Feminism and me

When I was elementary school-aged, I didn’t quite understand that there were social differences between boys and girls. I’d heard of a glass ceiling but it never really occurred to me that it might apply to me. I suppose ‘you can do anything you want’ sank in a lot better than any cultural girltype-limits indoctrination.

When I was a little older, I believed feminism was about hating men, and I wasn’t interested. Everybody was a person, after all.

But even then, I noticed the lack of fiction that interested me with female protagonists. I have a clear memory of never really getting into The Dark Is Rising setting because Will Stanton was the last and the youngest and he was a boy. There was no room for me to imagine myself into the story. Something about it turned me away.

In college (I think) I read Jinian Footseer’s adventures. I don’t remember them much at all, except for a sex scene that I was dubious about near the end, and that Sherri S. Tepper’s typical aliens made an appearance. And that the protagonist was a girl. That alone made her name stick with me.

I wonder now if I ended up reading so many romance novels growing up because I wanted to follow the adventures of girls? I know I read stories with ensemble casts that included girls and for the most part, I still never consciously noticed gender distribution.

But by the time I’d been in California for a while, my growing dissatisfaction with the representation of my gender climbed out of my subconscious and presented itself to me. Why didn’t girls ever save the world in the epic fantasies I loved? Why weren’t girls ever the significant chosen one? If she was special, why was it always as a mate or mother?

I’d always had girls as my protagonists in my little stories, and once I started asking those questions, I did it purposefully. I wanted to see more girls in my favorite types of fiction, so I’d write them myself.

I asked those questions but I didn’t really think about or research the answers. I just sort of assumed it was… you know… tradition. And maybe it was because there were more male authors? Whatever. I had great ideas about heroines.

But I kept encountering and making observations about gender distribution in various fields, and thinking more about my experiences with video and tabletop games growing up, and theorizing. I didn’t want those thoughts. Social consciousness is a nasty thing to inflict on somebody. It changes the way you interpret almost everything around you. Before, you were contented; after, you are enraged.  But sometime in the last ten years, I started having gut-level reactions to gender inequalities. They vaguely embarassed me; I felt like being a feminist was something one should choose consciously rather than quietly evolve into. I didn’t feel right caring so much about such little things.

And I still didn’t have very much knowledge, just what I’d observed myself or heard about in passing. I still avoided places full of feminist thoughts. I didn’t like the uncomfortable, frustrated rage they evoke in me. I didn’t like the way they made me hate the world.

This year has been full of unpleasant eye-opening moments. First, there was RaceFail09, which was incredibly educational about things like privilege and role-models and derailment methods. I became more self-aware.

There was Dear Pixar, a request for movies about girls who are not princesses– the letter and the reactions to the letter, where I got to see just how much RaceFail09’s education had changed the way I heard others. I got to see just how far we have to go and how hard it is to get there.

And then I was recently pointed at a few posts on The Hathor Legacy, a site about the search for good female characters. The posts I read were about women in movies, and why it’s so rare that you find a movie with a pair of women who talk to each other about something other than a man (a criterion known as the Bechdel test). [Answer: because Hollywood believes men are the only significant market demographic and that they won’t watch two women talking about ‘whatever women talk about’.]

Today, Kevin provoked me to rant at him about EA and their booth babe contest. I ranted more about the concept of booth babes and the ‘be good or we’ll lose our pretty scenery!’ attitude of most of the coverage I found, but rant I did.

That’s not what finally inspired me to post, though. Sexism is provoking and challenging, but not directly inspirational, not for me. I found this, however, so awesome I had to share.