This was quite a journey! I spent the better part of a day going back and forth with a guy that I was not entirely sure was for real at first, then I absolutely got fooled, and then I realized I got fooled. It was fun. The guy said some LEGITIMATELY funny stuff when he was “in character.” And it all ended in a way that I felt good about.
It’s pretty much all laid out in the screencaps, But let me elaborate here:
HEY YOUNG MEN! I know it seems like women complain a lot about how they are represented in media, including fiction, and how it seems like they want entertainment tailored specifically to them, and how they seem to want ALL of pop culture to be politically correct or feminist-ized or whatever it is you think they want, but really, what’s happening is that women are tired of seeing garbage women characters in most of our entertainment. And they’re wondering, Would it really be so much trouble to make more realized female characters? You could still have all your CGI and action and science fiction and drama and swords and stuff, but the female characters could be a little more fleshed out and interesting. And the entertainment would still be good and would, in fact, be better.
Guys, instead of thinking, “Hey, not everything has to be politicized,” try thinking, “I wonder what it would be like for me if the situation were reversed, and how I’d feel if in the vast majority of the entertainment I consumed, the male characters were few and far between and then mostly used as talking props & plot devices. I wonder if I’d get kinda tired of that and occasionally I’d say something, even a little joke, just to ease the annoyance a little.”
Fellows. Listen to the women in your lives. Ask them questions. It will change your perspective for the better. Years ago, I got into a brief argument with two female friends of mine about a movie— it does not even matter which movie— that they viewed as sexist and I did not. I couldn;t even fathom how they could see it that way. I tried to argue that it was not sexist. In recounting our discussion to another party, it was pointed out to me that they might have a different viewpoint based on their life experiences, and that it was not for me to tell them that their interpretation was incorrect. And that I was probably getting defensive about it because if the movie was sexist, it followed that my liking it would make me appear sexist. And that’s when I realized that none of this was about me, and maybe I should shut up and listen and try to understand. And also to be more aware of things like this and develop not just my sympathy, but my empathy.
I will only ever be able to empathize so much with women, because my experience as a white male in America is vastly different from that of anyone who is not that. But I can relate to:
- not being taken seriously
- not being listened to
- being dismissed
- being condescended to
- having something explained to me that I already understand
And I having had those experiences, I am now more inclined to TRY to understand where someone is coming from if they are telling me they are having a similar experience with our culture.
So guys: just try. You don’t even really have to dig that deep. Think about your own experiences as a person, then apply that to someone else. It gets easier the more you do it, and it makes your life better.
Anyway, I hear Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is pretty good!
Don’t feed sexist trolls unless you can produce results as good as Paul F. Tompkins.
my summer lab internship in one photoset
Here’s the thing: obviously this is super-funny on its own. But the thing that gets me is the “digital native”-ness of it. This woman, whom I’m assuming is probably a good 10 or so years younger than me, didn’t just write it down as a series of words. She made a photoset (visual posts are much more likely to be reblogged on Tumblr than text ones), and she made it without ever touching a computer—it’s a series of Snapchat screenshots made on a phone.
This points to the cascading set of decisions the author made about how to tell this story. The use of a photoset; the tool used to “compose” it; the one-line, screen-width limitation for phrase length; the use of one hand-drawn word with the “pen” tool (in the default color!); the all-lowercase text and occasional word-shorthand—all of these might be unconscious decisions, but in this context they are storytelling decisions nonetheless. All together, they communicate an immediacy of telling (is she taking these photos as she walks away from the lab?), as well as having the verbal rhythm of, say, a series of texts one might receive from a friend. The photos (and the pen-tool cursive “like”) help communicate the personality of the author, and her expressions set up both the humorous nature of the story and the probably real embarrassment behind it.
Would this story still work as a series of words on a screen, followed by, say, a :( emoticon (or, more likely these days, an emoji)? Maybe. But I think this is a perfect illustration of the divide between people my age and the next digital generation. I came of age in a world where the Internet meant a computer in your house, and largely text-based communication. That telling is what I’d do. This photoset is what they do.
Not that they need my blessing, but I think the kids are all right.
The only thing I love more than a good story is a good analysis of how media format modifies the telling of a good story. Seriously.
Episode One, Part Three.
I should add that going to college, in chicago, in 2005, meant that literally everybody was blasting sufjan on the way to the dorms.
Something truly amazing and strange and never-before-experienced-by-me: being one of the main characters in my multi-talented friend Ian McDuffie’s comic FEELS. It’s all about our first year in college. Check it out!
i feel obliged at this point (the first of many, i assume) to forewarn the large group of people who formed their way into this comic that there will be an infinite amount of times where you will say “it didnt happen like that,” or just “that didnt happen.” it seems simple to say, but these are going to be characters based on people I’ve known, doing things based on things the people ive known have done.”
that said, i am basing it on them (especially you, gwyn!) because i met some truly wonderful people in college, and i am so happy that i still have the majority of them in my life. if they weren’t the best people ive known, there wouldnt be a comic worth writing.
and of course, this is all a giant over-explanatory preamble to say “hey um, don’t be surprised when it gets to the part where my character has a huge crush on your character.”
Right on, Ian! Violet is my middle name, not my first, so I certainly approach the character as being a parallel universe Gwyneth. You’ve got artistic license, and I won’t give out any DUIs.
As for the crush: TOTAL HONOR. <3!!!
I’m deeply delighted to see my sister in a comic, and I’m just a little embarrassed that I didn’t put her in a game first.
Good on you, McDuffie. And good on you, Gwyn!
It makes sense because he is both PERT and TWEE.
And I love his leading man headshot, which reminds that Britain was and is a place where leading men could have hair like boiled wool and a face like a soft old cloth bag of grain, and it would all somehow WORK.
That is all.
I know that Jon Pertwee at any age does things to some of my followers. If you feel faint, put your head between your knees and breathe deeply.
I hate you. I hate him. I hate this world I hate everyone and everything. Somebody build a goddamn time machine already.
I’ve tried putting my head between my knees but I still feel faint. I think I need his head between my thighs instead.
You’re a beautiful human being.
Ah, Jon Pertwee. Not my favorite Doctor nor my first, but still absolutely wonderful.
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.