Tag: feminism

I Am Not a Feminist

Male equals femaleWhen I was in college I believed myself to be a feminist! I took classes on the political economy of women and felt emboldened by classic feminist authors like Betty Friedan. The idea of inequality of the sexes was shocking to me and things like domestic abuse and female circumcision needed to be changed. However, as I have gotten older I realize more and more that I can not call myself a feminist by most modern definitions. It actually makes me kind of sad. The idealist college student in me would like to hold on to that label but I cannot.

The biggest reason I have moved away from feminism is I used to believe it was a more flexible word than it actually is. I realize many women have their own definitions of feminism and what it means to be a feminist but what matters to me is what it politically and socially means. For example, I used to believe you could be pro-life and be a feminist, but that really isn’t the case any more. This was made abundantly clear in the recent Women’s March where pro-life groups were not only turned away as sponsors but actively reviled by March leadership as being “anti-choice” and not being pro-woman. Never mind the myriad of issues we could agree on in a ‘women’s march’, acceptance of abortion was required to be a part of this expression of the feminist movement.

Sure there were some pro-life marchers who I admire very much and many women who didn’t realize the agenda of the deceptively titled march but it doesn’t change the fact that to be a female advocate or feminist required the acceptance of abortion. That blows my mind because in my mind I’m the one actually standing up for females- the female unborn. To me being pro-life is the greatest act of feminism you could possibly support! And people bring up the other health procedures Planned Parenthood does for women as an argument against pro-life advocacy? How about we have other community sources for those services outside of the largest abortion provider in the nation? That would be pro-woman.

Anyway, there are lots of other examples of positions that have become requisite to accept in order to join in the modern feminist movement. But it is not just about positions that I cannot call myself a feminist.  The other reason is because the movement only supports a particular type of woman. If feminism were really about supporting women and female empowerment than it would celebrate the achievements of all women not just left-leaning women. Unfortunately this is almost never the case.

Just as an example, today Nikki Haley was confirmed as UN Ambassador after serving well as South Carolina governor. Will you hear praise of her nomination and success by feminist causes? Of course not because she is Republican and a nominee of Donald Trump. You see this across the board with conservative women even moderates like Susan Collins from Maine. They cannot buy into the complete liberal feminist agenda therefore their accomplishments are not praised by NOW or other organizations supposedly advocating for women. Certainly if someone like Nikki Haley, Condoleezza Rice or Susan Collins aren’t considered feminist than I am not.

I was disgusted on Inauguration night to hear people criticizing Karen Pence for her appearance. I thought she looked beautiful in her blue dress but these critiques were not about fashion. They were about tearing down a woman who’s husband they don’t like. That is not feminism to me. Even with Melania Trump, recently a supposed feminist Chelsea Handler said she wouldn’t interview her because she “can barely speak English”. Um she actually speaks 6 languages you moron. Shouldn’t a real feminist be talking to women who have different points of view? Shouldn’t a real feminist not judge a woman based on the behavior and positions of her husband! Talk about 1950’s logic there!

Recently I heard some criticize Karen Pence for having a towel charm business before her husband became governor. What’s wrong with that? I guess that’s another thing we aren’t allowed to do in modern feminism? We should be supporting women who have small businesses but instead it is a point of derision. I hated Hillary Clinton’s policies, but I actually begged my friends on social media to listen to her and not judge her on her wardrobe. Why do conservative women never seem to get such respect?

The truth is if you are not willing to accept the radical agenda of the left than you are not a feminist today; therefore, I am not a feminist. It’s as simple as that. I believe in women and that they should be treated equally to men. I’m all for equal pay and strict penalties for domestic abusers and rapists but I will never accept their positions. And I certainly am not interested in marching for them.

I am, however, interested in speaking with women of all points of view- something I do practically every day on my social media. There are times when I wonder if it is worth it particularly with certain liberal friends but I believe in the discussion and I believe in them.  I believe in learning from them and hopefully maybe they learn from me every now and then.

This discussion between women is what feminism should be. Unfortunately it has become a code word  for policies and ideas I cannot accept.

