Saturday, 5 May 2018

Warrior-women outfit analysis - Iron Man I

Description about this series here.

Well, this one will be quick (by my standards xD) because there's practically no warrior or action women around, apart from a female soldier extra at the start of the movie and a brief foray of Pepper Potts into the final action scenes (not part of the action per se, but the 'women running in thin stiletto heels' must be always criticized *eyeroll* xD). In fact, this being one of the most infamously sexist movies in the MCU, most women are there to provide ample examples of casual gratuitous sexism - To be harassed, used, exploited and ogled at, as well as to fulfill the roles of the (future) love interest, personal assistant and emotional support who caters to every of our entitled male hero's wishes (hello, Pepper, you deserve so much better).

I'm going to focus on our small number of action women and how they are portrayed, but regarding general feminist criticism, I agree 100% with this post's discussion of Iron Man's sexism and racism/colonialism. I'd especially like to highlight this quote:

"Had the intent truly been to show Stark to be an ass, and not to use his mistreatment of women as proof of his success and charm, then some of the women would have registered disgust or discomfort in his company. By portraying women as being universally susceptible to the 'seductiveness' of Stark's misogyny, the film implies that all women either like being belittled, don't have the dignity to stand up for themselves, or are too empty-headed to notice a pig when he stares them in the face chest."

Peggy for one sure doesn't agree with that kind of bullshit
Yep. My main issue with the casual sexism as portrayed in the movie was that the women didn't seem to mind being harassed, belittled, sexualized and used - they reacted favourably because it was the 'desirable' Tony Stark doing it (for example, this idea is handled way better with Jim Kirk from Star Trek AOS - He begins as a cocky playboy wannabe but not all women he hits on are cool with his behaviour - nor is he into that level of casual sexism or lacks so many morals at the start of his story, but that's another topic). And of course, even though there are more than a handful of problematic aspects in Pepper and Tony's interactions, of course it's romantic story material from the start (I also 100% agree with the paragraph on Pepper in the above linked post).

Anyway, let's move on:
  • Number of warrior women: 1 - A female soldier extra. Pepper Potts gets involved a bit in the action, but barely.
 1. The lone female soldier

  • Context: The movie starts with Tony Stark being driven in a military humvee in Afghanistan. A female soldier is the driver of the transport he's in. She's the only female soldier in the car and practically the only female soldier to appear in the whole movie (if we're not counting a couple bringing a stretcher at the airport - it's also pretty sad that it's all full of men no problem but I have to be squinting at all the extras while pausing the film in order to find someone who's a woman). And she's basically there to be workplace harassed by Stark so that the audience knows that 'wow, he's an incorrigible - but still adorkable - playboy who hits on all the women'.  
The only other women in the military in the whole movie
"A female soldier giggles coquettishly when he throws some low-grade harassment her way, because what soldier wouldn't love to hear words like 'Now that I know you're a woman, I can't take my eyes off you. Does that make you feel uncomfortable?' drifting her way over the romantic rumbling of the humvee she's driving" Source

  • Armour/outfit analysis: The only positive thing about how this character is treated is that she's actually wearing a realistic military uniform, same as the rest of the men. According to the context, she's wearing practical clothing that don't sexualize her or impede her mobility. And because she's non-sexualized, Stark obviously mistakes her for a man at first because it's so hard to recognize that someone is a woman when she's wearing practical outfits that actually give her protection and mobility, right? I guess that's just why they need to sexualize action women so much everywhere, it's actually about not mistaking them for men! *eyeroll*
Not impressed.
Her response to Stark formerly mistaking her for a man is also problematic - 'I'm an airman', she says, having to prove her validity, worth and professionalism by using the masculine (sexist) (invisibilizing) generic. Yes, the military already usually use masculine generics for everything :/. But another interesting point is that apparently the only way to be seen as an equal by her all-male entourage is to define herself according to male terms. Being a woman means being sexualized and reduced to her 'bone structure' (something which the filmmakers have also made her react happily to, yay). Being an 'airman' is her proactive job. And this is a thing, unfortunately - many women actually prefer to use masculine generics for their jobs - even if the feminine version of the word is ridiculously straightforward - because they think they will be taken more seriously that way. And hey, that actually doesn't help society seeing women as equals.
-About the character as a warrior:
  • Representation: Female soldier. I'm anti-militaristic, but always nice to see parity (if you can call ONE female soldier parity *eyeroll*).
  • Female bonding/Bechdel with other (warrior) women: Nope. Surrounded by men.
  • Token warrior woman? Yep, practically the only female soldier in the movie.
  • Love interest/catering to men as main plot function? Harassed by Tony Stark while doing her job, laughs it off and is actually portrayed as being flattered by it because everyone wants to be talked in a condescending, sexualized manner by Tony Stark, of course they do. 
So -
+1 Non-sexualized, realistic outfit.
-1 Her minimal role is full of sexism
-1 No female bonding or positive interactions with other women 

