Wonder Women

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Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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92 Responses

  1. Avatar Philip H says:

    I would never tell any woman that she needs to limit herself to stereotypical female behavior. Never. But at the same time, as a feminist, I reject the idea that women cannot be empowered without embracing the worst stereotypical male behavior. I reject the idea that women cannot be empowered without turning their backs on the ideals of kindness and peace which women have valued – rightfully so – since women were invented.

    And yet the examples you cite – your grandmother included – are fights of a kind. Not violent fights. Not always physical fights – though your grandmothers saga surly included many physical hardships where she probably felt she was “fighting” for her and her baby’s lives. But fights, combat, tet-a-tet’s none the less.

    What you seem to be hinting at – and I will happily be corrected on this – is that women “fight” in a very different way for things that matter to them because they care take for themselves, their loved ones and their society in a way that is vastly different then men. if I have that right then I agree wholeheartedly.

    And, as superhero movies go, Wonderwoman wasn’t actually that great. Now if someone wants to do a sequel that explores all the . . . . non conforming . . . . behavior written into the original comic books – that would be empowering.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      I just want to echo that I generally take the fighting in comics and comic-book movies as metaphorical.

      Wonder Woman is interesting because it asks the question of what a woman who had been raised outside Western Culture would be like, how she would hold certain questions. It’s interesting precisely because of the different attitude toward violence.

      Because, as it turns out, the Greeks liked their women to be “civilized” and not participate in fighting, as opposed to the Amazons, which could well be a reference to the Scythians, where women were frequently horse archers and warriors.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      Yes – and I thought I gave some examples of that in the essay, maybe I edited those.

      My issue was that people were praising WW as if there could be no legitimate sources of female empowerment other than overwhelming physical violence (which we are mostly incapable of in the real world) . And saying that in such a way that it actually devalued a lot of other ways that women have fought for their families and for social change in the world.

      Thanks for reading!Report

  2. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    Bravo!
    I really loved this piece.
    My favorite line in the whole thing: “It is toxic masculinity in drag, not feminism.”
    I have not seen the movie and had no plans on doing so. Thanks for sparing me a few hours of eye-rolling.

    My grandmother is of the same generation as yours, and though she did not have the same hardships, she was still one of the toughest women I ever knew and one I aspire to emulate (and fail daily). She dropped out of the 8th grade to help her mother in the beauty shop she ran. She did hair all her life, and was the primary breadwinner while my grandfather did odd jobs. He was in WWII as well, but praise God, made it home. She at one time in the forties traveled with my grandfather by train out west, while 6 months pregnant. She got an infection and ended up in the hospital in, I think, Colorado. She almost died. Her baby did. Back then, they didn’t always name babies who didn’t survive. It was a boy, and is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere. I can remember being shocked to hear this story sometime in my teen years, and the stark, matter of fact, but not altogether emotionless way she told me.
    She had two children after that, but never stopped working.
    After 60 years on her feet doing hair, she had a hump in her back from leaning over, emphysema from aerosol hairspray, and bad circulation that resulted in amputation of all of her toes on one foot and the pinky toe of the other.
    This woman did not complain. To use an expression I learned from her, “she wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouth full of it.”
    That is feminine strength that I aspire to, not physical strength to beat up a man.

    Thank you for writing this.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      Thanks so much, Em! So pleased you enjoyed it.

      What an amazing person. <3

      We all come from these strong women with amazing stories (and honestly, we have our own amazing stories we're living too) and I totally agree – it's that strength I aspire to. Well put!Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I agree that Wonder Woman was hyped up as a feminist fantasy. It was a superhero movie with a female lead. I disagree strongly with the idea that women are natural peace activists.

    Women might not be as physically violent as men but they are just as prone to status displays and the use of social/emotional violence. Wonder Woman and other female heroes show that plenty of women like the idea of being able to dish out physical violence, although not necessarily developinga realistic musculature to do it, hence the waif-fu troope. Wonder Woman would not have been that popular otherwise.

    Finally, even if women are generally more peaceful that doesn’t mean they like men to be gentle. There are ostensibly feminist women and definitely traditional women that despise and loath emotional open, gentle, and non-violent men as wimps. People might argue that the Patriarchy hurts men to but they seem really keen on enforcing the Patriarchy on men if it suits their purposes.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      I think I agree with Lee here. It seems like feminists would bristle at the idea that they are the more ‘peaceful’ gender.

      With that said, I really liked this essay Kristin. I share your affinity for pacifism and your story about your grandmother was beautiful and heartbreaking.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I think I agree with Lee here. It seems like feminists would bristle at the idea that they are the more ‘peaceful’ gender.

        Is “feminist” a new gender category?Report

      • Avatar atomickristin says:

        I decided to start pushing back on “feminism” meaning what a handful of fairly extreme people say that it means. That’s why I started my blog and went onto Twitter to start with, which led me to you guys.

        Within my lifetime it was totally under the feminist umbrella to say things like “If women ran the world there would be no war” (obviously what I already laid out in the piece) and I still ID as that kind of older school feminist. I just don’t accept that a handful of people get to tell me what feminism means when to me it means something a lot different. 🙂 Thanks for reading.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          “I just don’t accept that a handful of people get to tell me what feminism means when to me it means something a lot different.”

          I totally respect that approach. After Stillwater dinged me for not putting the gender modifier with feminist in my first comment I did a little reading on the topic. There appears to be a lot of disagreement among feminist women about whether or not a man can even be a feminist. It’s the same attitude I have about Progressivism and most of the non-pejorative -ist labels out there. At the end of the day, I think it’s up to the individual to define their own label.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          “If woman ran the world, there would be no war.” Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. The historical records shows that female leaders can be just as ambitious and prone to use violence as any male leader. There also seems no shortage of women who like joining law enforcement or the armed forces.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      I would never say otherwise.

      My issue was that people – and not a few of them – were saying Wonder Woman was the ONLY empowering movie for women and the reason it was empowering was because of the violence in it. As if it was the only or best way for women to be tough and strong, was by embracing physical displays of violence.

      I’m not advocating that all women sit demurely and become peace activists, I’m trying to show that historically, many women have been peace activists and it really doesn’t make much sense to me to ignore the real women who did advocate for peace, in favor of a cartoon character in a made up universe who gets to beat up boys by virtue of divine strength.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      I think it kind of comes down to the line that Em points out above, and that really stood out for me too, “It is toxic masculinity in drag, not feminism.”

      It’s not that force and the shortcut of violence are inherently manly and peace and the hard work of compromise are inherently womanly – more that they are widely viewed as such in our culture, and so we teach our kids to view them that way (deliberately and consciously or not, ‘we’ meaning both we their parents and we everyone who interacts with and influences children).

      So while those things are not necessarily inherently manly / womanly, they offer pretty good gambler’s odds of turning out that way.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        It’s not that force and the shortcut of violence are inherently manly and peace and the hard work of compromise are inherently womanly – more that they are widely viewed as such in our culture, and so we teach our kids to view them that way (deliberately and consciously or not, ‘we’ meaning both we their parents and we everyone who interacts with and influences children).

        Erm, so perhaps we shouldn’t be praising a movie review that proudly claims such things _are_ inherently womanly right at the very start?

        Seriously, does no one actually see the problem with that? Did everyone read some sort of _different_ review, one which didn’t start by accusing men of being more violent than women?

        People want to complain about violence in movies, and think that’s causing a societal problem, feel fine. But that’s not what this review is doing. This review complained about violence _because the hero is a woman_ and women shouldn’t solve problems in _masculine_ ways, and violence is masculine.

        You can’t then logic your way to the opposite conclusion _while agreeing with that_.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          In 2018, on Earth, men are by and large more violent than women. This is in large part because of the different socialization of boys and girls, but it doesn’t make it untrue.

          That can be changed – that’s one of the major goals of feminism, as I understand it – but its being an evil that can be overcome, does not mean it’s an evil that has been overcome.

          Some bits of phrasing stuck in the essay out a bit for me, sure, where it kind of read like peace was presented as an inherently rather than circumstantially feminine virtue. But it didn’t seem important enough to bicker about. I mean, it still is a feminine virtue, at least on this planet, at least for as long as we’ve had recorded history – not universally, but good gambler’s odds, like I said.

          And really – “circumstantially, on pretty much the entire planet, for the past few thousand years” – if someone perceives it as equivalent to “inherently”, I’m not going to get up in their face about it even if I really hope they’re wrong.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            “In 2018, on Earth, men are by and large more violent than women.”