Make no mistake. I am pro-woman even the unborn woman, but I am not a feminist.

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Nerd Misogyny and Intolerance

In an age where comic books are all over movies and television and geeky scientists are celebrated in the number one comedy in America, you can make a compelling argument that we are now in the Age of the Nerd. Back in the old days when I was in high school the nerds were semi-integrated into the various social circles but mostly they hung out together in the computer club or AV group. Now they get a starring show at the popular kids table and I have recently been pondering the result of that paradigm shift. The sad part is how little has really changed…

big bang theory2In some ways this nerd-revolution has been a great thing allowing more people to feel accepted and included and different tastes to flourish instead of just traditionally cool stuff like sports and rock music. However, in some ways, at least in my observation, things aren’t really that different. We’ve just expanded the pool of people participating in the bad behavior. Yes my friends, misogyny, marginalization, bigotry, bullying and even hate are now not just the realm of the jock and popular kids. No, we see it in all people, even the nerds.

First, what traditionally made up a nerd? Well, it was the smartest kids in class who were often socially awkward or uncomfortable around their peers. Some of these people suffered from Aspergers or other autism spectrum challenges. We saw them portrayed in movies and on TV. Popular figures were Screech on Saved by the Bell, Urkel on Family Matters and Anthony Michael Hall in Breakfast Club.

We even had Revenge of the Nerds in 1984.

revenge of the nerdsIn Revenge of the Nerds the characters give a rousing speech to the student body about sticking up for nerds!

Lewis: Hi, Gilbert. I’m a nerd too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you. I know there’s alumni here tonight. When you went to Adams you might’ve been called a spazz, or a dork, or a geek. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a nerd or not, why don’t you just come down here and join us. Okay? Come on.

Gibert: Just join us cos uh, no-one’s gonna really be free until nerd persecution ends.

Unfortunately some of the nerds have let me down. It’s so surprising to see some of the behavior on the part of supposed nerds once they finally have a little bit of social power.

broniesFor example, there’s an entire group of men who like the latest incarnation of My Little Ponies (a delightful show TBH).  These are called Bronies. Now I’m not going to say the fascination with a child’s television show isn’t unusual.  It is but so is a fixation on Batman, Spider-man and Thor, the Norse God, if you ask me.

As an observer, I’ve been amazed at the vitriol showed against bronies by nerds who I would think would be more accepting.  Is it because it is a female oriented show that causes the revulsion?  You don’t see the same outcry against men who like more traditionally masculine oriented franchises like Star Wars or Marvel? Shouldn’t they be standing up for people liking whatever weird stuff they want to like?

You can find the same example of the treatment of the furries. I guess it is ok to like dressing up as comic book heroes but animals? Now that’s madness.

Such hostile nerd culture can also be seen in the scores of discussion boards and comment threads.  I’m constantly amazed at the inability of some nerds/fans to accept a wide variety of opinions. Again, you would think given the ‘nerd persecution’ of the past they would be accepting of different opinions. Not so much…Just look at the recent Batman v Superman drama. Certain people are unable to deal with someone liking or disliking the film and they go nuts.

Movie critic Chris Stuckman made the mistake of putting out a fan fiction rewrite of Batman v Superman and fans freaked out to the point of harassing his parents in Ohio and telling him to kill himself.  It’s just unbelievable to me.

What’s alarming amongst nerd culture is how resistant they have been towards women. Again, you’d expect them to be more accepting of minorities but repeatedly I have seen resistance to any inclusion of women in their favorite properties.

Even someone like Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road was seen as ‘women infiltrating their feminist agendas into our movies’. Feminism is usually blamed and if the character existed to promote girl power or feminist theory I’d see their point. However, Furiosa does nothing in the film that a man wouldn’t do. You could cast a man to play Furiosa and it would be exactly the same. So, what’s the problem?

