The Smurfette Principle is the tendency for works of fiction to have exactly one female in an ensemble of male characters, in spite of the fact that roughly half of the human race is female.
Unless a show is purposefully aimed at a female viewing audience, the main characters will tend to be disproportionately male. Said only woman will almost always be used as half of a romance subplot
In many series, men will have various different personalities, but women will always be The Chick. (x)
Someone once told me that the reason half the population is missing from these teams is that most of them are at home tending the kids instead of out adventuring. You don’t often see children in these things, either, after all, and someone has to be minding them. So it’ll only be a rare woman, and usually a young one who has yet to be married or have children, who will be on the team. (Her being unmarried and childless of course also makes it easier for her to hook up with the hero.)
Naturally, this bullshit is mired in a concept of womanhood—and parenthood, for that matter—that’s at least three generations out of date. Most women now spend most of their 20s and early 30s either single or partnered WITHOUT kids. They’re out in the workforce; they should be on these teams, too.
There are also other factors: Improved healthcare means that lifespans are longer and people are still plenty healthy and strong in their 40s and 50s. So even women who have children young should be perfectly capable of going adventuring once the kids are at least self-minding teens. Families are also smaller than they once were, so most women aren’t losing two decades of their lives to raising little ones. Finally, plenty of men are primary or equal caregivers for their children, which also frees up a lot more women to go out and kick ass as needed. And this is all aside from other childcare arrangements: extended family, nannies or day care, school when the kids are old enough, etc.
Bottom line: Parenthood does not comprise the entirety of a woman’s adult life. I can accept that excuse for slightly fewer women on these teams, but not for there being only one or two.
Feeling a tad reckless tonight, so I’m going to go all out with an unpopular opinion or three. I spose I may lose followers, but … eh.
Going to put the Moffat part of this aside for the moment and focus on what Fink says above, because holy shit, it’s so fucking true it hurts.
Joss Whedon is not a feminist, and in fact has actually contributed to an entire generation’s corrupted idea of what feminism is. I won’t say he’s not talented. He has a gift for writing dialogue, and is fairly decent at plotting, too. I’m pretty darn happy with what he’s contributed to the MCU so far. But I am so freaking tired of him and his work being held up as some sort of great thing for women when he’s really no different from every other fanboy with a fetish for Badass Babes.
1: He did not invent action heroines.
Wonder Woman was kicking ass decades before he was even born. He also didn’t do anything new on TV when he did Buffy. As I posted about a couple of days ago, there were a TON of women heroes on TV in the ’70s and early ’80s before the Backlash kicked in. Buffy wasn’t even unique in her era. She debuted in a landscape that included Xena, Janeway, Ivanova, and many, many more. The only thing different about her is that she was a high school girl, which meant a lot of girls around the same age identified with her in a way they didn’t with the older women. But that still doesn’t make her groundbreaking. Saturday morning cartoons already had teen heroines way before she came along.
2. He seems to be allergic to women who aren’t young and conventionally attractive.
Granted that this is a problem across all mass media, but only a handful of his female characters have been older than 35 without being someone’s mom or a very minor role. None of them have been fat or genuinely butch, either. He doesn’t allow his women to have power unless they’re also attractive.
3. The only queer characters he has are het-dude-fantasy friendly.
Where are the queer men? Where are the older lesbians? Where are the queer women whose bodies and sexuality don’t appeal to straight guys?
Again, this is a problem with all mass media, but someone who brags about being a feminist should know better.
4. He has a thing for victimizing his women in titillating ways
Yes, he tortures most of his characters, when he’s not actually killing them off, but let me give you one image for Exhibit A: Naked River in a box. Ew.
Generally speaking, Joss only writes women that he would personally want to fuck. The fact that his particular fetish is for women with combat and weapons skills doesn’t change that.
You want a truly feminist writer? Show me one who writes women who aren’t to his or her personal sexual taste and who also aren’t either stereotypical mother figures or one-note villains. Show me one who writes lesbians who don’t have sex scenes that look like something out of het-dude-aimed porn. Show me one who writes identifiable women of color, trans women, and women with disabilities. Luckily, we’re finally starting to get writers who do this, but they’re still rare, and almost non-existent among mass-distribution media. And they’re still not Joss Whedon.
