A couple of years ago one of my classmates wrote a piece in which he hypothesized that centuries of oppression have made women stronger, more beautiful, far more intelligent, and overall superior to men. Luckily, he showed it to me before it ever saw the light of day, and in accordance with my feminism I advised him to dispose of it at once for its intense misogyny. I didn’t know where he would ever get such an idea, and I was too horrified to ask.
Aside from disparaging men, the piece was misogynist, of course, in its outrageous suggestion that violent and devastating sexism against women has been in any way beneficial to us—a step beyond an evasion of responsibility to nearly a justification (which, in the context of patriarchy, is detrimental) for indescribably heinous crimes, and one with no supporting factual information save some crappily applied evolutionary psychology.
A recent discussion in the comment section reminded me of this, of this ostensible “elevation” of women to an inaccessible level in a patriarchy so that, conveniently, our influence is absent in practical life—instead we are muses, idols, objects of worship, and we are treasured (not loved) as long as we are unattainable—deliberately pushed away as to not interfere directly with matters of importance, and only as vessels through which men influence society. This creates a dangerous illusion that women are revered (can’t solve a problem you don’t see) when in reality our only value lies in how effectively we stay the hell out of the way. And, closely related to the adverse perspectives of courtly love, in how effectively we maintain “purity”—always a target pursued and never a human being. In courtly love, as soon as we are attainable (like a wife) and have descended from our magical thrones into humanness, we immediately lose every ounce of the superficial power we held, because our value is in being a target for poetry and pursuit, given away with virginity.
Besides depriving women of the very needs (like sex) that men entitle for themselves as “basic” when these are just as rightfully women’s, this positioning of women as the embodiment of morality is the destructive framework for victim-blaming. Women are expected to be morally flawless, and men—well, boys will be boys! Women consequently are societally expected to accept full responsibility. And I don’t think I need to illustrate how this is perpetuated in the media with the idealizing of a man overtaken uncontrollable desire ripping off the clothes of a passive woman and shoving her against a wall as some kind of a compliment to the woman.
Occasionally in movies, you’ll have a single woman sought out by or working against a team of men, a woman who is smarter than all of these men, or can kick every single one of their asses combined—highly problematic; when feminists ask for representation in movies, we ask for real representation, not this continuation of constructing a pedestal beneath us. Seriously, what is this bullshit? Why does this guy who’s supposed to be some sort of engineer super-genius unable to break this code without a sarcastic remark from this badass lady pointing out the obvious answer? Along with the blatant use of the Smurfette Principle, I can see right through this to the mockery at the core. These are not examples of “strong women.” You can’t just pile on awe-inspiring traits that make her infallible and call her a “strong character.” (And definitely not in those outfits. She can’t jump over buildings in that, that’s CLEARLY for you.) The best female characters have been human: they’re clumsy like Lucille Ball, they’re insufferable know-it-alls like Hermione Granger, they’re awkward and stubborn like Belle, they’re villainous and complex and in unbearable pain like Mal from Inception.
We want fully developed, fully human characters, with depth and dimension and talents and flaws, not tropes. And we want more of them (you know, like in reality) not a proportion of five dudes to one woman who encompasses all abilities. Women aren’t a monolith.
And despite my random claims to being a mermaid, I assure you I am human.
We are real people who have the right to directly influence society, not muses and idols and objects of worship, conveniently placed out of the way in pretend reverence, condescendingly prized as long as we don’t interfere with patriarchal agendas, held responsible for heinous crimes committed against us, and denied the needs you value as “basic.”
The objectification and dehumanization of women resulting from the exploitations of the media are strange in conjunction with the hypersexualization and portrayal of women as flawless (both morally and in terms of appearance) from the enduring framework of courtly love, because the latter contributes to some men feeling unworthy of women, whom they idolize as “superior.” I suspect that this is what happened with the classmate who wrote the paper. It’s greatly unfortunate that the extremes are entitled assholes (Nice Guys) and men who have genuinely begun to silently believe they are inferior and unworthy.
Women are just as fallible as men, and men are just as beautiful: the media simply focuses overwhelmingly on women and reinforces sexist stereotypes (men aren’t as sexy as women, women are more turned on by accomplishments, etc. etc.) to the extent where we have been conditioned to view women as objectively more attractive (influencing even heterosexual women) even while men have extraordinarily attractive features (large hands, hard jawline, low voice) that surely have naturally once had the same effect as high-breasted women with curved hips before the latter was overly exaggerated the former subdued.