Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A touch of patriarchy blaming

Two recent articles left me chortling at the idiocy of some men.

In the New York Times, there was an article about a new fall show called Reaper, scheduled to air on the CW network. The main characters are guys, but—are you sitting down?—the show is written by a pair of women. Yes, women! See:

More than anything else, however, the show has turned heads with its writing, which was unexpected for several reasons. The writers behind the show had chiefly worked on the crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” not a series known for its laugh lines; and they put together a pair of lead characters who most resemble the slacker guys now dominating contemporary film comedy (as in “Knocked Up”).

But the writers themselves are nothing like those guys. In fact they are women.

The show's director is Kevin Smith, who pronounces that "for two chicks to write something like this, that was kind of spellbinding.”

The article breathlessly points out how implausible it is that women—ordinary 35-year-old non-men!—could summon the ability to write immature jackass slacker guy characters. Because...why? Because women have never been exposed to such fellas and couldn't conceive of what they'd say and do?

Gimme a fucking break.

But it gets worse: Listen to one of the actors in the show.

The dialogue between the two buddies seems so authentic that Mr. Labine said he was stunned to learn two women had written it. “I didn’t actually read who wrote it when I read the script the first two times,” he said. “And then I saw it, and I was like just shocked. They definitely did a little research to figure out how to write for dudes.”

I look forward to more breathless Times articles about men! who have TV writing jobs! and write female characters! Omigod, how do they do it?!?

And then, holy shit! What about books by men? What about Shakespeare? How unusual for male writers to be able to write female characters. What'll they think of next?


The other article was Louisa Thomas's "Rebuttal Dept." piece in the New Yorker. She presented Hawaiian Tropic Zone restaurateur Dennis Riese's impassioned rebuttal of the idea that his place is nothing more than a fancy Hooters.

If you were trying to write a satirical piece mocking the mindless sexism of a man who thinks he's a feminist but isn't, you might hit many of the same points Riese makes.

Nor is Hawaiian Tropic Zone a strip club. “No nipples,” Riese said. “You’re never, ever going to see a girl nude.” He continued, “I’m such a feminist. I love women and believe in them. And I’m not being P.C. by saying that men and women like to look at the woman’s form—it’s been going on since Michelangelo, you know, since they were doing statues of Venus de Milo. So I really believed that I was creating a restaurant that was going to appeal to men and women. I used colors that are very feminine in this place.” He gestured toward a tropical mosaic and toward a pair of soft-orange overhead lights shaped—as are the salt and pepper shakers—like breasts.

(Insert your own point-by-point critiques here.)

Riese says his restaurant is woman-friendly because they offer "simply grilled" menu items for the girls who are on a diet, and allows sharing of dishes for the girls who are (a) on a diet and (b) broke. Riese continues:

“Women like sexy. Talk about empowerment and feminism! There’s nowhere offering women sexy in the way they would like it to be—classy sexy!”

The next sentence in the article describes the waitress's outfit: a string-bikini top and a mini-sarong. Classy sexy! And empowerful!

A male customer asks Riese if it's true that customers get to rank the waitresses by attractiveness level. Riese is quick to deny it and to explain his evolved stance:

“No, but we have a beauty pageant,” Riese said. “Twice a night. Music comes on, and they walk across that stage up there. The ballots are on every table.” The winner, Riese said, “gets a little tiara, and she wins fifty dollars.”

“My understanding was that you rank them, from one to ten,” the banker persisted. “And it seemed surprising to me—I would think that the women who scored very low, especially ones who took pride in their good looks or their bodies—”

“But we don’t do that,” Riese interrupted. “That would be prehistoric.”

It would be insulting to you, the reader, for me to explain the critical errors Riese makes in his feminist praxis. You can fill in all the blanks yourself, can't you?


Psycho Kitty said...

I'm mostly speechless, except to say that I'm totally using "empowerful" in a sentence tomorrow. Somehow.

I'm running on 3 hours sleep so I can't remember--did I tell you I picked up the book? Yay!

Orange said...

PK, I absolutely stole the word "empowerful" from Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy. It's typically used when a woman claims feminist empowerment from pole-dancing, stripping, posing nude, wearing stiletto heels, etc. (Hope you like the book!)

Mary Witzl said...

I can't remember where I read this -- in a sociolinguistics textbook, I think -- but the linguist Otto Jesperson is alleged to have based his study of women's speech patterns on the reported speech he found in D. H. Lawrence's novels. D. H. Lawrence being, as you well know, a man. He also wrote that women's speech was 'simpler' than men's and that women, though quicker readers and faster on the uptake, were that way because their minds were rather empty. I have the article somewhere, if you are interested...

Bobita said...

Oh. My. God.

I would like to proclaim, "I can't believe this!" But, I CAN believe it. Sadly.

Narya said...

No. "No, but we have a beauty pageant." Because that's much less patriarchal, and so much more empowerful than actually ranking women on their sexbotiness.

And as for the first item--did it ever occur to any of those shocked people that perhaps women are subjected to male opinions pretty much non-stop? That the implications of living in a patriarchy are, among other things, that women cannot avoid male opinion?

I'm not sure that it improves my day to read these things first thing in the morning, however.

momo said...

Blame on!