Women and Cinema Part 3: Black Widow and the problem with Superhero films

The Superhero Subgenre has shown little sign of fatigue. There have been an occasional misstep but by and large these films still perform well. Star Wars films have topped the past two years, but costumed vigilantes still snagged 4 of the top 10 slots last year.

Unfortunately this is an especially poor genre for female representation. As of this writing, none of the major cinematic universes, be it Marvel, DC or X-Men or Spider-Man have released a female led superhero movie.*

There’s a somewhat simple reason for this gender gap: these films are adaptations of 50-80 year old comic books. Therefore if we are going to discuss why the tights ‘n’ capes set is so male driven, we’d have to dig into why their source material has been so male centric for so long and that’s a larger discussion. The short answer would be that action/adventure has had a larger appeal to males. Whether that’s entirely accurate, or if that’s an assumption would be getting further into the weeds than I care to venture at this point in time. Suffice to say that comic books starring women are traditionally few and far between.

On the surface, 2012’s The Avengers looks like a prime example of how to do women wrong. 6 dudes, one woman.  But thanks to Joss Whedon, things are much better than they could have been. First of all, he had to fight to even have Black Widow in the picture. Even after being established in Iron Man 2, apparently Whedon had to advocate for her inclusion, remarking that the Helicarrier would feel like a gay cruise without her.

Natasha Romanoff was given relatively little to work with in IM2. She showed up to infiltrate Tony Stark’s circle of influence,  keep an eye on him, and help save the day at the end. She had no back story to speak of. No personal struggle to overcome. The two released Avengers films, which had many many more principle characters to work with managed much more backstory and motivation. We don’t know much about her origin, but we know she worked for the other side, and that she’s trying to make up for the unspeakable acts she did. She’s generally cold, and tends to switch personalities so often that even her closest allies aren’t always sure when she’s being genuine. She always left more questions than answers in her wake. And she was never more fun to watch than when she was using her perceived vulnerabilities to her advantage.

Thus we see that the artist who staked his reputation on creating strong female characters did much to flesh out the sole female avenger (sorry Maria Hill, you’re SHIELD). Unfortunately not everyone feels Whedon’s character choices are praiseworthy. In fact, the backlash for Black Widow’s romantic subplot in Age of Ultron was widely criticized. I for one am not ready to sharpen my pitchfork. The pain point is the handful of scenes in Age of Ultron wherein Natasha makes her feelings clear for Bruce Banner. At Avengers tower she practically throws himself at a very reluctant Banner. And again at Hawkeye’s home she advances on him with no ambiguity. The brunt of the criticism seems to be levied at how weak it made Romanoff appear. That Romanoff was still supporting the dudes without being given a full fledged story arc of her own was also a pain point.

I can’t take as harsh as a stance personally. That Natasha laments never being able to have children isn’t disgraceful as some have criticized. It’s an important instinct to want to reproduce, and to never have the ability is understandable and relatable. I don’t think it takes away from her badassery. I think it makes her more well rounded and believable. That she falls for Banner is also understandable. He’s essentially the outlier of the group. He’s the one person who could potentially make her forget her work and her past. And I don’t think her desiring a relationship makes her weak. The idea that women need to be independent to be strong is fallacy. People are strongest when organized in family units. The only hesitation I have for Romanoff’s portrayal in Ultron is that the execution doesn’t feel genuine. I don’t believe Romanoff would assert herself on Banner in quite the way she is depicted in the film. Ultimately this is a small complaint for a character who continues to intrigue.

On one hand, I’m tempted to join the bandwagon of critics of Marvel studios for continuing to starve its fans of female led franchises. On the other hand I’m grateful that the women they do depict are largely excellent in character and motivation.

 

Ultimately the big budget movies have always been about escapism. And they always will be because most people don’t experience films to challenge themselves or expand their sensibilities. Right now the studios think that the only people that go to films any more are either 13 year old boys or men who have the mindset thereof. And they’ll point to evidence to prove they’re right. So it may be a long time if ever we see a box office with equal gender representation and appeal.

