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Gender Bendery

When It Comes to Gender Stereotyping, Pink Is Not the Problem [VIDEO]


In his analysis of the problems (real and falsely perceived) with the “pink aisle,” MovieBob has some things to say about The Hunger Games—namely that it reinforces an outdated notion of male=good and female=bad by giving its heroine stereotypically masculine traits and the Capitol stereotypically feminine ones—that I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on.

(via: The Escapist)

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  • Anonymous

    The human capacity to recognize patterns is in excess of their actual existence

  • Thomas Hayes

    I thought this was a very interesting video. I haven’t seen the Hunger Games or its sequel so can’t comment on that but I agree with his overall point.

  • Alexa

    I already watched this on his blog page, and here is what I commented on there:

    “I think a pretty good example of a character redefining what makes a female strong, without coding them as masculine, is that of Buffy. I mean part of what makes her appealing is at how unassuming she is, that of being a petit, girly, high schooler but who happens to be a bad ass vampire slayer. Just because she likes to wear bright colors and make up doesn’t make her weak, its just a part of who she is.

    Really there is nothing wrong with the color pink, dresses, or pageantry, its just at one point people just started to assume that people who liked these things were bad. This might have a lot to do with points in history of decadent monarchies taking over and making it hard for everyone else because they just had to wear those big stupid wigs. This being seen most especially during the Maria Antoinette years, which I feel is what The Hunger Games is trying to exude. Nothing wrong with beautiful dresses and parties, just that they’d be appreciated in moderation and not at the expense of the little folk.”

    And I still stand by that observation…

  • Joanna

    Very interesting point. Also touches on the source of the term “bigwigs”.

  • Emily

    The coding of feminine as bad and masculine as good in the hunger games is definitely there to a fairly exaggerated extent, but I don’t think its quite as solidly defined as it may be at first glance. For instance Effie is a person who very much exudes the values of the capitol, but she is also Katniss’s friend and puts that before all the glamour. And President Snow and Coin are both much less feminine in they’re images, but are equally bad people. The Capitol values these extravagant things, but the individual people are more or less compliant in the problem then they are the cause or they are evil

  • Saraquill

    Watching this video reminded me of how I was harassed when I was younger for being rather feminine. The ones who gave me grief were other girls.

  • Lychnis

    There’s also Peeta who has many ‘feminine’ traits (like being calm and caring) and who (in the end) is shown as a better person than more masculine Gale.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been thinking about HUNGER GAMES a lot in the last few weeks, having now watched both movies, and having a girlfriend who’s read the 1st book.

    And what I think about wrt this video is the line between “decadent” and “effeminate”. And I think about Peeta, and his much stronger role in the sequel. And I think these make the question more complex than this video presents them as.

    So — I think the writer has a point, but it’s misaligned for this series, so far as I can tell. And it’s certainly — at least from my view of things — not nearly a huge an issue as the still-relevant problems that women have around these roles.

  • Anonymous

    In the books, the fashion of the Capitol is very much a Pink Aisle type thing. It’s very complex, and a lot of that doesn’t crossover into the movies due to a lack of exposition. The pageantry of the Capitol people is fostered by the government of the Capitol as a way to keep the most privileged (and therefor potentially dangerous) people soft, weak, and distracted with frivolity and parties. It’s much like how traditional femininity is designed to keep women soft, weak, and distracted with what society thinks is frivolous stuff. All the connotations of femininity as evil that can be read into the Capitol culture is there as a social commentary, I think, on how femininity is designed to disenfranchise women in our society.

  • Anonymous

    I do think the coding of feminine as bad is a problem I have seen in a lot of female-centric fiction. I think i mentioned before but I loathe the stock line of “You hit like a girl”, which is almost always said by a “strong female character” in order to mock a male opponent.

    A major thing I wonder about is how Sailor Moon became so popular for that period in the early 00′s when it was on Cartoon Network, since I’ve noticed that a lot of female superheroes in western works tend to eschew more classically feminine traits, in contrast to something like a Magical Girl series where the heroines are beating up bad guys while dressed in heels and skirts.

    Or even more recently, I noticed a bit of a backlash against those Marvel romance novels, which someone even claiming that the women who are into romance tales aren’t the kind of women who should be in superhero fandom (which made me promptly facepalm).

    I’m curious if it’s more a cultural disconnect or maybe a generational one?

  • Anonymous

    It’d be great if they inverted your first point with a cinematic Wonder Woman at some point. If there’s a scene some big thuggish guy punches Diana in the face & she’s completely unfazed while his hand is broken. Then she scoffs “You hit like a man. Learn how to hit like a girl!” & punches him through a wall.
    Kim Possible is awesome.

  • http://whiterosebrian.tumblr.com/ White Rose Brian

    In regards to The Hunger Games, it seems to me (I must confess that I haven’t read the books or seen the movies) that it’s more like a depiction of materialistic, devouring decadence and selfishness, just as some of the commenters here hinted at.

  • athenia45

    Two thoughts:
    1) I think bows and arrows are kinda girly. They are sleek, you can only shoot one at a time and it’s for long distance, so you don’t have to get your delicate girly hands sullied. See also: Legolas, Kagome from Inuyasha, Merida from Brave etc.

    2) I think what’s difficult about Capital = feminine is that being traditionally feminine (clothes, shoes, makeup, hair) takes a shit ton of money. So anytime a dude spends a crap ton of money on these things, their masculinity–heck, their sexuality is questioned (remember the term metrosexual?). But I thought it was clear in the book that dudes weren’t dying their hair blue cuz they wanted to be feminine or that we should even look at it as feminine–it just signified that they had a crap ton of money.