            Define ‘violent’Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              Come up with a definition where I’m wrong.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Arguably, teenage bullying. Also, just teenage social dynamics in general.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Emotional violence is perhaps closer to even between the genders. I don’t know.

                Physical violence – things covered in criminal codes under assault, battery, robbery, weapons offences, uttering terroristic threats, various classes of homicide, the starting and continuing of wars, things bouncers are paid to break up, the kind of violence Wonder Woman and nearly every other super hero or villain is super for being superhumanly good at – that’s overwhelmingly masculine.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                As David points out below, violent crime is roughly the same % of overall crime by gender.

                As for emotional abuse, the reason I in troubled by that and wonder if the effects of it are severely understated in general, is because it often has longer lasting impact. There’s the stereotypical example of the two guys that get in fight after school, put their squabble behind them, and become friends. I lived that scenario several times growing up, and I wasn’t much of a fighter compared to other kids.

                On the flip side, I still have lingering animosity to people that emotionally bullied me 30 years ago. The front of my brain says that’s ridiculous, but the animal part of my brain is still Furious about it. And I just think this problem is going to get worse and worse with social media.

                Luckily my two daughters are now too old for this to be as big of a concern, though it isn’t gone completely. I do have five nieces though, teenage and younger, and I worry deeply for them.Report

              • As for emotional abuse, the reason I in troubled by that and wonder if the effects of it are severely understated in general, is because it often has longer lasting impact. There’s the stereotypical example of the two guys that get in fight after school, put their squabble behind them, and become friends. I lived that scenario several times growing up, and I wasn’t much of a fighter compared to other kids.

                I’ve long thought that with physical violence, the victim gets emotional abuse as an added bonus.

                I do think it’s different in the “fighting it out and then becoming friends” scenario you describe in the next two sentences, though. And you’re right to point that out.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            n 2018, on Earth, men are by and large more violent than women. This is in large part because of the different socialization of boys and girls, but it doesn’t make it untrue.

            Like I said, it sure is a good thing we’ve got Kristen to tell everyone that violence is male, and negotiation and peace are female, then. That’s a good way to get violent men on board, tell them to be less like men and more like women!

            But, no. As the link to wikipedia in the article shows, if you look at the FBI stats, something like 78% of the people arrested for aggravated assault are men…and 85% for burglary and 82% for car theft. Which proves that men are just more likely to commit crimes, period, and violence apparently has nothing to do with it. Men commit violent and non-violence major crimes at the same rate, and women commit violent and non-violence major crime at the same rate. It’s just the first rate is a lot higher for men. Men commit most major crimes, period.

            There can be a lot of theories about that, from men drinking more and drinking leading to crime, to men being socialized as active and women being socialized as passive, to men having a wider variance in their minds.

            But ‘higher tendence towards violence’ isn’t a logical theory.

            The sole outlier to all this is rape, which is almost all men, but a) rape is easier for men and kinda difficult for women, and b) considering the reporting issues with rape, and the conviction rate, are even _worse_ with male victims than with female victims, I’m forced to wonder if we aren’t missing ‘enough’ rape by women of men to even things out.

            Some bits of phrasing stuck in the essay out a bit for me, sure, where it kind of read like peace was presented as an inherently rather than circumstantially feminine virtue. But it didn’t seem important enough to bicker about.

            If it’s not important enough to bicker about whether or not it is in inherent, then it seems really weird to have an article talking about how women are heroes for doing it and stopping wars.

            This entire article is about how the writer dislikes Wonder Woman because Diana doesn’t have the virtues she ascribes to women, and instead has vices she ascribes to men. That’s literally the premise. It seems relevant as to whether or not that even _makes sense_ as grounds to critize it on.

            And you, like the article, have confused ‘supporting war’ with ‘personal violence’ and ‘supporting peace’ with ‘personal lack of violence’.

            In reality, women basically push for war as much as men, and men attempt ending wars as much was women. (And men tend to be more successful at peace, in fact, although that’s just because they tend to hold more political power.)

            There might be a _slight_ statistical variation of a few percentages, polls in favor of the Iraq war, for example, had men 5% more in favor of it. But this idea that no woman wants war is just utterly wrong.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              OK, so, the observed higher tendency toward violence by men does not mean that men have a higher tendency toward violence? Got it.

              Anyway, now that cannabis is legal in Canada, I’m going to open a dispensary specializing in hashish. At the side of the shop there will be men’s and women’s lavatories. The women’s loo will have a standard 6′ 8″ height door, but the men’s loo will have a specially made door that’s only 5′ high.

              Gonna call the place #notallmen.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                …the observed higher tendency toward violence by men

                I’m assuming mis-stating that was on purpose, but just in case it wasn’t… Men commit more crimes. The % of those that are violent is roughly the same as women.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                From Wikipedia:

                2011 arrest data from the FBI:[48]

                Males constituted 98.9% of those arrested for forcible rape[48]
                Males constituted 87.9% of those arrested for robbery[48]
                Males constituted 85.0% of those arrested for burglary[48]
                Males constituted 83.0% of those arrested for arson.[48]
                Males constituted 81.7% of those arrested for vandalism.[48]
                Males constituted 81.5% of those arrested for motor-vehicle theft.[48]
                Males constituted 79.7% of those arrested for offenses against family and children.[48]
                Males constituted 77.8% of those arrested for aggravated assault[48]
                Males constituted 58.7% of those arrested for fraud.[48]
                Males constituted 57.3% of those arrested for larceny-theft.[48]
                Males constituted 51.3% of those arrested for embezzlement.[48]

                Also:

                The trend results from 2003-2012 showed the vast majority of crimes were still committed by men with around 88% of homicides and 75% of all legal felonies.[49] According to government statistics from the US Department of Justice, male perpetrators constituted 96% of federal prosecution on domestic violence.[50] Another report by the US department of Justice on non-fatal domestic violence from 2003-2012 found that 76 percent of domestic violence was committed against women and 24 percent were committed against men.[51

                Also:

                A 2013 global study on homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that males accounted for about 96 percent of all homicide perpetrators worldwide.[59]

                Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                If men committed about 75% of all crime, arent those numbers roughly en par proportionally?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So, are you arguing that men are more inclined than women to exhibit criminally deviant behavior across all types of crime *including* crimes of violence against others?

                I’m fine with that. Men are more violent than women but they also exhibit other anti-social behaviors more than women do.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Men are more violent than women but they also exhibit other anti-social behaviors more than women do.

                That’s not the logical conclusion of what you just said. Also ‘anti-social behaviors’ is a weird way to describe ‘convicted of felonies’.

                If you desperately need to phrase it in a single sentence, here it is: Men are convicted in the US of major crimes, both violent and non-violent crimes, at a rate approximately eight to nine times higher than women are.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Right. That’s a bare fact. The question is *why*.

                One reason might be that liberal deep-state feminists have been conspiring since the inception of the country to make behaviors typically identified as masculine – like murder for example – illegal.

                Another is that men are more violent than women.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Men commit more crimes than women. Now, before we go too far down the road of thinking that validates Kristin’s thesis, remember that many conservatives point to the disproportionate number of blacks that commit crimes as evidence for broken culture and liberals (correctly) refute this by pointing out problems in policing, etc. Those black men who are disproportionately charged factor into the male number also. So…as previously pointed out, it could just be that more men actually get arrested and convicted due to problems with the justice system, not the innate violent tendencies of men.

                I will also go back to my previous statement that the violence women do to each other (and men to a lesser degree) is much more of the emotional violence type and those crimes rarely ever violate actual law, even if they are incredibly destructive. The law just hasn’t caught up with the problem yet IMO.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @mike-dwyer Do you really think any of this or is your back just up?

                Asking because you’ve said before that when people take “extreme” positions, you have no choice but to take a stronger position than you actually believe in order to achieve balance in the conversation.

                I prefer to presume honesty in discourse, but given your prior statements, it’s hard for me to gauge your intent here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Think any of what? That women are just as violent as men, just in a non-physical way? I’ve had two daughters go through middle school now. I absolutely believe that.