The fact is that maybe the nerds weren’t that different from the jocks all along? We have seen this played out in full colors with the recent reboot of Ghostbusters. Now my feelings on the marketing and film itself are beside the point. The amount of vitriol director Paul Feig received after his casting all women was so extreme he finally came out and said this:

“The ‘a–holes’ of which I speak are the ones who live online, who write those hateful tweets and posts and comments. I’m not talking about the people who have true concerns and worries about the rebooting of a franchise they love, nor am I talking about people who have watched the trailer for our movie and didn’t like it. Those are all valid opinions and I respect them all. I am talking about those that write misogyny and hate and threats. Those are the ‘a–holes’ of which I spoke…Every community has bullies who make up a very small minority of the community as a whole. Bullies scream the loudest and seem to get the most attention. But they are simply bullies who in no way represent the vast majority of wonderful, thoughtful people who make up our geek community”

I think he is right and sometimes it is more subtle ignorance and misogyny than death threats. Like take a look at this quote I saw on a comment thread about the new Ghostbusters Movie (again the movie could suck. It’s beside the point).

ghostbusters quoteIf this was 20 years ago I would have expected such a quote from a misogynistic jock but evidently nerds can behave the same way and have the same ridiculous ideas of gender roles. Heaven forbid girls participate in such ‘inauthentic behavior’ as driving a hearse and living in a used fire house. But I think this quote is more telling because it’s not just the movie he disagrees with but that ‘guys are more prone to nerd behavior’. Isn’t that nice ladies? You must fit this thin cutlet of appropriate behaviors or we are outraged and it is ‘beyond ludicrous’.

So I propose a change to Lewis’ speech from above:

“Hi, Gilbert. I’m a person too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people and the nerds. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you…When you went online you might’ve been called horrible names or told your taste and ideas are stupid. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a valuable person or not, why don’t you join us.”

Paul Feig echoed this sentiment “The geek world has been a haven for so many of us and we should all refuse to let these bullies hijack the conversations and debates we all love to engage in, nor should we let them represent our community and culture to the rest of the world. The bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro minority. God bless the true geeks of the world and here’s to taking our community back from the bullies”

There are enough bullies in the world without the nerds joining in! Let’s do better!

Birdman and Feminism

Birdman

I would normally post this kind of thoughts on my movie blog but I feel I can be a little bit more personal here so I’m going for it.  As you all know Birdman won the Best Picture Oscar on Sunday and most know I wanted Boyhood to win. Watching the story of a boy growing up to a man and his family and life was one of the most powerful experiences in movies I’ve ever had.

But that’s not actually what makes me sad about the Birdman win or at least it’s not all of it (it’s just a stupid award ceremony anyway).  What really bothers me is seemingly everyone, not just the Hollywood left, has a huge blindspot about the movie and its demeaning and clichéd depiction of women and I don’t understand how in 2015 such a thing can be tolerated and even awarded.

I went over in my review of Birdman why I felt the movie was misogynistic and demeaning but I will review the female characters briefly here:

1. Andrea Risenborough as Riggan’s girlfriend who pretends to be pregnant in order to manipulate him in their relationship

2. Naomi Watts plays Lesley a woman who has dreamed of making it on Broadway.  Instead of a great experience she is nearly raped on stage by the Edward Norton character and the movie forgets about this far too quickly.

3. Emma Stone plays Riggan’s daughter who is out of rehab and lectures him about he is worthless and doesn’t matter because he won’t embrace twitter.  You think she would be glad to see her Dad mount a play on Broadway, no small task but no.

4. Amy Ryan is Riggan’s ex and she has some strong moments but she is still clearly in love with him making her frustrating too.

5. The worst character of all is Tabitha a female theater critic for the New York Times who tells Riggans she has already decided her review and she is going to destroy him.  I find that very hard to believe anyone would really do that but if they did they sure wouldn’t tell the star of the show about it.  I thought her character was completely ridiculous.

6. There is also a lesbian kiss which is completely nonessential to the plot  The 2 aren’t in a relationship.  It doesn’t go anywhere and from all I could see it is there only to titillate and excite men.

