Thursday, September 15, 2011

The one and only feminist article I will write before shoving her back in the box

Writer’s Note: Still haven’t figured how to get these feeds off Facebook, so for those reading this from Facebook, I’m sorry. I’m sure by now whenever you see a post from me, a gentle roll of the eyes and a, “Oh, boy. Here goes long-windy Cindy again,” comes to mind. Not offended. No I am not. It’s a return to my elementary school nickname: Windy, as in, “Was that you, Windy? Gross!” That only scarred me for a short 10 years. Short. Keep rolling the eyes and ignore my rants. For the rest of you, welcome to my mind!

By now everyone knows what Netflix is best for: catching up on old TV shows that somehow you didn’t catch the first time they aired. To date, we’ve caught up on all Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Gallactica (Kulani only), and Sports Night (me only).

TV writing in this day and age is quite good. The stories and characters are complex. The writing is so real-to-life that at times, it makes me think I’m watching something that could have easily taken place in my own home, even though the scene may play out between a druggie and a teacher-turned-meth producer. TV dramas/comedies are the new reality TV.

But we kept hearing rumblings about Mad Men. I’d read enough and seen a few minutes here and there to know that watching that show may not be good for me. And not for the reasons you might think.

Inside me is a raging feminist.

Not because my dad mistreated me or anything. Heavens, no. My dad washed dishes, did laundry, cooked breakfasts, took an interest in our games, wanted to see his girls succeed as much as his boys. No, my dad was/is one amazing dad.

No, I think my issues with men began smoldering in high school. Because I went to a pretty chauvinistic high school. My older sister Amy (who has asked me to be nicer to her on this blog) had a teacher once who told the guys in her class that if they wanted a great show, they should attend the girls’ volleyball games and see how short the opposing team’s shorts were.

Another infamous teacher/coach at our school liked to tell the track girls to “eat from the salad line.” I don’t think he ever told the guys that.

My inner creep meter definitely went off around some male teachers who didn’t mind an ego stroke from a cute cheerleader. To which I can already here some men thinking, “You were just jealous,” and my inner feminist starts growling.

We had intramural sports in my high school, but girls weren’t allowed to play. Well, that’s what we all assumed, because all the intramural basketball teams were made up of all guys. Until me, my cousin, and a friend formed a basketball team to take on the guys.

We lost every game, but we sometimes came sort-of close to winning. We honestly formed the team because we were all basketball players who didn’t play for the school team anymore. Especially my friend and cousin: they were honest ballers. They could play! But part of me also wanted to show ‘em.

One boy told me that it was embarrassing of us to play. It put the guys in an awkward situation: beat the girls or be beaten by the girls: a lose/lose situation. I get that analogy with wrestling, honestly I do. But with basketball? Really? Just beat us already and shut up about it! Or if we beat you, sorry. Practice a little more next time.

Over the years, and perhaps because of my early vocalness, I have learned that being a wear-your-heart-and-feelings-on-your-sleeve feminist isn’t very fun, and it turns people off. Trust me, I lost friends because of my verbal rants, and I especially lost the interest of many guys wanting to pursue a pursed-lipped little upstart like myself.

So I’ve mellowed. Plus, you can’t be thinking, “Men are all jerks!” when you live in a world made up of 50 percent men. And you’re married to one. (Not that Kulani is a jerk, but he is a man. Just keep reading.)

Even more, many feminists seem bitter and lack a sense of humor, as evidenced by this article, wherein feminists take Tina Fey to task for not being feminist enough. Nobody whose company I want to share would talk about my idol Tina that way. If I had a feminist card, I would have sent it back after reading that article.

And now we’ve started watching Mad Men, and that inner feminist, who I’ve tried so hard over the years to keep deep within me so as not to scare people away, is rumbling inside of me.

If you don’t know, Mad Men is about 1950 advertising men and the way they interact with the women around them, from their wives to their secretaries to their mistresses. It’s an AMC production, which means it’s not “rated M” (no nudity, no super-bad swear words) but it’s not for kids either.

I’m not very far into the series, so the characters still have lots of room for growth and improvement (which is why I love TV so much), but currently, the male characters are all a bunch of JERKS! Kulani says they’re worse than jerks, but I can’t print what he calls them. Well, I can, but I won’t.

