Of Feminism and Mad Max: Fury Road

While I spent a few paragraphs in my review of Fury Road discussing feminism, I want to delve deeper into it. It’s been a huge talking point, and it’s a beautiful flaw. The misinterpartation of feminism is so gross and overdone in this film, we have a lot to learn from it.

Feminism is the promotion of women’s equal rights so they’ll be equal to men. The key words here are ‘equality’ and ‘women’. While feminism is concerned only with women, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically against equality. It just highlights how females experience discrimination. There are people who say feminism is another word for female supremacy. While this is an obvious straw men, Fury Road would make you think it’s right. It’s ironic that Sarkeesian, the feminist you love to hate also saw the film as not feminist at all.

In Fury Road, all the female characters are on the good side. There is not a single female character among the bad guys. There plenty of faceless mooks, and none of them are female. It’s not a co-incidence. There are around 7 females around this film, so this is not just a case of a few characters slipping through. There are only two male good guys. One of them is a bad guy who does a 180. The other one, Max, who remains morally gray until he fully joins the girls.

Already, we have a very unequal representation of the genders. One gender represents goodness and badassary. The other one represents vileness, cruelty and tyranny. The film makes sure you’ll know gender has a lot to do with it.

The bad guys are defined by masculinity and represent the patriarchy. One of the bad guys is called Rictus Erectus. Immortan Joe’s most terrible crime is keeping these breeders and forcing them to bear him children. We see that male children are valued much more (Erectus being sad that he lost a baby brother). There are only war boys, and they deserve to get to Valhalla.

There isn’t an attempt to explore the patriarchy, to ask maybe they’re right. We do not get an oppurtunity to see things from the bad guys’ point of view, or a chance to see whether they did some good. We just see how vile they are. They wear skulls. They’re all mascular. They’re obsessed with violence. They view women as things. Even Gizmo makes an appearance as the fat, rich patriarch.

It is not a coherent system that just happens to be terrible. It’s just showing us how terrible a system is. There plenty of questionable ideologies out there, but that’s not because Hitler wanted to be ‘evil’. ‘Evil people’ just act out of a different system of values. The film doesn’t show this.

There is not even an attempt to make them charismatic in the villainous way. George Miller’s previous villains were odd, and pretty funny in their unique way. Even when they were cruel, they had a certain style that made them fun to see on screen. In Fury Road, Miller wants you to hate them so much you’d tatto “If I had a hammer I’d smash the patiarchy”.

Yet what is the alternative to this cartoon misogyny? Furiosa does not have a character. She’s an action heroine. She wants to do some good because it drives the plot, but that’s it. She asks for redemption, but the why is never made clear. It’s just a piece dialogue that was tacked on. She’s a pretty good action heroine – charismatic, devoid of sexuality and looks great with guns – but she’s not an engaging characters.

The wives tend to sit in the back and they all talk the same. They do help around the car a bit, but they don’t have an individual personality. The closest they come to showing some humanity is the kind-of-love relationship the redhead has with Nux, and the one who wants go back to the safety. None of these things are explored, but the format of the story won’t let them anyway.

Finally we have, among the female angels the old women. Their main role in the story is to tell our heroes to go back, and thus instigate the final scene. The final scene is great, so they do a great service to humanity. They also shove themselves in it. They have no charisma, no personality and we already have two action heroes that are good enough. Adding them is just adding more fighting women, but that’s it.

Immortan Joe is pure evil, so his alternative can only be goodness. Since the females are all on the good side, that’s their defining feature. This is not a clash of two ideologies. There isn’t even the cheap method of painting one philosophy as an evil straw men. Men are evil. Women are good.

This is not even a straw men of misogyny. There is no subversion of any norm. Misogyny was never about painting men as righteous with the moral high ground and women as evil demons. The ‘tempting women’ is a common trope, but it’s hardly the only color misogyny wears. Misogyny is often dismissing women as stupid, uncapable and thus inferior. More often than not, misogyny strips women of the ability to be good or evil. Women are just ‘things’ to fucked and then thrown away. Your average gangsta rap song will inform about how bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.

