I’m not posting much until December 7th because there’s this intense standardized test I’m studying for, but I also have a commitment to writing 300 words a night, so this post is going to be it. Today in the prep class for said standardized test I got to engage in a bit of everyday feminism.
One of my cohort, upon our teacher choosing a female pronoun to represent the non-gender-specified author of a critical reading passage, said thusly:
“Ugh, she, the book always says she.”
Being a good cradle-feminist who kept herself awake through interminable (but still useful) studying sessions by doing my social justice gender pronoun counts, I turned around and said:
“It’s even. The book uses ‘he’ and ‘she’ evenly.”
“Not in the online materials it doesn’t.”
In the most literal way possible, I replied:
“No, I counted. It’s even.”
Setting my social awkwardness aside, this isn’t a fluke flake of misogyny rearing its head in my Monday night Kaplan commune. It’s a thing.
There are some great articles and studies showing that men, when shown a room 17% full of women, see that room as having a majority of women. One more data point came through my tumblr dash today–and I’m putting it in big numbers because of anger:
Straight white men are 31.3% of the U.S. population, 83.6% of the leads in the top grossing 250 movies.
People of color are 28.6% of the population, 6.4% of the leads (2.8% if you remove Will Smith, thanks Will.)
Women are 51% of the population, 10.8% of the leads.
This isn’t about failing the Bechdel Test, because, true story, nearly every action movie I love fails the Bechdel Test. This isn’t about representation in media for its own sake.
DAVIS: My theory is that since all anybody has seen, when they are growing up, is this big imbalance – that the movies that they’ve watched are about, let’s say, 5 to 1, as far as female presence is concerned – that’s what starts to look normal. And let’s think about – in different segments of society, 17 percent of cardiac surgeons are women; 17 percent of tenured professors are women. It just goes on and on. And isn’t that strange that that’s also the percentage of women in crowd scenes in movies? What if we’re actually training people to see that ratio as normal so that when you’re an adult, you don’t notice?
LYDEN: I wonder what the impact is of all of this lack of female representation.
DAVIS: We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.
LYDEN: Oh, my goodness.
DAVIS: So is it possible that 17 percent women has become so comfortable, and so normal, that that’s just sort of unconsciously expected?
This is about the songs of my people reflecting my people. This is about the stories we tell, I tell and retell and retell to friends through Metro recounts of last night’s episode and fanfiction and spoilers and academic papers. This is about these stories, our stories, her stories having a bare minimum, let’s say 50% of them, of women as lead characters.
Because we are.
Every damn day.
We are leads.
“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.
Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power.
Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling . . . stories, twisting and flowing through the darkness.” –Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad