People have offered many potential explanations for this discrepancy, but this ad highlights the importance of the social cues that push girls away from math and science in their earliest childhood years.
One last post on the subject, and then, I promise, I am done. 8)
One last question.
Imagine a girl. Who loves Captain America 2, even though she never saw the first one. Or who has been watching Battlestar Galactica reruns non-stop for the last couple of months. Or who found that old Orlando Bloom folder and thought about PotC movies for the first time in years.
Imagine that girl, having an idea. How awesome would it be if Peggy time traveled to the present to help Steve? Or if Starbuck was a Cylon? or if Elizabeth’s best friend from childhood showed up and they ran off to be lesbian pirates?
What if she could find herself, find a place for herself in a world, in a place that she loved? What if between work and school and family and friends and afterschool activities and a thousand other things, what if that girl wrote her story? HER story. One unique to her, even if it was every trope in the entire world, all rolled into one monstrosity on FF.net.
Maybe she wants to be a writer someday. Or a filmmaker. She wants to create comics. Or tv shows. Or run websites. Or maybe not any of that. Maybe she wants an audience. Maybe she just wants to share this one story with a community she loves.
But she writes it and she posts it and someone says, “Mary Sue.”
And if she knows anything about fandom, if she’s been on the internet, she knows that’s bad. She knows that means she’s failed somehow, that this story, this fun thing that she’s thought so much about, is somehow unacceptable.
She’s told that her female characters are unwelcome. Her story is unwelcome. She is unwelcome.
Maybe she shrugs it off and keeps writing. Maybe she conforms, writes fewer ‘Mary Sues,’ and more canon white het males. Maybe she grows up and becomes a screen writer and carries a life time of ‘girls don’t belong’ judgments into everything she creates, perpetuating the cycle.
And maybe she just stops trying to find herself in that world. Maybe she internalizes it. Maybe she keep dreaming, but never posts another word.
I am adult, with experience, and a job, and something of a readership. And let me tell you, the first time that landed in my comments, it hurt. There was a drop of shame in my stomach, a little roll of nausea. That I had created A MARY SUE.
My first thought? How to devalue the character. How to lessen her. How to strip her of the things that made her funny, made her clever, made her loyal and strange and amazing. Because my readership, I thought, didn’t want amazing.
Amazing was a failure, somehow.
I caught myself doing it. I caught that thought before it got too far. I caught myself thinking, “does she really need to be here?” when I never thought that about any of the male characters. I caught myself.
And then I got angry.
I got angry with myself, that I was so easily browbeaten. That I had almost let one anonymous voice, one mocking, disdainful voice, change how I saw this character. That I almost let someone do that to her.
That I had come so close to writing her out. Because she was a Mary Sue.
I don’t care if you use the term as gender neutral. It’s not. It carries connotations in fandom. It carries shame. It carries the unspoken weight of ‘fake geek girl’ and ‘codebabes’ and ‘I like my fangirls like I like my coffee, and I HATE coffee!’ It is another attempt to shame and silence, and I am done with it.
And if my niece grows up in ten years, and gives me her fic, about how Angelica Perfecton gets engaged to Spider-Man and saves Tony Stark by fixing his armor and teaches Steve Rogers how to paint?
Then I will be so overjoyed that she is a fan. That she is a fan who CREATES. Who makes the space safe for herself. Who dreams big. Who wants to be the center of the world she loves so much.
Because it is her right to do that without shame.
[rebloggable by request]
Well, first of all, WELCOME TO ONE OF MY PET PEEVES.
A female character does not have to be “strong” (whatever your definition of that is) to be a good character.
Women can be strong, or wussy, or emotional, or stoic, or needy, or independent, and still be legitimate people and interesting characters.
In our totally understandable desire to see portrayals of strong women (in reaction to decades of damsels in distress and women as appendages), we’ve somehow backed ourselves into this corner where the only acceptable portrayal of a woman in the media is a strong, kick-ass woman. That is not doing women any favors. It just leads to the attitude that you have to be ONE WAY ONLY to be legit as a woman. You shouldn’t have to be Natasha Romanoff or Xena to be considered a good character. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Buffy as much as the next person, but that should not be the only acceptable portrayal. It should be okay for a female character NOT to be strong, too. Let’s take Molly Hooper as an example. She is not the stereotypical “strong” woman. But hell, she went through medical school, didn’t she? She’s smart, and she’s funny, and she serves a story function - she is not a major character, but she doesn’t have to be. But her character gets criticized because she pines after Sherlock. What, you never pined after somebody? Did it make you invalid as a person? You never got a bit silly over a crush? I know I did. And I still consider myself a strong woman. It should be okay for Molly to have a crush on Sherlock without getting the “oh, she’s so pathetic, what a terrible example, what a horrible female character” thing she so often gets. Yes, because it’s so terrible that a female character should reflect an experience that like 99% of us have had.
Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people.
The only bad female character, if you ask me (and you did), is one who’s flat. One who isn’t realistic. One who has no agency of her own, who only exists to define other characters (usually men). Write each woman you write as if she has her own life story, her own motivations, her own fears and strengths, and even if she’s only in the story for one page, she will be a real person, and THAT is what we need. Not a phalanx of women who can karate-chop your head off, but REAL women, who are people, with all the complexity and strong and not-strong that goes with it.
This is why I disagree with the “damsel in distress” criticism of Irene in the last scene of Scandal. Here’s the thing about being a damsel in distress…it’s only bad if that’s all she is. If the character’s defining characteristic is being a damsel in distress, that’s bad. But if an otherwise complex character with lots of other agency and actions happens to be in distress, then…that’s all it is. She is in distress. That happens. Characters are often in distress, or there would be no plots. Should a female character never be allowed to be in distress, at ALL, to be valid? No.
A strong female character is one who is defined by her own characteristics, history and personality, and not solely by the actions or needs of other characters. She is a person in the story, not a prop. That is the best definition I can come up with. Note that my definition did not involve martial arts.
That was probably longer than you were anticipating! I’ve had that percolating for a long time.
Green Lantern ladies of all different colors.Probably already been done before, but meh, whatever!Do people not realize that writing “strong” women is all of the above? it doesn’t almways mean write them physically strong, it’s talking about making them a well written character…
That’s actually the point of this quote (originally from here) which has become a bit of a meme. I’m presuming you haven’t run into it before. The word strong is in quotation marks because the entire point of the discourse that spawned the quote is that women who are physically strong are not necessarily strongly written characters, and that the conflation of the idea a woman that could be only be a strong character if she is also physically strong is bunk. You’ll notice many of the women this quote is being applied to are physically strong as well as being strongly written and developed characters.
The rest of the most referenced paragraph of the original post the quote is from goes on to say:
THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people.
What men don’t understand is that women are FIERCELY PROTECTIVE of underage girls because we remember when we were young and some adult man made us uncomfortable or manipulated us or was inappropriate with us and we were powerless.
Average size mannequin with average size woman.
The problem, in one picture.
A new comic’s up at ComicsAlliance today! I had to take an extra week break, but you’ll get a make-up comic next Monday! Two weeks in a row! Not too shabby.
This week I discuss comics merchandise, and why the heck it’s so hard to get women’s sizes in Batman shirts. Read on!
THI$ THI$ THI$
wow my brother was telling me this joke and he said
"if you’re fighting with a woman and she pulls a knife on you, just pull out the bread and cheese and meat and her womanly instincts will kick in and she’ll just make you a sandwich"
then all of a sudden our mom emerges from the kitchen holding a huge ass knife and she approaches my brother asking “sorry what was that?” and he started screaming