I really wish we could stop using gender labels to describe interests, traits, and behaviors. It’s essentialist bullshit, and it denies the gender identity of people who don’t have certain specific traits/behaviors assigned to their gender, or who have them, but have a gender identity that’s different from the label.
I especially hate these terms being used in discussions of sexism and gender justice. If you’re defending wearing makeup or enjoying raising children, then say that in so many words. Don’t say that you’re defending “femininity.” When you use that word, you’re implying that a woman who doesn’t wear makeup or want to be a parent is somehow less of a woman than those who do. You’re also implying that a man who enjoys makeup or parenting is less of a man.
The gender labels on these things are entirely arbitrary, and in many cases exist as a way of propping up a sexist status quo. It shouldn’t be surprising that many consider economic self-sufficiency a “masculine” thing, for instance. It’s easier to keep women dependent on men if you imply that it’s unfeminine for them to earn their own way. Likewise, framing parenting as inherently feminine is a good way to keep men working long hours to line someone else’s pockets instead of developing relationships with their kids.
Everyone’s gender identity is a personal thing, and it shouldn’t be subject to bean-counting tallies of exactly how many boxes they check off in column M or column F, because those columns are bullshit to begin with. If a woman’s traits, behaviors, and interests fall almost entirely in column M, but she still identifies as a woman, then she’s a woman, and no less of one than someone with a lot of Fs.
Power, Mickey Mouse, and the Infantilization of Women, Dr Lisa Wade (via ecoprudefemme)
You can tell a girl she’s smart her whole life, encourage her in school, buy her a chemistry set, send her to math camp, help her apply for college scholarships in STEM fields, and she’s still eventually going to walk into a classroom, a lab, or a job interview and have some man dismiss her existence, deny her funding, pass her over for a promotion, or take credit for her work. How about you work on getting those assholes out of power and quit telling me not to call girls pretty.
Is there a reason we can’t do both? The push against focusing on girls’ physical aspects is about more than their own self image. It’s also about a culture-wide effort to get everyone to see that a woman’s greatest value is in what she does, not what she looks like. “Pretty” is an accident of DNA, not an accomplishment.
- Posted 1 month ago
- Reblogged from sugarbooty with
- 48,724 notes
- not to mention that it creates an artificial hierarchy among girls and women
- girls who are NOT pretty have much lower achievement rates in general
- because they've been constantly told they're worth less than the pretty ones
Re: last reblog
It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation, but I think the reason women tend to be less visible in mainstream entertainment is because of the subjects it covers. There are, of course, good stories about home, family life, and relationships, but most dramas take place on a larger scale: They are stories about war, politics, law, money, etc. Because women are so poorly represented in those worlds, they’re necessarily poorly represented in fictional stories about them.
Note that I’m not saying women shouldn’t have lives outside of home and relationships, or that we don’t or shouldn’t care about larger-scale issues. I’m just saying that until very recently—within my own lifetime, in fact—few women even had jobs outside the home, so most stories set anywhere but home simply wouldn’t have included them except as a way to establish the male lead’s personal life.
For generations, men simply didn’t “see” many women outside of domestic and sexual contexts in the real world, so it didn’t occur to them to include many of them in their stories. Traditionally, men had only a few women in their lives with whom they had anything but fleeting contact, so the only time women appeared in larger-world stories was within those roles: mother, lover, wife, child. In every other aspect of a man’s life, he was surrounded by other men. Most male writers therefore wouldn’t have even thought to include women in other roles; women were simply invisible to them. Women outside the home would’ve been a novelty, and therefore if they were included in those roles, it would’ve been as a plot point, not just as part of the mix of secondary and tertiary characters and background players.
(Interestingly, this applies even though so many women worked during WWII: The men were all off fighting, and when they got home, women gave up their jobs. Outside of a rare few military women, and a few younger women earning a living while they waited to get a husband, those soldiers just never directly saw many women in the workplace, so it still wouldn’t have seemed natural to them.)
