Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mary on Visibility

From Tangled Up in Blue:
A lot of the people I know, online and off, identify a lot more easily with male characters than with female characters, which I suspect is one of the major stumbling blocks when we all try to discuss this stuff from equally well-meaning but very different positions. Because I don't identify more easily with men than with women. I don't know why that is. It wasn't, when I was a little girl, a political choice I made. It's just part of who I am, and it influenced the way I grew up and the beliefs I hold as an adult.

There's a book I have called Fearless Girls, and in the introduction the writer talks about going to a school and reading a picture book to a kindergarten class. At the end of the story, she asked the kids who they'd 'been'. Who had they identified with in the story. And one of the little girls flipped through the pages to a crowd scene, and pointed out a girl in the background -- the only female character in the story. That's how I feel sometimes. It's why I end up fixated on hobbits who show up for two scenes at the end of a three-book trilogy.

There are certainly male characters I'm fond of; that's no revelation to anyone reading this, I'm sure. But I want Sarah Connor as well as Mad Max; Zoe as well as Jayne; Jessica Jones as well as John Constantine, Stephanie Brown as well as Tim Drake. I want the option to identify with a female to be available to me.

It's not fair for a black kid to watch tv and only see white people when they'd also like to see black people. It's not fair for a gay teen to watch tv and see only straight people when they'd also like to see gay people. And it's not fair for me to watch tv and only see male people when I'd also like to see female people.

Your mileage may vary; I know it does for a lot of you. But my mileage is as valid as yours, and isn't as reflected by what I can watch, and that's why I haven't shut up about it yet.


  1. This is totally me. I don't like a story unless there's a strong woman in it. I was bored with LOTR until the Fellowship arrived at Lothlorien (although to be fair, I first read the trilogy when I was in 4th grade, so it's not like I understood everything, so of course I would have been bored).

    I also only buy comics starring women, but those comics would be boring if they didn't have strong men in there too (re: Dylan and Obsidian).

  2. Me too. I simply prefer to read things with female characters I can identify with.

  3. This is me. My coping technique when I was a kid was to invent a female character and put her in whatever story I was reading, then draw lots of pictures of her with the other characters in the story.