The exceptions to this rule often are rife with other problems. An All-Female Ghostbusters was a marketing disaster wrapped around a mediocre film that needn’t have been conceived.

By now a couple of you are probably screaming at your computers: HEY Mr MormonDadFeminist! Aren’t you forgetting about Walt Disney Studios? Aren’t they releasing female centric films on a regular basis? Right you are, astute film fan. Before we wrap up, let’s visit the land of castles and gowns and happily ever afters.

 

 

 

* Wonder Woman will be the first as of June 2017. Captain Marvel will arrive in the next couple years.

Women and Cinema Part 2: Wins and losses in a galaxy far, far away

 

Star Wars’ history of casting women is checkered at best. Both original and classic trilogies essentially repeat the same mistakes. A New Hope introduced us to Leia, one of the de facto leaders of a galactic rebellion. She requires rescuing by the two male leads, but once sprung from her cell, quickly takes charge, handling blasters like a pro, and ordering around her less apt cohorts. After that she is then relegated to worrying over computer displays while the boys go off to battle. And then hands out the medals when she, having fought longer and harder for rebellion than Han and Luke, should probably be receiving a few herself.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. After all, one of the things that displeases me about women in action movies is that they are too often required to be stripped of feminine characteristics and don those of alpha males to perform leading roles. Leia doesn’t have to be a keen fighter to be an active participant in the conflict. I’m just as content with her taking an administrative role. My only real beef with Leia is that she doesn’t have a story of her own to be told. She is a love interest, an instigator, and key to the success of each of the larger missions in the trilogy, but she has little personal struggle to overcome. No internal conflict. Her planet gets blown up and she has to comfort a farm boy who lost his mentor of 2 days.

Padme Amidala of the prequel trilogy seemed to want to make good on where Leia fell short. The Phantom Menace introduces us to her as an elected Queen (just go with it) who through her own strength, wit and keen skill of diplomacy, saves her planet from ruin from an overwhelming force.
(Honestly, if you look at the story of the conflict of Naboo, there’s a good story in there. Its problems largely lie within the execution. And JarJar.)

So far, so good, but the strong, brilliant Padme we see in The Phantom Menace never has another equal moment to shine. Attack of the Clones features her holding her own in much of the action, but by Revenge of the Sith, the strength and will is largely gone from her. Not only does she have little to do throughout the story, but she becomes so weak and pitiless by the end that it is down right angering. What woman, after looking at the face of two beautiful healthy babies, would roll over and die because her husband turned to the dick side of the force? Those kids need her more than most and she abandoned them. That ranks very high in the list of worst things a woman could possibly do. It’s a sad end to the lead female in a franchise that was already rife with problems.

The last two star wars films starred women. Not supporting leads, not love interests. Actual, honest to goodness, face-on-the-center-of-the-poster stars of the film. That cannot be understated. These films are also the top grossing of the past two years. That statement alone should go a long way to proving that we don’t need a male to carry a blockbuster movie.

Apparently we just need them to act like males.

Rey and Jyn were solid characters, but their gender characteristics are largely androgynous. I enjoyed the performances by both actresses, but let’s ask ourselves this: If Rey and Jyn were played by males, what about the story would have to change to reflect that? I would argue little or nothing. Rey started her journey from a place of vulnerability, which was especially poignant given her sex. It was beautiful to see the lightsaber leap to her hand as she took on Kylo Ren at the end. Having said that, that vulnerability could have come from the fact that she is young and inexperienced, and could have been just as poignant if she was simply a younger male. Being weak is not an exclusively feminine trait, but it seems to be the closest thing we get in The Force Awakens.

