I’m sure by now, you’ve all read my latest Christmas column, entitled Who Is This Woman? in which it occurs to me how little we know about Mrs. Claus. My friend L, who was the inspiration for it all, read it and decided to pass along to me her views and her involvement with feminism throughout the years. As I e-mailed her back, I said “Argh! I wish you didn’t bring this up. Feminism is one of those topics where it brings up so many conflicting viewpoints in me that I can’t help but go off on some kind of rant about it. But, this is Christmas, and you have better things to do than have my rantings forced upon you. Maybe this’ll be my column in two weeks.” Well, guess what? It’s two weeks later.
First, I guess, I should bring up my definition of “feminism.” It seems that feminism has become one of those much-maligned words that has a different meaning for different people. I believe it to be the ongoing movement to strive for equality among the genders. To me, it does not mean the act of men taking the back seat and allowing women to become dominant in all forms of society. It is not an excuse for reverse-sexism. It seems to me that a lot of feminism nowadays has become an excuse for male-bashing.
Case in point: back in my college days, a lot of my friends shared with me horror stories of a class entitled “Women In Science.” A lot of my male friends took it to get their 3 credits of women’s studies, under the notion that it would be a history of…women in science. Boy, were they wrong! It turned out to be a tirade on how science has been designed, by men, to keep women out of the scientific field. Whenever a man tried to raise an alternate viewpoint, all the women in the room would gang up and him and shout him down. A lot of the men in that class lost a lot of respect for that professor when she said that all skyscrapers are phallic symbols, and dismissed the whole science of architecture as nothing more than men in a race to build a bigger dick. Seriously. Feminism of this variety reminds me of the old joke: a man walks into the therapist’s office and says “Doc, you gotta help me.” So, the doctor proceeds by showing the guy a series of ink blots. The doctor says “What do you see in this ink blot?” The man replies with “Two people having sex.” Doctor shows the man a second ink blot, and again the man sees two people having sex. This continues for three more ink blots. Finally, the Doctor says “I’ve got it! The problem is you are obsessed with sex!” And the man says “Me? You’re the one showing me all the dirty pictures!” So, there seems to be this branch of feminism where women are pointing at society and saying “Me? You’re the one showing me all the dirty pictures!” In their drive to create equality, they have begun seeing things that aren’t there. And that’s not healthy.
Another aspect of feminism comes from the sitcom Roseanne. It seems that their daughter had finally had enough of the bully at school and beat the crap out him. Dan, the father, wanted to punish the daughter, saying that while it’s good to stand up for yourself, you shouldn’t resort to violence. Roseanne, the mother, wanted to applaud the daughter for the sheer act of beating the crap out of a man. Her exact quote from the episode: “A man beating up a woman is a step backwards, but a woman beating up a man is a step forwards.” Is it really? I don’t care what the cause is, violence is violence. There is that variety of feminism out there that preaches equality should be reached at any cost.
I guess, what I have the biggest problem with, is the branch of feminism that states all men are evil; that from day one men have been bred to do nothing more than keep women in the kitchen while men go off and fight wars. I have tried so hard all me life to be the good guy that my feelings get hurt when I am indiscriminately called the villain. I’m trying to change, people! While there are some men that are evil, not all of them are. So, if we could get rid of that feminist doctrine that states “Pray to Goddess that someday all those evil men will see the light and allow us womyn the opportunity to run the world.”
Actually, mentioning Goddess there, that reminds of something that my bio professor brought up in class one day, way back when I was in second year. We got off on some kind of tangent about how the Bible is being politically corrected in some faiths. In these new Bibles they no longer refer to God as “He,” and are opening up to the possibility that God may indeed be a woman. At this point, my bio prof said “Yeah, but notice how they keep referring to Satan as “he.” How come we are open to the possibility that God may be a woman, but not to the possibility that evil incarnate may be one as well?”
Language seems to be a common thread through many forms of feminism. And yes, even when I took my Introduction to Feminism course to get my 3 credits of women’s studies, it surprised me how male-oriented the English language is. We have “mankind.” We have the “chairman of the board.” Those are the only examples I can think of right now, but trust me, there are more. And, it’s OK to change things like that. But then, someone has to take this idea and take it one step too far. I remember reading a few years ago how in the plumbing profession it was stated that plumbers could no longer call a ball-cock valve a ball-cock valve. Why? Because “ball” and “cock” are slang terms for male genitalia. Now, it’s called a “floatation controlled valve.” I think it is one step too far to start saying “womyn” instead of “women.” Changing words is OK, but haggling over letters? My views on this can best be summed up by paraphrasing two stand-up comics. George Carlin said “I believe we should say humankind instead of mankind. I believe we should say chairperson instead of chairman.” Bill Marr said “I am not going to start saying vagina-ary instead of dictionary.”
