Category Archives: feminis hmmm. . .

Male-colored glasses

I am so tired of male gaze. I am just so over my culture being dominated by male expectation and the masculine perspective. It has gotten to the point where I only want to listen to music by women, singing about things women care about, real singer/songwriters, not sexy dolls singing sexy songs trying so very very hard to be America’s next sexy idol. I am recently enjoying songs by:

Evanescence
Florence + Machine
Adele
Kate Nash
Regina Spektor

Lily Allen

A Fine Frenzy
I am beyond tired of the in your face sexism of the television shows I want to watch and like. I am a nerdy girl and I like science fiction shows. Sci-fi is notoriously thick with male gaze because the writers think they are only writing for teenaged boys. So, when the camera is on a woman it is pointed at her revealing cleavage or her long bare legs, ending, just barely before her tiny teenager sized ass. A good (bad?) example of this is the nerdy show Chuck. Chuck is a stand-in for the typical computer geek boyman who gets to have ninja skills and date a sexy blond super spy who’s spy disguises often seem to require dressing up like a Playboy bunny or a harem girl. 😦

I prefer my sci-fi without the gratuitous T&A. If I want to watch some sci-fi with strong and realistic female characters I have to go back a ways to actually have something akin to a “list”: (links go to articles about the women in these shows)

Farscape
Firefly
Dr. Who
Babylon 5
True Blood (has lost of gratuitous T&A, but tries to satisfy both male and female gaze)
and (not exactly sci-fi but enjoyed by the same people) Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
For non sci-fi shows I have recently enjoyed Mad Men for getting down and dirty with sexism, gender roles, and the male gaze (especially in advertising.)

I run up against the the massive filter of male gaze in movies I want to like too. Too often there is only the token woman (Super 8, Harry Potter, Rise of the Apes, Cowboys vs Aliens, Captain America) or the movie seems to be actively against women (Source Code, The Hangover II, Transformers 3) but there were a few movies that I managed to see that actually cared to tell a woman’s story:
Bridesmaids
Jane Eyre
Hanna
I think a case could be made for or against X-men First class, and whether or not it even passes with Bechdel Test.

This all came to a head the last couple days since DC comics has rebooted and revamped several female super heroes into super sluts, posing in tiny bikinis and lingerie . You might say that is the norm for comics books, because they really are written for teenaged boys. But that is not the case anymore. Women want to read comics, we want to let our daughters read them and we want to let our sons read them as well. We don’t want want to turn a blind eye to a world that objectifies women and is unable to see them as real humans and is unwilling to respect their story and point of view. That is old. That is tired. I am getting eyesore from squinting at the world through male-colored glasses. I want to see the world in all it’s colors and I want to see my gender represented realistically and acting out their own agenda.

Whose Time Is It Anyway?, or, Advanced Mind Hacking

One of my favorite little books on meditation, mindfulness, and all that jazz is the classic “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

It opens with the story of a father who never has time for himself. Maybe this will sound familiar: housework to do, career stuff, children demanding time in so many ways. Even a child’s wish to play with a parent is just one more thing that must be addressed before getting “Me Time.”

Eventually, however, the father figures out a secret to getting limitless time for himself: he counts it all as his time. By bringing all of himself to the activity at hand—bathing the baby, helping with a math problem, washing the dishes—all of that time is his. Brilliant and beautiful: I love this kind of reframing.

As the gentle Thai monk points out in the next chapter, however, chances are quite good that the father doesn’t remember to bring all of himself to all of his activities, all of them time. One reason for that, he suggests, is that we all need practice and training in mindfulness, so that our habits support us rather than carry us away from that goal of limitless time.

But I know something the monk doesn’t, at least not as lived experience. Or maybe he is just too kind and gentle to point this out: sometimes, living on someone else’s time is easier. A mom can spend a full day living on family time: getting kids up and ready for the day’s activities, driving, shopping, cooking, mediating arguments, taking care of bedtime, planning for tomorrow. Even in 2011, you get Good Mom Points for spending a day this way. You’re busy, so you must be important, and you put your desires last, if you can even remember what they are.

It can be exhausting, true, but the dirty little secret is, you spare yourself the labor of choosing how to use your time, and so you absolve yourself of the responsibility of what happens with it. Dissatisfied with how the day went? Well, what could you do—you were never on your own time.

Even in a relatively healthy family, it’s not unusual to see each individual’s time get tangled together with everyone else’s. Kids rely on mom to be their engine, waiting for her reminders to get ready for their own activities. Dad counts on mom for maintaining social connections and organizing what happens around the house. Mom plans vacations and weekends around what the rest of the family would enjoy. There’s nothing malicious or insidious about this state of affairs: part of it is training kids, part of it is efficient division of labor, part of it is the joy of making other people happy. Still, it’s the rare family woman who doesn’t find herself wondering, like the father in the story, where her “Me Time” has gone and—much more challenging—what she would with do if she ever found it.

This is a mind hack Triple Salchow: be fully present in the endless loop of household activities, acknowledge the choices that you’re making, and acknowledge your own desires. You gotta get the first part right, or you won’t be set up to land it at the end.

I trip on all of these sometimes, but I’m worst at the last one. I admit it: sometimes I will do something for the kids or for my husband because it just feels too hard to think of what to do for myself. My birthday’s coming up this week, though, so I’m going to work on sticking the jump at least once, as a gift to myself.

Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad For Women

Yes. This explains very clearly why hawt-genius-kung fu-dominatrix ladies are not quite as empowering as they ought to be.

Bright Girls Grown Up

Most of my female friends are pretty smart women. And most of them don’t give themselves enough credit. At worst, sometimes friends seem to engage in a race for the bottom: “I’m the dumbest!” “I’m the least successful!” “No me!” Humility is a good quality, abject self-abasement less so.

A lot of women I know could identify with these questions:

How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the Bright Girls — and your belief that you are “stuck” being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined.

I’ve entertained a variety of theories about these issues: maybe women are discouraged from succeeding, maybe women are acculturated to believe they should not be ambitious or put themselves forwards, maybe women are multi-tasking and set lower goals accordingly. And I think, yeah, maybe, but as a daughter of 1970s feminism I feel like those factors are not as powerful as they once were.

Another possible factor comes from the “Mindset” school of development:

What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty — what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

While I have been, at times, ambitious, hard-working, and willing to keep chipping away at a challenge, I have also let a setback lead me to question myself: “I’m not as smart as people say, and now they’ll know it.” “I guess I wasn’t meant to reach this level of accomplishment.”

Those “greatest hits” of the tween and teen years play in our heads as adults too, and sometimes when we’re feeling uncertain it’s easy to forget that we control the volume and the power switch. That’s one reason I love reading stories about people who make dramatic midlife changes, people who live for years as one type of person who do something dramatically different: NFL cheerleader to anthropologist, screenwriter to Senator, oil company executive to noir fiction master.

Changes like those can’t happen for people stuck with a particular idea of who they are.

How many different ways have you filled in this blank: I’m not a ( ) person. Which one would you like to let go of?

Full article, “The Trouble with Bright Girls,” here.

Prayer for her Daughter

Love this addition to Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter, from Laura Munson at These Here Hills. Moms of older girls need a little extra.

Busy Indeed

Wow, the last several days have been full! So little time for writing, but time for reading. This is a great post about friendship at How I Learned to Wear a Dress — check it out!