Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Fine Bro-mance

Television fiction’s love of male friendships is admirable to a point. Who wouldn’t like to see men and boys getting along? Heck, it’s better than when they’re always trying to kill each other. Still, It seems that while male characters are paling it up, females are barely given opportunities to say two words to each other. While the men engage in rapid fire exchanges of retro pop cultural banter (“Psych”), women are locked in glaring contests with other females they’ve only just met while regarding them with suspicion (Every other show on TV). Men can encourage and inspire each other while women can only sharpen their proverbial “claws” and compete with their counterparts for male attention—sans nerdiness because women, especially hot ones, aren’t thought to possess any knowledge of pop culture unless they’re on “Lost Girl”.

Except for rare occasions when teenage girls or women have their BFF’s, or the loyalty of a sister, no female on TV can spend too much time relating to another of her kind. If she is allowed such a relationship, time is spent fighting, obsessing about guys or when/if she should get pregnant. Oh but hey wait, she can also fight with her mom. Women and girls on TV are mostly never afforded healthy mother-daughter relationships. A girl can always run to her slightly dorky but understanding father, or stylish Gay male friend. If she’s lucky, she’ll have a hetero guy co-worker with a secret crush on her who keeps the sexual tension going throughout the series (“Castle”).

On TV, males can disagree, argue in court, even beat the crap out of each other only to follow it all up with a hardy back slap and a cold one at the local pub. One episode of “Medium” practically telegraphed this idea when Allison’s husband caught a younger co-worker lying at his expense. No sooner had I thought how refreshing it was to see two men fighting without fisticuffs, when the writers pulled a fast one and wrote a man-cave friendly scenario with Allison’s happy hubby triumphantly recounting to his clairvoyant wife how the two boys worked it out and, you guessed it, laughed all the way to the bar.
(Why didn’t she see this coming?)
Gosh, it sure is great how guys don’t hold grudges---uh…what?!! War? Genocide? Sports? According to the entertainment industry, male on male violence isn’t personal it’s just business but hell hath no fury like a woman….being anything other than cheerful!

More and more, the television audience is expected to view women as only incidental in the lives of male characters, while men are essential to women’s existence. In real life we know this is not the case. Men are far more likely to re-enter relationships much sooner than women following a breakup or death of spouse. This probably explains at least part of the need for the bro-centered tele-fantasies. I am not against men getting along; the world would be a better place if they did, but entertaining portrayals of men’s mutual admiration should not come at the expense of women’s.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Myths About Women


“Women cry to manipulate men”

Women cry for a variety of reasons. One is that women are sometimes frustrated about not being heard or understood by men. This frustration can lead to anger which leads to a more “acceptable” emotion—crying. Naturally we can’t win. If we get angry we’re labeled with that ever popular “B-word”. If we cry, we are made to feel whiny or we are accused of exercising our “feminine wiles” to get our way. If we try to explain in the most direct way possible, we are…well at this point our voices become grating on the nerves of some guys… and oh yes, we’re back to that B-word again.

Our culture, which is mostly defined by guys in power, sees crying as a weakness and something that men can’t or should never do because it is considered too “womanish” so naturally it is labeled with a negative connotation. It’s understandable that men are uncomfortable with crying since they have taught each other that it’s bad because women do it.
 
Women lead men on”

You’ve probably experienced something similar or seen countless films and TV shows depicting unrequited love usually seen from the man or boys’ point of view. Women often know what we want in a guy but for various and complicated reasons, choose or are swayed to give in to Mr. Wrong because we’re flattered or because others around us say, “but he’s such a ‘Nice guy’ you should give him a chance”.  So you give in to pressure and date the guy. One thing leads to another and you end up together for a year or so. Though he grows on you, he begins feeling like your heart isn’t in it and he gets resentful and passive aggressive. You feel like saying I told you so but really you feel like the jerk for letting it go this far. You end up being the jerk when you have to break it off. You knew better but no one else, especially the guy in question, could see it. If the guy had just listened to you in the first place, none of this would have happened. Not that any of this is autobiographical….

