The topic of feminism has become a somehow both slippery and sticky slope, and a topic many people avoid discussing because of the contention surrounding it. There have been numerous iterations of feminism, from early renaissance feminism, to the women’s suffrage movement, to the “third-wave” feminism of the 90s. Now, it seems “woke feminism” is a thing, and some people have a lot to say about it.
The following video on the channel Baggage Claim argues that the Woke representation of women in film is extremely problematic. We’re presented with a number of contemporary female protagonists who, the videos creator believes are unrelatable or just plain bad. She lists a number of female heroes that she likes, and a whole bunch she doesn’t. Personally, I find much of her rationalization arbitrary, and involving a fair bit of cherry-picking.
Now, I don’t completely disagree with her. She raises a valid point that women who kick butt often only manage to do so because they have some kind of magic powers that the rest of us normies couldn’t possibly relate to. It’s cringey that many female leads, it is implied, may not have been able to do so without this fantastical leg up. And yet, to say that this is always the case would be to ignore many emerging female narratives and characters, as well as the creators behind them – “woke feminist” or otherwise.
In this video, the female heroes that are praised are seemingly chosen at random.This may be an unpopular opinion, but I happen to think that the first AND second Wonder Woman films were garbage; and the only reason anyone watched them is because Gal Gadot is smoking hot.
But then also, she’s half naked and so remains a sexual object and the object of the decidedly unfeminist male gaze (especially considering the fact that viewers of superhero movies are predominantly male, and that is true among all racial groups) … how was that fact overlooked in the making of this video?
On the other hand Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey (one of the female protagonists she criticises) is fully clothed and still reclaiming power by being her own character independent of any male role she’s stolen. And she’s not at all magical, so… where’s her credit?
Additionally, I think the creator of this video is a bit harsh about the way women are reclaiming power by taking “what other people created” … um… like men have for millennia. Perhaps it says more about human nature that that’s how we react to oppression than it does about feminism.
I also feel like hating on women for doing feminism “wrong” is just as much a token of woke-feminism as everything she attacks in her video, making her, in my book, something of a woke feminist too.
Yes, there’s still much to be done in order to advance equality both on and off screen. It’s important to remember that the battle for gender equality is not the only one we’re fighting, but that we need to take a more intersectional approach which includes all marginalized groups. Each person, depending on their own experience, may feel it appropriate to reclaim some of the power that’s been withheld from them, and why is that not okay?
I also agree that the “self-entitled” and “self aggrandizing” behaviour of some women in contemporary cinema, as this video’s creator refers to it, may not be the most helpful approach. Yes, it can come across as abrasive and make one seem unlikeable, but not all of us feel the need to be likeable all the time. In fact, as women, people pleasing has been so ingrained into us that it’s a quality many of us need to actively work against.
As for myself, someone who finds no joy in conflict, the tactic of behaving “as a man would” and vocally disparaging everyone of the male persuasion around me may not be my approach, but who’s to say that in some settings that’s not a perfectly valid response to being treated as inferior in the past.
Ultimately, women are people first and, even if some of us loathe to admit it, so are men. Criticising other women for trying to take back their power by making use of the tactics men have used for eons doesn’t seem like a constructive way to build an equal society.
So what I’m trying to say is, if filmmakers want to adopt a woke feminist approach in the art they create, they should do so. Just as if you want to adopt a woke feminist approach, you should do so. Or if that’s not your thing, don’t bother. Isn’t the whole point that we should be able to do what suits us in the same way that men have been able to for centuries?
But then again, I would LOVE to be a trophy wife who stays home and practices cake decorating, so what the hell do I know?