Femininity vs. Femininism: Writing "Strong female characters"

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huLSdm6IH0g

I post the video above because it posits the argument I want to make in a more dynamic and cohesive fashion than I can through text alone. If you don't want to watch the video:

Essentially, I've felt for awhile that even among progressive people concerned with the presence of "strong female characters" in media, "strong" is more often than not shorthand for possessing qualities or taking actions that are coded masculine. Use of weapons is one (think Katniss and Merrida's bows). A tomboy demeanor is another. So instead, we get a lot of "Not like other girls"-ism where the Aryas are juxtaposed against and elevated from the Sansas like in Game of Thrones because the former is "badass" while the latter "likes pretty dresses". When such a writer attempts to "strengthen" a Sansa, it's usually via a hardening incident (in this instance and often, rape) in order to position them to take more masculine actions such as revenge through violence. Ultimately, femininity is framed as a weakness to be overcome.

All of this is especially odd to me not simply because feminists seem to fall for this dichotomy, but because a central premise of "Western" canon as a whole ostensibly centers around what could be considered a rejection of masculine traits (e.g. violent tendencies) in favor of feminine traits like meekness and compassion: Christianity.

To open the discussion to the class, how should a writer straddle the line between not making a character merely acted upon while not framing passivity as an inherent negative?

Masculinity is what's valued and get's shit done. It's what we value. This isn't a terribly difficult thing to see.

Writing hack:

if you have more than one or two female characters that survive the entire movie your possibilities expand as you dont have to have one female character be everything to everyone

Dazzle Novak:
To open the discussion to the class, how should a writer straddle the line between not making a character merely acted upon while not framing passivity as an inherent negative?

That whole "Strong female characters" was never about letting weak and passive womens shine. It was always about challanging the notion that weakness and passivity are somehow "feminine" and that "solving your problems" is somehow masculine.

Also, bows are considered traditional feminine weapons in certain cultures and tend to be gender neutral elsewhere.

By having them as secondary and tertiary characters. Or by having a focus of the work being on not solving anything.

Because let's face it, non-coerced passivity is largely not a protagonist trait. It's not even really something people look for in fiction because you don't read fiction to read about some numbskull going about her daily routine, you consume it because it has something in it beyond that. Passivity is effectively entropy, and nobody gives a shit about entropy as a central personality trait.

Actually it's an interesting question, as part of our fiction we like the idea of improving the status quo so I can't think of cases that value passivity beyond "surviving".

As for female characters, or characters in general, just have them do things that are not strictly masculine "badass" things to convey they are more than a walking shallow archtype.

Generally, "strong female characters" tend to be lazy writing and it makes for lousy stories. They are the equivalent of the AAA game male protagonists. That said, I wouldn't call Katniss one necessarily, because the author did (as far as I recall) cover the psychological aspects to give the character some dimension.

To answer the question - passivity is a negative in a character. A passive character will never lead the plot, and will struggle to make any meaningful contribution. I think the fact that you are conflating femininity and passivity is kind of the problem there.

Also - "feminine traits like meekness and compassion"? Someone has clearly never been for a night out in Manchester...

I don't buy into the idea that bravery and strength have to be masculine traits, or the idea that women are somehow non-violent by nature. A look at a women's prison will more or less instantly shatter this idea. The "natural non-violence" of women is as much a societal construct as machismo. In truth, humanity is a violent creature, and for creatures without a society, the idea of one geneder being violent while the other is passive doesn't exist. Lionesses and female tigers are just as violent and predatory as their male counterparts. The idea that men and women have to be strong in different ways only serves to entrench gender roles. If there was no social stigma towards women acting in a "masculine" way or men acting in a "feminine", those words would stop having any meaning and society would be better for it. If men could be more sensitive and women could be more direct and confrontational, both would suffer less emotional damage overall. Restricting emotions and behaviours to gender hurts men and women equally

Catnip1024:
Generally, "strong female characters" tend to be lazy writing and it makes for lousy stories. They are the equivalent of the AAA game male protagonists. That said, I wouldn't call Katniss one necessarily, because the author did (as far as I recall) cover the psychological aspects to give the character some dimension.

To answer the question - passivity is a negative in a character. A passive character will never lead the plot, and will struggle to make any meaningful contribution. I think the fact that you are conflating femininity and passivity is kind of the problem there.

Also - "feminine traits like meekness and compassion"? Someone has clearly never been for a night out in Manchester...

I agree. While i found it kind of dull when reading it at age 12, in hindsight i think it was a good idea to have the last chapter just be about Katniss spending the rest of her life dealing with the mental trauma she suffered from everything she went through, plus she didn't learn to fight to become a soldier or fight in the games, but for the simple reason of not wanting her family to starve.

Satinavian:
That whole "Strong female characters" was never about letting weak and passive womens shine. It was always about challanging the notion that weakness and passivity are somehow "feminine" and that "solving your problems" is somehow masculine.

Also, bows are considered traditional feminine weapons in certain cultures and tend to be gender neutral elsewhere.

The fact a large component of their identity is centered around a weapon and it's used to distinguish them from "traditional" Disney princesses/female characters is more the point than the specific connotations of said weapon.

My issue would be one of over-correction: while asserting that women can have positive traits which have often been unfairly coded as "masculine", traits which traditionally have read "feminine" have remained as negative examples. In Game of Thrones, for example, Arya responds to Tywin's comment that he thought girls were only interested in "pretty maidens" by saying "Most girls are idiots." How is this not misogynistic? How is the implication not "only women interested in what men deem valid are worthy of consideration" even if the intent is to highlight that Arya is well-read and learned? It's "Cool Girl" syndrome: "I'm like one of the guys! I like beer and football. I don't even really get along with other girls."

In fiction, and in real-life, it's treated as a zero-sum game when it's not. Aryas and Sansas can both be valid. This isn't even mentioning how the show takes "Might makes right" as an inexorable law (therefore, Sansa is dumb, naive, and useless) while the novels are arcing toward a more democratic power dynamic where Sansa's "passive" trait of being empathetic and reading people will be very useful from a political angle. Possibly moreso than Arya's stabby-stabby-ninja fetish.

All in all, it just seems a very limiting lens through which to frame fiction that a character's worth is directly proportional to their ability to affect change.

Redryhno:
By having them as secondary and tertiary characters. Or by having a focus of the work being on not solving anything.

Because let's face it, non-coerced passivity is largely not a protagonist trait. It's not even really something people look for in fiction because you don't read fiction to read about some numbskull going about her daily routine, you consume it because it has something in it beyond that. Passivity is effectively entropy, and nobody gives a shit about entropy as a central personality trait.

I'm glad you specified "non-coerced" passivity. What I'm arguing for is either coerced passivity or a passive character put into a dynamic situation. For example, Sarah Connor wasn't always a badass. In the first movie, she's a regular waitress thrust into a dangerous conflict. And though she would ultimately become a badass later, the resolution of the first movie doesn't hinge on her being removed of her initial "passive" characteristics. Admittedly, it requires a more proactive secondary character to do the action-hero lifting, which supports your point (albeit in inverse).

Catnip1024:
Generally, "strong female characters" tend to be lazy writing and it makes for lousy stories. They are the equivalent of the AAA game male protagonists. That said, I wouldn't call Katniss one necessarily, because the author did (as far as I recall) cover the psychological aspects to give the character some dimension.

To answer the question - passivity is a negative in a character. A passive character will never lead the plot, and will struggle to make any meaningful contribution. I think the fact that you are conflating femininity and passivity is kind of the problem there.

Also - "feminine traits like meekness and compassion"? Someone has clearly never been for a night out in Manchester...

What about the plot of 12 Years A Slave? A plot where the main character is forced into a situation where he must be passive because action is gravely penalized and that's the point of the story. It seems to me that the critique that Cinderella is too passive to be a role model, despite Disney himself calling her his personal role model and the story being allegorical to his slow rise to fame, is like complaining 12 Years A Slave doesn't end the same way Django Unchained does. I mean, Solomon had to wait for some handsome white guy to rescue him too, right?

And no, I don't personally conflate passivity with femininity, which I'll clarify to the user beneath you, but I'm aware that's how many others correlate the terms. For example, when men (let me use Bill Maher as a specific example) complain about the "feminizing" of society, it's fairly obvious they're piling proactive traits under the banner of "male" and passive ones under "female."

inu-kun:
Actually it's an interesting question, as part of our fiction we like the idea of improving the status quo so I can't think of cases that value passivity beyond "surviving".

As for female characters, or characters in general, just have them do things that are not strictly masculine "badass" things to convey they are more than a walking shallow archtype.

This actually touches on what I'm trying to get at. I'm not trying to get rid of proactive "punch the status quo away" approaches to storytelling; I'm simply arguing that there are other barometers by which a story/plot can be interpreted and many positive characters get shafted and dismissed if judged by the wrong one.

For example, the entire point of Ulysses by Jame Joyce is portraying a Greek epic story in terms of introspection and compassion. The heroism there is being kind and not being a dick, yet if framed by "Strong Female Character" ethics, Leopold Bloom is weak. A literal cuck, I dare say.

