Usually I’m an easygoing person, but one thing that gets under my skin is “kitchen jokes”. Partly because someone actually thinks they’re being clever, and in my opinion, they’re ironic. As a woman who has been working in food service for seven years now, I’m not blind to “men only” kitchens in restaurants. The general reason for this seems to be “because women can’t handle the pressure and the workload”. I know that that excuse is complete malarkey, but I don’t understand why it seems to be a continuing trend, especially in the media. Women are portrayed as home cooks, and not as professional chefs. On television there are many examples of serious female chefs. There’s Cat Cora, who’s still the only female Iron Chef in America. Julia Child, one of the first chefs ever televised in America, is famous for her influence in culinary arts. If we have women on TV who can be professional chefs, why can’t this be more common in fictional mediums?
Greetings, readers dear! I have the honor of introducing our new Monday column, Magical Mondays. Here we’ll discuss a variety of issues, ranging from the gender-divided magic users in the Wheel of Time series to the myriad weird stuff going on with Rowling’s wizarding world, and anything and everything in between.
Today I’m going to talk about the world of The Night Circus, a novel by Erin Morgenstern. The Night Circus is about the scions of two magicians, forced into a last-man-standing duel by their tutors. The battlefield that they choose is a circus, which they transform into a dazzling spectacle of illusions and mysteries, constantly one-upping each other with newer and lovelier tents. When they fall in love with each other, however, they’re forced to search for a loophole out of their duel so they don’t have to kill each other to end the showdown.
One of the things I’ve always loved about fantasy literature is that it provides an escape from the real world. When I’m comfortably ensconced in a Robin McKinley novel or re-reading the Wheel of Time series for the ninetieth time, I am not worried about real life things like job hunting or school loans. It’s a mini-vacation from the suckiness of meatspace, and so it’s all the more depressing when some of the crappiest things in real life—sexism, racism, entrenched heteronormativity—show up in my fantasy novels.
One of my biggest frustrations in this sense is that, because fantasy novels seem to have become synonymous with “medieval stuff but with magic”, women are constantly relegated to the tasks and roles that would have been theirs during the Middle Ages. There’s a lot of embroidery and marriage-drama, and the female characters who do defy the gender norms are not met with societal acceptance or approval. Unfortunately, in the case of a lot of fantasy novels, even the mythical deities seem to have been stuck into very traditional gender roles. Continue reading
When I get a break and can sit down and actually enjoy myself on Tumblr, I often find myself getting angry at many of the things that are posted and reblogged in my fandoms. There are many things that piss me off, but recently it’s been the extreme gender roles and sexism against certain male characters. That’s right—the feminist is going to talk about sexism against men.
I have always believed that sexism affects men as much as women, but in very different ways. Men, just like women, are forced into gender roles and societal expectations that they don’t necessarily want. When teaching feminist theology to my college students, I tried to point out to the men (because I always felt no one else was) that they should be just as insulted by sexism and gender roles as the women. After classes, many of my male students approached me to say that they were angry about the gender roles men were placed into. They felt they had to always be tough—not necessarily physically strong, but that they always had to act macho and unaffected by everything. They felt threatened and uncomfortable by ideas that claimed men couldn’t be loving or nurturing as fathers; that they shouldn’t say anything about it if they felt (or were) sick. They felt pressured to avoid asking for help or working toward peaceful compromises, but rather, felt that they must always be the aggressive loner who does his own thing. These are all roles that greatly influence men’s lives today.
So what does this have to do with fandoms? Well, masculine gender roles often results in stereotyped male characters like Dean Winchester, Batman, Derek Hale, and Wolverine, whom fandoms love and think are awesome. Now, granted, many of the characters I just listed have a lot of depth. Dean, for example, really grows and develops as a character (at least in the first five seasons), so it’s not that I think these characters are necessarily negative stereotypes. What bothers me is how fandom reacts to other male characters that don’t fit the typical male stereotype.
For this post I’m going to talk about the three male characters I see picked on the most by fans: Sam Winchester, Superman, and Scott McCall. I always said these three characters need to sit down and get a drink together because it really makes no sense that the fandom hates them as much as they seem to. Of course, none of this means that the entire fandom hates a certain character, but that enough people hate a character that the rest of the fandom starts to notice it and see it as a problem. (I really should point out that characters like Superman, Sam Winchester, and Scott McCall are also male stereotypes of a different sort, but that is a post for another time.) For now, let’s look at why these characters are so hated.
A while back, I wrote a Manga Mondays on this series. In short, it’s about a group of thirteen people—one person for every animal in the Chinese zodiac legend—who are cursed to turn into their respective animal whenever they are hugged by a person of the opposite sex. While cute and adorable, Fruits Basket leaves a lot to be desired because it is written from a very heteronormative viewpoint. Not only is it heteronormative, it creates a world in which there is no one outside the gender binary. As far as I can tell, they do not exist in this universe.
As someone who more or less identifies according to the binary, I don’t often pay attention to whether or not stories are dismissive of people who don’t fit into it. However, Fruits Basket makes it impossible not to notice, since gender and gender roles are both a driving force of the plot and a gimmick to make the story “cuter”.
Spoilers for Fruits Basket after the jump.
If you’re not familiar with the show or the novel, the story in a nutshell is this: a group of English noblemen, disgusted by the brutality and wholesale slaughter taking place during the French Revolution, undertake many daring excursions across the Channel to rescue French nobility from the guillotine. As they become more and more famous for their exploits in England, they are forced to hide their true personalities under a pretend love of fashion, as no one expects a foppish lord to also be a national hero.
This ‘disguise’ is most clearly seen in the scene where Lord Percy Blakeney, the titular Scarlet Pimpernel (a pimpernel is a flower, by the way, and it’s his signet, hence the code name) and mastermind of the whole operation, is taken aside by the Prince of Wales. The Prince wants to ask him about something serious, but Percy keeps up his fashion-forward front, singing this song that states the true purpose of the male gender is to be flashy and fashionable.
The song in and of itself is a hilarious subversion of gender expectations, since in every species they mention besides humans, the male gender is the one who’s supposed to put on a show and look pretty to attract a mate. It’s a clever, funny song by itself, but I’m of two minds about foppishness as plot device. Continue reading
So it turns out that even though I love action-packed anime, nothing sucks me in like a potential romance. I watched two seasons of Kimi ni Todoke in a week, but it took me months to finish Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I have a deep-seated love for shows that layer on the unresolved romantic tension.
Princess Jellyfish (also known by its Japanese name Kuragehime) is an interesting show that depends on a lot of tropes but also breaks out of them as well. Tsukimi, the main character, is one of a group of five girls who live in an all-female apartment building. Tsukimi and her buildingmates are all poorly-adjusted, socially awkward otaku obsessed with one thing or another, whether it’s trains, older gentlemen, Chinese historical drama, traditional Japanese clothing, or, in Tsukimi’s case, jellyfish. Continue reading