                There’s also the unfortunate reality that women are three times more likely to suffer from borderline personality disorder, which is an incredibly destructive situation. I’ve had the displeasure of having two women close to me with this and I can only characterize their behavior towards others in their worst moments as abuse, and it is rarely reported or even crosses the legal line. That is also not reflected in the statistics we are throwing around here.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                That stat you just quoted is *dismissed* and explained away by the authors of the paper you link to as out of date and mostly due to the same sort of factors in psychiatry that you bring up in the context of criminal arrests and convictions. They assert that the prevalence is the same in women and men.

                For Pete’s sake, if you’re going to quote bad research as reliable, at least pick a paper that doesn’t dissect it.

                What I was referring to as “that stuff” is the whole line of argument that maybe women are secretly almost as physically violent as men – not potentially – but actually – and we are just blind to it / our stats are that bad.

                Which is utterly absurd.

                There are plenty of good arguments to make against this critique! I wouldn’t object to a “isn’t emotional violence just as bad and we all know women are capable of it” argument although I would *disagree* with that argument. I wouldn’t object to “just because our current situation has set things up doesn’t mean women aren’t every bit as capable of malice and violence as men are” argument.

                I’m objecting to the idea that physical violence is not, in this current world that we actually live in, primarily something that men do, because it’s so bloody obvious to me that it is and none of the stats that are being thrown around contradict that.

                And not just male-on-male dominance scuffles, but also all kinds of horrific, mentally scarring, violence. Keeping people under one’s thumb through the use of murder as a realistic possibility that they then have to gaslight themselves to endure, whether that be domestic, institutional, international conquest, or otherwise.

                That stuff. Is mostly – not at all exclusively, and no one said so – but, mostly, done *by men*. To women and to men, but *by* people who understand themselves as men doing male things.

                I don’t think that’s because men or women are innately *anything*, I think that’s how the system has been set up for 1000s of years and it’s hard to fix.

                I also think that someone who is as willing as you are to assert generalizations about women that are both unreasonable in my view AND sometimes really unfair in my view, suddenly tilting at Kristin’s post because she’s talking about “male” and “female” without super-specifying her terms all the time – that’s *weird*, man.

                That’s why I thought you had your back up already and/or were taking positions you don’t hold, because they’re so damn inconsistent with other things you claim to believe at other times.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                “although I would *disagree* with that argument”
                (to be clear – I would disagree with the “just as bad” part, not the “we all know women are capable of it” part. all people are very much capable of it, nearly every damn individual human being in the right circumstances, as far as I can tell, and some do take it to an art form, and middle school queen bees do seem (to me) to be exquisitely talented …. it’s the “just as bad” part I would take issue with. That’s a complete side note which is why this is in parentheses.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                The BPD statistic was the one I remembered from when I was first learning about the disorder and even though I (unfortunately) still have to deal with this daily, I usually don’t talk about it at a population level. I should have read further down in that article, so my apologies for that.

                I think it would be best if we moved away from mental illness because certainly many, many of the men who are ‘more violent than women’ also suffer from mental illness so that’s probably an irrelevant line of discussion.

                With all of this said, what myself and David are pushing back against is the whole notion of women in this comment thread talking about how terribly violent men are and implying that women are (mostly) peaceful creatures. My anecdotal experience, backed up by mountains of articles about teenage bullying and also the kinds of social and emotional violence that adult women do, is that it would be fair to consider violence more broadly.

                I will also say that my focus (as always) is on the United States specifically and the Western world generally. If we want to include Planet Earth (and I know that term was used upthread) then my inclination is to say yes, men do a lot more violence. But I also know nothing about the behavior of women in those countries and whether or not they many be doing the same things that happen here. My gut tells me that Third World women take better care of each other (safety in numbers, more emphasis on tribalism and families, etc) but I’m completely speculating here.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                “women in this comment thread talking about how terribly violent men are and implying that women are (mostly) peaceful creatures.”

                I just literally reread the entire comment thread and that wasn’t happening anywhere, to the best of my reading capacity.

                There are a few commenters who might arguably have been doing that (I don’t think they were), all of them male-presenting to the best of my knowledge which is fairly extensive.

                The OP may have, arguably, been doing that (I don’t think it was), but Kristin has since clarified her position.

                You’re arguing with a ghost.

                I can’t win an argument I’m not actually in…. And I have trouble saying that it’s particularly productive to try to even change each others’ minds if I think you’re having an argument with a position that no one is holding.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                If it’s the men arguing for that and not the women, that’s a whole other can of worms.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                remember that many conservatives point to the disproportionate number of blacks that commit crimes as evidence for broken culture and liberals (correctly) refute this by pointing out problems in policing, etc

                Just so we’re clear about this, conservatives view black crime rates as evidence of a broken culture and extend that view (somehoworotherintheirownminds) to exonerate cops for killing unarmed black men in cold blood. Liberals, on the other hand, view black crime rates as evidence of broken economic and criminal justice systems (based on entrenched racism) and extend that view to criticize cops for killing unarmed black men in cold blood.

                The stuff about the law not currently punishing women’s use of emotional violence but it soon will is a little too far out there for me to understand without some examples of what the h you’re talking about.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                The issue of black crime being more prevalent is not just about police shootings. It has also been used to justify mandatory minimums, etc It’s a general attitude that it’s a problem solely within that community. But that wasn’t really my point. I was saying that if liberals are correct and a broken justice system targets black men excessively, that would inflate the violence numbers for all men as a group.

                As for the other part, my hope is that the law will start holding more internet bullies accountable.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Men commit more crimes.

                Actually, rereading, I technically misstated that. All we actually know is that men get _convicted_ of more crimes.

                It is hypothetically possible that women commit as many crimes as men, they’re just _much better_ at not being convicted of them. There’s more than enough unsolved crimes out there that women could be committing more crimes than men, and are just way smarter and don’t get caught.

                And while that is mostly a joke, it is not _entirely_. Juries do show more sympathy towards women, and DA more often let women roll over on higher up, and often times men are perceived as a leader in criminal enterprises that are actually more partnerships with women.

                So there’s probably some _slight_ bias in the conviction rate towards men, but I assume it’s no more than 5% or so.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                “women could be committing more crimes than men, and are just way smarter and don’t get caught”

                That’s true for stuff like fraud where the difference in genders is not that high. It’s implausible to the point of absurdity for stuff like murder where the stat quoted says 96 percent are commited by men, worldwide. If women were committing that many murders, we’d have a hell of a lot more puzzling deaths. I mean, it would move cozy mysteries out of the realm of the fantastic, I suppose… but c’mon.

                As for the actual question that I can’t believe is in contention, even barring the logical problems with your and @mike-dwyer’s argument and granting you it as a testable hypothesis:
                88 percent in the US, 96 percent worldwide, for homicides? That’s not proportionate to 75 percent. Really not. Shockingly not, in fact, except that we’re all used to it because we live in a society that is saturated with the assumption and experience that men are more murderous than women. Among other things.

                I happen to think that’s 99 percent or more culturally constructed (and thank god for it, because it means society can *change* much more easily than if we were fighting something that was mostly hardwired) …. but that doesn’t make it *imaginary*.

                And I’m rather surly that a bunch of dudes** are putting me in the position where I feel the need to defend such a proposition when it’s so boring and the stuff that comes after that is so much more interesting and useful, ie SO NOW WHAT?

                (** bookdragon is obvs, not a dude, but also is not holding on to these tendentious claims about men not being more violent than women in such an egregiously tendentious manner, so I have no issues with her points.)Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                If women were committing that many murders, we’d have a hell of a lot more puzzling deaths.

                As I said, that was a joke, but we actually do convict a person for less than half of all murders. Heck, we only ‘solve’ about 60% of them to the point of identifying a good suspect, and some amount of those either successfully flee, or are found not guilty. (And presumably, some of those convictions or even guilty pleas are wrong.)

                While I am sure they’re not actually all women, we should always keep in the back of our mind that all our crime stats are not for ‘criminals’, they’re for ‘crappy criminals that get caught and convicted’. We don’t really know anything about the _good_ criminals that we never figure out the crimes of. For all we know there’s a hundred _really busy_ serial killers running around the US.

                But my point was actually: The crime stats actually show men commit basically all major crimes, so it’s not a tendency towards violence as much a tendency towards most major crimes.

                This does not really make men _better_ in any meaningful way (It actually makes men look worse!), just shows the problem is not some specific ‘violence’ thing.

                Or, to put it another way, if something like 85% of violent crime was by men, but only 55% of all other crime was by men, I’d suspect some sort of violence tilt.

