Where are the women?

So I had it confirmed finally, that feeling that things were not quite right in flim and tv-series. Today, I came across a column addressing the topic, and it referred to a study made by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen; It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World, Even in a Pandemic Year: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top U.S. Films of 2021.

I mean, you have probably noted it yourself, without giving it too much thought (at least it you are a woman yourself), that most films and tv-series you watch, are dominated by male characters. As a mother of two boys, I have seen my share of Marvel films the past few years. Loads of mostly white, strong guys, fighting some villain or several. The character “Black Widow” being a rare, female character. As a matter of fact, I got so fed up with this male, macho universe, that I told my boys and my husband that they can watch these films without me. I can’t stand it anymore.

We have also been through the whole bunch of Star Wars movies, several times, and not surprisingly perhaps, my favourite is “Rouge One” where we are introduced to the female character Ray. Equally not surprising perhaps, is the fact that this is not the favourite film of the rest of the family…

It’s a fact that I have a weakness for a variety of police/agent series, like NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, and New York Major Squad, to mention some. In all of them men are overrepresented compared to women. They do have female detectives and agents, playing central parts, but still, it’s rarely more than one female per team of 4-6 agents.

And it’s this that has been bugging me for some time. Why is it like this? Why this gross imbalance on average?

The column I read today also pointed to another interesting fact. The author had noted that the films Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Turning Red, reviewed by males, were viewed as “overwhelmingly” female (Wakanda Forever), and “for relatively small audience” (Turning Red).

Wow! Just because they can’t, for once, identify with the leading character? I don’t know if I find it tragic or comic, that these men whine over these facts. I mean, I don’t expect a man in his 40’s to really identify with a girl growing into puberty, getting her period and experiencing all the hormones raging her body. But I do expect that he can appreciate a film that focus on something else than girls going teenage, wanting to be a perfect little woman pleasing everybody. Because that is how I often see girls portrayed in movies, glossy creatures with long, shiny hair and perfect skin. Well, mister, welcome to the real world! We are quite a few out here who appreciates new ways of presenting our gender!

Being underrepresented everywhere, I think we women are used to stretch our imagination to fit into a universe that often seems to ignore us. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. Girls growing up deserves heroes of their own, whom they can identify with, that look like them. We need more females of all ages on the screen, of all colours and all sizes. (I think our boys could need a bigger variety of shapes and colours to identify with as well). We need more multi-dimensional female characters, in all kinds of films and tv-series. We need more Dana Scullys and Rebeccas (from the 2013 movie “1000 times good night”). Rebecca is a photo journalist, travelling to war zones, while her husband is the one with local based work, taking care of their kids. I found that movie so inspiring! The roles were completely turned around, and I adored it. Because that it also how it can be. We are way too much told the story of the man with a career, and the woman sacrificing herself for the wellbeing of the rest of the family. I welcome every challenge to that image.

I do have to point out at the end, that there have been some rather fun movies presenting girls in a more interesting manner. When I grew up, it was with Pippi Longstockings, a rare female superhero at the time. Pippi really challenged the ideals of how girls should behave at the time (and still do). Recently, I watched Enola Holmes on Netflix, the two films, and I find them amusing and inspiring. And I like to present my boys with something other than the stereotype heroes they are used to from the Marvel universe. Boys, like girls, need the current stereotypes to be challenged. They need to see that there are many ways to live their lives, that humans are complex beings, not divided into “soft creatures” (women) and “tough heroes/villains” (men). Women can be tough, men are allowed to show feelings and cry. I wish we could see more of that, too. Not just in sentimental dramas, but in action movies as well. Why is it always the female characters that grab the box of Kleenex, while the men punch the wall?

Most of all, I would like to see more female, complex characters. The fact is that women makes up about half the population of this planet, but when watching movies we are reduced to a small minority. It’s time to do something about that.

Happy new year!

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International Women’s Day

As always, there are things to celebrate, and still battles to fight when it comes to women’s rights.

Let’s start with some good news:

Argentina changed its abortion laws in 2020, ending a total prohibition on abortion. Several other countries have also changed their abortion laws in recent years, like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

In Kenya, 40 clan elders have decided to stop child marriages and to end female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence. This is important, and progress is made in other countries as well.

In many African countries, education on women’s reproductive health, family planning and access to modern contraceptives are on the rise. This in turn will reduce the number of (unsafe) abortions, and allows the women to take control over their own bodies and their own reproductive health.

