Boys, Sheath Your Swords for the Summer!

Prepare to get your boxers and panties in a bunch.

Months ago I wrote a blog rant about Finland’s Eurovision song Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids, which was deemed sexist because women shouldn’t be madly in love blah blah that’s chauvinism blah blah master is a curse word yadda yadda.

Now the first-world feminists of Finland have done it again. This time the target of their rage is Cheek’s summer hit called Jossu (feat. Jukka Poika). It’s a so-called annual kesäkumi-song, written to promote contraception. Every year a Finnish artist or band writes a song about sex and the importance of using the rubber, and the song is ordered by one of the biggest radio stations in Finland, Yle X, as well as the Red Cross.

In this post I will compare Jossu to an earlier kesäkumi –song by a female duo PMMP called Kumivirsi (“rubber hymn.” omg, blasphemy!).

Jossu (2013) is a song about a boy who has a reputation of sleeping around (probably a BS rep anyway, right? Right, haha, high five!). But then he falls in love with a girl called Jossu who has a habit of dating several boys at the same time and this kind of upsets the protagonist.

Jossun kaa olin omissa maailmoissani (with Jossu I was in my own little world)

en harkinnut omilla aivoillani (didn’t use my brains)

His friends try to warn him: “dude you’re gonna get your heart broken. You ain’t her only bf” :

Frendit koitti soittaa (My friends tried to call)

ja varoittaa (and warn me)

Oh, poor guy— wait, no, guess what this is?

Slut-shaming! Yes, I’ll say it again, slut-shaming! Cheek, why have you written us a song about your broken heart? Don’t you know that it’s misogynistic, chauvinistic, sexist, and labels women as HUGE SLUTS which is A BAD THING! You have no right to share your teenage heartache with us, get it? Also, stop being such a pussy. Just deal with it. She dates three guys at the same time. So what? Consider yourself lucky you get any action at all. No reason to get upset if you find a used rubber which isn’t yours in her tent while you guys are doing it.

***

Kumivirsi (2009) is a song about a lady looking for love during summer time. I love it how girl empowering it is!

Vaikka olen nainen niin isken niin kuin mies (even though I’m a woman, I hit [on people] like a man)

Asettukaa riviin, tänään prinssi valitaan (line up, today I will choose my prince.)

I feel so empowered when I listen to this; I feel like I have the courage to line up the guys according to my whim–while I at the same time condemn beauty pageants for women–and look at them with a critical eye, hmm, he’s got a nice ass, but his muscles are bigger, oh but his eyes are dreamy, who am I gonna pick? Boys, jump through hoops of fire, I wanna see who jumps the best! And I love the pun about hitting, ‘cause you know, men are known about punching each other and their women too, while women suck at punching, I mean, you should see my right hook! It’s pathetic. I can’t punch at all, I—

think I’m gonna puke now because I’m so full of shit.

***

If truth be told, I find some of this debate about Cheek’s song hypocritical and double-standard-y. PMMP was never accused of sexism or reinforcing stereotypes (which in this day and age surprises me, to be honest), but if a boy feels kind of cranky about a girl deceiving him, he’s slut-shaming. He’s a sexist.

Yes, I understand there’s this problem in our society that women who have an active sexual life are more often frowned upon and bullied than men, which sucks, and that there’s this whole stud vs. slut juxtaposition (by the way, have you heard the term ‘manslut’? Is that positive or negative?). It’s a sad phenomenon, but I hardly think Cheek contributes to this. It depends a lot on the person who listens to the song and interprets the lyrics. My honest opinion? I think he intentionally misheard the lyrics of a ’90s pop hit Jos Sulla On Toinen (If you have another [lover]) by Taikapeili, ’cause it can also sound like Jossulla On Toinen (Jossu has another [lover]), and ended up writing about Jossu who is somewhat polygamous. Cheek doesn’t even use the word ‘slut’ (or its Finnish equivalent) in the lyrics. Likening him to the dipshit assholes of Steubenville based on the song would be taking a step–nay, leap–too far.

Besides, there are these marvelous concepts like SlutWalk. That’s the spirit! That’s when we women reclaim the term, like gays reclaimed ‘queer.’

