Sometimes Movies Revolve Around A Single Gender, Sometimes That Gender Is Female, And Sometimes That’s Okay

Maleficient

Even before Angelina’s portrayal, Maleficent has always been one of my favorite characters. She’s so witty and in control…so intentional. Of course, she was evil – but I had been raised on stories like Wicked and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, so it felt okay to admire certain aspects of her persona…and I was more than delighted with the perspective provided by Maleficent.

As I would imagine any logical person would assume, this movie, designed to explain the relationship between Maleficent (a female fairy) and Aurora (also a female), focused primarily on two strong female characters. This probably makes sense to most people, but, as I have recently learned, not everyone.

In a post titled “The Importance of Gender Roles and The Problem with Maleficent,” one blogger writes about how men were snubbed in the movie – how Prince Philip’s role was so small he might as well not have even been in the movie at all. Well, that opinion is interesting to me. In Disney’s original telling of Sleeping Beauty, the only really developed characters were the fairies. Prince Philip’s role was minimal and Aurora only appeared for about 18 minutes in the 75-minute movie for which she was the title character. The real difference is that, while Prince Philip’s role remained the same, two of the female roles became much more dynamic.

Now, I could understand concern if this was the case for the majority of movies. It would absolutely be harmful to pretend all stories revolve around women and that women are the only ones daring enough to do interesting things. However, this is not the case. So to those who are offended by a single movie telling the story of two women, I invite you to put your ego aside and get over it.

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Gender & Pronouns

Little Miss Mister

As feminists, we know gender is on a spectrum. We’re dynamic beings and trying to box ourselves off into male or female really isn’t helping anyone. I mean that’s a lot of pressure and who even wants to live up to those expectations anyways. It’s much more fun to just do everything you want without worrying if it makes you too masculine or too feminine.

But I must admit, as much as I believe this, it is very difficult for me to form my language around it. It’s so easy to associate pronouns with a person’s sex even though I know the meaning is closer linked to gender. So what can we do?

I’ve heard of someone who proudly identifies as an “it” – but that term feels like it sucks the life out of its subject. I don’t even refer to animals as it’s. More commonly, there’s the option of “they.” It’s grammatically incorrect, but it’s gender neutral. It tends to be my favorite for situations in which I’m trying to avoid gender…but I really just can’t get over that hankering for something that’s grammatically correct without imposing gender.

That’s where Wikipedia’s table of “Newly Invented Pronouns” comes in.

Newly invented pronouns
Elverson (1975)[45] Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes eirself
Spivak (1983)[46][47] E laughed I called Em Eir eyes gleam That is Eirs E likes Emself
Humanist[48] Hu laughed I called hum Hus eyes gleam That is hus Hu likes humself
Peh[49][50] Peh laughed I called pehm Peh’s eyes gleam That is peh’s Peh likes pehself
Per[51] Per laughed I called per Per eyes gleam That is pers Per likes perself
Thon[52] Thon laughed I called thon Thons eyes gleam That is thons Thon likes thonself
Jee, Jeir, Jem[53] Jee laughed I called jem Jeir eyes gleam That is jeirs Jee likes jemself
Ve[54] Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Xe[55] Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself
Ze (or zie or sie) and zir (Germanic Origin)[56] Ze laughed I called zir/zem Zir/Zes eyes gleam That is zirs/zes Ze likes zirself
Ze (or zie or sie) and hir[57] Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze and mer[58] Ze laughed I called mer Zer eyes gleam That is zers Ze likes zemself
Zhe, Zher, Zhim[59] Zhe laughed I called zhim Zher eyes gleam That is zhers Zhe likes zhimself

Any one of these words could be the solution to our problem. The only trouble is that hardly anyone would recognize them making it difficult to use them without adding an explanatory paragraph into your sentence; and by that point, is it even worth it?

To make any of these work, we’d have to limit the use to one…and probably get a celebrity on board. If one day, Ellen Degeneres started using Ze, the whole world would change. Regardless of how a person identifies, it would be much harder to impose any expectations and, on a larger scale, it would be much harder to have any stereotypes.

 

Breaking News: Figure Skaters And Female Athletes Are Human

What does it mean to be a sport? According to Merriam-Webster, a sport is any “contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” There are a lot of things that would fit into this category – more than some people are willing to admit. For them, a sport is decisively masculine, so activities like figure skating, which assess competitors based on several more feminine characteristics, are a threat to this definition.

