mysticalchild_isis: (hedwig & the angry inch)
I've always had a difficult relationship with shaving. I'm quite fair-skinned, but I have very dark hair, and so my body hair tends to stand out rather starkly (especially as my ancestors include a number of rather hairy Scottish dudes). And let me tell you, the programming American women experience about shaving their body hair (particularly leg hair) is one of the things that has sunk its hooks deep inside my psyche. Despite the fact that I find shaving annoying and time-consuming, that it tends to irritate my skin, that the hair grows back extremely quickly, and that I don't wear skirts or dresses, I still feel compelled to shave my legs. When I look at my legs and they are hairy, there is a part of me that is disgusted.

But this winter, I decided that I was going to stop shaving my legs, and for the first time ever, I have managed to go for months without doing so. I can't say that I've fully made peace with my hairy legs, as when I look at them, I still don't find them aesthetically pleasing. But I have at least gotten to a place where I don't think about shaving them every time I get in the shower, and I am slowly becoming far less sensitive about other people witnessing my hairy legs.

It's interesting to see the responses to my lack of leg-shaving. One of my older female coworkers thinks that it is awesome, and wishes that she could also stop, but she doesn't think her husband would accept it. Another coworker couldn't even look at my legs when I was asked to show them off. And some people really don't care one way or another.

One of the things I have struggled with through my life is finding a balance between feminism, internalized misogyny, and the way in which all things feminine are disparaged and degraded. Beauty and fashion issues always seem to be particularly fraught battle grounds. One person will describe their use of makeup as empowering, while another will see it as part of the beauty industrial complex that exploits women, and I can see where they are both coming from. I grew up a tomboy surrounded by boys, and while in some ways, that was a really good thing for me (I've never had a problem speaking up in a group of men, or talking over them), in other ways, it meant that I internalized a hell of a lot of misogyny that still sneaks up on me in all sorts of ways years later. Before I went to college, I think I owned a total of maybe 3 CDs of female musicians, despite the fact I've been identifying as a feminist since I knew what the word meant.

So the leg-shaving issue has become something of a battleground for me, as I try to balance out resisting patriarchal programming while simultaneously trying not to degrade femininity.
mysticalchild_isis: (hedwig & the angry inch)
For a very large number of reasons, I do not want children. I have never once in my life wanted children. I am very pleased that my parents chose to have me, and I adore my nieces and nephew. I did an Americorps year working as a reading teacher with second and third graders, and I loved it. I have no problem with children, I have no problem with other people having them, and I frequently enjoy their company.

But I, myself, do not want to have children. However, because I am a woman, I constantly run into people who take serious umbrage at this fact. I cannot even tell you the number of times I have been told "you'll change your mind!" (Pretty much any time the fact that I do not want children comes up, at least one person informs me that I will change my mind, from my parents to random strangers.)

For one thing, I find it really offensive that people believe that I don't know my own mind, especially now that I'm thirty. I still think it's obnoxious to tell a teen that she'll change her mind, but hey, there are a lot of things I've changed my mind about since adolescence. But I am an adult. I am an adult who has over many years very thoroughly and deeply considered all the pros and cons of procreating, and I have made an informed decision that it is not for me.

But still people tell me that I'll change my mind, that I don't know what I want, that it is the best thing I could ever do with my life, that I will regret it if I don't, that my biological clock will start ticking, that I'll meet the right person and they'll convince me, or that I'm a crazy, man-hating feminist. (Feminist, yes. Man-hating, not usually.)

I know sometimes that it is a knee-jerk reaction from someone who thinks that my choice not to have children is somehow a criticism of their choices. But it isn't, and they shouldn't take it that way. Usually, I can identify the people that are having this particular reaction, and generally, I find it less offensive. On the other hand, men who condescend to tell me that I don't know what I want/that I will be unfulfilled/that I am a man-hating feminist/etc are the ones that make me want to pull out my motorcycle boots and start kicking heads. Especially, because on the whole, men who don't want kids don't get the same sort of negative reaction.
mysticalchild_isis: (xena rawr)
At my book club last night, we got off topic a bit (as we so often do), and one of the librarians who works in a high school was mentioning that she's been reading The Odyssey with a class. She was rather disturbed to find that all the girls disliked Penelope, and thought that she was useless, weak, and did nothing.

This led to a discussion about how it's unfortunate that a lot of girls only see Strong Female CharactersTM as having their own agency, and how very problematic that is.

Don't get me wrong; I love BAMFy women who kick ass (Buffy and Xena being two of my favorites), especially if the actress playing them is even halfway decent at martial arts. I savor a well-executed roundhouse kick like a glass of fine wine. However, too often, Xenafication stands in for actual character development... and makes it so that people like the girls mentioned above think that the only defining characteristic of a strong woman is her ability to kick ass. With a corollary of the fact that many people then think that if a woman is bad-ass, she must be strong, and don't see the problems (and sexism) that so often pop up in these types of characters.