Yet let’s face it, man or woman, you are going to feel real shitty if your crush isn’t of the monogamous type. I think everyone has the right to write a song about that, just like everyone has the right to criticize it and raise debate and discourse over it. It’s always good to talk about cultural phenomena, and maybe it’ll make boys and girls think how they treat e.g. a friend who has an active socio-sexual life. I guess I could tell a close friend s/he’s a total dick-bitch if s/he fucks around without letting his/her partners know it was all about copulation, but in the end everyone’s sex life is their own business.

Seriously, it’s possible to sleep around without being a jerk about it (duh!).

Enjoy the summer guys, and keep your swords sheathed if you decide to have happy times with a stranger.

Have a happy summer!

Have a happy summer!

Enjoy the summer gals, and if someone tells you in a shitty attitude “you’re such a slut” just say you’re proud of it and maybe punch them in the face BECAUSE GIRLS CAN PUNCH.

-K. Trian

Sources & further reading (Finnish):

Lyrics from songlyrics and Lirama
Jossu-kolumni ei ole plagiaatti
Jossulla on monta
Jossulla on maine
Cheek
Jukka Poika

When Nerdy Girls Get Bad Boys

by K. Trian

Disclaimer: this post is written humorously, even ironically. Please don’t take any of this awfully seriously. My intention is not to mock your taste in literature.

I got my monthly Goodreads update and browsed through some of the new hot stuff they advertised. I came across a novel called The Collector by Victoria Scott. It’s about this sexy demon guy who comes to collect the soul of a nerdy girl and then falls in love with her. At least that’s what I deduced from the blurb.

But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.

And I think this the girl; Charlie (!), he falls in love with:

She looks like a porcelain doll… beat three times with an ugly stick… glasses, frizzy blond hair, a spray of pimples. and a stick-figure so not attractive on a seventeen-year-old.

Ah, your regular author’s wish fulfillment story, right? Well, I wouldn’t know about that. The author’s a cute young, married woman, so let’s not get a-judging here, but what caught my attention was this whole premise of a bad guy falling in love with the nerdy girl.

You know, that’s not really in accordance with my life experience. Guess when the bad boys started noticing me? When I turned bad myself around the age of 14. Guess when nerdy guys liked me? When I was still outwardly nerdy (glasses, shirts with pictures of horses, stick-figure). Guess which one I wanted: the nice, nerdy guy or the bad boy?

You guessed it.

The latter me was invisible to the bad boys, to the “flippin’ awesome” who knew they had “good looks, killer charm and stellar confidence”. No, they weren’t dazzled by my wits and quirky sense of humor and intelligence. They liked the dumb blondes (because they put out, right?). But I consoled myself in books with heroines as spazzy and glassy as me, who were ugly, maybe a little chubby or too skinny, unassuming, shy, but oh-so-smart. And in these novels, they always got the hot guy; the bad boy. The nerdy girl evoked some deep yearning inside the boy who then abandoned his tool-y ways and threw himself at her feet. And she could be herself! The little old nerd with pimples and a plank for boobs!

Enter real life.

Let’s start with the good news. I landed the bad boy. Got what I wanted, all right. The whole package of muscles, tattoos, guitars and guns, and enviable looks. So happy ending for the nerd girl.

But how did I get it?

Changed. Stopped being shy. Dressed to kill (and it doesn’t mean skimpy, but it’s not horse sweaters either). Stopped being the unassuming heroine from my teenhood novels. Took risks and turned adventurous. The guy wasn’t gonna drop on my doorstep to collect my soul and fall in love with me. So I crawled out of my shell and ‘improved’ myself. Or more like, found myself.

Now I’m thinking… what if I wrote my story? What if I distorted that fantasy into realism? Who would read it? Would I have read it as a nerdy teen? Maybe, I don’t know. I think I needed my fluffy fix back then. I think I wanted to know I was okay as who I thought was the real me, and I could still be loved by the sexy anti-heroes of the YA novels. It’s a shallow thing, really. The message: you’ll get the bad boy even if you stay chubby or stick-like and wear glasses and forget skincare and don’t bother learning any social skills.

