The Confidence Gap

This past week, the term “confidence gap” has been garnering some attention online. The term’s popularity is due to an April 14 feature published by the Atlantic entitled, “The Confidence Gap,” co-written by ABC News reporter Claire Shipman and BBC World News America anchor Katty Kay. The two previously collaborated on their 2009 book Womenomics, which explores shifts in modern day American workforces.

“The Confidence Gap” explores what is the second-most disturbing sex-based gap in the US following the wage gap. Shipman and Kay, who interviewed a vast range of students, professors, and experts in their field for the article, seek to understand why confidence in modern American women is so limited.

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Gender-alizations

Opinions_Feminist-apsolutes

In all my years of exposure to feminism, and with the fractured nature of the movement as a whole, I’ve encountered a lot of different views. While I hate to generalize, I have to say, the feminism I absolutely hate is a feminism of absolutes.

What does this mean? It means that in a movement as broad and far-reaching as feminism, there’s a temptation to boil it down to something that’s easily digestible, or that can be spread real thin and applied to all people. While this propensity for generalization is understandable, it isn’t acceptable; when you deal in absolutes, you set yourself up to be incorrect and unfair.

There are myriad manners in which absolutes can sneak their way into feminism, and you could write a series of essays on any of these topics—and many have. I’ll limit myself to a condensed op-ed on the reprehensible belief that all men are reprehensible.

The short version is: it’s bullshit.

The long version is: it’s bullshit because it’s predicated on anecdotal evidence—which shouldn’t be given more weight than a case study would. I’m aware that some men have archaic views about a woman’s place in society. I’m equally aware that some women have archaic views about a woman’s place in society.

While demonizing men isn’t the practice of all feminists, it is the enthusiastic practice of a minority, and generalizing from individual instances is a recipe for wrongness. Sex does not determine opinion or character. Saying that all men are awful reeks of biological determinism—the same brand of argument that states women are limited by their sex. Even vaguer statements with quantifiers like “most” or “a lot” beg for actual evidence—which I’m gonna go ahead and say doesn’t exist.

What concerns me is that these generalizations about men have been making their way into the mainstream mentality, and this propensity for belittling and stereotyping men, ever-growing in popularity, is sexism. So many people decry that label when the object of subordination isn’t a woman, but sexism isn’t discrimination against women: sexism is discrimination and prejudice based on sex. It’s evident in the advertisements that paint men as bumbling buffoons; it’s in the undeveloped, impulsive statements that demonize all men because of a few bad ones.

I’m in no way implying that feminists—even those with whom I disagree—are squarely behind it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t consider someone who makes generalizations about a sex to be a feminist. It may begin as feminist rage, but it’s corrupted to the point of treating men with the same heavy hand that’s been applied to women.

Unfortunately, everyone is capable of sexism—I myself still have to be conscious about not using gendered insults. It’s despicable that someone might advocate for equality, direct hate at and belittle men, and then masquerade that sexism as feminism.

Some people distance themselves from the feminist movement under the simplifying statement that “I don’t look at things as being men against women.” While, again, I don’t see someone who vilifies men as being at all representative of feminism, I can understand why someone might be off-put by the feminist movement. The people who turn their activist rage into accusatory rage tend to be the loudest, and to assert themselves with provocative statements that are constructed to provoke.

That’s a further danger: in addition to speaking in unfair absolutes about a sex, and shifting the sexist lens to include another group, these gross generalizations inevitably alienate people who might otherwise agree with and support the feminist movement—and feminism ain’t done yet.

Originally published in the Other Press.

Women and sex in Game of Thrones

Spoilers below for those not caught up with Game of Thrones. I also ask readers keep in mind that I am mainly focusing on the female characters of the series.

One of Game of Thrones’ many respectable aspects is how women in the show are portrayed. From wives and mistresses to warriors and magic users, there are few points where female characters become one-dimensional. Many of the women in their situations and how they respond feels real, which is part of what makes watching so much more exciting. Yes, there are many overwhelming instances of glorified female nudity, and no, the amount of male nudity shown thus far does not compare (for anyone defending that argument). However, I don’t feel this hinders the show.

