Monthly Archives: July, 2014

Feminist Friday: Everything You Should Have Read This Week

This isn’t LadyNews, or SheNews, or Newsita. These are just good, interesting stories that happen to be about women.

Marvel Comics Writers Explain Why They’re Making Thor a Woman“If we can accept Thor as a frog and a horse-faced alien, we should be able to accept a woman.” Yes. Done. Seriously, calm the fuck down nerds.  While I have a loose connection to the comic industry, and therefore a tangential interest (My husband works at Marvel and we have approximately one gabillion comics in our apartment), I don’t pretend to know or have strong feelings about character history. Still, the swiftness of both subtle and overt sexism was enough to give even the casual observer whiplash. From the expected “Lady Thor” headlines (to which Marvel executive director Ryan Penagos responded perfectly):

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To the unsurprising but still disgusting comments like this gem from someone who calls himself  Werx Beasting: “this shit is stupid and sexist. stop fuckin wit the boys shit. we need our heroes too. not everything in america has to appeal to bitches.” The flurry of Internet outrage held people’s attention for a few hours on Tuesday they way the World Cup did last week.

 

The story that resonated with me most this week was What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name by Molly Caro on Hairpin. I wrote very briefly about my decision to not change my last name on my wedding planning blog a few years ago. Keeping your own name after marriage is something that  I’ve always viewed it as not surprising or controversial or a big deal. But it’s a topic that I’ve been surprised has come up for me personally quite frequently in the short time I’ve been married and probably deserves further cultural discussion. Caro’s article hits on a lot of those points about the patriarchal norms that even open-mind people unquestionably subscribe to, as well as the real meaning and message of a person’s surname. For example:

Surnames are one of the unseen limbs of the old world. Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.

I would never advocate for all children having their mother’s last names. But imagine if 50% them did. Imagine the social impact on our collective unconscious. It would be a movement requiring no money, no lobbying, no elbow grease. It’s a choice anyone of any background can make—harder for some, I know. And our naming system would actually be diverse. No one gender would occupy it.

People might say these are small peanuts, but language is never small. Language shapes how we view things before we even know we are viewing them. How we name something determines how we value it. If women’s last names are consistently absent from history, never passed down, then where is their—our—value?

 

Nathan Rabin wrote the article “I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” on Salon. He first used the term in an essay on Elizabethtown in 2007 and of course now it’s part of the cultural lexicon. The article is about how the phase has taken on a life of it’s own. He says:

  It’s an archetype that taps into a particular male fantasy: of being saved from depression and ennui by a fantasy woman who sweeps in like a glittery breeze to save you from yourself, then disappears once her work is done.

I feel deeply weird, if not downright ashamed, at having created a cliché that has been trotted out again and again in an infinite Internet feedback loop. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to …call for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness.

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Other Feminist Must Reads This Week:

That last article inspired me to start up my own feminist zine (I had a very short-lived zine in high school read by just me, but I’m excited to re-boot an indie, analog idea as an adult with a lot more publishing experience). More on that to come.

What did I miss? If I missed any feminist must reads this week, please share! (You can also share must reads that aren’t inherently feminist)