Some guys might ask: do you chicks really want that bad boy? Are tattoos and muscles and killer charm all you care about? Of course not. It wasn’t what I cared about either. I just wanted to be happy and loved like the heroines.

So now I haven’t got riches or fame, but I’ve got love. And I think that’s what I partly owe to my teenhood heroines. They planted that seed for romance and gave me relatable characters. It’s not healthy if your only life goal is that hot bad boy, but I guess these stories kinda made me feel like “yeah, I can get and achieve someone or something ‘flippin’ awesome’ even though I seem to be nothing special.”

And I haven’t changed from the inside. I’m still that nerdy girl who got a bad boy.

K. Trian

P.S. I might even end up reading these Dante Walker novels if they’re anything like the YA fluffiness I read as a kid. For the sake of nostalgia, if nothing else. Plus, I love unlikely heroes and heroines!

Sources: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13449677-the-collector

Guilty Pleasures: It’s Roman Historique, Not Chick Lit!

By K. Trian

I doubt it’s particularly strange or unusual that I, a young woman, am allergic to most literature aimed at women of my age, race and social standing. I can’t stand vampires unless they are made fun of. I may be ok with fairy tale bestiality (I love the Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid), but necrophilia’s taking it a bit too far. Furthermore, I don’t want Christian Grey or Edward Cullen to invade my daydreams. I’d rather set them both on fire. And throw Sookie and her vampire hunks in the mix as well.

So chick lit and I don’t usually mix too well.

But then are are the Bodice Rippers. Shit. I’ve got a soft spot for that. For ONE particular bodice ripper bastard of the chick lit genre, Juliette Benzoni‘s Marianne series! I call them historical romances (or historical novels. Romance = novel = romance), though, but really, Marianne seems, on the surface, like any chick lit heroine. She’s depressingly beautiful, all the men love and protect her, she’s rich… oh she’s everything we women dream to be!

Or is she?

I love Marianne because that girl, despite all the surface similarities to a puky chick lit heroine, is strong, independent, yet flawed. She’s not that mousy, quiet girl the handsome vampire-business executive falls madly in love with! She’s stunning and she knows it and won’t apologize for it! (she’s black-haired and dark-skinned no less!) She keeps fucking up. Falls for the wrong guy. Kills the wrong guy. Gets preggies. Her pride gets her in trouble as well. And most fascinatingly, her adventures take place in 19th century Europe with swords and bodices galore!

Suck it, Angie, I’m jolier than you!

Sometimes I just can’t help it, I raise my eyes from the novel and ask myself: how can I like this? It’s still chick lit fluff! It’s not guts and glory and hairy men stomping through battlefields with axes and morning stars. It’s not tough soldier types crawling in a jungle. It’s not space marines getting lost in the darkest pockets of space.

For one, the heroine doesn’t annoy me. Usually heroines can really get on my nerves, especially if they’re too perfect and then dare be apologetic about their perfection. And since I’m quite well acquainted with some rougher activities such as combat sports/self defense (BJJ, boxing, Krav Maga), shooting, climbing/bouldering, and even iron-lifting at the gym, I’ve learned about the physical limitations of my female body, so I can spot it in a novel aiming for realism when feminism (or fear of misogyny) has overridden said realism in an e.g. action scene. But not with Marianne. Marianne can fence with rapiers (no prob, nimble people can do that), but she can’t wrestle a bear-sized man successfully. Marianne can slap a guy, but they’ll shrug it off. Yeah, that’s what big soldier types can do. Shrug it off. So I really appreciate it that Benzoni has been realistic about this stuff — it’s not enough to be historically accurate in a historical romance, you know.

Secondly, some pretty awesome stuff happens in these books. Fencing, horseback riding, political scheming, ghosts, family secrets, mysterious barons, hunky yet socially dysfunctional privateers, and so on. All in a quite realistic historical setting (boinking on a haystack or cold prison floor aren’t as lovely activities as one might think — not even to Marianne).