Their feeling of being threatened has become especially evident during this year’s Olympics. One woman, who was supposed to know her place as an artist above all else, crossed the line and expressed herself as an athlete…and will be remembered more for that than anything else. As Amanda Palleschi explains in her article for The Atlantic:

Ashley Wagner will be remembered well after the torch is blown out at the Sochi Olympics, but the 22-year-old American figure skater is no America’s sweetheart. Wagner has been polarizing since before the Games began. Once there, the two-time U.S. National Champion made fewer headlines with her performances than with her meme-worthy faces, mouthed-under-breath remarks at her scores, and her less-than-shy comments about the disputed result of the women’s competition. […Female figure skaters] can be brash, opinionated, feisty, and have some attitude. Why? Because they’re regular adolescents and young adults. Olympic observers may call her a poor sport; I say she’s an athlete daring to be a human in a sport that asks its female athletes to be camel-spinning Stepford wives.

Dismissing Ashley Wagner as a poor sport, while athletes in nearly every other sport are allowed to not only feel disappointed, but to express it as well, is really just another way of dismissing the sport. It’s alright for her not to be America’s sweetheart; most athletes aren’t.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes One Stock Photo At A Time

Looking through a series of my little sister’s photos, my brother noticed she and her friends had taken several posed shots that were only designed to look candid. “It used to be that stock photos were designed to imitate life. Now, you take pictures to imitate stock photos!”

Social media has had a profound impact on our lives, including the emphasis we put on photos. It’s not enough to do something anymore; you have to have pictures. Otherwise, your life seems to pale in comparison to your peers.

With that in mind, Lean In and Getty Image’s recent attention to stock photos seems like a necessary investment. If one group of people is consistently represented in more exciting or note-worthy situations, it is easy to believe that group is more exciting and note-worthy. This problem has a remarkably simple fix and Lean In and Getty Images have teamed up to provide that solution through a collection of 2,500 stereotype-challenging stock photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the entire Lean In Collection.

Women: The Oppressed Majority

As a teenager, being catcalled, groped, or hit on in a blatantly sexual manner was an accomplishment. It seemed like just another part of a quality life, because being catcalled meant you were pretty.

Now that I am older, I know that the catcalling has very little to do with me or how I look. Instead, it is only about him. I have been catcalled on my way to work at 8 in the morning and while cloaked in winter attire that all but hides my face. In either situation, I can guarantee my appearance would only be noteworthy to someone who has never seen a woman before.

I know it seems harmless. It’s just a compliment. But there’s something ominous about being catcalled. It’s almost always reserved for when a woman’s walking alone, and if she’s not alone, she’s only with another woman. If it were just a compliment, it wouldn’t matter who she was with.

Such behaviors are a hyper-conformance to gender roles, with men as the sexual beings and women as the sexual objects.  As a woman, when someone tries to force you into this role, it can be a little frightening. There’s no way for you to know where their conformance ends.

Many men have a hard time understanding why this is so problematic. Fortunately, the video above can help give them a new perspective on the situation.

The Sexy Lie of Sexuality and Gender

We’re not so different, You and i. 

I’ve often heard the idea that boys are just more visual than women as an excuse for why we normalize activities that tend to objectify women – the way women are presented in the media, the ritualistic ways in which some men attend strip clubs, and the almost universal use of porn. All of these behaviors are supposed to be a natural expression of sexuality. However, when the roles are reversed and a woman engages in these same activities she is seen as abnormal and crass, no matter how visually-oriented she may be. This, to me, is a sign that this herd behavior toward a visual male sexuality is about more than just an appreciation for the visual realm.

One of the first indicators of this is the inconsistency within our gender stereotypes. When we talk about men from a sexual standpoint, it’s fine to call them visual beings; but when we talk about them from a general standpoint, we are asked to believe that they are analytical, unlike the “silly women” who dwell on the visual components of life like fashion, art, and interior design. As a result, the idea of a “man” is appropriated, such that, in each situation, he is dominant.

Dr. Caroline Heldman further develops this argument  through her apt observation that, contrary to popular belief, sex doesn’t sell. Both men and women are sexual beings, and yet the majority of advertisements objectify women without regard to their audience. “If sex sold, most women are heterosexual, and we are sexual beings, so why wouldn’t we see half-naked men everywhere in advertising?” Heldman suggests that what these advertisements are really selling is the idea of the dominant male and the female sexual object. In other words, they are selling success within a male-dominant society.

I don’t claim to know what emphasis on a person’s appearance is acceptable. I only mean to challenge the idea that men need objectifying situations to be aroused and that women can only be the object of another’s desires. There isn’t one way for men to express their sexuality and one other way for women to express theirs. We are all just people, each with our own way of existing, regardless of any way we can be categorized.