 2. Pepper Potts and her stiletto heels
Running in heels. That infamous sexist trope.
-Context: Pepper becomes embroiled in the movie's final showdown and turns up to investigate the antagonist's doings alongside Coulson and Co. from SHIELD. The antagonist ends up attacking them. She has to run from explosions and from the suited-up 'baddie'. In heels.
And not just any heels. THESE heels o_O
-Outfit analysis: As is unfortunately usual for many jobs, pencil skirts (sometimes also pant suits) and stiletto heels are part of the daily 'uniform' of Pepper as a rich and important man's personal assistant. This is an example of the glaring double standard sexist-fest that is compulsory stiletto heels and skirts as part of many women's jobs - imagine having to wear uncomfortable and mobility-impairing contraptions just because of your sex and/of gender, because if you're a woman, no matter if your job involves standing up of walking a lot (servers, assistants, secretaries, flight stewardesses, you name it), it's apparently super important to enhance your 'sexiness' and 'femaleness' first and foremost. This has become so warped in our society that stiletto heels and pencil skirts have also come to mean 'professionalism' and 'smartness' as well as 'sexiness' and 'femininity', and are basically the 'female uniform' for many other occupations (from lawyers to businesswomen to politicians) where the woman in question wants to look adequately 'competent' and 'to be taken seriously'. 
Apart from Pepper, in this movie we also get the delightful example of Stark's private plane's stewardesses, who sport high thin stilettos (and whose job apparently also includes pole dancing for the boss >_<).
(Clarification - sarcasm all around)
So comfortable
But Pepper doesn't only have to brave through wearing stilettos and mobility-impairing skirts through her daily job, no. She also has to dive into - and run from - the action scenes of the last part of the movie in a tube-skirted dress and thin high heels. Because it's a cliché in this kind of man-made movies - as well as practical af, huh?! - to see women running from the danger and the baddies in stilettos.

"And as the tension mounts towards the film’s climax, watching her totter in heels to help save the day is unnerving–at least they could have given her some boots."  Source

(sarcasm all around once more)
(and again xD)
It was definitely ridiculous to have to see yet another woman run around in ridiculous thin heels without anyone questioning the absurdness of it all (couldn't Coulson or any of the agents give her another pair of shoes? Especially knowing they were going to face danger?? I guess maintaining her 'femaleness' was the priority there :/). She is 100% ill-equipped for these action scenes - Even though she's not an 'action woman' per se or part of the action (she has the wit and cool-headedness to evade the antagonist in a previous scene and the agency to go arrest him with SHIELD, but she actually also fulfills the 'damsel in distress' trope for a chunk of the action scenes, surrounded by male agents with guns and hunted by the weaponized baddie), she's very much in the *midst* of a pretty intense action area. And she is also very ill-equipped for an ardous daily job that requires moving and standing around a lot, just saying. 
Spot the differences between Coulson and Pepper
-About the character:
  • Representation: She's competent in everything that she does, does have a role in thwarting the antagonist in the final showdown, and will become CEO of Stark Industries, but we cannot forget that her role as Stark's personal assistant and love interest means that most if not all of her actions revolve around the male hero's plot and decisions.
  • Female bonding/Bechdel with other women: Talks briefly with a journalist seduced by Stark (which shows us that Pepper knows exactly what kind of playboy life Stark has going on - one aspect of her job is to usher all his one-night stands out - and still finds his male entitlement, ego remotely attractive. And not only that, but the only scene where women talk is full of female competition, hell yeah! :/). 

Pepper having a go at Stark's one-night conquests because hell yeah let's be jealous that your entitled womanizer boss sleeps with other women! "Why is she not referring to Stark as the trash in this situation? He's the one that continues to treat women as throwaway objects he's entitled to" Indeed (Source)
  • Love interest/catering to men as main plot function? Yep. Her job is literally about that. She doesn't really have a life of her own portrayed, and repeatedly has to put up with all the problematic stuff Stark comes up with because her job as his personal assistant is to attend to his every whim with a competent air, a ready smile, and a pair of stiletto heels always at the ready. Also a model of the female character who helps 'make the man better' with her emotional support and her putting up with too much of his shit (she does challenge some of his decisions, but yeah).  
  • Additional notes (you know I had to xD): 
  •  To those saying Stark appreciates and respects her competence, and that he gets more character development in that direction - that may be so, but she's still fulfilling the traditional role of the woman who does all the men's work while not being the actual boss, CEO or not. Not her actual company, but her boss-boyfriend's company. Yes, she wields power, as so many female PA's, consorts and the like do - But not her actual power, at the end of the day. Women with actual power are actually often portrayed as 'evil', 'bossy' and 'controlling', but because Pepper has Stark as her superior, that's all right if she displays her competence and skills. And it's also all right that she shows a lot of competence while catering to the male protagonist's plot and wishes, of course.          
  • She's also treated in a pretty controlling and manipulative way by Stark in more than one occasion in this movie. Yes, Stark has character development, especially regarding his moral compass, and that's great, but his entitlement and flyboy attitude are still there in more than one way, and he is never held accountable for his casual sexism and use of women in the same way he is for his prior pro-weapons stance (if at all). They want to sell us Pepper's constant calm competence and apparent no-nonsense attitude as proof of her empowerment, maybe to show us that everything's super normal and healthy where Stark is involved, a good foundation for a relationship (especially now that he's becoming the better hero!), but with that kind of discourse they're also hiding under the rug all of Stark's bullshit behaviour (for ex., that entitlement in the very last scene where he indirectly asks Pepper to be his girlfriend is cringeworthy), as well as promoting the idea that PA's are super happy to have demanding narcissistic bosses, so much they end up hardcore crushing on them! Yes, Pepper refuses Stark's offer at the end of the movie, and good for her ("No matter how proud she might be of the ‘man he’s become’ Pepper’s not about to get into a relationship with a man who treats her like shit (hurrah), even if she might still work for him." Source). But as we know, that won't last long :/
So - 