So yeah, these seemingly fluffy novels cater to my picky taste, and I’m really happy I found these books. I’m reading Jason des quatre mers right now, the 3rd book in the series, and so far it’s been riveting. I’m even willing to look past the cheesy narration (the books were published in 1960s and ’70s) because the story and characters just happen to be so good.

Anyone else got guilty literary pleasures? 😉

– K. Trian

P.s. I also have a soft spot for Margit Sandemo, a Norwegian fantasy writer. Yeah, the raunchier books I read as a kid were very Marianne-like (Den svarta ängeln – The Black Angel, Tre gåtor – Three Riddles), but she’s also an accomplished fantasy writer. Not sure if she’s been translated to English, but there’s a degree of unexplainable magic (no pun intended) to her works.

Related post:
What Romance means to me by Erica Dakin.

First World White Feminist Problems

Okay, I should start a feminist rant blog or something, ’cause I’ve got one coming right now! Again!

I read these news bits about Finland’s Eurovision song contest hopeful having been accused of SEXISM! First reactions: hold your horses Swedish and Finnish-Swedish feminists! The song, sung by Krista Siegfrids is called Marry Me. It’s this fun, light-hearted song (I mean, it’s god-awful, but Eurovision music always is) about a woman madly in love with some dude or dudette (suppose it depends on whether same-sex marriage is legal in your country/state). Let me quote the INFAMOUS part:

“I’m your slave and you’re my master”

(Okay, so I take this probably is about a heterosexual marriage when sung by a woman because master might be replaced with “mistress” there.)

Anyway, this post is not about me analyzing this song. I’ll get to the point soon.

The feminist in question who condemned this song, Linnea Portin, probably has her heart in the right place, but when I was reading the news article, one comment struck me right below the belt. Here’s a loose translation:

“Feminists are the offended party of our time. It feels absurd to compare feminism e.g. in India to the Western feminists who get offended by music, videogame characters and toy commercials. Our feminists seem to be quite sure of the moral superiority of their opinions.”

I recognized myself right there. Me nagging of portrayals of Western women in pop culture. Gee, aren’t you concerned, K! But it’s true. I get miffed when I see scantily clad women in pop culture while men are safely clad (again, I wouldn’t ban nudity. Fuck that.) Yeah, I do get miffed when a teenager — no, I get enraged, when a teenage girl is gangraped to death in India. Or when girls in third world countries can’t go to school. And I become enraged at Sharia Law if it’s executed particularly strictly and obsessively. And the list goes on.

Yet what I write about, what I yap about is so superficial. It’s about the stuff that touches my life. I get my panties in a bunch because of the pervasive male gaze. I mean, sure, that shit is important to me, a well-fed and educated Western woman, but at times it feels like… why should I bother? Things are so fine and dandy in my life. I have independence, power, and respect. Is the half-nekkid silicone-boobed starlet on TV really going to take that away from me? Compromise it somehow? Is she hurting my womanhood? Does the song about a lovesick woman attack my livelihood or endanger my future children?

I mean, I know it’s possible to really ruin one’s life because of some superficial Hollywood trend, but that’s kind of where I’d recommend eveyone to have a reality check: do you really want to be miserable because you aren’t as skinny as X, as big-boobed as Y or if a woman sings about being head over heels in love with a man? At least if you get raped, the rapist won’t get as mildly punished as he would in some countries where rape is around as bad as robbery in the eyes of the law! At least you can drive a car, freely express yourself (both, Krista and Linnea), keep your downstairs fun-parts un-scalpelled, and so on.

That song or questionable role models; they are not going to send the Finnish society

First world feminist problems: This is what annoys me. Supposedly strong heroines dressed to please the male audience. I hope my hubby won’t mind my next ComicCon costume (maybe the one in the front), you know, cuz I consider myself strong and this is how women express it.

back to the 19th century.

In fact, calling Ms. Siegfrids out on this song feels like her freedom of expression is under attack! What, a woman can’t be in love with a man without being called or implied to be a sexist, a traitor? She should hold back her feelings? (I don’t know if she really feels this way, but I have, so basically someone criticizing me of it would feel somewhat unfair).

The point is, suddenly m

y problems feel oh-so-small when I think about the struggles feminists face in other non-pampered countries.

