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Posts Tagged ‘gender’

I, as a woman, have a lot of expectations placed upon me.

I, as a woman, am expected to put effort into my appearance. And I’m not talking merely practicing basic hygiene, either.

I, as a woman, am expected to toe the line of fashion. Wear one blouse that is too low-cut, by some random definition of low-cut, and I will be judged and slut-shamed. Wear formless clothes, and I will be found frumpy, ugly, not as interesting.

I, as a woman, am expected to need to have babies in order to be fulfilled.

I, as a woman, am expected to know the right thing to say in every situation.

I, as a woman, am expected to cook tasty but healthy meals. As long as you’re pretty and can cook, you’ll have a boyfriend in no time. -actual thing I’ve been told

I, as a woman, cannot win when it comes to sex. Virgin or whore, frigid or slutty, no is never as simple as it seems nor as simple as it should be.

I, as a woman, am expected to remember personal details: names, birthdays, life stories, and logistics. I am expected to coordinate. I am expected to hostess. I am expected to keep in touch.

I, as a woman, am expected to respond to egregiously bad behavior with poise and tact and compassion.

I, as a woman, am expected to be less rational, less logical, less intelligent, and more emotional. Meanwhile, my society pays lip service to valuing logic while demeaning emotions.

I, as a woman, am expected to be “more emotionally aware and available.”

I, as a woman, am expected to be bad at math.

I, as a woman, am expected to smooth things over and make social interactions a little bit easier and little bit less awkward.

I, as a woman, am expected to put my male partner’s career before my own.

I, as a woman, am expected to never look old. Wrinkles and silver temples do not translate as dignified and experienced on me. They translate to washed-up.

I, as a woman, am expected to know and say less valuable things and therefore not mind when I am interrupted or when basic things upon which I am an expert are explained to me.

I, as a woman, am expected to be more unassuming and careful and less confident when I speak.

I, as a woman, am expected to really like pink.

I, as a woman, am expected to be catty and judgmental of other women’s appearances and sexuality.

I, as a woman, am expected to smile.

I, as a woman, have to think very carefully about career issues such as whether to use my initials instead of my first name if I ever publish a science fiction novel so that readers won’t know I’m a woman.

I, as a woman, am expected to be interested in domestic subjects. And also yoga. (True story: the Boyfriend and I randomly met another couple at a restaurant and were going to go explore some ruins with them, but then the other woman got scared because it was dark. The other man said to her and me, “Oh, you two would rather stay up top doing yoga while we explore.” And I thought, “Why on earth would I choose yoga over exploring ruins?” Yeesh. Needless to say, I explored those fucking ruins. Thoroughly. Sprained toe and all.)

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Some of these things are true. I do like pink. I put effort into my appearance. I like clothes and musical theater. I know my way around an emotional landscape.

Some of these things are not true. I explicitly do not cook (and I could write a whole post on why I am so explicit about it). Most domestic subjects bore me. I am good at math. I don’t always remember names. I don’t always feel poised and tactful.

Some of these things I am working on. I do not want to be judgmental about other women’s choices. I do not want to be less than confident when speaking about things I know. I do not want to smooth over every awkwardness and insult at my own expense. I do not want to smile on command.

Mostly, I don’t want to care. I don’t want to care about the expectations, and I don’t want to internalize them, and I don’t want to be held back because of my gender identity. I don’t want you to be held back either, whatever your gender.

I don’t want to be less than.

None of us do.

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Gilmore Girls seems to have a reputation for being in a certain demographic. A very female demographic. Which is particuarly interesting because, according to Wikipedia, for its first four seasons (which I would argue are its strongest), it ranked first in the 18-25 demographic for women and second in the 18-25 demographic for men. Meaning, people really liked it regardless of gender.

That being said, one of my male friends was embarrassed to admit he’d watched and enjoyed the show. Another one scoffed at the idea of watching it because it has “girls” in the title, so it obviously wasn’t for him. I think maybe it has an (undeserved) reputation for being like a Lifetime movie, something that would only appeal to women (and yes, there are all kinds of problems with that statement).

Of course, this tension is not universal. There is also the guy I was dating last year who was watching through the series and would tell me his thoughts on the episodes. And the popular two-guy podcast Gilmore Guys, hosted by one guy who loves the show and one guy who had never seen it before.

