Too many thoughts about gender politics for one title

side eyePart One: Animals in Blank Spaces

A few weeks back, I promised to write a blog post about the varying reactions to two music videos – Taylor Swift’s Blank Space and Maroon 5’s Animals.

The reactions in question: A totally unscientific survey of a small group of men which resulted in them saying that Taylor Swift’s video was “way more” creepy than Maroon 5’s.

In other words, this:

taylor-swift-blank-space

Is WAY scarier than this:

images

This bothers me on a lot of levels.

Let me sum up the videos quickly.

In Blank Space, Taylor Swift invites a man into her elegant, beautiful life. When she discovers he’s cheating (presumably), she erupts in a rage. The victims of her anger? A cake, a painting, a shirt, a pair of pants, and a car. The aftermath – it probably cost him a few thousand dollars to replace the clothing and repair the car.

In Animals, Adam Levine stalks a woman. He watches her, takes photographs of her, fantasizes about making out with her in a fountain of blood, humps a side of beef, and talks about eating her alive. The aftermath – the man in that video is definitely going to kill that woman, very probably sexually assault her, and certainly eat her.

So why is Taylor Swift more frightening than the man who’s about to engage in cannibalism? I think it has less to do with the actual story in the two videos – a bad breakup in one, a stalker/killer in the other – and more to do with a beautiful, young woman taking claim over her narrative.

Taylor Swift is saying: Here’s what they say about me. See how ridiculous this is? She’s taking ownership of her image and shoving it in our faces. And pretty little blonde girls are not supposed to do that. She’s supposed to smile while people call her crazy and needy.

I think that unscientific poll of men found Blank Space creepier than Animals because they didn’t quite know what to do with that pretty blonde girl throwing her story in their faces. With her refusing to sit back and take it. They don’t quite know what to do with a woman who fights back. And it scares them.

Part two: We need less separation, not more

Meg’s post “Separating the Men from the Boys” has stuck with me since she wrote it. So instead of working on the blog post I’m supposed to be writing, I’m thinking about this.

A few things stuck with me. And probably not the thing you expect. The idea that her friend wouldn’t report sexual misconduct? That’s horrible. He should. He absolutely should, and I think less of him for having said that he wouldn’t. But am I surprised? Not as much as I would be in a more perfect world.

No, the things that stuck with me were things Meg said. I know that she was writing from a place of frustration. I don’t know if what I’m writing is a rebuttal, a counter-point, or just another point of view, but I had to respond.

Meg said: I think I always kind of knew that women who fall into my category

There are lots of types of women in the world (also, lots of types of men!). There’s the girly women, the beautiful women, girls next door, tough women, smart women, women who want to be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, nannies, teachers, and stay-at-home-moms. And it is not OK for any of these women to be marginalized by anyone – by men or by other women. It is not OK and it shouldn’t be tolerated or accepted. We shouldn’t shake our heads and shrug. Girly girls shouldn’t be rolling their eyes at less girly girls and saying they’re not real women. Tomboys shouldn’t be rolling their eyes at the barbie girls and saying they’re weak. SISTERS SHOULD STICK TOGETHER!

Meg said: Let’s face it….men view things so differently from women, we will never, ever see things on the same page.

I think this is something Meg and I will never see eye-to-eye on!

My opinion? We’re not that different. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We are different (and viva la difference!) But to say we can never even get on the same page?

No, we all have the same basic desires and needs – food, shelter, clothing, someone to love. We’re much more alike than we are different.

different views

Over the course of my life, I usually have more male friends than female, which just comes from having interests that line up better with men than women. The only time I find I run up into a wall that separates male and female is when the subject has to do with some sort of aggression. And then nearly every time that the average woman would step back and say “Let’s talk,” or “Let’s just walk away and think about this,” the average man will, instead, escalate the conflict, and he will do it with a stubborn refusal to listen to reason. And that’s the only difference I’ve ever found where I just shake my head and say “Testosterone. What a bitch.”

All the rest – is cultural expectations. And those can and will change.

Meg said: Women will always be just a little less important in the eyes of men.

I certainly hope this isn’t true. One hundred years ago, we still couldn’t vote in this country. It wasn’t that long ago that a woman needed her husband to cosign for a credit card or a loan. Thirty-five years ago, there’d never been a woman on the supreme court. Thirty-two years ago, the US had never put a woman in space. Now, it barely merits comment to see a female cop, a woman in military uniform, a female astronaut.

Here’s the thing: We need to be able to imagine women in positions of authority before that will become normal. We need to see women respected, admired, and valued before that will become normal. And that means we need women willing to break through the barriers and claim that authority, respect, admiration, and value. If we can see it, we can believe it. We need strong role models. We need women in the STEM fields so that girls know that “scientist” is an option for them and so that boys don’t think there’s something unusual about a woman in science. We need to see women in strong roles, in traditionally male roles so that girls can dream of following after them.

As more and more women claim these roles, demonstrate strength and wisdom, as it becomes more and more commonplace to see women excelling in their fields, it will become less and less common to simply dismiss a woman’s words, her power, her accomplishments.

Change begets change, which makes it our responsibility to push for those changes, to actively encourage our daughters to follow their dreams, to teach our sons to respect women. And then we’ll all be important to each other.

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