Saturday, October 12, 2013

X-23 and Feminism

Okay, um. This is a complicated one.  I'm not a direct male feminist or anti-feminist either.  Personally, I've always just tried to stick to the side that does focus on equality, fairness, and what I hoped was right.  I have no degrees in feminist theory, or feminism either, so please bear with me on this one.  And please by all means, express your views on this in the comments to help further and grow this discussion for the future.  If I had an X-23 face palm image, this post would probably be where I'd use it.

There's a lot of modern talk about being feminist in this day and age along with what it means.  I've always tended to think that X-23's character is on the feminist side.  She's a character that is about abuse and other topics, but she's also a character that stands against perceptions.  She's a character that's supposed to show real human growth in dealing with problems and understanding the world outside of being some tool for others to use.  She's spoken about equality in how she's handled her views about respecting religions as well as how she's helped other characters or reacted to situations like we saw with Alice in the Songs of the Orphan Child arc.  She's a character that does try to speak on aspects of gender equality, but also on how to voice your own opinions and make your own choices.  She's a character that stands against being used as a tool and against manipulation.  She's a character that's supposed to empower and stand against forced debasement of others but also stands for just how complicated the human emotional spectrum is.  She is a character that stands for choice and growth.  She stands for being freely able to choose what is right for you.  She is a character loaded with potential about many topics that cover what feminism can mean.

Often we hear the word feminist thrown around like a label and moniker for promotion.  Attempts to make it trendy to speak about what it means without knowing what that is, when really all it means is that you fight for equality.  The right to make your own decisions about your body.  The right to not be treated as something for others to use whether you are male or female.  Feminism handles many topics from how adult films degrade women, to even topics like how even men can be raped.  It's not simply a label that says you stand up for only women.  It's a title that says you stand against inequality.  The problem is lately it's becoming more and more of an excuse to not speak up about topics that could be wrong simply because they were spoken by a woman.  Feminism is being mis-used to force silence where it shouldn't.

There is an issue with this.  A major one.  Not speaking up is the issue entirely.  If it weren't for women speaking up against what other women say, we wouldn't have such heroes as Wendy Davis, or Malala Yousafzai.  There are women that stand against them.  There are women trying to revoke reproductive rights.  There are women that are anti-gay marriage.  There are women that promote rape and mistreatment of anyone they don't deem perfect.  There are women that mock weight differences.  There are women that mock real problems people face like many disorders as a reason to incite hate against that person.  There are even women that say that a woman's place is in the home and not out supporting her own independence.  There are women that fight against the right to be educated.  These views being forced onto others are not feminist actions just because a woman is doing them.  These things actually go against feminism and need to be stood up to.  These are the attitudes that feminists fought to overcome.  The perceptions that needed to be stopped.  The rights that needed to be fought for.  The right to choose what is right for you.

Feminism is about standing against rape culture in all it's forms.  Standing against the things that promote these actions as how to abuse women or men.  Feminism is about stopping abuse, be it mental, emotional, or physical.  It's about standing up for what you believe is right and fair.  By definition it does lean heavily on the female side of the equation but that's also because of the slant society's perceptions have leaned due to being a patriarchal society.  It does also stand up for men though.  The same rape culture views that promote the blame the victim mentalities also plague many men in the perceptions of what constitutes rape in the eyes of people.  Lines like "men can't be raped" or "you can't rape the willing" are all also anti-feminism.  What defines masculinity in society about and how those images damage men is also something else that feminism stands up against.  Men are taught they aren't supposed to emote, that real men don't cry.  These are views that feminism is trying to combat to show we are all human.  We all are entitled to the full spectrum of our emotions.  It's about equality of perceptions and the right to freedom.  It's about having the right to treat your body as you see fit and not how others deem permissible.  It's about not revoking choice in the issues that can make a difference in how one lives their life so long as it doesn't harm another.  This is why abortion is often considered under feminism as it's about the woman being able to make the choice as to what's permissible with her own body for what's right for her future.  That is another topic that's hard to really dive into, but it's also a health concern so it is indeed a right that should be maintained.

Feminism is not about standing idly behind while another woman damages all that's been fought for and demeans others just because it's a woman doing so.  These are debates though that should be handled more within the public.  These are views that should be taught more and expressed.  The world has a growing generation of young feminists that want to fight for equality.  They want to help uplift women and young girls everywhere, but to do so they need to know how and where to stand up besides the obvious ones of job discrimination, fair pay, healthcare, and rape culture.  They need to understand when to speak up about the messages that are detrimental to others, or even how to elaborate for themselves what their own works mean and why the messages may be clouded or not what they seem.

