What a week for speculative fiction movies and gender role discussions, eh? On the one hand, some of my fellow feminists are having trouble dealing with the problematic backstory Marvel has always had for Black Widow and the fact that Iron Man is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who would totally crack a rape joke in poor taste. On the other, the so-called “Men’s Rights Activists” are going nuts over the new Mad Max and Terminator movies.
I’ll be candid — I haven’t seen the original Mad Max movie (shame on me, I know; it is, like so many books, video games, comics, tv shows, and movies, on my list). I also haven’t seen Fury Road yet, and I certainly haven’t seen Genisys* (‘cause it ain’t even out ‘til July!), so there’s really only so much I can say. But let’s start with what an MRA is.
An MRA is a person (male or female) who thinks that feminism is out to strip men of their rights. And they have a point. Before feminism, men got to keep their kids and their stuff when they got divorced from their wives. After feminism, it is easier for women to collect alimony and take custody of their children than it is for men, no matter how deserving he or she is. Fortune was historically unbalanced in favor of men, now (in some ways) it is unbalanced in favor of women, and really we should work to have fortune balanced between the sexes.
(Pssst, I’m totally with you there, MRAs. That’s why I’m a feminist!)
There are a couple of different flavors of MRA. Some call themselves Men Going Their Own Way (MIGTOW), and they say they’re after equality in their relationships, splitting the bill and such. Others, like Pick-Up Artists (PUA) believe they have been denied their right to sex, and are interested in learning how to manipulate women to obtain sex.
Some MRAs seem like they are actually decent people. They’ve been hurt by the women in their lives, and are trying to find ways to cope together, and that’s fine. But a lot of the individuals involved in these groups are trolls and haters, some are openly and proudly misogynistic, and they bring that toxic energy into everything MRAs try to do more collectively.
Like find excuses to troll, dox, stalk, and make things generally miserable for female video game journalists and designers (Gamergate). Or stuff the ballots for the Hugos in favor of less aware literature (Puppygate/Sick Puppies/Rabid Puppies). Or cry out at the unfairness that is bad-ass women in post-apocalyptic, big budget movies, as we see here.
Seriously, that’s the complaint. Hot women running around on screen, doing cool stuff. Why is that a problem? Because it means the man in the plot isn’t doing all the cool stuff.
I do get it. For a whole bunch of political, social, and economic reasons, men are in a bind. More women are graduating college than men. More women are turning into the breadwinners of their household. Catcalling is wrong, draw lady superheroes in more dignified postures, enthusiastic consent or it’s rape. The definition of what it is to be a man and the rules about appropriate behavior are changing under your feet, so why can’t you at least have your manly movie franchises to yourselves?
Well, you can’t. Slowly, slowly, Hollywood is getting it that women like big, action-packed movies too. We’re a demographic with cash — thanks Disney’s Frozen for getting the point across at last!
So what can you do?
Enjoy the movies.
But how can you, with a woman potentially doing just fine on her own without a man to stomp faces for her?
What, do you think I’ve never enjoyed a movie without a woman in it? I love Venture Bros. and Better Call Saul, and those are totally dude-centric shows. And in books, I’ll take The Dark Tower over The Mists of Avalon any day.
It’s easy for me to empathize with men, to experience a story as a male main character. It’s easy, because men and women aren’t that different. We’re both in fleshy bodies that require near constant upkeep and care. We both want to protect our loved ones. We both like to be awesome, be the hero. We both want to be loved. We both can react badly to being hurt.
With that in mind, go watch Fury Road, and be Imperator Furiosa. Go watch Genisys**, and be Sarah Connor. Just like you would otherwise be Mad Max or Kyle Reese.
After all, going and enjoying these movies anyway is the manly thing to do.
* * *
*most awkward “cool” misspelling ever
**ugh…seriously that’s bad…