    In sum, I’m not sure if Katniss is all *that* masculine–she has a bow and arrow, she has long hair—she doesn’t have money for frilly clothes, makeup etc. Does that make her more masculine? I can see why people would think that, but I think she’s as girly as any other cis girl can be in her situation.

  • Witty Username

    That’s a really excellent point.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Also, she idolizes Prim, and vice versa. Prim whose strengths are in caregiving and nurturing, traditionally thought of as more feminine roles.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    I feel you, sister. I was harassed for being “too much” of a tomboy by my classmates and neighbors and my mom always wanted me to wear dresses (but not if they were the slightest bit fitted).

  • Anonymous

    This is really good series, despite it existing for him and his own enjoyment. Sure, he loooves cheezy horror Z-movies and obscure 80s cartoon shows a little too much, but he’s one of the very, very, very few internet…guys that doesn’t automatically dismiss Sarkessian just cause she has words to say about video games.

  • Anonymous

    I was with him right until the moment where he started talking about the Hunger Games; then, it all came crashing down.

    First of all, the feminine/masculine coding concept is pretty shaky because it reinforce the stereotypes that men have to be a certain way, and women another way. I’m aware of the seemingly gazillion of times in the video where he said he was against that categorization but that’s what he did anyway, he called Katniss’ traits male traits because she didn’t act like a stereotypical women.

    Secondly, what he calls feminine coding is often just plain regular homophobia, which is a problem separate from sexism. Yes, feminine men and gay men are poorly portrayed but if lesbians are completely protected against prejudice, I was honestly aware of it.

    And finally, is The Hunger Games really the best example he could find? Some people already mentionned Peeta so I will add Cinna to the mix, a hero in his own right. And I’ve only seen the two films but in the second one in particular, Effie Trinket does not deserve the villain tag. Maybe something happens in the novels that changes her character but in the films, she seems like a good person at heart that is just too naive to understand the world around her.

  • Anonymous

    Did he manage to breathe once during this entire thing?

  • Anonymous

    Even if gender is done in relation to others, the problem with critiques like this is that they tend to rely on outdated gender roles. Nowadays there are very few activities that are sex segregated even if they’re still not evenly distributed. Hunting doesn’t make Katniss masculine because anyone can hunt just as baking doesn’t make Peeta feminine. Assigning gender directly to traits just confuses how the idividuals with those traits are viewed instead of focusing on how they identify themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Would that be how cheerleader “girly” Buffy is useless and darker, more masculine Buffy is strong? Don’t get me wrong, Buffy indulges in a lot of “girl normative” things, but she give up “girly” Buffy in order to be “strong”. You can see this twice, when she tries to be Homecoming Queen, and when in the Halloween episode where she becomes a noble woman. Both times she becomes more “normative female” and as a result, weaker.

  • Saraquill

    I’m not an archer, but I have trouble imagining archery as a delicate activity. It takes a lot of muscle to string a bow and draw an arrow, especially if you want to punch through armor. I also imagine that drawing back the string would build up callouses on your fingers.

  • Anonymous

    Most “feminine” fripperies like high heels, wigs, make-up, & jewelery were also created for for male aristocrats or at least contemporaneously for female artistocrats. It’s only when wealthy males stopped wearing these fashions while they trickled down to common women that they became recharacterized as unmasculine.

  • Saraquill

    Nitpick: could you elaborate on what you mean by traditional? I did gender studies in school and hang out at a few active blogs that like to point out that “traditions” of feminine activities in the US are often more modern than popular culture perceives.

  • Brett W

    What he calls feminine traits in villains I think are actually meant to portray decadence, overindulgence, materialism, arrogance, and corruption; all things which are neither masculine nor feminine, just bad.

  • Saraquill

    Thank you. It bothers me when someone is dismissed for acting like one gender or another regardless of how the person self identifies. This kind of thinking diminishes the value of someone as a human being.

  • http://unbornunicorn.wordpress.com/ Amanda Gun

    I disagree that sexism and homophobia are in any way separate, and I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. The reasoning goes as such:

    1. Women are bad
    2. Men who “try to be like women” are therefore bad
    3. Women who “try to be like men” are at least aspirational and therefore less worthy of scorn than men who “lower themselves”. However, they are also trying to step away from male sexuality which obviously can’t be allowed to happen.

    Obviously these are not my opinions, just a short overview of how sexism and homophobia interact and overlap.

  • Tiger Park

    I think what struck a chord with young girls (and lots of young boys too!) in the mid-to-late 90s/early 2000s when Sailormoon started airing in Canada/US/Europe was that it was the first anime kids show any kid had seen that was about a) exclusively about a group of young girls, b) whose main characters were all unabashedly girly, c) kicking ass, and d) having overall themes tied strongly to friendship (and for penultimate story endings, self-sacrifice for the good of the friends you love).

    It was timing too – it’s also one of the first anime to make a huge mainstream impact with young kids, to the point that non-anime fans would exclusively use Sailormoon as their point of reference whenever they saw anything vaguely anime-like for basically the next several years until the wave of boy-aimed anime like Dragonball/Dragonball Z showed up.

  • Anonymous

    Um…I think that’s part of his critique. That the gender roles are outdated, but that they’re so sunk into the collective unconscious that we need to be careful how we fight them.

  • Mark Matson

    And here I thought bows & arrows were stereotypically female things, like college and tattoos.

  • Anonymous

    I came to that conclusion because people who are sexist aren’t necessarily homophobic and vice-versa.

  • http://unbornunicorn.wordpress.com/ Amanda Gun

    I don’t think these thought processes are apparent to everyone who thinks that way, though, it’s more on a societal level. Even if Ann manages to be homophobic but not sexist (though honestly, how often does that ever happen? I feel like sexism and homophobia have almost a 100% correlation), that doesn’t negate the fact that this kind of thinking informs them both, possibly on a subconscious level.

