To anyone who thinks women aren’t constantly marginalized in our civilized modern society: You’re wrong.
Just this morning I’ve read about:
1) A woman who was followed down the street and harassed for the crime of walking home unattended.
2) A woman who was made so uncomfortable by a man at the gym that she hasn’t gone back yet.
These are two women who I know who had two gross experiences this weekend. What really disturbed me about these events when looked at together is that they are so innocuous. You know what I mean. These women weren’t touched or harmed so everything is fine, right? These are just things guys do. Sometimes they catcall you. Sometimes they stare at you. No big deal.
What I’m most angry about, I think, is that neither of those women felt they had any recourse beyond pretending it didn’t happen. Both of these stories involve a woman who feels threatened and doesn’t say anything for fear of something worse happening. This isn’t something new that just started because some crazy guy killed people. This happens every day. Every fucking day. To women you know.
And afterwards, if we do tell anyone, we’re made to feel silly. He was just being friendly. He was admiring you. You should feel flattered. He’s harmless. That last one is particularly insidious. We’re conditioned to ignore our instincts and avoid confrontations.
On further reflection, I’m most angry at myself. It’s been a long time since I felt this way and outrage has a way of diluting with time. I’m embarrassed that I could have forgotten for even one minute what it was like to be so thoroughly disrespected and objectified. I remember now, though.
I remember the way my heart raced when the car slowed down next to me. I remember wishing there was place I could hide. Ignore them. Don’t look. I shouldn’t be walking alone, even though it’s not dark. Pretend the memory of this won’t keep me awake for weeks wondering what that noise outside was.
I remember a strange phone call at a place where I worked nights. I remember how nice he seemed, how flattering. I remember being terrified. Don’t hang up. Don’t tell anyone because somehow it’s my fault. Stop smiling at the customers. Pretend I’m not afraid every night thereafter that he’ll be waiting for me when I leave.
The heart of this issue isn’t that particular men are crazy or assholes, it’s that any man thinks it’s okay to treat another person this way. EVER.
I don’t have a magic bullet for fixing this problem. In fact, I don’t believe one exists. I’m not naive enough to think I will ever be able to walk alone at night. But I refuse to pretend anymore and I refuse to be quiet. I’m afraid, and I shouldn’t have to be.
Be Ye Warned, There are Spoilers Ahead
Most of you know that I’m a rabid consumer of television. Like a lot of kids my age, I was mostly raised by TV. I don’t say that as a bad thing, just a truth. I don’t watch as much as the “average American” whoever that represents, but I watch quite a bit. In particular I always give fantasy and science fiction shows a chance, in solidarity for my genre of choice.
I was pretty excited when I saw the previews for Intelligence start a couple of months ago. I find current-tech and near-future SciFi particularly exciting because I feel like it’s where science news and entertainment collide. I was pretty happy that Sawyer from Lost would be in something else again, and very excited that it looked like the main female character would get to have the protector role for a change. It seemed like a fun show all around.
I still think the base idea is a good one, but I have a HUGE problem with the execution of this show so far. There is a not a single person of color in the main cast. NOT. ONE. I had hopes Gabriel’s wife might become a recurring character (she was played by the amazing Zuleikha Robinson who I may or may not have crowed about on here already) but it appears now that won’t happen. Most likely because they are making room for a romantic subplot–UGH. In fact, it’s worse than that. Every single non-white character with lines so far has been a bad guy. Even the Chinese diplomat who helps them out comes off as shady.
Really, is this where we are now? I’m deeply disappointed. I know no one does these things on purpose. I’m not trying to lay blame, or claim they are overtly racist. Just put a TINY bit of thought of into your casting. That’s all I ask. Listen, I’m super pleased Intelligence has a woman kicking ass and a woman in charge, really I am. But we can do so much better. We HAVE to do better.
What got me ticked off enough today to write a ranty blog post about this was a few clips from a very cool documentary on black voices in Science Fiction from the 90s. If you don’t want to watch all three videos (though I highly recommend all of them, especially the one with Nichelle Nichols) here’s the salient point queued up for you: Mike Sargeant on black characters in science fiction. As a society, we need solid, meaty non-white characters. It’s important for all of us because diversity exists, and it needs to be celebrated.
I’m making it a personal goal of mine to have at least half of all characters in my stories from this point on be non-white. I’m going to try for not only racial diversity, but ethnic diversity as well. That takes a little more effort, and a little more research, but I think the process and results will be worthwhile.
