October 30th, 2008


riding that lady horse again

So, this post about female characters is being linked around, and while it's interesting and informative and clever, it leaves me somewhat dissatisfied.

Here's the thing. I don't believe you can fully grasp the issue of why there is so much dislike of and dissatisfaction with fictional women until you acknowledge that sexism and misogyny influence everyone. Not just the creators in making limited, stereotypical, flat characters, and not just the audience in rejecting so many female characters. Just because you love an author doesn't mean he can't fuck up and unconsciously let some unfortunate attitudes slip into his character construction, and just because we are supposedly Enlightened Fans does not magically make us free of the mental lens of sexism.

It is a fact that far too many female characters are hampered by authors (sometimes male, sometimes female) putting them in unfairly sexist situations, stereotyping them, defining them by their sexuality, using them as props to build up the male characters, and in general seeing them as women rather than characters. Yes, even now.

It is also a fact that female characters are consistently held to higher standards than male characters, and often arbitrary ones at that. Male characters are rarely judged on whether they fall on the "proper" place on the personality spectrum between aggressive and nurturing. Only self-proclaimed moral guardians complain if they're "bad role models," and then only if the canon in question is aimed at children. If they have a romantic subplot and it's not well-received, they're not likely to be the one taking the blame from fandom (and even if they do, the girl will almost certainly take some heat too, and the reverse is not true). They're less likely to be criticized by fandom for their sexuality. Male characters are not judged as representatives of their entire gender--although of course this is in part because they're almost never intended as representatives of their entire gender.

Your favorite series and its creators don't get a "get out of jail free" card for sexism. Neither do you.