Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Category: sexism

One Exvangelical’s perspective: Ditching offensive entertainment

The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?

I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture.  From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”).  I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock.  My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil.  That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.

It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing.  I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.

Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc.  I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.

Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes.  And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!

And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.

Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.

I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.

I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.

I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.

Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?”  “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”

I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out.  And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?

I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home.  But do we never watch it again?

Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals.  We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?

Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?

And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs.  I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored.  Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now?  Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?

It just gets to the point–Where does it end?  Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows?  Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?

It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.

From the article Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire? by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press:

They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.

…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?

…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.

Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

 

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“Betty, Girl Engineer” and 1950s sexism: Repost from 2016

In general, I love the old 50s sitcom Father Knows Best.  It’s funny, and it even pushes the boundaries at times, such as one episode which addressed prejudice against Latinos, and another which showed Betty fending off a date who felt entitled to get more from her than she wanted to give.

But occasionally, it gets on my nerves with the old sexism.  For example, Father joking about Mother’s “womanly” manipulations to get what she wants, because apparently she’s not supposed to just come out and ask.

Though if you watch other media from that time period, such as movies or sitcoms, you soon discover that not all the women portrayed behaved like this.

For example, on Donna Reed, Mrs. Stone is very much against women using manipulation to get what they want.  She comes out and asks her husband for things.

The wife on Make Room for Daddy is a housewife, and occasionally submissive, but she can also be very fiery and fights back when she thinks her husband is unfair.  She and other wives also feel threatened by a new Asian bride, because they fear their husbands will expect them to wait on them hand and foot.  They soon learn that the bride is the way she wants to be, and that their husbands like them the way they are.

Alice Kramden does not strike me as the kind of person who would use feminine wiles for anything.  She’s not submissive at all.

Zelda Gilroy decides that she’ll have to be the one to work, because she’s brilliant, while Dobie Gillis is just plain lazy.

Of course, Lucy Ricardo is the epitome of manipulative and scheming females, though–in a crossover episode of Make Room for Daddy–we discover that Ricky won’t have her any other way.

As for how real women acted, I bet there were as many differences back then as there are today.  The women in the media are “types,” some more real, some more idealized.

Back to Father Knows Best.  In one episode, tomboy Kathy learns to become a Proper Girl (TM) because that’s the only way boys will want to date her.  She learns how to manipulate because that’s what girls do.

In one of the last episodes, Betty, the oldest and almost done with college, applies for a job; a young man also applying, shames her for trying to take away a job he needs for his career.  (Maybe she needs it too!)  In the end, she decides what she really wants is to be a bride, not the job.

Last night, I saw “Betty, Girl Engineer,” which I also saw back in high school.  Yeah, it annoyed me then, too, but I forgot what all happened.  Last night refreshed my memory.

A good summary is in this blog post by Shereen.  Basically, Betty goes through aptitude tests at school which show that she’d be good at engineering.  She comes home, all excited about this career choice.

But everyone at home laughs at her, like this is just one of Betty’s silly little whims, because girls don’t belong in engineering.  Father even chides her for thinking she can handle higher math such as algebra and trigonometry.

She signs up for a work-study position surveying, but is shamed out of it by the supervisor.  However, instead of telling everyone where they can stick it, and following her dreams, she succumbs to the brainwashing, puts on a dress, and the chauvinist pig supervisor becomes the latest in her long string of boyfriends.  Father even encourages the chauvinist pig to lecture Betty out of her silly dreams (since apparently girls need to be taught by men what to think).  She ditches her silly whim of being an engineer, and becomes a Proper Girl (TM).

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Over on the IMDB page on this sitcom, somebody brought up sexism in the show, but got shamed by everyone else for complaining about it.

[Update 6/14/17: The forum page appears to have been removed from the site, so the link no longer works.  However, someone posted a review of the episode the same time I posted mine here.  Read the other review here.]

Apparently, from the comments I read in that thread, if it happened 50 years ago, you aren’t supposed to look at it with a “modern lens,” but just accept it as “the way it was.”  And apparently, old shows are much better than godless modern ones which present fathers as goofballs etc. etc.

Hm.  So, then, when I read, say,

The Sun Also Rises and everybody rips on Cohn for being Jewish, or

The Great Gatsby where they see a couple of rich young black men and dismiss them as a couple of uppity “bucks,” or

Trilby with all the author’s prejudice against Jews, which he clearly states and then throws into the slimy character of Svengali, or

–any old book or movie in which blacks are dismissed as simple-minded,

I’m supposed to just say, “Oh, that was another time and it would be wrong for me to look at it from the lens of our modern times.”

Hm.  I’ve been critiquing various forms of media all my life for sexism, racism, and the like, without feeling I was being unfair just because it was written/filmed a long time ago.

What about the people who lived in those times and had to suffer from the sexism and racism which was so acceptable back then but not now?

If women in the 50s were perfectly happy being housewives and not following their silly, childish dreams of becoming engineers/scientists/etc., then why did we have the feminist movement just a short time later?  Why did so many women in the 60s and 70s sound so unhappy with their lot?  Yes, many women did and do want to be housewives, but many don’t.