CyanCat47:
I don't buy into the idea that bravery and strength have to be masculine traits, or the idea that women are somehow non-violent by nature. A look at a women's prison will more or less instantly shatter this idea. The "natural non-violence" of women is as much a societal construct as machismo. In truth, humanity is a violent creature, and for creatures without a society, the idea of one geneder being violent while the other is passive doesn't exist. Lionesses and female tigers are just as violent and predatory as their male counterparts. The idea that men and women have to be strong in different ways only serves to entrench gender roles. If there was no social stigma towards women acting in a "masculine" way or men acting in a "feminine", those words would stop having any meaning and society would be better for it. If men could be more sensitive and women could be more direct and confrontational, both would suffer less emotional damage overall. Restricting emotions and behaviours to gender hurts men and women equally

I'm taking this generalization for granted because falling into "Well women can be valorous, violent, etc." while accurate is still leaving the flawed premise that to be "feminine" is inherently negative intact. Obviously I don't think only or all women are meek and compassionate or that being honorable is a "man" trait; my point would be that meekness and compassion have their place. Or at least can be reframed favorably. Humility seems a lot more proactive than meekness, for example, despite being pretty similar in result.

But to touch on your point about gender roles, portraying men and women who line up with the traditional gender roles as somehow less than those who stray from it is harmful, too. I don't like macho being coded as "dumb" or "simple-minded and brutish", either, yet that's what's often defaulted to on the path to saying it's okay for men not to be that way. It's the same with women. In their efforts to carve a path for women to take on roles that have traditionally been the realm of men, the narrative requires roles many women choose and naturally fall into like homemaker to be portrayed as a lower rung on the ladder toward sassy female lawyer or whatever.

Well if you want active dynamic female heroes without being violent face beaters, use another heroic archetype. Like make her outwit everyone.

Honestly, if we put this much effort into preening and detailing male characters fiction as a whole would be a lot better. Maybe instead of trying to create the 'perfect' female character, we throw ourselves into making a better man?

Dazzle Novak:

Satinavian:
That whole "Strong female characters" was never about letting weak and passive womens shine. It was always about challanging the notion that weakness and passivity are somehow "feminine" and that "solving your problems" is somehow masculine.

Also, bows are considered traditional feminine weapons in certain cultures and tend to be gender neutral elsewhere.

The fact a large component of their identity is centered around a weapon and it's used to distinguish them from "traditional" Disney princesses/female characters is more the point than the specific connotations of said weapon.

My issue would be one of over-correction: while asserting that women can have positive traits which have often been unfairly coded as "masculine", traits which traditionally have read "feminine" have remained as negative examples. In Game of Thrones, for example, Arya responds to Tywin's comment that he thought girls were only interested in "pretty maidens" by saying "Most girls are idiots." How is this not misogynistic? How is the implication not "only women interested in what men deem valid are worthy of consideration" even if the intent is to highlight that Arya is well-read and learned? It's "Cool Girl" syndrome: "I'm like one of the guys! I like beer and football. I don't even really get along with other girls."

In fiction, and in real-life, it's treated as a zero-sum game when it's not. Aryas and Sansas can both be valid. This isn't even mentioning how the show takes "Might makes right" as an inexorable law (therefore, Sansa is dumb, naive, and useless) while the novels are arcing toward a more democratic power dynamic where Sansa's "passive" trait of being empathetic and reading people will be very useful from a political angle. Possibly moreso than Arya's stabby-stabby-ninja fetish.

All in all, it just seems a very limiting lens through which to frame fiction that a character's worth is directly proportional to their ability to affect change.

Redryhno:
By having them as secondary and tertiary characters. Or by having a focus of the work being on not solving anything.

Because let's face it, non-coerced passivity is largely not a protagonist trait. It's not even really something people look for in fiction because you don't read fiction to read about some numbskull going about her daily routine, you consume it because it has something in it beyond that. Passivity is effectively entropy, and nobody gives a shit about entropy as a central personality trait.

I'm glad you specified "non-coerced" passivity. What I'm arguing for is either coerced passivity or a passive character put into a dynamic situation. For example, Sarah Connor wasn't always a badass. In the first movie, she's a regular waitress thrust into a dangerous conflict. And though she would ultimately become a badass later, the resolution of the first movie doesn't hinge on her being removed of her initial "passive" characteristics. Admittedly, it requires a more proactive secondary character to do the action-hero lifting, which supports your point (albeit in inverse).

Catnip1024:
Generally, "strong female characters" tend to be lazy writing and it makes for lousy stories. They are the equivalent of the AAA game male protagonists. That said, I wouldn't call Katniss one necessarily, because the author did (as far as I recall) cover the psychological aspects to give the character some dimension.

To answer the question - passivity is a negative in a character. A passive character will never lead the plot, and will struggle to make any meaningful contribution. I think the fact that you are conflating femininity and passivity is kind of the problem there.

Also - "feminine traits like meekness and compassion"? Someone has clearly never been for a night out in Manchester...

What about the plot of 12 Years A Slave? A plot where the main character is forced into a situation where he must be passive because action is gravely penalized and that's the point of the story. It seems to me that the critique that Cinderella is too passive to be a role model, despite Disney himself calling her his personal role model and the story being allegorical to his slow rise to fame, is like complaining 12 Years A Slave doesn't end the same way Django Unchained does. I mean, Solomon had to wait for some handsome white guy to rescue him too, right?

And no, I don't personally conflate passivity with femininity, which I'll clarify to the user beneath you, but I'm aware that's how many others correlate the terms. For example, when men (let me use Bill Maher as a specific example) complain about the "feminizing" of society, it's fairly obvious they're piling proactive traits under the banner of "male" and passive ones under "female."

inu-kun:
Actually it's an interesting question, as part of our fiction we like the idea of improving the status quo so I can't think of cases that value passivity beyond "surviving".

As for female characters, or characters in general, just have them do things that are not strictly masculine "badass" things to convey they are more than a walking shallow archtype.

This actually touches on what I'm trying to get at. I'm not trying to get rid of proactive "punch the status quo away" approaches to storytelling; I'm simply arguing that there are other barometers by which a story/plot can be interpreted and many positive characters get shafted and dismissed if judged by the wrong one.

For example, the entire point of Ulysses by Jame Joyce is portraying a Greek epic story in terms of introspection and compassion. The heroism there is being kind and not being a dick, yet if framed by "Strong Female Character" ethics, Leopold Bloom is weak. A literal cuck, I dare say.

CyanCat47:
I don't buy into the idea that bravery and strength have to be masculine traits, or the idea that women are somehow non-violent by nature. A look at a women's prison will more or less instantly shatter this idea. The "natural non-violence" of women is as much a societal construct as machismo. In truth, humanity is a violent creature, and for creatures without a society, the idea of one geneder being violent while the other is passive doesn't exist. Lionesses and female tigers are just as violent and predatory as their male counterparts. The idea that men and women have to be strong in different ways only serves to entrench gender roles. If there was no social stigma towards women acting in a "masculine" way or men acting in a "feminine", those words would stop having any meaning and society would be better for it. If men could be more sensitive and women could be more direct and confrontational, both would suffer less emotional damage overall. Restricting emotions and behaviours to gender hurts men and women equally

I'm taking this generalization for granted because falling into "Well women can be valorous, violent, etc." while accurate is still leaving the flawed premise that to be "feminine" is inherently negative intact. Obviously I don't think only or all women are meek and compassionate or that being honorable is a "man" trait; my point would be that meekness and compassion have their place. Or at least can be reframed favorably. Humility seems a lot more proactive than meekness, for example, despite being pretty similar in result.

But to touch on your point about gender roles, portraying men and women who line up with the traditional gender roles as somehow less than those who stray from it is harmful, too. I don't like macho being coded as "dumb" or "simple-minded and brutish", either, yet that's what's often defaulted to on the path to saying it's okay for men not to be that way. It's the same with women. In their efforts to carve a path for women to take on roles that have traditionally been the realm of men, the narrative requires roles many women choose and naturally fall into like homemaker to be portrayed as a lower rung on the ladder toward sassy female lawyer or whatever.

Myabe because Kinder, Kuche, Kirche is a role which was generally promoted by enforced patriarchy, and were intended to make women think in a collectivistic way in order to prevent them from demanding rights as individuals. Also i definately wouldn't say things like motherhood are portrayed negatively in popular culture, hell the virgin mary was often prayed to more often than god directly in medieval times. Traditional womanhood has been portrayed positively for centuries, but the problem is that the ideal of traditional womandhood was crafted by men in order to exclude them from individualism. From Plato to Jefferson, women were always excluded from philosophies which supposedly enshrined individual freedom. I would say that characters in homemaking roles still have a presence as positively portrayed in today's media. Downton Abbey, Jane Austen, several characters in Game of Thrones, but it can be taken to rather creepy extents when bearing in mind the past and present images of a woman. Take Outlander as an example of this. Claire Beachump is a combat nurse, more knowledgable and brave than any of the highlanders she interacts with, yet as the story progresses she becomes increasingly submissive to the standards of an incredibly mysogenistic age despite knowing them to be wrong, choosing to remain in 1746 even after being put on a witch trial, subjected to domestic abuse and attempted raped multiple times. This type of depiction of the feminine can also present a rather bad depiction of the masculine as well. By having Claire choose a highlander over her present day husband, Outlander basically implies that men used to be better when they were more violent, controlling and abusive. Showing women as meek and submissive can also imply that men should be dominating and opressive. I would argue that things like Fury Road and The Force Awakens are ultimately better because they show a more equal balance of power between genders and one where both need the other while neither is shown as submissive to the other

Dazzle Novak:

Redryhno:
By having them as secondary and tertiary characters. Or by having a focus of the work being on not solving anything.

