Women in Combat

The ban on women fighting in combat has been lifted. By 2016 women will be allowed in combat on the front lines and a lot of feminists would say “huzzah” this feminist, however, is not. I don’t agree that women should be on the front lines—not because they are women but because there are things that need to happen on the front lines that the female body as a whole cannot do. That is not to say that some women can’t meet the requirements—of course they can. My concern is that those requirements will be lessened in the interest of appearing “equal”.
Hand grenades have to be thrown 15 meters. They have to. If they are not they can kill the person that threw it or anyone around them. I can’t throw 15 meters, I can throw a spiral and I’ve got what’s been called a “cannon” of an arm—but I can’t throw as far as my dude…my physicality isn’t made the same way. Again, some women will be able to throw that far, some woman can bench more than men, so some women are fit but all women are not and to open those flood gates endanger lives.
Apart from the strength and distance requirements there are the mental requirements. I was brought up by a marine. There is a code: unit, corp, God, country. That’s not just a line from a movie that is a real code that they live by. Your unit is more important than your family—it transcends a family—your unit is an extension of yourself and I’m sorry but some men in the military do not respect women. That will probably never change. Even if it did, men of other cultures do not respect women and to see a woman in an infantry would make her a major target. Much like when Prince Harry wasn’t allowed to fight on the front lines because it would put his unit in danger. People would target HIM and therefore his unit would be targeted. A woman in an infantry puts her unit in a spotlight—not what you want during combat.
There is also cohesion in a unit. This goes back to men not respecting women in the military (rent The Invisible War or read my review to see how much respect we get). You are told to protect the person to your left and your right—but if you hate the person on your right you will not protect them, you may put them in danger and that puts the rest of the unit in danger. Furthermore—what if you get a little crush? Now you’re focused on protecting her at all costs and not following orders. It’s too complicated, it’s too risky.
My point is—there is a ripple effect to this that no one wants to talk about because it’s wrong. It’s so wrong! A woman should be allowed to have any job she wants in the military in theory, but in reality it’s dangerous. Until society can wrap their heads around women being “people” and not the “weaker sex” or “made from man” than, in my opinion, it’s far too dangerous to move forward with this. I’d rather my military be focused on the job at hand and not on the elephant in the room aka “the girl in the unit”.



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Writing Female Characters

Katniss Everdeen and Clary Fray, two strong female protagonists in Young Adult fiction who are written with depth. They can be identifiably strong characters without losing their female identity.

I am a writer. And I don’t just mean that I write for Zelda Lily. I do (and I love it), but I have also been writing, for fun, since I was in seventh grade (I’m not published yet because I’m a perfectionist who is afraid of rejection and/or I am like that Jimmy Neutron villain who was voiced by Tim Curry who was a brilliant inventor but was never able to actually finish anything that he wrote). Honestly, writing science fiction or fantasy is, for me, basically the exact same process as playing with action figures or LEGOS was when I was in elementary school. You had to plan the characters and the storyline and the setting (I had this “grand unified concept” that made all of my LEGOS fit into the same setting) and, honestly, the tactile part in which my friends and I acted out the story was almost secondary.

So, I end up reading a lot of stuff about advice for writers. Some of it is terrible advice (anything from that wretched Hemingway*), other things are pieces of advice that are great for people who are not me (“write out in public” is rarely good advice for getting actual work done, and it would be even worse for an introvert with an anxiety disorder). But, a lot of the time, I run across specific advice on “how to write female characters.”

And we do live in a world in which male protagonists are so commonplace that you never find a female author being advised that “Oh, men don’t think that way.” At the risk of sounding sexist, it seems that women know how to write male protagonists a lot better than some men know how to write female protagonists.

This is a problem, and not just for writers. Young Adult (and adult) fiction is filled with male and female protagonists who serve as more than just an escape for young people—they are role models and fictional friends. Fictional characters experience their own worlds for the reader and are valuable teachers. It’s important that people get things right. For example, I might make certain that my child is well-insulated before exposing him or her to the misogyny and homophobia in, say, Stranger In A Strange Land.

The most basic source of confusion for male writers with female protagonists might be anatomical. That is probably the most understandable. And also a problem for me (my exposure to naked women is strictly at parties—I have to ask a female friend whether or not a specific action scene would go as I wrote it or if they would be flashing their attackers in the process). Sometimes, I have to ask a female friend how a particular garment or fabric feels, just to that I can write how my female character feels. Details of anatomy, wardrobe, and hygiene are completely understandably outside of the scope of the average male’s knowledge (and especially outside of the range of a gay man’s knowledge. Manscaping is not the same thing as shaving, though honestly I’ve never written anything that featured a character doing either).

But I think that it is less excusable but possibly more widespread (particularly in fanfiction) for female characters to be written in either traditional, misogynistic roles (such as “ideal sexual partner for the male protagonist”) or “written exactly like a male character.”

What does that last thing mean? It means that, for some writers, to take a female character outside of the realm of the “maiden in distress” or “femme fatale” archetypes, they need to make her into a tomboy. I’m all for making female characters tough-as-nails badasses, but they don’t need to belch publicly or start tavern brawls to be strong characters. (You can have a character like that—don’t get me wrong. But a strong female character does not have to be like that, even if she is a traveling warrior or an undercover space-warden or whatever you like)

I find “writer tips” that give this advice (in one form or another) all of the time. But, after agreeing with them, my next thought is: “Wait . . . please don’t write your guys like this, either.” Because male characters do not have to be dirty, rude, short-tempered louts to be badass protagonists. And they don’t have to be gay or sinister to be concerned about their own appearances. Antiquated masculine ideals certainly have their place in literature (you can have a maiden in distress if you want to), but don’t reduce characters of either sex to roles that have no place in the Twenty-First Century. There is something to be said for playing around with stereotypes and surprising people. Thinking of having a dirty, temperamental, barbarian warrior male character? It might add some depth to his character, and be a pleasant surprise for many readers, if he happened to be gay. Not all female characters are sweetness and light or tempting, scheming harlots. Play with expectations and you’ll have a more intriguing, more memorable book, filled with characters who better embody the diversity that is integral to the human experience.