I'm reminded of the version of Irene Adler that popped up in this season of Sherlock. I found her extremely problematic for a number of reasons. But because she was smart, beautiful, and had a certain amount of power (largely sexual) and control, the underlying issues were slightly masked. I'm not trying to dictate which characters one should or should not like, or identify with. We like who we like, and we see characters in different ways. But when there is a widespread epidemic of characters who on the surface seem strong, but underneath are teeming with poisonous ideas (you know, like "oh look, this woman's backstory is rape and torture porn, but since she is a BAMF, it is totally fine that her only character development is rape-as-backstory"), I feel like it is an issue that needs to be addressed and discussed.

Especially because characters who might not be able to swing a sword or shoot a gun are no longer seen as "strong", no matter how well-rounded they are or how much agency they have.

WTF

Mar. 15th, 2012 09:27 am
mysticalchild_isis: (buffy: slayer)
There are some days I have to wonder: HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE INSANE?!?
mysticalchild_isis: (buffy became the sun)
This is something I've been considering for awhile, and have finally put into action. The next fifty books I read are all going to be written by women- a feminist exercise, a challenge, and an experiment all in one. I'll post them here as I finish them, with links to any reviews/thoughts I have about them.

under the cut )
mysticalchild_isis: (dr who rose)
I hate to keep harping on a subject, but one of the comments to my previous meta set me off on this one.

Rose & Mickey- thoughts on double standards )
mysticalchild_isis: (xena rawr)
Further Thoughts On Fandom Misogyny

You know, I'm disturbed by how often the male characters who treat people (especially women) like crap are the fandom darlings. They become the woobie who can do no wrong, because he's deep, he has layers, he's had bad things happen to him, he's misunderstood (especially by all those evil female characters). They often have huge communities devoted to them and metric tons of fic describing how wonderful and perfect they are. I'm not trying to criticize people for loving the characters they love. We all have our preferences, and deeply complex characters are interesting, and often feel more real.

What's really bothering me here are the gender politics that go on in fandom, and the double standard between the way female characters are treated versus male characters.

Let's take Tony DiNozzo from NCIS. Yes, I like him too. He is a complex character, he's had some wonderful moments of heroism, and he has struggled with some tough times in his life. But let's be honest: he's rude, he's dismissive, he bullies people, he objectifies women constantly, and he also tends to blame women ("it's always the wife "). Before anyone jumps in to accuse me of misunderstanding poor Tony, let's take a step back and deconstruct things a bit.

Take some time and really, truly, and honestly think about this: if Tony was instead a woman, let's say Tonia, what would you think about her? When she constantly objectified men while simultaneously dismissing and blaming them, how would you feel? When she bullied, belittled, and tormented Tim, would it seem just as funny (because, after all, she really does love Tim like a brother, right)?

There are some people who can truthfully say they'd love Tonia just as much as Tony, because it really is just about what they like about the characterization, regardless of gender. Tonia has probably also gained some brand new fans, who like her because she turns the dominant paradigm on its head- they'd enjoy watching a woman constantly objectifying men, and running roughshod over everyone.

But be honest: how many people would call Tonia a slut, a bitch, a whore, or a harpy? How dare that uppity woman torment poor little Timmy! Who does she think she is?

Let's try an opposite sort of example, and take Rose Tyler from Doctor Who. Rose consistently gets accused of being a Mary Sue, a selfish brat, a chav, and all sorts of other similarly offensive things. Imagine, however (honestly and deeply), if Rose was instead Ryan, played by someone like Bradley James. Let's say we now have a young man who doesn't have much in the way of education, but who pick things up pretty quickly, someone who's compassionate and friendly, and who loves the Doctor deeply. Ryan is suddenly reminding me a lot of a modern version of Jamie McCrimmon. How many people hate on Jamie, or call him a Gary Stu, or accuse him of being selfish for loving the Doctor? Just how many of the people who despise Rose would hate Ryan just as much?

Try taking any female character you dislike, and transforming them into a man... how does this change how you look at them? There are still going to be plenty of characters you dislike, regardless of gender, because they're still a cat hater, or a Yankees fan, or they look just like that math teacher who used to call you stupid. But how much time would you spend bashing them? Do you think there would be whole communities devoted to hating them? Would they be constantly vilified in fanfic?

But what does it matter if we bash female characters? They're only fictional, after all. I'll just say this- I don't think it's a good idea to spend a lot of time disparaging and despising women, even if they aren't real, as that's the sort of thing that can become a habit.

Yes, I'm oversimplifying things, being judgmental, and the people who see this are almost certainly the last people on earth who need to read it, but I had to throw it out there.

Thoughts, critiques, attacks, opinions?

You're very welcome to share this/link to it.

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