Notwithstanding that qualm, Jyn and Rey are enjoyable to follow. And it is still great progress that they head the cast. But besides themselves, the cast is almost completely male. Rogue One is still a bechdel failure. The Force Awakens barely passes based on Rey’s brief interactions with Leia, but it’s far from a balanced cast.  What would be ideal? Do we need to strive the Ginsburg standard and demand all females? What about half and half?

Personally, I don’t necessarily need more women in my Star Wars films.There are plenty of other ways to achieve equal female representation. And I don’t want to deny that there are great films still being made about women. Blue Jasmine and Still Alice spring to the top of my mind. Strong independent women aren’t unheard of. The problem is that they generally only pop up in small productions. Equal representation to me means an equal number of films with at least an equal number of women that have something to do other than be sex objects.

There is one studio/brand serving this demo, but that is a topic for another blog.
And there’s one more sub genre that needs to be addressed before we get there.

 

 

 

 

Women and Cinema- Part 1: The Dearth

Most of us have some level of awareness of the dearth of female roles in American blockbusters. In fact, only about half of American studio films pass the Bechdel Test*.  This isn’t news. I’m not breaking new ground by spouting facts culled from Wikipedia. I could cry foul till I’m blue in the face, and it won’t make a bit of difference to executives that still, in the post-hunger-games era continue to under-serve half of America.**

But why is this happening? Is it because the average modern moviegoer wants spectacle, which translates as more explosions, which typically translates into more masculine appeal? That’s possible, but it doesn’t complete the picture. After all, The Sound of Music and Gone with the Wind are still two of the highest grossing movies of all time. They have compelling female leads, and the spectacle comes from location, setting and costumes; not from action sequences.

I don’t buy it. Twilight made billions, and it wasn’t for the cheesy action scenes. It was for the cheesy romance. Divergent didn’t do too shabby either. Both these series of films did have sci-fi or fantasy elements, and there was fighting, but I that’s not what made those franchises successful. With Tris Pryor, women saw an ideal image. With Bella Swan women saw themselves with an ideal mate. (ugh)

And then there’s The Hunger Games: the reigning champion of not only  YA  adaptations, but all sci-fi book adaptations and all post apocalyptic films as well. And that’s to say nothing of female-led films.

Movie executives are dumb. Ok fine: lemme rephrase: they’re products of their industry. They make decisions on which films to green light largely out of fear, because most of them are one box office bomb away from losing their job. Thanks to this, they’re typically not out there to fund critical darlings (unless it’s oscar season). They’re trying to hit quarterly revenue goals set by executive boards to appease stockholders. It’s very cold and calculated. But the problem is they learn the wrong lessons when a movie hits or misses. When The Avengers was a massive hit, the lesson should have been “when we put passionate, dedicated, talented filmmakers at the helm of our IPOs then good things will happen”. What studio execs instead heard was “we need more crossovers. Let’s make a shared universe of Hasbro toys. Let’s make a shared universe of classic monsters.”

Likewise, when The Hunger Games was a hit, the lesson should have been “If you build a world where a female protagonist overcomes a mountain of obstacles through feminine characteristics such as compassion and nurturance  with an appropriate mix of masculine traits such as aggression and assertiveness, then the fans will come.”

Instead, the studios decided we needed more YA adaptations. But by and large these projects didn’t even start with top talent and passion, and as a result, most flopped.

It’s been a couple years since the YA craze hit its peak. The tide of films with young female protagonists has ebbed. The studios have by and large decided that the trend is exhausted, and have moved on. In other words, “We don’t care how compelling you found Katniss. You didn’t show up to Vampire Academy so you’re SOL for characters you can relate to or idealize until we accidentally make a lot of money on something and chase that trend until it peters out, ad nauseum.

Next up: The world’s most profitable franchise is now dominated by women… sort of.

