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  1. #1
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Default Works of fiction and feminism

    I was browsing Fandom Secrets a week or so ago... A lot of the secrets - and discussions - bring to the table Social Justice-related topics such as privilege and heteronormativity. I was then intrigued by this submission (discussion here, just scroll down), which is about the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Despite not having seen it, therefore being unable to judge its "feminism quotient", so to speak, I began wondering about the idea of a work of fiction being "feminist".

    Another secret (discussion here) brings up the question of what social issues are inadvertently present in works of fiction, which is a subject studied by several literary schools. It's not my cup of tea, but it got me thinking: how does one anlyze that? How does a white, privileged male know if his characterization of female characters, for example, does not come across as sexist, racist, ableist, gender binary, etc?

    Basically, what makes a work of fiction feminist, sexist, "empowering", etc.? Not being very acquainted with feminism, I wanted to understand those topics better.

    (Sorry if this is kinda messy.)

  2. #2
    The Destroyer Colors's Avatar
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    (Oh Fandom Secrets. I <3/loathe/<3 you.)

    I think by being aware that works of art happen not accidently, that they are crafted and their choices are, well, chosen, is a great first step (as mentioned in the second step).

    Don't let the people who throw terms left and right scare you off! Feminism is, in a lot of ways, simply common sense. You know women in real life, you know they are complicated and have their own inner lives and not easily confined to categories-- that they are people, first and foremost.

    And that's what I look for in a feminist piece of fiction. Female characters who are people, in that they aren't limited to being just victims (or even presumed victime), just girlfriends, just mothers, just objects of desire, just masculine tough or feminine weak, etc.

    Admittedly, it's not always easy to see a lack (of complex characterization, of existence outside the "male gaze"). But here's some questions that might help:

    - Is this character solely defined by her relationships to men? (For example, is she simply the love interest, the mother, etc? Does she have her own motivations, dreams, past, future, etc. beyond said men?)

    - Does this character have relationships with women? (Relationships that have nothing to do with aforementioned men, particularly fighting over men.)

    - Are the female characters confined to one or two "types", such as the "damsel in distress" or the "castrating shrew"? (For example, are all the "good" women are all good in only exactly one way, and all the "bad" women completely opposite, ie, madonna/whore.)

    - Does the narrative/characterization recognize the perspective offered by her gender without limiting her to only stories and characterization stemming from her gender? (For example, are women only strong because they act exactly like men? )

    *I think these same questions can apply to the race problem as well.

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    I agree with Colors - the hallmark of a feminist work is nothing more than equality. Feminism is NOT about women being "better" or "dominant."

    It just means they are whole people, and in works of fiction whole characters, rather than simply being defined by their relationship to men (for example, in sexist works women are portrayed as nothing more than victims, sex objects, daughters, wives, girlfriends, and are often "flat" characters rather than dynamic).

    As a heterosexual male if you strive to make your female characters human beings with validated thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, and plans of their own just like you would make a male character, then you're on the right path.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Yay, responses! Thank you, guys/ladies!

    Quote Originally Posted by Colors View Post
    (Oh Fandom Secrets. I <3/loathe/<3 you.)
    I can relate... I keep coming back, there's something alluring about it, especially when a secret makes you think, "Oh boy. OH. BOY. Here we go."

    What is it about F!S that makes you loathe/love it? Just curious...

    Quote Originally Posted by Colors View Post
    I think by being aware that works of art happen not accidently, that they are crafted and their choices are, well, chosen, is a great first step (as mentioned in the second step).

    Don't let the people who throw terms left and right scare you off! Feminism is, in a lot of ways, simply common sense. You know women in real life, you know they are complicated and have their own inner lives and not easily confined to categories-- that they are people, first and foremost.

    And that's what I look for in a feminist piece of fiction. Female characters who are people, in that they aren't limited to being just victims (or even presumed victime), just girlfriends, just mothers, just objects of desire, just masculine tough or feminine weak, etc.
    Yes, it's mostly about fleshing out characters, but there are a lot of issues involved... For example, can a female character like the color pink/have a crush on a male character/be sensitive and delicate/be portrayed as an intelligent yet deceptive individual without it being sexist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colors View Post
    Admittedly, it's not always easy to see a lack (of complex characterization, of existence outside the "male gaze"). But here's some questions that might help:

    - Is this character solely defined by her relationships to men? (For example, is she simply the love interest, the mother, etc? Does she have her own motivations, dreams, past, future, etc. beyond said men?)

    - Does this character have relationships with women? (Relationships that have nothing to do with aforementioned men, particularly fighting over men.)

    - Are the female characters confined to one or two "types", such as the "damsel in distress" or the "castrating shrew"? (For example, are all the "good" women are all good in only exactly one way, and all the "bad" women completely opposite, ie, madonna/whore.)

    - Does the narrative/characterization recognize the perspective offered by her gender without limiting her to only stories and characterization stemming from her gender? (For example, are women only strong because they act exactly like men? )

    *I think these same questions can apply to the race problem as well.
    Hey, that's the Bechdel Test, right? I've heard a lot about it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    I agree with Colors - the hallmark of a feminist work is nothing more than equality. Feminism is NOT about women being "better" or "dominant."

    It just means they are whole people, and in works of fiction whole characters, rather than simply being defined by their relationship to men (for example, in sexist works women are portrayed as nothing more than victims, sex objects, daughters, wives, girlfriends, and are often "flat" characters rather than dynamic).

    As a heterosexual male if you strive to make your female characters human beings with validated thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, and plans of their own just like you would make a male character, then you're on the right path.
    I'm not actually a writer, just a consumer of works of fiction who doesn't have a lot of experience when it comes to "liking the right things". Still, that also brings the question of what counts as a "flat" or a "rounded" character, especially since the reader can make several automatic inferences or theories about a character - fanon is full of the stuff, or so I hear.

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    Flat characters don't have full personalities. They're one dimensional and don't grow or change. Like, if all of the women in your story are nothing more than attractive props or mothers without other aspects to their personalities, those are flat one-dimensional characters. A woman is more than a role she plays for a man or society.

    There's nothing wrong with female characters liking pink or having crushes on boys. I love boys and I own things that are pink. I'm perpetually 14 years old. However, I obviously also have other characteristics to my personality, like intelligence, and many interests that have nothing to do with my relationships with men. I don't need a man to survive, et al.

    Also, it's probably good if ALL of the girls in your story aren't pink-loving boy crazy ExFPs or ESFJ mommy types. It's good to flesh out to acknowledge the women who hate pink and don't think about relationships very much.

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    Senior Member Perch420's Avatar
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    Feminism is stupid and nonsensical.
    “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” - G. K. Chesterton

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perch420 View Post
    Feminism is stupid and nonsensical.
    no u

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perch420 View Post
    Feminism is stupid and nonsensical.
    So a philosophy based around the ideal of equal rights for women is stupid and nonsensical to you? Wanna explain your reasoning?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Perch420's Avatar
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    Women already have equal rights. The modern feminist movement seeks for women to not just have equal rights, but have equal outcomes to men, which is evil and degenerate.
    “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” - G. K. Chesterton

  10. #10
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    Hell is an island filled with adolescent INTJ virgins.

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