That’s right. Today is not only International Women’s Day, but Blog Against Sexism Day – and it’s not over yet, so I can still slip in under the wire, because do you know how awful it would be to blog against sexism on the wrong day? That’s right, if we went off blogging about sexism more than one day of the year, women would start to feel like they “deserved to have equal rights” (Thanks Conservapedia! (via Twisty Faster)).
There are actually many women out there already blogging about this much better than I will. Here are links to just a few of them:
If it hasn’t been mentioned before, Shrub has a very good primer on privilege for men. There are also some great posts from a few good men out there. Please link to more blogs by men or women in the comments. Link it up against sexism!
I’ve been thinking lately about my position of privilege – the first tenet of which is “I don’t have to care or even notice that my privilege exists, so please don’t bring it up or I’ll get defensive.” It’s the first part that I’ve been thinking about, because not getting defensive (not reacting negatively) is much easier than acting positively in the first place. And it’s not radical to boot. No golden stars for that.
I do theatre. I write and direct plays. Theatre and the movies are historically radical on all issues except one. This one. Oh, theatre will talk tough about sexism, but take a look under the hood and you’ll see us reflecting the same patriarchal hierarchies, the same crap roles for women, and a lot of sexual harassment disguised as ‘sexual liberation’ and ‘post-PC’, because we’re beyond sexism, us men, and we’d rather not talk about it any more.
As men we dominate the writing, and we write about ourselves (like this!), and we hire other men to direct our work, and since we’ve written about men, it’s men who get hired to act and men who rule the stage. Sure, there are some women – the wives, the daughters, the femme fatal, the “prize” – all the women that need to be there for the men to lust and fight over. Surprisingly, all these stage women ever talk about is men.
And I’ve been doing the same thing under this guise, which just came to light for me as the silliness it is: Characters in plays are weak, otherwise the play isn’t interesting. I know I’m not supposed to write weak women, and therefor I won’t put women into my plays unless I “need them” to fulfill some purpose. It’s brilliant, except it plays right into the problem that’s already there. It assumes, again, that men are the default and women are the extra. It also assumes that “a strong women” is perfect and free from all faults. What we need isn’t more plays full of robot women. What we need is plays with real, interesting, three dimensional women with minds of their own – the weak and the strong. What we need is simply more, different representations of women on stage. [And don’t even get me started on who’s responsibility that is. Hint: You don’t get to ignore millennia of oppression just because it wasn’t your idea.]
I just finished writing my first full play with a female protagonist, and it took way too much poking and prodding from women I know for me to do it. I love the play, and the women who pushed me to write it. Thank you, and I’m sorry.
[And here’s something else: That’s nothing. All I’ve done there is stopped oppressing in one small way. That should be assumed, not praised. Oh well. I guess culture and I still have a ways to go on this one. Thanks again to all the women who are pushing us on it and keeping us honest.]
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Unfortunately, a lot of the labels people throw around have baggage and connotative power. “Feminist” is no exception. If the first thing that pops into a person’s head when they hear “feminist” is raving bra-burning lesbians, much work has yet to be done.
If it’s hard to picture “feminist” coming across that way, try this: what do you think of when I say the word “vegan”?
How do we fix this? Do we ditch labels and just talk about the issues, or do we try to clean up the labels? To an extent, I think we need labels because it helps reduce the overload on our brains. I simply don’t know what a label-less world would look like. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t exist… or that it would be better than the world we have now.
“Surprisingly, all these stage women ever talk about is men.”
You should come to an all-female gathering. :-) We do talk about men, but not exclusively. I’m guessing male-female relationship issues are 40 percent of what I hear (straight) females talking about with other females.
unlike theatre, i’m sure we can all agree that competitive sports have certainly remained free of sexism. here’s an interesting story from NPR: men face ban from women’s practice squads