This recent post at The Mary Sue about the ways women are asked to justify themselves when they produce media with a feminist message and also when they choose not to is what first got me thinking about this blog post. Reading a post from Geoff at The Oddness of Moving Things about a memoir from a female rockstar made me realize that I sometimes feel that pressure myself. I’ve noticed a lot of memoirs and biographies being published recently about female rock stars, who are almost always portrayed as very strong women. Although I’m not particularly interested in the subjects of these memoirs, I often feel some pressure as a feminist to read about their experiences. Today, I’d like to try and unpack some of the social issues going on here and think with you about whether we bloggers, especially female bloggers, have an obligation to promote feminism or female authors and characters.
You Do You
Despite the slightly provocative post title, I’m really trying to think about this for myself and am sharing with the blogging community because I’d love to hear your thoughts. I recognize that even if I decide I feel some responsibility to feminism or other women, to each their own, so I’d like to open by saying your blog is your space and I support you doing you 🙂
Promoting Other Women Doesn’t Have to Be Motivated By Feminism
One problem I see with the expectation that anyone promote women for feminism is that I think it can easily blur into assuming that anyone who promotes women is only doing so for feminist reasons. This excludes the possibility that someone is promoting a particular woman just because she’s awesome. Personally, I read a ton of books by female authors, but this is entirely dictated by my choice of books. Unless subconsciously, I am not picking my books to specifically promote female authors. I read what I like. If I noticed that my reading was skewing towards entirely male authors though, I probably would do something about it in the same way that I’m trying to read more books by authors who identify as LGBT or as people of color. I like to keep my reading diverse in order to encourage diversity in publishing and to expand my own horizons.
A Book Starring A Woman Doesn’t Make It A Feminist Book
Part of what got me thinking about this particular issue is a comment in the Mary Sue post that inspired me to tackle this topic. They mention that the new Ghostbusters movie is expected to be feminist just because it stars an all female cast, not unlike the kerfuffle about Mad Max being “too feminist” or not feminist enough simply because it co-starred a female action heroine. Personally, I’d like to work towards a world where it is no stranger to have an all female cast or a female action hero than it would be to have an all male cast (perhaps with a token woman) or a male action hero. Character gender alone does not a feminist statement make. Or if it does, I think it’s unfortunate that having female characters is rare enough that this is the case.
Obviously, how the women in any given media are portrayed is more important than simply their presence, although that’s a good start. I do think it’s important as female book bloggers to call out books that portray sexist characters in a positive light; condone rape or other coercive behaviors towards women; or objectify women.
Helping Other Women Overcome Sexism Is a Great Cause
I’m thinking about Madeleine Albright’s quote a lot as I write this post and I generally find it too extreme. Personally, I’m passionate about getting everyone interested in science and technology but especially young women, because I do think they fight messages from society that suggest that women can’t be good at those things. However, I don’t believe that everyone must work for this good cause, any more than I believe everyone must volunteer at animal shelters or food banks, even though those are obviously nice things to do.
I also feel as though the constant admonishment that women should get along with one another is a particularly insidious form of sexism. It’s masquerading as feminism and female empowerment, but it’s really a product of the belief that women are catty. Women are no more likely to be supportive of one another or petty towards one another than they are to be supportive of or petty towards men. Likewise, they are no more likely to be supportive or petty towards other people than men are. There is a special place in hell for this gender stereotype 🙂
But Women Aren’t Obligated To Help Other Women
Personally, I would like to use my blog to:
- review books that include women in history, especially female scientists
- review books that teach me new perspectives on feminism
- occasionally write a post sharing my thoughts on feminism or gender issues with you
- and promote the many authors I love of both genders
The reasons I make these choices are complex. Some of them, especially the content of my posts on feminism, will obviously come from my feminist perspective. Others, such as my choice to read about women in history, stem from my curiousity about little known stories in history and my desire to read about people who inspire me. And my desire to promote many authors comes simply from my love for books.
I don’t think women have an obligation to support women. For instance, the idea that all women should support Hillary just because she’s a woman bothers me. Would we want all men to support a different candidate just because they’re men? If you can’t swap the genders in an idea and be comfortable with it, it’s probably sexist. I apologize for getting a little political, but I think that’s a great example of this phenomenon. I think both women and men should support the candidate they think will be the best president. Likewise, I think women and men should do what they like with their blogs and support authors they love. Women should not be expected to support other women just because they’re women.
So far, I have always chosen to pass on books I feel an obligation to be interested in, but am not really interested in and I will continue to do so. Life is too short to read books I’m not excited about.