– K. Trian

Sources:
Helsingin Sanomat -article (In Finnish)

Häxbrygd -blog by Linnea Portin (In Swedish)

Related:

Northern Mali Conflict

Delhi Gang Rape Case

The Evil Woman

Evil woman, don’t you play your games with me

-Crow

I’m slightly hesitant when it comes to writing about this subject even though I think I’ve got a lot to say. One problem is, how to define ‘evil’? Another is, why would I write about women? Not humans in general? Why do I have to differentiate between the sexes here because we’re all equal blah-dee-blah-stop-demonizing-women!

But as a fellow-blogger/writer Jian pointed out,

“It’s also a subtle way of having a female character that does evil things, but is not evil. Albeit, a very easy way to do it. It allows them to be redeemable, yet bad simultaneously.”

so could it be somewhat unnerving for a writer to even write a truly evil woman? Should, for women, a chance for redemption exist? Is it “safer” to write her mentally unstable than downright evil? In a way, especially for male writers (yes, I said it, sex/gender matters, don’t even bother pretend otherwise) this might save them from proverbial crucifixion by angry feminists… or not.

But bad things are done by janes and joes all the time all over the world. True evil, the way I see it, is done by mentally unstable. Sociopaths. Murder, torture, and rape being their favorite gummibear flavors. To not understand or grasp (as much as it can be) morals, right and wrong, to not feel remorse, perhaps not much anything aside of pleasure, sounds to me really quite mental. So I’d say evilness and mental health go hand in hand here.

Back to the woman. So the Evil Woman (i.e. the female villain) is, most likely, the Insane Woman as well. But still there are more character tropes for the villainous lady than there is for a sole nutjob sans obvious evilness. Here are a few (from tvtropes.org, what a depressing place!):

Alpha Bitch, Black Widow, Dark Chick, Dark Action Girl, Dark Magical Girl, Dark Mistress, Evil Diva, Femme Fatale, Fille Fatale, Evil Matriach, Lesbian Vampire, Psycho Lesbian, Vain Sorceress, The Vamp, Woman in Black, Violently Protective Girlfriend (evil? At times), and many more. There are a few things that most of these have in common which seem to boil down the essence of ‘The Evil Woman.’

So, let’s take a look how one can write a nasty lady, and how they compare to evil men.

Look at my rack, my rack is amazing!

For one, I can see that the Evil Woman must be attractive (Poison Ivy, Elle Driver, Faora…). That’s the number one rule. Yeah, realistic. Look up these beauties: Ilse Koch, Aileen Wuornos, and Anneli Auer (I added the last one ’cause not only is she suspected of the murder of her husband, but of abusing her children sexually as well. Now that’s effed up). I’ll admit it, T. K. Trian has written evil hotties–men and women–in the past (Blood Calling, Bricks), but we have fuglos and plain janes as well (Solus).The men, well, to them it’s the brains rather than the looks that matter. In fact, the men have turned evil ’cause they’re so butt-ugly they never got laid which then turned them evil (e.g. in Buffy it was the Trio who wanted to become supervillains so as to get laid). Evil men must have brains, evil women must have beauty. I think this would work quite plausibly the other way around too. Anyway, if you’re writing an evil chick, make her pretty. Because beauty and admiration do not equal happiness, ergo you may end up on the dark side. (I mean, at least the heroine can be an unassuming, hidden beauty like that Anastasia chick in that trilogy I never read and that has nothing to do with Russian royalty!)

I’ve got the whole package!

Secondly, the Evil Woman displays her crazy more than the Evil Man (Bellatrix Lestrange, Drusilla from Buffy). Sure, the guys are nuts too, but they often appear outwardly normal if cold and calculative. The Evil Woman is all over the place violent, giggles manically, neglects to comb her hair, and dresses flashily though usually in black. Of course, Joker wasn’t a cool-as-cucumber type of a bad dude. Batshit crazy. Yup. But does it make the villain more sympathetic if they’re blatantly crazy? Well, in Joker’s case, no, even when played by Heath Ledger. Like how Jian pointed it out:

“…whereas an insane man is downright creepy. Don’t get me wrong. He’s cool to us guys, but to most women, he’s reeeeeal creepy. For example, the movie Psycho. Norman Bates is creepy. Cersei from Game of Thrones is insane… but she’s kind of attractive.”