We've seen this with Cyrus with her VMA stunt.  She promotes rape culture, but she also counters it with her performance using feminism.  On one side, her lyrics do promote what is essentially rape(only one lyric at least).  On the other side her actions raise actual feminist points about that a woman should be free to do or perform as she pleases without derogatory remarks from others about how "she's asking for it" because of using a simple dance move or a racy outfit.  Her routine showed lewd behavior but it is also her right to be able to demean herself as such and still be able to say no.  No means no.  No matter how a person may act or dress.  Feminism fights to show that men aren't animals that can't accept no as an answer.  Feminism fights for the fact that even men can say no to such provocation if it's thrown at them.  An act should not be forced on anyone of either gender without their consent.

We've also seen such stunts though turned counter-productive with followup commentary from performers.  Attacking others for real issues that people face is not feminism.  It's like trying to say that Sarah Palin is a feminist because she's a powerful woman.  She's not.  More often she's been an advocate of anti-feminism actually.  Her views on equality are still slanted into the patriarchal society towards limiting freedoms of women.  Her archaic views of men as base animals that can be led astray and have no responsibility for their actions is not feminism.  Most of her actions and political leanings actually push to limit equality and revoke rights.

If it weren't for women standing up even when their own gender told them to be quiet, we wouldn't have had the strides forward in equality we do have.  We shouldn't return to that just because it's a woman that's arguing for such behaviors to become accepted again.  Equality is something we should all strive for whether we're male, female, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual.  Equality is something we all want in our lives.  Forced silence is not equality nor is it feminism.

It's one thing to point out the issues to works you may not like.  The second you start making jokes about it though towards "because it's written by a woman" or "because it's written by a man" is when you start promoting that gender inequality.  The same is true for music.  You shouldn't remain silent on topics that are detrimental to others simply because it's done by someone of your own gender or same career.  You can admire an artists work, and not be thrilled with certain topics some of it may entail.  Discuss these openly and fairly though.  Do not be an ass about them.  Respect the creator of the work whether it be a musician, singer, writer, or artist.  That is what makes it art.  It can be due to interpretation and have many meanings underneath you may not be aware of.  Of course there are detrimental works though that should be spoken against quite vocally as well.  To every piece goes it's own message of what is being conveyed that should be discussed.  Often times though, what's being perceived to be promoted isn't always what we may think it is.

Recently this has come to my attention because of Lorde's comments towards the song "Come and Get It."  As well as how many others want to refuse on commenting towards Miley Cyrus' performance because it's a fellow woman.  Cher herself backed off commenting unsure of how to tackle the subject.  We're starting to hit a point of unsure of how exactly to approach certain topics because of what to say or lack of understanding of where to lean with how feminism has been touted without clear definitions.  Cher should have spoke more openly.  Sinead O'Connor is thankfully.  More should as well about different lyrics that are an issue.  We've heard many activist groups and projects talk on about the issues to Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, but very few stars are being vocal about it.  There are times and places for when to stand up for what's right and when to back down to fight another day.  When something is clearly promoting the wrong behavior, please, you are supposed to stand up.  The loudest voices are supposed to fight for equality.  Not ignore it in fear for what may happen because you stood up to a fellow woman's or man's work.  I do have to give credence to Selena Gomez's handling of the Lorde situation though.  She didn't bash another's work, and she's right that artists should help uplift each other and not attack each other's work when it doesn't promote the wrong ideals or perpetuate detrimental ideas or perceptions.

I'm defending her song from Lorde's comments because "Come and Get It," while it does suggest mild innuendo, speaks to so much more than the baser sexual desires than many make it out to mean.  In fact on a surface level it's easy to miss that it could have a deeper meaning.  On another level it does also speak about passion.  Not just passion for another person, but passion for hobbies and perfecting talents.  Think of it as a painter.  One who walks away from a painting they may adore but do not know how to finish.  Think of the song as being sung by that painting.  The same is true for CGI artists or writers that hit that block where they become indecisive or frozen.  That work is just sitting there patiently.  It's waiting to be finished.  It's waiting for them to come and get it. It's waiting for them to come and enjoy that passion once again.  Now think about her career as this is the first song released after a pause in her musical performances.  Her music has just been sitting there waiting for her patiently and lovingly for her to come and get it.  So it can speak the same to really any talent or passions you've had to put on hold for whatever reasons life may have brought. The lyric "This love will be the death of me, but I know I'll die happily" is reminiscent of a love hate relationship that an artist can share with their work.  It's a line I know I've oft repeated while working with Miku Miku Dance, XNALara, and blender long before the song itself came out.