Because let's face it, non-coerced passivity is largely not a protagonist trait. It's not even really something people look for in fiction because you don't read fiction to read about some numbskull going about her daily routine, you consume it because it has something in it beyond that. Passivity is effectively entropy, and nobody gives a shit about entropy as a central personality trait.

I'm glad you specified "non-coerced" passivity. What I'm arguing for is either coerced passivity or a passive character put into a dynamic situation. For example, Sarah Connor wasn't always a badass. In the first movie, she's a regular waitress thrust into a dangerous conflict. And though she would ultimately become a badass later, the resolution of the first movie doesn't hinge on her being removed of her initial "passive" characteristics. Admittedly, it requires a more proactive secondary character to do the action-hero lifting, which supports your point (albeit in inverse).

Except, with the Sarah Conner example, she actually did do quite a bit if you remember. She evolved from the going nowhere waitress into T2's tiger mom. She learned and helped with the pipe bombs, drove Reese and herself away from the Terminator multiple times, and ultimately is why the first one failed. She took action when it was required of her, even if she wasn't particularly in the best position to do so. She even had trouble believing him for a pretty long time and questioned Reese and his motives for quite a bit. She was reluctant and unsure,of course, but never passive once she ran into the Terminator. Reactive even, but passive wasn't something I would use to describe Sarah even in the first movie.

But since you're specifically meaning to talk about coerced passivity, there's alot of examples. Zelda in Twilight Princess, she allowed Zant to contain the palace and herself, but helped quite a bit early on and when it was clear she wasn't just on her own with her people's lives at stake, she acted and fought back. Sansa during the Joffrey months, once she grew slightly out of her love-horniness, actually did what she could to both stay alive and undermine him in small ways. Kerry in Riptide is largely a passive character(only slightly coerced), he sorta gets dragged into what's going on because of his skills.

But the main thread between all of them is that they're secondary characters for the most part. Sansa's a special case because, let's be honest, GoT is about the events that transpire, everyone else is just a talking prop secondary to said events.

undeadsuitor:
Honestly, if we put this much effort into preening and detailing male characters fiction as a whole would be a lot better. Maybe instead of trying to create the 'perfect' female character, we throw ourselves into making a better man?

Or we just stop making up characters and expecting them to act according to dangly bits or assigning them traits they can and can't have because of said dangly bits and the current political climate. There are very few female characters that are actually good because everyone is more focused on the female part than the character part. Authors are and continue to, with more and more frequency, be attacked for having what is perceived as "weak" female characters because they are somehow assigned all responsibility for the female half of humanity and to represent that ideal. The reason we don't have "better" men is that nobody gives a flying fuck in their case. A default is something nobody cares about because...it's the default, whether you hate or love them, they're just there to facilitate the story and don't particularly matter in the grand scheme of fiction.

We need to get to that point with women as well. But very few people will allow that to happen because there's more people more interested in bashing everything that falls into the "less than ideal' category than looking at the flaws those characters have as progress. Hell, when was the last time you saw a woman in a work of fiction not be some kind of superior(both morally and physically, the latter as the writers decide on as the story demands) superhuman in serious pieces? I mean, Lynette Scavvo from Desperate Housewives has yet to be dethroned as my favorite female character in fiction. Her flaws are always at the forefront of her character and situations she puts herself and her family into are routinely thrown back at her as what they are and not as major praise-worthy abilities disguised as minor flaws.

I didn't really address the assertion that men and women have equal inclination or capacity toward violence, so I will quickly do so now. I don't think so. While social conditioning plays a role, I feel there's a reason you're not concerned with roving bands of women raping and pillaging in areas where societies have collapsed and there's no epidemic of female mass shooters. Whether due to biological logistics or culture, individual data points and trends don't bear out parity in this regard.

CyanCat47:
Myabe because Kinder, Kuche, Kirche is a role which was generally promoted by enforced patriarchy, and were intended to make women think in a collectivistic way in order to prevent them from demanding rights as individuals. Also i definately wouldn't say things like motherhood are portrayed negatively in popular culture, hell the virgin mary was often prayed to more often than god directly in medieval times. Traditional womanhood has been portrayed positively for centuries, but the problem is that the ideal of traditional womandhood was crafted by men in order to exclude them from individualism. From Plato to Jefferson, women were always excluded from philosophies which supposedly enshrined individual freedom. I would say that characters in homemaking roles still have a presence as positively portrayed in today's media. Downton Abbey, Jane Austen, several characters in Game of Thrones, but it can be taken to rather creepy extents when bearing in mind the past and present images of a woman. Take Outlander as an example of this. Claire Beachump is a combat nurse, more knowledgable and brave than any of the highlanders she interacts with, yet as the story progresses she becomes increasingly submissive to the standards of an incredibly mysogenistic age despite knowing them to be wrong, choosing to remain in 1746 even after being put on a witch trial, subjected to domestic abuse and attempted raped multiple times. This type of depiction of the feminine can also present a rather bad depiction of the masculine as well. By having Claire choose a highlander over her present day husband, Outlander basically implies that men used to be better when they were more violent, controlling and abusive. Showing women as meek and submissive can also imply that men should be dominating and opressive. I would argue that things like Fury Road and The Force Awakens are ultimately better because they show a more equal balance of power between genders and one where both need the other while neither is shown as submissive to the other

That's the rub, though, isn't it? How does on acknowledge that "Children, Kitchen, Church" has historically been presented to women as a gilded cage while allowing for the fact that some women will choose this option for themselves? Should every woman who "doesn't have ambition beyond the home" be characterized as if she's been brainwashed into a patriarchal system?

And the idea of gender roles being artificial social constructs cuts both ways: Sure, women may have been pigeonholed into liking "makeup and clothes" over "computers and men things", but I personally find fashion to be an interesting art (therefore can empathize with women who do as well) and would rather everyone have the option to pursue both rather than frame one as a trap of traditionalism. Being forced into the traditional female role sucks, but there have been and still are plenty of strong women within that role. I guess that's my main takeaway: per Cinderella, she's a strong female character within her means and circumstances.

Redryhno:

Except, with the Sarah Conner example, she actually did do quite a bit if you remember. She evolved from the going nowhere waitress into T2's tiger mom. She learned and helped with the pipe bombs, drove Reese and herself away from the Terminator multiple times, and ultimately is why the first one failed. She took action when it was required of her, even if she wasn't particularly in the best position to do so. She even had trouble believing him for a pretty long time and questioned Reese and his motives for quite a bit. She was reluctant and unsure,of course, but never passive once she ran into the Terminator. Reactive even, but passive wasn't something I would use to describe Sarah even in the first movie.

But since you're specifically meaning to talk about coerced passivity, there's alot of examples. Zelda in Twilight Princess, she allowed Zant to contain the palace and herself, but helped quite a bit early on and when it was clear she wasn't just on her own with her people's lives at stake, she acted and fought back. Sansa during the Joffrey months, once she grew slightly out of her love-horniness, actually did what she could to both stay alive and undermine him in small ways. Kerry in Riptide is largely a passive character(only slightly coerced), he sorta gets dragged into what's going on because of his skills.

But the main thread between all of them is that they're secondary characters for the most part. Sansa's a special case because, let's be honest, GoT is about the events that transpire, everyone else is just a talking prop secondary to said events.

There's a reason I keep putting "passive" in quotes: I feel there's a distinction between what I consider active and some other people do. For example, I consider Cinderella to be active within the confines of her story. The criticisms portray and label her as "passive."

Removing the gendered terms, which might be obfuscating at this point, I'd ask why it's treated as a requirement that Sarah Connor arc into "T2 tiger mom" Connor by the end? Connor didn't completely change personality within the couple of days or whatever The Terminator transpires across, ergo she must have already possessed the positive traits that allowed her (with Reese's help) to survive and overcome. It just seems to me the proverbial "we" (society I guess?) aren't as willing to acknowledge these positives when they're wearing a waitress' uniform rather than a bandana and aviators. It betrays a certain shallowness when we identify characteristics by the accouterments rather than deeds and such: "Old Cinderella is helpless and dumb because she's trapped in an abusive home. New Cinderella is strong, despite explicitly leaving the house on multiple occasions and choosing to return to her abuse, because she rides horses and walks around with a book!"