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The masked vagina

Image from destroythecyb.org

The film industry, female empowerment, and superheroes—or lack thereof                  Image from destroythecyb.org

When I was a child and Catwoman came out, I was ecstatic. Eleven-year-old me watched the movie several times, thrilled by the fact that this woman was avenging herself, kicking ass, and taking names. It wasn’t until I was a few years older that I realized it was, in reality, a travesty of a movie. I can only excuse my brief hero-worshipping because the catastrophe that is Catwoman was a drop of water in an otherwise arid desert—and it still is.

The examples of female superhero movies are few and far between. There are movies with strong female leads who verge on being superheroes, like Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill or Natalie Portman’s V for Vendetta. There are superheroes of bygone years, like another Catwoman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer in ’92). Ensemble films feature female heroes, like the X-Men franchise with its various female mutants, or the Fantastic Four films with Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). Even more astonishingly, said character might be enigmatic and complex; Catwoman’s more recent incarnation in the The Dark Knight Rises, with Anne Hathaway purring away as the feline fatale, comes to mind.

Yet, even with the indications that female-led films put asses in the seats (as evidenced by Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in The Hunger Games films), and the cult-like adulation of powerful female characters (e.g. Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy), female superheroes are a rarity; and the list of them is pretty abysmal.

There are glimpses of successful, female superhero franchises: Wonder Woman was the focus of a TV show from 1975-79; was meant to be reincarnated in a TV show reboot which never came to fruition; is the titular subject of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s documentary, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which was shown at the BFI on International Women’s Day; and Gal Gadot is reported to be starring as Wonder Woman in Batman vs. Superman.

All the attention on Wonder Woman is great!… but where have all the other female superheroes gone? The calls for more of such productions are out there, as both Esquire and Newsarama.com list the top 10 female superheroes who should get their time on the big screen.

The easy excuse is that female superhero films don’t do as well at the box office. You only have to compare Catwoman (with a worldwide gross of $82,102,379) with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 (worldwide gross of $783,766,341) to know that’s true. The easy answer to that easy excuse, though, is that you get out what you put in. Produce a bad movie and you’ll get bad turn-out. It’s elementary.

Part of the issue with these films is that they lean so heavily on archetypal characters. The female superheroes represented are often homogenized to the point where if you were to remove their powers, characteristic quirks, and costumes, you might not even be able to differentiate them. They’re sassy but in a vaguely psychotic way, so their power is largely in their erratic unpredictability; they’re simpering; their one-liners aren’t particularly biting; and they might not need a man, but you get the impression that they lack the capacity to share their life with anyone. With the film industry generally handling female superheroes in this manner, it’s no wonder the movies get left in the dust.

The superhero is the perfect specimen. Superheroes are paragons of virtue, strength, and intelligence, yet women generally aren’t afforded such a representation on the silver screen. That’s why you end up with 11-year-olds thinking Catwoman is a good movie or, God forbid, an ideal role model.

I like the idea of future generations of girls not having to hunt down examples of female empowerment. I’ll grant you that female superhero films, comic books, video games, and the likes aren’t the only avenues for empowerment—but right now they aren’t avenues at all, they’re more like dead ends. This isn’t because women aren’t capable of carrying the titular role; this isn’t because there aren’t enough filmmakers or financial backers who could bring a female superhero to cinematic life; this isn’t because people don’t go crazy for superhero films. It’s because the film industry doesn’t know what to do with female superheroes.

Originally published in the Other Press.

Working on working out

Starting let alone keeping to an exercise regimen can be difficult if you’re the type of person who is stubborn when it comes to change. Change is hard; changes that are particularly important to you are sometimes harder to commit to. Thus, I’m going to try and breakdown why this commitment has proven almost mystically difficult for myself as a young woman.

Keep in mind that though that this exercise in exercising might not be full of advice that works for you necessarily. Rather, I encourage others to go through the process of breaking down ‘why’ they want to start a big change like working out (or anything else), not ‘how’ to do so.

From thirdage.com

From thirdage.com

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