Three good pieces on gender

There must have been something in the tubes last week, because I found three really excellent pieces about gender and feminist concerns that really stuck with me as I procrastinated on finishing the edits to vN. Given that the novel has a female protagonist for much of the story, you can see why I might have had these issues on my mind.

You Are Not “Crazy”: This is a post on gaslighting, our shiny new word for what happens when someone conflates having emotions with being irrational, and treats others (often women) accordingly:

A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation—pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

Nerds and Male Privilege: This has shown up just everywhere, but it’s worth the read if for some reason you’ve not seen it. My favourite bit:

Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo. Nobody wants to acknowledge that a one-sided (and one-dimensional) portrayal of women is the dominant paradigm in gaming; the vast majority of female characters are sexual objects. If a girl wants to see herself represented in video games, she better get used to the idea of being the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. If she wants to see herself as a main character, then it’s time to get ready for a parade of candyfloss costumes where nipple slips are only prevented by violating the laws of physics. The number of games with competent female protagonists who wear more than the Victoria’s Secret Angels are few and far between.

The idea that perhaps the way women are portrayed in fandom is aleetle sexist is regularly met with denials, justifications and outright dismissal of the issue. So regularly, in fact, that there’s a Bingo card covering the most common responses. Part of the notion of male privilege in fandom is that nothing is wrong with fandom and that suggestions that it might benefit from some diversity is treated as a threat.

What It Feels Like For a Girl: This is a review of David Fincher’s American take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which in its native country was called Men Who Hate Women. Reading the review (and the comments it inspired) led me to think I should give the books another try. Until this point I’d had no idea about Stieg Larsson’s personal or professional history, and his experience with the subject matter certainly explains the obsessive attention to detail in the novels.

Men Who Hate Women. That’s what Stieg Larsson called his book, which then became The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To know this story is to know Larsson. If you forget about him, the key to this story is lost. The story is about men who hate women and the women who fight back. Larsson was a bit of a hero in this and other battles he personally fought throughout his very short life. He was against the extreme right in Sweden, against racism and misogyny. After witnessing the rape of the a 15 year old girl named Lisbeth, he never forgave himself for failing to help her. This, it’s been said, was what motivated him to write his books. A Swedish film did a great job of turning his book into a movie that was sold in countries all over the world. So why remake it at all?

Because a story about a female avenging those men who hate women is more relevant now that it ever has been. In fact, it’s downright revolutionary. The only kind of women we see are those who are unrealistic comic book heroes, or those who are trussed up as ultimate fantasy fodder for gamers. It’s getting worse, not better.

So, you could do as many a critic will no doubt suggest, not remake the movie. Let it just sit out there in Sweden as “their story.” Or, a popular American director like David Fincher can make Dragon Tattoo redux – he can take this well known story, render it with an obsessive’s eye, redefine its archetypical characters and most importantly, give a much wider audience the chance to experience the film’s gravitational center: Lisbeth Salander.

1 thought on “Three good pieces on gender”

  1. Nicely put, on all three topics.
    However politically correct people are in real life, our cultural references remained unbalanced, with low numbers of women film-makers, book prize winners, heads of publishing firms, etc. Yet women form the majority of culture-product absorbers.

    Women are often portrayed as objects or totally kick-ass (echoing the madonna/whore dichotomy?). It would be refreshing to have more women protagonists/representations as courageous, irritating, determined, rational and flawed as their male counterparts.

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