Rants and ranties,
The lovely Seanan McGuire made several tweets today about something I honestly had never even considered as a problem, but has been twisting my brain around all day since she mentioned it. Basically, her point was that as women we are our own worst enemies, not through any fault of our own, but because of the way our culture raises us. She specifically mentioned something called “Smurfette Syndrome,” the idea that if you’re the only woman in a group, you are automatically the most beautiful and desirable, that really got the old gray matter churning.
If I think back on most of the cartoons and movies of my childhood aimed at girls, there is a recurring of jealousy to many, if not all of the female dominated story lines. Snow White is hunted by her wicked stepmother who wants to be the “fairest of them all,” and can only achieve that goal by killing Snow. Cinderella’s step sisters can’t stand her because she’s so pretty and they’re so plain. There is not a single male-led story I can think of that uses so plainly vain a motivation as a plot device. Boys are out for adventure or treasure, it doesn’t matter what they look like, but for girls the MAIN PLOT has to do with their level of attractiveness and how they are either lauded or maligned for how they look. Antagonists of girl shows and movies are almost always other women who dislike the main character because she’s beautiful.
Holy shit. That’s crazy, right? I mean bat-shit bonkers. We’re being taught we can’t trust each other and it’s so nefarious that I never even noticed it.
Back to “Smurfette Syndrome” for a moment. Why is it that the heroine so rarely has female friends she can depend on? If she does have a bestie who is a woman who she can rely on, it’s almost always someone who is geeky or frumpy—Velma, Willow (in the early Buffy years), etc. Seriously, every “attractive” woman who isn’t the main character in girl-led shows almost immediately hates the main character, usually because she’s afraid the protagonist is after her boyfriend. It’s an instinctive reaction and we all buy into it. The more I think about it, the more I’m weirded out by why this is at all okay.
I’ve never understood slut shaming, or how women can be so cruel to each other for no real reason, but now I have an inkling. I make a solemn pledge, here before the interwebs, that I will call this behavior out when I see it, and that I will not allow women to treat each other like crap on the basis of appearance or what they’re wearing. Slut shaming or calling other women names based on superficial bullshit will be an automatic unfollow on my social media feeds.
Smurfette, you’re fired as a female role model.
Rants and ranties,
PS – I apologize if this post sounds a bit too “conspiracy theory” for some. I know I’m treading close to that line, but I welcome discussion about shows or books that buck this trope and how crazy I sound. Please, change my mind.
Before I start this rant in earnest, let me state that this doesn’t apply to consensual acts between adults where a person might enjoy being imprisoned. People like different stuff. Some of them like to role play. That is not what I’m here to rant about.
What we’re here to talk about today is why on Earth an otherwise-not-bad show like Under the Dome thinks kidnapping someone is ever okay. I suppose I should offer a ***SPOILER ALERT*** even though what I’m going to discuss plot-wise happens mostly in the first couple of episodes. I’ll even put in a jump to shield unwary eyes just in case… (more…)
I’m not sure I’ve ever done a rant prompted by a book before, but I’ve been simmering about this topic since yesterday and I just need to share my anger with someone. So, I’ve been excited to read this one particular book for quite a few months. I’m not going to divulge what the title is, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on this one author. I’ve actually encounter this same issue in books by two other authors, so it’s not as if it’s only something this one author does.
I pull up the book on my kindle with a sense of excitement because, as I said already, I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book. The prologue is intriguing, with an interesting overview of a sort of alternate reality earth. I flip eagerly to the first chapter, where I am promptly assaulted by a first person account of sunbathing with a four page description of not only the main character’s outfit, but her hair and her figure. I close the book. I probably sat there dazed for a few seconds. There is nothing–nothing–I want to read less than a self-absorbed character which is exactly how that woman comes off after spending five hundred words describing herself. The rest of the book might be marvelous, but I’m not sure I can wrangle myself into caring at this point. I would much, much rather have no description at all than be handed that so early in the book.
I don’t spend that much time thinking about how I look, ever. I just don’t. If I think about my appearance at all I’m more likely to complain about how unruly my hair is behaving that day, or how the bags under my eyes seem to be growing by the hour. This is exactly why I avoid giving descriptions of my characters in scenes from their PoV. It’s so difficult to make the character seem anything other than self-absorbed and disgustingly vain. I wouldn’t even want to have a conversation with a person who spends pages describing herself, never mind read a couple of hundred pages about her life. Ugh.
Now that I’ve rambled for entirely too long about this. Do you have any fiction pet peeves you’d like to share?