Yeah, I've noticed that strength becomes almost synonymous with masculinity when it comes to creating women in games. They basically take the same white bread character we're sick of and gender swap it. So all of those boring things are now done by a woman. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does send some odd messages. Women can do what men can do, but only when they're masculine. Femininity is, by default, weak.

This is one of many reasons why I like Supergirl. The show has a lot strong women in it, but they aren't all just tomboys with enough testosterone to match Bane. The main character herself has the strength to put down her cousin, but she still wears skirts and dresses. Cat Grant is a personal favorite of mine. She's certainly what I'd call a feminine character, but I wouldn't call her weak.

What I'd like to see right now is more characters, whether they be men or women, be both feminine and strong. For all the flak that eastern media typically gets for their character designs, one thing they've got over most western designs is personality. They have far more interesting tropes and are more willing to have, say, feminine men (Whom aren't gay) than we are. Then again, I don't watch tv/anime or read manga like I used to, so things may have changed and I just wouldn't know it.

Dazzle Novak:

The fact a large component of their identity is centered around a weapon and it's used to distinguish them from "traditional" Disney princesses/female characters is more the point than the specific connotations of said weapon.

Katniss' idendity is certainly not centered about bow use. It is just her weapon, but she goes never out of her way to use it.

My issue would be one of over-correction: while asserting that women can have positive traits which have often been unfairly coded as "masculine", traits which traditionally have read "feminine" have remained as negative examples. In Game of Thrones, for example, Arya responds to Tywin's comment that he thought girls were only interested in "pretty maidens" by saying "Most girls are idiots." How is this not misogynistic?

It is a girl rejecting the gender roles of her culture. Not even our culture. That is very much not misogynistic at all.

But to touch on your point about gender roles, portraying men and women who line up with the traditional gender roles as somehow less than those who stray from it is harmful, too. I don't like macho being coded as "dumb" or "simple-minded and brutish", either, yet that's what's often defaulted to on the path to saying it's okay for men not to be that way.

Well, i disagree.

If we ever want to get rid of the gender roles, we should stop portraying people in those gender roles as something normal. And we should totally continue to portray people not conforming to them as more positive than average. Which in practice means it has to be done with the protagonists first. That someone like you even sees those "strong women characters" as somehow less feminine than their background counterparts instead of as women who just happen to use a weapon as appropriate in a violent action film setting, shows that we have still a long way to go.

Violence, like many many other traits should not be coded as masculine. But only when people would be actually surprised if all the nameless mooks the hero fights turn out to be male instead of the other way around we would slowly get there.

Dazzle Novak:
I didn't really address the assertion that men and women have equal inclination or capacity toward violence, so I will quickly do so now. I don't think so. While social conditioning plays a role, I feel there's a reason you're not concerned with roving bands of women raping and pillaging in areas where societies have collapsed and there's no epidemic of female mass shooters. Whether due to biological logistics or culture, individual data points and trends don't bear out parity in this regard.

Disagree again.
We have less female shooters because weapon use was a male gender stereotype resulting in more men having weapons and being trained with it. We have less female robbers and pillagers because it always was a male role to bring money home and that was reflected itself in criminal ways to do so. And because the realm of the women was deemed to be indoor making outdoor activities like those a male thing.

If you look at statistics of domestic violence, male on female is nearly exactly as common as female on male (naturally requiring situations where both are at home)

And in regions where the streets stopped to be a male sphere you will find nowadays often all-female-gang. Which while not yet as numerous as the all-male-ones, are every bit as violent.

Or if you goto the more accepted stuff. Since combat arts allow women, their number has risen, in many areas and many sports now surpassing men.

Yes, rape is still far more often male on female and that seems to be biological. But violence as coded masculine is rubbish. It is a self-enforcing stereotype and a bad one.

Captain Marvelous:
Yeah, I've noticed that strength becomes almost synonymous with masculinity when it comes to creating women in games. They basically take the same white bread character we're sick of and gender swap it. So all of those boring things are now done by a woman. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does send some odd messages. Women can do what men can do, but only when they're masculine. Femininity is, by default, weak.

How is a gender swapped version masculine? It has been gender swapped for crying out loud.
Everything else is just a toxic gender stereotype and should never give the impression of masculinity.

Dazzle Novak:
I didn't really address the assertion that men and women have equal inclination or capacity toward violence, so I will quickly do so now. I don't think so. While social conditioning plays a role, I feel there's a reason you're not concerned with roving bands of women raping and pillaging in areas where societies have collapsed and there's no epidemic of female mass shooters. Whether due to biological logistics or culture, individual data points and trends don't bear out parity in this regard.

No, but that's sorta because women use different means of harming themselves and others. Guys will use a gun and beat the shit out of someone. A woman will give you a cup of coffee mixed with poison with a smile on their face or pull out a razor while you're looking at something else they came with to distract you. Or they'll just beat the shit out of you.

It's still violence, it's just done in different ways and often is just looked at as "crazy bitch syndrome"(singular) as opposed to the newer favorite phrase of "toxic masculinity"(plural). Anyone that thinks women aren't just as capable and willing to commit the same violence as men for the same minuscule amount of reasons has spent far too much of their lives surrounded by fiction and extraordinarily well-behaved children.

Redryhno:

Except, with the Sarah Conner example, she actually did do quite a bit if you remember. She evolved from the going nowhere waitress into T2's tiger mom. She learned and helped with the pipe bombs, drove Reese and herself away from the Terminator multiple times, and ultimately is why the first one failed. She took action when it was required of her, even if she wasn't particularly in the best position to do so. She even had trouble believing him for a pretty long time and questioned Reese and his motives for quite a bit. She was reluctant and unsure,of course, but never passive once she ran into the Terminator. Reactive even, but passive wasn't something I would use to describe Sarah even in the first movie.

But since you're specifically meaning to talk about coerced passivity, there's alot of examples. Zelda in Twilight Princess, she allowed Zant to contain the palace and herself, but helped quite a bit early on and when it was clear she wasn't just on her own with her people's lives at stake, she acted and fought back. Sansa during the Joffrey months, once she grew slightly out of her love-horniness, actually did what she could to both stay alive and undermine him in small ways. Kerry in Riptide is largely a passive character(only slightly coerced), he sorta gets dragged into what's going on because of his skills.

But the main thread between all of them is that they're secondary characters for the most part. Sansa's a special case because, let's be honest, GoT is about the events that transpire, everyone else is just a talking prop secondary to said events.

There's a reason I keep putting "passive" in quotes: I feel there's a distinction between what I consider active and some other people do. For example, I consider Cinderella to be active within the confines of her story. The criticisms portray and label her as "passive."

Removing the gendered terms, which might be obfuscating at this point, I'd ask why it's treated as a requirement that Sarah Connor arc into "T2 tiger mom" Connor by the end? Connor didn't completely change personality within the couple of days or whatever The Terminator transpires across, ergo she must have already possessed the positive traits that allowed her (with Reese's help) to survive and overcome. It just seems to me the proverbial "we" (society I guess?) aren't as willing to acknowledge these positives when they're wearing a waitress' uniform rather than a bandana and aviators. It betrays a certain shallowness when we identify characteristics by the accouterments rather than deeds and such: "Old Cinderella is helpless and dumb because she's trapped in an abusive home. New Cinderella is strong, despite explicitly leaving the house on multiple occasions and choosing to return to her abuse, because she rides horses and walks around with a book!"

Cinderellla is active in her role in the story, yes, but the Prince's reaction to her reward is largely based on someone else's doing.

As for Conner possessing them, when she was wearing the waitresses uniform, she was a ditz. Plain and simple. Couldn't manage her finances, dind't remember how much gas was in the car, etc. Her positive traits weren't acknowledged because society had no use for them and she had no idea she had them to begin with. It's not a matter of not recognizing them, it's a matter of them not being needed or looked for in a modern society. She was wearing a waitress uniform because she had no other options at that point in the timeline. Not the other way around. Wearing the bandana and boots didn't make her the badass, her learning what she could do in the first movie made her that. The costume change just got the idea of fellow jobber transformed into protagonist rebel across. I mean, it's not like she spent the first third of the second movie in pajamas and still largely had the same rough aura or anything.

Dazzle Novak:
What about the plot of 12 Years A Slave? A plot where the main character is forced into a situation where he must be passive because action is gravely penalized and that's the point of the story. It seems to me that the critique that Cinderella is too passive to be a role model, despite Disney himself calling her his personal role model and the story being allegorical to his slow rise to fame, is like complaining 12 Years A Slave doesn't end the same way Django Unchained does. I mean, Solomon had to wait for some handsome white guy to rescue him too, right?

And no, I don't personally conflate passivity with femininity, which I'll clarify to the user beneath you, but I'm aware that's how many others correlate the terms. For example, when men (let me use Bill Maher as a specific example) complain about the "feminizing" of society, it's fairly obvious they're piling proactive traits under the banner of "male" and passive ones under "female."

Well, regarding Cinderella, personally I'm not a fan of the whole "and magically, something happened to put character X undeservedly into a higher slot in the hierarchy of life" plots. Sure, that's a passive main character, but it's completely unrealistic and lacks any sort of development. There's also nothing in the way of morality beyond "do your time and hope some magic saves you".

