If you were anywhere near my Twitter feed this past Monday around lunchtime, you probably got a real-time depiction of my head doing this:
And it was all because I went against my better judgment and stopped to read this article: Women help Spider-Man net Sony $341 million and counting
Given who the publisher of this article is, I should have known not to go read it, but so help me when it comes to nerd stuff, I just can’t help myself. And in the course of my reading, I found this analysis of why so many women went to go see Spider-Man:
The story of young love helped lure female viewers, who made up 42 percent of the audience, according to Sony. Seventy-three percent of reviews compiled on website Rotten Tomatoes recommended the movie.
“This is a film that had something for women,” said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Emphasis mine. Already I was irritated enough to post my thoughts on Twitter, but when I read on, I found something else – another searing analysis of why the movie TED attracted an audience of 44 percent women:
“I know its about a drug using, foul-mouthed bear, but when all is said and done it’s a romance with a lot of heart,” said Nikki Rocco, UniversalPictures’ president of domestic distribution. “I don’t know too many women who didn’t feel something when that bear was lying dead on that coffee table with the stuffing pulled out of it.”
Allow me to take one second here to make a disclaimer: I don’t have a problem with romance. You don’t choose to buy the collected works of Jane Austen if you hate romance. I quite like it, actually.
What I have a problem with here is the ridiculous and automatic assumption that women are going to see these movies only because there is romance included. Because romance, obviously, is silly girl stuff. And action and adult humor is for boys.
I find this quite shocking. I thought all the women I knew were going to Spider-Man because it looked like a good adaptation of a superhero origin story paired with some bad ass special effects, not because Andrew Garfield swaps spit with Emma Stone.
And I thought I bought Bridesmaids and Role Models the day they came out on DVD because I thought they were hilarious, not because Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd make a cute couple or Paul Rudd sings to Elizabeth Banks.
I thought Die Hard was one of my favorite movies EVER because I like snarky heroes who blow shit up.
According to Sony and Universal, though, that’s not the case. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe I’m not a woman. (I’d better go break the news to The Man…)
In all seriousness, though, assumptions like these are just symptoms of ridiculous his-and-hers cultural generalizations we already have in place. We color-code toys so that girls and boys know what they “ought” to be playing with. Boys get green dinosaurs; girls get pink dolls. Boys get blocks; girls get kitchen sets. And we’re not supposed to let them swap.
It doesn’t stop when we’re older, either. We stick big, hot pink labels on the “girl stuff” so that boys know to avoid it so they don’t get cooties. We have “chick flicks” and “chick lit” that is now slightly less derogatory “women’s fiction.” But we still feel the need to create a whole separate category for female writers who write stories about women dealing with non-paranormal issues. If a dude had written it or if a man was the main character, then it would just be “fiction.” But add an extra vagina to the mix, and all of the sudden it goes over there…y’know…where the women sit. It’s a practice that subtly undermines and devalues the lives, interests and issues of half the fucking population.
Why exactly does a book or story by and/or featuring women need to be cordoned off? Because, like it or not, the moment we do that, those generalizations come into play. This movie, this book, is only for girls. If you’re a boy who reads or watches it, you will be subject to speculation and possibly ridicule.
It’s preposterous. And infuriating. So allow me to stand on my soapbox and make a declaration.
Dear Hollywood – actually, dear Media Everywhere:
I am a woman. You see me as a simple sum of my parts – boobs, vagina, hair – and want to distill me down to a common denominator, but you do not define me. I have a Master Chief action figure on my desk next to Bath & Body Works lotion. I like to bake as much as I like to mow the lawn. I watch HGTV and Bravo about the same amount that I watch the ScyFy Channel and sports. I have a wide variety of interests that cross all of your imaginary gender and age boundaries, and I am ashamed of none of them. I choose what I like and what I don’t like based on my own, individual interests and desires. You do not know me. And I would be pleased as punch if you would stop pretending that you did.
All the best,