saying feminism is unnecessary because you don’t feel oppressed is like saying fire extinguishers are unnecessary because your house isn’t on fire
"It seems that when you want to make a woman into a hero, you hurt her first. When you want to make a man into a hero, you hurt… also a woman first."
they do realize ‘gamer’ is not a male specific term right?
like they dont have to say ‘female gamer’
its like saying ‘doctor’ and ‘female doctor’ like fucking shut up
"but women have sex organs on their chests! I don’t walk around with my pants off!"
I think what you mean to say is “women have secondary sex characteristics on their chests”, not sex organs
in which case let me remind you that your facial hair and enlarged adam’s apple are also secondary sex characteristics
if secondary sex characteristics bother you and you feel they should be covered up in public, please feel free to shove your entire head in a bag at any time
Q: Girls are discouraged? That sounds so 1970s.
A: There was a 2001 study that showed in fourth grade, 68% of boys and 66% of girls like science. Starting in sixth, seventh and eighth grade, we lose girls and boys, but we lose more girls and for different reasons: lingering stereotypes, societal pressures. It’s well known that many girls have a tendency to dumb down when they’re in middle school. Just last week, I was talking to senior executives, and a woman told me that she was the best biology student in high school and had the highest exam scores. At the end of the semester, a teacher told her: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to give the award in biology to a boy, because it’s more important to him.” Almost every time that I give a speech or meet with a group of women, I’ll hear such stories.
Q: Boys earn 70% of the D’s and F’s in school and account for 80% of dropouts. Shouldn’t we fear more for their future?
A: It’s a big problem. Women earn the majority of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. and last year earned more Ph.D.s than men. But keeping girls in the science and math pipeline is a separate problem with different causes. It’s important we address both. You don’t stop research on breast cancer just because heart disease is also deadly. You work on both.
Q: Suppose you were an executive of a corporation that needs engineers. You meet a girl in high school. She scored in the 99th percentile in math on her SATs, yet says she wants to major in psychology or go to law school, because those careers sound more interesting. What do you tell her?
A: I’d introduce her to the coolest female engineer in the company. Girls tend to have a stereotype of engineers being 65-year-old guys who wear lab coats and pocket protectors and look like Einstein. Try to make it personal to them and show them some of the cool things that they can do in engineering.
Q: Let’s talk Lawrence Summers. The Harvard president recently resigned after giving a controversial speech a year ago suggesting that men might simply be predisposed to be better at math and science. Is there at least a grain of truth in what he said?
A: (Laughs). Suppose you came across a woman lying on the street with an elephant sitting on her chest. You notice she is short of breath. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart problems. In her case, the much more likely cause is the elephant on her chest.
For a long time, society put obstacles in the way of women who wanted to enter the sciences. That is the elephant. Until the playing field has been leveled and lingering stereotypes are gone, you can’t even ask the question.
Q: I will anyway. There are many obvious biological differences between men and women. This can’t be one?
A: There are obvious differences, but until you eliminate the more obvious cause, it’s difficult to get at the question scientifically. Look at law, medicine and business. In 1970 — that’s not ancient history — law school was 5% female, med school was 8% and business school was 4%. You could have taken a look at those numbers and concluded that women don’t make good lawyers or doctors. The statistics might have supported you. But today, all of those fields are about 50-50."
It's Time for White Feminists to Stop Talking About Solidarity and Start Acting
"When will white feminists take collective responsibility for educating themselves? When will they understand the power at play that sings in their skins? We don’t exist in a vacuum and women of colour don’t exist to hold their hands and explain in painful detail why their behaviour continues to hurt us. Intersectional feminist politics are not for white women to co-opt as their own.
Amazing, amazing article on Autostraddle by Kesiena Bloom on we have to follow through on our claims of intersectionality. Not only do we need to educate ourselves on all issues of the multifaceted female experience, we have to stop shaming Black women for protecting themselves through violence, actually listen to them since they are the authorities on racism, and call each other out when we make offensive remarks. Some of my favorite quotes:
When I was younger and coming to terms with my sexuality I was convinced that I couldn’t be gay. I thought that lesbianism was a white woman’s game. I didn’t know of any Black lesbians; Audre had not yet become my Lorde. Intersectionality gives us the framework to understand the multiplicity of lived experience.
Feminism and LBT rights have been hijacked by the white woman’s experience, and that has led to so much blindness about who can fit into either of those groups (the answer is: all women). Exclusion is hypocrisy.
To be feminist is to be aware of our interconnected struggle as women, but to also see that not every struggle is our own.