A perfect example of this is Tolkien. In his culture, women represented marriage and children, and everything else in life was almost entirely men. He did of course feel love for his wife, but generally speaking, women didn’t exist in his world outside of her. It’s therefore not surprising that his stories have few women, and most of the ones who do exist play roles related to romantic love, home, and family. The two exceptions are Galadriel and Eowyn. The former fits a queen archetype—one of the few real-world contexts in which Tolkien would’ve regularly seen women—and the latter gets a story because she rejects the world of women in favor of the world of men. (It’s also implied that she makes this choice because she’s mentally maladjusted; once the war is over and everything’s fine again, she settles down with Faramir and goes back to her “normal” role as a woman.)
Yes, of course there have always been women existing alongside men in the world outside the home, but in the Western world in the modern era, they have been the exception, not the rule. A few girls and young women got to go on adventures before they got married and had children—and therefore we do see stories about such—but once those kids come along, women’s adventuring days are over. Until very recently, with delayed childbearing and the ready availability of childcare, women older than ~30 who weren’t too busy with their kids to go out and play with the boys were basically unicorns. (There is something to be said here about gender, class, and domestic labor in general, but I’ll leave that for another post.)
All that said: Davis is right that storytellers can and should choose to do better than the real world. At the very least, we’re responsible for representing the proportion of women as it is in the 21st century, not as we remember it from our more gender-segregated childhoods, but we should also do better than that. Just as visibility increases acceptance for LGBTs, people of color, and other marginalized groups, it’s the same with women outside of traditional contexts. The more women warriors, judges, cops, astronauts, chemists, professors, senators we see in our stories, the less jarring—and therefore upsetting to people who dislike change—it will be to see more women in those roles in the real world.
People who prefer the status quo, because they find the presence of non-straight-white-dudes in “their” worlds a threat to their unearned dominance will naturally resist changing how they write to help change the world for the better. Therefore, those of us who do want to see that change are going to have to work extra hard to balance them out. Simply putting more women in our stories—all over our stories—is the least we can do.
It’s not just about showing more sex from a woman’s perspective. It’s about who has the right to be turned on
I like this, but I think it states something kinda obvious: that mainstream entertainment is made by straight (white, cis, etc.) men, for straight men. Any elements that might have interest to other demographics are more or less incidental, and—this is important—they are almost always done in a way that won’t upset the dudes.
Like it or not, even if they’re not a majority population, dudes have the lion’s share of economic and political power; no-one making any wide-distribution product of any kind, including entertainment, can afford to risk alienating them. Even products that are specifically made for other people are packaged and marketed in a way that won’t upset the dudes. (Why else would tampon packaging be so “discreet?”) In order to change things, marginalized demographics don’t just have to prove that we’re worth serving; the men at the top of the power heap have to prove that they’re not going to disappear if their comfort isn’t being adequately accounted for, and progress that direction has been slow. It’s been proven time and again that other demographics can and will watch things that aren’t inclusive of them, but the reverse just isn’t true, yet, at least not in a way significant enough to be considered in business decisions.
In terms of mainstream movies and TV, that means we’re just not going to see more than a few minutes here and there of men’s sexualized bodies being portrayed in ways that appeal to straight/bi women and/or queer men. However many of us they may attract with such things, we’re counterbalanced by the risk of losing the guys who find such portrayals uncomfortable. Sure, we get a lot of shirtless muscle boys and such, and we do find them droolworthy, but if you notice: they’re almost always portrayed in a way in which the dudes can imagine them as avatars for themselves, so they don’t feel either left out or put in a submissive position. To do so would be to risk losing them as audience, and when you’re talking about things with such huge budgets, that’s simply not a risk they can take. Studios are in business to make money, not social change. They’re not going to piss on their most-lucrative demo just because the rest of us are tired of being ignored.
As other demographics gain real-world power, we are finally becoming more attractive target markets. But instead of incorporating the needs and wants of these customers into the creation and marketing of mainstream products in a way that might alienate the dudes, we’re just seeing more niche-market products, created and distributed in such a way that dudes can avoid them.