                But what I’m seeing is that ‘active’ crimes, where people have to go out in the world and actively do something, are committed by men, whereas more passive things like stealing money and things right at hand (larceny-theft and embezzlement) or convincing people to just handing money over (fraud) are more split.

                Which makes me basically think that what is going on here is that women are socialized to be more passive, so don’t want to confront the victim hostilely. Or enter their property or take it in public and thus _risk_ confronting the victim. Or the police.

                I.e., it’s not that men are more ‘violent’, it’s that they’re more willing to be confrontational.

                So, to make this theory testable, we should actually see the proportional female crime rate creep up as society changes and women _are_ more willing to be confrontational.

                Which…*checks google quickly*…is exactly what we have seen, for almost 20 years. Crime rates have dropped in total, which has mostly obscured the fact that the crime rate among women is growing.

                It turns out when you tell women they can be anything they want, some of them say ‘Hmmmm….can I steal cars?’

                However, _arson_ numbers seem to not fit right with my theory. IIRC, almost all arson is insurance fraud, and thus women should already be okay with committing it. Perhaps the level of danger is relevant. Perhaps women are less willing to _risk harm_, either from confrontation with a victim or…accidentally catching themselves on fire.

                And, thinking about it, I’m pretty sure there are already studies saying that men are more likely to risk bodily harm to themselves for a lot less reward, so that probably solves it right there.

                Granted, to argue against my own theory, we’ve also become a lot more _willing_ to imprison women, so it’s entirely possible that is the cause of the increased crime rate.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                96 percent is a long way from 75 percent. Not 85 to 55, but really, it’s a very big gap.

                And, again, if you can read Kristin’s essay and these are the weeds you want to get into…

                I feel like you’re missing the forest for the trees.Report

              • I happen to think that’s 99 percent or more culturally constructed (and thank god for it, because it means society can *change* much more easily than if we were fighting something that was mostly hardwired) …. but that doesn’t make it *imaginary*.

                Thanks for saying that. I went through a stage in my life when I believed that simply by being male, I was somehow guilty (n a moral sense) of all sorts of horrible things and hated myself for who I was. I still get a little defensive when I hear the “men are more violent than women” statement (even though I agree with it) and especially (in other threads, quite a while ago) musings about what a society “without men” would be like.*

                Sorry that this is a little off topic.

                *I know those musings weren’t meant in a “let’s eliminate all men” way, but I had a hard time not interpreting them that way.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @gabriel-conroy

                I don’t mind that you went off-topic, fwiw. And I know this is hard for people to wrap their heads around sometimes (dunno if it is for you or not) but as a genderfluid person who more often than not simultaneously runs about 7/10 for both male and female “volume” in terms of internal identification, I can actually relate to much of what you say, quite personally. I’ve felt a lot of that alienation, self-hatred, shame and moral guilt about my own male aspect. It’s easier and less of a struggle for me than my female aspect is, most of the time, because I find that the external pressures it faces are less overwhelming – I’m free-er and (usually not always) safer when perceived as more male – but that doesn’t mean it’s *easy*.

                Mentioning this only by way of explaining that when I bring up points like this in threads like these, it’s at least as much, probably more, to steady and reassure myself as through any generosity towards anyone else…Report

              • Thanks for your response. Reading what you have to say about such things has taught me a lot.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                Thanks for the exception, though I’m not sure how I got tied into this thread of the conversation.

                Honestly, I so far had written only a single response which had nothing to do with crimes rates and everything to do with defending WW, who meant a LOT to me as role model when I was the oddball ‘unnatural’ girl who liked math and science and track back in 1970s buckle-on-the-Bible-belt Ohio. I replied because I was genuinely offended by the idea of reducing that role model to ‘toxic masculinity in drag’ just because physical strength/ability was _one_ of the means she used to fight bad guys.

                Also, as a woman who seriously considered joining the Navy and who as a civilian does work on DoD projects, I felt the need to push back on an article that felt like it was saying that I could not be counted as a feminist because I’m not a pacifist.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @bookdragon understood, and apologies if my excepting you felt like a misread. If anything I was holding you up as a role model of “how to disagree with this post without taking an absurd position”. I didn’t think what you were saying had much to do with anything except what you were saying (there and here), which is the only reason I specified that I specifically was not talking about you in the first place.

                Sometimes I get over specific.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Was James Damore only last summer?

            Jeez louise, there has been so much time dilation that I am beginning to suspect there’s a black hole somewhere.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            In 2018, on Earth, men are by and large more violent than women.

            You know what, let’s forget about those stats for a second.

            Men might indeed commit more violence than women, although a lot of the stuff that supposedly proves that have all sorts of problems. But, you know, let’s pretend there is some sort of actual statistical difference we can point to that isn’t all hung up in how society deals with violence by men vs. women.

            The problem is that the article didn’t say that men are more violent than women.

            It said that violence is ‘masculine’, whereas non-violence and peaceful resolution is ‘feminine’. (Although it confusingly uses the word ‘female’ for ‘feminine’, and presumably would call masculine ‘male’.)

            This article says that women are traditionally less violent and thus it thinks they are supposed to be that way. It’s a pretty obvious corollary that if men are traditionally more violent, they are supposed to be that way, too. Promoting the lack of violence as a specifically feminine virtue is promoting violence as a specifically masculine virtue.

            That is toxic masculinity. That’s literally what people mean when they say ‘toxic masculinity’. Toxic masculinity presents violence as inherently a male trait, thus resulting in the obvious conclusion that men are _supposed to_ be violent, resulting in men being violent to _prove_ their masculinity.Report

            • Avatar Maribou says:

              “It’s a pretty obvious corollary that if men are traditionally more violent, they are supposed to be that way, too. ”

              No. It’s not obvious *at all*. That’s *your* spin on the article, your knee-jerk assumption.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                No. It’s not obvious *at all*. That’s *your* spin on the article, your knee-jerk assumption.

                You snipped out my statement of the thing it was a corollary of:

                ‘This article says that women are traditionally less violent and thus it thinks they are supposed to be that way. ‘

                Do you disagree with that statement of mine? I think it’s pretty accurate, reading the article. It assigns lack of violence to feminity itself. Granted, it doesn’t use the word feminine, and instead calls it ‘female’, but I think that’s what it means.

                And…I’m pretty certain we’ve all talked about subtractive masculinity here? Aka, where masculinity is defined by the _absence_ of feminity. I seem to recall we’ve discussed that?

                If lack of violence is feminity, what’s the absence of that?

                Don’t confuse me with Mike. I’m not saying men don’t commit a lot more violence than women currently. They do. (I’m not really sure the _convicted crime stats_ cited in the article says much in that regard, it actually indicates a _different_ problem with current male behavior in my mind, by which I mean we should solve in some other manner than caring about ‘violence’, but…I’m done talking about it. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that just to dismiss it.)

                So here’s me saying it clearly because apparently I’m not being clear: People who commit violence to the level of _actual physical harm_ are almost always men. Like, if you have a room with one man and eight women, and someone in that room attacked someone…flip a coin. If it comes up heads, it was the man.

                There are a few places where I somewhat disagree with the stats, because I do think there are some gender biases in how we perceive and report violence, and how we treat it in the courtroom, but if I had to put random guess on how much they are off, it’s like 10% max. Maybe only seven women belong in that room.

                Which still leave men well in the lead.

                There are probably a lot of reasons for that. Some of those reasons are not solvable, like people are presumably more likely to be violent if they feel they can win if the person fights back, and men are more likely to be able to win fights, statistically. Likewise, there are enough biological differences in how rape works that men are always going to be more likely to do that.

                But a _solvable_ cause of violence a lot of men are taught to be violent as part of their identity. Aka, toxic masculinity.

                Women are less likely to commit violence. But a _trait_ of being a woman is not a lack of violence.

                And because of subtractive masculinity, saying ‘a trait of being a woman is lack of violence’ translates to ‘a trait of being a man is lack of lack of violence’. I.e, ‘a trait of being a man is violence’.

                This article seems to contribute to that.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @david-tc I’m neutral on whether that’s an accurate interpretation of the article. I kind of think it’s applying the wrong interpretive lens to something that is styled as a (compelling, interesting) rant about a movie, but my point is that by assuming additive/subtractive interpretations of femininity and masculinity, you are THUS making the thing you said be a corollary of the thing you believe she said. It’s only an obvious corollary if you make that assumption. Frankly, I’m not sure it is even if you make that assumption, but it’s definitely not if you don’t. (Thanks for clarifying your assumption, at least.)

