Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writer's Block

Come on wordsmiths, change your ways. You aren't even trying anymore. Just because most of pop culture seems to be jumping off the degrading-women-with-impunity Empire State building, that doesn't mean YOU have to. When the story calls for one man to offend the other, leave women out of it and let the good guy trash the murderer/rapist/burglar or bad friend personally, not the jerk’s poor mother.

If writers are so creative, why do they scribble the same insults into popular TV show scripts. God forbid any male or female actor should utter a gendered insult at a male character such as "dick" or "prick".

If only I could get a dollar for every time somebody says, " you killed my brother/friend/partner you lousy son of a b****!" I'd be continuously tipsy if I were involved in a drinking game while enjoying another episode of Burn Notice in which every variation of the B-word came into play.

By the way, what is a little bitch exactly? A little mean girl? A diminutive angry woman? A grumpy female toddler? A more cynical person might think that something sinister is afoot here.  2000 plus years of misogyny or just ignorant sexist habits? Disgruntled men with mommy or ex-girlfriend issues? Whatever it is, give it a rest. These verbal shots are insulting to women, not the guys they are aiming toward. They are old and tired and in need of a break.

So are scenarios where the good woman battles the evil one, vanquishes her and then dramatically calls her a B****! You say classic I say predictable; superfluous; derivative.

While we're at it, whatever happened to damn or hell as an interjection? It's been replaced by SOB!

Why are such phrases as, he was crying like a little girl or he ran like a woman used continuously in crime dramas, sit coms and action adventure?

Even the writers for Supernatural (hyper macho notorious abuser of SOB as a noun, adjective and interjection) finally added some different derogatory terms such as dick head and prick to it's lexicon.

I propose a challenge to those who write for television, stage and screen; write one whole episode, play, film without any words that degrade women or girls, then challenge others to do the same.
Who knows, you might even get more support during the next writer’s strike.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Identity Gift

Identity Bereft

In a world filled with constant warnings about the dangers of "identity theft", there is one very large group of people who are routinely bullied into giving theirs away. If you guessed married women, then you are correct!

While most women in the western world no longer suffer overt legal sublimation to men, there are many stubborn remnants of our proscribed past that refuse to go away such as taking our husband’s family name at marriage. Even the most talented and famous among us are not immune to such an Identity Gift:

 “I had no idea what to get [Freddie Prinze Jr.] for our five year wedding anniversary…”
Actor Sarah Michelle Gellar on why she “finally” decided to take her husband’s last name.
Hey, I’ve heard he’s hard to shop for…
Reasons for said gift:
-Tradition dictates that there is only room for one name and that name is his.
-The children should have the same last name as parents.
-The woman hates her family’s long unpronounceable last name or likes the man’s name better.
-Your mom is afraid your husband will think you don’t really love him unless you give it up—yes, mine actually said that to me.
-Cultural messages say that women are selfish, heartless b-words not to take the man’s name; thus my mom’s concerned warning.

What's in a name? If you are asking a man; everything! After all, his very existence in a family full of girls may be the result of his parents’ dedication to baby making in order to produce a male heir who will “carry on the family name”.  A woman will feel obliged to relinquish her identity not because she is flighty and has no sense of family history and tradition, rather the weight of centuries of law, custom, family expectations and the repercussions of labels like “feminist”, can be enough to produce anxiety attacks even in the most stalwart individualist.

Justification for keeping our names:

-It’s part of my identity, I grew up with this name!
-I like my last name.
-Professional reasons (except if you are famous).
-I thrive on the complexities of life and the annoyance of constantly explaining that my hubby and I have different last names. Okay, “thrive” might be an overstatement.

-The paper work is hell. I once worked in a busy hospital medical records department. It was difficult enough keeping track of patients with only one name, never mind the confusion when they changed names.

Explain it with Humor:
While my husband rolls his eyes, I have often used this little gem:
“He insists on keeping his name.”

Skip the Laughs and take no prisoners:
My sister-in-law has written, “no such person” on letters addressed to “Mrs. Husband’s Name”, and sent them back to those stubborn relatives and friends who refuse to get with the program. Hey, if you coddle them how will they learn, right?

If you remember the Clinton administration, poor Hilary Rodham finally caved to pressure, dropped the Rodham and became the less threatening Hilary Clinton. Can you imagine Henry Kissinger having to do that?!

My hubby will usually introduce me to people with my first and last name, which is handy since I am often too lazy to do it myself unless I am introducing myself first. I have found that most people take it in stride out of, politeness, boredom, or perhaps fears of their own.

Maiden Reform
Women are identified not just by our husband/father’s names but also by our sex lives. Take the term “maiden name” for example. What is a maiden? Why it is a woman, usually young, who has yet to be….ahem…plucked or deflowered or pick the euphemism for sexual intercourse. We don’t assign these terms to men. A man is a man no matter where he falls on the virginity scale.

Miss    Single woman
Mrs.    A married woman
Ms.     A woman, married or single
Mr.     A married man
          A single man
              A man, married or single

Ms. Understanding
I have found that people miss, or Ms., the point of what Ms. is all about. I once heard a fairly intelligent woman on a popular radio show say that she wished she were still young and single so that she could be “a Ms.” even though the whole point of the lack of an R or extra S is that you can be married, single or undeclared and it doesn’t matter.
I admit to having difficulty correcting people when they call me Mrs., because of the voices in my head saying, “Who are you kidding? You are old and married and people will think you are trying to relive your young single days and that you don’t really love your husband and he never wants a second cup of your coffee and secretly lusts after the Doublemint Twins...!” This is my brain on internalized sexism, not to mention too much classic TV.

Wedding reality shows reveal that the days of a bride being “Mrs. Manly Manhood” are back in style, while at the same time her wedding vows pronounce her and the groom “husband and wife” instead of “man and wife. All of this takes place after the bride’s father has “given her away”.

With all of these contradictions, it is no wonder that heterosexual relationships are so often in a state of insanity, but hey it makes for an entertaining night around the tube.

Who Gives This Woman….?
Who gives a…ah hum…excuse me. Okay, look; if you really want to take your husband’s name or let your father hand you off to another man in some antiquated ritual meant for exchanging goods and services, be my guest. Just know what you are doing and what it all means. A good deal of feminism is about choice, informed choice. Just remember that a choice without healthy options isn’t really about freedom and individuality.

Think about that the next time you see the popular girl group of the moment gyrate around stripper poles in the name of sexual empowerment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where Two or More Women are Gathered....

I came upon a website called The Bechdel Test in which we are asked to rate movies using three basic criteria:

1.     Does the film have two or more women in it?
2.     Do the women talk to each other?
3.     Do they talk to each other about something other than men?

 If  the film in question displays all three of these characteristics, it passes the test.
I like that this test totally validates my previous post about female TV characters who don’t talk to each other---everyone needs a good validating now and then. 

The proverbial old boy’s club in Hollywood still exists and still believes, unlike many actual male film goers, that if two or more female film characters talk to each other about anything but guys, men in the audience will either fall asleep, or invade a small country out of sheer boredom.  Thus, scriptwriters are “encouraged” to write about male leads and the women who talk about them. …to each other.

I also think that Hollywood fears women getting along with each other in art because that runs the risk of women, like actresses perhaps, banding together in real life to fight the domination of the industry that white males enjoy. 

I might add that when women are depicted having conversations about other subjects than men, they will probably be talking about children.

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 the heck 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.

Who Are You Callin’ a B----?!

One day, back 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". Just please, please, I beg you... do not 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"!!

Oh and Please don't tell me that you "hate labels". Think about it, 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.