09 September, 2011

Amanda Hocking, sexism, and men.

Amanda Hocking is my new best friend. She totally deserves a cupcake!

I stumbled upon her blog because she is an epublishing phenom, linked to in a number of articles on epublishing that I have started reading about today. On the left side of her blog is her most popular posts, at least five of which I have read already. And I feel like she is a kindred spirit, even though I do not currently have time to write fiction.

And I'm looking over her blog, mostly trying to skip to the part where I find the RSS feed, which is probably at the bottom. And I haven't gotten to the bottom even yet, but I have to stop that almost holy quest to comment on a great and fairly recent blog post, where she is commenting on a blog post she read recently:

Is it the Books?: I read this blog the other day: The Problem Isn't the Books I really think you should read it, mostly because it's interesting, but also because...

I haven't followed her suggestion to read the grandaddy (or great gdaddy) blog post to this blog post, because this question is one I've been thinking about for a couple of years. Ever since I heard of the Bechdel Test, I don't know how long ago.

This is the question of "how sexist is popular, fictionalized media?".

According to the Bechdel test, it is VERY skewed. It's hard for me to think of 5 or six movies that pass the Bechdel test, except technically. And I do not care.

If you haven't heard of it, the Bechdel test comes from Alison Bechdel's hilarious comic Dykes to Watch Out For. She got this rule from a friend, and has a character or three who will only watch a movie if it:

(a) Has two women in it who

(b) Talk to each other

(c) About something other than a man

Now I do not want to run down this set of criteria! I do not object to them. The only two movies I did see this year (from the list at bechdeltest.com), Thor and Friends with Benefits, both pass.

Wait. No. I tell a lie. I didn't see FWB, I saw No Strings Attached, which apparently fails, though I can remember part of a conversation about depression which was avoiding the subject of that man very carefully. Both this and Thor earn a 'technical' pass, which is a little pejorative, if you ask me. It's a pass-fail test.

Very fun movies! I would totally watch them again, and maybe I'll go see FWB sometime too.

Maybe all of my most favorite movies of all time pass. But I don't know, or care. (And trying to figure it out based on my limited examination of the website above, or my own, apparently faulty memory, seems like a job and a half.)

I have been thinking about men and the possibility that many of them share a competitive spirit for a while now.

Making movies the way you want them is one of the rewards of succeeding in a very competitive industry.

If I ever have as as much success as the men and women making movies which do not pass the Bechdel test (many of which I presume I heartily enjoy) have earned, I'll want to make the kind of movie I really enjoy, too.

Now on the subject of competitive spirits, almost everybody has some of this. I feel like some heterosexual men are exploring this side of themselves to greater effect than most other kinds of people.

This spirit has a playful side. Yay, let's all play together!

And it has a competitive side. I want to win some/most/all of the time.

Is this competitive spirit more innate to men, or more encouraged in men? I don't care. I've got plenty of my own, and I have never felt much suppression of that FROM men. My experience here may be unique. Who knows.

The article Amanda is commenting on is about the supposed lack of “... good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or ­offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become.”

Which is totally bullshit. There are plenty of GREAT works that are inviting boys to examine their aspirations as men, and as people. Plenty of them, as Amanda and someone else point out, even have a male protagonist. And author.

Which is apparently the issue, because a male protagonist is supposedly neutral - a joy for anyone to read. And a female protagonist is dismissed as chick lit. Perhaps by the boys who should be reflecting on what kinds of men they want to become. (Definitely by a whole lot of the commentary on books and film industries. Which is actually sexist and I mostly ignore, since I know when I am on to a good thing.)

I know teenage boys, and it would not surprise me at all that most of them would prefer to figure out how to become a good man from something another man does or says or writes. And I do not care why they prefer it.

I do want them to get over dismissing girly things as somehow 'lesser', someday. It seems like a normal stage of development, somewhere in the development of identity. I don't know if it is natural, or cultural. It's just very wearing in grown men. And women.

As a daughter, separated since before birth from her regular access to her own father, and being a little to very confused, on some profound levels, about what makes a good man until just about very recently, I am also not surprised, or saddened, that boys might learn more about manhood from actual men.

If they can't figure out what it takes to be a good man without positive (or negative) examples from their own lives, or from popular fiction and media skewed to a male-centric Point of View, by all means, let's keep bringing it on.

I get to enjoy both parts--a society hopefully filled with good men, and tons of quality entertainment.

Sexism in criticism of popular media is a different serious problem. Other people are doing a great job covering it, and it is not one I care a great deal about. Obviously.

If I literally start getting dismissed as chick lit, someday, hopefully no more than about two to 5 years from now, I will probably sing a different tune. One of the many evils of prosperity that I can not wait to be suffering from!

I am absolutely no critic of those covering sexist attitudes towards women's work, in traditionally male roles or even in traditionally female roles. Hard work is hard work, no matter who is doing it, and good work should be judged as good work, no matter who is doing it. Try to avoid self-deception on this topic, critics.

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