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.