  • Lien

    Why does numerous number of culture in the world seeks to portray the depiction of decadence imposing feminine traits? When i took gay and lesbian film history studies, the teacher pointed out to me how numerous film and media (most noticeably in the 50′s and 60′s) always portray the evil “Noble” villain as someone who shows feminine, even borderline homosexuality, and then meet their maker in the end. A good example of that is “Joel Cairo” from the Maltese falcon but let’s also add “Norman Bates” from Psycho who seems to show how disturbed he is by giving him a mother personality.
    It seems to be a trend that Hollywood love to reinforced even to this day. How many villains can you picture in the past decade that are refine, decadent, clean and cultured and then meet their maker by a gruffly, rude, straight to the punch and “raised from the streets” hero? Too many to count my friends. There are better ways to show the destruction of decadence without messing up with gender identity, ya know.

    And as much of a fan of hunger game i am and loved the recent film, I cannot defend the film for continuing that trend. I’d love to see someone from the district who bravely express the same amount of femininity that the people from the upper class has showed. But sadly, when anyone shows that sign appear on the big screen, we are told we have to root against them.

    Yes, i am looking at you, Effie Trinket… and your lack of knowledge on how pearls are made.

  • Lien

    Yes this is the goal they seek. But they don’t have to show the decadent society with people who possess different notion of gender identity then the main cast… they can just film in wall street *badum tish!*

    To the film’s defense, this isn’t something they created. Making the bad nobles highly feminine is something that goes back since the times of the ancient Greeks (queue the sparta jokes). Or even a western thing, i recall seeing lots of Japanese opera that featured feminized villain noble.

  • mage_cat

    I think he edits out all the breathing.

  • kbroxmysox

    I’m just confused how a girl who spent her life hunting and providing for her family can have the opportunity to be girly? And when she does see pretty dresses, fancy parties and splendor, it doesn’t excite her but just sickens her considering the squalor her people live in.

    I also don’t like the “masculine traits” argument. Just because a girl is tough and isn’t a fan of showing emotion doesn’t make her masculine…That’s a backwards way of thinking on it, especially since it’s supposed to be a “good thing” for a male to be emotionally closed, “masculine” and blah blah. But it’s not…

  • Anonymous

    Within the context of the story, you’re right. Katniss would never have a chance to be into fancy dresses and makeup, and would see those who are into pageantry and pomp as the bad guys. But stories aren’t written in a vacuum. When looking at a story, you have to be aware of the society it was written in.

    For instance, take Song of the South. DIsney has pretty much done everything it can short of inventing time travel to erase it from history. They want to pretend it doesn’t exist, because they realize that, by today’s standards, it’s pretty racist. But it wasn’t written in today’s society. It was written in a time when that was normal, about a time when it was even more normal.

    Hunger Games is the exact opposite situation. It’s hard to recognize the sexism inherent in much of the symbolism because it isn’t overt, and it is still pretty normal for our society.

    As for the “masculine traits”, your argument is both correct and not. I see your point that women can be tough and unemotional. But in terms of the societal concepts of masculine and feminine, those are traits that society says are masculine. So in this case, Katniss does represent the stereotype of masculinity and the state represents the stereotype of femininity. It is backwards thinking, that’s the point he was trying to make.

  • Anonymous

    You will certainly find people who are homophobic who aren’t sexist. Those people are usually concerned with the supposed immorality of homosexuality. Then again, considering they are usually members of some fundamentalist religion, which usually have just as backwards views on women, they are probably pretty rare. In any case, I am willing to bet that there is not a single person on this planet who is sexist that isn’t homophobic. Granted, trying to apply “logic” to the irrational is tricky at best, but Amanda Gun did a great job summing up the thinking (and I use the term loosely) behind sexism and how that would also play into homophobia.

  • Vetinari

    Actually, the Sailor Moon point is an interesting one. I remember being a kid and really enjoying Sailor Moon, but the moment anybody entered the room I’d hit the remote and be watching BOY CARTOONS YEAH CAUSE I’M A BOY AND I LIKE BOY THINGS NOT THAT GIRLY-GIRL STUFF. In fact, I can’t help but notice a decent number of former classmates who count Sailor Moon in with all their 90s nostalgia, but seemed awfully silent on that point when we were actually kids.

    I do remember that the channel I watched it on, Fox Kids I think, ran a number of commercials that tried very hard to push the point that boys could watch Sailor Moon too. Admittedly, this was probably more to do with the fact that a huge section of their demographic was tuning out to avoid all the icky girl stuff, but it was still a good move, just made for questionable reasons.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but stereotypically it is the women that are depicted as materialistic. Men are shown as wanting power and wealth for their own sake. You never see a manly-man coming out of a shopping mall loaded down with shopping bags (unless he is carrying them for his woman). What material items men do acquire are usually functional – fast cars, gadgets, etc. – or meaningful, like historical artifacts. What women are usually depicted as buying are usually items prized for their beauty, like jewels, clothes, or shoes.

    In fact, wealthy men are typically portrayed as austere. They wear buttoned up suits, frequent quiet country clubs to play golf, and they spend a lot of time in their studies that are earth toned and filled with books. Wealthy women are ostentatious. They wear elaborate dresses and lots of jewelry, throw elaborate dinner parties, and their houses are decorated with vibrant finery.

  • Alexa

    True, and I will admit that is one aspect to the episode that I didn’t enjoy, but generally as a whole she was made to subvert the feeling that young girly girls couldn’t take of themselves.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, I actually enjoy the pink aisle. The problem isn’t with the stuff itself. Except for the LEGO Friends line – I want MINIFIGURES, not MINI BARBIES! How can I use those abominations with the rest of my legos, especially when the DIsney Princess ones come out? I want Ariel and Merida to be able to hang out with the Marvel and DC characters.