I've not seen 12 Years a Slave, but from your description it seems to fall into the "shit happens" type of story. The character does nothing, but is just the focal point for the story. Sure, they have good reason to do nothing, and focusing on them gives good viewing of character suffering and development. But they are a downtrodden mass. You can't really have a strong character that is written as a downtrodden mass and is entirely content to remain a downtrodden mass barring outside circumstances. Characters in "shit happens" stories are just a page to convey suffering.

I have no idea who Bill Maher is, and I have no idea why he is some sort of authority on what constitutes a male or female trait. But I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he's a self-righteous prick who over-generalises. What he refers to as the feminising of society will just be the continued roll-out of the "don't be a dick" rule.

Dazzle Novak:

Satinavian:
That whole "Strong female characters" was never about letting weak and passive womens shine. It was always about challanging the notion that weakness and passivity are somehow "feminine" and that "solving your problems" is somehow masculine.

Also, bows are considered traditional feminine weapons in certain cultures and tend to be gender neutral elsewhere.

The fact a large component of their identity is centered around a weapon and it's used to distinguish them from "traditional" Disney princesses/female characters is more the point than the specific connotations of said weapon.

My issue would be one of over-correction: while asserting that women can have positive traits which have often been unfairly coded as "masculine", traits which traditionally have read "feminine" have remained as negative examples. In Game of Thrones, for example, Arya responds to Tywin's comment that he thought girls were only interested in "pretty maidens" by saying "Most girls are idiots." How is this not misogynistic? How is the implication not "only women interested in what men deem valid are worthy of consideration" even if the intent is to highlight that Arya is well-read and learned? It's "Cool Girl" syndrome: "I'm like one of the guys! I like beer and football. I don't even really get along with other girls."

In fiction, and in real-life, it's treated as a zero-sum game when it's not. Aryas and Sansas can both be valid. This isn't even mentioning how the show takes "Might makes right" as an inexorable law (therefore, Sansa is dumb, naive, and useless) while the novels are arcing toward a more democratic power dynamic where Sansa's "passive" trait of being empathetic and reading people will be very useful from a political angle. Possibly moreso than Arya's stabby-stabby-ninja fetish.

All in all, it just seems a very limiting lens through which to frame fiction that a character's worth is directly proportional to their ability to affect change.

Redryhno:
By having them as secondary and tertiary characters. Or by having a focus of the work being on not solving anything.

Because let's face it, non-coerced passivity is largely not a protagonist trait. It's not even really something people look for in fiction because you don't read fiction to read about some numbskull going about her daily routine, you consume it because it has something in it beyond that. Passivity is effectively entropy, and nobody gives a shit about entropy as a central personality trait.

I'm glad you specified "non-coerced" passivity. What I'm arguing for is either coerced passivity or a passive character put into a dynamic situation. For example, Sarah Connor wasn't always a badass. In the first movie, she's a regular waitress thrust into a dangerous conflict. And though she would ultimately become a badass later, the resolution of the first movie doesn't hinge on her being removed of her initial "passive" characteristics. Admittedly, it requires a more proactive secondary character to do the action-hero lifting, which supports your point (albeit in inverse).

Catnip1024:
Generally, "strong female characters" tend to be lazy writing and it makes for lousy stories. They are the equivalent of the AAA game male protagonists. That said, I wouldn't call Katniss one necessarily, because the author did (as far as I recall) cover the psychological aspects to give the character some dimension.

To answer the question - passivity is a negative in a character. A passive character will never lead the plot, and will struggle to make any meaningful contribution. I think the fact that you are conflating femininity and passivity is kind of the problem there.

Also - "feminine traits like meekness and compassion"? Someone has clearly never been for a night out in Manchester...

What about the plot of 12 Years A Slave? A plot where the main character is forced into a situation where he must be passive because action is gravely penalized and that's the point of the story. It seems to me that the critique that Cinderella is too passive to be a role model, despite Disney himself calling her his personal role model and the story being allegorical to his slow rise to fame, is like complaining 12 Years A Slave doesn't end the same way Django Unchained does. I mean, Solomon had to wait for some handsome white guy to rescue him too, right?

12 years a slave is about endurance and perseverance. Solomon can't prevent the slavers from hurting him, but he never allows them to break his mind or accepts slavery as something he should submit to. It's more like someone who fights until rescued than someone who passively accepts captivity. As for Cinderella, in the disney version she mostly accepts her opression by her step-family despite having been in a stronger position when her father was alive. The "Three acorns" version is far superrior in that she remains in a mental state of defiance and wanting her old life back even as she is forced to physically submit, and she actively seeks out and courts the prince, taking actual innitiative to improve her situation

It's moreso that open violence is a cheap way to build suspense and easily communicates drama. Katniss would be an entirely different character if utterly stupid concepts such as The Hunger Games themselves didn't exist. Just exploited slaves being exploited and everyone fed gruel as a stipend.

It's a cheap way of communicating "this society is bad" as well as an easy way to imagine Katniss as if some classical image of Artemis hunting the wilds to survive and as if some degree of purity or rugged normalcy of the Districts.

I doubt you could call it 'coded masculinity' ... in the same way many young women living in the slums of Manila would be prepared to tear out the eyes of the average young man living in suburban America if sufficiently threatened. My money is on the Filipina. Little to do with 'coded masculinity', nor would I call that poor, young Filipina particularly empowered.

This is why writers should travel...

And the fact of the matter is there is a concept in feminist thought that deals with this. It's called 'intersectionality'... how multiple environmental conditions influence the multiplicity of issues that alter depending on socioeconomic and cultural confitions. The only people pretending white academic women have the same barriers to happiness as that Filipina have long since exited conventional thoughts of feminist theory. Because we see it. You need only go to the Philippines to see how that is not the case.

Satinavian:
snip

Sorry, if I did the point-by-point thing, I'd wind up typing fifty paragraphs.

I would agree that Katniss never goes out of her way to use her bow (which is an entirely separate issue I have with the first book where the central character is deified partially because contrivance allows them not to engage with the ramifications of the premise i.e. killing directly), but a bow is a centerpiece of their pop cultural iconography. Type 'Katniss Everdeen' or 'Katniss Everdeen costume' or 'Merida Brave' into Google and see how prominent a bow and a quiverful of arrows are.

As for Arya, the point is that her rejection of gender roles is framed as her not being "an idiot like most other girls" which comes with somewhat obvious and explicit implications toward women, no? At best, there was a less misogynist-appealing way to frame it than "I'm better than other women."

There's nothing inherently wrong with presenting "normal". There often are norms (whether they be behavioral, cultural, or characteristic) which apply to the majority of any given group. The problem comes with enforcement of "Be normal or else!" where any deviation is shunned or punished. I'm not denying violence occurs across genders, but you seem to be arguing for some inherent value occurring within a vacuum. It doesn't matter why women don't use guns, for example, if my assertion is simply that women don't resort to gun violence nearly as often. If they start to, my opinion will change. My point now is that I don't quantify all violence as being equal. Collectively, male violence historically has been and continues to be broader and more damage in scale than female violence. This doesn't mean nothing needs to be done about female violence or for its victims, but that's a separate argument.

Saying something is "coded" isn't the same as saying it never applies elsewhere. Makeup is coded as feminine, no? Arguing "Well, men can wear makeup!" or even "European men used to wear heels and makeup back whenever!" doesn't change its current connotations generally-speaking. I'm not arguing inherent traits, but rather how I see people interpret them.

Redryhno:
snip

In regard to female violence, I'll simply say that men seem to have a wider array of tools with which they're willing to inflict it and societal attitudes often plant the idea they dip into their toolbelt more often. If you're going to argue that in an area like Darfur, you would be equally concerned with the violence women may inflict upon you, I'd fundamentally disagree and point out that arguing against parity isn't arguing that women aren't violent at all. This is somewhat off-topic, though.

I don't understand what you mean by "...but the Prince's reaction to her reward is largely based on someone else's doing" Could you rephrase this. I feel I might address this in my response to a user further down.

Regarding Sarah Connor, I'd argue that being ditzy waitress Sarah Connor is more conducive to functioning in society by mere virtue of holding down a job and having friends than T2 badass Sarah Connor who winds up in the nuthouse even within the context of the Terminator movies.

Why are you taking it as given that a certain set of traits are best in all contexts? The ability to pay taxes is more useful in most modern societies than being a gritty protagonist staving off the robot apocalypse considering the latter is fantasy. This goes a bit to my Arya/Sansa comparison where I point out that empathy (i.e. the ability to imagine other people's inner thoughts and intentions) might be useful in a story of political intrigue but it's commonly assumed that Arya's murder-cult-training is inherently more valuable and will be across all scenarios (even despite the accompanying PTSD).

Catnip1024:
snip

I'd recommend you watch the video I linked in the OP because it provides an interpretation that belies the characterization of "and magically, something happened to put character X undeservedly into a higher slot in the hierarchy of life". If you don't want to click on a dubious link, type "Screenprism Cinderella" into the search bar.

