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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Monday, 27 February 2012

That Feminist Post

Hi gang!

First, I want to send a shout out to my readers in Russia, Belgium, and Germany...thanks for visiting, guys! I'm happy to see that I can interest people outside my own continent.

All right. Well, I used to avoid the 'f' word--not 'fuck', it's a fun word to say--'Feminism'. However, a video series by feministfrequency (here is the first of one of her videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqJUxqkcnKA&feature=relmfu) is making me seriously reconsider that. I see myself primarily as an egalitarian, in the sense that I defend men's rights as well as ensuring that women I describe are real people. However, I have to thank this most excellent vlogger for making me realize: I really am a feminist.

You're probably asking yourself, a) I knew that already, how dense is this girl, or b) why does it matter? The problem is, feminism and feminist writing and art have some really bad press. From the ludicrous and somewhat unsanitary genuine menstrual blood paintings (yes, this is a thing http://www.regretsy.com/2011/07/08/maxed-out-2/ ) to Margaret Atwood's dry, repetitive WORKS OF GREAT LITERATURE, 'feminism' generally gets mistaken for 'straw feminism' or 'shit I wouldn't read/watch if it was the only way to get a cheeseburger whilst I was starving to death on a deserted island'. Even the ladies who are much less annoying or ponderous still tend to go on, say, Disney-hating rampages, or get stuck on irrelevant points involving male vilification/adoration and other straw feminist ideas.
So, clearly I'm implying that I am better than these other ladies--though I want to hastily make it clear that I have been strongly inspired by excellent writers, both male and female, who have done a lot more with their female casts than, well, castrate them. But how can we tell that a film or novel is not merely entertaining, but also a solid representation of more than just male character development?
I could re-write her ideas, and a simplified list of them will probably be an unofficial part 1.5 of this entry. In the meantime, I just have to refer you to this gal's tidy checklists. These are some seriously entertaining and easy ways to see whether a story passes muster for representing human stories from more than the usual North American perspective (i.e. white dude in America). As well, you can adapt a lot of these to see how racist or unracist a story is. For instance, substitute the words 'Magic Negro/Wise Old Asian Dude/Quirky Indian Dude' Trope for 'manic pixie dream girl' to test your given film, and you will have some highly uncomfortable realizations about popular cinema.

I realize that there are probably some white dudes who are pretty unhappy right now. To them, I say--guys, I'm sorry to put you on the spot here, but we need your help to change some of this crap too. I bet you're kind of bored of all those sausage fests in action movies...and dramas...and comedies...in fact, I know you are. There are some hilarious people who don't get a chance to show off because it's a matter of habit to pass them over unless the script calls for 'an ethnic person' or a female. So, show it: Hollywood and a lot of us novelists forget that sexual gender and ethnicities other than 'white' and 'male' should be perfectly normal, rather than just part of a plot device. I've already punched some big holes in Bioware's beautiful and elegant Mass Effect series. Now, readers, I want you to do the same--to your heads.
Give some thought to stuff you read and run your books/films through the Beschdel test: must have two named women talk to each other (preferably for more than 60 seconds) about something other than a man. And then, when you realize how many fail, get your butts back here and let's get some comments going.

Catch you later!


  1. I think part of the reason feminism gets bad press sometimes is because some representations of feminism get all preachy and heavy-handed with it. People tend to get annoyed when a moral message/theme in a work is made too obvious and up-front, and I'd have to count myself among them. I'm under the belief that if you're going to have a moral message, a degree of subtlety is needed. The message can still be easy to interpret and doesn't need to be anything obscure, but the work should still be able to function as a good novel or painting or whatever it is for the people who don't actually pick up on the message.

    I read this novel series by Tamora Pierce once. I liked it at first, but the feminist themes got so excessive and over-the-top that I eventually stopped reading. I was like, "Yeah, I get it. Women deserve equal rights too. Stop hammering it into my head!". Apparently she almost always makes her lead characters female to help combat the Smurfette Principle. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but I can't help but feel she's trying too hard to push her message across.

    I don't think stories featuring all-male casts (or all-female, for that matter) are a bad thing, but unless the creators are specifically trying to deal with masculine themes, they should just start adding in more female characters and treating them with the same depth and respect they do with their male characters, but otherwise not calling attention to it. That would be a better way to fight the Smurfette Principle/Beschdel Test, methinks.

    Also, that menstrual blood painting you linked to is more than a little unsettling. :P

  2. I'm going to have to agree with everything you just said. Especially about the moral message--if you have to have it hammered into your skull, the author hasn't done a very good job. Ayn Rand comes to mind here--I read "The Fountainhead" some time ago, and it was...a unique experience, let's call it that. Her message was so hopelessly blunt that any content in the story was rendered irrelevant. I hated reading it so much, I enjoyed it; I wish I could say the same of a lot of uberfeminist stuff.

    And I definitely agree with your suggestion on casts--the use of the Beschdel is just a handy way for people who go, "naahhhh...the world of film is mostly fine, isn't it?" to really see what's wrong. I know it changed my perspective, that's for sure. And yeah, a movie can still be good if it fails the Beschdel, but it is pretty unnerving to think about how few films pass it.

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