Occasionally, on this site, we will discuss social and cultural issues, as this webzine’s purpose is to introduce and discuss aspects of Popular Culture. As such, the writers on this site will discuss many topics, but we may not always have room to give each topic its due within the space of the article. “What am I Talking About?” is a column meant to address that problem (so many words, so little space). In this column we will define and discuss concepts and ideas relating to Popular Culture.
Feminism, simply put, is the idea that men and women are equals and therefore should have equal rights. Feminists want to be treated fairly in the workplace from promotions to pay to everyday treatment by their coworkers. Feminists want the right to choose if they go to work, get married and have children, or do both. Feminists care about women’s health, women’s voices, and women’s safety. They seek to raise women up to an equal standing with men, not to overtake them.
That’s How Words Work
And before you say, “I prefer to consider myself a humanist,” stop. That’s a different term altogether. Let’s not be confusing.
As Literary Criticism
So what is feminism in literature? Feminist criticism looks at works through the lens of feminist ideals and issues. Feminism as a literary criticism examines the roles of women and the issues that are inherently tied-in with female oppression, including abuse, rape, discrimination, etc. It seeks to explore the ways in which literature enforces a male-dominated society. It looks at the exclusion of women from literary canon.
When we use feminist criticism on Pop Culture Primer, we’ll be looking at gender representation and the implications of those media. To be clear: noticing poor representation of women in media does not imply that the creator is an evil misogynist. Asking for better representation of women is not asking for all female characters to be strong and infallible (that would be boring and one-dimensional). Asking for better representation does not mean anyone wants to tear down all of the action movies and games you know and love. It just means that we think creators of media can do better than fall back on lazy tropes and flat characters. In no way does feminist criticism say that one work on its own is evil and bad (unless, of course, it’s heavy-handed and intentional in its negative portrayal of women). Instead it looks at each work as a piece of a collective puzzle that, as a culture, enforces a male dominant society.
What Feminism is Not
The word feminism has become a dirty word, and it shouldn’t be. Feminism is and has always been a very simple concept: the idea that men and women are equals and should be treated as such. Just like with any religion or political movement, there are lunatic fringes, but those fringes have been spotlighted by those who would like to halt the progress of feminism. It suits their purposes to dress that sliver demographic up as the entire movement. In fact, such groups have gone as far as creating sock-puppet accounts online to taint the image.
But here’s the deal. If you believe in the equality of men and women, you are a feminist. And not using the term only surrenders it to the propaganda of a few sick individuals. We wouldn’t let those angry, unstable people write Webster’s Dictionary, and we shouldn’t let them rewrite our terms.
To look at a work and confuse its views (intentional or unintentional) with the views of the creator would be an error. To assume the speaker is the same as the author would be an error. Likewise, to look at criticism of a work and assume that it is criticism of the creator as a human being would be an error.
And believe me when I say, it’s not just male creators who can benefit from feminist criticism of their work. I’m looking at you, E.L. James.