The Glass Ceiling in Fiction

Can we please have some actual gender equality in fiction?

I am really sick and tired of how so many stories elevate one gender at the expense of the other and call that empowerment.

I don’t want to spend too much time tackling the well known and obvious issue with male centric stories featuring one dimensional female characters. But real quick I want to introduce you to a famous idea called the Bechdel test.

Acing the Bechdel Test

It’s basically a test to see if female characters have any more importance in a story other htan being a man’s love interest or the friend of said love interest. If you’ve got two women talking about anything but a man, then you’ve got yourself some potentially multi-dimensional female characters.

And that’s great! All the power to them!

A lot of the stories I choose to experience often feature strong female leads and I love them. Being Erica and Age of Youth just to name a couple serve as perfect examples of women that ACE the Bechdel test. Being a man who will never truly understand the plight of women, I love seeing their experiences depicted as realistically and empathically as possible.

Faux Femme Fatales

Now with that said, here’s the true crux of this post: I am sick and tired of Faux Femme Fatales.

Now first the obvious case; over powered female characters like Scarlett Johannson’s Lucy and the even more popular Rey from the new Star Wars films. They both have unearned skills that make them overpowered in dessimating the hordes of men they fight in their respective films. They face little to no challenge leading up to their mastery, yet Rey is meant to serve as a positive role model for girls to get into Star Wars. Simply put, it’s a bad message to send to young girls.

Yes, girls can do anything. Anything boys can do, too!

But it requires hard work and dedication. Especially in the realm of martial arts. Take a look at the women’s division of the UFC. They are not muscular and skilled in mixed martial arts just because they are women, or take some drug (Lucy), or touch some weapon (Rey). They dedicate themselves to eating right, working out, and training in the various styles they need to know to survive in the octagon.

The way Lucy and Rey are written insults these real life women who not only train to develop skill and competance, but also face actual challenges. And worst of all, the men who surround Lucy and Rey from their respective films all happen to be incredibly incompetant and no match to their strength and intellect.

Now let’s plunge deeper into a more subtle way in which men are kicked to the curb all for the sake of “girl power.”

How to Discourage Women From Getting into STEM

A little while ago I watched Project MC² on Netflix and thought the idea was pretty cool. It’s about a team of teenage spies who share their scientific skills to “covertly” protect the world. Cool! Love the idea! It reminds me of Totally Spies, which I loved watching as a kid.

Furthermore, there’s this huge issue these days about the shortage of women getting into the STEM field in college and university, and apparently this show aims to inspire girls to garner an interest in science. More power to that as well! Science is awesome. Girls are awesome, too. Why not have more of them?

Well I hate to say that this show, in the end, does not at all seem like it can accomplish that goal. I mean if you are a young girl, or a parent of a young girl who has gained interest in science thanks to Project MC², then please let me know it actually has had the intended effect. Otherwise I personally would not let my God daughter anywhere near this god awful show.

First of all, the girls are portrayed as walking talking Tumblr memes. They talk in the most stereotypically annoying teen style that no actual teen talks like. Then second of all, there always tends to be some typical douche guy character who undermines the girls because they’re girls, and then gets showed up by her within the same scene.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it so forgive me if I get the details wrong, though even if I am inaccurate in my remembering of the following scenes, the core principle of how anti-man they are still holds.

In the first season there’s a scene where these four pre-teen girls have little to no problem infiltrating a government facility. The security is a joke. You’re supposed to believe that pre-teen girls–half the size of fully grown middle aged men, who have been trained to serve as security officers to a classified facility–easily beat these guys up by way of a foot stomping, purse bashing, and for some stupid reason, kicking a fire alarm that easily opens a sealed door they need to get to.

All the while, adrenaline pumping rock music plays as the girl kicks the fire alarm in slow motion as if it’s so cool and bad ass. It’s so bad ass that she somehow ran past a pudgy security officer who made the laziest attempt to stop her, right?

Wrong!

What could have been better is if these girls actually acted like spies who use their smarts to outsmart government security. And I’m talking security of not only the middle aged type, but technological kind as well that they could have hacked into their systems to bypass them. That would have been way more believable and logical given the premise of the show.

Then I believe the first episode the second season features the girls hanging out at the front of their high school, when a soccer ball happens to stumble in their presence. It’s from the boys playing in the distance and they’re asking for the ball back. One of the girls asks “hey can I play, too?” And one of the boys in full childish douche mode says something along the lines of “but you’re a giiiirl.