Even back then, there were women who wanted careers.  Women weren’t just perfectly content to follow one path until Gloria Steinem came along and convinced them otherwise.  No, this was percolating for a long time.

For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that she helped Pa out in the fields, and didn’t just help Ma in the house.  She also wrote that she refused to say the word “obey” when she married Almanzo in the 1800s, and he said no decent man would want her to.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman way back in 1792, arguing that women were only overly emotional because they weren’t given proper education or opportunities for careers.

George Sand–a woman who took a man’s pen name to be taken seriously–was certainly no conventional housewife.

In Jane Eyre, we find this passage:

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot.  Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.

It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex (p. 129).

My Honor’s thesis in college was about women writers of Victorian times wanting to break out of society’s restrictions on them.  It was titled “I’ve Stopped Being Theirs,” a line by Emily Dickinson, whose poetry revealed an intense desire to decide her own fate.

While researching, I discovered that even Little Women seemed to be Louisa May Alcott’s ironic attempt to whitewash reality with what society said women “should” be.  Her own family was nothing like the Marches, and she was more like Jo, yet she–like Jo–was told by others how she “should” act.

(Maybe I should pull out that old thesis and post it here?  Of course, it’s quite long, because that’s required of theses.  I may have to chop it up and edit it.  But it was good enough to get an A and be filed in the school library as an example for others!  😀 )

In fact, I wrote this thesis–and became a feminist–after my experiences with a very sexist ex, Phil, who tried to force me into an old-fashioned, submissive role, even while chiding me for wanting to be a housewife.  (Doesn’t make sense, I know.  But also demonstrates why my feminism is NOT the kind which tells women they should not be housewives.  On the contrary, I believe in letting women decide for themselves.)

Also, in the early decades of the 20th century, women were already starting to break out of society’s restrictions: women doctors, women scientists, women journalists.  Remember Marie Curie?  In fact, when the Nazis took over in Germany, they forced not just Jews but many women out of their jobs, because they thought women should just be housewives.  (Their preaching on this turned around and bit them on the butt later, when the women were too content being housewives to want to help the war effort.)

It has been common for decades to hear about the “idyllic” 1950s.  That everyone was religious and everyone knew his/her place and was happy.  But if that were true, then where did the unrest of the 1960s come from?  If life were perfect, then who but an idiot would want to turn everything upside-down?  Why were there riots?  Why were there marches and protests?  Where did the feminism come from?

No, that feminism didn’t start in the 1960s.  It started centuries earlier.

Instead of looking at this as, “You can’t judge a 1950s show with your modern lens,” how about we say, “Yes, this is an example of the rampant sexism that inspired women to rebel in the 60s and 70s.  This is how tough our mothers/grandmothers had it.  Look what they had to fight against!  Let’s appreciate what they went through.”

Also see:

 

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“Betty, Girl Engineer” and 1950s sexism

In general, I love the old 50s sitcom Father Knows Best.  It’s funny, and it even pushes the boundaries at times, such as one episode which addressed prejudice against Latinos, and another which showed Betty fending off a date who felt entitled to get more from her than she wanted to give.

But occasionally, it gets on my nerves with the old sexism.  For example, Father joking about Mother’s “womanly” manipulations to get what she wants, because apparently she’s not supposed to just come out and ask.

Though if you watch other media from that time period, such as movies or sitcoms, you soon discover that not all the women portrayed behaved like this.

For example, on Donna Reed, Mrs. Stone is very much against women using manipulation to get what they want.  She comes out and asks her husband for things.

The wife on Make Room for Daddy is a housewife, and occasionally submissive, but she can also be very fiery and fights back when she thinks her husband is unfair.  She and other wives also feel threatened by a new Asian bride, because they fear their husbands will expect them to wait on them hand and foot.  They soon learn that the bride is the way she wants to be, and that their husbands like them the way they are.

Alice Kramden does not strike me as the kind of person who would use feminine wiles for anything.  She’s not submissive at all.

Zelda Gilroy decides that she’ll have to be the one to work, because she’s brilliant, while Dobie Gillis is just plain lazy.

Of course, Lucy Ricardo is the epitome of manipulative and scheming females, though–in a crossover episode of Make Room for Daddy–we discover that Ricky won’t have her any other way.

As for how real women acted, I bet there were as many differences back then as there are today.  The women in the media are “types,” some more real, some more idealized.

Back to Father Knows Best.  In one episode, tomboy Kathy learns to become a Proper Girl (TM) because that’s the only way boys will want to date her.  She learns how to manipulate because that’s what girls do.

In one of the last episodes, Betty, the oldest and almost done with college, applies for a job; a young man also applying, shames her for trying to take away a job he needs for his career.  (Maybe she needs it too!)  In the end, she decides what she really wants is to be a bride, not the job.

Last night, I saw “Betty, Girl Engineer,” which I also saw back in high school.  Yeah, it annoyed me then, too, but I forgot what all happened.  Last night refreshed my memory.

A good summary is in this blog post by Shereen.  Basically, Betty goes through aptitude tests at school which show that she’d be good at engineering.  She comes home, all excited about this career choice.

