Archives for posts with tag: media

i really wish there were more stories that applied all the creepy tropes that resonate with me to ANY FEMALE CHARACTERS AT ALL

i want stories about people who live in a dangerous state, who derive their identity from a sense of utility, who the world understands far too well along a few vectors and not at all in most others.

and I WANT THOSE STORIES ABOUT WOMEN and for those women to NOT FUCKING WELL BE SEXUALISED TO A POINT THAT OBSCURES THEIR SELVES

i want stories ABOUT women, not stories that offer women as a prize to their heroes, that put them centre stage without burying them under layers of misogynistic lies. i want to look at the media around me and see stories written without the verbal equivalent of the visual sexism eschergirls skewers

why is it so easy for us as a culture and in our subcultures to spend almost all our creative energy on the feelings and realities of men? i DON’T WANT TO READ ROMANCE, i don’t want to read stories about women battling for access to the coveted emotions of the men they desire or respect or value. i don’t want this default heterosex, come to think of it i’ve gotta admit i could do without hetero genders either if i’m honest.

i have access to so so so so many communities of storytelling; imdb and literary encyclopedias to list things exhaustively across a millenium of western storytelling, tvtropes to pick apart tropes and spin links between parallel instances of them, and free fanworks and books online and libraries in real life, media everywhere! 

and somehow still everywhere I look no matter how skilled at storytelling as a community my surroundings are, no matter how many fascinating stories I find that abstract pieces of our worlds through endlessly inventive layers of fantasy or cyberpunk… it is SO VERY RARE for me to find the stories i want.

in one sense of course it’s difficult: myself i don’t know what stories i want stories and why; just that hey shit wouldn’t it be lovely to read about women who hate being given femininity as a default, wow i want to read stories set somewhere whose coercive mechanisms weren’t the ones from our own world, that painted all its broken scary shit in lurid colours and labels and treated it as normal, i want to hide at a distance from my world and enjoy the weirdness and complexity of somewhere else.

do i really have to do it through a male gaze?

 

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…Aeschylus, Ovid, Cicero, the Pearl-Poet, Dante, Thomas More, Shakespeare, John Donne.

There, the reference points that I’ve got a good two thousand years of European literature and rhetori: Aeschylus died in 456 BC, John Donne in 1631 AD. They and the big names that crop up between them are the groundrock of the degree I did, a degree just called ‘English’ but about a very specific definition of that term.

Each wrote things that I find beautiful and valuable. All these reference points on that mental timeline I have are dudes, though, and that’s not something I can take lightly. I’m a feminist and I’ve spent years and committed to reading and writing; I can’t ignore the massive sex inequality in this tradition I care deeply for.

I’m aware of Sappho, but I haven’t been taught her works and I haven’t yet fancied hunting down a good translation on my own to read them myself. I can’t think of many other women I seen as literary landmarks in those time periods. What I know of women across those years makes them objects, not subjects. Female characters are shown to us as anything from deeply subtle to utterly idealised to misogynistic stereotypes, but they’re all characters: the writing I know from those times was something men did that was sometimes about women.

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Feminists and anti-racists and trans activists say thousands of perceptive and articulate things about the representation of their own in media. Even more thousands of people tell them ask what the point is. It’s just an advert, just a film, just a book, just a story. It has hurt anyone, has it? It’s not like this or that atrocity in real life. It’s taken me years to figure out exactly what to say back, but here’s my first attempt at a rebuttal to that.

Sure, those are stories. And what about the news. We talk about it coming in stories for a reason. Reports on the TV put together video reconstructions of dramatic events because they’re exactly that, dramatic, because news does exactly that, tells a story. Narratives are a much easier way to hold an audience’s attention than putting facts and figures across with nothing to link them together. There’s a reason school taught me about the English Reformation through the tale of Henry VIII’s woes in marriage, about the Cuban Missile Crisis as a dramatic showdown between Kruschev and Kennedy, and that I remember those events in terms of the people involved and what their reasons were, not from the dates of events or the terms of the Acts of Parliament or SALT treaties.

That’s how history works in my head: there are facts and fixed points there, sure, but I learnt it in stories – narratives, dramatisations, filtered versions of reality. And as long as the culture I live in is one that teaches us like that, stories never just stories, whether they’re calling themselves fact or fiction. Those are different kinds of story, certainly, but the way stories work full stop matters. They gives us frames of reference, sets of rules, they come bundled with all kinds of assumptions, and to some extent or other almost all of us use them to decode the world we live in. I want to understand anything that shapes me as much as stories have.

I want to break their rules. As long as the world stays in the habit of telling me about how the world I live in is shaped by a male protagonist, I’m going to keep asking for all the stuff that’s missing. I’m going to say say no, that’s a fraction of the whole picture, tinted and distorted; this isn’t a true reflection of our society.

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