I've been reading an ongoing discussion about female characters in books, movies, and other forms of entertainment. It goes something like this: I hate female characters, especially when they seem to be usurping a man's place/role. Why do you hate female characters? Is it because you are sexist? NO! You're stupid and probably ugly. I don't hate all female characters, but female characters are so often written from sexist and negative perspectives that I would rather focus on good characters...you know, men. But don't you think that is detrimental to artists who are trying to write/portray "good" female characters? What about the void that this lack creates in reality? Can't we have good characters that are women as well as men? It's too hard trying to wade through all the bullshit lady characters out there. I've sort of given up. That makes me sad. I hate female characters! There isn't enough yelling in this section! AAAAAWWWWWWWW.
This inter-web conversation made me think of a real-life conversation I had a while back with a friend. My friend loves music. He has a connection with his music that I can only relate to because it is a connection I experience through reading. We were discussing musicians and the types of music we enjoy. He commented that he doesn't really like female singers, but I should listen to this one song by this one lady. [I don't remember details like what song or what lady.] I agreed; in fact, I remember saying something like "I prefer a male voice as well. The deeper the better." And then my friend said something that hit me like a donkey kick: "Women don't experiment as much with their voices. They just sound pretty."
And I realized, damn, women don't get to experiment as much in music or anywhere else. PERIOD. And all of a sudden, I was pissed and defensive. And I started naming all of the women who have unique, strong voices that I personally love--Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, Brody Armstrong, Brandi Carlisle, the Dixie Chicks, Joan Jett, my own goddamn voice--and that's only naming a few. And here's the thing, I wasn't pissed at my friend. I was pissed at myself. I'd been saying to myself and others for practically my whole life that I preferred men's voices. But what I was really saying is the same thing I meant when I bragged about having more guy friends than girl friends--"I'm cool. Don't count my femininity against me. I'm not one of those girls. I'm not a girly-girl. Hell, my favorite characters are men. I like a man's voice. I relate to DUDES."
And although there is nothing wrong with liking male voices or male characters or men in general, there is something wrong with dismissing anything feminine or feeling like you have to justify your love of feminine things or females in general. If you are dismissing female characters, or judging them more harshly than you do male characters, or dismissing female artists simply because they are female, you are part of the problem. I was part of the problem. This doesn't mean we have to love everything or everyone woman, but we do have to evaluate our feelings about women because of the sexist culture in which we live.