    But I digress (frequently). The problem is with saying that the pink aisle is only for girls. I, as a grown man, shouldn’t have to feel any more awkward about checking out the My Little Pony figures, pink pastel LEGOs, or even dolls; than I do checking out Hot Wheels, Marvel or DC LEGOs, or action figures.

  • Brett W

    So the solution is… what? Never write about poor underprivileged girls who have to be tough to survive?

  • Brett W

    The idea is that those who are rich and in power can afford to be foppish because they have tons of money and free time. They can afford to indulge heavily in luxury items and absurd fashion choices. And they don’t have to be tough because screw the rules they have money. If there’s a problem they can just wave some cash and it’ll go away. Meanwhile, the poor people have to be tough and hardscrabble just to survive day to day.This trope indeed has a long history, going back at least as far as the French Revolution, and likely even further. I’d say the feminine thing is mostly a coincidence. Or at least it used to be. It may have become codified into the trope with time.

  • http://adornyourhearts.tumblr.com Xomyx

    There seems to be a big avoidance on examining different intersectionalities when it comes to femininity. For example, black girls are hypersexualized as a young age and don’t really get seen as “girly”, where as white women are traditionally put on a pedestal or associated with wealth and home (ex. the 50s housewife stereotype; it reflects your wealth to have a stay at home wife, a nice house, well behaved children, etc). Several comments already made the connection between what’s considered feminine and what reflects the narrative here. The rich ruling class has wealth and can be frivolous, which is a luxury that Katniss never has. In the books Katniss’s race is never explicitly stated, but described with dark hair and olive skin. If she isn’t white, and perhaps even Native American, it reads in a completely different way than if we read it as simply that she’s a angry white girl who personifies masculinity.

  • Anonymous

    It’s much trickier to write stories where the elite are heroes while the poor are villains these days. The most beloved rich hero is Batman, and he’s still criticized for fighting the mentally ill & people who to turned to crime to escape lives of poverty. Even in stories about mob rule writers tend to cover their backs by saying the leader is a corrupt opportunist or that the upperclass caused the gross inequalities to begin with. Most stories will use metaphors like zombies & mind control. You can only get away with stories about common people being antagonists because they’re ignorant bastards if it’s set during the Dark Ages. Although upperclass people have more opportunities to be educated & cultured (positive traits that are often undervalued in adventure fiction), most audiences don’t identify with the wealthy even if they need to be comparatively well-off to access these stories in the first place.

  • Eisen

    We may perceive make-up, high heels and sparkly dresses as feminine now (ages before it was a male style especially with aristocrats), but the more and more we see men in outfits like this (think of Liberace, Freddy Mercury, Prince, and then the Hunger Games capital), it will become a style everybody can wear, without connotation to the female gender.

    I personally enjoy it everytime when I see males dressing more feminine (if in real life or in movies like Hunger Games), or seeing male goths putting more make-up on than I am. I’m certain there will be a time where make-up, heels and dresses are not especially feminine, but for everybody.

  • Eisen

    Funny thing you say this – one time I walked into a classmate on the local icecream shop, and we stood together in a looong waiting line. At some point we talked about cartoons, and I told him that I recently found out that there were comics about sailor moon (it was a bit later when I read my first manga – dragonball), and that I have seen posters in a magazine with strange sailor warriors wearing black (the sailor stars). He was more fascinated by this than me, and stayed with me until our icecream was gone, because he loved to speculate what would happen next in the series.

    But somehow I never talked to him in classroom about it. I knew that the other boys would make fun of him – even if they have obviously watched it too, because they knew some phrases from the show. But they always said they just watched it once or twice because you see the sailor scouts ‘naked’ when they transform. I always asked myself if they lied.

  • Eisen

    Archery is not delicate, but athenia has a point. There are many movies with fighting groups, where men wield swords and if women are there to fight, they use always bows. Bows are ranged weapons, you can stay out of a fight with it, weather swords require you to go into close combat.
    Sometimes it seems to me, that some movie or tv-show writers/directors think: If a woman has to wield a weapon, it should be a bow.

  • Joanna

    I found her conflict here appealing but was disappointed when she never really made a compromise between “girly” and “strong”. Although more so I think she just sort of “grew up” instead.

  • Joanna

    I always hated being around people who were constantly trying to “out-girl” each other. Puh-lease. >_>

  • Joanna

    I myself never really related to the “girly” characters in fiction. I preferred shows that featured a few different female characters because there was always at least one I could relate to or at least favoured. We don’t really get multiple female main characters in shows anymore =(

  • Joanna

    There was a books series called Broken Sky by Chris Wooding in which one of the protagonists – a girl – wielded a bo-staff as her weapon of choice. Not sharp or pointy or particularly heavy so it required some amount of strength to inflict close range damage. And there was nothing weird about the idea of a girl with a melee weapon either. It was pretty awesome =) Take notes, Hollywood.

  • Anonymous

    I guess the part I don’t really agree with is that women who act like men are positively viewed. As a said in my original post, somebody who is homophobic isn’t going to like lesbians any more than he likes gay men. And someone sexist isn’t likely to see a woman who acts like a man more positively; in fact, he will see her more negatively.

    The video talks about heroes like Katniss as if we were seeing these type of characters all the the time. It doesn’t say that the franchise as been sold as a YA series (a genre usually associated with Twilight), that action films starring women are few and far between, that there is no female superhero movie franchise right now, and that the few female action heroes we got are often very sexualized to appear less “manly” (example, the butt shot). Yes, heroes like Katniss and Merida are starting to appear, but they’re the result of a lot of fighting to get them there, they are not the rule.