How can I be the only person in the world who see’s this as a problem? I’ve dug and haven’t found a single critic who has brought this up?  Some say ‘but it’s a satire of Hollywood’, which I would say “I guess I don’t find rape, gender stereotypes and shrill obnoxious women funny”. I don’t buy the satire argument anyway.  What is satirical about the kiss? I saw no double meaning behind it or reason for it existing.

all about eve

A great satire on the entertainment industry like All About Eve had dialogue that sparkled and a variety of female and male characters, some manipulative, wounded, sweet, the whole spectrum.  It’s a heck of a lot more biting, funny, dramatic and lasting.  Actually All About Eve and Birdman are very similar.  Both are about aging stars who are confronting younger versions of themselves, trying to stay relevant and maintain a personal life but Eve is so much more interesting, funny and tragic.

Of course Hollywood is going to reward a film that tells them how hard it is to be a star.  We’ve seen that a million times, so I get why the establishment likes Birdman and it does look very nice as a movie.  But why the rest of America is embracing it I have no idea. It really has made me sad.

The scariest part is this type of misogyny keeps popping up from time to time.  Like last year’s ABC offering Mixology which also featured rape, abuse and murder jokes and an extended gag about how women who throw up at bars are needy and ready for the taking. Also evidently a man owning a box of Kleenex tissues is ultra feminine.  Who knew?  At least with Mixology we had the good sense to get it off the air.

But what’s wrong with our society when that kind of thing even exists?  I’m serious.  It really bothers me and to see it rewarded and universally unquestioned upsets me.  It’s interesting when everyone was all up in arms about 50 Shades of Grey it is Birdman that got under my skin.  At least 50 is honest about what it is and doesn’t drape itself in the robe of an arthouse film.

Anyway I just wanted to get it out there.  That’s how I feel.

Ok. I’ve said my peace and moving on to films that may actually be remembered.  Birdman like other forgettable best picture winners I’m positive will not.

I have a feeling this will invite trolls since it is so well liked so I am disabling comments on this.  If you want to discuss it with me try me on twitter or other social media.

The Wicked Stepmother

Missy

As you all know I’m a big Survivor fan and part of the reason I love the show is while it is fabricated and packaged as entertainment, it is also an interesting window into human nature.  We see the way people behave when eating 100 calories a day, pushed to extremes and how they interact when forced to make choices that service themselves and the group.  That is fascinating to me.  The power structures, social customs, group theory and patterns that develop are interesting and the fact that every winner has been different is a testament to the show.  There is no one way to guarantee a win because what is effective in a game amongst one group may not be in another.

For me season 29 was a disappointment.  This is partly because I loved the previous season 28 so much.  We had so many dynamic personalities in Cagayan that made it fascinating (and hilarious) to watch.  This season San Juan Del Sur I never bonded with anyone (or hated anyone).

But it had its appeal and curiosity factor as every season does.  And one of the interesting threads was a mother daughter pair named Missy and Baylor.  Missy was announced on the show in her introduction that she had been married and divorced 3 times.  I’m not sure why this was such a big deal?  Surely there have been Survivor men who have been married that many times and it was never brought up?

sv2901mt

From the beginning it seemed like the show was disdainful of Missy for her marriages even though I didn’t really see her doing much worthy of that disdain.  Certainly in the world of Survivor villains she was very thin gruel (and if they had the footage we would have seen it!).  She did protect her daughter (who I also didn’t ever see proof that she was that bad) but I didn’t think much more than any other person protected their loved one in the game.

She may have been a real jerk but this was not proven in the footage I saw, even the extended footage outside of the show.  There was really only one spat Missy had with Reed where he called Baylor a brat and there was a brief exchange. But again in the world of Survivor it was nothing. I could probably think of about 100 players who have been more obnoxious and villainous in their seasons.

The reason I bring all this up is in the finale Reed, a Broadway actor, got up in his jury speech and obliterated Missy as not only a bad mother but ‘a wicked stepmother’.  Here’s the speech:

So he defines the wicked stepmother as ‘the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands on everyone for the things to which she feels so entitled”.  Again, that may have been Missy but it was not shown in the edit of the show and I believe if it entitled behavior was there it would have been shown.

