Thoughts on Women in Media (or one of my hobby horses).

This week I read a fabulous blog piece by Cori Schumacher, a surfer and writer.  You can read it here.  It got me thinking again.  Thinking about the way women are viewed in different cultures, and how even cultures that believe they are the most liberated, still seem to need to reduce women to the sum of their body parts.

Perhaps you won’t agree with me, but as I look at the media world I see more and more emphasis  on the objectification of the female form.  Advertising is chock full of naked and semi naked female forms, posed in ever more ridiculous ways.  And constantly those positions and expressions are becoming more extremely sexual in nature.  If you ever comment on them, you’ll be accused of prudery, or not understanding “cutting edge.”

There’s a thing called “The Hawkeye Initiative” which is really interesting to look at.  It’s based around this statement: “This leads me to  propose the Hawkeye Test.  If your female character can be replaced by Hawkeye in the same pose without looking silly or stupid, then it’s acceptable and probably non sexist.  If you can’t, then just forget about it.”  The comment apparently came from Tumblr user Glitchy, and has spawned some fascinating artwork.  You can look at some of it here.  Be warned though, there is some semi nudity and provocative posing.

For movie goers we now have The Bechdel Test.  There are three rules.

1.  It has to have at least two (named) women in it.

2.  Who talk to each other.

3.  About something besides a man.

Sounds simple?  Sit down and see how many of your favourite movies fit the criteria.

There are now even Bechdel listopia lists on Goodreads.  I was happy to see that there are at least 128 books on the speculative fiction list so far, many of which I have read.  I write in the Speculative fiction field, and it was pleasing to see so many successful authors who have managed to write books that fulfil 1, 2, and 3 so well.

I’ve also had the joy of participating in some lively debates about sexism in literature on Goodreads, along with discussions that look at the division between art and pornography.  We don’t all agree on some of these topics but it’s nice to be in an environment where people put their point across with enthusiasm, but with civility and politeness.

If you have a moment this week, I’d encourage you to read Cori Schumacher’s post.  It’s wonderful, and a great piece of writing, and have a bit of a think.  If you’re a woman, place yourself in some of the roles she writes about, if you’re a man, do the same thing.  If you’re a parent, imagine your daughters in those roles.  And if you’re a writer, maybe have a think about how and why you portray women in a particular way.

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