*The Bechdel test, which requires a film to have two women talking about something other than a man is a decent, if imperfect standard by which to measure gender equality. The problem that arises by adhering strictly to the rules is the overall spirit of the film can be lost by strict adherence thereto. For example, Fantastic Beasts is overwhelmingly gender equal in my book, but according to bechdeltest.com, it fails, presumably because every conversation between Tina and Queenie Goldstein involves a man. On the other hand, Avengers: Age Of Ultron passes, when in reality there’s only one female in a large principal cast. Therefore more scrutiny is needed to properly gauge a film’s female representation.

**I also blame men and boys, who are apparently less likely to see a female-centric film than women are to male dominated ones. After the middling performance of The Princess and the Frog in 2009, Disney has changed the titles of Rapunzel and The Snow Queen to Tangled and Frozen to create gender ambiguity, a ruse that arguably worked as the latter two made multiple times more money than ‘Frog’, which was arguably every bit as good a film. But to be fair, movies that target younger boys such as Titan A.E and Sinbad did so poorly at the box office as to cause the animation studios of each respective film to shut down indefinitely. Yet if the same sort of material is given the live action treatment, they tend to fare much better. So yeah, it goes both ways!

Marcia Clark and the Ideal Woman

Will there ever in my lifetime  be a trial with more media coverage than The People Vs. OJ Simpson?

I was in middle/high school at the time. I didn’t read newspapers. The Internet was for Star Trek debates and Simpsons trivia. I caught snippets of the evening news if my parents were home to watch it. Yet just from that limited exposure I can tell you the names of the lead attorneys from both prosecution and defense, investigating officers, key witnesses, and even the judge. I can name them off the top of my head based off my limited media exposure from over twenty years ago. Has there been a case before or since that made celebrities of everyone involved?

And what do I remember about Marcia Clark, the District Attorney? My lasting impression from a teenager with limited knowledge of the media circus was that she was aggressive to the point of seeming angry. And the hair. that unforgettable hair.

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Apparently I wasn’t the only one that remembered that ‘do, since Tina Fey incorporated it into her impression of Clark nearly two decades later:

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So for me, the story ended there until I watched the meticulously researched and obsessively detailed miniseries The People Vs. OJ Simpson. Yes it is a dramatization and I’m sure that it’s not 100% accurate. But the events that I am focusing on here are undisputed and verified by living witnesses.

Marcia Clark is my favorite character in the series. Yeah, I know, you’re not surprised. But it’s not just because she’s the hero of the story. In fact, I’m not sure she is. She’s a key figure, sure but this isn’t a story about winners and losers, or good and evil. It’s an exploration of the people that most of us knew only from headlines and sound bytes.

The show’s main appeal to me was two fold: Clark’s struggle for media appeal as well as jury approval. She was constantly being told to soften her image, to dress more feminine, to smile more, to exude more warmth.

Focus groups were arranged, and asked to rate her based on tapes of her courtroom performance. She was called a bitch. She scored a 4 out of 10. Clark was sure she could win them over as a champion of battered women, but was ultimately outfoxed by the defense team, whom jurors found more appealing, and therefore, more sympathetic.

And then there was the media, who mercilessly criticized her image. With that combination of criticism on all sides, Clark, who previously had shoulder length curls,   went in for a new hairdo. In the show, her hairdresser promised her she would do for her what he did for Farrah Fawcett. The look on Clark’s face is heartbreaking because she looks so hopeful and vulnerable.

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Yet anyone who remembers the torment she went under afterwards, know what is coming, and that her hopeful bliss will be short lived, as snide comments and dirty looks abounded. Oh and the tabloids.

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It wasn’t enough that this woman broke through glass ceiling after glass ceiling to become the top prosecutor for the nation’s second largest city. It wasn’t enough that she was smart and effective and tough and assertive, and a mother to boot. Because she wasn’t feminine enough for either the court or the nation, she became an object of scorn, mockery and derision. Because she was good at her job by taking on characteristics that are considered masculine, she became a punchline. Apparently women are only allowed to succeed as long as they remind us of our wives, girlfriends or mothers.