Missy was the one who made the rice and they had to barter to get more (a Survivor first) but Reed was a beneficiary of more rice so you think he would be grateful for that?  So she didn’t like her daughter being called a brat on national tv?  That makes her a wicked stepmother.  Again, in the world of Survivor villains she was so not wicked.  For instance, Kass from Cagayan was way more critical, entitled, condescending and judgmental.

It really bothered me to see a woman criticized for playing the exact same game that many men have played, especially after she refused to give up after an ankle injury.  You think the show would have treated her as a hero (they don’t have control over jury speeches but still the tone the last 3 episodes was very Missy critical and yet I never was convinced she was doing anything that bad).

The reason why I mention all of this (because I know most of you don’t watch the show) is because I think it is emblematic of our societies strange view of maternal instinct, motherhood, femininity and womanhood.

survivor-caramoan-dawn-meehanThis is not the first time a Survivor Mom has been raked over the coals.  The worst time was Dawn Mehan in Survivor Carmoan who was forced to take out her dental implants and apologize to a fellow contestant (something men who have backstabbed people have never been asked to do).  People were very tough on Dawn because they felt she had betrayed them.  She was the Mother on the island and then had used that relationship to manipulate her own spot in the game.

Again if a Father figure had done the same thing like a Bob Crowley or Tom Westman it would be seen as great game play but not for a mother. We just expect mothers and ‘mother figures’ to behave in a particular way, which is decidedly unfair as all women are not the same and not all maternal instinct manifests itself in the same way.

Dawn was also very emotional which did not help her game but I kind of get that too.I would probably also be very emotional if I was hungry, tired and away from loved ones. I think her emotional state only made people hate her more.  Missy showed that even if Dawn had not been a cry baby she would still have been looked at as a bad mother for simply playing the game as the ‘mother figure’. Dawn received incredible backlash after the season including death threats and the most vile of insults forcing her to take down her social media all together. Other people have played the game poorly and not received such backlash but other people were not a mother of 6 children. It’s just a different playing field.

survivor-caramoan-dawn-meehan-promises-a-tear-free-season-this-time-around1

Over at Entertainment Weekly Melissa Maerz has a great article called ‘Survivor’: Why that ‘wicked stepmother’ speech enraged me’. 

She says:

” I have no beef with mothers defining themselves as mothers. I’m a mother, too, and proud of it. It’s the question of who is branding women that way, and why, that makes me uneasy”

And then she says

“the term is “rife with contradictions”: “On TV and in movies and in modern fiction, mothers are frequently portrayed as protective yet focused on the trivial, wise yet neurotic, sexy yet sexless, monumentally important but deeply silly,” she writes. Worse yet, we villainize mothers for failing to live up to the standards set by the latter-day Donna Reeds we see on screen, even though those contradictions make those standards impossible.

Mothers can be anything, we’re told, as long as they’re both that thing and its opposite, and as long they’re not any one thing too much

Going back to the broader sociological discussion (again why I like Survivor) do we put Mothers and motherhood on too high a pedestal?  Do we expect women to be perfect and to never be self-serving or make mistakes? I kind of think we might. Most of us would have a much harder time forgiving an insult from a mother than a father.  Why? I guess because our fathers typically don’t raise us and teach us what is right and wrong (even in extreme patriarchal societies Mothers do most of the teaching and caring of children).

sv2901mb

Perhaps because Mothers are our consolation and sanctuary from the world they are put on the pedestal, almost more a saintly role intervening in our behalf against the evils that surround us than a real person?  I guess in some ways that is a good thing but it seems part of growing up is seeing your parents as flawed creatures who did their best but made mistakes too.  I think that’s why Reed’s speech felt so off-putting and immature to some of us. She was doing the best she could under tough circumstances but clearly she was not the motherly figure he expected her to be.

It was interesting in exit interviews yesterday Baylor said she felt her Mom was bullied. She said normally she was the one going to her Mom for comfort from the meanness of the world but this time it was her Mother receiving it and her doing the comforting.  In that respect perhaps it was a healthy experience for her. Again helping her see her Mom as a real person and not just her role as a mother.