+1 Capable and competent (the aspects mentioned above nonwithstanding). Although not an 'action woman', and so not exactly a part of this particular series, she's also pretty cool-headed in a crisis, even though -
-1 SHE HAS TO RUN IN HEELS EVERYWHERE. Also, job, plot and love story revolve around narcissistic womanizer dude.
-1 No female bonding or positive interactions with other women

Friday, 13 April 2018

Goodreads feminist reviews - Doctor Who Audiodramas: The Ravelli Conspiracy

4/5. Goodreads review here.

 A story with the First Doctor, Vicki and Steven, who find themselves in early 16th Century Italy embroiled in intrigues featuring Giuliano de Medici, his brother Pope Leo X, and Niccolo Machiavelli. More engaging than I expected - I quite enjoyed this historical adventure :) And while I initially thought Peter Purves (Steven)'s impersonation of the Doctor's voice to be a bit meh at first, it grew up on me as the episode wore on. Also, female director (yay representation!).

The TARDIS team ^^!
+1 Ethics and anti-violence - When blackmailed into poisoning Giuliano de Medici, Steven refuses to kill anyone (he also opposes Carla's desire to poison Machiavelli after he's used and betrayed her). The Doctor and Vicki also try to stop the political intrigues and the murderous intent of the Medici ruler, and reach non-violent solutions (with varying degrees of success).

Steven: "I've thought about it, Carla, I've thought about this a lot - What you want me to do is murder! I can't help you, I'm sorry."
Carla: "You value your morals so highly, do you?"
Steven: "I do, yes." 

Steven: "You don't care who's hurt as long as you put the right people in charge. What happens when they decide they like power a little too much? Trust me, they'll soon realize the best way to keep it is by slaughtering a few more enemies."

+-1 Social criticism themes (about political intrigues, the religion institution, tyrannical rulers,...). However, the figure of Pope Leo X, while criticized in some ways, is also idealized in others, with the plot choosing to mainly criticize the tyrannical and violence-friendly Giuliano de Medici in comparison to his more 'reasonable and learned' pope brother. Pope Leo's corruption is also highlighted during the plot, but he's mainly shown in a rather sympathetic light :S.
Giuliano de Medici
Steven: "So there's nothing in this period we need to watch out for?"
The Doctor: "Oh, there's a little backstabbing, I suppose. Some plots, the odd civil war, torture, religious persecution...And the ever-constant threat of violence and damnation should we be foolish enough to criticize the current religious orthodoxy, huh!"
Steven: "Right. Then perhaps we should go." (xD)

Some themes which can be discussed from a feminist viewpoint are addressed, such as -

-The way Machiavelli uses servant Carla (who is in love with him and also bears grudges against the Medici) for his own political schemes is criticized. 

Machiavelli is not seen in a very good light in general, backstabbing the TARDIS team in various ways in 'machiavellian' style  - maybe a cliché, but I'm all for viewing historical figures who spent quite a lot of their time getting drunk and using women in a non-positive, non-idealized light. He was also a pretty sexist dude, seeing women as "weak, lesser and incapable of ruling government compared to the 'strong man'" and promoting abuse against women.

Hell yeah, go criticize this sexist dude, Big Finish

The Doctor clearly has not great liking of Machiavelli:
The Doctor: "It seems to me that you have all you can wish for, heh! Why do you try to claim power and influence for yourself by this foolish scheme?"
Machiavelli: "Have you never been attracted by the thrill of turbulent times, Doctor?"
The Doctor: "Possibly. Possibly, my good man, ha!"
Machiavelli: "We are quite similar, then, I think"
The Doctor: "We are most certainly not!" 

The Doctor: "Cesare Borgia, the very worst of them all, a bully and a tyrant! No doubt a close associate of yours, huh?"
(...) Machiavelli: "Have you ever considered that good ends may sometimes justify brutish means?"
The Doctor: "And does this theory form part of your treaties, huh?"