His equally half brained friends start laughing like it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. I’m pretty sure you know where this is going, but in case you didn’t, what happens next is that girl kicks the ball so hard and it bashes the boy’s head in, and all the girls jump and cheer.

Boys 0 – Schoolyard Violence 1

Girls rule! Boys drool!

Fuck off.

How to Shatter the Glass Ceiling For Real, For Once

I can probably write a whole series taking the infinite examples where men need to be “put in their place” in Faux Femme Fatale stories, but I’m going to stop right there before my piss is brought to a boil.

The point is this: I am all for gender equality in fiction. Many of my favourite stories feature equally equipped characters of both genders. Again, Being Erica and Age of Youth come to mind. What made them powerful characters were their individuality, not how much they can prove the other sex wrong.

So for the love of god, established writers and new writers alike, please avoid this trope. It’s old, dead, and tired, and it sets our progress back by several centuries.

If you want strong female leads, then have them actually face hardship and get them to earn their mastery, whether that mastery is in super powers and/or the strength to navigate their existential crises.

Show young girls some Being Erica to learn from Erica’s adventures in time traveling therapy. She gets to relive her regrets in attempt to change them, only to complicate her past in other ways, and then ultimately learn a lesson that helps her with a relevant issue in her present life.

Hooray for self-knowledge!

Show young girls some Age of Youth to learn the value of sisterhood from the Belle Epoque crew. It’s one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a long time featuring young Korean women who go to college and share a house together–often also sharing their personal problems with each other. And despite their drastically different personalities, they all happen to learn how to live with and understand each other.

Hooray for healthy female relationships!

If more stories followed in their example, we would have many more sought after female leads that are strong positive role models for young girls. Show women overcoming realistic and relatable struggles. Show them getting knocked down and then getting back up. Now that’s true empowerment.

If more stories incorporated these writing techniques, maybe then female audiences both young and seasoned can feel empowered to take on all of life’s challenges.

All of this can be achieved without having to castrate men in the process.

Especially men who are written to represent the most unrealistic and stereotypical mysogonists.

Because much like their over powered and flawless female counterparts, they simply do not exist, and do nothing but create a false sense of gender inequality.

 

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Permission to Thrive?

“Are you giving yourself the permission to thrive?”

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately.

Sometimes we’re not held back by the fear of failure, rather we’re held back by the fear of success! Crazy, right? Let me explain.

I can’t speak for everyone else but myself, so I’m going to share my experience and you can let me know if it resonates with you. As a kid, I was constantly told by my parents and teachers that I wouldn’t amount to much in life simply because I had little to no interest in school.

Their basis for me living a successful and happy life was me getting good grades to get into a good college in order to get a good job, and because I refused to do homework or go to school for many periods in my life, it meant that I was doomed to fail.

For a long time, I believed all the crap they fed me. I bought into this narrative of me being a lazy failure of a person, so whenever I get close to possibly succeeding at something, I get scared. It feels uncomfortable and unreal to be competent, let alone productive.

I grew up believing in the opinions of authority figures who knew nothing about me because they took little to no time trying to understand me. They just wanted to force me into their little box of what they thought I should be.

It’s why that even to this day I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not lazy, that I’m not a failure. That if I take more opportunities to engage in activities and interests I actually cared about, I can actually excel at them. No matter what I’ve gone through in life, and no matter what level of interest (or lack thereof) I’ve had in school, the one constant has always been writing. I’ve always managed to keep the interest in writing alive and get good grades in English class, even if I had skipped several weeks of school and neglected every other subject.

Fast forward to today, after 10 years of working for other people, I quit my last day job and am now fulfilling my decade long dream of working for myself. It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I had an asshole for a boss at my first job outside of school. Every other boss after has been okay for the most part, but this one particular douchebag was the pinnacle of potential killing authority figures I couldn’t stand, rivaled only by some teachers I’ve had throughout my years in school.

What all these authority figures had in common was the demeaning and forceful way they got me and my classmates and co-workers to get our work done. They would yell at us, call us names, get upset over the tiniest things. And whenever the pressure got too much, I would usually be the only one to yell back at them. I look back now and realize it wasn’t always for the best, but there were times where my pride was hurt far too much to let some scoldings slide.

I grew up so used to this dynamic of fighing back that I find myself becoming an authoritarian figure to myself and end up…fighting with myself.

I know it may sound crazy, but it does feel like I am split into two: the master and the slave. I guilt myself out when I don’t work as much as I could and “should” be working on my business. I bully myself into compliance and only end up working on stuff I’m passionate about with the same resistance and resentment I would with my homework.

It’s so messed up, I know!