I guess I get annoyed when anyone tries to put me in a mold and I feel that is what happened here.  Missy did not fit the mold of what Reed and others see as a ‘mother’ so that made her wicked despite showing little to no actual villainous behavior.

If I have children or participate in child rearing activities I do not want to be pressured to behave in some socially acceptable way.  I want to be me and the best mother I can be for me. Luckily I do not have people voting on my mothering like Missy did but it makes me sad we are so closeminded in 2014 in what behaviors are befitting a woman and womanhood.

S29_04_Missy_Baylor_PREMIERE_FINAL_385891_640x360

Wasn’t the whole point of feminism to allow women to be themselves, to be whatever they wanted to be? Why does that not include a wide spectrum of mothering styles and personalities? Why must we have one way and if you are different you are wicked and wrong? I guess that’s what bothered me the most about Reed’s speech it said to me ‘there is only one way for a mother to behave and you did not act as you should’.

Melissa Maerz ends her article with a challenge to Survivor and to all of us to throw off the Motherly stereotypes and see people for who they are not an idealized vision of who the perfect mother should be:

“Maybe it’s not Survivor‘s fault that Reed has such a twisted view of motherhood. Even so, it’s time for the show to stop devoting so much airtime—including a big chunk of the reunion—to rehashing unfair stereotypes. And it’s time for Survivor‘s host, Jeff Probst, to stop defending them…

Just because she has a daughter doesn’t mean that Missy has to be a great role model in the game—though, in my mind, she is one.”

missy-baylor-survivor_thumb

I couldn’t agree more. In a boring season she was a fighter and certainly deserved better than to be attacked and lambasted as a villain for her best efforts to win a game.  It just shows how much more work we have to do to break down gender stereotypes and accept people as people not classifications. It will never go away completely but we can do better.  We must do better.

(At least it is good to see many in the cast come to Missy’s defense.  Reed was trying to perform to the TV audience and was probably purposefully dramatic and over-the-top but it certainly didn’t win him any points in my book but I am not a reality tv producer looking for drama…)

Bechdel Test

Have you guys heard of the Bechdel test?  Evidently it’s been around for ages, but I just heard of it yesterday (what kind of feminist am I?).  It’s pretty interesting stuff.   The idea is to find a scene in a movie where two female characters talk about something other than men.   Even when you make it a 60 second minimum there are still so many that fail the test.

The feminist frequency explains it pretty well:

It seems almost hard to believe this could be the case.  How could so many movies not have one conversation with two women not about men?  And yet I now think about it and there amazingly few that past the test.  I’m trying to think about recent movies.  I’m particularly thinking about Frozen. It passes the test! There are conversations as children not about men and then about saving the town from the winter in the castle, the ending isn’t about a man.  Now I like it even more.

How did we do in 2013?

http://tribecafilm.com/stories/10-films-that-passed-the-bechdel-test-2013

There is also the interesting idea of the smurfette principle.  Basically the token woman (ie Princess Leia) amongst a troop of men.

This is not necessarily saying the movies that fail the bechdel test are bad.  Pixar movies all fail the test except for maybe Brave.  Will have to think about that one.

As she says good movies fail the test and bad movies pass the test so it isn’t a test of quality merely presence of women in stories.

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting and wanted to share it with all of you.  What do you think? Is it too much to hope for or is the test not accurate or silly?

Feminist Fantasies

women actresses

So yes it’s another one of my feminism posts but it’s late at night and I feel like writing about something so why not! Over the weekend I was talking with my sister about her women’s studies classes and it got me thinking about the differences between the ideal woman of her era and of mine.

When I was in college we talked about a cycle of female imagery that we saw in the 40’s and 50’s. From Rosy the Riveter of WWII to the June Cleavers and Donna Reeds of the 50s.