 -The way Popes used to use women as their 'consorts' for physical and emotional companionship is also addressed, with people assuming Vicki became Pope Leo X's 'companion' because of her interactions with him (which is not the case here, Pope Leo X clearly insinuating he's gay - although this being the Church, pederasty is the word :/). But even though Vicki's fortunately not a target of unwanted "affections", she's still treated in a very entitled way by Pope Leo, who demands she entertain him with poetry and companionship (he basically tells her that unless she has something interesting to entertain him with, he will not protect her from her torture-friendly brother :S). He also asks her to leave her companions and travel with him in order to offer him advice (at least he acknowledges her intelligence - "Is there no end to your talents? Poetry and politics, and now horse-riding!"; "Your wise counsel would be much appreciated" - But still, entitled).
And as usual, women have to gain favour and 'power' by complying to this kind of male entitlement behaviour (Carla later also has to resort to using her 'feminine wiles' and declare she's hopelessly in love with him in order to take back the TARDIS key while he's distracted with his inflated ego :/).

Vicki: "Your Holiness, have mercy, I did not realize that Carla had such feelings for you. But then again, how could she not?"
Pope Leo X: "What? What do you mean?"
Vicki: "How could she not have feelings for you? The luster of your intellect, those piercing eyes...(...) And your wit, charm,..."
Carla: "I'm so sorry, my Lord! I was overcome by your presence!"
Pope Leo X: "Well, I suppose my presence can be quite overpowering."

Also, let's note how men - even members of the Catholic Church - come to no harm if they go a-dallying with as many women as they like, while for women their everything depended on their 'reputation' on that respect. Here with a bonus of heteronormativity (although I'm not keen to defend the Church's homosexual pederasty, of course):
 Pope Leo X: "As leader of the Church, I am forbidden to marry, but that does not mean that I may not enjoy female company."
 Vicki: "Is that...encouraged?"
 Pope Leo X: "Maybe not encouraged, but it is certainly expected that I would take a consort, and so far, well, I have failed to do so."
 Vicki: "Failed?"
 Pope Leo X: "It would do no harm to my, um, public image to be seen arm in arm with a fair lady such as yourself ."
 Vicki: "Because you are expected to enjoy female company?"
 Pope Leo X: "Exactly."
 Vicki: "But, as it happens, you don't enjoy female company?"
 Pope Leo X: "Um, well, controlling an empire leaves very little time for such things."

Carla: "Every Pope needs a consort. And this Pope especially needs a consort, given the rumours." 
Vicki: "But I'm not his consort!"
Carla: "Have it your way. And at least you can be sure that he won't, not with you anyway."

(About Pope Leo Xs sexuality - this would be a good historical LGBT+ example in order to get narrow-minded religious people tearing at their hair (xD) if he hadn't taken advantage of young men in the usual pedophilic way the Church has going on :S (cf Wikipedia, "the pope's familiar banter with his chamberlains – handsome young men from noble families – and the advantage he was said to take of them" Not only age gaps, but power imbalances stemming from class differences and servants vs their lords as well - this happens *a lot* with female servants and handmaids, too). So not super keen to idealize or exalt that issue much, to be honest).

-Other issue that is tackled in a positive way is the patronizing way in which the Medici brothers treat Vicki (who is way smarter than both of them and uses their entitled sexist mindset in her favour more than once). Bonus points for Vicki demanding to be taken seriously and not to be called 'child' (chided, they end up resorting to 'person' a couple of times xD :D).

Pope Leo X: "I will write a letter for this child-"
Vicki (admonishing voice): "I'm not a child!" 
Pope Leo X: "This...person" (:D xD)

Pope Leo X: "I'm sure you can look after yourself, child - uh, girl, uh, young woman-"
Vicki: "Vicki"

Can we also talk about Vicki's complete snark and badassery xD?

Giuliano de Medici: "Prisoner! Guards, seize her!"
Pope Leo X: "No, no, no! Leave her alone!"
Vicki: "Oh, make your minds up!" (xDD) 

Giuliano de Medici: "She's part of it, I know she is! She was in [Machiavelli's] house!"
Vicki: "Well, this is your house, so by the same logic, I must be on your side!" (xDD)

+1 Vicki's actions are proactive throughout the story. She finds herself having to take part in the political intrigues between the Medici brothers and using her favourable relationship with Pope Leo X in order to try to free her companions from prison and get back the TARDIS key (Pope Leo being of an artistic disposition, he thinks the TARDIS is 'Greek art' and wants to take it with him xD). Steven and the Doctor have also good moments (one highlight is the Doctor impersonating a textile merchant, calling the Pope 'my dear chap' and trying to convince him that the TARDIS is not a valuable Greek piece of art xD), but I found Vicki to be the highlight of the audio adventure - Badass, smart, assertive and proactive female companions ftw :D!

