Buy One, Get One of Lesser Value Free

Last week James Cameron caused a million female eyeballs to roll skyward when he opined that contrary to what millions of women were proving with their dollars, Wonder Woman was not a strong female protagonist. Cameron then went on to list female characters he felt were better representations of strong women.

It should come as no surprise he listed his characters from his own movies. (See: Sarah Connor form The Terminator franchise)

It should come as no surprise I spent hours  I will never get back spent arguing with strangers on the internet.

Fast forward and the word on the corner of Hollywood and Vine is a remake of Lord of the Flies. The catch? It’s going to be made with girls instead of boys! How very…

Wrong?
Frustrating?
Odd?
Blindingly oblivious?

The entire premise of Lord of the Flies is a rebuke of the toxic masculinity endemic in English public-school mentality. Once you consider that it seems odd to try to remake it with..girls.

Come on, Hollywood!  You can’t remake Lord of the Flies with girls without changing the entire plot. Because girls? Wait for it….

are not boys.

An island full of girls would not behave the same way an island full of boys would. They would organize themselves differently. That is not to say they would sit down and sing Kumbaya around a campfire braiding each other’s hair, but it would be a different story. You know why?

Because girls and boys, women and men are not interchangeable.

You can’t give a woman arm muscles and a giant gun and call her a strong protagonist. You can’t swap out girls for boys and say, “look how feminist we are!”.

I accept the blame for a lot of this confusion, and what I must assume are well-meant intentions. There seems to be a general misunderstanding regarding equality and equity. Perhaps it’s the framing of the feminist message itself.

Because in our strive for equality, what we sometimes neglect to mention is this: we are not trying to be interchangeable. We do not want to be swapped out for boys. We do not want to take the place of men. We don’t want or need male assigned characteristics simply transferred to us and slapped with a sticker proclaiming “equal”. We do not want to be judged on whether or not we can compete with, act like, govern like, or look like men.

Women don’t want to be men.

What we are looking for is equal value.

A woman with defined biceps is not necessarily strong, just as a man without them is not necessarily weak. What so many women right now are seeking is not apples for apples equality, but apples to oranges value.

Feminists are looking to reframe what is viewed as important, good, worthy, valued.

Men, on the whole and individually, have their own ideas of what strength is. Those ideas often differ from a woman’s idea of strength. And that is ok. What’s not ok is assuming one is better than the other, assigning one importance and the other half-off status.

This is what many feminists are talking about when they speak of assigning value.

I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to look like a man, or act like a man, or pretend to be a man. Neither do any of the women I know. Writing or creating women with masculine characteristics does not automatically confer equality on women (I’m looking at you, Brienne of Tarth). Taking a story viewed through a masculine filter and merely swapping out the sexes does not make for a compelling story.

Why?

Because we have our own stories.

Male stories are often epic in scale. Physical journeys across ice caps and continents. Covered wagons and perilous ocean journeys. The drive to explore, conquer. Stories of courage in the trenches and theaters of war.

My disinterest in those stories does not take away from their value. It is merely to say this: there are other stories which are no less important simply because they may not be as grand in scope.

Often the stories of women are the stories in between the lines. The ones left behind to continuously mend the fabric of a society rent by constant war. The stories of the sometimes small, but excruciating choices women face to keep their families safe. When we watch movies about the horrors of war, it is often confined to the horrors of bloodshed and battle. Rarely are we exposed to the internal horrors faced by those left behind, the ones tasked with keeping not so much the home fires burning, but the will to continue.

How often do we hear the stories of the internal struggles of women to manage their own desires against the weight of motherhood? How often do we see movies about the quiet friendships of women which sustain them through the perils of their own lives? While male stories are told through the metaphor of chasing whales and galloping to poles, women’s stories are told in tea leaves and conversations.

It’s ok if men are not particularly interested in those stories. I get it. I’ve never been interested in Apocalypse Now or reading Hemingway because those stories, told through the filter of maleness, simply do not resonate with me.

What I resent is those male stories being the yardstick from which everything else is measured. What I resent is the implication there is something intrinsically wrong with me because I don’t enjoy David Foster Wallace or The Big Lebowski. That I am lacking the intelligence to appreciate these very masculine stories or that the stories I enjoy, watch, read, and yes, write, are merely a derivative. Less than.

If stories are buy one get one half-off? Women’s stories are the cheap designer knock off.