                I disagree that this is a necessary assumption and thus I disagree that it’s a necessary corollary. Disagree strongly.

                And to the best of my knowledge this is the first time I’ve ever discussed any additive theory of gender on here ever other than to explain as an aside that my personal experience is exceptionally contradictory of any such thing – but I don’t think even then I would have phrased it that way, because it’s not the phrasing I tend to hear or to object to most often. I suppose I might have forgotten, but it’s unlikely.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                additive theory of gender?

                I think you’re talking about something _completely_ different than I am.

                I am not talking about any theory of gender in any manner at all. And honestly I have no idea what the theory you just named is, or what any theories of gender even are. The only results google is giving for ‘additive theory of gender’ is something about the ‘gender additive model of depression’, which doesn’t sound right. Subtractive isn’t give anything relevant at all.

                So I guess I should explain what I’m talking about.

                Subtractive masculinity (Which has no other names.) is a theory about masculine psychology. A somewhat informal theory. It’s trying to explain why many men resent the intrusion of women into formerly male spaces they have no logical reason to resent. Like resenting them in video games…logically, more people playing games means _more_ video games. Why would anyone resent people joining their hobbies, unless their hobby was collecting things with a limited supply or something?

                The theory is that certain men, and in fact a lot of men for quite some time, think that masculinity is defined solely by ‘things women do not do’. By male spaces that only had men in them. Because they got into those spaces, they are, ipso facto, men. (Women don’t have to be barred, just not there.)

                And that started to fall apart, quite a while back. Men wore pants, which proved they were men, but now women wear those. Men were the breadwinner, which proved they were men, but now women are breadwinners. Men played video games, which proved they were men, but now women play video games.

                Each time that women claim a new formerly-male-only thing they are now also doing, the pool of ‘things that prove masculinity’ get smaller and smaller. And…more and more weirdly erratic. Fedoras, anyone?

                But even worse, these men operate in a world where doing male-only behavior proves they are men, so they also apply that logic to female-only stuff, which would ‘prove’ they are women. The canonical example is ‘holding a woman’s purse’. If a man thinks that reflects on his masculinity, that’s supposedly _this_ belief system, right there. Or eating a salad. Or cleaning. This belief system (Which is, again, only a hypothesis.) sorts _all_ behavior into male, female, or neutral, and requires some occasional male behavior, and disallows all female behavior.

                ‘Subtractive masculinity’ is sorta the wrong term, it’s more like ‘exclusionary-gendered-behavior masculinity’.

                And, of course, violence for no reason is already one of ‘male’ things. Women don’t do that (Because there’s no actual reason, by definition.), ergo, doing that still indicates masculinity. Hence moronic bar fights and macho posturing. (Granted, this belief system isn’t the _only_ belief system of masculinity that results in that. I’m not saying ‘this belief system is why bar fights’, I’m saying ‘this belief system, like others, can lead to bar fights’.)

                But this article tries to move non-violence and negotiation into the female bucket…which, I mean, it can’t actually go all the way in there. Obviously, all men have to be non-violent most of the time. Men can’t walk around hitting everything in reach with a baseball bat, at least not for very long.

                But every inch that ‘negotiation’ and ‘non-violence’ moves closer to female means less willingness to do it. ‘He spilled beer on me, and apologized, but will accepting his apology make me _look like a woman_?’

                Whereas before it was just ‘Do I currently need to prove I am a man by having a dumb fight? No? Then okay, sure it’s fine. In fact, smelling like beer is manly.’.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                Remember I was trying to figure out what the heck *you* were talking about, so the reason it didn’t make any sense was because I didn’t know what the heck you were talking about.

                Now that I understand it, if that’s all you’re getting at, then yes, I recognize the worldview and I’ve seen it in action many times, but it’s an *extremely tiresome* facet of male psychology, an extremely tiresome belief system that results in a great deal of oppression on both large and small scales, part of the Great System of keeping people in their places, and there’s absolutely no reason Kristin or anyone else should have to dance around it when they’re trying to work out their own stuff. Work to fix that attitude (which people ought to grow out of soon after if not before adolescence) or to soften it to something that has more self-awareness, sure, I do that too, but don’t make demands or issue direct critiques that *other* people should be super-careful about their language so as not to to worsen things. That makes one an amplifier of the worldview, not a mitigator of it.

                This idea that men have to be coddled or they will lash out or be driven to violence is … understandable given history – it’s a survival strategy – , but to me a far more pernicious generalization than anything Kristin actually said (even though I disagree with lots of what she said). Apply what is to what ought to be in that way is defeatist.

                And given *who* usually gets told more to worry about how what they’re saying and doing affects men, I would say it’s also a sign of how much patriarchal power differential there actually still is, between most men and most women, than many other things that get so named. (And this from someone who almost never talks about patriarchy and almost always says kyriarchy for reasons I think you are mainly in sympathy with! But I do think so.)Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Wow, that got really weird. I don’t know how that could even have been a controversial statement, but there we just went.Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I believe the term you are looking for is “power fantasy”. Wonder Woman is a power fantasy.

    Excellent piece, by the way.Report

  5. Avatar Phaedros Aletheia says:

    I enjoyed your critique.
    I haven’t watched the movie, nor do I plan to.
    I have it on the very long list of movies I am too busy to watch.
    I anticipate that list will grow at a phenomenal rate in the not-too-distant future.

    Odd happenings:
    I sat in the car as a friend went into the pharmacy. I watched a woman exit with a toddler, the latter carrying a stuffed doll. Thoughts of imitation and the socialization of gender were percolating in my mind.
    Later, I watched a film on epigenetics. I could see the little girl from earlier in the rat mother licking, and saw that this sort of thing was very much needed to ensure our survival.
    All of this occurred within the backdrop of an attempted stabbing by a gang member.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      Thank you! I am finding my list of movies I’m too busy to watch is also growing astronomically.

      Having a daughter after raising 4 sons I often ponder gender socialization and why we are the way we are.

      I hope the attempted stabbing didn’t happen to you (wish it didn’t happen to anyone, of course!)Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    Most people misidentify the true hero in Wonder Woman. It’s not Diana or Steve. It’s not even a named character. It’s an infantryman who is in the British/Belgian trenches when Diana takes off her coat, goes over the top, and crushes through the German line. While she’s running forward and causing mayhem, that nameless British soldier realizes that she forgot her fur coat. What’s he do? He runs forward through interlocking machine gun and rifle fire to get her coat back to her, because that’s what men do. And of course he succeeds because after she’s taken the opposing town, she’s wearing her fur coat while posing for a photo.

    And of course the movie’s female star and female director don’t even give that selfless hero more than one little face shot back in the British trench, because women take such acts for granted. If a woman forgets her purse at a gas station, some guy is going to come running across highway traffic, dodging semis and motorcycles to toss it to her through her car window as he is crushed by a bus, and the woman will be like “Whew! I almost forgot my purse!” Yeah, you’re welcome ladies. That’s just how we roll.

    *Disclaimer: George Turner’s masculinity is so toxic that when he walks into a room, women often faint.

    But honestly, Gal Gidot is awesome. She filmed WW while she was very obviously pregnant. They used a green screen for her tummy. She’s also an IDF combat instructor.

    Superhero violence is an odd thing. It’s not for adults, it’s for children. In the adult world we know that a guy wearing Spandex tights is almost certainly going to be the most useless person there is in a crisis, but in the comic book world it works.

    Anyway, I highly recommend Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence /a>. It helps them transition into stable and well-adjusted adults.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      You know it’s interesting George, I had a totally different take on that. I was borderline offended by that part. firstly because I felt it was meant to be deliberately insulting towards men. Like “you idiots are opening doors for us and bringing us our coats when our rightful place is charging the German line”. And there was an element of “she needs to cover her nudity” to that too if I recall. Again, I found that offensive since I personally do not like the pressure put on young women to dress in super revealing ways, to please men. This concept that men are trying to clothe women to oppress them and/or that helping women with their doors or coats is somehow oppressive, IDK, just found it doubly offensive. And then she wore the coat anyway. :/ No wonder some guys feel women are taking men for granted.

      I’ll check out that book, thanks!Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        Attitudes toward clothing make for a weird but interesting study in the history of feminism/female empowerment. There is always a push-and-pull between clothing as objectifying (the scant stuff we both object to young women being pressured to wear so men can get an eyeful) vs women having to wear some species of burka to “cover their nudity” and/or “not distract the boys”.