I want to paste this on my forehead. I want to write this on the walls of my shitty college dorm room in Sharpie. We need to fundamentally respect the lives of women that are especially different from ours.
This is how whiteness operates; it is insidious and sly. It lets white women feel that they have the coolness and collectedness of reasoned, dispassionate logic on their side and thus they reign righteous over women of colour’s understandable anger and frustrations.
THIS. THISTHISTHISTHISTHIS. Speaking from experience, this “dispassionate logic” is like a disease where you’re overwhelmingly convinced you’re making a well-informed statement based on a rational evaluation of all sides of the discussion, only you’re making that judgment based on your whiteness and how the world has valued your opinion because of that whiteness, plus the disease is your fault and you need to fucking fix that pronto.
Anyway, you should just read the article.
The Importance of The Unlikable Heroine
I’ve always had this tendency to apologize for everything—even things that aren’t my fault, things that actually hurt me or were wrongs against me.
It’s become automatic, a compulsion I am constantly fighting. Even more disturbingly, I’ve discovered in conversations with my female friends that I’m not alone in feeling this impulse to be pleasant, to apologize needlessly, to resist showing anger.
After all, if you’re a woman and you demonstrate anger, you’re a bitch, a harpy, a shrew. You’re told to smile more because you will look prettier; you’re told to calm down even when whatever anger or otherwise “unseemly” emotion you’re experiencing is perfectly justified.
If you don’t, no one will like you, and certainly no one will love you.
I’m not sure when this apologetic tendency of mine emerged. Maybe it began during childhood; maybe the influence of social gender expectations had already begun to affect me on a subconscious level. But if I had to guess, I would assume it emerged later, when I became aware through advertisements, media, and various unquantifiable social pressures of what a girl should be—how to act, how to dress, what to say, what emotions are okay and what emotions are not.
Essentially, I became aware of what I should do, as a girl, to be liked, and of how desperate I should be to achieve that state.
Being liked would be the pinnacle of my personal achievement. I could accomplish things, sure—make good grades, go to a good school, have a stellar career. But would I be liked during all of this? That was the important thing.
It angers me that I still struggle with this. It angers me that even though I’m an intelligent, accomplished adult woman, I still experience automatic pangs of inadequacy and shame when I perceive myself to have somehow disappointed these unfair expectations. I can’t always seem to get my emotions under control, and yet I must—because sometimes those emotions are angry or unpleasant or, God forbid, unattractive, and therefore will inconvenience someone or make someone uncomfortable.
Maybe that’s why, in my fiction—both the stories I read and the stories I write—I’ve always gravitated toward what some might call “unlikable” heroines.
It’s difficult to define “unlikability”; the term itself is nebulous. If you asked ten different people to define unlikability, you would probably receive ten different answers. In fact, I hesitated to write this piece simply because art is not a thing that should be quantified, or shoved into “likable” and “unlikable” components.
But then there are those pangs of mine, that urge to apologize for not being the right kind of woman. Insidious expectations lurk out there for our girls—both real and fictional—to be demure and pleasant, to wilt instead of rally, to smile and apologize and hide their anger so they don’t upset the social construct—even when such anger would be expected, excused, even applauded, in their male counterparts.
So for my purposes here, I’ll define a “likable heroine” as one who is unobjectionable. She doesn’t provoke us or challenge our expectations. She is flawed, but not offensively. She doesn’t make us question whether or not we should like her, or what it says about us that we do.
Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with these “likable” heroines. I can think of plenty such literary heroines whom I adore:
Fire in Kristin Cashore’s Fire. Karou in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Jo March in Little Women. Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. The Penderwick sisters in Jeanne Birdsall’s delightful Penderwicks series. Arya (at least, in the early books) in A Song of Ice and Fire. Sarah from A Little Princess. Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. Matilda in Roald Dahl’s classic book of the same name.
These heroines are easy to love and root for. They have our loyalty on the first page, and that never wavers. We expect to like them, for them to be pleasant, and they are. Even their occasional unpleasantness, as in the case of temperamental Jo March, is endearing.
What, then, about the “unlikable” heroines?
These are the “difficult” characters. They demand our love but they won’t make it easy. The unlikable heroine provokes us. She is murky and muddled. We don’t always understand her. She may not flaunt her flaws but she won’t deny them. She experiences moral dilemmas, and most of the time recognizes when she has done something wrong, but in the meantime she will let herself be angry, and it isn’t endearing, cute, or fleeting. It is mighty and it is terrifying. It puts her at odds with her surroundings, and it isn’t always easy for readers to swallow.