There's also the level of the song that speaks about a love for someone else.  How two different people can be ready at different times, and how unsure a person can be about how much the other loves them.  It's not about anti-feminism, but about understanding, loyalty, and patience.  It's pro-feminist as it can also reflect that a woman can be ready before a man, and yet she'll respect him enough to wait for when he's ready even though she already is.  It promotes gender equality with the role reversal of the typical "waiting" paradigm.  In doing so it actually combats against that double standard.  That is feminism outright.

In many ways though that's what's beautiful about music.  It can be argued from both ends of the spectrum depending on the perceptions and views of the listener.  The things that run through our minds at any given time.  Much music, like "Come and Get It," is poetry in that regard.  Granted not all of it is like that.  There are many areas of music where lyrics are pretty obvious in nature, not allowing for any other perception to what's being conveyed.  Often the classics and ones that will be looked back upon as classics are the ones that are made with integrity and true artistic pursuit.  They are multi-faceted poetry that can be interpreted many ways.  A poem with lyrical precision and auditory stimulation that can reach into us and pull out whatever emotions or thoughts that are on our mind at the time.  Not all of them are applicable to the song in how we perceive it.  Like poetry, you can analyze it from any end of the spectrum and come up with new meanings towards it.  New perceptions for what it means to you.

So the comments about the song being anti-feminism could be wrong, but that doesn't mean that Lorde herself isn't right for speaking up where she felt there was a concern.  Selena Gomez also handled it quite tactfully so as not to exasperate a situation that the media will twist anyway.

Her exact words were:
"I appreciate everybody's opinion, especially because I've covered her music lots of times. I think she is super talented and I think it's awesome.  But in my opinion it's not feminism if you're tearing down another artist. You know, she’s young, she’s got so much talent, she's going to like, take over. She gets it. I don’t take it to heart."

This was a brief back and forth that didn't say much other than performers shouldn't attack each other, with which in this instance she was absolutely right.  There was nothing substantial here for either side to fret over.  The fact the work is creating discussions like this is good as well.  It's something that feminism should do.  Feminism isn't about attacking other women, and it's not about trying to degrade any gender.  It's about giving voice to real concerns that are detrimental to equality.  I'm happy to see that Lorde wasn't afraid to speak up where she thought there was a concern, and I'm also happy to see that it was handled with such care as to not become something more than what it was.  It was handled with tact to not invalidate another performer's opinion but still gracefully dismissed the misunderstanding.

With art this does tend to happen.  There is an argument that can be made that Kevin Smith's View Askiew works are anti-feminist.  They aren't.  Quite the opposite.  His works promote gender equality and point out other perception flaws.  Chasing Amy itself is a commentary on the judgmental aspects within such groups that claim such righteous behavior of wanting equality yet will demean another for a perceived slight and so much more that it entails within about life and growing up even as an adult.  His creation of the character Jay of the Jay and Silent Bob duo is a comedic foil used to highlight the ignorance of such masculinity driven mentalities and how they are highly flawed as expressed in nearly all his works.  His work speaks on many levels about many perceptions of society and of life itself.  He promotes equality through understanding of differences and his character's personal growth.

It can be a complicated world out there in modern society trying to know when to stand up and when not to.  Sometimes not everything is as clear cut as what it seems.  In other times it can be.  Never be afraid to discuss these matters though.  The only way to learn when you do not know is to discuss them or turn to a source that is well versed in these matters to help you better grasp what you want to understand, or say and how.

Feminism is not about staying silent when something is clearly wrong.  It's about having a voice and learning how to use it for the fights that matter.  It's being able to freely be educated on what matters to you without discrimination.  It's about being able to enjoy what you enjoy without fear of discrimination so long as that material is not hindering the well-being or perceptions of others in doing so.  It's about standing up for empowerment and against forced debasement no matter the gender.  Feminism is about equality for everyone.  Feminism is about choice and having that freedom from inequality so that you can choose.

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