There are red pillers who’ll try to paint women as evil conspirators, but if Fury Road is a respond to them, it’s just as pathetic. Swinging from one extreme to the next only brings you closer to the ones you hate. So you switched the genders of the Red Pill narrative, but the story is just as sexist.

As for the sexual object norm, it’s so insidious that even female heroines fall to it. Eve is a silly women that was easily conned by a snake. Black Widow’s main role is to be eye candy. There is no challenging this norm, with Furiosa being just a generic action hero and the old women completely unnecessary. Anita called this ‘cartoon misogyny’, but it’s not even that. ‘Shallow’ implies that there is minimal depth, but it’s as barren as the wasteland the film takes place in.

More importantly, the film doesn’t question the big premise misogyny relies on. Before dismissing women, misogyny assumes that sex is a factor that’s meaningful enough. Fury Road doesn’t question the importance of gender roles. It encourages it.

There is no meaningful difference between putting wome in the kitchen or in the factory. You’re still assigning them roles based on their gender and deny them their individuality. Men have been allowed to exist outside their gender for years. Even in characters where the sex is important, it’s not their whole character, like Bellow’s Herzog or Roth’s Portnoy. Get rid of the gender, and what do the wives, or the old women have?

Fury Road assigns a role to women and that is to be Jesus. That’s why there’s no room for them to develop. Developing them would mean they could be wrong, or be flawed, or think bad thoughts. These would make them seem less ‘good’. It would also make them more human and more realistic. I do not believe women are angels, and I find them to be equal to me in strength and in weakness. By turning them into angels, the film denies them the oppurtunity to be human.

Ironically, the two male characters that get some sort of character development are male. Mad Max is a fantastic hero. Despite being presented as a rugged action hero, there are plenty of moments where we see through the cracks. The distrust and paranoia he expresses at first, his jerky movements, his awkward way of speaking that points at an antisocial personality – these are small details that help establish who Max is. Max is a person who’s a family man at heart, but has been wrecked by the wasteland and turned into an antisocial animal who only cares about surviving and can’t even communicate. Nux gets a less interesting arc of waking up from the patriarchy and redeeming himself by joining the women.

George Miller was aware of this ‘feminism’ when he made the film. He says he’s now surrounded by wonderful women so he ‘can’t help being a feminist’. I wonder if in an alternative universe where Miller is not a director with groupies, he’s still a feminist. It’s easy to side with women when they’re attracted to you, but women deserve rights not because they give you sex or affection. You should be a feminist even if all women will find you so physically repulsive they will never get close to you. It seems as if Miller cares less about women as fellow people, and just rewards them for their affection. That’s nice of him, but next time he should reward them with a more honest portrayal.

So, we have another film where women are confined to a role and none of them are allowed to be fully human. It’s not even a unique role. It’s just an oversized Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Instead of rescuing a single man from his boring, they rescue a whole civilization thanks to their femininity. Maybe we overdid it. We spent so much time praising women, hoping it’ll make up for past mistakes but we kept refusing to let them share their experience. Women do need to be praised further. They need to be portrayed as the humans they are.

There are no angels and no demons, just people with different ideas.

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Women Have the Absolute Right to Have Sex

We’re at a bar. I might hate myself, but not that much. So I’m drinking a beer that resembles soda less than others – it was Guinness or Weinshtephen, can’t remember. I wasn’t that drunk. Anyway, a girl a (gay) friend of mine knows is there. The world “revealing” doesn’t describe well her clothing. Her whole back’s exposed. She flirts with every guy there. She dances with the bartenders and the waiters. She gets free shots. The lead singer of the band calls her by name and tell her to leave the poor guy next to her alone.

To her credit, they were whiskey shots instead of vodka. The guy she was all over was also pretty big. Most girls I know prefer the skinny.

That’s going off-topic. The reaction to her from my friends is slut. There’s no depth to it. She’s a slut. She’s an idiot. She flirts with everyone and that’s disgusting. I’m supposed to not want to have sex with her because “the whole town was in her”. Gay man talks and jokes with her, but when we meet a few weeks later in someone’s house he talks about how stupid she is.

The exact same thing happened to me a year or two back. There was a time when every second or third week there was a house party. A certain girl came to most of them and she also flirted with everyone. She made out with a friend’s friend who came from overseas. Her outfit was meant to emphasize the shape of her body. My friends wanted her. They also went on and on, angrily, about how a slut she is.

