“Female 2” or “Equality vs. Fairness”

A guest post by Marion Hood. (Also published on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly.)

Prior to my husband Robin Hood’s admittance of Allyn-a-Dale into the band, the ratio of women to men among the Merry Men of Avalon Faire was 1 to 4. With the addition of Allyn, it slid down to 1 in 5.

Well, there you have it: Minstrels are damaging to women’s rights.

Not actually. Yet it seems like the sort of conclusion some would be quick to draw.

I stand corrected. This infographic was not particularly quick to draw at all. No end amusing, though.
I stand corrected. This infographic was not particularly quick to draw at all. No end amusing, though.

My author finds it a bit irritating when she happens across statements like, “Only X percentage of fill-in-the-blank are women! This is an outrageous, unacceptable disgrace!” Is it really?, she wonders. Is it all to do with an oppressive glass ceiling keeping us ladies down? Are we to blame the shopping aisle with its profusion of pink and dearth of raw building materials for hoodwinking our little girls out of their bright futures in engineering?

Danielle happened across an article with a paragraph lamenting how few architects were women. Do you know she considered becoming an architect, once? Or perhaps a landscape or interior designer. All those hours of building homes and amusement parks on her Sims and Rollercoaster Tycoon computer games (whichever gender they may or may not have been marketed toward) sparked her interest. What stopped her from pursuing a career in these fields? Did she discover them to be an unwelcoming boys club? Was she told such pastimes were unsuitable for young ladies? Not at all. She’s not an architect for the same reason she’s not a master chef, an accountant, or a naval officer: Because a writer’s what she is and wants to be.

She doesn’t write because she sees it as a woman’s job, or to stick it to anyone who sees it as a man’s job. It’s her job. Her passion. Her talent developed into skill over thousands of hours and millions of words. How many men or other women write or don’t write has nothing at all to do with it.

Why say we need more women in any given field? Is it for what we feel they would bring to the table? Or are we simply obsessed with the numbers? Must women = men in every sphere before we lower our cry of discrimination, or can there be fairness without numerical equality?

Why so few Merry Women, anyway? If Robin Hood cares so much about justice, how come his wife’s the only girl in the band? Have sexism and nepotism combined to land me the role of Token Chick?

In absolute honesty, I’d say the answer’s a mix of “yes” and “no”.

There’s no pretending young ladies in my day were encouraged to be outlaws. (Which isn’t to say the authorities were exactly rooting for the men to turn criminal, either…) I grew up with my own version of the pink aisle, raised to be a noblewoman with all the feminine trappings that came with the gig. While I don’t recall it ever striking me as the most entertaining future, I made no plans to openly rebel. …Until the man I loved absconded to Sherwood.

That settled that. I put in a few months of basic weapons training to lessen the chances of making a fool of myself and/or getting killed, then found my Robin and made it clear I meant to stay with the band, never mind society or chivalry or the Law telling me it was no place for a girl. When you love something enough, you go after it.

Robin let me in because he loved me. He let me stay because I showed I could. He is as fair, and as in favor of equality, as any man I’ve ever known or heard of. And he has one woman in his band.

Is it an outrageous, unacceptable disgrace? Do the Merry Men need more women? Should I petition for a new quota to ensure females aren’t getting elbowed out by the patriarchy? I suppose I could. Or I could rest content in the knowledge that, had Allyn-a-Dale been a woman, the Men would have been no less eager to welcome her as our minstrel.

No getting around it: There is injustice in the world. A Merry Man is more keenly aware of that than most. But not all inequality is unfairness. Not every woman wants to be an architect, no matter how many “boys’ toys” she happily played with in her youth. By all means, do not force her out. Likewise, do not pressure her in. Out of every “women’s right” – out of every right for all – the right to pursue passion sits atop the list of those Danielle and I stand most firmly behind.

Your thoughts welcome below. …Unless You’re A Girl! (*laughs* I jest.)

“Distressed” or “How Ignorant Disney Generalizations Make Me Feel”

The slightly satirical rant begins now.

Labeling all or most of the Disney Princesses damsels in “a state of danger or desperate need” waiting for their happily ever afters courtesy of princes riding in to save them doesn’t make you sound enlightened and progressive. It makes you sound like you don’t know your Disney movies, and it irks me no end. For those of you who can’t be bothered to get the facts on your own, here they are in pithy summary.

Snow White = All right, you get one point. This kid needed a compassionate huntsman, a septet of miners, and a prince to have her back, because she was too busy singing in ridiculous falsetto with the adorable wildlife to think much about self-preservation. Moving on.

You’re killing the cause, honey.
You’re killing the cause, honey.

Cinderella = Technically, she earned her way out of her mess of a life by making the house’s vermin feel like they owed her favors. It pays to be kind, folks.

Aurora/Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty = She was living a happy peasant life in the forest until her fairy guardians dropped the bombshell that she was a princess betrothed to a prince she didn’t think she wanted to marry because she didn’t know the guy she danced with in the woods was, in fact, that very prince. (I feel like I could be describing a Shakespearean comedy, right now.) Despite her disappointment, she decided to be an adult about it and would have fulfilled her royal obligations had she not been hypnotized and knocked unconscious by an enchanted spindle. You’re not gonna blame a gal for being cursed to sleep through the dragon battle, are you? Shake your fist at the story, if you like, but don’t take it out on the people who had to live it.

