Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ain't I A Woman?

"I love my abs so much that I protect them with a layer of fat." - my sister (who is actually in pretty good shape)

I started reading a master's thesis written by the owner of Feminist Frequency, a website that focuses on feminism and pop culture, and something confused me a bit.

"Heroic women in science fiction and fantasy television shows have done much to represent strong, successful women in leadership positions. However, these female roles that are viewed as strong and empowered embody many masculine identified traits, maintaining a patriarchal division of gender roles."
If the women are embodying "masculine" traits, doesn't there's less of a division of gender roles? I don't want to sound critical of this particular thesis, because this is something I've seen in a lot of places, and this just happened to phrase it most clearly.

If we don't want strong, successful women in leadership positions having "masculine" traits...what exactly do we want? Isn't the whole point to make those traits less "masculine" and more "characteristic of strong and successful people"?

The thesis actually looks really interesting (and it focuses on women in sci-fi/fantasy shows, so it may as well have been written just for me), and it's entirely possible she means that opening paragraph differently than how I'm interpreting it.

She seems to be writing about how traditionally "female" things need to be portrayed as equally important  as "masculine" things in media, which is all well and good, but nowhere does it talk about how it's kind of detrimental to everyone to label things in that way in the first place.

If I want to be assertive and confident and physically strong...I just want to be an assertive and confident and physically strong woman (and I don't want debate judges getting mad at my opponents when they're too aggressive towards me--which some guys on our team say is sometimes a legitimate issue). Not a woman who has decided to act like a man. Done.


  1. That just defeats the whole point, wot? It reminds me of things I've heard over the years, like "white people acting black" or vice versa. Race aside, people commonly use the words "scream like a little girl," which strike me as at least a bit sexist - general, to be sure. I think society forms archetypes, if that's the word I'm looking for, and it is expected for people to either fit the molds or blatantly be the opposite of them for insecure proof of their nonconformity. In fiction/movies, I call it the "anti-cliche."

  2. ...Did that last sentence make sense?

  3. Hmm, I could probably write an entire blog post on this topic, and maybe have touched upon it a couple times here and there. So, there are those who believe that women need to "be men" to be people, by this I mean develop the personality traits that men tend to have which helps them become successful. Stephen Colbert lampshades this by using the term "Thatchers" when he wants to use a saying regarding balls in reference to a woman. For example, "Susan B Anthony had herself a pair of big, brass Thatchers!"

    However, some women, and some men who are not terribly good at "being men," would like to see a society where being caring were valued as much, if not more, than being assertive, and so forth. If a woman succeeds because she is, "one of the boys," it seems that this does "maintain a patriarchal division of labor roles," wherein the masculine, whether it is exhibited by a male or a female, is exalted and the feminine is subordinated. Maybe I shall write a post on this.

    Anyway, if you are assertive, confident, and physically strong then I hope you stay that way! However, I hope you don't feel the need to be those simply to succeed in this world, and I hope you don't feel that those traits mean that you *should* be more successful than someone who happens to be collaborative, timid, and nonathletic ;) Although you probably will be.

  4. Haha, I certainly fall into the non-athletic category (and aren't terribly assertive outside a debate round). It was just an example.

    I get that caring/"feminine" things should be valued more- and I agree with it- but the phrasing kind of bothered me. I finished reading the whole thing since then, and it turned out to be more like what you're saying.


Talk to me.