She isn’t always courageous. She may not be conventionally strong; her strength may be difficult to see. She doesn’t always stand up for herself, or for what is right. She is not always nice. She is a hellion, a harpy, a bitch, a shrew, a whiner, a crybaby, a coward. She lies even to herself.
In other words, she fails to walk the fine line we have drawn for our heroines, the narrow parameters in which a heroine must exist to achieve that elusive “likability”:
Nice, but not too nice.
Badass, but not too badass, because that’s threatening.
Strong, but ultimately pliable.
(And, I would add, these parameters seldom exist for heroes, who enjoy the limitless freedoms of full personhood, flaws and all, for which they are seldom deemed “unlikable” but rather lauded.)
Who is this “unlikable” heroine?
She is Amy March from Little Women. She is Briony from Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. Sansa from A Song of Ice and Fire. Mary from The Secret Garden. She is Philip Pullman’s Lyra, and C. S. Lewis’s Susan, and Rowling’s first-year Hermione Granger. She is Katniss Everdeen. She is Scarlett O’Hara.
These characters fascinate me. They are arrogant and violent, reckless and selfish. They are liars and they are resentful and they are brash. They are shallow, not always kind. They may be aggressive, or not aggressive enough; the parameters in which a female character can acceptably display strength are broadening, but still dishearteningly narrow. I admire how the above characters embrace such “unbecoming” traits (traits, I must point out, that would not be noteworthy in a man; they would simply be accepted as part of who he is, no questions asked).
These characters learn from their mistakes, and they grow and change, but at the end of the day, they can look at themselves in the mirror and proclaim, “Here I am. This is me. You may not always like me—I may not always like me—but I will not be someone else because you say I should be. I will not lose myself to your expectations. I will not become someone else just to be liked.”
When I wrote my first novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, I knew some readers would have a hard time stomaching the character of Victoria. She is selfish, arrogant, judgmental, rigid, and sometimes cruel. Even at the end of the novel, by which point she has evolved tremendously, she isn’t particularly likable, if we go with the above definition.
I had similar concerns about the heroine of my second novel, The Year of Shadows. Olivia Stellatella is a moody twelve-year-old who isolates herself from her peers at school, from her father, from everything that could hurt her. Her circumstances at the beginning of the novel are inarguably terrible: Her mother abandoned their family several months prior, with no explanation. Her father conducts the city orchestra, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. He neglects his daughter in favor of saving his livelihood. He sells their house and moves them into the symphony hall’s storage rooms, where Olivia sleeps on a cot and lives out of a suitcase. She calls him The Maestro, refusing to call him Dad. She hates him. She blames him for her mother leaving.
Olivia is angry and confused. She is sarcastic, disrespectful, and she tells her father exactly what she thinks of him. She lashes out at everyone, even the people who want to help her. Sometimes her anger blinds her, and she must learn how to recognize that.
I knew Olivia’s anger would be hard for some readers to understand, or that they would understand but still not like her.
This frightened me.
As a new author, the prospect of writing these heroines—these selfish, angry, difficult heroines—was a daunting one. What if no one liked them? What if, by extension, no one liked me?
But I’ve allowed the desire to be liked thwart me too many times. The fact that I nearly let my fear discourage me from telling the stories of these two “unlikable” girls showed me just how important it was to tell their stories.
I know my friends and I aren’t the only women who feel that constant urge to apologize, to demur, to rein in anger and mutate it into something more socially acceptable.
I know there are girls out there who, like me at age twelve—like Olivia, like Victoria—are angry or arrogant or confused, and don’t know how to handle it. They see likable girls everywhere—on the television, in movies, in books—and they accordingly paste on strained smiles and feel ashamed of their unladylike grumpiness and ambition, their unseemly aggression.
I want these girls to read about Victoria and Olivia—and Scarlett, Amy, Lyra, Briony—and realize there is more to being a girl than being liked. There is more to womanhood than smiling and apologizing and hiding those darker emotions.
I want them to sift through the vast sea of likable heroines in their libraries and find more heroines who are not always happy, not always pleasant, not always good. Heroines who make terrible decisions. Heroines who are hungry and ambitious, petty and vengeful, cowardly and callous and selfish and gullible and unabashedly sensual and hateful and cunning. Heroines who don’t always act particularly heroic, and don’t feel the need to, and still accept themselves at the end of the day regardless.
Maybe the more we write about heroines like this, the less susceptible our girl readers will be to the culture of apology that surrounds them.
Maybe they will grow up to be stronger than we are, more confident than we are. Maybe they will grow up in a world brimming with increasingly complex ideas about what it means to be a heroine, a woman, a person.
Maybe they will be “unlikable” and never even think of apologizing for it.