Monday, February 27, 2012
Miscellaneous Mondays: Is This Sexist?
That being said, after seeing this video from Feminist Frequency, I think there's an interesting point to discus. If you have ten minutes to spare, I recommend watching the video HERE. In sum, the video talks about evaluating representation of women in big name Hollywood movies by applying the Bechdel test to 2012 Oscar nominees. To pass the Bechdel test, a movie need only have two female characters, that have names, and talk to each other about something other then a man. Hollywood, by the way, seems to be failing.
I find the concept of the test to be fascinating, and I wonder what would happen if we applied it to main stream popular books. The problem, of course, is that I intentionally read mostly female centered books. But...do they pass? Let's think about some of the strongest female leads out there.
Kate Daniels? Sure, she talks to Andrea, about weapons, and killing, and attack poodles. Prior to Andrea's appearance in book 2, however, I don't think Kate talked to to many women. So book 1 probably passes by the skin of it's teeth.
Mercy Thompson? In River Marked, which is the book I remember most distinctly because I read it most recently, there really aren't any other female characters involved in the conflict for Mercy to talk to. She talks to Jesse, for example, but it's about Jesse's father, so I'm thinking that doesn't count.
What about a romance novel? Indigo is my most recent traditional romance novel. It passes because Hester talks to various other women about the underground railroad stuff. But the thing is, there are a lot of romance novels that I don't think would pass, because the main plot centers around a romance with a man.
Look at Sea Change. We have a female lead dressing up as a man, surrounded by a male cast. The only time she talks to other women, it's to prostitutes about sex...with men.
What about the really popular stuff? Twilight? I'm pretty sure that would fail. Hunger Games? I'll let you know after I read it. Harry Potter? Fail. Vampire Diaries? From the one book I read, fail.
So here's where I come to my main point, which is that while none of these books pass with flying colors, none of them are inherently sexist or anti-feminist. Well...maybe Twilight. But the rest of them are fine. Even books written by women, about women, for women, will sometimes fail this test. If we used them to evaluate the popular fiction industry, as the video does with Hollywood movies, we might end up seeing a problem that isn't there. The test is inherently flawed.
I think the tidbit I get caught up on is the conversation with other women part. Growing up, all of my friends were boys. If they made a day of my life into a movie it would have failed the test. My life story is sexist?
All of that being said, I do agree that strong women are under represented in main stream Hollywood. All I'm really asking for is to have female characters engage in meaningful, plot relevant dialogue or action, not involving sex or romance, with any character of any gender. Books, or at least 90% of the ones I've read, do a good job at this. A lot of movies still fail. So yes, there's some room for work there.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we need more meaningful female characters? How do we measure that? Share your thoughts in the comments. Happy Monday, everyone!