But this was twenty years ago, right? Surely we’ve become more enlightened in the past generation?

Except for the people who mocked every one of Hillary Clinton’s outfits. Even her supporters on late night talk shows picked on her for fashion choices. And what about the portion of the country that would rather see Sarah Palin as president, simply because despite being massively unqualified, has a more traditional image of a woman?

So until Marcia Clark is be able to walk into a courtroom sporting a mohawk and eyebrow piercing, or a bald head and a Star Trek onesie, or anything else she damn well pleases without having to worry about losing jurors or public opinion, we still have progress to make.

Now of course not all critiques of image are sexist in nature. And I’m a big proponent for free speech so I’m not trying to shout down anyone who says anything negative about anyone’s appearance. But I ask that we consider the subtext to such critiques, and if they are discriminatory in nature, I hope we can question whether we want to consume whatever media such criticisms are coming from. It’s hard to empathize with strangers or images of people we will never meet, but we will be more well rounded humans for our efforts.

Eilonwy -The best disney princess you’ve never heard of

And now the first in a long running series of articles highlighting those I consider feminist heroes in fiction.

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There’s a reason I bet you’ve never heard of The Black Cauldron. It’s a dark, hot mess of a film that came from a time where Disney animated films were so unprofitable that the parent company considered scrapping the house of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

And let’s get this out of the way; notwithstanding top notch visuals, 1985’s The Black Cauldron was one of the most disappointing films ever to be released in the studio’s history.

My personal beef with the project is because the way they lazily slapped together the first two books in my favorite series; The Chronicles of Prydain,

More accessible than Lord of the Rings, yet more mature than the early Harry Potter books, The Prydain books hit a very sweet spot for me: High adventure, humor, and romance in a light fantasy that won’t send you to wikipedia trying to understand the mythology.

I’m not going to speak of the Disney film much. (yes, I totally click-baited you) I haven’t seen it in 14 years, and my last viewing left a terrible impression on me. The portrayal of the lead heroine may or may not have been faithful, but I don’t remember it well enough to say. But recently I introduced my 9 year old son to the book series, and was deeply impressed how amazing a feminist role model Eilonwy is.

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When we’re introduced to Eilonwy (pronounced eye-Lawn-wee) in the Book of Three, she’s been confined to live with the wicked Queen Achren whom she believed was her aunt. But in a great gender role reversal, Eilonwy rescues our main hero Taran from his dungeon cell, and joins up in Taran’s mission to warn the High King from an onslaught of evil.

Eilonwy’s merit doesn’t stop there. She is brave, always willing to head into action along her male counterparts, insisting that she comes from a lineage that included sword maidens, every bit as capable as the male warriors.

But Eilonwy’s true appeal comes from her wit. She never allows the men to put her in her place, she refuses to be silent, and she constantly is leaving Taran speechless and confounded by her slightly twisted logic and sharp rhetoric. She often calls into question Taran’s intelligence, and babbles incessantly in funny ways.

It’s obvious from the start that Eilonwy and Taran are designed to fall in love, but it is a very VERY long journey before they get there, spanning the entire series in the process. Taran and Eilonwy are are attracted to each other from early on, but the story allows their friendship blossom first and foremost, and a great deal of time is given for both of them to grow up considerably before any romance starts.

Perhaps equally as important, Eilonwy is not a LINETS (Love Interest Non-Essential To Story). She is not a footnote in Taran’s Journey. She has her own coming-of-age tale embedded in the epic. Her showdown with Queen Achren which plays out in the third book is particularly spectacular. She’s written with distinct characteristics that make her memorable. The princess with the Red-Gold Hair is definitely worth our praise.

Not bad for a book published in 1966.

Motherhood and Feminism

This will be a very brief post from me. I’m just here to draw attention to a much better written post than I could ever hope to make.

I love that this is coming from a feminist mom in Australia. It’s great to hear someone outside our little culture bubble here in Utah speak to the importance of motherhood.