  • http://www.youtube.com/cherubicwindigo Laura

    IMO Bob tends to be mansplainy about feminist issues. He seems to have a lot of criticisms of the people who are ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING and he always does it in a fairly condescending way. But I was following what he was saying and do not disagree with much of it. Towards the end through he shoots himself in the foot, saying there is nothing “inherently” wrong with Barbies, etc. That’s just way off, everybody already knows that the plastic and pixels that make up the physical representation of the female gender are often VERY problematic. I don’t think he gets exactly what women are fighting against: the idealized standard of beauty and meekness that is EXPECTED from women. We don’t want to demonize beauty and domesticity, we want to be FREE from them. Bob apparently doesn’t care to support those who are actually doing all the work, including those who champion boys playing with “girls toys” such as dolls. Bob just wants everyone to know they are doing it wrong. I almost expect a sarcastic “You’re Welcome” from Sadie, I mean Bob.

  • Laszlo

    I think that’s kinda missing the point. Maybe this association is bad, but nonetheless it’s part of society and it’s definitely always there, at least on some subconsious level, you don’t have to be sexist to mention it.

  • Charlie

    I find Bob very useful to show to my male friends to explain feminist concepts to them. I showed them this one in particular when I made a joke about GLaDOS playing with Barbies (because of the terrifying Barbie video game) and one said ‘Isn’t that sexist?’ I said no, playing with Barbies isn’t sexist but the EXPECTATION that a girl should like Barbie is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nuuni.nuunani Nuuni Nuunani

    On the other hand regarding Barbie, you have a female figure with playsets like ‘I can be the president Barbie’ and ‘I can be a Doctor Barbie’ and ‘ I can be a Surgeon Barbie’ and ‘I can be a Computer Engineer Barbie’ It promotes the idea that a girl can be anything and that that gender does not decide career. That you can be anything you want to be.

  • Charlie

    Something I noticed from this is that modern superhero media seems to struggle with female characters who are like, say, Superman. Somehow ‘strong and noble’ seems like it plays second fiddle to ‘sneaky and agile’. When it’s not kicked out the band altogether that is…

  • athenia45

    I’ll never forget the story where Renee O’Conner wanted to use nunchucks for Gabrielle’s new weapon, but apparently, The Powers That Be, thought it was way too violent, and they gave her sais instead–which I can’t complain, but I suppose you can’t really tell a weapon’s true use by just the way it looks!

  • athenia45

    Oh, I don’t disagree with that. I really suck at archery for those reasons. -_-;;;

  • Charlie

    Wait…there are Marvel romance novels?

  • Anonymous

    What I find interesting in his analysis of Hunger Games was that Snow, being the true face of the villain, is extremely masculine. Snow is the Don Draper of The Hunger Games. The fabulously dressed citizens of the Capital are merely oblivious, unsympathetic, and disengaged–which is perhaps more offensive female stereotype.

  • KF

    Wait, we’re supposed to root against Effie? She’s kind of a dufus, but root against her? I didn’t get that.

    And I’m surprised no one has been bringing up Cinna in any of this. Or Finnick.

  • KF

    I think it’s inaccurate to describe Katniss as unemotional. In the films, at least. I haven’t read the books, so maybe it’s different there.

  • KF

    What about characters like Captain Marvel, Rogue, She-Hulk, Rachel Grey, Storm, etc.? (Or are you excluding superhero comics here?)

  • Alexa

    Yeah but even after “growing up” she didn’t turn into some kind of cold, unfeeling, never smiles “bad ass” as seen with most “strong” women in other media. I mean that’s why I like the episode The Wish so much because it shows an alternate universe where she does act that way, and its suggested she is not the better for it.

  • Charlie

    I’m talking more about films and tv. They exist in the comics by the truckload but they somehow never make it to our screens as main characters. Not like Black Widow and Catwoman for example.

  • Anonymous

    I’d also like to add in Prim in Catching Fire as a counterexample. She’s got elaborately braided hair, loves her cat (come on, can we really blame Katniss for not liking that mean cat?!), and goes into a “helping” (read: Feminine) trade. But Prim is overwhelmingly a positive character in the movie and book, undermining Bob’s argument that all things “feminine” in the book are portrayed as evil.

  • Anonymous

    Even within District 12 there’s class stratification between the poorer Seam and the comparatively richer Town areas. When you add in the fact that, via the Hunger Games wiki: “People who live in the Seam also tend to look similar. Most people living in the Seam have black hair, olive skin, and gray eyes,” it does seem like race/ethnicity could be tied into that. At least that what I thought when I first read the book.

  • Laszlo

    No, the problem is not that the character is like that, it’s when the story seems to imply this is the only right way to be. I don’t know if that’s true about Hunger Games in particular, I’ve only seen the first movie.

  • Laszlo

    Yeah, and that’s the problem, that they choose to portray this stuff with pretty clothing and make-up and shit, traditionally “girly” things.

  • Faradn

    I think this guy means well, but he comes to weird conclusions sometimes. The Escapist is blocked at my work so I can’t link to it, but he has some convoluted apologia for the idea that Sucker Punch is feminist.

  • Alissa Knyazeva

    As a writer, I have seriously begun to wince when someone refers to my characters as “masculine” or “feminine”.

    My 6-foot tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, short-haired, tattooed super soldier and special operative is no less “feminine” than my little 4-foot-5 12-year-old girl who has a love affair with cute things and makes her own fancy dresses (she likes pink too, but only because it’s a tint of red – there’s no gendered colour-coding in her world). Why? Because they’re both women, both confident and comfortable in their womanhood. They’re not trying to be anything other than what they are – which is stoic, no-nonsense, courageous, curious, intelligent, empathetic (which woman has which traits? That’s unimportant). The reason they appear so different has nothing to do with “masculinity” or “femininity” and everything to do with their individual interests, preferences, and life-styles.