In Bellatrix’s case… maybe a little more sympathetic. I mean, at least she’s still a looker despite the crazy hair.

You even get a nifty certification!

Third point: The Evil Woman gets away with her evilness (Willow and Anya in Buffy, Ruby and Meg in Supernatural). Either the guy falls in love with her or she turns her back to the dark side at some point and everyone and their dog forgive her. And I mean, pretty much they all forgive her, and their sanity is not questioned. The male villain turned hero is treated with less civility. It’s usually the masochistic girl who forgives him while her (male) friends suffer of lesser cases of amnesia. I don’t quite get this. I’d just punch the villain regardless their sex and be done with it. Wait, would that then make me evil? So, if you want to write a bona fide shady lady, make sure she will be forgiven at some point. Especially nowadays it may be considered of bad taste to burn the evil witch. I mean, they have rights.

I have to admit that I’d love to read a novel or watch a TV-series with a female villain who is not gorgeous, obviously crazy, or over-sexed. I don’t personally care if it’s written by a man or a woman (you know this one: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot.” Check out Niven’s Law), as long as she comes off realistic. A character of her own, not a plot device. Even better if she broke to the mainstream, plowed way to the other non-willows, bellatrixes, and poison ivies. Don’t know why, but it’d just be quite interesting. I know there are such characters out there… so if you know some interesting stories, let me know!

-K. Trian

The Insane Woman

I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. Yes, that show never grows old (in fact, for someone born in 1988 my taste in entertainment is relatively ’90s/early ’00s. Though I do like Supernatural). Anyhoo, the show got me thinking about the concept of The Insane Woman (or the Crazy Woman, the One-Way Ticket to Looney Bin Lady, etc.), and I had to ask myself, why are the women portrayed so often in pop culture or literature as people completely off their onion (or are they)?

This is my sane face.

This is my sane face.

Take Buffy. There’s Drusilla of course, a permanent resident of Nuttyville, there’s Evil Vampire Willow (whose “bored now” line always makes me cringe in all its faux-evilness), and Tara whose head’s tampered by Glory, and in episode “Normal Again” even Buffster spends time in a mental institution. But of the main male cast it seems that only Spike goes looney tunes, and even that won’t happen until in the last season. Angel exhibits slight craziness when he’s spat out of hell, but he got over it pretty quick and was tai chi‘ing in no time. Hm. So is there a pattern here? Or does it only look so because there are more female characters in Buffy than male?

Well, then I took a look at T. K. Trian’s manuscripts. Let’s see.
Story 1, Blood Calling. The Insane Woman? Check.
Story 2, Three waifs. Hm, nope. Huh. 
Story 3, Ruins. Check. Check. 
Story 4, Red Bricks and Black Leather. Check. 
Story 5, Solus. Check. 
Story 6, Yet to be Named Steampunk Thingy. Check. 
That’s about it, I think. But what worries me is that we haven’t written too many insane men there (the way I define insane, I s’pose). In fact, there are none on the list above. And we try to keep our cast 50-50 men and women. Why are our women more or less insane, yet men are the voices of reason? Is this a matter of a stereotype? The hysterical woman? To me this kind of thinking feels so 19th century, and more often it is me, a woman, who ends up making the female characters nuts when the men are boringly sane. Even my two favorite books are about The Insane Woman, Herbjorg Wassmo‘s Dina’s Book and Vigdis Grimsdottir‘s Nimeni on Isbjörg, olen leijona. 
I feel like we are dealing with a stock character here. *pulls out a list of stock characters*
Let’s see if it’s true. We have here:
Manic Pixie Dream Girl which implies being crazy in a woman is actually sexy and ‘eccentric’.

I’m crazy, but least I’m darn cute!