Even if the characters themselves are, like, cat-people or robots.

 

*I tried to figure out what I was going to say about Hemingway and I thought of something that perfectly summarizes my opinion of him, but, to quote Auntie Em: “And now . . . being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!”



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Strong Black Women: Beware Of ‘Gentle Racism’

Who else has seen the above image multiple times on your Facebook feed? Who else has reblogged it?

I have. Seen it and shared it.

There are some negative stereotypes about just about every demographic, and black women (and, specifically, black women living in the United States) are no exception.

I think that negative stereotypes are perpetuated enough that I don’t need to list them here (and if you cannot think of any, good for you). I will say that probably the worst stereotype for black women in the US is that they are physically abusive to their children. Child-abuse is abhorrent, but the assumption that everyone within a given demographic is an abuser is not great either (and I am guilty of this kind of prejudice, though mine is that I am very suspicious of fathers but that’s my own, irrelevant, emotional baggage).

Not all stereotypes are negative. Gay men being stylish dressers or having perfect bodies. Asians (racially and/or culturally) being studious or good at math. White people being wealthy. Black men being well-endowed.

They are still stereotypes. They might seem accurate when you see instances of your assumptions being confirmed (that’s not entirely your fault—that is how our minds work, and, in most cases, these heuristics allow us to process information more efficiently). Sadly, these stereotypes, however, positive, are not truths.

Well, the Strong Black Woman is another stereotype. And it is time for this one to go. It’s funny and seemingly harmless (it even seems empowering), but any stereotype that pushes a demographic of people into a particular role is inherently harmful.

After a while, that stereotype—that label, intended as a compliment—becomes mocking. Particularly when adopted by others. Every black woman in fiction is expected to be bold, sassy, and strong-willed. A matriarch or a matriarch in the making. White people might appropriate this title for themselves (Kathy Griffin, though anything said by a comedian during stand-up, unless it seems to be encouraging violence, probably deserves a pass). Black men appropriate it (Tyler Perry as Madea—I have never seen those films but, just from the trailers, I can tell that Madea is an excellent example).

But we all need to stop. And, again, I am guilty of this. Saying: “I am a strong, independent black woman who don’t need no man,” sounds and feels empowering and humorous. But it pushes black women into a carefully prepared niche. In the same way that thinking of gay men as some combination of Jack McFarland and Xandir P. Wifflebottom is demeaning to gay men.

Let’s all stop it and let people be people, okay?

You don’t need to be black or a woman to be strong, and black women do not have to be the good-natured charicatures that we, as a society, have conjured up for them to be. People are people.

 

PS: Thank you to the magical and beautiful Caroline for bringing this to my attention.



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Gay Male and Lesbian Sex Stereotypes: They’re Just Male And Female Stereotypes, Really

“All gay guys are sluts and lesbians are obsessed with commitment.”

Sometimes the first stereotype is used as an attack on the gay community (which is bad, but not as bad as the absurd: “Bisexuals are just really slutty,” line). “Commitment-obsessed” is a much gentler criticism, and less likely to be brought up by conservative pundits.

These are more likely to be brought up by comedians. And I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be—I mean, comedians should joke about almost* everything. I mean, if Joan Rivers jokes: “What do lesbians bring for their second date? A moving van,” I’m not going to accuse her of being anti-gay or homophobic or fostering anti-gay ideas. For one thing, Joan Rivers has been a friend to the gay community for much longer than I have been alive. But also, these jokes are mostly harmless.

In any event, “gay men are slutty,” statements come from the idea that gay men like to have lots of sex, and perhaps with different or multiple partners at different times.

This stereotype is not accurate. There are plenty of gay people who do not have high sex drives, or who treasure monogamy (I don’t know why, but they exist, and in no small numbers). But more importantly, this could be simplified by saying that: “Men are slutty. Men like to have sex. They think about sex all of the time. Men would like to have sex with lots of different partners—sometimes multiple partners at once.”

And that works for straight men just as well. Again, it’s not accurate—it’s a stereotype. In the world of stereotypes, men are slutty (whether they’re after women or men or both). In the world of stereotypes, women crave commitment and monogamy and want to move in together because they are so in love with domestic partnership and the idea of true love—whether with a man or with a woman.

Now, I can tell you with even greater confidence that there are plenty of women who are not after commitment. Or monogamy. Or cohabitation. Strong, empowered women, gay or straight, who treasure their independence (including living in their own place or at least not living with a sexual partner) and enjoy a variety of sexual partners.

So, you know, whenever you hear stereotypes, don’t just remember that stereotypes are often inaccurate. Remember that they may describe a larger group than just the minority. Though I’m probably preaching to the choir, here.

 

*When it comes to comedy, I only take exception to instances in which a comedian makes an “argument” in stand-up that might actually encourage people to commit violent acts. Jokes that perpetuate the notion that women are objects (anything that encourages rape culture) are a prime example. Also, less frequently, comedians will make very poor-taste “comedic” arguments in favor of domestic violence (particularly child-abuse—like the never-funny Carlos Mencia’s “White People: Beat Your Kids” segment). Just because something is upsetting does not mean that it should be off-topic for comedy. They just need to not encourage violence.



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