"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Friday, March 16, 2007

Feminist Lenses and Pop Culture

I've often thought about the fact that once one becomes aware of the issues involved in feminism, it's hard to look at the world without seeing it through the lenses that feminism offers up. This comes through in all sorts of ways, but one way that it's most apparent for me is in pop culture. Once you start noticing misogyny and the like in popular culture, it's hard to miss. (There are those who might claim that feminists look for it where it doesn't exist, I suppose, but that's a different topic.) More and more I'm unable to, say, watch a movie or read a book without sort of automatically filing things away under "sexist" and "patriarchal"--and various other categories.

Last night we went to see "300". This is a new-ish movie based on a comic book by Frank Miller. Miller is hit or miss for me, definitely, and the more of his older stuff that gets made into movies (Sin City, for example), the more it seems like it won't stand the test of time. But I expected 300 to be an interesting movie, and it was. Visually it was pretty intricate, I thought. But at the same time, it was really, really hard to not critique its portrayal of women (or a woman, really, since there were few women characters) as things went along. Sure, the Queen is a strong woman who stands up to various men, and is somehow first in her husband's heart--and yet her strength pretty much only comes from her alligience with her husband, and her loyalty to him. Maybe that's what society was like in Sparta, but I'm not talking about historical accuracy here--it's silly to expect historical accuracy from 300, and I don't think that's what the makers were aiming at anyway. What counts is the story and the concepts involved. The movie pushes hard on notions of democracy and reason (troublesome notions that it portrays mostly as not troublesome) and the like--but it doesn't push very hard on traditional roles for women as wives and mothers first, and as people second.

So when people ask me if I like a movie, there's always this hesitation, because there is almost always a caveat or three. And while this fact is hardly a heavy cross to bear, it still sort of creates a cloud over everything for me--it's tougher to enjoy stuff when it's got some of these problems.

On the other hand, as a movie that portrays various masculinities and problems therein, it's an embarrassment of riches. Perhaps a post about that stuff (which is not unrelated to the misogyny, of course) will be forthcoming. But what really gets to me is that these lenses just won't go away. It's good that they won't--I wouldn't want to become complacent about things, or to hide in some feigned ignorance, but still, it's sometimes tiresome to have to feel this way about most of pop culture, as well as culture in general.
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