I'm not going to sit and act as if Cinderella perfectly aligns with modern attitudes. I'm not a fan of the "Do your time and hope for the best" moral, either. But I will argue that some of this is due to a shift in attitude toward the notion of "faith" and "diligence" as much as opinions of gender roles and letting this lead you to repainting the intent behind the work and portray plot points as they did not occur is disingenuous at worst and intellectually-lazy at best.

We do fundamentally disagree on the idea that a member of "the downtrodden masses" can't be a strong character. For starters, I feel like we're using different definitions of "strong". "Strong character" often means well-written or well-defined rather than literally strong or possessing virtuous traits. But even beyond that I wouldn't portray Cinderella in the Disney film as being content with her lot in life and Solomon of 12 Years A Slave sure as hell isn't content being enslaved.

This is a problem I have with Django Unchained: Django is a "strong character" elevated from the other slaves ("That one nigger in ten thousand" as the movie itself puts it), but that's obviously only because the system of slavery doesn't apply to him equally. Do you honestly think an ex-slave could walk onto a plantation, kill a white slave driver in front of slaves, then hide behind a bounty sheet because when has the antebellum South ever not acquiesced to the authority of the U.S. Government (totally unrelated aside, the film takes place "Two years before the Civil War")?

Finally, I mention Bill Maher because he identifies as and is considered a prominent progressive.

CyanCat47:
snip

Cinderella is about a woman who's been trapped in an abusive home since childhood. Every attempt at rebellion is met with reprisal from the EVIL stepmother and/or her step-siblings and it takes place pre-"She could just strike out on her own as an unmarried woman".

How is this not a portrayal of domestic abuse? You're arguing she was in a position of power before her father died, but she was a child and that power was presumably willed over to her adult stepmother. And she doesn't "accept" her abuse. We're just not presented a, pardon-the-term, Disnified assumption of oppression like in many oppression tales where being openly defiant and spunky hasn't been and won't continue to be beaten out of you by an oppressor. Realistic Django Unchained ends with him hunted by slave hunters at best and castrated then quartered more probably, not blowing up the plantation and doing horse tricks.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
It's a cheap way of communicating "this society is bad" as well as an easy way to imagine Katniss as if some classical image of Artemis hunting the wilds to survive and as if some degree of purity or rugged normalcy of the Districts.

Seconded. It reminds me in many ways of Tolkien's anti-industrial message. Yes, life may have been "purer" in the times before industrialisation, but is there really an argument over whether those times were "fairer" or "better" than circumstances we have now?

Dazzle Novak:
Collectively, male violence historically has been and continues to be broader and more damage in scale than female violence. This doesn't mean nothing needs to be done about female violence or for its victims, but that's a separate argument.

The same is true for e.g. science which collectivity and historically has mostly been done by men.
But we assume that this is mostly because of traditional gender roles and reject the idea that science is masculine thing. The same should hold true for violence.

ineptelephant:

Seconded. It reminds me in many ways of Tolkien's anti-industrial message. Yes, life may have been "purer" in the times before industrialisation, but is there really an argument over whether those times were "fairer" or "better" than circumstances we have now?

To be fair, Tolkien saw firsthand the power of the state to inflict utter madness and terror that otherwise would be impossible without the industrialisation of the 19th and 20th century. Moreover, even by the turn of the 20th century, people knew the damages of unregulated industrial activity had caused. Soot and coal dust caking on Manchester and Liverpool homes, their clothes, their workshops of the poor.

And to be fair, some aspects of industrialisation we should rally against. Automation of police services for instance. Complex machines to profile people to streamline individuals and suspects. As opposed to rugged investigation. Targetted advertisements and Google search results based on metadata. Complex machine processing of otherwise private individuals and private lives, and their movement details, and to sell that data to market forces that manipulate humans on a degree we have never seen before...

There's aspects of industrialisation we should be worried about... not merely be apathetic as to it because the future of industrial development will be at the cost on some very important, basic human rights like the right to privacy, mobility rights, and even concepts of freedom of association. I mean we're seeing private corporate prisons. And that inevitably drives up prosecution rates, coupled with diminishing responsibilities of building a case against someone and monetizes recidivism.

And this type of 'industrialization' one could say should never exist. Not even once. But it's another thing we're apathetic about despite violating very basic ideas of liberalism.

The U.S. has a gulag work caste, the largest we have ever seen. You'd think that would be something we would have avoided since Stalin.

And just one example of change coming with more equality

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10857716/Britains-gangster-girls-The-dark-side-of-female-empowerment-The-rise-of-women-and-females-running-gangs.html

I have read similar stuff from Germany. With the streets become less of a male sphere and gender roles becoming less pronounced, the traditional violent activities become more often done by women. It is really only old gender roles holding them back.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
It's moreso that open violence is a cheap way to build suspense and easily communicates drama. Katniss would be an entirely different character if utterly stupid concepts such as The Hunger Games themselves didn't exist. Just exploited slaves being exploited and everyone fed gruel as a stipend.

It's a cheap way of communicating "this society is bad" as well as an easy way to imagine Katniss as if some classical image of Artemis hunting the wilds to survive and as if some degree of purity or rugged normalcy of the Districts.

I doubt you could call it 'coded masculinity' ... in the same way many young women living in the slums of Manila would be prepared to tear out the eyes of the average young man living in suburban America if sufficiently threatened. My money is on the Filipina. Little to do with 'coded masculinity', nor would I call that poor, young Filipina particularly empowered.

This is why writers should travel...

And the fact of the matter is there is a concept in feminist thought that deals with this. It's called 'intersectionality'... how multiple environmental conditions influence the multiplicity of issues that alter depending on socioeconomic and cultural confitions. The only people pretending white academic women have the same barriers to happiness as that Filipina have long since exited conventional thoughts of feminist theory. Because we see it. You need only go to the Philippines to see how that is not the case.

Satinavian:

Dazzle Novak:
Collectively, male violence historically has been and continues to be broader and more damage in scale than female violence. This doesn't mean nothing needs to be done about female violence or for its victims, but that's a separate argument.

The same is true for e.g. science which collectivity and historically has mostly been done by men.
But we assume that this is mostly because of traditional gender roles and reject the idea that science is masculine thing. The same should hold true for violence.

I feel I'm twisting myself in imprecise diction. Let me try to untangle my arguments.

1) I'm not making categorical claims in either direction. I don't think science IS masculine, but I'd argue that it is PERCEIVED as masculine which is both a consequence of and affecting toward women's relation to it. An example of this is the precipitous drop in women's involvement in computer sciences post 1980s. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-women-stopped-coding If I were to say computer science has been coded ("heh.") as masculine in response to this graph, would that be me arguing "Women can't computer science" or something similar? No. They apparently did so with reasonable parity in the past. It's my characterization of a visible trend whether it be natural, artificial, or a combination of the two.

In regard to violence, there are various factors which make a blanket statement of "Women commit violence too" facile and irrelevant to me. One example is women being shorter and lighter on average. Another is many cultures discouraging women from being violent moreso than men or encouraging dispositions that trend away from violence. A third is women often not being trained in the means to commit violence (e.g. gun training). Now I'm aware that "violence" doesn't only refer to punching someone and can't be quantified, but I don't see how "Women commit violence too" is a useful statement. My response is: "Okay...?" The only pushback one gets from me from such a truism is that I interpret it as: "So men aren't morally worse than women!" which isn't a response to an argument I'm making and I've never advocated for dismissing any type of violence based on who's committing it, the scale of the violence, or how often.

2) What I'm inarticulately doing when I use the word "coded" is hopefully not failing at intersectionality like a White Feminist TM (I'm a black male), but arguing within a flawed premise. As I told another poster, I'm not focusing on the fact that certain traits aren't in actuality the realm of men or women, but rather that being a "woman" shouldn't be viewed as inherently bad even within this inaccurate framework.

It reminds me of McCain defending Obama by saying, "He's a good man." when a woman accused Obama of being "an Arab". Of course Obama isn't Arab and that's worth correcting, but I'd want it clarified that even if Obama were Arab it wouldn't preclude goodness.

Dazzle Novak:

Satinavian:
snip

Sorry, if I did the point-by-point thing, I'd wind up typing fifty paragraphs.

I would agree that Katniss never goes out of her way to use her bow (which is an entirely separate issue I have with the first book where the central character is deified partially because contrivance allows them not to engage with the ramifications of the premise i.e. killing directly), but a bow is a centerpiece of their pop cultural presence. Type 'Katniss Everdeen' or 'Katniss Everdeen costume' or 'Merida Brave' into Google and see how prominent a bow and a quiverful of arrows are.

As for Arya, the point is that her rejection of gender roles is framed as her not being "an idiot like most other girls" which comes with somewhat obvious and explicit implications toward women, no? At best, there was a less misogynistic-appealing way to frame it than "I'm better than women."