"Oh, Steven...Try and get out of trouble till I get back with the Doctor!"
I love how Vicki is allowed to be portrayed as cute and sweet *while* being very proactive, smart and capable :D We  need more female characters like her (Jaylah is another great example of this)!
Machiavelli: "[The Doctor] has gone to the palace to secure your freedom. I little expected you would be able to affect your own release. You certainly have proven a fine and swift negotiator with our Holy Father!"

 Look how smart and capable Vicki is ^^ <3:

 Steven: "Oh, that's just brilliant! Trapped again!" (he's so done xD)
The Doctor: "And with Vicki in here with us, we've no possible means of escape!"
Vicki: "Well...I wouldn't go that far!"
Steven: "Eh? What are you talking about, Vicki? We're as trapped as we've ever been!"
Vicki: "We're not! I've got these keys!" 
The Doctor: "Hah! Where did you get those, child?"
Vicki: "If didn't know if I could trust Carla, so when I saw the guard at the door I said, better safe than sorry - I gave him a big hug and grabbed the keys off his belt. (...)  There you go! We're free!"
  Bonus line of Steven being 100% done xD: "Vicki, we're in the subterranean cells of a 16th Century Medieval gangster with no access to the TARDIS! It's not exactly what I'd call 'free'!"
Look at these dorks ^^
+-1 There are not many female characters in this story - Vicki and Carla are the only ones. They do have some scenes talking together and forming an alliance in order to get the TARDIS key back.

+-1 Carla is initially described as wanting revenge against the Medici and not caring if other people get hurt in the process (which Steven criticizes her for), and backstabs both Steve and later Vicki throughout the plot. However, she is seen in a more sympathetic light when Machiavelli is described using her by exploiting her grudge against the Medici, as well as the intense crush she has on him (problematic relationship with emotional dependence issues - "I have nothing left"; "I will only be satisfied when he's dead").  She ends up as the Pope's companion, so she definitely deserves better :S

 Steven: "Well, Carla, she hates the Medici, Doctor, the whole family! She was telling me horrible stories about what they've done, who they've killed."
Machiavelli: "Yes, poor girl."
The Doctor: "She must have been very easy to...manipulate."

The Doctor: "So, Signor Machiavelli has abandoned you to your fate, has he, huh? I'm very sorry, my dear."
Steven: "He was using you, Carla. If his plan had worked, you would have been arrested and killed!"

Also, special mention to the 'I'm so done with everything' prison guard who keeps losing his prisoners and fears writing long reports more than death xDD

Vicki: "I insist that we not being followed."
Guard: "That's a bit tricky, really. Because we've been doing not at all in keeping the prisoners in the cells as of late. Every time one escapes, I have to write a report, and probably face torture and death myself." (he wrote a lot of reports during this adventure, then xD)
Carla: "If [the Pope] finds out you've disobeyed his orders, given via Signora Vicki, you'll-"
Guard: "Face torture and death?"
(...) Carla: "And have to write an even longer report." (xDD)
Guard: "Ah, go on then. I'm thinking of quitting anyway." (xDD)

And I'll finish this review with some good old Whovian ethics from the Doctor, showing the TARDIS to Pope Leo in order to influence him into controlling his more violent brother: "I wanted to give you a glimpse of this, something bigger, something outside yourself. (...) Your brother and his nefarious associates, they believe they can control the state of Florence, control the future. They believe, if they make the right decisions, frighten the right people, execute their friends, well, then they can bend the universe to their will."
Vicki: "But life isn't quite as straightforward as that."
Steven: "No, it isn't" 
 *cue TARDIS dematerializing in order to scaring the religious fanatics of the day into being a little less violent, perhaps xD* (effect marred by the Pope being kinda idealized, but yeah)

Monday, 2 April 2018

Goodreads feminist reviews - Christine de Pizan's Book of the City of Ladies

   I've been researching Christine de Pizan's life and works, especially focusing on her feminism and defense of women, for a couple of feminist projects: First was a Spanish representation initiative on Twitter, #VisibilizaciónEnLaLiteratura ("Visibilization of women in literature"), which took place last 29th of December - Here's the link to the Twitter thread (in Spanish).

And second was a talk about Christine (made a presentation based on my Twitter thread) for a Spanish feminist group (Dando Voz al Silencio) which organized a couple of days with talks, presentations and exhibitions visibilizing women writers and artists.
I will be posting a translated version of my Twitter thread (in Blogger post version), as well as the presentation from the talk.

Today's post is the review on The Book of the City of Ladies (and its sequel, The Book of the Treasure of Ladies/The Book of Three Virtues) which I posted on Goodreads.

 I also reference the two books I also studied in order to prepare the Twitter thread and presentation for the talk: Charity Cannon Willard's biography (Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works) and Rosalind Brown-Grant's study about Christine's pro-women work (Christine de Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women. Reading Beyond Gender) (she is also the translator of my edition of the City). You can find all of them in my Christine de Pizan Goodreads shelf.

