How one series of books in particular helped me not to be a sexist pig.

Posted: May 23, 2015 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

I finally managed to see Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday.  I always try to avoid anything that creates controversy until it has all blown over, so it won’t influence my experience at all.  I waited forever to start reading Harry Potter, I will probably never read 50 Shades of Gray.  When a bunch of people go all homo sapiens on something, it just kind of makes me feel ick and I avoid it.  I want my fiction untainted by a bunch of other people getting there first and making it about something stupid.  So you have probably heard something about this Mad Max and the emasculation of action movies stuff recently.  Naturally I was nervous going in and waited as long as I could.  I’m a huge Mad Max fan though and that wasn’t very long.

So I sat there for two hours and was like “Huh?”  Let me rephrase that; I sat there for two hours and was like “I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!” but as to the challenging of my role as a man I was like “Huh?”  I did not for one moment feel threatened by this movie or understand how it could be threatening.  I mean, I was expecting Imperator Furiosa to grow a penis and declare men obsolete or something from the nonsense I tried to scroll past online.  Yes, there are some women who do some badass things in this movie.  Have you seen the other Mad Max films?  Pretty much all the women kick ass.  Arguably the least badass female character was Jessie (Max’ wife), who was pretty badass and only didn’t kick the shit out of the Toecutter because she was completely unarmed and holding her child, so she wisely attempted to run.  Maybe people just forgot, because the 80s were so long ago and the 6′ warrior women of films like Conan, James Bond and Mad Max were replaced with the tiny weaklings of today.

Sometimes I have to take a position that is hard to defend, in this case I feel like the white guy who “doesn’t see color”.  Let me tell you a little story that is both humbling for me and explains the merit of my views.  When I was 7 or 8 years old, I slapped a girl at school.  Now, before you assume I watched abuse at home or something, hear me out.  I slapped her while we were in the midst of a pushing, slapping, scratching and hair-pulling fight.  It was hardcore kid fighting and I was not fighting in a manly manner by any means myself.  It was over some unsolvable issue like who got the kickball and escalated quickly.  So I ended up in the principal’s office, because hitting girls is not okay.  Now you must understand, I was raised in a crop of wild children from a line of wild children.  My cousin Catherine, my brother Dustin and I would fight frequently and with great savagery.  So naturally my question was “Why?”  The principal responded that it was because girls were weaker and could not defend themselves.

Being raised as a critical thinker, I examined the evidence.  Most girls were at least as big as I was at this age and showed no lack of ability to defend themselves.  Also I was almost certain that my mom could beat this guy up in no time flat, but I didn’t think that would be wise to list as evidence.  So I decided to play it safe and take the “Are you sure?  Because what you’re saying doesn’t really make sense to me.”  This was not going well.  He assumed that I must live in some terrible environment of abuse where this sort of thing seemed normal to me.  So the parents had to come in.  Meet my parents: both educated, personable and well adjusted people who do not come off as physically violent at all.  My father is a park ranger and my mother is a senior activity center manager and teaches powerlifting and Tai Chi to senior citizens.  Hmm, guess not, so just scare them into giving me a good talking to.  So this was where I first got the explanation that this was not acceptable behavior.  I don’t think my parents even seconded the ‘women are weak’ part, it must have rankled them too much, but they said I just couldn’t do it.  If some of you suffered under sexist parents and are crying right now because my parents are amazing, I know.

Now let me tell you what they did teach me before this point.  My mother read to me constantly before I started reading myself.  The Lord of the Rings and Narnia were a must, so I got Eowyn slaying the Witch King before I was reading See Spot Run?  One of the first series I read myself was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.  You may have seen the Disney version of the second book, The Black Cauldron.  Let me sum up the Prydain chronicles in a few sentences:  Taran, the boy, wants to be a hero and impress Elonwy, the girl.  He spends a lot of time and effort trying to do this and Elonwy is constantly like “yeah no time for that, gotta save the kingdom”.  At the very end, Taran finally feels like he’s done enough badass things to humbly ask Elonwy to marry him, even though she is a princess and he is a peasant.  Her response is pretty much this: “I’m a princess with magical fucking powers.  I can marry whoever I want to.  You are the only dude I have hung out with since I was 10 years old, of course you have to marry me.  Is this really what you’ve been doing this entire series?”  The End.

That is what I was raised to believe.  Individual worth has nothing to do with your gender, what you look like or what aptitudes and disadvantages you are born with.  It’s about what you do and how much you dare.  Women have less average body mass and natural testosterone than men.  That may be a fact.  That means absolutely jack-all when it comes to fighting ability, firearms proficiency, driving skill, tactical understanding or heroic behavior.  Sure, maybe we can think of some situation where an action hero is trapped under something and the thing she needs is right out of reach, if she were only a man with longer arms she could reach it.  I would also assume she had been that size her entire life and would have learned to improvise tools better than an average person to make up for this disadvantage.  That’s how life works.  The driven and ambitious people become more capable than the rest through acquisition of skills and training that make them capable.  Look at a photo of some special forces troops.  There are a lot of small guys there aren’t there?  Some even as short as an average woman.  One could almost argue that size disadvantages motivate one even more to overcome physical obstacles.  If it were me, it would be because I never wanted to fear anyone for being larger, but I’m average in size and can’t truly empathize.

You may have noticed that throughout this article, most others you will read and the Mad Max movie itself, you will see no mention of the fact that Furiosa is also missing an arm.  I like to think of her missing arm as a metaphor for the gender representation in the movie.  It’s not an issue to the plot and it shouldn’t be an issue to us.  If a person with one arm can thrive in an apocalyptic wasteland, doesn’t asking if a woman can seem utterly ridiculous?

  1. L says:

    After reading this, all I can think is: Marry me.

    Seriously, though, this is such an insightful and well-written post. You’re absolutely correct.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Thank you very much! I am flattered by both your facetious marriage proposal and your serious compliments. I had to re-read the article to remember what I was being complimented on. I write these in a fugue state generally and get up afterwards missing an hour or so. Find myself sitting on the floor playing Skies of Arcadia and eating Captain Crunch with no idea why.

      Sincerely thanks though. As I often do when I lose the will to write freely for free, I was thinking of shutting down the b-b-b-blog. That someone is gaining something from these articles besides jpegs to steal, is incentive to keep writing.

      • L says:

        Oh, please don’t shut the blog down. Your style, your dry humour, and your excellent writing… I mean, really. Re-reading the article makes me want to reiterate my marriage proposal. Seriously, this was your first article (of many now, actually) that I read, and I was blown away. I’ve never come across a blog site that is so justified in its sarcasm- and is so correct at the same time. The universe needs more people like you.

        I’m also glad my comment encouraged you. Definitely keep writing- you’re saying everything that the world needs to hear- and I’ll continue to lurk on your posts in silent support.

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