Further, more than 100 nations reignite the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action, the most comprehensive roadmap for advancing gender equality.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the Nobel’s Price in chemistry. Kamala Harris was appointed the first female vice-president in the USA, and Gitanjali Rao was selected TIME Magazine first ever “Kid-of-the-year”, for her use of science and technology to promote social change. And I tell you, what a girl this is!

But despite progress, there are still battles to fight.

Honour killings, in particular a threat to girls and women, are still a widespread problem especially in South-Asia and the Middle-East. As of late, an Indian 17-year old girl was beheaded by her own father after he discovered she had a relationship with a man.

In India, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan and several other countries, women are often married off to the man who raped her. This is a horrific practice, and something that needs to end immediately.

In Poland, a country at the heart of Europe, and member of the European Union (EU), abortion is now prohibited. The law passed in parliament in 2020, despite large protests.

Abortion is also prohibited in the following European countries: Malta (also member of EU), Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino. A complete overview of the situation worldwide can be found here.

Both access to healthcare and education are under pressure during the covid-19 pandemic, and we have to make an effort so we don’t take many steps backwards now that progress has been made in many countries.

But even in western societies we now see family life returning to old stereotypes, where women take on a greater toll of housework, whether they are still working during the pandemic or not, compared to their spouses. We have to make sure that the years of 2020 and 2021 will not be the new norm, but still work for equality both in the domestic and professional areas.

We need to work to put an end to the misconception that girls and women are the property of men, unable to act on their own. Girls and women are individuals, fully capable of making their own decisions. No girl should be raised solely to be married off and being treated as a slave of the household and a birthmachine. This is why it’s so important to make sure they are given access to education.

We also have to work to improve the balance of representation of power, both in parliaments, but also in business corporations. Even in developed countries, men earn more, they own more, and they more often climb “to the top”. We have to get rid of the stereotype that men are better at making money, while women are better at taking care of the family. Men can be good caretakers, and women can certainly be good leaders.

I would like to end with a quote of Barack Obama, even if it would have been more appropriate for the day to quote a woman. Still, this one sums up the way forward pretty well.

“You may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”

So let’s do that! In the spirit of all the women that has fought battles before us, and for all those coming after us.

Speak up, take action – and have a great day!

International Women's Day web banner illustration of woman hands holding each other in female symbol shape. Girl teamwork concept, modern flat cartoon outline arms.

As a woman, you can never get it right…

It’s said that women of today, at least in the western world, has all possibilities at hand. Well, it might be right, but no matter how we twist and bend it, the way women do it is still never just right.

A woman gesticulating and shouting while giving a public speech, will most likely be branded aggressive. A man on the other hand, will be conceived as vigorous and dynamic.

A woman who plays her cards well, and who manages the feat of climbing to the top in her domain, easily risks being labelled cunning, cold and calculating. Her male counterpart will most likely be called clever, or be spoken of as a man with ambitions.

A woman who chose a professional career will be blamed for putting herself before the wellbeing of the family. Also implying she is a “bad” mother, who rather leaves her children to other people rather than caring for them herself. Or simply, she’s egoistic as she prefers a career rather than happy family life at home. I don’t think I have ever heard a man accused of the same, even if he’s hardly present at dinner table as he is working all the time.

A woman who chose to be home (at least for a longer period than the normal maternity leave), is accused by many to idolize the ideal of a housewife from the 1950’s. Feminists fought for the rights of women to work at the same terms as men, and choosing differently makes you a “traitor”. A man choosing to be taking care of the house and the children might be perceived as a bit weird, maybe even a bit weak. If so, this is the only circumstance I can think of that men really might face negative critics for their choice.

A women who shaves her legs and armpits, and puts make up is a victim of the cruel beauty tyranny which is pushed upon us from all sides.
A woman who does not shave her legs and armpits, are on the other hand said to be “disgusting”.
Men can more or less do as they like. Beard or no beard, it’s more about taste and fashion than about what’s acceptable.

This is just some examples that came to my mind. The point is of course, that no matter what women do, there are always someone at hand to give critics about our choices or our manners.

Even in 2016, the same characteristics and manners of women and men, most often give negative points for the woman, and plus points for the man (see the first three paragraphs above).

It actually amazes me that we are we still there. I would have believed that in 2016, we were no longer so obsessed with gender in this way.

What makes me most upset, is that no matter what women chose, it’s never really “right”. We are too much or too little no matter what. I do wonder, if the time will ever come, when we as well will be allowed to be just human beings. Individuals who lives our lives the way that suits us best, without having to face critics from right to left at all times.