I support feminism because there should be equal opportunity for women to do anything a man can in the world. But that doesn’t mean motherhood should be looked down upon. The pendulum swings too far the other way when we start thinking like that. So whether you’re staying at home to raise children, or whether you’re career driven and putting off children, or even if you never want children for whatever reason, know that I will never think less of you.

Mormons V. Feminists

Alright, I have already spoke of why I choose to call myself a feminist. The next question is how?  How can I call myself a feminist when I am devoted to a faith that prohibits women from holding the priesthood? Isn’t that a conflict with equality?

Right off the bat. I do not feel fully qualified to answer this question. And I don’t think I ever will be, because no matter how much I claim to care about equality of the sexes, I am still a man, and my opinion on the matter will always be skewed by the fact that my experiences in the world are that of a man’s, with all the privileges that it entails.

Second caveat: I am familiar with confirmation bias, and how it actually makes us dumber instead of more well informed.  With that in mind, I am going to avoid the temptation to argue why I’m right and others, such as those in the Ordain Women movement, are wrong. I just don’t see any good out of trying to berate you, dear reader, with my opinions.

Third: There are certain points in which I will never be able to reconcile with certain principles that are associated with feminism, and I am acutely aware of the disparagement that there will always be between the socially conservative Mormons and the often liberal feminists.

Since I feel inadequate to explore this topic on my own, I polled a couple of women and asked them to share their thoughts on the reconciliation of religion and equality.

I posed the same question to a handful of women with whom I served missions for the LDS church. “There are only three women named in the Book of Mormon, and one of them is a whore. Has it ever bothered you? Why or why not?”

The first to answer was Christine Dryg Mcollum. Although raising a large family in Turkey(!) she graciously took quite a bit of time to answer. I quote excerpts here:

“I find little to find fault or confusion with. I must add that looking at the Book of Mormon more as a historical and social record written by male prophets and other men, coming from male dominant societies where prostitution was scorned as a sin, I believe the term is used to define what some women were doing, along with what some women were doing, which was throwing off the boundaries that religion and patriarchal society were placing on them, and making a living for themselves. They were scorned but independent..

I feel that men in these historical documents may have feared the liberties these women were taking and could have felt jealousy regarding the success these women experienced in escaping from the religious box they were stuck in. This jealousy may have been documented along with important revelations within the Book of Mormon. Every writer has his or her bias, right?

I feel that men in these historical documents feared and were jealous of these women so much that they felt the need to almost villify them.

I know that the authors of the BOM were real people, that God commanded them to write and include what they did, but how we choose to react to these words should be carefully thought out.

I don’t believe the LDS church HAS to be patriarchally dominated, I just think God works within the societies we have created here on earth. And that’s what we’ve got, men in charge. Thank goodness there are a lot of good men out there.” 

Christine’s answers are coming from someone who is immensely confident and comfortable with her beliefs, and although she has very interesting and open ideas about the reasons the LDS church is intrinsically patriarchal, it doesn’t seem to be a source of doubt for her. I can’t say the same thing about my next interviewee: Sarah Jones Mellor. Sarah is a self-proclaimed feminist, and has a decidedly different point of view on religion and church:

“Yes it does bother me but I also understand. Just as we battle cultural norms today the timeframes that our scriptures cover weren’t exactly known for highlighting women.

It is hard for many (myself included) to he constantly told that I am created in God’s image but only given a male to aspire to. But also need to not be too masculine because women are so special. Stop telling me I am special and show me. I am made in my Mother’s image. If we are to believe gender is eternal and inherent. I want to learn from HER example what I should be just as I learned from my earthly mother. Right now all I can assume from this reasoning is that I am to be silent.

We as a people too often pretend that we know things to be black and white and immovable but our history says otherwise. I think there is much to come and I think we are responsible for moving us forward in small ways. We can’t just sit and wait to be told what to do at every turn. That was not the Lord’s plan.