    Oh, yeah. The super soldier is also a mother and a wife who has a close, supportive relationship with her sister-in-law, and the 12-year-old girl is a genius inventor and budding star navigator who ends up exploring worlds that no one even knew existed, becoming a representative of the human race to a number of intelligent alien species (… not all at the age of 12 :) ).

    So if you want to sum up my characters as “masculine” or “feminine”, using whatever standards you pull out from god knows where, get a spread sheet ready. ‘Cause you’re going to be here for a long, loooong time.

    “Strong” isn’t a masculine characteristic, it’s a human characteristic. “Weak” isn’t a feminine characteristic, it’s a human characteristic. The fact that they got conflated is incredibly damaging and unfortunate, but they’re completely untrue, and I really, REALLY wish that anyone who identifies as feminist would stop using those designations. Katniss isn’t “masculine”. She’s “strong”. She’s strong – and feminine, because [though correct me if I'm wrong] she’s comfortable with her own interpretation of her own womanhood.

    Is it possible to code [what is perceived as] traditionally feminine things [to our modern sensibilities] as being bad, thereby making it a sexist [and likely homophobic] attack? Yes. But not everything that strays from traditionally feminine things (with all of the disclaimers) is an attack on womanhood. Believing it to BE an attack on womanhood when it’s simply exploring individual characters is just as bad as making one in the first place.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Yep, a quite and gentle nurturer and caregiver and the book even follows how Katniss, always adoring her sister, also realizes how strong she is.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    I remember the line from “Once More, with Feeling”"
    “Well, I’m not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots, but there’s definitely something unnatural
    going on here. And that doesn’t usually lead to hugs and puppies.”

    She kicks as in her stylish high heels. She doesn’t lose the ‘feminine markers’ as she becomes tougher and tougher. That’s the point. They’re not mutually exclusive.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    Growing up, I always had to explain myself for liking both “feminine” and “masculine” toys. I always just said “I grew up with boys,” to explain it, but that wasn’t exactly how I came to like the things I liked. I already liked certain things by the time my boy cousins came to live with us. In the 4th grade, my best friend liked the same toys and games and later on came to the realization that she was a lesbian. Everyone assumed I was one, too because she and I liked the same things–except for who we wanted to date. We were both called “tomboys” in school. There were a lot of “normative” things that we didn’t quite fit into then, but it seemed easier to explain it away as a “boy thing”.

  • Anonymous

    I just wanted to toss in here that in the second book and movie, we meet a female character who uses an axe to fight, which is a very brutal weapon, so thankfully it’s not all “lady with a bow” … I think bow may have been chosen because it’s more expected, yes, but it also allows for a lot of versatile story-telling moments (shooting to trigger bombs, shooting the apple in the pig, etc).

    In regard to the staff–it also has a bit of a tradition as being the go-to weapon for a woman in melee, and is often the ‘thinking person’ or even ‘gentle persons’ weapon. Especially for any monk or wizard characters. As you say, it’s not sharp or pointy or heavy–it’s a weapon only in how it’s used, so it’s not particularly aggressive visually. It’s often used in place of bladed weapons when a character specifically doesn’t want to kill anyone. It also has the longest reach of melee weapons, so it’s as far from close quarter combat as can be managed. Personally, I’d like to see more mace or sword-and-shield women.

  • KF

    Got you. Let’s hope for the Captain Marvel film becoming a reality then.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking in terms of the Hunger Games, I’ve always viewed the male trait/female trait tradeoff to be between Katniss and Peeta. There’s a great article at NPR about Peeta really being the “girlfriend” of the movie. And I would argue that the way the Hunger Games manages to reverse the expected gender roles of the leads without also constantly calling attention to it (as someone else noted, the “you fight like a girl” style lines) is one step we can take in the right direction.

    I hadn’t considered the Captiol as being feminine. I saw it strictly in terms of a retelling of the decadence (real or imaginary) of ancient Rome. The country is, after all, called Panem–as in panem et circenses. The drink guests are given so they can throw up to just then keep on eating I thought was a nod to the story of vomitoriums. And the games themselves being spectacle to keep the people in order, of course, is both like a gladiatorial event as well as referencing the tributes given to monsters in Greek/Roman myth.

    Now that I’ve seen this video, I do wonder. President Snow, after all, is clearly evil, sharply but conservatively dressed, and concerned with order and power. All typical male bad-guy things so far. The people of the Capitol who are bad are generally bad for being uncaring and hedonistic, chattering about fashion and food and cutting their hair in elaborate ways. But–our good guy, level-headed fashion-man Cinna is the most masculine-dressed male outside of the President. So…while I can still make the argument that it’s largely about over indulgence as a whole, I can’t dismiss what Bob said in this video about the male/female, good/bad gender identifiers, either.

  • Eisen

    Yeah, if you look at it that way, the people of the capital are more like brainless minions or… puppets. And Snow holds all the strings. Effie Trinket is the perfect symbol for that – I don’t know the books, but in the movies she doesn’t seem very bright or witty.

  • Anonymous

    The solution is to recognize it. There’s nothing inherently bad about writing a story where the characters fall into stereotypes. But if you are aware of the pitfalls, you can stop and look at your characters and decide if you’re writing them that way because you’ve fallen into the trap of sexism, or if that really is the right thing for the character. And if it is the right thing, then ask yourself if there is something you can do to make that character go beyond the stereotype.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the entire point of the video. He isn’t assigning those traits to specific genders. He’s saying that society does, which it does, and that it’s a bad thing. To you or to me, or to the author of the video, you are correct, hunting doesn’t make her masculine. But to society in general, hunting is still seen as a stereotypically masculine activity. And there are still plenty of people who subscribe to those traditional ways of thinking. Maybe not so much when talking about hunting, but if a guy says he likes wearing makeup, or shopping in the “pink aisle”, most people will think he’s weird.