        Not wearing a corset was once shocking and wanton, though I’d argue that it was indeed absolutely empowering since rebelling in that way meant you could actually move and breath. In the 1920s showing your ankles was radical – and wanton! – because it defied a social rule that said women modest women showed no hint that they had – gasp! – legs. Wearing pants was also once both radically feminist and dangerously titillating (men could *see* your legs and even see that you had a crotch!). Don’t even get me started on the 60s ‘burn your bra thing’ – it was at once absurd and understandable (guess which item of clothing I’m happiest to remove at the end of the day but would never go out in public without?). And miniskirts, which now are pretty much things women are pressured to wear for the benefit of the male gaze, were once considering ’empowering’ because they were a way of saying you were dressing for your own comfort and _not_ out of concern for how men would react or what society would think. Today girls are fighting school dress codes that are pages long for them but for boys are usually one or two bullet points (1. Wear a shirt. 2. No shirts with curse words or offensive images). And they are rebelling against those because the issue is presented in a way that sure sounds like ‘the thing that really matters here is how this affects the boys’… which gets us right back to a generation of young women again feeling that dressing in scant clothes is empowering because it *isn’t* following a dress code designed to accommodate boys…

        ::sigh::

        Clothing is a feminist issue, but there’s no clear cut feminist view on style/meaning. Wear a burka and you are oppressed and conforming to patriarchal rules; wear a bikini – even at the beach – and you’re making yourself a sex object. Men can run around in nothing but jogging shorts and no one thinks they are being pressured to wear super revealing clothing so women can ogle them, but a woman wears a tank top to a gym and she’s ‘putting herself on display’. In short, women can’t seem to win here.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          “And miniskirts, which now are pretty much things women are pressured to wear for the benefit of the male gaze…”

          We were recently at a high school football game, which had about 15,000 attendees, mostly students from various local schools. This is always a good opportunity to do some anthropological observations on what kids are wearing (and my wife and I rarely get opportunities to do social science together). For the boys, teenage fashion hasn’t changed much in the last year. We did notice some subtle changes with the girls though. Black leggings still rule them all, but Uggs appear to be out, in favor of Chuck Taylors or running shoes. The other thing we noticed was a small, but noticeable % of girls wearing crop tops. So my (serious) question is this: Are they being pressured to do this by other women? By guys? By the fashion industry? All of the above? Or do they simply like showing a little skin? I mean, this was a relatively small number of girls but the similarities in styles were enough to make me think that they aren’t just trying to be unique.Report

  7. Avatar InMD says:

    Very much enjoyed the piece.

    I’m kind of down on super hero movies generally, despite enjoying rather violent films. There’s never any risk to the heroes and the kid-friendly framing means that good will always prevail with any moral ambiguity about the situation swept under a CGI rug. I also find the idea that any of these big blockbuster celebrations of consumerism could ever be at all subversive to be quite silly. Like Oscar said above, it’s a power fantasy. She isn’t a woman any more than Black Panther is a black dude.
    They’re cgi avatars and the ultimate point is the sale of happy meals, not empowerment or whatever.

    If we really need a feminist action hero I never understood how ol’ Warrant Officer Ripley was forgotten. Other than the as-usual-for-scifi unexplained but seemingly implausible methods of interstellar travel there’s some solid realism and consequences for actions. She even suffers a depressing and terrible death on screen in a defiant act against corporate greed!

    Of course now that I’m writing this I can totally see why producers would never put millions of dollars into something like that again…Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      Yes, totally agree – it’s the “manufactured peril” element. The world isn’t going to end, Iron Man isn’t going to die, Black Panther will still be king of Wakanda in the end, etc. We all know whatever Thanos did will be undone in the sequel.

      I guess the problem wasn’t so much that I was personally looking for or expecting empowerment from WW but that so many people were claiming that they had found it there. I just don’t see it that way and it makes me wonder what we’re doing wrong as a culture (that sounded way more melodramatic than I intend) when women are really feeling they have no role models beyond cartoon characters.Report

  8. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I didn’t see Wonder Woman, though it’s on my maybe-get-around-to-seeing list. When and if I do watch it, I don’t expect I’ll find much to disagree with in your take on the movie. I’d watch Hidden Figures before Wonder Woman any day.

    I did go to Doctor Marston and the Wonder Women – a probably-loosely biographical movie about William Marston (author of the original Wonder Woman comics and co-inventor of the polygraph), his wife Elizabeth Marston (law professor and co-inventor of the polygraph), and their life partner Olive Byrne (a newspaper and magazine writer).

    It follows their lives together, the repercussions of their then-entirely-taboo polyamory, and the development and controversies of the Wonder Woman character. I’m probably biased because there’s not a whole lot of sweet and sypathetic depiction of polyamory in movies, but I really enjoyed that movie.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      That sounds really interesting, thanks for the heads up!Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      That was great film. I particularly liked how the dynamic wasn’t male/female but dominant/submissive (and not along gender lines). And that dominant/submissive wasn’t a matter of strong/weak – both had strength and weakness and the movie explored how they interacted.

      Also, the ways that the threesome had to disguise who/what they were to fit into society paralleled the ways WW had to hide her true nature and conform to society’s expectations of women in order to live among us.

      (the movie was also interesting in terms of an old comment about how Steve Trevor got captured so much you started to wonder if he didn’t enjoy being tied up… 😉 )Report

  9. Avatar Maribou says:

    What I found beautiful and empowering about the Amazons was not per se their ability to kill and fight, but their self-sufficiency. They (unlike the movie’s heroine, frankly) did not seem to exist for the male gaze in the way that so many on-screen women do. They were just… doing their thing. Which in that time and context did include war, and so they were shown as strong, competent people, badasses with plausible body-types, in the context of warring, rather than damsels in distress or *of necessity* being people who were trying to stop the war, tend the sick, etc. Because not every woman DID fill those roles, historically, plenty of women were fighters, did train, etc., and seeing them doing that *without the historical constraints historical women were actually forced to struggle against* was pleasurable for me in an escapist way that I also find in some runs of the comic book. (And unlike you seem to, I don’t sort my pleasures by format when determining if they are worthy ones.)

    I’m sure my context was also shaped by the number of armed forces women I know who felt seen by the movie in that way, and by the amount of time I’ve spent watching other choreographed kinds of fighting that are largely male-dominated. It’s like the all-female version of Titus Andronicus I watched a few years ago – it’s not that I want *anyone* to be like the people in Titus Andronicus, but it was still stirring to reimagine that play as feminine rather than masculine.

    I, like you, tend toward the pacifistic in my day to day life and my politics, and the women I honor were mostly not warriors, and I mostly wish everyone was less violent, not more. But I still found the enormous numbers of strong women, doing what they are good at doing (they hired Olympians and wrestlers for most of those roles) to be quite beautiful. And yes, oddly inspiring.

    I really enjoyed this piece, also, and I think your critiques are entirely valid.

    It’s a complicated thing.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      I guess I just can’t divorce that in my mind from the reality that it is a movie and that all those women seemingly just going about their business on Themiscyra were being gawked at by a lot of dudes IRL. That having been said, I only watched the movie once and if you are telling me that you found the training scenes early on to be inspiring I can absolutely see that; I have been inspired and empowered by female athletes and warriors training in various different formats before so it’s not an idea that I’m opposed to or that is foreign to me.

      It is evidently a shortcoming with my piece that people are detecting a disdain or lack of appreciation of strong and athletic women doing strong and athletic things. My issue is not that I can’t appreciate seeing strong women doing physical things. Not at all. My issue was that this movie was presented in several places as finally! empowerment! role models! at last! we’ve literally never had role models before! and that seems to be disrespectful of a whole lot of women who aren’t physically strong or who fought their own battles and their own wars using other types of weapons. It also is concerning to me for violence to be so very glorified at a point in time where we seem to have so many divisions otherwise.

      I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. I believe fully there is room for appreciating lots of different ways of being female. Of course. And I apologize for not taking the time to make that clear enough in my piece. But I felt that so much of the praise of Wonder Woman was to take the opposite tack – to come out swinging against any way of seeing women that did not involve feats of strength, to see no heroism in anything other than athleticism, in doing so devaluing so many other women. Just wanted to make the opposite case.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to give me feedback, really appreciate it..Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        “Finally! empowerment! role models! at last! we’ve literally never had role models before!”