Ariel/The Little Mermaid = She had no need to wait for a prince to save her, because she wasn’t in any danger until she jumped into it headfirst on her own. On the contrary, she saved the prince from a noble death at sea following the heroic rescue of his dog from a burning ship. You want a princess who takes her destiny by the horns to the point of stupidity? Here you go. She went out and got everything she ever dreamed of, and it only almost cost the wellbeing of the entire ocean to do it. Slow clap for character agency.

Well, at least she learned a valuable lesson to pass onto the next generation, thus facilitating the avoidance of a repetition of her mistakes. Oh, wait…
Well, at least she learned a valuable lesson to pass onto the next generation, thus facilitating the avoidance of a repetition of her mistakes. Oh, wait…

Belle/Beauty of “…and the Beast” fame = If she were as pathetic as the usual brushoffs would claim, she would have stayed in her poor provincial town and married Gaston without a fuss instead of spurning him and trading her freedom for her father’s in a creepy castle. The only instance in which she needed saving was when she tried to break her promise to the Beast by fleeing the castle and got attacked by wolves. The moral of the story? Don’t break your promises. (And stay out of the freaking forbidden West Wing, Nosy Parker!)

Jasmine = Another instance of not being in distress until someone does something knuckleheaded. In this case, it was Aladdin’s fault for vying for her hand under false pretenses and allowing a sorcerer to get his hands on the magic lamp. Really, it’s only right that he save her, after all the trouble he caused.

Pocahontas = Quote John Smith, her tribe, and a number of the Virginia Company, “Thanks for saving us.” (Not a real quote, but the sentiment was there.)

Mulan = No one complains about Mulan, because she dressed up like a man. Telling.

Tiana/the Princess of “…and the Frog” fame = Wait for a prince?? She wouldn’t even ask her gazillionaire best friend to just loan her the capital to start up her own business! Also, quote Prince Naveen and all of New Orleans, “Thanks for saving us.” (See parenthetical statement in the Pocahontas section.)

Rapunzel = You realize she blackmailed a wanted thief into acting as a tour guide on her birthday jaunt to the city, right? She wasn’t waiting for a prince, just for the gumption to defy her emotionally abusive maternal figure. There’s a difference.

Merida = No one complains about Merida, because she’s Scottish.

Changing her fate, Ariel-style.
Changing her fate, Ariel-style.

There you go, dear readers. The next time you encounter someone spewing such ill-informed slander, just link ‘em here. We’ll rise above the prejudices of yore, one gentle correction at a time.

P.S. – speaking of princesses, “The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales)” releases this Friday. /End plug/

“Girl”

A friend was telling me about her evening at fencing class – (a rather specific detail which may have blown this nameless friend’s anonymity to smithereens, for any readers who know her, but I don’t think she’ll mind much either way) – and how the class had been divided into teams of two for competitive drills. As it happened, More-or-less-anonymous Friend and her teammate spent a lot of the evening winning. As it also happened, Friend and her teammate were the only girls in the class full of guys. Friend was most enthusiastically proud about this point. My reaction: Gloom.

            This may send some readers into shock, but I’m not much of a feminist. Yes, I know, I’m a girl. More accurately, a woman (so a girl in the informal definition 4 sense, not a definition 1 “female child”), but I tend to shy from that particular label, as I feel that “girl” comes off as less aggressive. That’s my main issue with feminism as I’ve encountered it: The aggression with which females insist that they are equal, if not superior, to males.

            When I was a definition 1 girl, the idea of “girl power” amused me. After all, to an eight-year-old female, the declarations that boys drool and reject knowledge in college in favor of getting more stupider on Jupiter are both hilarious and easily swallowed as gospel truth. (Most young boys kinda bring it on themselves.) But I outgrew that in a way that radical feminists haven’t. Naturally, I’m all for equality; I’m not complaining about my hard-won right to vote. What I strongly dislike is hearing propaganda to the tune of, “Anything men can do, women can do better! Men are Neanderthals and public enemy number one! Women could do just fine without men, thank you, Joe Schmoe, so please go sit quietly in the corner until we want you to provide the missing ingredient for the children which we can bear and you can’t and which we intend to raise in the belief that they are little goddesses or else the male servants who should consider themselves blessed for even being allowed on the same planet as said little goddesses…

            Um, whoa. No thank you.

            Fortunately, most people calling themselves feminists don’t take it to that insane extreme. Even so, there is that underlying defensiveness; that hair-trigger belligerence; that feeling that females are the underdogs with everything to prove, when… are we? Does a four-to-one male-to-female ratio in a given space put the females at any real disadvantage? Okay, in sports, possibly; the men are likely to be bigger, probably stronger, and so the girl may have to put forward a greater effort if she wishes to best the men. But why does she wish to best them? Are the men her competition because they are male, or simply because she wishes to excel? If you desire personal excellence purely for the satisfaction of doing the best you can (motivation I can get behind 100%), then it shouldn’t matter whether your competition is made up of mostly men, or mostly women, or mostly monkeys, for all I care.

            That’s where I think feminism has gone wrong: Making it a matter of boys vs. girls – an attitude we should have left behind in elementary school. So long as women insist on pitting themselves against men, they shouldn’t be surprised if the men say, “Bring it on, sweetheart!” So long as we treat things like “women firsts” as a huge deal, it will be.

            My appeal to the women: Lay down your arms. Lower your banner. Lose the “Girl power!” rallying cry. If you want to advance equality, the focus can’t be on opposing teams, but on individuals. Aim as high as you personally can, but for yourself, not for the sisterhood. Let your victories be your own, not your gender’s. Operate among the men and other women and monkeys as if it’s the most unremarkable thing in the world, and in time, it will be.

            You want a chance to lead the way, girls? This is it.