Yup. That’s it. That’s all that Wikipedia gave me. I also checked this list about female stock characters  but there was no particular mention of the insane woman trope.
Well, then I went to tvtropes.org. Madness Tropes. Well, there’s Cute and Psycho, The Psycho Lesbian (ut-oh, apparently she’s a big no-no. Jesus. *Shakes finger at Sarah Waters*). But there’s no particular mention of the Insane Woman, women in particular being portrayed as nutjobs in literature or pop culture in general. Still I somehow feel that women are more often the nutjobs than men. Men can be violent or possessive, but women are weird, crazy, insane, clueless, spacy, etc. Is that the acceptable way to write a non-Mary Sue woman without the fear of being called a chauvinist or accused of misogyny or reinforcing negative stereotypes of women? If that’s the case, I don’t get it. I mean, people, mental health issues are not cool. Mania is not cool. Psychosis is not cool. Depression isn’t sexy and mysterious (that might just be a mental issue equally prevalent in male characters, come to think of it).
Color me confuddled (and a spoil sport, if you want), but I’m not liking this trend if there is one here.
-K. Trian
P.s. Okay, Cracked is so not an academic source, but neither is this blog. But I found this funny article about pop culture relationships somewhat related to my post.

The Pervasive Male Gaze

I started to think about a concept often referred to as ‘male gaze’ (though perhaps more accurately, the heterosexual male gaze :P). In short it means that a story is told through a male gaze that shows women in eroticized situations more often than men, often even unnecessarily, that is, gratuitously.

Coincidentally enough, I was reading Lois Tyson’s book on critical theory and at the same time I came across these two articles. One is a book review and one a blog post about women (in fear and pain):

Review by Jia on Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer
http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/d-plain-reviews/review-stormdancer-by-jay-kristoff/

Blog Post by Kate Elliott
http://www.kateelliott.com/wordpress/index.php/2012/04/the-narrative-of-women-in-fear-and-pain/

Both articles talk about male gaze in entertainment, as does Lois Tyson in her introduction to feminist criticism. To sum up the relevant bits, here are a few quotes:

By Tyson:
…in most Hollywood films, even today, the camera eye (the point of view from which the film is shot) is male: the female characters, not male, are the objects gazed on by the camera and often eroticized as if a male eye were viewing them, as if the point of view of the “universal” movie goer was a male (Tyson 84-85)

By Jia:
Later in the novel, there’s a scene in which Yukiko’s allegiance to the shogun is revealed to people rebelling against him. The sign of this allegiance? A tattoo. And how did they find out? Two guys spied on her while she was taking a bath so we can get an icky scene in which two random dudes ogle her naked body. How nice. It’s great when a “strong female protagonist” is objectified because apparently her strength and agency don’t matter if she doesn’t look good naked. There are a million ways in which this reveal could have been executed and this was the option that was chosen? Did we want to show off the anime influences?”

… One is an adulteress. Another is lethal in a fight but again, that doesn’t matter if she doesn’t look hot while doing it:

“The girl slid down into a split, kimono riding up around her hips”

None of the male fighters are described like this. None of them are showing off body parts that many people consider sexy and erogenous. None of them are described as horrible homewreckers.

By Kate Elliot:
“Undressed scenes are what killed my interest in watching the US remake of Nikita with Maggie Q because I could not get past the gratuitous bikini and lingerie scenes in the pilot, which were evidently needed to undercut the fact that she is meant to be a dangerous and out of control assassin and perhaps to attract a male viewership evidently deemed (by the producers and writers) too sexist to be willing to watch a show with a woman lead unless she is undressed for them. I don’t know, maybe some other reason. What I do know is that the plot did not need the undressing for the scenes to work.”

I have to admit I have been fairly blind to this phenomenon. I have accepted it as a norm (call it what you want, maybe I have been patriarchally programmed, then) that the camera lingers on the woman’s curves more than it does on the man’s abs, pecks, or butt. But when I first read about this from Tyson’s book, it surprised me how pervasive the male gaze really is!

Like when I was watching this movie, Go (1999): The camera in the bit from Ronna’s (Sarah Polley), a girl’s POV, spent considerably less time on the naked torso of a fit drug dealer (Timothy Olyphant) than it did on her own cleavage and lingerie. The camera didn’t follow her or her female friend’s (Katie Holmes) gaze when a boy lifted his shirt for Ronna, or when the friend obviously checked out the boy’s backside. It remained on the girls, as if bashful by male nudity.