        Oh, lord, I see your point now and I do vaguely remember a few pieces like that. I think I just have heard so much of that style of hyperbole in the geek community so often about so many different not-actually-groundbreaking-or-at-least-not-in-that-WAY things that I pretty much have just tuned all of it out by now and thus didn’t really grasp who / what style of enthusiasm you were objecting to.

        But that stuff absolutely *is* disrespectful to all the other ways women have of being heroic and worthy of admiration / emulation, you’re 100 percent right, and it’s quite obnoxious just in general terms as well. Ahistorical.Report

        • Avatar atomickristin says:

          Yes, exactly! Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

          Totally what I get for taking a year to write the darn essay, because not only has the context died on the vine for everyone but me, I missed out on lots of germane tweets and articles I read that I couldn’t track down again to use to make the original case.Report

  10. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Yet in this movie of “female empowerment” there are NO WOMEN doing anything even remotely female.

    This movie has women running a kingdom, raising a child, defending their home, and joining a war, against society’s wishes, to save the defenseless. All those things are very ‘female’ things to do, at least in my book. Yes, even the last thing, which has a very long history in various forms.

    Women have had to cross oceans to marry men they never met to secure treaties and business deals. Women have had to nurse the sick and dying knowing every moment they could fall ill. Women have had to stretch not-enough food over too many mouths knowing that someone would have to go without – usually them.

    Right. Little girls need to see heroes like that. The ones who marry men they don’t want to and sacrifice themselves for those men…and also do the cooking. We need more women like that.

    Man, for some reason that sounds really sexist when _I_ say it.

    Women have fought wild animals to protect men and wild men to protect animals.

    Isn’t fighting men to protect animals ‘violence’? And thus something that isn’t ‘female’? Wait. The end of the movie was to stop a chemical gas attack that would have, surely, have killed a bunch of animals. So Diana was actually ‘fighting to protect animals’!

    Women have sailed on clipper ships and ridden in conestogas to dangerous new lands they probably didn’t even want to go to.

    Yeah. Why _don’t_ we have more movies showing women they can unwillingly be forced to move to places they don’t want to go? So many women think that’s not possible in this day and age of equal rights.

    Damn you Disney, for butchering the true message in Pocahontas, which is about a heroic young girl who is forcibly married to an older man for political reasons and hauled back and forth across the ocean. Truely, someone that young women could aspire to be. #lifegoals

    *sigh*

    Being victimized by the world by the world and society, and yet managing to stay alive, to keep going, is heroic, yes, but not particularly something women should aspire to in the present day.

    Women today should _not_ put up with that. Or, at least, not _taught_ to put up with that. They should not be told to heroically sit silently in a marriage they don’t want to be in, to be forced to migrate where they don’t want to, to sit silently and serve men however best they can.

    They should be taught they can do whatever they want, if it’s ‘male’ or ‘female’, which will, by necessity, involve them seeing some women _doing things you don’t think are female_ to show it is possible.

    Women have waged (and won) real wars, both independently and en masse as a sisterhood, defeating men not with “better violence” but with reason and persuasion and charm and cleverness and endurance.

    This is a wildly ahistoric view of reality. Women have really never had enough political power to end wars. And while women tend to support war less than men, it’s not hugely less, often less than 5%. And Lysistrata is a _play_, not history.

    As men actually had power, most successful peace efforts have been lead by them. The creation of the EU, for example, was arguably one of the most successful peace effort ever done…and was done by a man.

    It is deeply, deeply concerning to me that so many young women seem to have bought into this fiction that they had no positive role models prior to the release of the movie Wonder Woman.

    Perhaps young women feel they have no role models because people are running around policing their behavior to make sure it is ‘female’ enough and those young women want to do things that apparently _aren’t_ female? Like joining the military. Or becoming a police officer. Or an MMA fighter. Or a professional athlete.

    Or really, _any_ sort of role that isn’t traditionally inhabited by women because it requires some sort of ‘aggression’ and people run around saying such roles are not suitable for women? Like a lawyer, or CEO. Or President.

    In reality, the violence in movies you complain about, like most things in movies, has metaphoric meanings. Physical violence in movies often translates in viewers into a willingness to stand up for themselves in any sort of conflict, to show strength, to, yes, be ’empowered’ in ways that do not involve physical violence in real life.

    Perhaps young women like to see other women stand up to gods and go toe-to-toe with them, so _they_ feel they can stand up to…well, to the next person who tells them it is their duty in life to marry men they never met to secure treaties and business deals. Or the boss who dismisses everything they say and treats them as a secretary instead of how male employees are treated.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      Oh you know, you’re right David. There is nothing to be gained from looking admirably upon anyone who was born into a terrible life in a terrible time and place and who still acted with bravery and strength despite the hands that they were dealt. Certainly their lives were worth much less than a MMA fighter.

      After reading your comment I went to my bookshelf and shredded The Diary of Anne Frank. I mean what did she ever do? Sat in a room? What a loser. She should have charged out onto the battlefield and taken on the entire German Army. Of course. Because that was the only way for her to show any kind of admirable quality that any person might ever want to emulate. Head to head combat.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        I don’t think that is what David is saying. Strength and heroism in enduring hardship and surviving injustice are things worthy of honor, but they are (a) not uniquely _female_ experiences and (b) not necessarily the mode of response we want to teach women, minorities or anyone else facing social oppression or injustice.

        I see now from your exchange with Maribou that you didn’t mean to come acorss that way, but I admit when I first read your piece my gut response was much like David’s. I cringed in particular at

        Yet in this movie of “female empowerment” there are NO WOMEN doing anything even remotely female.

        Fighting to protect homes, families and loved ones to me is very female (anyone who attacks my children in my presence _will_ regret it for their quite possibly very short lives). The athletic pursuits shown were entirely female. The camaraderie among the Amazons was very female. The loyalty to each other was very female. Just because men also do those things does not make them masculine characteristics.

        Moreover, why would we want to hold up women who got forced into things and bore it quietly and with unresisting stoicism as the archetype of feminine heroism? I do not look down on women who had to deal with the lesser place society assigned them and had the internal strength to survive, but I sure as heck am not going to say to my daughter, “Look, this is what Real Women (TM) are like: uncomplaining, pacifistic and passive.”

        I also disagree strongly with the idea that women are somehow innately pacifistic. I absolutely agree that War. Is. Bad. But that is not because I’m a feminist. That is based on being human. And more specifically, as a citizen of a democracy I see war as something to be avoided because those that enlist in our armed forces essentially sign a blank check to the rest of us for everything up to and including their lives, which means we have a very serious responsibility not to cash that check unless it is truly necessary. I don’t think that pov is somehow genetically linked to two X chromosomes.

        I also saw the movie when it came out and had a very different reaction. I did find it empowering – not because WW supernaturally kicked butt, but because she exemplified the virtues we associated with warriors – bravery, strength (of body and will), self-sacrifice – all things I grew up hearing from society at large that women inherently lacked. Women were _supposed_ to be weak and meek and gentle and in need of protection. Basically little more than small children in adult bodies. So _for me_ WW in the comic books back in my childhood and in the recent movie, was an empowering figure. Not because she was ‘toxic masculinity in drag’ but because she was not constrained by how Real Women (TM) were supposed to behave. She was allowed to stand up and fight – even physically!- to protect people in danger, and she was even allowed to stand up for herself. She was not the scream&faint rescue-me-love-interest or the poor little princess who needed the big strong prince to save her; she was a princess who could pick up a sword and fight beside him – or to save him – if necessary.

        Now, I understand criticizing superheroes (male and female) for showing only fighting and feats of physical strength as heroic because it neglects all of the other (and frequently more important) ways that people can be heroic. It’s one of the reasons I always loved Professor X in X-men – here was a guy confined to wheelchair who was leading a whole team of superheroes. But the qualities that I found empowering in WW weren’t superhuman strength, but her valor and intelligence and determination. Imho, one of the compelling things about the character, both in original comics and the movie, is the way she faces and interacts with our world – one that tells her that because she’s female she should be something other than what she knows herself to be – and the choices she makes in how she navigates between what she is capable of and the identity she has to pretend to live and work in this world. In that she is exactly the same sort of heroine as my mother and grandmothers, who had life stories not so different from your grandmother’s.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          Moreover, why would we want to hold up women who got forced into things and bore it quietly and with unresisting stoicism as the archetype of feminine heroism? I do not look down on women who had to deal with the lesser place society assigned them and had the internal strength to survive, but I sure as heck am not going to say to my daughter, “Look, this is what Real Women (TM) are like: uncomplaining, pacifistic and passive.”

