I’ve been taking a Victorian Sexualities class this semester. And throughout I’ve been surprised by the connections between Victorian society and our present-day society. For example, both involve radical changes in technology, concern over family values and morality, and a large amount of coded talk about sex. Although a lot has changed and the conversations differ in content, many of the anxieties of the Victorian era, especially around sexuality and gender, seem to pop up today. One of the places where I was surprised to find myself suddenly thinking about the Victorians was the TV show How I Met Your Mother, created by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas.
The unmarried woman was a big concern for the Victorians. The growing number of single women in Britain was in conflict with the traditional role of women as wife and the mechanisms of inheritance and property. William Rathbone Greg wrote “Why are Women Redundant?” in 1862 to address this problem. He believed that it was in women’s nature to marry, so that if they weren’t marrying, it was for unnatural reasons: bad temperament, desire for work, and a lack of eligible men.…Continue Reading
Wow. Gone Home shattered all my assumptions about video games. But before I get into that let me offer two disclaimers. One, this is, in fact, the first video game I have every played from start to finish (unless you count a round of Super Mario Kart) and the first video game I have ever owned. Second, I will be talking about my personal life in connection to this game. If that makes your skin itch, I’m sorry.
In the hyper-masculine realm of popular video games, violence is king. Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Diablo, etc. Games are marketed to men and use female characters as pawns to drive the story and to develop the male protagonist’s character. Women in games are not independent or their own characters, but are rather devices marketed to men. This often means that the female character is killed just to give the male character depth or purpose. In addition there is the completely unacceptable sexual violence in Grand Theft Auto where players are REWARDED for raping women, blatantly encouraging rape culture.…Continue Reading
It’s not easy to be a feminist and watch TV. I don’t deny there are shows that are making strides in their representation of women and non-normative people, such as Orange is the New Black, Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers, etc. But despite these shows, television seems stuck in a rut. Though there is a lot available, shows stay rigidly within their genre and tend to market towards one single demographic. Cop shows work one way, sitcoms another, teen dramas are different from soap operas, and soap operas are different from prime time. So although the shows employ many different lenses, they remain clustered around a few primary ideas, showing but not embracing diversity in characters or life narratives. Watching through a feminist lens traps you in wanting to praise and encourage a show for the progress it does make but feeling disappointed by the conservative structures that TV can’t seem to let go of.
Orphan Black is a show that begins to deconstruct these ideas.…Continue Reading
When writing a column about feminism the first thing I would like to do is be clear: What do I mean by feminism? In society and the media today, feminism is rarely given a clear definition. Feminists, however, are clearly implied to be ugly, single, man-hating lesbians. No one is sure what feminism really is or does; it’s just clear you shouldn’t want to be a part of it. Though I don’t deny that there are some man-hating, lesbian feminists, the theory of the movement is focused not on Men or Women, but gender.
Gender is the performance of either masculine or feminine characteristics. I say performance, not because gender is not real, but because it is public. Gender is how you publicly identify, either as man or woman. People do this in almost every way: clothing, hair, voice, ways of moving, how one sits, etc. And being a man or woman comes with a heap of responsibilities! Men are expected to be emotionally closed, always into sex with women, and career-driven so as to provide for their eventual families.…Continue Reading