What’s wrong with that?

I once got into a debate with some people on this topic. This is the main arguement. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s just a difference of personal experience.

The girl is passive and the guy is active. The girl works hard on her looks, but she’s not active in the interaction. The guy’s role is to flirt, to start conversation, to lead. He’s supposed to ‘get’ her. She’s supposed to not ‘give up’ easily. The harder the guy works, the more valueable she is. It also means that if you can get a hard to get girl, you’re therefore much more valueable. The girl is the reward.

There is so much wrong with this narrative that I’m not sure where to begin.

First off, if this narrative is true and that’s how it’s supposed to be, what is rape? After all, rape is when the guy ‘gets’ the girl, only his method is force. Since rape is awful and part of why it’s wrong is the lack of consent, it means we need consent in this narrative. However, this narrative doesn’t include it.

What actually happens in real life is not that the guy ‘gets’ the girl, but that the girl agrees to have sex, or go out for coffe, or to an Incubus live show. The girl is an actual active agent who does more than just look good. The girl also filters out the guys she doesn’t want, just as the guy filters the girls he won’t chase after.

There is no ‘hard to get’ because the girl is not something you get. Sex is not something you get. Sex is a shared activity that’s supposed to be fun for both sides, in the same way going out for drinks or to see a movie is. We may have a higher standard for sex. We will have sex with less people than people we go to watch movies with, but it’s supposed to be a shared activity. The girl also wants to enjoy this.

This narrative is also harsh on guys. It puts a death sentence on socially inept guys. If you’re not good at initiating conversations and flirting, you will never enjoy sex or the company of women. Now, I don’t mind that there may a lot of guys who will be forever alone. It’ll be right if it’s because they’re just not attractive, not because of a social mindset that views their behavior as wrong.

If a guy is forever alone because no girl was ever attracted to him, that’s okay. If he’s forever alone because he’s afraid to initiate, and girls who are attracted to him won’t talk to him because ‘it’s the guy’s job’ then it’s society that makes us against our will.

Another important thing that the narrative doesn’t touch is morality. Is there any moral reason not to have sex? Is having sex with a random person hurts anyone? I’m leaving off bad sex – rape, people who have sex just to cope with loneliness and the like. I’m talking about a situation with two people just want to have sex and there’s nothing hidden.

I don’t see how this hurts anybody. It could be I’m missing something. Until then, I will hold that just as it’s okay for a woman to meet me as friends, it’s okay for her to have sex with me as friends.

Sadly, I have this cached thought often. I see these girls and ‘slut’ comes to my mind. There’s a much stronger thought there, though. I love to see girls who flirt with every guy and aren’t afraid to show their sexuality. It’s not just because I’m socially inept and it’s good for me. I wish we could all be this social. I wish we could enjoy our sexuality without guilt. Sadly, even women thing it’s wrong for other women to have sex. I hope the future will be better.

Rape is Beautiful: Dismantling a Crazy Idea

A true test of intelligence is how well you can handle a crazy idea. Calling a statement ‘crazy’ or ‘stupid’ is easy, but the obviousness can make us think we already know why. Without basis, without understanding why a statement is stupid, it’s all just name-calling. If an idea is so obviously wrong, it will take minimal effort to point out the holes. It’s not necessary to go through the emotional turmoil

Rape is beautiful, according to Kurcaba

Actually, that title is a bait. His statement doesn’t say that rape, in and of itself is beautiful. Rather, he thinks that it’s beautiful that a child could come out of it. He thinks that pregnancy is some sort of silver lining.

I find rape to be one of the most terrible things you can do to another human being. Me and Kurcaba don’t really disagree here. You might be able to salvage a discussion over his usage of the word ‘awful’, but there’s no need to create targets when they’re here.

Kurcaba’s view doesn’t stem from misogyny. It probably stems from a deep convinction of natalism. He views childbirth as something so positive that even if it’s caused by rape, it’s a good thing.

Sadly, this was only a line. I don’t know why exactly Kurcaba thinks that. Maybe he’s well-versed in natalist philosophy, or maybe he just takes it for granted. Either way, I disagree with him.