  • Brett W

    I’d say that criticism of Batman isn’t very common. At least not in the circles I frequent. Also, it’s been established that even if Batman had never existed, all the villains would have turned out rotten anyway, just in different ways. And I wouldn’t say that rich people are unilaterally villainized. Batman is a hero because he uses his advantages to help others as both a superhero and a philanthropist. The same can be said of Tony Stark. it’s the privileged who abuse or exploit the less fortunate, like the Capitol or Lex Luthor, who are portrayed negatively.

  • Joanna

    Ah, good point! However, within the context of the story this character was probably the most destructive in battle – quite literally cracking skulls! She also wielded power which allowed her to manipulate earth and stone – a trait quite typically (at least pre-Last Airbender days) reserved for male characters. There was another female character that used a sword in battle but I didn’t find it as interesting as the bo-staff.

  • Joanna

    That’s really sad. A friend of mine deprived himself of Powerpuff Girls of all things because he was afraid his childhood peers would make fun of him. Fuck patriarchy!

  • Brett W

    But are these things really the essence of femininity? I think these things have become symbols of materialism and decadence because of their artifice or “fakeness”, not because of their girlyness. And this isn’t the only portrayal of evil in the Hunger Games. The female tributes from Districts 1 and 2 are just as tough as Katniss, not purely for the sake of survival, but because they enjoy killing. They are ruthless and cruel. And the film’s main villain, President Snow, is a cold manipulator and doesn’t seem to share the fashion sense of the Capitol citizenry. The overall impression is that the people of the Capitol are lazy, materialistic, arrogant, corrupt, weak, overindulging jerks- but they’re kept that way by President Snow’s regime – the real evil – so that they won’t become a threat by using their privileged position to help the less fortunate. The story isn’t as simple as girly = evil.

  • Laszlo

    Yeah, I’m not saying he’s right, but I can see his point.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    That’s true. Pink was considered a more masculine color particularly in the US until the last, what seventy years?

  • Brett W

    Personally, I’d rather the opposite happened. I have a distaste for make-up in particular, not because it’s feminine, but because it’s just… strange and fake looking.

  • http://unbornunicorn.wordpress.com/ Amanda Gun

    That’s what I’m saying, though, perhaps that wasn’t clear; that she’s “acting like a man” isn’t a good thing, but it is less bad than a “man acting like a woman”. A tomboy, for example, will be tolerated as she grows up, as long as she becomes appropriately feminine in time for her to settle down and have babies. A woman taking an interest in stereotypically manly things is seen as less threatening than a man taking an interest in stereotypically female things, i.e. you might hear a woman say “oh I just love drinking beer and watching sports with my boyfriend,” and be accepted in mainstream society, but the converse, a man saying “oh I love coming home after a long day of shopping and just pamper myself,” would likely be ridiculed.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’ve known some rather sexist homosexual men, and I’m pretty sure they were on this planet. And honestly, the thinking laid out above is probably more complex than reality. Homophobic men are only approving of lesbians if they think they’re hot; show them two women they find unattractive to see how they really feel. And they only approve of the “hot” lesbians because they honestly believe those women just need a good man to show them the way, leading to the fantasy of two women at once.

  • Brett W

    I’d like to bring up an unlikely example: The Chronicles of Narnia. Susan is an archer, but Lucy, arguably the most innocent, righteous, and heroic member of the group, her weapon is a knife. A KNIFE. The initial reaction might be “aww, isn’t that cute”- NO. To put things into proper perspective, knife fights are brutal, messy, scary, and dangerous. Ugly affairs, indeed. And because the weapon is smaller, the wielder has to be more aggressive than someone with a longer weapon. While we never actually see Lucy fight in the books, they do say that during her time as queen, she would lead wars alongside her brothers. Yes. Lucy rode *into battle* armed with a knife.

  • Anonymous

    I was RIGHT with him until he brought up the Hunger Games. It was like he had some sort of mental block about all of the wonderful and “feminine” characters there were. Peeta? Cinna? Prim? Hell, even Finnick with his undying affections for Annie. And more in Mockingjay which I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t read the books. But I don’t even like applying those terms to these characters because Masculine and Feminine don’t seem to apply to them. Collins created gender roles in her world that are so fluid so that masculinity and femininity can be applied and defined by whomever wears the label. And that’s the point this guy is missing. I can’t wait to discuss these books with my kids someday. But there are better masculianized women characters out there than Katniss Everdeen.

  • Charlie

    As a girl who hid inside my own mind and video games from my, often extremely violent, father I kind of ‘get’ Sucker Punch. I’m not saying it doesn’t have horrific problems but the overall idea of it kind of resonated with me.

  • Anonymous

    Feminism’s had a constant tug-of-war between the message of “women can ‘male’ stuff just as well as men can!” (often grouped with “there’s no real differences between the genders anyway”) and that of ” ‘female’ work and characteristics are at least as good as, and arguable better than, ‘male’ ones”.

    Emphasizing one in any given argument or any given piece of media tends to produce less emphasis on the other one. The “woman are good at male stuff” one certainly seems to have been the more prevalent one in most major feminist campaigns to get women the right to do ‘male’ things like vote, work outside the home, engage in promiscuous sex, fight in the military, and, now, be admired for pretending to kill people on film/TV.

    The second argument only seems to get a lot of prevalence when people are arguing for more female politicians – despite the fact that the most successful female politicians (e.g. Thatcher, Clinton) tend to be the ones who behave the most like their male peers – i.e. cold ambition, self-interest, and military adventurism.