So here's the review: (I gave the City 4.5-5/5; 3-3.5/5 for the Three Virtues)

   This book (The Book of the City of Ladies) has quite a lot of points which are very interesting and pretty progressive (bearing her Medieval period in mind!) from a feminist point of view (pro-woman representation, criticism of patriarchal double standards, gender roles, and the behaviour of misogynistic entitled men against women).   
   Some parts, however, still include quite a lot of problematic content (internalized misogyny, especially regarding modesty mindsets; promotion of patriarchal gender roles - albeit in order to protect women from a cruel patriarchal society; and a lot of religious content). 
   Giving it 4.5/5 in spite of this problematic content because I think her pro-woman anti-misogyny feminist ideas - sometimes remarkably close to modern feminism, especially her direct criticism of men's misogyny and double standards - are remarkable and amazing for the society of the 14th-15th Century, and Christine also deserves recognition as the first professional female writer in Europe, and also as the first who tackled the defense of women and feminist themes in her writing in a direct way - an important turning point in the history of feminism.
The first part is especially interesting in its female representation and its description of proactive, 'non-traditional' roles (it tackles ruling queens, warriors, erudites and inventors); and even if Christine didn't actually promote that the women of her time veer away from the established repressive gender roles society imposed upon them, it's still refreshing representation at the time. It's peppered with some biological determinism and religious problematic sections, but overall it's quite good in its pro-woman content.

Regarding other pro-woman details, this book includes quite a lot of female bonding (women supporting one another), and most definitely passes the Bechdel test (it's all women talking with other women, and bashing misogynistic men, no less xD!).

   The second part also includes pro-woman representation and criticism of patriarchal double standards and men's behaviour against women that is on point (and awesomely snarky at times!), but it also includes more problematic issues such as the patriarchal concepts of 'modesty' and 'chastity', and other internalized misogyny issues (such as the fact that only 'respectable' women who uphold the patriarchal notions of 'modesty' and 'virtue' will be welcome in the City). We have to bear in mind, though, that one aspect of Christine's anti-misogynist and pro-woman strategies was to advise women to conform to these patriarchal mindsets in order not to be scorned and attacked by the repressive society they were living in. To her view, Christine was actually trying to help women and countering the misogynist stereotypes that painted women as 'sinful by nature', 'impure because of their female body' and 'lascivious adulterers'.

    The third part was my least favourite and focuses mainly on religion - it's particularly distasteful in its description of saints and martyrdom and had to skip the details when I was nearly half-through. It also includes some problematic issues having to do with the fact that, for all her remarkable criticism, Christine, like I mentioned above, doesn't really challenge the patriarchal societal system - Thus, she also falls into internalized misogyny/religious brainwashing by promoting female compliance and gender roles - I especially suffered through the very last part where wives are advised to tolerate and be devoted to their husbands no matter how wayward or cruel they may be :/ In the second part, however, Christine actually also criticizes wayward and abusive husbands and unequal marriages (and, like I mentioned above, Christine's own reasons for this 'promotion of the traditional statu quo' discourse were to protect women from societal retaliation rather than because of a purely misogynistic anti-women mindset. Still problematic, but we also have to bear that in mind).
  Christine's books seem at times almost contradictory in the way they alternate pro-woman activism and a harsh criticism of men's entitlement, misogyny and their treatment of women (issues which are tackled in a remarkable 'modern feminism' way, like I mentioned) with her own brainwashed religious upbringing and internalized misogyny, promoting biological determinism, gender roles, and the patriarchal statu quo (such as the modesty mindset and women being of use to the world basically if they benefit men in some way - being good wives/daughters/etc). Sometimes these two views are to be found side by side in the very same page, which also makes me think that, although she was already pretty enlightened for her day, Christine was maybe also less brainwashed by Patriarchy that she chooses to let on, potentially choosing to alternate her more progressive pro-woman ideas with the more regressive patriarchal ideas of her contemporary society and sphere, as a tactic in order to defend herself from criticism in a society which still punished people harshly for 'heresy' and the like (for example, when tackling the issue of whether women should be allowed to rule and be involved in lawmaking, she goes from using biological determinism and established gender roles to justify the statu quo to then stating that women are able to do anything and giving a handful of examples of ruling queens who made laws and governed admirably).
   She also uses the 'selective quotation' tactic against the misogynistic authors she criticizes in a really good way, quoting their sources - Greco-Roman mythology and culture and the Bible - in a way that only highlights pro-woman content and refutes their own misogynistic propaganda. A pretty intelligent move that made her pro-woman arguments difficult to refute unless misogynistic men wanted their religious piety and respect to Classical authority figures to be put into question xD. 
Other works I've read: I also really liked the useful introduction by Rosalind Brown-Grant, with whom I agree on nearly all points about Christine's feminist stance and interpretation of her writings (also read her book Christine de Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading Beyond Gender). I also recommend Charity Cannon Willard's Biography for a fuller understanding of Christine's life.