First off, you do not ‘give’ birth. You force it. The baby isn’t given the option of refusing. Even if he grows up, he doesn’t have the option of euthanasia – suicide is still viewed as irrational and something that must be prevented. If you value consent, then birth isn’t something you should value.

Then again, you have to exist first in order to consent. So let’s go from the position it’s okay to give birth, but is it always moral and good? Isn’t giving birth to a child when you can’t raise him, is basically throwing a child to suffering?

Even worse is when the child is the product of rape. The women is not necessarily ready to raise a child. She could be in a position in life that’s not friendly to children, like high school. Second, she will still suffer from the trauma. Third, the child will be a stronger reminder of the rapist.

It will hurt both the child and the woman. The woman will have extra work, on top of facing all the emotional baggage of being raped. The child will be with a mother who’s in a position very, very far from capable of raising a child.

There can always be exceptions, sure, but all signs point that a bith out of rape is a bad idea. It’s not a chance worth taking.

Manspreading

I told a friend that men spreading their legs on public transportation
became a recent feminist issue. He laughed. He wasn’t drunk, but you’d be
forgive for thinking he downed a pint or two of Maredsous. The silliness of
focusing on Manspreading is easy to point out. Still, tackling crazy idea is
a fun and challenging thing to do. No matter how crazy an idea is, an
emotional, “That’s so stupid!” reaction is never valid. Intelligence is
tested when you’re confronting stupidity.

I know this paragraph is full of implication that the Manspreading debate is
stupid, but bear with me.

In a previous post, I said that something becomes a feminist issue when it
targets women. Manspreading cannot be a feminist issue. No matter how many
people Manspread, it will target women specifically. It’s a rude behavior,
just like talking loudly with your friends or blasting unoriginal Death
Metal through your phone speakers (1). However, no one is targeted
specifically. A person who Manspreads will annoy a fellow man just as it
will annoy a woman.

Not only is Manspreading not a feminist issue, it’s a fairly misandrist
term.

It’s definitely a sexist term. Sexism is giving a different treatment based
on sex. You give men a special treatment by attributing this behavior
specifically to them in the word itself.

This is not the same case with rape. A lot of discussion about rape talk
about man-on-woman rape, which is valid because they tend to back it up with
statistics. It’s also valid to worry more about the persecution and violence
that’s targeting your group. However, the word itself isn’t sexist. You can
only know if the rape in discussion is commited only by men by context. The
word ‘Manspreading’ implies it’s a behavior that’s unique to men.

This would only be valid if Manspreading can only be done by males. Women
can also spread. There’s nothing preventing women from doing it, not even a
few funny looks. Some mentioned that women who get on public transportation
with plenty of shopping bags are also taking up space. Isn’t that a
stereotype, saying women are such shopaholics?

Sitting with your legs spread when the train is full is rude behavior.
Sitting with your legs spread when the train isn’t full is logical, because
why sit uncomfortably when no one’s there?

I’m not sure what to make of ‘it’s a sign of male dominance’. Let’s assume
it is. Let’s say that in a patriarchy, men will feel much more comfortable
taking up space. How exactly is focusing on that going to solve the problem?
It reads like a symptom, but not the disease itself.

As for the “Men Taking Up 2 Much Space” tumblr, it’s a very ugly blog that
should be named and shamed. There’s rude behavior and there’s immoral
behavior. People taking up too much space is annoying, but you feel the need
to shame these people, who doesn’t deserve to be shamed? Where do we draw
the line? Good friends have done to me things much worse than this. I did
things much worse than this. None of it was that bad.

Feminists should throw that debate in the trash bin. There enough serious
women’s issues. By focusing on petty things that are unrelated to your
cause, you end up being caricature of yourself.

Manspreading appeared on The Daily Show. It’s awful. It’s really awful. Stewart can’t see the absurdity of paying so much attention to just some rude behavior on public transportation. All it does is create a straw man and punch it. It doesn’t say anything, other than “These men are whining”. If you’re putting a lot of effort in making sure people don’t spread their legs, if this really bothers you, maybe you need a little self-criticism.

 

(1) It’s bad more because Death Metal is not a very good genre of music. If
you blast music I like, then it’s okay.