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Day 4 and we're back to *gender issues*

Well, that didn't take long.



Day Four: A female character you relate to

Ainsley Hayes of The West Wing.

Yeah ... okay. This was a stretch. Or at least, it was a stretch if we assume that "relate to" means "are similar to", because I'm not. I doubt I have ever been anything like any of Sorkin's characters, female or otherwise (and while we're on the subject, let's set aside Sorkin's recent wimmin!fail issues for this bit, hmm? and just celebrate what he did well). To complicate matters, I don't really identify with characters or stories very often at all. The characters I do feel any affinity for (we're talking maaaaybe two or three, here) are all male. (And yes, I am: straight, white, female. It's not that much to do with gender identity, really.)

Politics-wise, I'm deeply ambivalent (and sceptical). Patriotism-wise, I'm utterly suspicious (and hard-to-get). Passion-wise, I'm fervently snarky (and cynical). Perkiness-wise, I'm ... just not (at all). Ainsley is literal-minded and idealistic and bright and shiny and good, none of which have much to do with me at all. On the other hand, I respect her willingness to speak truth to power, as well as her mind; that she meets things head-on and goes toe-to-toe about her beliefs, tough but not disrespectful to whomever she's confronting. I especially respect her openness to find common ground with the "enemy" and work with – and under – their authority in order to serve what is more important than either side, and without ever losing an iota of her sense of self. She largely works from a place of assurance. Plus I'm pretty used to being ideologically isolated and therefore developing good relationships through debating. So there's that.

But the reason I pick her is because in an argument with Sam, she pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about the notion of female "empowerment". (Also? Hooray for transcripts on the internets!) They spend much of their episode "asides"-quota arguing over her stance against the ERA, with Sam flabbergasted (and self-righteously indignant) at the idea that any woman could be against it. (Which ... ngearggghh! But this post is not about my desire to flick his idealism-cloaked pomposity about the ear, so. *fumes quietly*) And it culminates in this:

SAM
How can you have an objection to something that says...?

AINSLEY
Because it's humiliating! A new amendment that we vote on, declaring that I am equal under the law to a man. I am mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before. I am a citizen of this country. I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me. And I went to law school just to make sure. And with that, I'm going back down to the mess, because I thought I may have seen, there, a peach.
[leaves]

Granted, Sorkin still had to code it in "old, white men" terms in order to make it palatably feminist, but the point stands. And I am also quite willing (unlike Sam) to grant that others don't feel the same way as I do about this, that it is perfectly legitimate that recognition, affirmation and example in popular media can be extremely valuable for some people. But for me, the whole concept of this kind of female empowerment, of which our generation's standard bearer has to be Buffy, has the opposite effect. I don't know that I'd say I'm mortified, since I don't recognise any authority pop media has over my identity, but I'm at the very least incredulous that, a) Buffy and her ilk of Spunky Kickass Heroines are representative of female strength, and b) I'm to accept this empowerment as handed down from self-congratulatory middle class white men. Just. Wat. WAT.

Ainsley, you're awesome. *fistbump* Let's hang out and argue and eat desserts and harangue Sam.

ETA: ooh! YouTube clipage! Final smack-down at 4:40.



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Comments

( 2 speakses — have a speak )
fleurlb
Feb. 20th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
I am lurking (and loving) this meme. I haven't weighed in because, well, I am relatively poorly read, apparently. OK, that's not true. Here's the truth (since you once told me this was a SAFE PLACE) - I hate history. OK, I don't hate history, but I just find that I'm not that interested in stories that are pre-WWII-ish. I especially hate reading literature older than the last 80 years or so, because the style was so different back then and I am lazy and all new media. Or something.

So, I had nothing to say, until now. Yes, relatability is a weird attribute to try to assess. But what irks me about nearly all TV shows is that nearly all wives are horrible shrews who berate their husbands for wanting do anything except adhere to a very narrow, normalized sliver of aspirations.

And the one exception I can think of to this dreadful rule (and if I'm missing some awesome wives out there, please let me know) is Tami Taylor, aka Mrs Coach from Friday Night Lights. I don't think I relate to Mrs Coach, exactly, because she's all beautiful and sassy and confident but I do relate to the role she plays as a wife in her marriage. Or at least, on my best days I do.

So yeah, *fistbump* Mrs Coach. Let's hang out and you can teach me the secrets of beautiful hair and we can decry the lack of awesome wives on television.

Edited at 2013-02-20 06:28 pm (UTC)
themonkeytwin
Feb. 21st, 2013 10:44 am (UTC)
It is a safe space! And I can understand the reluctance to shift reading style modes. I have to be in the right mood even for Austen, who's the most comfortable and familiar, and that's really rare these days. And Russian literature? I've tried, I honestly have! But there just doesn't feel like enough return for the effort – I just wade through endless just *stuff* wondering when it's going to get to the point or tell me something I don't already know about human nature and drama (I may have somehow inadvertantly imbibed a fairly dour outlook on life, the universe and everything early on in life, not quite sure how that happened but I've never been able to shake it). So I just end up feeling like I'm completely missing the point, and it's so ~deep~ or whatever and I just ... can't do it. NOPE. I HAVE NOT THE MENTAL FORTITUDE.

So yeah, total sympathy – I don't think it's laziness, either. We have so much to process coming at us everyday, in so many different modes, it's lunacy to expect to be able to engage things on the level people could when it was written. It's impossible, we just don't have the time or energy because our life and information happen at such speed and volume. [Eta: which, I should say, is what new media is geared to, so we respond much more readily!] Most of the book-answers on the list are things I read when I was young and voracious, and have revisited since because they're comfortable. But new novels I've read are few and far between.

Oh Tami Taylor, aka Mrs Coach. I salute your choice! I loved that portrayal of a marriage relationship, and the individual wife and husband, in that show. It wasn't perfect, and neither were they, but it never reduced either of them to stereotypes at all. And I think she would be awesomely fun to hang out with, I'm sure she'd have a lot to say about the lack of awesome wives on tv.

As to other portrayals ... my sense is that Elizabeth and Peter Burke on White Collar are generally lauded. I like them fine, and Elizabeth is legit awesome, I'm just getting incredibly bored with the show and its schtick. All the characters are still charming and likeable, I just ... don't care about their endless convolutions to stay within the show's premise that they outgrew two seasons ago. There's no tension, no interest anymore. *yawn* But yeah, other than that, can't think of any.

Edited at 2013-02-21 10:46 am (UTC)
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