The key fix for me is first of all, to notice how messed up this dynamic is. Then second, it’s to remind myself to not even worry about the success aspect, and focus more on the aspect where I get to create value for potential readers and clients by enjoying the creation process.

All these authority figures made any form of work seem like a chore because they focused far too much on how we would be perceived by them and the rest of society, especially by a grading system that I think is outdated. As if letters from A-F or scores of 0-100% were the only basis on which to measure your merit as a human being.

We’re more than test scores.

We’re more than what all the naysayers have made of us.

We are made to not only survive, but thrive.

Are you giving yourself the permission to thrive?

 

 

 

Taking it Day by Day

Have you heard of that cliche that you should take things day by day? It’s cliche for a reason because I often find myself overwhelmed by the bigger picture. I’ve had my worries about the future for most of my life and I don’t know if it will ever truly go away, but one of the things that helps me maintain my sanity is taking things day by day.

I’m at a very exciting, albeit difficult, time in my life. For the past 10 years I have ignored my life’s calling to pursue writing with the bullshit excuse that it’s not very profitable or sustainable as a career, and that it’s “unrealistic” to find any success with it. Always worried about having enough money to survive, I’ve limited my choices on how to earn it, along with my happiness.

So what I’ve done is settle for typical 9-5 jobs working at warehouses and retail stores, and although I got my financial needs met and that anxiety would go away when I can see several digits in my bank account–I’ve always ended up feeling empty when I hit a certain point.

Whether it was a certain amount of money or a level of mastery at the jobs I had, I could never ignore this sinking feeling inside me that I’m missing out on something big. A sinking feeling that has paradoxically woken me up every morning while also pinning me to my bed with dread.

Even when it came to the jobs I loved at first, especially the ones I had most recently, there was a certain point where I would resist going to work because I’ve grown tired of it.

As of this post, it’s been 11 months since I quit my last job managing a friend’s business. I took plenty of time off this year finish the 3rd draft of my novel, play video games, and continuously expand my music library thanks to my discovery of K-Pop. I gave myself the privilege, that not many people allow themselves, of living hedonistically without shame. That is to say, everything I did was meant to please me and only me, as that was my primary goal every single day.

Why?

Because I have spent my life in service to others whether it was through my caregiving jobs or retail. Even more notably was when I managed an escape room hosting 20 people an hour on an almost daily basis, only to come to home to have my sick grandmother to look after when she was still alive.

Needless to say, I lost connection with myself, and when she died, it gave me the proverbial shock of realizing how short life really is. I kept managing the escape room place for a couple months after her death, and I never felt the same. All the high energy and genuine interest in giving my guests the best experience possible started to become fake until I couldn’t fake it anymore.

I lost my patience. I lost enthusiasm. I lost myself.

I had to quit and give myself all this time to reconnect with myself to remember what has been the most important thing in my life all along; writing.

No matter what I’ve been through the past decade, writing has always been there to keep me sane and possibly from giving up on life. Whether it was writing a novel, going to school for creative writing, or even doing BSBS Reviews last year, anything to do with writing has kept me from giving up.

Nowadays I find myself shedding the hedonistic shell I built for myself this year, and once again want to be in the service of others. Only this time, I am sharing my true gift, which is the wealth of wisdom I have acquired from my many years of studying the art of writing.

I am hosting bi-weekly writing workshops at a cafe I love frequenting, and no matter what the turn out is, I am happy to just be doing something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and that’s to teach other writers how to improve their craft. Another cliche they say is if you wanna learn something, teach it because that’s how you can reinforce what you’ve learned while also improving on it within yourself.

I don’t know what the future holds.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a sold out workshop.

I don’t even know if I’ll ever wow anyone enough at these workshops to inspire them to hire me as their writing coach.

In fact, tonight being my third workshop ever, the feeling of wanting to run away has yet to leave me. I’m scared of failing, but I’m also more scared of succeeding because I’m not used to this. I’m not used to putting my all into something I love and having it be my primary source of income, let alone activity. Writing has always just been a side hobby until now.

One thing I know for sure is that I made a committment to show up. Rain or shine, empty or full attendance, money or no money, I want to get up there and present my knowledge to the world for as long as I need to because I have a yearning burning desire to do so.

I’ve been booked from September to November to host bi-weekly workshops, and as much as I want to run away and cancel all of this, I remind myself to take it one day at a time. To enjoy all those days and hours I spend perfecting my presentations, writing and rewriting what points I want to deliver. To enjoy all those days and hours I spend stressing over whether or not enough people will come.