Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What's With All the Hate?

Why do women hate women?

That's a question I've seen in many magazines written for women, regardless of race. And it's an honest question. I've seen woman on woman hate in movies, video games, television, and yes—YA novels.

Yet some claim women can't be sexist against other women—when a woman voices her opinion on something that would dub a man a misogynist, she's merely speaking her mind. For the record, I would like to state that there are certain exceptions in regard to sexism and racism within groups of the same race/sex/ethnicity. It is a standard, not a double standard, unlike some would like to believe.

However, when a woman demeans another woman for having large breasts or a weave or enjoying sex or wearing make-up or simply wishing to become a housewife—that is sexist and there's no exception.

I've seen it too many times—

Why is she wearing those boots? They're slutty.
Look at those hooker heels.
Her ass is too big.
I hate when blonde bitches get all the guys.
Why is she wearing those shorts? Whore.
Is she wearing a weave? That can't be her real hair.
Why does she sleep with so many guys? Slut.
Her room has a revolving door.
She was all over my boyfriend. Bitch.
She's a dyke, for sure.
I only have guy friends.
I'm not "girly" like those other women.

All from women. Women who'd never, ever admit to being sexist.

And it's not surprising.

It's quite rare to find a legitimate female/female friendship in popular entertainment. There's usually underlying insecurity or jealousy. Usually over a guy. Look at Twilight—does Bella have any legitimate friendships with females? Alice does not count. Look at Hush, Hush. Look at most contemporary novels—girls typically have guy friends, and if they do have female friends, those friends are a) described as shallow and air headed, b) non-threatning, aka, not attractive according to the narrator, or c) they exist as a plot device for the narrator to become attracted to their boyfriend or vice-versa.

Even a favorite of mine, A Great and Terrible Beauty, isn't free of this. The MC's aren't truly friends. They're frenemies, a term we rarely see applied to guys.

Are there any friendships that don't have some jealousy and insecurity in them? Probably not. But when you compare the relationships between men and the relationships between women in popular entertainment, men usually come out on top. Look at shows like Bridalplasty—which pit women against each other to win plastic surgery—or Desperate Housewives, which is just about as petty as it gets.

Besides Thelma and Louise, I can't name any modern movies which portray dynamic female friendships to the extent that any recent bromance (50/50, Superbad) do. Online, I see hundreds of goofy GIF's about Supernatural's dynamic duo, but where is the female equivalent?

In YA books, it's become standard to see girls argue over guys (especially in YA PNR). We'll see the weakest excuses contrived to create animosity between girls.

A favorite short lived series of mine, Gotham City Sirens, paired up Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn—three iconic female characters whose lives revolve around men. For the purpose of this comic, they've come together to realize they no longer wish to be controlled by the men in their lives—Batman and the Joker, respectively. And, for a while, it works.

They overcome their own individual oppressions and come to terms with the abuse and neglect they've suffered through. That is, until the finale—when their friendship is destroyed by petty jealousy. These are some of the strongest female characters in DC history and ridiculous, contrived reasons are given for their separation. This was right before the DCU reboot. It's not even worth discussing the new editions of Catwoman and Harley Quinn. We know what happened. It was disappointing to say the least.

Another comic favorite of mine—an adaptation of the Teen Titans, attempted to show a strong friendship between Starfire and Raven. We get a few episodes of friendship devoted to them, but most fans will only come away remembering the dynamic between Robin and Cyborg or Beast Boy and Raven.

Over the history of comics, we've never quite seen a female pair as strong as Batman and Robin or the fan favorite Teen Titans line-up—Robin/Superboy/Kid Flash. The television adaptation of the Justice League attempted to give us something between Wonder Woman and Hawk Girl, but mostly, we received a lot of bantering between them. Granted, the show tried at times, but we usually came out with the short end of the stick. Most of the female/female relationships could not hold a candle to the male/male relationships or the male/female relationships.

I can't remember any Disney movies that feature popular female friendships, probably because the focus is usually on romance, aka, finding a guy to marry. The only example that comes to mind is in The Princess and the Frog. There are, however, countless memorable male/male friendships: Mike and Scully, Woody and Buzz, Kenai and Koda, Pooh Bear and Piglet, The Fox and the Hound, etc, etc.

On the topic of popular music—if we left Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift to speak on female friendships, we'd come away thinking all women were unattractive, stupid sluts without any taste in jeans or men. Even in pop songs where male rappers demean women, they seem to remain close with each other.

I applaud KA Applegate, author of The Animorphs, for giving us an honest, female/female friendship between Rachel and Cassie that did not come with the standard arguments we see between females in most entertainment. And I give a standing ovation to Judy Blume for presenting a variety of relationships between females in her novels.

More modern YA writers like Sarah Dessen make a point to include strong female friendships in most of their books. And author of The Friday Society, Adrienne Kress, made this statement in regard to her recent YA debut which I wholeheartedly agree with:
This is something sorely lacking in most media today. Even when you have a strong, positive, three-dimensional female main character, she is often the exception rather than the rule. Other female characters with lousy character traits are put around her to demonstrate just how amazing our lead character is, and often our FMC has contempt for most women in the story. The characters the FMC does relate to tend to be male.

On the off-chance that the FMC does have female friends, they are often represented as frenemies (I really hate that word). Relationships between women are evidently supposed to be catty, manipulative, and just all-around unpleasant. By contrast, there is a beauty to men’s bromance. It is held up as an important and wonderful thing, whether it be a Fellowship surrounding, say, a piece of jewelry, or someone to whom you can say I Love You, Man. But the female bond is derided, considered a necessary evil. Something to mock. It’s actually why I believe so many women love bromance books and films. We so rarely see our own friend relationships represented as high-quality and fulfilling, that we relate better to watching the way male relationships are represented.
So, please, YA writers, I ask you to try and put a little effort into the female friendships you write. And readers: demand more. Does every single female besides your MC have to be evil simply because she's attractive? Does every girl who catches your MC BF's eye have to be a bitch? I feel like I'm writing a PBS donation script, asking for money, but I'm serious.

These things are embedded into our society. They are directly tied to slut shaming and rape culture. And, as a writer (or reader), you can help others realize that women do have healthy relationships with one another and you'd like to seem more of them presented in our entertainment.

I, for one, am sick of seeing women pitted against each other in my books and in real life.

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