The most egregious example of the men’s chauvinism is of the main character toward his wife. She is going through a midlife psychological break down, in large part due to her husband. She turns to a psychiatrist for help, and after every session with the psychiatrist, and unbeknownst to her, her husband calls the psychiatrist and asks him what he found out in therapy! And the therapist gives him a breakdown of what they talked about! And he summarily tells the husband that his wife has the thoughts of a spoiled child! What?! Do you think stuff like that ever actually happened?! It seems a little far-fetched, but maybe it was that bad?!

Deep breath. Deep breath.

As we’re watching it, Kulani tells me he really likes the upscale-department store owner. The upscale-department store owner is a Jewish woman who, at this point in the series, is a very smart, savvy business woman. She seems like a champion for women’s rights.

After he said that he liked her character, he said, “I’ve always liked independent women.” I wanted to kiss Kulani when he said that.

My husband, the NRA loving, gun-toting man that he is, loves himself independent women.

He was the one who had to drag me to a Tori Amos, the feminist songwriter of my generation.

And whenever we watch BYU football together and I’m doing dishes because I’m so nervous watching the game, if he sees a great play, he’ll pause the TV and say to me, “Cindy, you’ve got to see this play.” Even if his friends are watching the game with him, he’ll stop and wait for me to see the amazing play of the game.

And when I talk too much about the players and wonder what they are like off the field, and which players served a mission, Kulani doesn’t act annoyed that I’m talking through his football game. He pauses the TV or we just talk through the game about all the good things the football players do off the field. (Three cheers for DVRs! Saving one marriage at a time.)

And when we’re planning our goals and future life for the family, Kulani asks for my input, my ideas. He took out a rather large insurance policy because he said he wanted me to be well taken care of in the event that he should die.

And we have four girls, and Kulani brags to his friends about our girls’ soccer accomplishments as much as if he had a little boy who played quarterback on the little league football team.

And when we’re watching Mad Men, and my inner feminist starts stirring, I exchange looks of “did they just SAY that!” with him, and he looks back at me with his big, brown eyes that say, “I know. They are such JERKS!” (But his eyes say the other word that I won’t write.)

And hopefully he can see in my eyes, when the big gloppy tears well up because of all his awesomeness, that I love him.

And my inner feminist just needs to take a chill pill.


Heats said...

Love this Cindy! So cute. My Aunt for Salk Lake read this and she said you were an amazing writer. I agree.

Lady G said...

Okay, a couple thoughts. First of all, I watched every episode of MM on netflix on my maternity leave (in between feedings) so i have a couple opinions about it...first, i think the goal of the show is to create a character like michael corleone or tony soprano: don draper is this ridiculously talented, incredibly smart, brilliantly flawed man. as much as you want to hate him for all his shortcomings, you can't resist liking—or even LOVING—him, whether b/c of his good looks, his debonair charm or just his sheer cleverness. no man who really respected his wife (back in those days or modern days) would ever treat her the way don does (i.e., cheat on her, lie to her, etc. etc.). but i think matthew weiner uses betty and the other women he exploits as simple mechanisms to show this one of his achilles’ heels: he manipulates and attempts to control any person—man or woman—he deems weaker than him, whether it’s the smarmy account executive peter or his wife betty. He is not just a sexist—he’s a total jerk. the fact that don develops a completely different relationship with peggy later on in the show, and that he is attracted to independent, smart women (with whom he likes to have affairs and has closer relationships with in many regards than betty) shows that he's not necessarily a chauvinist. However, he does have some deep-seated misogynistic feelings, mostly toward his mother who he refers to as a whore (I’m trying to not give away too much here…).

The other guys at sterling cooper are more like archetypes for men of their generation, as are many of the women. weiner almost goes out of his way to make the most interesting women (with the exception of joan and peggy) ones who we don't see very often because they don't work at sterling cooper. most of the other women on the show are pretty one-dimensional and are portrayed as incredibly loose, which isn’t probably super-accurate. However, these are supposed to be women who live “in the city,” so maybe things were a little more free-wheeling there.

as a sidenote, in my opinion, the only really interesting characters to watch develop are don, peggy, peter, joan, roger sterling and, interestingly, don's daughter. some of the people who come and go, such as the jewish retailer and don's first mistress, the artist, are also very interesting but don't get enough screen time to fully develop.

In short, it’s not the feminist but the human in me (is there one?) that doesn’t like certain aspects of the show. BUT…the same way that you can’t take your eyes off Michael Corleone or Tony Soprano, you can’t take your eyes off Don Draper (which is ok because he’s pretty easy on those eyes…).

Amo said...

Cindster, I expect more feminist articles -- keep her out of the box!!