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Sydney White: What makes a ‘Good’ Woman?

Among other things, I watched Sydney White last night. I happen to love Amanda Bynes and had been pleasantly surprised by She’s the Man last fall, so I was totally ready for this one. A Snow White story with a twist – basically, Sydney White and the 7 dorks. Cute premise. Amanda did her part and it was a cute movie.

I watched the deleted scenes, and there was this annoying guy [the director] talking in between each of the scenes. That was enough to rankle a bit, but then I accidentally listened to some of what he was saying. He was talking about Sydney’s character development and how he wanted to make her accessible/friendly/a heroine/’one of the guys’. As he continued, it was clear that he was saying that tomboys and girls that hang out with guys or do stereotypically ‘guy’ things, are “cool” and “smart”. Girls that wear dresses and pink and want to be in sororities are, by contrast, not.

Then I started paying attention to the rest of what he was saying – basically, that in order for a girl/woman to gain his respect, she must take on the stereotypic attributes of a guy. And these attributes will still be “boyish”, though she exhibits them. Because “girlish” things are inconsequential/stupid.

How often do we see these messages repeated? Why is it that we’ve come no farther than this? Saying that smart/desirable/assertive women are like guys…because if they were like women they would necessarily NOT be smart/desirable/assertive. That’s idiotic.

The way the director was talking, I wondered if perhaps he was into dudes. Cuz, he was obviously making the film from a guy’s POV – so maybe he had to attribute so-called [what he believed were] male characteristics to the heroine in order to make her be likable. Yet, I’ve never met a gay guy that traded in such rich prejudice.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a tomboy. I think this was partly influenced by the well-meaning effort of my parents to raise us as feminists. You know – we were told we could be anything we wanted to be – do anything we wanted to do – and no one could say no, just cuz we were girls. Every time I got a doll, I got a toy car. My main toys were blocks and Tinker Toys. And then we got the motherlode of Weebles from another family that’d outgrown them. But I think one of the messages that I internalized was that being a girl was great – but being a girl that was more like a boy was even better.

Meanwhile, everyone else’s parents weren’t training their daughters the same way. I learned, once I started school, that I was very different from everyone else [for one reason or another] and maybe some of those differences made it easier for me to be accepted by boys. Or maybe my perceptions caused me to act in ways that I thought would be more acceptable to boys, because I subconsciously desired/valued their friendship more. I really don’t know. I’m just trying to work this out in my head.

I actually didn’t care about my clothes when I was a kid. I liked to read – a lot. And the girls I met in elementary school were already into gossip and ‘queen bees’ and all of that. I thought it was too much work to follow all the rules to attain “status”, so I just befriended the guys and the other girls that had been remanded to the outskirts of ‘girlstown’. And though I moved around a bit, the dynamics didn’t really change until I started working, ever.

At the same time that I knew hanging out with guys was cool [at least in my own mind], I wanted to fit in with the ‘popular’ girls. I could never get it right, though. I was am a dork. And that’s just the way it is. I’m actually cool with it now, cuz I like being who I am. And I think I’m at a place where I can appreciate myself, even if no one else does.

But I remember, I spent an awful lot of time trying to get people to like me. Trying to reconcile being unique and wanting to be ‘the same’. I never wanted to affirm stereotypes, but I wanted to belong to the group. No wonder I was so happy to spend time by myself.

I guess that’s why the director of this movie got on my nerves so much. It really resonates with me to hear that for some reason, we still associate negative stereotypes with girls and positive ones with boys. We still call girls who play sports/climb trees ‘tomboys’. We still get surprised when we hear of a girl who is good at science, math, or technology. To say that a girl is being ‘girly’ is not really a compliment. Or maybe it is, and I just never saw it that way. The implications always seemed to suggest that ‘girly’ things aren’t important.

So, what does make a ‘good’ woman? Does she have to be like a man in some way? And what in the world does ‘like a man’ mean, anyway? If a woman does something, isn’t she doing it like herself – a woman? Unless, perhaps, she’s in drag?

Were I to list the things that I want to be, I would list traits and abilities that I want to have like – intelligence, the ability to change a tire, the skill to deliver a well-placed uppercut (if necessary), the ability to cook a well-balanced meal, beauty, a sense of style, …and I could go on and on. But why should any of those traits be classified as belonging to one gender over another? What single person shouldn’t have all of these at their disposal [be they male or female]?

Well, there ya go – I’m all talked out, and the spark was a teen/family movie that didn’t even do that well. All the same, I still liked the movie – I love Amanda Bynes. The director is..another story.

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6 thoughts on “Sydney White: What makes a ‘Good’ Woman?

  1. Three things this society values in a person are: beauty, intelligence, and talent. For some reason, there are men who don’t think girls can have ALL THREE, and when there is a girl who does have all three, they freak out and get all surprised and start running in circles and jump around AS IF they have found something particularly special. I don’t see it this way because there are all those things inside everyone; even if they are not the stereotypical talent, aesthetic, knowledge, that this society has come to expect. Who ever belives that intelligence only belongs to men is a complete fool.

  2. Let me take some of what I said back, is that okay with you? Now that I think about it, and I’m sure you’ve thought about it, people are generally stupid (not specifically, mind you) and you and I must not forget that because if we think everyone is smart, then we will end up with disappointment and utter exasperation (at least that has happened to me!).

    Here’s something to think about: that director is not exactly being sexist because MAYBE he knows what people out there expect. Movies like that exude stereotypes. Possibly, he is married to a lovely lady who is beautiful AND smart. He just knows that a large part of this society contains a sexist attitude toward what a girl has to do to be friends with guys.

    Another thing: Do you see guys in cliques? I haven’t. I see that as a GIRL thing…to exclude other girls so they can feel important. Guys don’t usually concentrate so hard on being accepted relationally. I see it as…guys have their interests, and if you or I have the same interest, then by all means, you’re in.

    Disclamer: I am emotionally charged when it comes to feminist issues and I try to balance that with asking questions that go the opposite of how I feel about a situation. I could very well be wrong about my 3rd paragraph because I myself have not felt entirely comfortable being friends with guys and therefore do not know what it is like to be in their world.

  3. If a girl is comfortable with herself (not matter WHAT kind of person she is), then a guy is comfortable. Would you say that statement is true or sometimes true? It would be nice if the media would embrace honesty.

  4. I don’t know about the clique thing being a girl thing. I remember being in a school with very defined girl cliques, and the guys had fairly defined groups, as well. The groups were delineated according to popularity and status for both the guys and the girls. [I feel a post coming on — I’ll have to talk about this more later.]

    As for being comfortable with yourself, I think that’s something that makes other people comfortable around you regardless of gender…unless, of course, you’re comfortable being a jerk.

  5. Guys do have cliques. My ex and his friends had a clique in college they called FBI and they all hung out in front of one of the dorms during classes. I used to hate having to walk past them. Some of the guys were nice but several were involved in cock blocking to prevent me from dating new guys. They’d tell a guy who my ex was and once one of them cut in when I was dancing with a white guy. I’m sure my ex joining this clique and becoming Mr. Popular contributed to the demise of our relationship. In college the guys gossiped more than the girls.

  6. I admit that I consider being emotional to be a weakness which is why I work so hard to hide how sensitive and easily hurt I am. I was never athletic. I was the shy quiet delicate type. I’ve even had other women describe me as delicate and feminine. Around the age of 9 I became a raving feminist. Mostly due to books I’d been reading. My mother was relieved because she believed it would help me stand up for myself.

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