I don’t know how I feel about women in the priesthood. I do not begrudge those who feel inspired to ask for it to be asked for. But I do feel that the women’s role in the church will evolve. That it will be different and overcome the cultural barriers.

“I don’t want to leave [the church]. I have considered that possibility and I don’t want that. It terrifies me. I don’t doubt the gospel but I doubt that it’s as cut and dry as we treat it. That our leaders always know exactly what’s best or that the church always makes the best decisions. The church is not the gospel. It’s a tool to use the gospel in your life. I still believe that it’s the best and most inspired path and keys on earth.”

These two sisters of mine gave me much to think about. I like to explore the possibility that God simply works with what he has. There seems to be solid evidence of this. Either way I think the sign of a person strong in their faith is the ability to ponder ideas like this without drawing conclusions that lead them to fall away.

I also find it fascinating that someone like Sarah can question everything, even doubt portions of it and still believe that it’s in her best interest to follow.

So what about me? All I can do is tell you what I’ve observed since I’m not the target of the discrimination in question. On this I will be brief. In my limited experience I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe that women in the LDS church are at a disadvantage without the priesthood. There is no extra power or protection that one can give themselves with the priesthood. I can’t give myself a blessing. I have to get one from a pair of priesthood holders, just as any woman would. As a man I don’t have a shortcut to inspiration, revelation or answers to prayer. I’m not any more likely to receive salvation. Potentially being called to be a Bishop or General Authority doesn’t make obtaining exaltation any easier for me. Men and women are instructed to keep the same commandments. We receive the same ordinances in the temple, and the highest ordinance of all, that of Sealing, cannot performed without both male and female. The opportunities to serve may appear different superficially but the blessings that come from keeping that Great Commandment is equal for all.

That’s it! That’s the least entertaining and driest post I plan on writing. From here it’s on to Female Superheroes, Ponies, Marcia Clark and much more. Stick with me!

Why I’m a feminist (and you should be, too)

Ok. Here we go. The big question. Why, out of all the causes out there, would I choose this one to blog about? There are no shortage of mantles do don. Especially as a Latter Day Saint (aka Mormon). In fact, more than a few of my fellow Saints would probably tell me that other causes would probably align with my belief system better.

After all, aren’t feminists trying to elbow their way into the workplace instead of staying home to raise children?

Aren’t feminists promoting sexual liberation, and in turn, promiscuity?

Aren’t feminists calling for equal status as men in all aspects of society, law, culture and politics?

Didn’t the LDS church just excommunicate a feminist???

That’s a lot to consider.

This blog isn’t  about Mormonism. I have another blog for that. I will only touch on this topic briefly for context.

What is the stated mission of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? To emulate Christ. What is the single defining Christ-like Attribute? Charity; defined as pure love. Ultimate compassion. Endless patience. Complete forgiveness.

Many will say that their experiences inside the church or their contact with its members or even church policy itself aren’t conducive to that stated mission. I understand how their experiences may have led them to that conclusion. I’m not going to tell anyone they are wrong. Doing so would not be expressing that universal charity that I’m trying so hard to achieve. I can only speak to my experience with the LDS church, which has been overwhelmingly positive.

Back to feminism…

Over the last couple years I’ve been acutely aware of how much of popular culture, politics, and perhaps religion is either catered to males and/or controlled by males. Why should I complain about that?

What’s wrong with watching an action hero, brawny or relatable, kicking ass with Megan Fox on his hip?

Why should I care about local and federal legislation regarding birth control for women I will never meet?

Why should I care about a patriarchal religious structure, when I personally am not limited by it?

Through most of my life I have never questioned any of our structures. Things were the way they were and that was fine by me because I was well served. But as I sought to be more compassionate and charitable towards those around me I realized I couldn’t do so without understanding them. Empathy is a stepping stone to charity.

What are the impediments to charity?

Ignorance, discrimination and hate.