A perfect example of this is the LEGO Friends debacle: Instead of getting more girls and women in LEGO sets, we got boxes of pink and purple ones, shelved well away from the rest of the product line. Girls get the illusion that they’re being served, while boys don’t have to deal with the discomfort of having girls in “their” space. No doubt some people think that such targeted, exclusive products are a good thing for marginalized groups—hey, we have something that’s just for us!—but when you realize that they make stuff this way to avoid having to integrate us with the guys who rule the world, the shine kinda comes off. There’s no progress in having a room of our own if the rest of the house is still off-limits to us.
If, then, we’re being underserved because of the risk of losing the customers with the most real-world power, how can we change things? Well, we do it in ways that Game of Thrones is doing: We push boundaries, a little at a time, while still giving the dudes enough candy to keep them around.
To be clear, GoT has a ton of fail, especially compared with the books, the disproportionate nudity and sexual objectification of women not the least of it. However, it’s also done things we don’t often see in other dude-accommodating media: the m/m sex scenes for instance, or the dick shots. And of course the wealth of well-developed female characters shouldn’t be downplayed. I don’t like the pointless sexposition (though did you notice there was a lot less of it this season?) but if it’s keeping dudes in front of their screens so they can also get some exposure to things outside their usual comfort zone, then so be it. The more they realize their dicks aren’t going to fall off if they see a non-sexualized warrior woman in real armor, or Loras and Renly getting it on, the more of those scenes they’re going to tolerate in the future. And the more they tolerate it in entertainment, the more they’re going to deal with it in the real world, too.
Women who make excuses for/coddle/support the tone arguments of grown-ass adult human beings who are acting like entitled shits: Stop it.
Srsly, folks: none of us needs to patiently explain a godsdamned thing to these dudes. At most, we can just point them in the general direction of th’intarweebs so they can learn for themselves about things like privilege and consent. Any dude who demands that you personally engage with him to explain these things has no intention of actually learning from you. He just wants to own your bandwidth like he wants to own everything else. He wants your attention, not your wisdom.
By all means, talk to people who have honest questions about fine details. That’s how we all learn and grow. But the 101-level stuff? Unless the dude just got shoved through an anomaly from 1910 or has other, legit barriers to self-education, don’t take that bait. You’ll only encourage him to pull the same shit with others.
Anyone who thinks women are less sexual than men has obviously never been on Tumblr or Ao3.
When you think about it …
… it’s kind of horrible that a woman in her default, unadorned state—no makeup or jewelry, unshaven, in comfortable clothes and with a simple hairstyle—is often considered to be something other than a woman. We give her different names—butch or tomboy—or suggest that she might actually be a transman. We have so essentialized these artificial things as “feminine” that women who are disinterested in them or question their prescriptive nature—or worse, actively reject and challenge them—are actually called misogynist.
Personally, I identify as genderqueer because my sense of who I am treads further into the things my culture arbitrarily labels “masculne” than mere disinterest in being decorative as defined by the cosmetics and fashion industries. But women who identify as women shouldn’t be pressured into identifying otherwise—much less accused of being sexist!—just because they don’t groom and adorn themselves in artificial, commodified ways.
A woman who doesn’t want to play dress up has not ceased being a woman. And a man who does has not ceased being a man. Just as the presence or absence of a penis does not define gender identity, neither does the presence or absence of makeup or shaved legs.
Singer of classical stuffs.
Shameless fanthing.Queer/Genderqueer. Feminist. Progressive. Gen X. Northwest snob. Journalist and media-deconstruction nerd. Happily married and an adoptive parent of a most excellent little boy. Endless pontificator on topics both sublime and ridiculous. Expect both breathless pop-culture squee and wordy rageflails about social justice.
My "home" fandom is Primeval, but these days I'm most heavily into Vikings, Game of Thrones and Arrow. Check my fandoms masterlist to see the other stuff I usually post about. If it has a kickass chick, a charming rogue, and/or an adorkable nerd in it, I probably like it.
I'm an incurable OT3 shipper, particularly of the alpha male/beta male/alpha female flavor, but I ship some pairs, too (het, slash and femslash.) See my ship list for details.
I don't have much time to make fanworks these days, but I have a few fics up on AO3 and some vids on YouTube (under Talea100.)
Fun fact: I had crushes on both C-3P0 and Data.