More about her apparent promotion of gender roles and the unequal statu quo after reading the sequel: 

In the Treasure of the City of Ladies/Book of the Three Virtues , which at first may seem to be just a courtesy book full of the promotion of the backward ideas of the time, it becomes clearer that Christine was advising women to comply to society's conventional roles, mindsets and expectations as a way to offer strategies to protect women from harm in a ruthless patriarchal society and help them survive the attacks of unforgiving misogynist slanderers :/ She doesn't actually denounce those social inequalities and gender roles, focusing rather on the 'moral and spiritual' equality of women and men in regards to the pursuit of virtue rather than social equality and rights, but her aim was pretty feminist and subversive at the time all the same, and I think that Christine is pretty praiseworthy for that, internalized misogyny/classism/heteronormativity/problematic religious views aside. 

   The main difference between Christine's brand of feminism and the more modern feminism is, thus, that she doesn't even contemplate the possibility of changing and trying to abolish an unequal system (patriarchy), she tends to "just" acknowledge misogyny in some of its forms and denounce misogynist authors who spout patriarchal double standards (no small deed and already incredibly revolutionary for the time!). She defends women by refuting misogynistic stereotypes, but does not actually consider the possibility to fight for equality and liberation in society per se - So the thing she ends up doing, especially in the sequel, is advising women how to cope with society as it is, with all its gender roles and misogyny, and how to tolerate the statu quo, which usually means endorsing gender roles in order to try to protect women from harm :/ 

For all her revolutionary thinking and intelligent tactics against misogynistic men, she is still *also* suffering from internalized sexist issues due to her socialization and patriarchal religious upbringing and sphere, of course (especially regarding the modesty mindset issue. That and religion in general are the two things that really fetter her, I think :S) - something that should have been nearly impossible not to be in that context, really. But in spite of all that, her more progressive and remarkably pro-woman ideas shine through in a way that definitely do make Christine a 'feminist' (most definitely a pro-woman activist who criticized and denounced quite a lot of aspects of her patriarchal society,), and paved the way for modern feminism.

So that's the review! It started as a review of the City but ended up commenting on the Treasure as well, in order not to have to write two separate reviews xD Will start posting the Twitter and talk content in the near future! 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Warrior-women outfit analysis in MCU - Thor I: Frigga

Intro about the series
As a sword-fighter, archer, Amazon feminist and warrior-woman enthusiast, warrior women and realistic female armour has always been one of my favourite topics to discuss and I've been wanting to start a series here for ages, analysing and commenting on the outfits warrior/action women wear and the way they are depicted in media such as TV series, movies and comic books (the latter is nothing less than a bleak territory for realistic armour and non-sexualized warrior women, so I guess I'll be having tons of fun with those :S). The main issues these posts will tackle are:
  • What is the level of realism and practicality of this armour/outfit? Is she portrayed in non-sexualized, active poses?
  • What is the level of objectification/sexualization of the armour? This translates in lack of mobility, realism and practicality in many ways. Is there male gaze involved in the way the warrior woman is portrayed? How about the poses and gestures
  • Double standards - How are the male warriors portrayed in contrast to the women? Do they also wear impractical and/or sexualized armour/outfits, or are they wearing practical, realistic armour? 
  • Other issues sometimes also discussed - Is the warrior woman a token female warrior, or is there more representation in the series/movie/comic? Another kinds of representation (ethnicity/race, age, sexual orientation, etc)? Is she a 2D 'strong woman' character with little depth, plot and/or development? Is her main function that of a love interest to a male character? Does she evolve from a 'strong' warrior woman to a more traditionally 'feminine' role, especially when romance is involved in the plot? 
  • Also going to comment on unrealistic outfits for female characters who are not warrior or action women, but who find themselves in the midst of action scenes which involve running, for example (and you can't do that very easily in heels or tube skirts, for example).
  •  General feminist rambles about the characters will sometimes also feature.
I decided to begin with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I've chosen Thor I (2011) as the first movie to analyse, so let's get started with it!
  • Number of warrior women: 2 - Lady Sif and Frigga (minor appearance of her warrior aspect) (Sif will have her own post)
  1.  Frigga
 Frigga's warrior aspect features mostly in Thor: The Dark World, but she is a warrior queen with a warlike 'cameo' in this film, so of course I'm going to include her because she's awesome (and deserved a better husband and a better plot, but that's another story - one that I'm only too happy to elaborate about at the end of this post for a bit, because I really don't like Odin :S xD):
  • Armour/outfit analysis
-Context: Frigga's warlike cameo involves her taking a sword in her non-warrior 'casual Asgardian day clothes' in order to defend the comatose Odin from being attacked by Frost Giants. She takes a frost giant down, but is thrown to the ground by Laufey (Frigga being a warrior (alien) goddess with extra magic powers, one would think she would be more of a match for him, but maybe she was caught tired and at unawares from having had to watch over Odin all that time? Or is it just the trope of 'woman shown as a warrior for brief cameo until male action character(s) (Loki and Thor, in this case) save(s) the day?' :S)

-Outfit analysis: Not much to discuss here. Frigga isn't wearing armour or a fighting outfit in this scene, being caught at unawares in non-fighting Asgardian clothes, with long hair in a low half-up/low ponytail,  long skirts and potentially heeled shoes (she wears heels in her warrior outfit in The Dark World, so even though I couldn't catch a moment where her shoes are visible, she might be wearing heels here too, the curve of her foot as she advances towards the Frost Giants kinda looks like it :S). 