I started watching Gilmore Girls for the first time several years after it had concluded, when I was in the process of getting a divorce. I loved it at that time, and will probably always love it, because the show centers around Lorelai Gilmore, a (off-and-on) single woman in her 30s (she’s 32 when the show starts and 39 when it ends) who is not mostly defined by her relationships with men. She is smart, she is stylish (sometimes), she is assertive, she is ambitious, she is very good at her job and eventually becomes a successful entrepreneur, and her most important relationship throughout the seven years of the show is not a romantic one with a man (although she has those too!) but with her daughter. And as a smart woman in my 30s who didn’t want to define myself primarily by my relationship to men, I found watching stories of this fictional woman’s life vastly reassuring.

But as I continued watching, I came to realize Gilmore Girls is more than just a reassuring reflection for me. It’s really funny! (In an absurd way, which is my favorite.) It’s a smart, witty, show with a fast pace, a quirky style, and tons of pop culture references. It brings its characters and its setting of the idealized but bizarre small town of Stars Hollow (which is a character in and of itself) into vivid being. And it happens to center around the lives of a mother and daughter.

gilmore girls still

Yesterday, I read Penelope Trunk saying, “Men don’t need to see themselves reflected back to themselves in a relationship. They need to see themselves reflected back as some sort of hero. Women want to see themselves reflected back as being competent in relationships.” She goes on to say this because most women want kids, and it won’t be relatable for them to watch other women putting a career before family.

One of the reasons I love Gilmore Girls is because, while what Ms. Trunk says may or may not be true on a wider scale (and if it is true, it’s because of what our society raises women to value, so if our pop culture changed, this truth would most likely change as well), I know that I personally love seeing myself reflected back as some sort of hero. Who wouldn’t like that? Why can’t I be a hero and care about my relationships all at the same time? And it is a joy to watch a female character in her 30s be so competent, successful at business, and with a full and fulfilling life.

Also, it’s great to see other people, including women, who aren’t super competent at relationships (which Lorelai patently is not). Not only does that provide much-needed drama to sustain a longer-running television series, but come on! Relationships are difficult. None of us is perfect at them. And it’s affirming to see that lack of perfection reflected back in our media. In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says that feeling like we’re not alone and that our personal experience is relatable and not unique to us is very important for shame resilience. Which is one reason why what the media portrays (and does not portray) is so critical.

Ultimately I’d like to see all kinds of characters reflected as heroes in media: female and male and non-binary genders, white people and people of color, young people and old people, straight and gay and bi people, people who are the same as me and people who are different from me. I want to see people being great at relationships and I want to see people who are messing up at relationships. I want to see warm family connections and I want to see troubled ones. I don’t really want to see absolute perfection because flaws are what make characters–and more generally human beings–interesting and three-dimensional and who they really are.

So dislike Gilmore Girls all you want, but dislike it because of its flaws as a show: the mess of seasons six and seven, the way it’s depressing to watch Rory descend into the dystopia her mother had escaped a generation before, the inconsistencies of the world, the way it deals with economic and class privilege. Dislike it because you don’t like watching dysfunctional family relationships or because it’s not a show centered around mysteries or action or whatever genres really engage you.

But don’t dislike it because it’s a show for women. It’s not, no more than Sherlock or Star Trek are shows for men (to mention two other shows I really like).

It’s a show for everyone.

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I don’t generally do many link round-ups, but I have so many interesting links open in my browser right now, and they deserve to be shared. So if you were feeling short of reading material this week, mourn no longer.

Female Creators in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television

This is such an important essay that it probably deserves an entire dedicated post by me, but I’m sharing it now in case I don’t get around to it.

The Truth of Wolves, Or: The Alpha Problem

The alpha-beta system of wolf behavior is actually incorrect. And yet we still use this system, one that often encourages misogynist behavior, in werewolf-based urban fantasy. Why?

Sexism at Fantasy Book Cafe

While I’m sharing Foz Meadows, I’ll also point you to her response to the post on how there isn’t actually much sexism in literature, during a theme month of focusing on Women in SF&F. Gah.

Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?

Funny and sad.

The Gender Coverup

Hopefully you’ve all seen this one by now. Maureen Johnson, a successful YA writer, talks about how book covers are gendered. It’s really worthwhile to take a look at the covers of popular books with the gender of the author changed.

It’s not about Gender

I like the analogy the author uses to make her point.

Academic Men Explain Things to Me

I find this Tumblr so valuable (and sometimes hilarious), I’ve added it to my reader.

Nerds and Male Privilege

Do yourself a favor and don’t read the comments.

For writers: Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class is coming online this summer, and it’s FREE. Check out the details here. 

The Lethality of Loneliness

Loneliness affects physical health. No big surprise there, but an interesting read.

Student’s self driving car tech wins Intel science fair

Yay for science!

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