We discriminate, fear, fail to tolerate, and hate when we’re ignorant.

So I’m bursting out of the privileged man-bubble on a journey of knowledge and understanding. And to stamp out discrimination, be it due to race, age, sex, body type, beauty level, religion, wealthiness, sexual preference, bad body odor and anything else I can think of, I’m starting with the largest target of discrimination: namely HALF the world; women. And I believe the feminist cause is the greatest secular movement to achieve this goal.

It’s just incredible to me that in this day and age, HALF THE WORLD is still discriminated against in a MYRIAD of ways, based solely on their sex.  And I, as self-aware as I try to be, STILL do it all the time.

Just last year a co-worker was telling me about getting his wife’s computer replaced and I immediately assumed that she wouldn’t need a high powered machine. Turns out she did as much programming and high intensity gaming as she did. I had assumed a woman wouldn’t be doing as much process intensive computing as her husband, based solely on her sex. That bit of discrimination had little or no consequence, but it’s an example of how assumptions led to conclusions that were improper and incorrect.

That’s one of thousands of examples! So this blog is just as much about my self-discovery as it is my soapbox.

So stay tuned for more thoughts on discrimination, popular media, and anything else that I feel relevant and interesting. And no, I’m not done with the Mormon/feminism clash.

Stay tuned…

Real Feminism

I’m a feminist now. Another feminist (an actual female one) said I can call myself a feminist so I did and I do.

My very first act as a freshly endowed feminism was to slut shame another feminist.

*Sigh* it’s gonna take me a while for me to get the hang of this…

I was explaining why I rejected the label of feminist for so long. I essentially said something like:
“Beyonce did a performance at the Super bowl wearing a gross outfit with a huge light up sign reading ‘Feminist’. I don’t want to be associated with that kind of feminism.”

fembeyonce

The recipient of my opinion was polite, but didn’t seem to approve. So I mulled over my statement to re-evaluate my stance, deciding whether to defend it or rescind it. I’ma do a bitta both.

One of the hallmarks of 1970’s feminism is the concept of the male gaze, which Beyonce is flouting in full force (my apologies to those who hate alliterations).
This, one could argue is a bastardization of feminism by popular media. I blame the Spice Girls for popularizing the “strength and courage in a wonder bra” phenomenon. And I’m not alone. Annie Lennox called Beyonce “feminist lite”, condemning her overt sexualization.

And as you can imagine, as a Mormon and a dad of three daughters, I am going to have issues with Beyonce’s performance get-ups. I used the term ‘gross’ as shorthand to express my disapproval.

So far so good right? I had successfully quelled my fears and defended my position, right? Not quite.

There are many reasons why I embrace and promote feminism. I intend to write a separate post to answer this question more fully. But in the context of the topic at hand, the short answer is that I believe that women, even now in the late 2010s are sought to be controlled, not only by men, but other women as well. That’s a problem. The very concept of feminism is fluid and adaptable. This makes feminism weak in some regards. But it also makes it more universal because it makes it more inclusive. And that inclusion could eventually make the concept stronger than if it was walled off and closely guarded.

But in order to make feminism more inclusive we need to stop booting out people for not being feminist enough. Or being too feminist for that matter.

Therefore, I have no more right to reject Beyonce as a feminist than anyone else does to reject this Mormon dad. And I believe destructive criticism and condemnation is counterproductive for the movement as well.

So no, I don’t appreciate her style choices. But I don’t have to. I’m not the gatekeeper. I don’t think anyone owns the term. No one gets to determine anyone’s feminist purity level. That’s the stuff of Nazis and Death Eaters.

So let’s explore what feminism is, why I believe it’s important and why I, as a straight, white(ish) middle class, suburban, privileged, over served male with deep religious convictions feel the need to promulgate my own opinions on the subject.

Let’s burn some bras!

(is that still a thing?)

*sigh* it’s gonna take me a while to get the hang of this…