"Yes, the camera should be on her, mkay?"

“Ahem, the camera should be on her, mkay?”

However, when two male protagonists Simon (Desmond Askew) and Marcus (Taye Diggs) visit a strip club, the camera does not linger on the men’s extatic faces but offers the viewer close-ups on the strippers’ bare buttocks and breasts time and time again. Very much unabashed.

Now don’t get me wrong. The women on the screen were all beautiful, so why not show them, right? But the men weren’t sore sights either. Maybe we could’ve reveled in their beauty too, not just in the women’s? Why not? Well, Go is written by a man and directed by a man. Maybe they’re both straight. Maybe this felt like a natural way for them to tell a story regardless their sex or sexual orientation. Even when parts of the film are supposed to be told from a seemingly straight woman’s POV.

Back to Stormdancer and Nikita. I haven’t read the former, or watched the latter (just a few minutes). I’m a fan of La Femme Nikita, and to me Peta Wilson is even a truer Nikita than the original, Anne Parillaud. But in both posts by Elliot and Jia, I got a distinctive feel that even though these stories are from a female POV, the gaze is still male. Jay Kristoff certainly is a male writer. And Nikita was conceived by Luc Besson, a male. Why does the female POV become pervaded by the straight male gaze then? Is it that difficult to step into a straight woman’s shoes?

"You done preachin', K?"

“You done preachin’, K?”

I have to bring up La Femme Nikita though (created by Mr. Joel Surnow).  For starters, it’s not limited to Nikita’s POV. Even though the story’s premise is that Nikita uses her womanly charms to carry out many missions, LFN gives a fair treatment to both sexes, so it’s not just Peta Wilson’s charms the viewer gets to enjoy, but also e.g. her co-star’s, Roy Dubuis’s who plays Michael. Even when Nikita goes on a non-undercover mission, she wears loose pants, while Michael wears tights. In fact, Michael is oftentimes used by Section 1 to charm women just like Nikita charms men. It feels equal, it feels fair (though opinions on men in tights may vary).

So, I’m not saying we should remove the male gaze and substitute it with the female one. Or stop objectifying or eroticizing humans altogether in entertainment. I just feel that writers (be it on the screen or for novels) should respect the point-of-views of their characters. It’d feel more realistic. More respectful. Why can’t the target audience be everyone a little more often than it seems to be now? (like I thought the Game of Thrones TV show was for all the sexes, but at least the 1st season was clearly targeted for men).

I don’t usually get worked up by these things, I’m not a huge fan of feminist writing, and I’m not bashful either, but the pervasiveness of this gaze really caught my eye this time–no pun intended.

I hope T. K. Trian’s writing will be more respectful in this regard. I’ve noticed it hasn’t been, and we’re working on the problem now. Sure, in Solus we have an MMC who’s sexualized/eroticized/objectified over and over again by women and gay men alike. But still we have done this more often with women than men for no particular reason. Not everything has to be 50/50, but I’m not satisfied with gross inequalities either.

To explain why this is important would make this post a tad too gigantic, but I’m sure people can work it out themselves.

I know I won’t be reading Stormdancer though. It’s not just the seemingly poorly constructed POV that keeps me from spending my money on it. There were other things too that usually deter me. I might give a chance to Nikita, though what little I’ve seen, the leading lady doesn’t seem to have even half the charisma that Wilson does. Besides, Wilson actually looks athletic; muscular arms and a broad back (instead of just sinewy arms and tight abs like Jennifer Garner in Alias). And who says a muscular, broad back isn’t womanly?

And yes, it’s Nikita and Michael in the second pic.

Sincerely,

K. Trian

Sources: Tyson, Lois. 2006. Critical Theory Today. Routledge, New York.
http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/d-plain-reviews/review-stormdancer-by-jay-kristoff/
http://www.kateelliott.com/wordpress/index.php/2012/04/the-narrative-of-women-in-fear-and-pain/