I Love Anti-Feminist Fiction

I’m a feminist, and I love anti-feminist fiction. The television shows I watch and the books I read are rarely politically correct, and none of my favorites would pass the Bechdel Test. And yet I keep ignoring how much they perpetuate female, minority, and LGBTQIA stereotypes. Because they’re just that good.

I’m not saying that feminist, minority- and LGBTQIA-supportive fiction that passes the Bechdel Test can’t be good. But for the most part, it doesn’t exist, and when it does, it either gets so bogged down in political correctness it isn’t interesting enough to sustain itself or it is written off entirely. Take for instance, Doubt, a new legal drama that centered on television’s first openly-trans woman (Laverne Cox), another successful female attorney, and an equally-successful black man. A feminist, minority-supportive television show that normalizes trans women should have been an instant success, especially among millennials. Instead, the show was cancelled after just two episodes after receiving an abnormally low rating of 0.6. Despite an amazing number of nominations for films starring and produced by people of color at the OSCARS this year, 18 out of 24 of the award categories were awarded to white people, with people of color taking home only 6 Academy Awards.

Meanwhile, shows like NCIS (one of my personal favorites), The Big Bang Theory, and Grey’s Anatomy, and films like La La Land and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, which largely focus on straight, white, cisgender males, have skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

While most of these shows and books don’t explicitly subjugate women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people, and in some cases even seem to promote their causes, none of them manage to be entirely politically correct, and all of them, in some way, shape, or form, end up either dictating what minority groups and women should be, treating us as objects, or failing to include us in the narrative entirely.

Recently, our society seems to be moving closer and closer to an ideal that resembles one of the early 1900s, with the rise of white nationalism and dictator-like leaders in democracies across the globe. Art is a reflection of our society, and all indications seem to say that we will be plunging further and further into the chasm of erasure in terms of the legal rights of minority groups and independent women. Yet our society is also shaped by the art we consume. What does it say when our award-winners and our popular favorites only feature a world of white, straight, cisgender males?

Jennifer Weiner of The New York Times recently wrote an article in which she attributes the rise of Trump to the popularity of reality television shows such as “The Bachelor.” Perhaps, she says, if we’d been less obsessed with white-exclusive reality TV, we wouldn’t have Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and, to a lesser extent, Theresa May. George Clooney made a similar point in his acceptance speech for his Cesar d’honneur: “The actions of this president have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”

I’m an intersectional feminist. Should I feel guilty for loving anti-feminist fiction? Perhaps our next president will tell.

9 responses to “I Love Anti-Feminist Fiction

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  2. Hmm, this is super interesting! I admit a lot of my favourite shows/books can be super anti-feminist, but it still bothers me. And I think it’s good that it bothers me? I don’t ever want to get to the stage where I give up or just accept that this is how it is. i go out of my way to support diversity and hope that the world catches up! I think Trump is super bad news, but unfortunately he is not the sole thing to blame for the world being the way it is. 😭
    A very interesting post!

    • It’s great that you support diversity and notice the lack of diversity in books. But if we continue to consume books without diversity–even if we acknowledge problems with the lack of adversity–are we really making any difference? It’s an interesting question, and in Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco seems to say that internal dissent doesn’t matter if we don’t say something and protest on the outside. Ethical consumption says that we can change the world with how we spend our money, but can we really? Unless everyone who is against anti-feminist fiction, racism, and lack of inclusion stops buying books that only feature white cis straight characters, does individual ethical consumption really make a difference? I know you read a TON of diverse books so this is a GIANT TANGENT, but there are so many questions to answer and I don’t know if there are any right answers in a real-world context.

  3. Great post! The consumer does drive the market. Now the question is what are we not going to watch or read because of it’s lack of intersectionality and what are we going to watch/read instead. Shows like Underground–amazing. Or movies like Get Out–my favorite move of 2017. Or books like The Reader by Traci Chee–I can’t wait for book two. Also what you wrote reminds me of this article by Grisel Y. Acosta. It is a few years old now, but this part of it has stayed with me since then. “We’d like to imagine that racism is only created with extreme acts, like bombs or chains. The truth is racism begins in our imagination. It begins with our stories. It begins with how we perceive others, how we depict them, how we imagine them to be, and what we can imagine for them. If we are to create a different world, we must first imagine it. That starts with actually seeing people and representing them accurately in the spaces they occupy, even the imagined ones on film.”http://www.salon.com/2015/02/22/racism_begins_in_our_imagination_how_the_overwhelming_whiteness_of_boyhood_feeds_dangerous_hollywood_myths/

    • There are so many films/books without diversity that people–including me–are now hooked on that I’m not even sure that it’s possible to reach a point where liberals/intersectional feminists reject ALL forms of media that don’t include diversity. I can’t imagine not watching NCIS and The West Wing or not loving Harry Potter. They’re my favorite shows and books, but unfortunately happen to have all-white, nearly all-male casts which I don’t like but can’t get rid of. I guess my point is that there are always going to be excuses, and unless consumers start showing a major shift towards diverse fiction, participating in ethical consumerism, it’s going to be impossible to imagine fictional worlds where diversity is reality.

      • If we can imagine a world with Diagon alley we can imagine one where diversity is real. Harry Potter for its time was very diverse. It had a boy with glasses as its hero–that, believe me, was huge at the time in the UK. It had a smart female side kick who didn’t need to be rescued by a boy–wow. There were characters that weren’t white–again at the time this was incredible. And after the whole world had fallen in love with it, Rowling told us Dumbledore was gay–brilliant. My point being that we have come a long way in our expectations for diversity. And thank goodness we have. And keep expecting more. The original Power Rangers series was consider very diverse for it’s time. The new movie did better. The people who write these shows remember when a hero with glasses and a heroine who wasn’t blond were a huge step forward. Expect more from them. Demand it. Find other shows/movies/books to love, too.

        • *applause* I grew up with Harry Potter, so it never seemed diverse to me. But I love the point you’re making. Perhaps we have the wrong approach. I’ve found that a lot of new books and TV shows that are diverse are a little too self-congratulatory. Like in Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which features gay romance, a character says something like, “Girls should live lives that pass the Bechedel test.” This focus on diversity–as opposed to good storytelling–serves to not only interrupt the natural flow of the dialogue but also to set “diverse” stories apart from “normal” non-diverse stories. I’ve never seen Harry Potter as diverse, but I have seen it as a good story. Maybe in a way this focus on diversity that is marketed as diversity is moving us in the opposite direction. Perhaps we need to stop obsessing over diversity and instead demand good stories that just happen to reflect the real world.

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