Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feminism and I: It's Complicated

Recently I was advised to submit a short story to a group working on a collection of stories by female authors.  As I'm not a female this would seem out of place but the suggestion was made that I might be added as a "bonus story" because I have pretty good track record of writing strong female characters, and that a story in that vein might go well in the collection.

I wasn't called a Feminist but I like to think that I let my process of character creation run along similar lines as Jos Whedon and he has been given, if not taken, that title himself.  I've also been known to horribly misquote him but I like to think that my error is more along the lines of "correct in spirit if off in fact."

Oddly, though, I have to confess to a rather on-again-off-again relationship with the term Feminist.  Most "-ists" tend to be used as a form of pejorative.  Racist.  Sexist.  Misogynist.  Elitist.  These aren't nice words.  I even have a weird reaction when someone uses the term "Deist" even though I don't think it's intended harshly in most conversation.

Even when it's not used as a negative title (such as Atheist, or Pragmatist) I often feel like the goal of its use is to imply an elevation of something as a superior idea or form over other thoughts.  A Hedonist puts pleasure as a higher good than other concepts.

As much as I love women, I do not believe that by virtue of being women they are any better or worse then men.  There are some men who are horrible and some who are virtuous.  I've met women who have touched my life in profound ways, and some who I still struggle to fully purge from my memory so as never to think on them again.

And I got angry.

There are two things at foot here.

Thing One:  Anti-Feminism.

Look, fellow men, here's the deal.  Being anti-feminist isn't cool, it isn't clever and it isn't welcome.  It's not inherently manly.  It doesn't show off "alpha male" status.

Simply, it makes you look like a jerk.  Well it makes you look like other things but because I have to keep this blog relatively PG I can't post what it makes you look like.  

There are still real problems with gender relations in this country and poking fun at what a Feminist is (or is not) doesn't help them.  I won't toss out the "$0.70 on the dollar" figure because I think it too much of a soundbite, but I have seen sexism first hand myself as its inflicted on the women in my life.  Part of writing Bastion has been working with Marines to get the Marie story arch right and there are still many real problems with gender equity in opportunity.

Cracking jokes about what a Feminist is in order to score quick points with your bros, doesn't do anything to help the rest of us.  It's not funny and in this case it's just mean.

Thing Two:  Facebook's non reaction.

You own your image.  Period.  It's your image.

I'm a little surprised that when someone's image is used without their direct consent, and done so further in a spiteful and mean way that Facebook's answer is to simply say "We cannot do anything due to free speech."

Here's a tip Facebook:  Bullying is real and your inaction is part of the problem.

I get free speech.  I get being a safe harbor.  I get wanting to stay out of the politics of gender discussions.

But this isn't some faceless drawing, or some statement posted in text.  It's a woman's image, used to mock and shame her.  And your inaction, Facebook, makes you complicit in the deed.  If you, Facebook, are serious about anti-bullying, then the course is really quite clear.

Man up and do the right thing.

And really... that's what it comes down to.  

Patrick Stewart (who is as close to Godly as I think can be found on this Earth, next to the Pope, perhaps) is a famous advocate for battered and abused women.  And in one of his talks he was very frank.  Men must be part of the solution.  Men have to step up and do the right thing.  Men cannot be idle.  

We cannot be silent.  We cannot wait for others to act for us.  We cannot let women sort it out among themselves.

We, humans, are in this together and thus we all need to step up and do what's right.

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