I particularly remember analyzing I Love Lucy and how the working woman of the war had been turned into a silly, foolish, klutz always needing to be rescued and scolded by her husband (btw I think some of the episodes are very funny but that does tend to be the theme- Lucy get’s in trouble, Ricky groans and then saves the day)

I remember thinking that such a cycle was an oddity of the past and surely wouldn’t be seen again in my enlightened future.  Little did I know that I had already seen it in the change from the 80s to the 90s.

Then we have seen it change again in 2000’s and 2010s

See if you recognize them and if my descriptions ring true.

Feminist Fantasies- What I mean by that is the kind of woman that is put out as the ideal or ultimate example of womanhood.

1980’s feminist fantasy-

Well, the formation of the 80s ideal really started in 1978 with films like An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh and then in 1979 Kramer vs Kramer with Meryl Streep.  Both movies are about women dealing with divorce- one forced upon her, another by her abandonment of family.

While Streep never seems quite happy after leaving her family in KvsK, Clayburgh is happier, and by the end of the film grateful for her husband’s cheating ways. She’s liberated and free to experience all the new things suburbia and housewife life could have never taught her.

So the fantasy of the free woman starts…

Then the next decade you had women “learning” all kinds of things from divorce or not marrying.  Working Girl, 9 to 5, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Broadcast News, When Harry Met Sally all have women that rebel what’s expected of them, are independent and strong. Even if they found love it was a very ‘don’t put me in a corner’ kind of love- no rescuing required.

On television we saw young women living together (The Facts of Life) and old women living together (The Golden Girls).  There were also women cops, attorneys, executives and even the mothers were kind of tough girls (Growing Pains, Family Ties).  Even the cartoons of the 80s featured independent women.  I mean Smurfette is the only woman of her species…

So then the 90s

The fantasy woman of the 90s technically started in the late 80s and it is what I call the ‘perfectly balanced. I can do everything woman’. No person exemplified this more than Clair Huxtible from the Cosby Show.  I realize the show ended in 1992 but I still think it influenced that generation of girls more than the 80s.

Clair was a fantasy woman for any era.  A lawyer married to a doctor with 5 kids in a seemingly perfect brownstone neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Never once did the show discuss the problems such a lifestyle would face- daycare, family abandonment issues, latch key kids etc.

They got around a lot of it by having Cliff’s office at their house but the idea that someone like Clair wouldn’t have a nanny was a true fantasy.   Who needs a nanny when the modern woman can balance home, work, life, community so well?  Sigh…

Another great example of the 90s superwoman is the movie Baby Boom.  It’s a charming movie but the ultimate in feminine fantasy.  Diane Keaton plays a busy career woman who literally scoffs at the notion of home and family creeping into her work.  Then surprise her distant cousin dies and gives her a baby as an inheritance.

Now the workaholic must allow a baby into her busy schedule.  At first she’s overwhelmed but eventually (spoiler) she quits her job, moves to Vermont, dates a hunky vet and starts a gourmet baby food company that her former employer ends up offering a bid on which she turns down so she can run her little company and take care of her baby.

What I think is amazing about this movie is there is no even semblance of ‘let’s try to make my old world work with this new world of family’-a dynamic you’d have seen in the 80s.  In the 90s, it was this illusion if you retooled things and moved them around you could balance everything- even dating the hunky vet… (Murphy Brown would be a TV example of a Baby Boom type story).

Then we get the 2000’s.   I was already in college at this point so most of my female life fantasies had been fully entrenched by that point but there was definitely a shift.  The independent power woman of the 80s, and the perfect balancer of the 90s gave way to a dichotomy of women on one end of the spectrum or another.   The fantasy woman of the 2000’s was either a heroine or a villain.

Villains you ask?  What I mean is someone we might have lauded in the 80s as ambitious and accomplished became an ice queen who never took time for life.  Nowhere is this more true than in 2006’s Devil Wears Prada- a favorite movie of mine.

The career and image obsessed Meryl Streep (twice on this list. I guess she’s just an all around fantasy woman!) doesn’t have time to even pick out Christmas presents for her kids or have a stable relationship within home or the work environment.