Popular culture insists that pursuit is exciting no matter how one sided the “love” is.
Men are duped into believing that pursuit is manly. Kind of like deer hunting. Women are made to think that we should be willing “prey” and that we are “teases” or evil,  if we do not return the “poor” fellow’s affections.
We’ve all been taught by tradition and countless formulaic love stories that men ask and women reject. When was the last time you saw a female character get rejected? An ugly duckling who wears her heart on her sleave for a handsome guy only to get laughed out of the room. No, usually it’s the man or boy with whom the viewer is expected to identify.
If you don’t believe me, watch any episode of “The Big Bang Theory” and you will see many examples.
Why don’t these “nerdy” guys go after nerdy girls instead of chasing the hot babe who also wants a hot babe?! They are only setting themselves up for failure which then stokes the fires of anger and resentment toward all women causing said men to become TV writers.

Trust me, mutual interest and love are the building blocks of a healthy relationship. I have 12 years of wedded bliss under my belt to prove it.

Female Dog

One day, back in the late 70's when I was in Junior High, I was running laps during gym class. As one of the last few to finish the assigned exertion, I heard a couple boys running on the other side of the field shout, “Run You F***g Whore!”  I did what a lot of girls and women do when boys and men verbally punish us for being female and that is to internalize the guilt instead of putting it where it belongs; back on the guys. I look back on that incident and wish I had the courage to yell back at them or at least the strength not to have internalized the shame and blame.

My reaction to that incident would help me with a similar one I experienced 
6 years ago, not long after my husband and I moved to Ontario, Canada.
I was walking along the side- walk near my home, minding my own business, when a small car full of young men drove slowly past me. With his head hanging out of the window, one of them shouted at me, “Hey You Stupid Bitch!”  I turned around to the young bully and shouted, “Hey! Shut Up!”

What happened next surprised me almost as much as it would surprise the maligning male and his amused buddies. I don’t know whether it was my age, mood, my years of feminist sensibilities coupled with the fact that it was my Birthday, but I decided to turn and walk briskly in the direction of their still sluggish vehicle.  I like to think that my decision to do so, was sanctioned by God because there were no other cars on that side of the road and the way seemed to be paved clear for me to take the next step.
Since I was already being compared to a dog, what would be more appropriate than to chase a Mazda full of misogynists down the “friendly” Canadian intersection?! 

So… off I went. My fast walking turned to a slow jog. I could see the boys’ satisfied smirks turn to disbelieving dismay as I began to move off the sidewalk and run into the street alongside the car. Finally, the driver, convinced I had no intention of backing down, grew a lead foot and took off down the road and disappeared into traffic. They may not have been frightened of me, but they were definitely thrown by the idea that a female might not just shut up and take it. Instead of internalizing their words and blaming myself for having the audacity to walk home alone, or just to walk while female, I made them confront the fact that I was a human being; deserving of respect. Did they respect me? Probably not, but I like to imagine that just one of them might think twice before shouting horrible insults at another girl or woman again.  In my other fantasy, the mouthy boy grows up to become an anti-sexist lecturer : )

I don’t advocate that everyone respond the way I did.
My circumstances made me feel comfortable enough.  It was daytime, I knew my surroundings and I kept calm. I didn’t even swear at the guys; tempting as it was.
Looking back, I probably would rethink chasing a moving vehicle on foot; for many reasons. Now, when I remember that incident, I can hold my head a little higher and walk a little taller because I struck a small blow for women’s dignity.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Feminist By Any Other Name..

If the F-Word still gives you nightmares, don't let that stop you from standing up against injustice! You can always use alternatives like "anti-sexist". There is also the excellent term Womanist which was coined by Aftrican American feminists in a faith context-- but I am not sure if it is acceptable for white people to use the term or if it is considered co-opting another culture. 
Just please think before you say, "Oh, but I'm not one of those feminists" or I'm not a feminist but...let me list all the ways I agree with them"!!