  • Anonymous

    Feminism’s had a constant tug-of-war between the message of “women can ‘male’ stuff just as well as men can!” (often grouped with “there’s no real differences between the genders anyway”) and that of ” ‘female’ work and characteristics are at least as good as, and arguable better than, ‘male’ ones”.

    Emphasizing one in any given argument or any given piece of media tends to produce less emphasis on the other one. The “woman are good at male stuff” one certainly seems to have been the more prevalent one in most major feminist campaigns to get women the right to do ‘male’ things like vote, work outside the home, engage in promiscuous sex, fight in the military, and, now, be admired for pretending to kill people on film/TV.

    The second argument only seems to get a lot of prevalence when people are arguing for more female politicians – despite the fact that the most successful female politicians (e.g. Thatcher, Clinton) tend to be the ones who behave the most like their male peers – i.e. cold ambition, self-interest, and military adventurism.

  • Brett W

    You lost me at better than. xD

  • KF

    Having seen both films, I’m not sure that the films do that. (I haven’t read the books, so can’t comment on those.)

    In the both films, we seem to be encouraged to view Rue favorably, and she doesn’t seem to be “coded masculine” in any of the ways discussed here. Same with Prim, Katniss’ sister.

    In the second film, Johanna seems pretty emotional at times, and seems to like makeup. Mags (who is great) is very definitely not presented as “coded masculine.” Wiress, though we don’t spend much time with her, doesn’t seem to be depicted as “tough” in the sense people seem to be using here.

    It seems to me there are a variety of positive female presences in the films that are different, in one way or another, from Katniss in terms of “coded masculinity.”

  • Anonymous

    Well, if we’re taking about gender niches than Prim (& Rue, as someone brings up later, and even Peeta to some extent) fall into the Princess roles, the female characters that the hero is responsible for protecting.

  • Lien

    And he lost me entirely when he said that the most successful female politicians are the one who are “cold ambition, self-interest, and military adventurism”.
    Oh dear…

  • Brett W

    I think “Katherine” is a she.

  • Lien

    “She” she is then… still lost and confused.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe that, but I’ve heard plenty of arguments that politics would be a better place if there were more women in them because women are less inclined to violence, more inclined to listening, understanding, and negotiation, and more concerned about caring for others instead of their own personal ambition.

    I don’t think this is at all clear if you look at prominent female and male politicians. I think more women in politics is good because it means more people with an awareness of what it’s like to be female, but I don’t believe women are any more inherently virtuous than men. If there’s less things in history they’re guilty of, it’s because they’ve had less power than men and thus fewer opportunities to oppress others.

    And if you have counterexamples re: female politicians, I’d be glad to hear them. But the characteristics I’ve named tend to fit the most successful people in politics – male AND female.

  • Penny Dreadful

    Don’t agree at all – Capitol style is not “feminine”, it’s capitalist and empty. And Katniss is not so much masculine as a creature of her upbringing.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    I’ve met gay men who bleed pure misogyny.

  • http://unbornunicorn.wordpress.com/ Amanda Gun

    Yep! Gay people are, unfortunately, not exempt from sexism or homophobia. How many gay guys have you met that are “straight-acting,” whose Grindr profiles say “no fems :((((” and who go “omg if you just stop acting so gay it will be so much easier for the straights to tolerate us!!!!”?

  • ampersands

    That’s kind of an oversimplification of what he thinks about Sucker Punch, isn’t it? What I got from his video on it was that instead of being the outright male fantasy that it was derided for, it was an abject failure of an examination of male fantasies made more interesting because the failure made it seem like the fantasy it was trying to criticize.

  • Anonymous

    BlazeForDays brought it up, and it is definitely true. A straight dudebro homophobe will view gay men much more severely in comparison to lesbians — but only if they fit a mainstream beautified standard of “hot.” Because in these cases it falls under the umbrella of the straight dudebro fantasy of two women getting it on for their fantasy’s pleasure, becoming something they enjoy to see/consume. Two men together for said homophobe straight dudebro has no selfish/sexual/objectified/interest value for them, so it’s easier to be their true homophobic selves. Similarly, put two lesbians that are not that mainstream standard of beauty in front of them and it’ll most likely illicit similar homophobic disgust.

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me of Gabrielle from Xena. Her bo-staff days, before she became even more martial with sai.

  • Anonymous

    The amusing part of that is how violent Gabby became with the sai. Actually disarming swords and then hurling them into people, stabbing people with the sai like daggers with intent to assassinate/debilitate, etc. Methinks stabbing and impaling people bloodily in very upclose knife-like quarters is a lot more intimate and violent (visually) than blunt nunchucks. Hah. But still, I am happy with what we got and how ROC played it. So well.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, there is definitely a point. In video games, tv, and movies, if a woman needs to be in the fight, it is almost always with the go-to weapon of the bow. Archery. All these illustrations of how sleek and delicate it is, how much finesse they can show the character in, how they can dress and posture and pose and beautify the woman using this weapon out of the melee and messy fray of combat with her ranged and ‘less messy’/'less brutal’ weapon. It is something of a common cliche that I have really come to dislike in media (not archery + woman, just how it has come to be shown and dressed up in our media).

    But here’s the REAL of it: archery requires a LOT of strength (no, not Conan strength, but athletic strength and biceps; if one is truly curious look up bowhunting fitness or archery training muscles used) and control and stamina to wield. Even in today’s techy world of digital/easier-use bows, it still requires a lot. But in traditional fantasy settings, where it is just barebones weapon and person, then you better believe that person has some great upper body strength and stamina and reflexes and eyesight and endurance. Especially if they’re repeatedly showering the combat field with arrows in rapid succession. It’s one ironic aspect of this depiction of archery as something ‘easier’ or ‘less than’ or ‘more dainty for women’ that kills me. Because it requires a lot of strength and capability to master.