Thursday, April 12, 2012

This is More Than a Comment

I started to respond to Mojourner in the comments, but - no - this goes right up in a post.


Wasn't on.  I've actually been contemplating the precipitous backslide of feminism for a while now, and I'm not the only one who sees it.

Sure, Free to Be You & Me is a weak example - but the point is, when I was coming up, even way back in the dark ages of the 1970s, in a Southern Baptist home, in the morass of beautiful downtown White Flight suburbia, the stone-age exposures I had to pop culture were FAR more enlightened than "The Bachelorette" and rather terrifying swaths of the YA urban fantasy lit now utterly saturating the populace.  As an agent I really like said a year and a half ago, "the boobs are getting smaller" ... but female characters in the vast majority of entertainment today are NOT what they used to be.

Even as recently as the 1990s, women - actual, human women (and not even all of them milky white) - were allowed to make money making music.  Now even the supposedly "edgy" ones (Gaga) conform to the blond, radically thin, porcelain-skinned model pioneered by Britney when she was a pedophile's delight.

Look at a movie made in the 1970s and just the physical appearance of the women alone is a revelation - but the characters written back then are almost alien today.  Sex was something they participated in - it wasn't imposed upon them - and it wasn't something they imposed upon those around them, either.  These days, there isn't a female character in television, movies, or "reality" TV who isn't using sex in one way or another - to that exhausting, inevitable end:  proving that women are either evil sexbots - or useless, decaying flesh.  The evil sexbot might well be appealingly drawn.  But it's a detestable and seriously tiresome cliche' I frankly didn't have to grow up with.

Yes, female characters have been "drawn that way" for millenia now.  Even the early Church's hysteria about feminine sexuality and its resultant He Man Women Hater's (and rather drawn out; it took centuries) decision to refuse priests the right to wives was a reactionary stance strictly by gender.  BUT.  When I was growing up, that was not the ONLY available model of femininity.  Love her or hate her, even "Maude" was an option once upon a time.

Now, though, there's Sullen Teenage Girl, the character whose life is utterly empty but for the empty veins of her chilly and much-aged vampire/boyfriend.  There are the "boobs getting a bit smaller" heroines of games, none of whom presents as a human woman ever really could.  There's "The Bachelorette" and every pneumatic, "perfect" girl hawking her body (erm, music) and a culture glorifying adolescent cat-fighting and vanity the likes of which even I can't hold a candle to.

I have never cared for Madonna - and she's become the very icon of everything I'm complaining about, as well as a hilarious travesty to boot - but in 1983, that girl had a gap in her teeth, armpit hair, and a belly on her.  At least she looked like a *person* - and still approximated that financial bonanza people equate with success.  Belinda Carlisle got a lot of flack 25 years ago for not being a stick - but she had a career (and, I doubt, ever got a boob job either).  Beautiful, talented women who weren't peroxided nor stamped with makeup straight out of Playboy magazine, standardized, sanitized, all vestige of talent rendered irrelevant before the almighty corporate trends of "sexy" and "perfect".  Melissa Etheridge could not get a break today, period.  And those years I was talking about, in the 90s? - when PJ Harvey and all those alterna-GRRLS who had something to say beyond "please observe my appearance" - are over.  I don't know when I've caught sight of an American performer whose own raw gifts could really overcome anything so important as the package she's served in.  (Yeah, yeah, Adele is doing well - and she has a curve, yes.  But Adele is already pissing people off due to oversaturation, and those curves of hers still come packaged in highly calculated vintage style, perfect false eyelashes, and a creamy envelope of beautiful skin so luminous a camera still adores her.  Holler at me when a woman comes on the scene who is homely by current telegenic standards, but whose assets and training are more luminous than that skin.  Particularly if she is not extremely pale, no matter her race.)

Holler at me, for that matter, when you see a female police officer, attorney, or actual romantic lead who has a waistline above 24 inches ... or an ID indicating she was born before the 80s.  Who has something more to say than platitudes or pining admiration for some man, or (worst of all) self sacrificing paeans of martyrdom which mouth a writer's cause, not a character's.  I have grown pretty sick of the self-martyring female character.


I need to go mow the grass, so I"m posting this while my thoughts are still roiling.  But still.  Keep on thinking for me.  And I'm not stopping either.

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