The entertainment industry is one where I would like to see more recognition for women. We have never had a woman win the Oscar for best director. I’m even hard-pressed to come up with 5 women directors. Let’s see, we have Barbara Streisand (The Prince of Tides, The Mirror Has Two Faces), Penny Marshal (A League Of Their Own, Big), Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, Michael), Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World, The Beverly Hillbillies), and Jodie Foster (Little Man Tate, Home For the Holidays). And look, I only knew three of those because they started out as actors. We need more women film-makers! Even in Star Wars, George Lucas is striving to make women more prominent. Lucas got a lot of flak for the original trilogy for presenting us with no women fighter pilots. Well, he’s tried to atone for that in the novels and comic books, by saying they were there, only off-camera. He really tried to make up for it in the Phantom Menace. There, we saw a woman fighter pilot from Naboo in the onslaught at the end of the film, and we even saw two women Jedi Knights on the Jedi Council. So, change is coming, albeit slowly.
When it comes to feminism, I think that my views can best be summed up in two characters from Batman. I am, of course, talking about those villainesses Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. First, let’s look at Harley Quinn. Originally, she was Dr. Harleen Quinzelle, a fresh-faced graduate from Gotham University. She was serving a stint at Arkham Asylum where she transferred to their criminal psychology division, hoping that she could get rich by writing a tell-all book on one of Gotham’s more infamous criminals. There, she met the Joker. In this newcomer, the Joker saw an opportunity. In his first session, the Joker told her a completely fabricated tale about his abused childhood. The Joker started playing with Harleen’s head, brainwashing her in a sense. Harleen even came to love the Joker. Then, one night the Joker escaped. Within a week, Batman brought him back to Arkham, beaten to a pulp. When Harleen saw this, she snapped. How dare Batman do that to her love! So, she donned the guise of a harlequin, took on the name Harley Quinn, busted the Joker out of Arkham, and has been the Joker’s loyal lover ever since. Even though the Joker amuses himself by beating the crap out of her nightly, she always goes back to him.
Harley Quinn represents everything that feminism is trying to combat. We have a woman who gave up a promising career, to become the much-abused extension of a man. In fact, the creators of Batman: The Animated Series even sheepishly confess that she started out as nothing more than a female extension of the Joker. It wasn’t until they wrote her origin story that they started turning her into her own character. In Harley Quinn, we also see the stereotypical abused girlfriend. In many ways, Quinn is superior to the Joker. I mean, she’s got her Ph.D. in psychology for cryin’ out loud! Her few attempts at a solo career generally go off without a hitch. But then the Joker will say or do something, and she’ll go back to his side; back to a life of perennial abuse. This is what feminism wants to end. And, in the comics and cartoon, Harley Quinn has had her most successful attempts at becoming her own woman when paired with Poison Ivy.
Now, you’ll have to forgive me. Everything I know about the Batman Universe I learned from the cartoon, and they never did an episode detailing Poison Ivy’s origin. What I am about to recount is her origin story from the comics, that I gleamed from several fan-run websites. With that out of the way, Pamela Isley was born with a very unique condition. She has a hyperactive immune system, making her invulnerable to every known virus, poison and toxin. But, there is a drawback. This hyperactive immune system has also left her unable to have children. So, she decided to lose herself in her career. She soon rose to become one of the more prominent botanists in the country. She was happy, but the fact that she couldn’t have children seemed to gnaw at her. It was as though she was being denied the society-produced image of a woman being able to have both career and family. And, as with all Batman villains, she wasn’t right in the head to begin with. It wasn’t long before she began to view the genetically-enhanced plants she created as her children. And soon, she turned to a life of crime to protect her “children,” and to fund her experiments in genetically tinkering with plants.
Poison Ivy, in a way, represents the ideal of feminism. Ivy is a strong, independent woman, who knows that she doesn’t need a man for anything. In both the scientific and criminal communities, she has become the best in her field. But then, to another extent, she represents feminism having gone to far. In a few episodes, she gloats that Batman will never be able to catch her because “he’s just a man.” (Usually, she says that right before Batman busts into her lair and defeats her. It’s not sexist, just a cartoon cliche.) The violent extremes she goes through to protect plants could be drawn as parallels to the extremes that some women are willing to go through for equality. Wow. I think there’s a paper in this comparison, but I don’t want to do the research.
And, I think this is a good place to wrap this up. That, in a nutshell, is my view on feminism. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it is time to hang it up feminism. There are many cultures out there that still view women as being inferior. Kuwait, the democracy we fought to protect in Operation: Desert Storm, still does not allow women to vote! We still need women in more prominent corporate positions. So, while a lot of progress was made in the last century, we still have a long way to go.
But then, what do I know? I’m just a boy.