There's nothing inherently wrong with presenting "normal". There often are norms (whether they be behavioral, cultural, or characteristic) which apply to the majority of any given group. The problem comes with enforcement of "Be normal or else!" where any deviation is shunned or punished. I'm not denying violence occurs across genders, but you seem to be arguing for some inherent value occurring within a vacuum. It doesn't matter why women don't use guns, for example, if my assertion is simply that women don't resort to gun violence nearly as often. If they start to, my opinion will change. My point now is that I don't quantify all violence as being equal. Collectively, male violence historically has been and continues to be broader and more damage in scale than female violence. This doesn't mean nothing needs to be done about female violence or for its victims, but that's a separate argument.

Saying something is "coded" isn't the same as saying it never applies elsewhere. Makeup is coded as feminine, no? Arguing "Well, men can wear makeup!" or even "European men used to wear heels and makeup back whenever!" doesn't change its current connotations generally-speaking. I'm not arguing inherent traits, but rather how I see people interpret them.

Redryhno:
snip

In regard to female violence, I'll simply say that men seem to have a wider array of tools with which they're willing to inflict it and societal attitudes often plant the idea they dip into their toolbelt more often. If you're going to argue that in an area like Darfur, you would be equally concerned with the violence women may inflict upon you, I'd fundamentally disagree and point out that arguing against parity isn't arguing that women aren't violent at all. This is somewhat off-topic, though.

I don't understand what you mean by "...but the Prince's reaction to her reward is largely based on someone else's doing" Could you rephrase this. I feel I might address this in my response to a user further down.

Regarding Sarah Connor, I'd argue that being ditzy waitress Sarah Connor is more conducive to functioning in society by mere virtue of holding down a job and having friends than T2 badass Sarah Connor who winds up in the nuthouse even within the context of the Terminator movies.

Why are you taking it as given that a certain set of traits are best in all contexts? The ability to pay taxes is more useful in most modern societies than being a gritty protagonist staving off the robot apocalypse considering the latter is fantasy. This goes a bit to my Arya/Sansa comparison where I point out that empathy (i.e. the ability to imagine other people's inner thoughts and intentions) might be useful in a story of political intrigue but it's commonly assumed that Arya's murder-cult-training is inherently more valuable and will be across all scenarios (even despite the accompanying PTSD).

Catnip1024:
snip

I'd recommend you watch the video I linked in the OP because it provides an interpretation that belies the characterization of "and magically, something happened to put character X undeservedly into a higher slot in the hierarchy of life". If you don't want to click on a dubious link, type "Screenprism Cinderella" into the search bar.

I'm not going to sit and act as if Cinderella perfectly aligns with modern attitudes. I'm not a fan of the "Do your time and hope for the best" moral, either. But I will argue that some of this is due to a shift in attitude toward the notion of "faith" and "diligence" as much as opinions of gender roles and letting this lead you to repainting the intent behind the work and portray plot points as they did not occur is disingenuous at worst and intellectually-lazy at best.

We do fundamentally disagree on the idea that a member of "the downtrodden masses" can't be a strong character. For starters, I feel like we're using different definitions of "strong". "Strong character" often means well-written or well-defined rather than literally strong or possessing virtuous traits. But even beyond that I wouldn't portray Cinderella in the Disney film as being content with her lot in life and Solomon of 12 Years A Slave sure as hell isn't content being enslaved.

This is a problem I have with Django Unchained: Django is a "strong character" elevated from the other slaves ("That one nigger in ten thousand" as the movie itself puts it), but that's obviously only because the system of slavery doesn't apply to him equally. Do you honestly think an ex-slave could walk onto a plantation, kill a white slave driver in front of slaves, then hide behind a bounty sheet because when has the antebellum South ever not acquiesced to the authority of the U.S. Government (totally unrelated aside, the film takes place "Two years before the Civil War")?

Finally, I mention Bill Maher because he identifies as and is considered a prominent progressive.

CyanCat47:
snip

Cinderella is about a woman who's been trapped in an abusive home since childhood. Every attempt at rebellion is met with reprisal from the EVIL stepmother and/or her step-siblings and it takes place pre-"She could just strike out on her own as an unmarried woman".

How is this not a portrayal of domestic abuse? You're arguing she was in a position of power before her father died, but she was a child and that power was presumably willed over to her adult stepmother. And she doesn't "accept" her abuse. We're just not presented a, pardon-the-term, Disnified assumption of oppression tales where being openly defiant and spunky won't be beaten out of you by an oppressor. Realistic Django Unchained ends with him hunted by slave hunters at best and castrated then quartered more probably, not blowing up the plantation and doing horse tricks.

You clearly haven't watched the three wishes version. It is a czech version of the story where she meets the prince three times instead of one, and while she is still forced to serve her absuive family, on a personal level she is far more like Solomon from 12 years a slave than her disney counterpart, more unbroken and free in thought and spirit and more active in romantically engaging with the prince and trying to find a way out of her situation. The story is basically the same, but you get the sense that she uses the magic she is given with more agency rather than simply having everything set up for her by the fairy.

As to the Django example, Django unchained is not meant to be a historical biopic but an intentionally exaggarated version of slaver which jacks up the level of violence while still exploring and critiquing the slavery as an institution and the ways of thinking used by white slavers to justify it. It's not about how slaves had it, it's about why slavery and those perpetuating it needed and deserved to be violently put to an end, and it shows a narrative of a slave emancipating himself rather than being "liberated" by a benevolent white saviour. Emancipation would never have happened if slaves hadn't revolted, killed and sacrificed their lives to break their chains. It was the slaves who freed themselves, not Lincon

Also on the subject of meekness and passivity, that is not how women empowered themselves in the first place. Women achieved rights by protesting, dissenting, participating in civil disobediance and taking part in the political debate, and aforementioned ideas such as Kinder Kyrche Kuchen were made by conservatives like Willhelm II to try to keep them from doing this, to keep them meek and passive. Camilla Collett, a 19th century feminist author actively critiqued this passivity as portrayed in popular culture and the idea of women simply accepting abusive reslationships and an uneven balance of power between genders. As she told Henrik Ibsen, women who are portrayed as faithful, obedient and loving regardless of how abusive, faithless or generally absent their husband is inadvertantly end up pardoning, justifying or even glorifying abusive behaviour in men.

Yes...though this is an issue that's been recognised for a while, to the extent that people might often put quote marks around the progressives doing this sort of thing.

In general, the easy way to get around this is to have multiple female characters who are seen to be respectable. One female warrior who is as good as the men (other than the hero) is often done cringebly, but stick some random extras in the background who happen to be female warriors, and even if they don't do anything, having a female warrior characters is less of a big deal. Likewise, stick a few female characters in who are more traditionally feminine, don't condemn them for being so, and even if they don't do anything of note you've avoided "I'm not like the other girls, I'm (almost) as good as a man".

That's not to say that all female characters have to be positive depictions, of course, but having some (even glorified extras) would probably help.

Dazzle Novak:
1) I'm not making categorical claims in either direction. I don't think science IS masculine, but I'd argue that it is PERCEIVED as masculine which is both a consequence of and affecting toward women's relation to it.

And i argue that violence is not masculine but only perceived as masculine by some.

Exactly the same as science is.

And that this is a bad gender stereotype we should get rid of. If we are presented with a women using violence, our reaction should never be "she behaves like a man". Otherwise we are promoting old and harmfull gender stereotypes.

And yes, that means that our "strong female characters" are pretty helpful the way they are as they help with establishing a new norm about what it means to be a woman.

Dazzle Novak:

Redryhno:
snip

In regard to female violence, I'll simply say that men seem to have a wider array of tools with which they're willing to inflict it and societal attitudes often plant the idea they dip into their toolbelt more often. If you're going to argue that in an area like Darfur, you would be equally concerned with the violence women may inflict upon you, I'd fundamentally disagree and point out that arguing against parity isn't arguing that women aren't violent at all. This is somewhat off-topic, though.

I don't understand what you mean by "...but the Prince's reaction to her reward is largely based on someone else's doing" Could you rephrase this. I feel I might address this in my response to a user further down.

Regarding Sarah Connor, I'd argue that being ditzy waitress Sarah Connor is more conducive to functioning in society by mere virtue of holding down a job and having friends than T2 badass Sarah Connor who winds up in the nuthouse even within the context of the Terminator movies.

Why are you taking it as given that a certain set of traits are best in all contexts? The ability to pay taxes is more useful in most modern societies than being a gritty protagonist staving off the robot apocalypse considering the latter is fantasy. This goes a bit to my Arya/Sansa comparison where I point out that empathy (i.e. the ability to imagine other people's inner thoughts and intentions) might be useful in a story of political intrigue but it's commonly assumed that Arya's murder-cult-training is inherently more valuable and will be across all scenarios (even despite the accompanying PTSD).

The toolbelt may or may not be dipped into more often, but the long lasting scars both physical and mental are much more well delivered by women. Look at child abuse, and you'll find a father that beats the shit out of their kids, maybe even rapes them, possibly kills them while doing those things, but that's about where it stops the vast majority of the time. A mother takes it further and alot of the most terrified and terrifying people in history have gotten that way because of a bat-shit insane/mean as fuck mother.

