Thursday, September 22, 2016

Still mad about Natasha and Rey

I hold grudges longer than a rational, well-adjusted human ought to. It's the only thing about Mr. Darcy that I super get. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. (Within reason. I'm not hopeless.)

Image result for polyhedral diceSo forgive me if I bring up an argument that happened nearly a year ago, but which I am still not over. Allow me to set the scene:

We are in my living room. We are all nerds. (Obviously, as we were about to run an rpg). There are five boys and me. Five confident, charismatic, educated (mostly), employed (mostly), socially competent men, versus just me, who can only claim two of those traits in any significant ways. (I've graduated BYU, and I have two jobs. Just in case anyone was curious.)

This was just after Star Wars VII came out. You may or may not remember the Rey merchandise... scandal is the wrong word for it. The word scandal would imply that Disney/Star Wars was ashamed of its behavior, and it very clearly wasn't.

Rey is unarguably the main character of Force Awakens. Finn is prominent, but serves the role of sidekick. Just as the old Star Wars movies are entirely about Luke (I could make the argument that even the prequels are, in some very important ways. Anakin was never the point.) so too was this new movie very obviously about Rey.

And yet

Whose toys did they sell in the stores? Po, Finn, Han, BB-8, and Kylo Ren. Chewbacca. The random sword stormtrooper. Some bad guy in a black mask. But where's Rey?

Google search: "Force Awakens Backpack" Where is she?

A random unimportant villain is here, but not the main character? Where is she?

Since this discussion happened, they've come out with a Rey figure, but there's like one, amongst multitudinous other items without her.

Anyway, I'm not going to beat the point to death any farther. The moral of the story is that I was mad about this, and some of the males in the room didn't understand why.

So I tried to explain. I'm not eloquent. I'm not charismatic. I'm not particularly well-organized in thought processes or speech patterns. I didn't come to game night prepared to debate, so I had no statistics, or images, or lists of other evidence. But I am stubborn, once I've decided to do a thing. And nothing brings out the stubborn in me like mansplaining.

Most of the guys in the room bowed out gracefully when they realized that the discussion had become very serious. I don't know whether they agreed but didn't want to fight, or thought I was an idiot not worth listening to (although I don't think so. Most of them are decent), or knew how stubborn I get and didn't want to bother telling me how wrong I was, or just plain old didn't care. And I'm not going to ask. It's irrelevant.

The point is that there were two left who engaged in this debate. One of them was a mansplainer, and the other one legitimately wanted to understand what the problem was. (Which I appreciate. Thank you. I think you probably know who you are.)

Every time I've ever brought up a women's rights/feminist/anything to do with females topic in a room full of men - EVERY SINGLE TIME IN THE MOST LITERAL SENSE POSSIBLE - I have had one of them try to argue that it's not about women at all. Every time. There's always a reason. There's always some kind of justification.

Then I brought up Black Widow getting kicked out of her own scene by a man, and that opened the can of worms.

I heard all the things, that night.
It's a marketing strategy.
They didn't know Rey would be a big deal. (She's the f-ing main character. What even?)
Girls don't play with action figures.
Girls don't care about that. (And what am I, wallpaper?)
The male customers will get alienated.
They didn't mean to. It was a factory mistake. (Between multiple large toy manufacturers?)
It's the way companies run.
They were following bad information.

But no matter what the "real" reason was, it had nothing at all to do with sexism. Nothing. Nope. Can't. Not related. Not at all. No.

This guy, who was barely out of high school, had the nerve to look me in the eye and tell me that I wasn't allowed to feel upset about this thing that happened because I didn't actually understand it properly. That it was about an entirely different matter, and here's how it REALLY is, because clearly I couldn't be expected to grasp it.

He also had the nerve to look me in the eye and "compliment" me on how non-yelly-screamy I was during the debate. He was actually surprised that a woman could be not a slave to her overreactive emotions.

I kid you not, that really happened. (And yes, I'm still grumpy about it.) (I almost suggested a google search to see how easy it is to find that stereotype in meme form, but don't. Please, don't. The number of things just on the first page which are an embarrassment
to the human race need not be given the benefit of a click.)

Anyway, I didn't do a great job re-buffing him. As I may have mentioned before, one of my fatal weaknesses is charisma and confidence. The more the other person is absolutely certain of what they are saying, the more I have the tendency to question my wording, my information, and my right to hold opinions. It sucks, and I'm working on it, but it's a thing.

And most men who mansplain are unalterably confident in what they say.

I made my case, but it was frail and uncertain. Just like those people who try to tell a joke to start off a speech, but are so nervous that no one laughs, and it just makes everyone feel more awkward than they did before. Yeah, that was me.

Not helpful. And maybe that's the reason I'm still grumpy about this. Because I feel like I didn't do what I could have to dispel ingrained sexism. That I had a chance to teach somebody something about a different demographic, and thoroughly failed. That some guy went away from this thing thinking that he'd just helped a dumb girl understand something she didn't know before. 

Today, though, I have a response. Today, I saw this video, and it captures everything I was trying to say so perfectly that I seriously watched it like five times. 

This guy clearly explains that the problem is real, and exactly why it hurts us. In a concise, eloquent way, he gives me words that I couldn't arrange myself. So, to that year-ago-mansplainer: this. This is the thing you need to understand. 


This is also important to me on a more personal level, because I did grow up feeling like girly was stupid and bad. That tomboy was good.

I grew up being not only disinclined to but literally disgusted by the possibility of playing a female character in a game. By calling my sister stupid for liking pink frilly things. I refused, on principle, to accept princesses, ponies, pink, purple, sparkles, or unicorns. I was actually afraid of wearing my hair down or learning to do makeup because I thought that appearing even a little bit girly would demote me somehow. (Plus it was profoundly uncomfortable, and I hated it anyway. So double whammy.)

But guess what I've learned since entering my thirties?
Fairies are cool. I seriously actually love all of the tinkerbell movies.

Princesses can be athletes AND like wearing tiaras. (Sofia the First. Thank you for being what tv shows should have been all along.)

Some brands of skinny jeans are seriously comfortable.

That most of the females in my sword class have way more natural talent with swords than any of the guys do.

Sports bras exist that actually allow busty people to non-awkwardly jump rope. (I seriously didn't know this until less than a year ago.) And that you can get them at Victoria's Secret. And that you don't have to be embarrassed to shop there. (Rich, yes. But not embarrassed.)

10-01-Frozen-quotesThere's finally a disney princess that shares a lot of personality traits with me. (I have actually gotten stuck on a rock wall kinda like that before.)

Just because men expect me to be skinny and wear makeup doesn't mean I have to.

I'm allowed to have opinions.

Okay, I'll end here for now. The reason I added this addendum is just to point out that if I'd had Sofia the First, and female superheros, and not been so stereotyped, I might have discovered these things before I was thirty. I could have lived my whole life enjoying fairies and princesses and being unafraid to feel things.

Just saying.