What Feminism Isn’t: Myth #3

March 12th, 2019

And here’s yet another common myth about feminism that’s due to be debunked:

3) Feminism Isn’t Lionizing Women

At a film fest several months back, I enjoyed a spirited dinner in the company of a male film critic, a male film director and a female producer. The men were discussing a film neither the producer nor I had seen, debating whether or not said film was “sexist.” The critic suggested it was not only sexist but borderline misogynistic, attributing its mean-spirited portrayal of the female protagonists as vicious and remorseless serial killers. The director argued that the very fact that these women were behaving in ways we usually only see men behave—i.e. violent, brutal and, yep, masculine—was precisely what made the film feminist. The producer and I sighed in unison. Both men were missing the point.

Without having seen the film, I felt certain from this discussion it was not one I’d be quick to consider FEMINIST-FRIENDLY and not because the female characters came across as brutal or violent, but because it sounds like this film violates Myth #2 (Feminism is not about Gender-Swapping.) But let’s consider why the critic equated sexism with the portrayal of a reprehensible female character. It’s a common misconception that hails from absent voices in cinema and television—oh, yeah, and racism.

Watch a pre-1980s flick or TV show with a body count and who’s bound to be the first victim? You know it as well as I do, the Black dude! On the cop shows, who was the drug dealer, the thief, the felon? Why, the swarthy minority, of course! The scapegoat, the unflattering throwaway role was too often relegated to society’s most oppressed.

Nice system, eh? Blame the victim.

Then the general populace got semi-woke by realizing, “Hey, maybe we should chill with all this nasty racist typecasting.” Since then, many writers and filmmakers have been afraid to cast minorities, especially African Americans, in unflattering roles for fear they’ll be labeled racists.

Once again, people are missing the point.

If we only see women and minorities in the same unfavorable roles time and time again, of course there’s bias, because we see no other representation of members from these communities. But the answer isn’t to take away all unflattering roles. Rather, we need to balance them out with a wider variety of three-dimensional roles to better represent genuine human diversity. After all, heroes and antagonists (and everybody in between) come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, genders and creeds.

So, please remember: feminism is not about being good, bad, admirable or deplorable. It’s not about putting women on pedestals. It’s about every woman’s right to be a first class citizen, to have the same right as a man to choose how she’s going to behave. Because, believe it or not, “bad girls” can be feminists, too.

Next Up: What Feminism Isn’t Myth #4




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