Mere Orthodoxy has a long, worthwhile read, Why We Should Jettison the “Strong Female Character”. The topic is, simply, female characters in movies. Less simply, and more accurately, it’s about how today we publicly talk about men and women.
The piece nudged me into writing this much shorter post about a thought I’ve had for a while – that ‘egalitarian’ moves to help women often undermine women.
Taking the lead from Mere Orthodoxy, we can see this at work in movies and TV shows. Modern video drama has to have dynamic, active female leads. Any category of film needs such women – be it kids’ flicks, teen stories, or adult drama.
These women will, often, be aggressive, rebellious, problem-solvers, sometimes reckless, gifted in combat … winners on all fronts. And they help women, it seems, by breaking the stereotype.
Except that they don’t break type at all.
Look at that list above. It’s as stereotyped as they come – it’s the (formerly) male pattern of dramatic behaviour. That is, for women to have success, they need to become more manly. How does that free women from oppression?
The supposed sin is in thinking there are two ways of being human, male and female. It’s beyond thought now to suggest that men and women are are different enough to be distinct. But the new orthodoxy suggests there is but one way of being a successful human – and it’s the manly way.
The Mere Orthodoxy piece notes the change in Disney Princesses.
Within the kickass princess trope lurks the implication that, to prove equality of dignity, worth, agency, and significance as a character, all of a woman’s resolve, wisdom, courage, love, kindness, self-sacrifice, and other traits simply aren’t enough—she must be capable of putting men in their place by outmatching them in endeavors and strengths that naturally favor them, or otherwise making them look weak or foolish.
If equality means its not enough to be a woman, then equality has a problem, don’t you think?
And it’s not just the movies. Consider the sexual revolution. As a generalisation, the sexual revolution has produced an ethic that promotes wide-ranging experimentation and minimal commitment. Men play that sexual game, and women are ’empowered’ to do the same.
But that game is the stereotypical dream of the faithless male roué: easy and frequent sex, with no cost. The sexual revolution makes it easier for men to fulfil that dream, and tells women that it’s wonderful that they can be the same.
Welcome to the glory of freedom, where your equality is defined and measured by being a user, a Lady Casanova!
So we see a double insistence that women copy men: positive and negative. Movies urge the more positive characteristics, and the bedroom is where to copy the negative and selfish.
This places some expressions of egalitarianism in a mixed-up place: a good aim (honour women), with a poor method (be more like a man), based on a wrong idea (men and women are the same).
What should a Christian do? I’d say we should hold firmly to the right idea, and let methods and aims flow from that.
So, for instance, the biblical teaching honours the complementarity of male and female. There is difference, without separation. Male and female in Genesis 2 are both required, and not interchangeable – a reality that the Bible never abandons. The idea matters, because truth matters. As to a method of living out this reality … well, I promised a short piece – so that’s for another day!