Skirts and loose hair are not the best elements for a fight, but can perfectly work for a honed warrior if caught at unawares. Preferably not for an actual planned fight, though!

-About the character as a warrior:
  • Representation:  (Consort) queen with a warlike aspect. Middle-aged warrior woman (which is always really nice to see represented). 
  • Female bonding/Bechdel with other (warrior) women: Briefly talks with Lady Sif at the end of the movie.
  • Token warrior woman? Well, even though one could think that Asgardian warrior women wouldn't be out of the norm, Frigga is isolated, alongside Sif, among an ocean of male warriors in both Thor I and II.
  • Love interest/catering to men as main plot function? She fulfills the role of the queen consort, wife and mother in this movie, and most of her screen time in this movie shows her taking care of her comatose husband Odin, so unfortunately yes :S. 
  • Other: Her warrior abilities seem kinda underused and underwhelming in this movie in order to give her sons more space for action and 'saving the day' scenes :S  

-Feminist ramble about another issues concerning the character:

  Frigga is such an interesting, badass female character, following the archetype of the powerful warrior-queen goddess figure, that it seems a shame to relegate her to traditional roles of consort, wife and mother (this happens a lot, though, both in mythology and real life :/). I'm not saying women with children and/or in a relationship cannot be interesting and badass (I mean, look at Lagertha and many other women), but it'd be nice to see more of them have plot points that don't revolve mainly around men, and to see them being less relegated to traditional gender roles and having a more equal relationship with their partners (Frigga going with Odin into battle in the intro of the movie, for example, and/or going to Jotunheim to rescue Thor an Co. alongside Odin, would've been a nice way to showcase her warrior aspect more, as well as a more egalitarian partnership) - Also, Frigga is to me way more interesting than Odin (intelligent, capable, badass, name it. Also definitely the better parent and the one who actually cared about giving affection - and skills - to her sons; but thanks to patriarchy all sons are supposed to care about is their (shitty) father's approval. Even Frigga is brainwashed about this and insists that their sons 'make their father proud' even though the only thing their father seems to do for them is to give them massive daddy issues). So it's pretty unfair to see her take a secondary place in the shadow of her (morally shady and shitty father) husband (does it show that I really don't like Odin xDD?).

   And because this is a radfem speaking and 'choice feminism' has twisted so many concepts, I have to add that women in patriarchal marriages relegated only to their roles of wife and mother are definitely limited in their development and options, especially when their whole lives revolve around catering to their husbands and rearing children with little room for anything else :S - Frigga is seen in her (absolutely badass) warrior and enchantress aspect from time to time, but we don't see her doing 'me stuff', or ruling-related stuff, or anything apart from basically appearing in second plane as the consort and wife to Odin, or discussing stuff with her sons (which I find way more interesting, of course, but it isn't enough). Odin has his own life with his exploits and ruling and stuff - Does Frigga?

   She isn't even portrayed sitting in a throne at Odin's side (actually, it seems like she doesn't even have a throne), and is shown standing and in a lower level than Odin in both Thor I and II. She does not act as the ruler when Odin is comatose in Thor I - With Thor banished, it's the remaining male heir, Loki, who becomes acting king, and not her. And she doesn't have a say in either Thor's banishment in Thor I (she is angry with Odin in a deleted scene but can do nothing to overrule his decision) or Loki's imprisonment in Thor II (she is literally told to leave when Odin is judging Loki) - like so many woman consorts, she doesn't have the executive power to make actual decisions most of the time, having to rely on the ever-present tactic of trying to convince the ruling husband to change his mind if she wants things differently - And she doesn't seem to be able to achieve much anyway: She asked him to tell Loki about his true parentage from the beginning, to no avail; her words do nothing to sway Odin about Thor's banishment - Odin actually claims that 'he is king' and the one making the decisions because Frigga wouldn't have the heart to fulfill that role, and she has to put up with this and later tell Loki that 'there's a purpose to everything your father does '-; she also has to visit Loki behind Odin's back using magic because she's not even allowed to visit him,  let alone have a say about his fate. So yeah, Frigga's capabilities and badassery are massively limited by her status as Odin's consort, only allowed to show a less traditional powerful warrior and enchantress mode in limited ocassions, and it's such a shame.