The rephrasing, Cinderella didn't do shit after the party is denied to her, but she is still rewarded simply by existing. It's where most renditions lose me in the message.

And yeah, ditzy waitress may be, but you started with the argument that nobody saw her positive traits in her waitress uniform. I made the argument that it's because she largely didn't have many. Doesn't matter whether she could function in society or not, the things that made her her were not discovered or realized yet. Doesn't matter what traits are considered best, it's not even an angle I'm going for.

CyanCat47:
Combined last two posts

I also clearly link to a video essay about the Disney version and even without that cite Disney directly in relation to my usage of "Cinderella", so I don't see the relevance of you bringing in the Three Wishes version. I guess it's subjective, because I get the impression that Cinderella has agency within the limitations of her situation from the Disney version. There being a version that portrays this better doesn't make those traits absent in the other. I'm defending the Disney version on its own terms because that's the character's most prominent pop cultural locus.

As for Django, you don't see the potential for misuse when staging a revenge fantasy where the slave extras behave how slaves were actually forced to behave while your protagonist is granted exemption-status? The contrast raises the spectre of the idea that the slaves are ultimately bound by their lack of willfulness relative to Django rather than the deep-rooted and wide-reaching system built to enforce their bondage. This is compounded by the fact that the hundreds of large slave revolts that did occur in real-life aren't taught consistently, and smaller methods of rebellions aren't examined, so the idea of slave rebellion itself often gets framed as revenge fantasy or "that thing Nat Turner did that one time." There were real slaves who freed themselves Django could have been modeled after: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Bass Reeves. Instead, Django is himself rescued from chains by Schulz, so I don't see how he's so subversive of the White Savior tropes.

My point, though, isn't either/or. I'm trying to rope a character like Cinderella into the "valid" circle, not push whatever "Strong female characters" out. I'm not portraying meekness as how women ought to be or an ideal standard they must abide by, simply putting forth the argument it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility a character can embody such traits AND be strong in their own right and the assumptions we make about "weak" characters, often in contradiction to the texts they're contained in, speaks to our values. This isn't even unique to women. I mentioned Ulysses' protagonist as one such character. Jesus could be argued another.

Thaluikhain:

Yes...though this is an issue that's been recognised for a while, to the extent that people might often put quote marks around the progressives doing this sort of thing.

In general, the easy way to get around this is to have multiple female characters who are seen to be respectable. One female warrior who is as good as the men (other than the hero) is often done cringebly, but stick some random extras in the background who happen to be female warriors, and even if they don't do anything, having a female warrior characters is less of a big deal. Likewise, stick a few female characters in who are more traditionally feminine, don't condemn them for being so, and even if they don't do anything of note you've avoided "I'm not like the other girls, I'm (almost) as good as a man".

That's not to say that all female characters have to be positive depictions, of course, but having some (even glorified extras) would probably help.".

The bolded is all I'm arguing: I think it's misogynistic to immediately interpret "traditionally feminine" as lesser. One can argue the merit of meekness or whatever, but often it bleeds down to "If Girl character A is interested in boy bands and makeup, then Girl character B will be positioned as a superior contrast who loathes those things" when assigning moral weight to such accouterments is petty. I'd argue most women manage to be as strong as anyone else AND interested in how symmetrically-applied their mascara is.

Satinavian:
And i argue that violence is not masculine but only perceived as masculine by some.

Exactly the same as science is.

And that this is a bad gender stereotype we should get rid of. If we are presented with a women using violence, our reaction should never be "she behaves like a man". Otherwise we are promoting old and harmfull gender stereotypes.

And yes, that means that our "strong female characters" are pretty helpful the way they are as they help with establishing a new norm about what it means to be a woman.

I'd still disagree with the implication there's parity in use of violence between men and women. I'm not going to call 50/50 on the issue and I've never said that women don't commit violence. I'll concede that I haven't formulated my use of "coded" specifically or consistently enough, but I don't know what else to say on the issue.

Establishing a new norm doesn't require salting the earth of the old which is what I'm criticizing.

Redryhno:
snip

I'm not going to engage your argument that abuse from mothers is somehow "more well delivered" than abuse from fathers when you start by sweeping the lasting effects of assault, rape, and murder aside. Somehow, being dead isn't long-lasting. You sound silly and you'd need a fistful of receipts for me to take such a broad bit of presumably-anecdotal speculation as in good faith.

Cinderella isn't rewarded by "simply existing." The implication is that The Fairy Godmother appears as a manifestation of all the efforts she had made prior. Again, this portrayal of diligence and faith is outdated, but not malicious. And yes, having kindness you've doled out (to mice in this instance) reciprocated counts as efforts. That's quid pro quo.

I'd disagree with the idea Sarah Connor "largely didn't have many" positive traits because she doesn't appear to fall outside the range of normal teenager in the first movie. Why is the standard for "strong female character" being a pseudo-commando able to stave off the robo-apocalypse when that's not the standard most people hold themselves and others to day-to-day? Why is correcting "ditzy teenage girl" taken as a net-positive despite it rendering her less able to actually function in her society?

It just seems to me people are more willing to lionize Don Draper for slaying pussy and being a boss despite him being a deadbeat father, war deserter, and grifter simply because he appears to be what we've labeled "strong" and more likely to condemn a character like T1 Sarah Connor simply because she appears to be "weak".

Crazy thought, write people that happen to be women. The Expanse is a pretty popular sci-fi book series that has quite a few female characters. In the first three books, there are four POV female characters, one of them a Martian Marine that has quite a few moments of weakness, namely her struggles with her PTSD regarding her unit being wiped out by a super soldier, her struggles and lack of understanding when it comes to getting thing done when she's thrown into the world of politics, to even smaller moments when she freaks out when she steps outside on Earth for the first time and can't see the curve of the planet like she's used too on Mars. She still gets plenty of badass moments, such as when she fights another super soldier and pumps it with a few thousand incendiary rounds. Humanizing moments too, like when she plays with a little girl by playing catch with her in zero G. The girl was the ball.

Then there's the Earth politician who, despite being an undersecretary and an old lady, is more or less the third most powerful person on Earth and is a master of political maneuvering and subterfuge, utterly crushing her enemies in as brutal a manner as possible. She's also got a mouth that would make most sailors blush. Despite that, she's not a fighter, and relies on other people to do the heavy lifting for her. In the TV adaption, she even ducks behind the aforementioned Martian Marine when some fighting breaks out. She also has moments of frustration when she's trying to keep everyone from tearing each other a part and she just wants to go home. And like the Marine, she has humanizing moments, such as a loving marriage to a man who's just a humble English professor and a tender relationship with her grandchildren.

The third character is a lesbian Methodist preacher from Europa (though moved there from Earth) who is rather adverse to violence (though she carries a taser) feels guilty about lying to police (well, she gives a technical truth about a man who grabbed her, when he did) in order to get a wife beater arrested, is very heavy on forgiveness and trying to bring people together with love and friendship, and it's clear she feels like she's in over her head when bullets start flying. She also has a tendency to act without thinking things through, such as when she straps on a space suit and jetpack for the first time, jumping from one ship to another, only realizing she has no idea if she has enough air for the trip when she's halfway there (Granted she was high on morphine at the time.) She technically gets in a fight, but it's more she saves someone from getting killed by tasing their attacker from behind, getting into a secure compartment with that person, panicking as the attacker wails on the door (refusing to take an available gun) and taping the attacker to a chair and calling for help when the attacker passes out.

Though I have to admit I'm not crazy about the fourth POV character in the first three books. An heiress who's father had a hand in the atrocities in the first two books, and she's angry that the one recurring POV character helped expose her father as basically being Space Hitler. So she blows up a ship with 2,000 people on it and sets off a chain of events that get tens of thousands of people killed. While her perspective is interesting because she is unsure of herself and is really just half stumbling through, leaving tons of evidence behind, (kind of perfectly encapsulated with a biological implant she has, something that can fire off all of the adrenaline in her body that gives her five minutes of hyper awareness before she crashes and starts vomiting in a fetal position) a lot of it is kind of ruined by the overlaying fact that you're supposed to feel sorry for someone who killed thousands of innocent people to avenge someone who caused the deaths of around 2 million. Granted she does break down towards the end and does put herself in harms way to make up for what she's done, and she doesn't get off scott free for her actions (maximum security prison) making her more tolerable and interesting.

I've not seen the Expanse get any crap for its female characters, probably because they're varied, interesting, and they actually have an impact on the story. If anything, I've seen it get nothing but praise.

Granted, then the fourth book happened and the female POV was a scientist whose main character trait was that she craved recurring POV main character cock. To be fair, the male POV characters started sucking around that point too, being depicted as as "let's keep committing acts of terrorism in a tense situation, what could possibly go wrong?" and "my boss is a trigger happy asshole who keeps escalating a tense situation by shooting unarmed people, oh well, I guess I'll do nothing." so it's hardly a gendered issue.

Write them as human...not gender restricted stereotypes? Speak and get to know more women, without requiring 'physical attraction' to do so. I'm not sure what else to add really.

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