I know many people say that they "hate labels" even though we wear labels, drive labels, eat and diet with labels; we identify ourselves with family names and religious faiths. We pride ourselves on being individuals but we are still human beings with similar needs, fears and flaws. There are times when it's important to stick out and identify with a group. We will never agree with absolutely everything that it says on the label but we still make more of an impact together.  

You don't lose your mind just because you may call yourself a feminist or even a Lutheran. It's how you wear your label that counts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm A Feminist, Ask Me How!

Feminist:  A person who advocates for the social, sexual, political and economic equality of women with men. 

"Oooo! Scarey stuff, ay kids?!" It shouldn't be but alas... The "F" word has been twisted by frightened, ignorant, mean spirited and power-hungry people (via the news, entertainment and info-tainment media for the last 30 years) into something unrecognizable by those of us who grew up with the women's rights movement in the 60's and 70's. Foolish as they are, these influences have been very effective at discrediting feminists in the minds of the public. 

While there are many and varied legitimate, thoughtful criticisms of the women's movement and feminism--much of which happens between feminists--I am focusing on the more outlandish and unfair rants that are meant to discredit.

 Here are just a few examples of common myths and misconceptions about feminists brought to you by television, films, the Internet, radio, the printed word and word of mouth:

 "Feminists hate men"---We do not! Many feminists are men so there's problem number one with that statement. Feminists hate injustice. Feminists hate abuse. Besides, hating men would defeat the purpose of fighting sexism. If there's no hope for bad men and male regimes to change, then we might as well give up right now. 

"Feminists are sex hating prudes"---Again wrong. This is one you've probably heard a lot from Hugh Hefner and the entire porn industry. No one expects heterosexual males to shun attractive women. The problems begin when a man looks at a woman and sees only sex instead of a whole human being. Unlike women, men are not defined by their sexuality alone.

"Feminists encourage promiscuity in women"---Whaaa?? This myth is a favorite among extreme religious groups like the Taliban and ultra right wing so-called Christians. They think this because feminists believe in a woman's right to choose when and if she will have sex and when and if she will become pregnant. I think Hefner and the Taliban should get their stories straight.

"Feminists are ugly hairy women who can't get men"---Oy! Feminists come in all shapes and sizes and both sexes. This is a common tactic of anti-feminists who want to throw you off your game. Don't play! Stay on topic. Having said that, many feminist women are in happy relationships with men. They're even married...with children!

"All feminists are lesbians"---Again, difficult if you're a male. Some feminists are lesbians but not all lesbians are feminists. Not all women are feminists either so it stands to reason. Using "lesbian" as an epithet is another tactic to derail feminist women (straight or lesbian) from the subject.
 Which brings me to....

"All anti-sexist men are gay"---So, men who like women are gay and men who don't like women are straight? Are you as confused as I am? It's meant to be confusing. Nothing scares a straight man off the feminist bandwagon quite like this tired and untrue "accusation". It's just like calling a boy a "sissy" or a man "p***y whipped". That is so school yard! Oh and really, the only people being insulted besides actual gays are women and girls! 

By the way, it's mean to use one persons' gender, race, sexuality or religion as a stick to beat others with. Not only does it dehumanize the aforementioned groups of people but it silences those who are trying to do what's right by standing up for them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blog-xiety

Okay, so I finally get a blog going (thanks hon) and now I'm having too many thoughts that all want to come out at once...a sort of ...blog clog if you will. Now, I have to form complete sentences. Not like the short ones you post on Facebook but real ones with clauses and everything! Then, paragraphs are expected. This is too much. Oh, and then there's my attention span; another thing besides my metabolism that was more efficient in my youth. Oh well, at least the argyle background design will give the first impression that an erudite and well spoken person is about to say something brilliant. Too much pressure. Better change design.