesting* and (2) the cultural indoctrination that guys are interesting and active and deep, and women are passive and boring and don't DO stuff. And the total inability, or *inclination*, to see past that indoctrination and be like "hey, wait! There's women on this show! And they're kinda cool!"

Yeah. This. I get it (it's not *me*, as I grew up, err, changing the pronouns in my books to make more girls, but I get it), but it makes me sad.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
minim_calibre
minim_calibre
Minim Calibre
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)

Because that kind of defensiveness always sets off alarm bells in my head.

Mine, too. Do not get me wrong: I think disliking a female character is a perfectly okay thing for a person to do. There are several fictional females who make me grind my teeth. But what often strikes me is that people will love a male character for acting a certain way, and hate a female character who does the exact same thing, and it winds up looking like a double standard or an artifact of internalized misogyny.


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odditycollector
odditycollector
Karen
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)

I'm much the same - my fannish favourites are almost *without fail* female (and professional women, if there are any available). It's not a choice I made... it's not something I even realized about myself until I actually *made a list*. It had something like four guys for the whole decade I've been in fandom. (Compared to 20 or so gals. I was startled.)

And even with the male characters that do make it into that top tier of obsession, my love for them tends to be qualitatively *different*.

I like Alan Scott because he's noble and cranky and is the only one in the DCU who could pull off that costume. You don't have to feel the same, and that's fine. You can tell me why, and then maybe we can trade scans back and forth about who is the best GL or something.

I like Kara Zor-El because, honestly, I barely remember a time when I *didn't* have unconditional love. You don't have to feel the same, and that's fine. We can talk about something else.

I like Psych's Gus because he is lovable and geeky and played by Dule Hill. I like House's Dr. Cuddy *because*... and although I'm sure I could come up with reasons if I really sat down and thought about it, the reasons would still come after the initial burst of love.

Which is not to say that I have *less* reason for liking female characters, but it is usually more *visceral*. I've got to get past that to be objective at all, and unless I am writing meta (which I don't) there isn't much point to bothering.

(After all, the visceral fannish love is worth *more*. House is quickly becoming a BAD show, but I still watch it because it has Cuddy in. Supernatural, season one, was a fun ride... but I've yet to feel the urge to follow the second season.

Of course, even if there are female characters, there's no guarantee I'll glomp onto any of them. But I'd be willing to bet a lot that I'd cut SGA more slack if we saw cranky *female* geeks once in a while.)


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odditycollector
odditycollector
Karen
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)

Cont. because jennifergearing brings up a good point...

...there are lots of times when I identify with male characters because there isn't a female character there to begin with, or because the female characters have been treated with such utter disdain that 'being' them would crush my soul. ...I can't help but wonder that there aren't at least some of those vocal about preferring male characters who have (subconsciously at least) made a self-protective choice.

I suspect I can get away with having a preference for female characters because am a world champion at negotiated reading. It's a skill I never entirely grew out of, and when I'm doing anything from reading comics to watching movies to, like, watching *porn*, I'm usually tweaking the canon slightly so it fits better in my head. Often I don't even realize what I'm doing - I've had many conversations that go along the lines of:

Me: THIS IS AWESOME!
Not-Me: Well, I grant it is pretty good, but what about X.
Me: ... wait, X? I don't remember X. Did I miss an episode somewhere?
Not-Me: In the one about Y? Where they do Z?
Me: Um. Sorry.
Not-Me: You were just raving about Y! Just now!
Me: Oh, right, *that* X. Huh.

So it's basically that I have entirely *different* self-protection methods, and in comics, at least, I can pretty much get away with it. Still, I try not to debate continuity much, for obvious reasons.


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caiusmajor
caiusmajor
Caius
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 12:55 am (UTC)

Yes, exactly.

I'm not, myself, one of the people who can't identify with male heroes--it's very hard to be, in this world; I adored studying history in school, and sticking to female heroes *there* would have either kept me to domestic social history or to the few 'exceptional' women in most cases.

But I know other people who are, or were; one of my cousins, when she was younger, just wasn't *interested* in any books without girls in them, although life has trained her out of this at least partially: she got through an English major in college, after all.

I just want to be in a world where seeing the world fictionally through the opposite sex's eyes is required of--and *allowed* to--men as well as women. I have a male friend who is interested in good fictional women very specifically; he wants to understand women better, so he wants to read about them. And I want it to be less embarrassing to take him into the comic shop and try to find stuff for him to *read*.


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amberdulen
amberdulen
Amberdulen
Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)

Take your friend to see The Descent!


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muccamukk
Muccamukk
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)

God, I've so been in this mental space lately, especially in relation to fandom. I found this lj com about "Cannon!Sues" which I thought would be funny, but upon reading it really an excuse to tear down every strong women ever to appear in mainstream media (I don't think the word "uppity" was actually ever used, but it wouldn't have been out of place.) Which is just an example of what I've been seeing A LOT. And I just get so angry even though I'm not generally a touchy person. It just seems that fandom, which is largely made of women, should be more female friendly, more interested in my own gender, but instead the majority of women are summarily sacrificed on the alter of the Almighty Penis. What the fuck is that? No wonder there aren't more strong women in media; we ourselves shoot down everyone we see, apparently.

Sorry. I'll stop venting all over your lj now.


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littledarkvoice
littledarkvoice
Revolutionary Mawrtyr Finkraine
Sat, Jan. 13th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)

--you know, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about canon_sues. It should be funny, what with all the horrid 19th Century Lit out there to spork, but then people get on these anti-sue crusades against just about every female character imaginable. And they don't know how to go about it good-naturedly.

Furthermore, they're largely drawing on speculative, wish-fulfillment genres to find these Sues, where the Mary Sue type character tends to flourish anyway. I mean, if you must pick on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, doesn't it make sense to pick on Indiana Jones, too?

(Granted, there's a huge difference between female characters being "perfect" so that the audience wants to be her/has fun watching or reading about her, verses female characters created to be "perfect" so as to titillate the heterosexual male audience. The latter is worth ranting about, but can't we appreciate the former a bit more?)


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