When I speak of equality, it is this: I want our stories to count as much. Not more than. Not less than. Equal value.

What I want is to acknowledge that our stories are just as valuable to the human experience and deserve the same space. I don’t want my stories merely to be a copy of or a derivative of, the stories of men.

I want them to be valued in their own right.

Buy one, get one of equal value.

 

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Buy One, Get One of Lesser Value Free

  1. Sheri September 2, 2017 / 10:21 pm

    I fear a female cast version of “Lord of the Flies” will either be ridiculous if the male characters are just replaced with girls and nothing else is altered or become “Mean Girls” on an island, unless very carefully thought out.

    As you said, Dina, there are female stories to be told. The ones about vulnerability on the job–being fired for poor hygiene when one’s period blood shows–or knowing that a man can usually physically overpower you if he doesn’t like the message he’s sent. (See nurse recently manhandled for trying to uphold the law on a blood draw.) A modern-day “9 to 5” would be interesting.

    I don’t mind remakes. A remake of Diane Keaton’s situation of a career woman finding out she has to take on an infant would still be interesting to me. And I wonder how different “Mr. Mom” would be if told from the perspective of Teri Garr’s character?

    But there are new stories, too. The woman — like my daughter-in-law — who is married and has a supportive spouse but her husband works a job that makes her a single parent 2/3 of the time. When her childcare tanks (babysitter’s kids are sick or babysitter gets a new job) her job is a risk when she’s late or absent. She works a job where safety violations are an issue, but as a temp worker (who has been in an important job for three years but the company won’t make her permanent and give her benefits), she’s stuck. She worked up to the last two weeks of a difficult pregnancy, on her feet in a warehouse much of the time. (I could see elements of “Norma Rae.”) But I suspect there are questions about whether such stories would make money.

    Like

    • Dina Honour September 2, 2017 / 10:38 pm

      Sheri,

      I think women want to see these stories. Whether or not those stories can or will get made is a different story altogether. But I will fight, in whatever way I can, to make sure those stories are given the importance they deserve.

      Like

  2. anonymouslyafroirish September 4, 2017 / 12:48 am

    I love this so much because I feel like everyone in the world has the whole idea of feminism completely misconstrued! They fail to realise that it’s not a matter of which gender is better but a case of realising the different values that each gender brings to the table and how they compliment each other. None is better than the other but equal in different ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour September 4, 2017 / 9:07 am

      Exactly. And I think the feminist movement needs to take a lot of the blame for that itself, in terms of messaging. I look at the way women dressed in the 1980s as they were entering boardrooms–power suits and shoulder pads–as if we were literally trying to ‘be’ men by broadening our shoulders. We should have been highlighting the benefits of what women bring to the table, not showing that we could be just like men. We need to do better at highlighting the contributions of girls and women which are different. And we absolutely need the contributions of men and boys. It’s not one or the other. It’s ‘look how much better it is when we consider BOTH’. Glad the piece resonated with you. The whole idea of the individual ‘story’ is a bit of an obsession of mine at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • anonymouslyafroirish September 4, 2017 / 11:05 am

        Yes! You go WOMAN! The individual story is definitely just as important as the whole! I look forward to it!

        Like

  3. Shanna S Mathews Mendez September 4, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    Lovely. I agree the big point being misssd is that we don’t want to be men. I love being female. But I think I fucking rock as a female. Just as much as men rock at being male. Sometimes more. (Haha) Oh how tragic that we don’t appreciate the yin yang virtues of a male female dynamic in society. But I, like you, continue to work for it.

    Also, I think men are interested in women’s stories too. I’m currently listening to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. His story is just as much his mother’s story. She’s the real hero there. And I don’t think he’s alone.

    Progress.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dina Honour September 29, 2017 / 1:11 pm

      Sorry I missed this somehow! I need to read Born a Crime. There is something very appealing about a son telling his story through his mother.

      Like

  4. evelynkrieger September 7, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    I love this, Dina, and completely agree. The idea of men and women not being “interchangeable” is key. I imagine, though, there are women who would still take offense, perhaps. I think of the misguided parents who give their newborn a gender-neutral name and plan to let the child “decide” on its preferred gender identification.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour September 12, 2017 / 1:03 pm

      Thank you, Evelyn. We can and should celebrate our differences and our different strengths while also constantly reminding ourselves that on the whole, we don’t view those strengths as equal.

      It’s exhausting.

      Like

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