In one of their first interactions Streep’s character Miranda gives a list of things for Emily to do.  It is remarkable how this same list would have been seen as great in the 80s and 90s but was definitely the sign of a witch here:

“Details of your incompetence do not interest me. Tell Simone I’m not going to approve that girl that she sent me for the Brazilian layout….Yes to Michael Kors’ party…Call Natalie at Glorious Foods and tell her no for the 40th time. No! I don’t want dacquoise. I want tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote. Then call my ex-husband and remind him that the parent-teacher conference is at Dalton tonight. Then call my husband, ask him to meet me for dinner at that place I went to with Massimo”

Perhaps it is an improvement that such multitasking is even acknowledged as opposed to Clair Huxtible it being all tucked under the table?  And I must admit I relate to this movie because when it came out in 2006 I totally had a Miranda boss who made my life miserable.  What can I say- sometimes people live up to the female fantasies of their era.

At the same time you had the ambitious ice queens of the 00’s you had the ‘desperate to be married’ and be loved group of women (like I said a dichotomy).  Every movie starlet of this era played the part of ‘I can’t get a date to save my life and all I really want to do is get married but I have to work’.  JLo, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Hiegel, Sandra Bullock to name a few.

The ultimate example of this type of needy, desperate woman is in JLo’s The Wedding Planner where her lonely character has to be rescued from a runaway dumpster (you read right) by the hunky doctor (quite the comparison to Baby Boom…).  She then sits and plans his wedding to another woman as the chemistry percolates.  (huge hit I might remind you).

The description on Imdb says a lot about this end of the fantasy woman of 00s. “Mary Fiore is the wedding planner. She’s ambitious, hard-working, extremely organized, and she knows exactly what to do and say to make any wedding a spectacular event. But when Mary falls (literally) for a handsome doctor…or will Mary finally get to be the bride herself? When it comes to love, you can never plan what’s going to happen.”

Some of these desperate women were actually quite likable and funny because let’s be honest those women exist and there will always be cream in any trend.  Bridget Jones for one was just witty enough to make it work (and the fact it is based on one of the best books ever written Pride and Prejudice helped).

2010-present

So, what’s the fantasy woman now?  What is the image none of us can live up to?  I would say we have abandoned the desperate woman rom com (literally only 2 released last year)and embraced the tough, grizzled warrior woman (Hunger Games, Divergent, even Snow White is a warrior).  You also have the crass, grizzled, foul-mouthed comedic female characters such as in Bridesmaids.
Even Bella was turned into a warrior at the end of the Twilight movies!

That or we have reverted back to the more submissive roles of the 50s (again we are talking about media here).  You have Bella needing to be rescued at every turn and the women on Mad Men falling sway to the alpha males in their lives (I realize that show is set in the 60s but it still can be emblematic of a type of current fantasy).

It’s like the idea of being objectified for sex is suddenly a desirable thing. (The Mad Men website literally has a quiz ‘which of Don’s women are you’?  Not which character on the show but Don’s women)

The women on Mad Men are also kind of a tough talking and world-weary type you see a lot lately. I even read an article the other day about how the CDC did a study and that women report being more exhausted on a regular basis than men.  (Duh!).  To me that is interesting when you think of the cycle of women.  Are we trying too hard to be the warriors?

Clair Huxtible was tired once and Cliff took her to a hotel for a night and then she was fine.  In 2010’s even in our fantasies the women are tired from all the fighting, and warrioring they do.  Interesting.  (I mean can you imagine Miranda Priestly admitting she was tired?  No way!).

The warrior woman also demonstrates an undercurrent of boldness and leadership while being an inherent part of a movement or team.  Part of that is probably due to social media and the dichotomy it gives women between isolation and togetherness.  So, the ideal woman is the warrior with a dash of fatigue and dependence thrown in.

What do you think about the ideal or fantasy woman throughout the years? What have been some that have tantalized you or perhaps made you work harder (fantasies are not always negative)? What do you think are current trends? What women do you wish you could be more like? Or am I totally off on the idea of a fantasy woman changing in different eras?

Even minutes after writing the post I have thought of many other women roles and parts I could have mentioned.  What women came to mind as you were reading my post?