I think I’m getting lazier and lazier. I’ve lost my routine completely, which is exactly the habit I want to break. And though I’d only started writing this a little more than thirty minutes till I need to publish it, I will write. I almost didn’t have a topic, too, but I was reminded of all that stuff that needed discussing. So here we go.
I don’t have a habit of watching TedTalks, but every now and then I come across really cool ones that I feel the need to share. Lately, I saw one on my feed that I’d seen before, about how to communicate effectively, and so I got into watching the next ones in the queue. One of them was from 2012, by Colin Stokes, about how movies teach manhood. And my goodness, he gets it.
What exactly “it” is, I’m not entirely sure, but it is significant af. As a person that grew up with movies and books, and I mean movies and books, there is little to nothing that can get my attention. I suggest watching the video in the link, but just in case you don’t have the time, I’ll summarize. In the video, Colin talks about the movies which he’d watched having raised two children. Personally, I think that’s one of the great perks of being around kids, too. Colin alludes to two movies in particular, which are The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars (IV). Similar, yet vastly different, especially given the time difference in which the two movies were released.
Colin takes note the fact that The Wizard of Oz‘s significant characters, Dorothy, Glinda, and The Wicked Witch (Elphaba…?) are all women, quite outnumber Aunt Beru and Princess Leia, in a much richer cast, in Star Wars. He also differentiates that while The Wizard of Oz is about Dorothy’s journey where she befriends everybody, becomes a leader, and achieves her goal with little to no violence, and Star Wars is about Luke’s quest, and his alone excluding his twin sister who also has the same Force in her, to become stronger and defeat an evil Empire. Please understand that, like Colin, I love both of these movies, and have all the appreciation for them. For the sake of discussion, I beg you set aside your pride and prejudice (no pun intended, but pun enjoyed nonetheless) to hear us out.
After pointing out these differences, Colin brings up that although there are various studies on how “boy-violent” movies have impacted girls, there’s hardly any on how it affects boys. (Oh, don’t you dare be all meninist on my ass because I will destroy you) Don’t worry, as Colin discusses, the number of Pixar movies which feature a heroine protagonist is limited to the ominous 1, which is Brave, and still critics found the time to criticeze (duh) the fact that the aforementioned studio made a “princess” movie, despite the fact that the great majority of movies are about the journey of a man/boy/man-boy.
You would think that there would be a way to make sure movies are at least “gender-friendly”, and represents their bifocal lens of society well enough. Well, there is, it’s just widely ignored by everyone because it was, guess what? Invented by a woman. The Bechdel Test! It’s fairly easy and only has three steps:
- Are there at least two women?
- Do they talk to each other?
- About something other than a man?
As Colin has researched, in 2011’s most popular movies, only 11 of which had female protagonists. Still a pretty solid number, but to represent more than half of the world’s population of humans, it’s underwhelming. Another statistic quoted by Colin is the number of women in America that say they’ve been sexually assaulted results to one out of five. In Colin’s own male words, “that’s a lot of sexual assailants. Who are these guys? Whar are they learning? What are they failing to learn? Are they absorbing the story that a male hero’s job is to defeat the villain with violence and then collect the reward, which is a woman who has no friends and doesn’t speak? Are we soaking up that story?”
And as much as I can say I’m a lazy person, I also very much prefer to divulge the following statement as said by Colin, because they are very well said words, “as a parent with the privilege of raising a daughter […] we find this world and this statistic very alarming anf we want to prepare them. We have tools at our disposal like “girl power,” and we hope that that will help, but I gotta wonder, is girl power going to protect them, if, at the same time, actively or passively, we are training our sons to maintain their boy power? […] I think we have got to show our sons a new definition of manhood […] So our sons are gonna have to find some way of adapting to this, some new relationship with each other, and I think we really have to show them, and model for them, how a real man is someone who trusts his sisters and respects them, and wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, who are the men who want to abuse the women.
“And I think our job in the Netflix queue is to look out for those movies that pass the Bechdel Test, if we can find them, and to see out the heroines who are there, who show the real courage, who bring people together, and to nudge our sons to identify with those heroines and to say, ‘I want to be on their team’ […] When I asked my daughter who her favorite character was in Star Wars, do you know what she said? Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Glinda. What do these two have in common? Maybe it’s not just the sparkly dress. I think these people are experts. I think these are the two people in the movie who know more than anybody else, and they love sharing their knowledge with other people to help them reach their potential. Now, they are leaders. I like that kind of quest for my daughter, and I like that kind of quest for my son. I want more quests like that. I want fewer quests where my son is told, ‘Go out and fight it alone,’ and more quests where he sees that it’s his job to join a team, maybe a team led by women, to help other people become better and be better people, like the Wizard of Oz.”
Now read that at least one more time, because my goodness, it takes my breath away. This video was taken in 2012, a world where America has not yet elected a… among all the words, a bigot, as their President.
I don’t perfectly understand how that is so difficult to comprehend. And still, people will debate how feminism is still relevant in this day and age, and to them I rebut, why is still hunger, poverty, and disease still rampant? Why is war still ongoing, and why is nuclear war still a fear? If there are enough people in this world for Forbes magazine to list at least 100 rich people, cannot those rich people just not be rich and instead be heroes to the billions upon billions that don’t know anything but suffering? Cannot they fund all the organizations and studies that look to make the world a less cruel place? Cannot they open their billion dollar mansion up to the refugees who no longer have a home? There is no shortage of resources, there’s just a hoarding of them.
In this point in time, it’s crucial to teach all of our children that at the very core of humanity, it’s not about looking out for yourself, but about making the world a better place with your fellow humans, for your fellow humans. It’s about moving forward together. Happy Humpday.
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