Saturday, February 27, 2016

Feminists Aren't Quite So Bad

"The greatest single cause of misogyny in the world today is feminists who proclaim equal rights with their lips and then walk out the door and continue with a misandrist lifestyle. That is what a patriarchal society simply finds undervaluing."

Okay, so that is not exactly a real quote--I modified someone else's to discuss the feminist movement. I presume many people can actually rally around such a sentiment even if it is a tad misled. Many of the white male club are familiar with what they believe is the feminist movement: myriad women burning bras, hating men while accusing them of all kinds of unfair evils, and demanding men's status be lowered in order to improve the status of women. We hear of seminars announcing how terrible it is that women are treated as nothing more than objects in games and movies and the number one thing we hear in two short syllables is, "Stop it!"

And yet, this is not the culminating cry I heard from my discussions regarding feminism last night, and it really got me thinking. While the words continued to resonate "stop it" in my mind, a true glimmer of "start it" began to emerge. I expressed how Anita Sarkeesian complained about tropes in video games where women are always in need of saving and men are doing the rescuing. My immediate response is, "this is not a bad thing and it is ridiculous that it is being attacked." Upon presenting this viewpoint, and after much discussion, it began to be more apparent that the goal is not to stop it. Supposedly, this tidbit is well expressed in all the videos that Anita has produced. Interestingly enough, that tidbit never reached my ears because I was already drowned by the resonance of "this is a trope against women" which I think is utter nonsense. Rather, it is a trope with no moral fiber of its own and the real problem is that women do not have a similarly inspiring trope to make them feel powerful and useful. We do not need to stop these other tropes, we need to create new ones for women.

This, I am sure, still sounds foolish in the eyes of many males who wonder why we need to be so intentionally inclusive and make a female-oriented line of everything. When marketed as a female gimmick or a pandering of the feminists, it certainly has the power to rile some feathers because there is already a negative image associated with the feminist movement in the eyes of many males. If, however, without any trumpets blasting and purpose-driven announcement of making more female heroes, females find more of a spotlight in games and movies, I am not sure there would be such a huge backlash. Perhaps that is merely because I do not personally have a problem with it and am thus unaware of the hatred for women in the hearts of others, but I presume that most people would simply roll with the punches and think nothing of it if it were not so advertised as female-pandering. Never once did I think it terrible that the lead character of Metroid was a female, but if it were announced that Metroid was created for the sole purpose of rising against the evil, male dominion, I am far more likely to be offended.

Of course, this is not exactly the language used by feminists, but it is the language understood by the many offended males. This could be a problem with the males and not particularly the feminist movement, but when trying to convey a clear understanding, choice of words is of utmost importance. If that understanding is coming across as "stop being sexist, jerk, pig-faces," it is likely to result in far less compliance and desire to help women than an understanding that comes across as, "women need more powerful role-models in media." I believe that men need to hear more of the second. Some men may never change no matter what they hear, but for those men who are actually willing to turn a compassionate ear, the second is far more likely to reap the desired results.

What I am not talking about is tone-policing. I am not saying women need to do something to earn something and that anything is their fault for being so mean. I care far more for facts than tone, personally. As meanly as someone wishes, they can say, "Hey!! Women need some freaking role models because they have nothing to identify with!" I'm all for that. This is far different than nicely saying, "you know, men kinda oppress women." The first is not an attack despite being meanly spoken and the second is despite being kindly spoken. It is a significant difference in my opinion and I think if the feminist movement focused more on what women need rather than on what the men are dominating, they would probably have greater luck.

On the other hand, I recognize that this change of focus may only be useful in adopting individual supporters. Any mention of a patriarchal society and male-privilege shuts my ears off immediately because it makes me out to be an enemy whether by intention or not. Mentioning what women need allows me to be a supporter and makes me want to try to help. I, however, am a single individual. I am not a giant corporation making movies and products. It is quite possible that the corporations need the threat of negative image in order to make a change. I am not suggesting that it does, but rather noting the potential. Producers may not be the ones with the kind ear willing to make a socially beneficial change, but they may be the ones fearful that a significant portion of the populace will think they are evil if they do not which may lead to reduced sales. So I dunno, perhaps the evil name-calling is necessary on a large scale, but when discussing one on one the merits of the movement, I would certainly advise that we refrain from the name-calling narrative and instead focus on the need for compassion.

The need for that compassion reached me last night more than I had previously understood. In attempts to express that women may have fewer important roles for reasons other than hatred for women, I explained that I, personally, would write about what is familiar to me. If I made a character for a story, I would first pick a male by default since I am male and that is what I know. If I use a female or someone of another race for a lead, I would have to do so with meticulous purpose to include them. I had assumed that this would also be the case for women. If they were to write a story, they would likely start with a female character since that is what they are familiar with. I do not have any kind of data on this matter and I believe it would be an excellent study to perform, but one of the ladies in the discussion indicated that she would actually start with a male character because that is what she is familiar with in media. Heroes are male and so she would start with a male. Perhaps she is a one-off anecdote who does not follow the norm, but it does actually make a lot of sense. I might expect that a study would prove this to be true if conducted properly.

We do not merely create from what we are--we create from what we see as normal. When deriving a clown for a story, most people are going to go with colorful hair, big shoes, bow-tie, etc, not because that is how we ourselves relate to clowns, but because that is how clowns are often depicted. It makes sense, then, that if we want women to take seriously the potentials of being scientists, bosses, presidents, engineers, and so on, they need to be depicted as such in our media. The subconscious mind will make it a norm and a possibility rather than defaulting all such things to men. It makes perfect sense. And with this new-found understanding, I can say that I am far more supportive of the feminist movement than ever before. I, however, will stick with the route of encouraging what women need over the hatred of male-dominance.

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