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Why is it that I either have nothing to write about or tons to write about?  There’s never a nice happy medium where I have one or two things I can write about every day.

Well, going with the fact that it’s International Women’s Day, figure I’ll go with a blog post to do with women.  Of course, given my lack of political and historical knowledge, speaking about woman’s struggles in the past and in countries with less rights than my own would probably fall flat – frankly there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said on these topics with far more grace and intelligence  that I can offer.

Instead, I’m going to look at two things I discovered last week, that I feel do have some bearing on women and how they are seen even today in our own culture.  One is a video released by Disney and aimed at young girls; the other is a panel from Minamicon last week:

I Am a Princess

I have quite a lot of resentment for this video, and I’m not entirely sure it’s justified or if I’m over thinking things.  This video was released by Disney, and on the surface it’s a wonderful empowering about girls and what they can do.  But all I can hear is princess, princess, princess.

This video is essentially stating that all of the strengths and traits in the video are necessary to be a princess – and that every girl is a princess, Disney solidifying its strongest brand once again.  But these traits are not what make a princess.  They’re not even necessary to make you female – they’re what make you a good person.  Perhaps it’s being over analytical, but I can’t help but wonder how many young girls watch it and think they have to be a Princess if they want to be all those things.  The video essentially states that if you’re don’t want to be a Princess, then you don’t want to be the very best version of yourself.

I am a firm supporter of the PinkStinks campaign, read the Princess Free Zone blog regularly, and as much as I love Disney, I hate their obsessive use of Princesses in their branding.  Admittedly, certain characters in the princess line aren’t technically princesses (Mulan springs to mind) – but Disney and a lot of female cartoons keep pushing this idea that all girls should want to be princesses.  The fact of the matter is all girls can’t be princesses, and quite a few don’t want to be. In reality, once you get passed a certain age, the term ‘Princess’ becomes quite derogatory – and there’s a reason for that!

If I knew enough people with young girls (and you know what? Boys too), I would remake this video and add lines like:

“I don’t have to wear a dress to be beautiful.”

“I don’t need to be royalty to be a leader.”

“I don’t need a Prince to live happily ever after.”

“I don’t need to be a Princess to be perfect.”

To give Disney credit, the tone of the video was going in the right direction.  I love the shots they took, and the descriptions they gave.  But unless they’re releasing a ‘Prince’ version for boys it still feels like blatant stereotyping.

Geeks Against Gok

In a very similar vein, this panel hit home for me on the grounds that I myself am a very geeky girl with little fashion sense, and have had to face a lot of flak for it from family and random people.

This video is a little long, but the parts that are important are at (1:10, 17:16, 55:10 and 57:04).  To summarise it, the panel was about the counter-culture of fandom and how people react to their shows and games.  However, one of the panellists, Zoe Burgess (also quite a geeky girl who loved anime, Supernatural and Doctor Who) had recently participated in Gok Wan’s new series ‘Gok’s Style Secrets’.  Her father had died recently, causing her to be depressed, and she’d lost a lot of weight, but didn’t feel comfortable in her body – so she thought going on the show would help her get some confidence back.  Which it did, and she enjoyed the experience…right up until the end where she was told they were cutting out everything to do with her father’s death and her grieving because it was too dark for the show they wanted to air (Zoe’s reply: in that case, why have her on the show at all?).

As such, when the show did finally air, none of this was mentioned and instead said all of her problems came from being a geek and emo Goth…despite the fact that Zoe considered fandom to be a very positive thing in her life and has never once considered it a factor against her.  Something that was enhanced by Zoe’s own admission when she speaks about her dates on the show near the end of the panel – the first date’s original clothing and interests proved he was clearly ‘her type’, so they completely transformed his look and banned him from talking about their similar interests – they weren’t allowed to show Zoe succeeding at finding love while being a geek, because that would ruin the whole point of the show.

I still haven’t seen the episode (I’m looking for it, but failing completely) but essentially, like with many reality TV shows, her story was completely altered, and instead of showing her hobbies as a ‘by the way she likes this’ sort of addition, it was pulled centre stage.  Zoe was mocked because she didn’t fit into the social norm and appeared to be pressured into rejecting it in order to find ‘happiness’.

Why is it that a woman is still judged for not being ‘normal?’  This is a smart, talented woman who has a decent job and just happens to have a strange hobby.  A hobby that had nothing to do with her self confidence and issues, but something she loves that gives her a social life and helps her express herself creatively – but when put into mainstream people are openly derided for having these interests.  Yet if she went into work talking about soap operas and ‘The Only Way is Essex’ she’d be considered perfectly normal – there’s no real difference between loving reality TV or Sci-fi – just certain fans take it to another (perfectly healthy) level.  Men are given far more leeway in this, I remember when I got into fandom nearly all my friends were men – women just weren’t around.

Thankfully that’s changed the more I got into fandom, I now have a pretty balanced social group.  This is probably the only reason my mother (and father on occasion) have stopped insulting my interests and accept that they’re pretty much here to stay.  I’m also very lucky that my work mates find it fascinating and are genuinely interested in what I do at conventions.  But there are plenty (and male friends who like to ‘crossplay’ too if I’m honest) who I know on at least a passing basis who desperately keep their hobbies private because they don’t think non-fandom people will ‘get it’.

The good side about the show for Zoe at least is that after it aired, it made her more determined to make her own clothes that better reflect her personality – the same pattern as the clothes Gok put her in, but with fandom-related fabric – which by the way, is the coolest idea I’ve ever heard of and I might just try it myself.

Another great point is that after it aired, the #geeksagainstgok tag started to appear.  There is many a male and female geek angry at the show for this portrayal.  Won’t show up on any twitter or tumblr searches, but whoever stopped that hasn’t stopped Google from listing all the tweets.

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