Life got busy for me early on this year, and I fell behind reading your blog. But now that school’s started back up again, I’ve been able to catch up by reading back through the archives during my more boring lectures.
So I’ve got a couple of questions. Well…. honestly, I have a couple hundred questions I could ask you. But I’ll limit myself to two that came to me from a blog you wrote back in April.
You talked about going to see Cabin in the Woods. And in that blog you said:
“My plan is to go see it, preferably in the company of an attractive, easily startled young woman. That way, when the movie gets scary, she will cling to me desperately for comfort.”
This struck me as a little odd. In you’re biography, you describe yourself as a feminist. That doesn’t seem like a feminist sort of thing to say.
I’m not trying to pick a fight here, honest. I’m genuinely curious. One of my favorite things about your books is how you handle your female characters. They’re strong and smart and… well…. kinda real. They’re not generic stereotypes and helpless maids in need of saving. They’re not cliche.
So my questions are these:
1. Was Cabin in the Woods any good?
2. How do you reconcile being a feminist and at the same time wanting to have pretty young girls cling to you for comfort?
Sorry this e-mail is a long one. And I understand if you don’t have time to answer it. I know you’re busy.
* * *
Okay. First off Alanna, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog in class. I am a former teacher, you realize. I can’t condone that sort of behavior.
Second off, while I am busy. (So busy.) I enjoy answering questions like this. Especially when it gives me a chance to talk about two things I enjoy: Feminism and Joss Whedon.
- 1. Was The Cabin in the Woods good?
It was was so, s0 good.
How good? Honestly, I think I enjoyed it more than the Avengers. And I enjoyed the hell out of the Avengers….
It was so good that I bought the DVD just a couple days after it came out and watched it with my friends when they’d come to visit. I think it’s the first time in two years that I’ve done that. (Have I mentioned the whole so busy thing? Yeah. I’m that busy.)
Don’t worry about it being your typical cliche horror movie. Joss Whedon is way too smart for that. And he does a good job with female characters too, in my opinion.
- 2. How can I consider myself a feminist and still want women to cling to me?
Okay. Here we go.
First off, we have to leave aside a huge, in-depth discussion of what, specifically, feminism is. Because that’s a big, big topic. It’s a whole book’s worth, let alone a blog.
Suffice it to say that there are roughly as many types of feminism as there are feminists.
Which means it’s really complicated. And believe me, it leads to some really interesting discussions when feminists get together and talk.
(And I’m not being catty when I say that. Yeah sure. Sometimes when feminists get together they fight like Paglia and Steinem. But most of the time when I’ve gotten together with other like-minded folks to discuss the nature of feminism, the conversations have been rewarding and enlightening.)
If I were asked for a very general, simple definition of feminism….
Well, honestly, if someone asked me that, I’d probably avoid the question. Partly because I’d suspect them of wanting to start a fight, and also because because there is no simple definition. As I’ve said, it’s a pretty complicated thing.
But if I were pressed for a definition, I’d say something like this:
1. Feminism is the belief that women are as worth as much as men.
1a. (Corollary) This means women should be treated as fairly as men.
1b. (Corollary) This means women should be respected as much as men.
1c. (Corollary) This means women should have the same rights as men.
1d. (Corollary) Etc etc.
2. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re women.
2a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re men.
3. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re women.
3a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re men.
As an example:
#2 up there means that (to pick a trivial example) ladies shouldn’t feel obliged to shave their armpits just because of some fucked up societal pressures that started due to marketing campaigns back in 1915.
#3 means that if you *want* to shave your pits, that’s cool too. It’s not like you’re letting down all of womankind if you do.
A more serious example of this relates to raising kids.
#2 means that women shouldn’t feel obliged to be stay-at-home moms.
#3 means that if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, and it makes you happy, then you should feel free to do that. It doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist, and it doesn’t mean you’re an Uncle Tom. (Or an Aunt Tommasina, or whatever.)
The key, in my opinion, is that people in general (and women in particular) shouldn’t feel obliged to do things due to pointless, bullshitty cultural constraints. Including (and here’s where #3 comes into effect big time) the cultural constraints put on them by other feminists with differing viewpoints.
Other folks have different opinions. And there’s more to it than that, of course. I could go on and on. But this isn’t really the place for it, as your question relates mostly to how I reconcile my being a feminist with a sentiment that, to put it plainly, reeks of machismo.
My justification comes from 2a and 3a.
2a means that I don’t *have* to act like a big testosterone-y alpha-male protector of the wimmins.
3a means that, if I feel like it, I can indulge myself and play the part of the manly protector. If (and this is key) I’m not a dick about it.
Here’s the thing: It feels good to be a big tough protector sometimes. Other times it feels good being protected.
It’s like when you’re spooning. Sometimes you’re the big spoon, sometimes you’re the little spoon. They both can be nice.
Here’s the problem: there are precious few chances to be a big tough protector in our civilized society. And honestly, that’s a good thing.
But watching a scary movie, that’s different. When I’m sitting in the dark theater, and the woman sitting next to me screams and grabs at me, her fingernails digging into my chest. Sorry. My broad, *manly* chest. It fills a deep-seated gorilla-type need to occasionally feel like a big damn heroic protector.
Now I’m not saying that’s now I’d like to live my whole life, but that’s one of the best thing about horror movies – they’re not real life. They’re like emotional cardio. They give us the chance to be terrified in a consequence-free environment.
That’s the joy of all fiction, really: you get the benefit of experiencing something without the burden of having to actually experience it.
I know this because I went to see the original Scream with two pretty young women back in the day. They sat on either side of me, and I got it in stereo. Simply put, it was awesome. They both grabbed me at the same time, one of them hiding her face in my shoulder. And at that moment, I felt like Batman, Malcom Reynolds, and the next avatar of Krishna all rolled up into one.
Part of me, the educated feminist part, feels like I should be apologetic for this. Like I should feel guilty about it.
But you know what? I’m really not. No one is harmed by this behavior.
So there you go, Alanna. I hope you like your answer. It got way longer than I’d planned. But isn’t that always just the way of things…
One last thing before I sign off. Let’s be civilized persons here in the comments, okay? That means polite discourse. You can disagree with me or other folks expressing opinions, but let’s not be dicks about it.
Fair warning: undue assholery from any corner will be viewed with extreme scorn.