But everyone at home laughs at her, like this is just one of Betty’s silly little whims, because girls don’t belong in engineering.  Father even chides her for thinking she can handle higher math such as algebra and trigonometry.

She signs up for a work-study position surveying, but is shamed out of it by the supervisor.  However, instead of telling everyone where they can stick it, and following her dreams, she succumbs to the brainwashing, puts on a dress, and the chauvinist pig supervisor becomes the latest in her long string of boyfriends.  Father even encourages the chauvinist pig to lecture Betty out of her silly dreams (since apparently girls need to be taught by men what to think).  She ditches her silly whim of being an engineer, and becomes a Proper Girl (TM).

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Over on the IMDB page on this sitcom, somebody brought up sexism in the show, but got shamed by everyone else for complaining about it.

[Update 6/14/17: The forum page appears to have been removed from the site, so the link no longer works.  However, someone posted a review of the episode the same time I posted mine here.  Read the other review here.]

Apparently, from the comments I read in that thread, if it happened 50 years ago, you aren’t supposed to look at it with a “modern lens,” but just accept it as “the way it was.”  And apparently, old shows are much better than godless modern ones which present fathers as goofballs etc. etc.

Hm.  So, then, when I read, say,

The Sun Also Rises and everybody rips on Cohn for being Jewish, or

The Great Gatsby where they see a couple of rich young black men and dismiss them as a couple of uppity “bucks,” or

Trilby with all the author’s prejudice against Jews, which he clearly states and then throws into the slimy character of Svengali, or

–any old book or movie in which blacks are dismissed as simple-minded,

I’m supposed to just say, “Oh, that was another time and it would be wrong for me to look at it from the lens of our modern times.”

Hm.  I’ve been critiquing various forms of media all my life for sexism, racism, and the like, without feeling I was being unfair just because it was written/filmed a long time ago.

What about the people who lived in those times and had to suffer from the sexism and racism which was so acceptable back then but not now?

If women in the 50s were perfectly happy being housewives and not following their silly, childish dreams of becoming engineers/scientists/etc., then why did we have the feminist movement just a short time later?  Why did so many women in the 60s and 70s sound so unhappy with their lot?  Yes, many women did and do want to be housewives, but many don’t.

Even back then, there were women who wanted careers.  Women weren’t just perfectly content to follow one path until Gloria Steinem came along and convinced them otherwise.  No, this was percolating for a long time.

For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that she helped Pa out in the fields, and didn’t just help Ma in the house.  She also wrote that she refused to say the word “obey” when she married Almanzo in the 1800s, and he said no decent man would want her to.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman way back in 1792, arguing that women were only overly emotional because they weren’t given proper education or opportunities for careers.

George Sand–a woman who took a man’s pen name to be taken seriously–was certainly no conventional housewife.

In Jane Eyre, we find this passage:

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot.  Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.

It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex (p. 129).

My Honor’s thesis in college was about women writers of Victorian times wanting to break out of society’s restrictions on them.  It was titled “I’ve Stopped Being Theirs,” a line by Emily Dickinson, whose poetry revealed an intense desire to decide her own fate.

While researching, I discovered that even Little Women seemed to be Louisa May Alcott’s ironic attempt to whitewash reality with what society said women “should” be.  Her own family was nothing like the Marches, and she was more like Jo, yet she–like Jo–was told by others how she “should” act.

(Maybe I should pull out that old thesis and post it here?  Of course, it’s quite long, because that’s required of theses.  I may have to chop it up and edit it.  But it was good enough to get an A and be filed in the school library as an example for others!  😀 )

In fact, I wrote this thesis–and became a feminist–after my experiences with a very sexist ex, Phil, who tried to force me into an old-fashioned, submissive role, even while chiding me for wanting to be a housewife.  (Doesn’t make sense, I know.  But also demonstrates why my feminism is NOT the kind which tells women they should not be housewives.  On the contrary, I believe in letting women decide for themselves.)

Also, in the early decades of the 20th century, women were already starting to break out of society’s restrictions: women doctors, women scientists, women journalists.  Remember Marie Curie?  In fact, when the Nazis took over in Germany, they forced not just Jews but many women out of their jobs, because they thought women should just be housewives.  (Their preaching on this turned around and bit them on the butt later, when the women were too content being housewives to want to help the war effort.)

It has been common for decades to hear about the “idyllic” 1950s.  That everyone was religious and everyone knew his/her place and was happy.  But if that were true, then where did the unrest of the 1960s come from?  If life were perfect, then who but an idiot would want to turn everything upside-down?  Why were there riots?  Why were there marches and protests?  Where did the feminism come from?

No, that feminism didn’t start in the 1960s.  It started centuries earlier.

Instead of looking at this as, “You can’t judge a 1950s show with your modern lens,” how about we say, “Yes, this is an example of the rampant sexism that inspired women to rebel in the 60s and 70s.  This is how tough our mothers/grandmothers had it.  Look what they had to fight against!  Let’s appreciate what they went through.”

Also see:

 

 

 

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