          You said that much better than me.

          Sometimes surviving quietly from day to day is the only choice. It happens with women, and it also happens with _men_. I mean, there were plenty of men hiding in that attic with Anne Frank.

          I can’t condemn the people who do that. Who see overwhelming odds and (probably correctly) decide that nothing they do will really change things and they should keep their head down. I won’t pretend I wouldn’t be one of those people.

          But I’m not going to say to little girls ‘Hey, be like those people. Hide from the Nazis and eventually get found and murdered’ or even ‘Suffer in a loveless marriage because society requires it of you’. Why…why would I possibly hold that up as behavior for little girls to emulate?!

          The behavior to emulate, to hold up as heroic to children, are the people who responded ‘Hell no.’.Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            I imagine it depends on what level of optimism you have about the future.

            I would *like* to believe that people no longer need to have the traits I admire about bearing up in situations where they are greatly constrained and the freedom they have is nowhere near that of your stereotypical top-of-the-heap person, and being as good at finding ways to survive and even thrive, whether that be pragmatically or merely morally, in those situations.

            I would *like* to believe that little girls will no longer need those skills and don’t need to hear about those examples.

            But dude, when *I* was a little girl I fucking *needed* those examples. I would much rather that I had lived in a society that wouldn’t have let my father torture me physically and mentally for most of my childhood. But I didn’t. And examples of bearing up passively, picking one’s battles, finding ways to escape the lash rather than attack it … those really and truly helped me.

            Most women in this country are not in that extreme a situation these days. But plenty of women (and other oppressed people) are in a situation where survival is a better option than rebellion. Or a necessary step on the way to rebellion. Where they can’t just assert the entitlement of the Amazon – literally CANNOT, and survive – and they need different role models.

            I don’t want little girls to need those skills at all. I certainly don’t advocate telling my nieces (or nephews) to study people’s grandmothers and greatgrandmothers who bore up *instead* of fighters and rebels. But if they are ever bound in situations where they have no shot at rebellion – as I have been, as many women often are here and now, today, not just in developing countries, but in every strata of every damn society – I hope they can see, better than you can, the values and beauty that Kristin is elevating here.

            Because otherwise they are going to be like the many many rape victims who become suicidal not because of what happened to them, but because they are so damn ashamed they didn’t turn out to be like Freddie Oversteegen, and they don’t have any way to understand their own choices as heroic.

            That’s why I don’t only want the kids I know to understand the value of being freaking Ubermensch — that and because I want them to value all their good and virtuous ancestors, not just the violent ones.

            The freedom found in tight constraint is as powerful as the freedom found in lawlessness, sometimes more so. And if you think Freddie Oversteegen (whom I also admire) didn’t understand that, didn’t value the people she was fighting to save and didn’t value their choices to do differently than she did – not just accept, but *value* them – see them as worth dying for, I don’t think you and I have read the same stories about her. Or if you think she did, and she was just stupid to do so, then why the heck would you find her heroic? I mean, that would indicate she was *being stupid* and risking her life for no reason.

            I don’t think you think that, and I don’t think that – but the way you’re arguing things seems to indicate otherwise.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              I don’t want little girls to need those skills at all. I certainly don’t advocate telling my nieces (or nephews) to study people’s grandmothers and greatgrandmothers who bore up *instead* of fighters and rebels. But if they are ever bound in situations where they have no shot at rebellion – as I have been, as many women often are here and now, today, not just in developing countries, but in every strata of every damn society – I hope they can see, better than you can, the values and beauty that Kristin is elevating here.

              Just because I don’t think something is correctly called ‘heroic’ doesn’t mean I don’t value it.

              But Kristen actually listed a lot of example of actual heroism, as in self-sacrifice. Women nursing others and knowing they will get ill. Women staving themselves.

              And the most heroic of all, one that is really not mentioned very much, is women heroically putting up with shitty situations of all sorts to keep their children fed, putting up with rape and abuse and sacrificing all their desires and goals. This is basically half the history of women.

              Those women are heroes.

              (Now, I utterly disagree with qualifying that sort of heroism as ‘female’, men have done it through history also. Men even _fought in wars_ under exactly that logic, to protect or feed their families, but apparently, all that is just because men like violence of something, I don’t even know. Likewise, many women have heroically used violence. The gendering is nonsense.)

              Now, it is a perfectly valid point we shouldn’t _just_ admire heroism. There are plenty of other admirable traits people can have, like general kindness, or acceptable, or just the ability to get up in the morning because of their situation. (I do think a lot of abuse survivors have sacrificed things to keep things functioning, and thus could legitimately be called heroes, but that’s something else. I’m writing another post below.)

              We’re probably not going to get action movies _without_ heroes of some sort, though. The best we can hope for is that our heroes have other admirable traits in addition to heroism.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        After reading your comment I went to my bookshelf and shredded The Diary of Anne Frank. I mean what did she ever do? Sat in a room? What a loser.

        Anne Franks wasn’t a ‘loser’, but she wasn’t a hero, either. I’m not even sure she qualifies as a ‘role model’ in any sense. She was someone who was senselessly murdered, and I don’t want to speak badly of her, I don’t think she _could_ have done anything ‘better’ or did anything wrong. She was just a child.

        The Diary of Anne Franks isn’t read because Anne Franks is heroic or admirable. The Diary of Anne Franks is read because it’s an extremely good (And pretty well-written) observation of life under Nazi occupation, and she has some interesting observations on people in it. That doesn’t magically make the writer any sort of hero. (In fact, Anne is barely a character.)

        She should have charged out onto the battlefield and taken on the entire German Army.

        Honestly, yes, she ‘should’ have in the objective sense. She still would have died, and maybe she’d taken a few Nazis out with her. The outcome could hardly have been _worse_ for her.

        But I can understand why she didn’t, as she was literally a child.

        Because that was the only way for her to show any kind of admirable quality that any person might ever want to emulate. Head to head combat.

        You’re the person who decided to complain about what form of courage female heroes showed, not me. You decided that women who go into battle are not ‘female’.

        All I said is we shouldn’t teach little girls to sit quietly and suffer as some sort of _heroic ideal_ because they’re female and that’s what women do.

        And Anne Franks is not particularly heroic at any point in that book, and she’s in such specific circumstances that it’s baffling that you think little girls should want to emulate her. I assume you don’t mean they should be ‘in hiding’ or ‘murdered by Nazis’, but I’m sorta left with ‘keeps a diary’ and ‘documents daily events pretty well with some humor’.

        She did manage to never really lose hope, and I guess that’s an admirable quality (Or…not. I mean, she was factually wrong.), but it’s not really heroic.

        She didn’t even do anything of the things you listed women as heroically doing. She didn’t try to fight for peace, she didn’t marry anyone, she didn’t defeat any men with reason and persuasion and charm and cleverness and endurance. She lived in a secret part of a house, she suffered through some stuff, and was captured and murdered by Nazis.

        Heroism usually requires some sort of voluntary sacrifice, and Anne Franks did not, at any point, _choose_ to sacrifice anything. She had everything taken away from her. She’s a victim, not a hero.

        And now that _you’ve_ decided to bring up actual people and pretend I’m comparing them to fictional ones (Because me saying ‘This fictional person acted more heroicly in the story than a specific real person did in real life’ and ‘This murdered person isn’t really a ‘hero’ in any sense, just a victim.’ will obviously sound bad regardless of whether or not that’s true.), I will also bring up a real teenage girl in WWII: Freddie Oversteegen

        In case you’re not familiar with her, she was a teenager in WWII in the Netherland also, although not Jewish and a few years older. She not only helped hide Jews with her family and smuggle them out, she (and sometimes her sister and a friend) blew up railroad tracks.

        But the best thing she and her friends did was that she flirted with Nazi soldiers in bars, lured them to the forest, and proceeded to shoot them in the head, and bury their bodies in the forest. She and her little group did this repeatedly. No one is sure how many Nazis they killed that way. There are still Nazi bodies hidden in the woods that were never found.

        They also just sorta randomly shot Nazis from their bicycles. Just, like a group of girls out cycling down the road, they come across a car of Nazis driving down the road, they pull out handguns and shoot them all and continue their merry way to their picnic.

        Was that ‘female’ heroics or not, since you’ve decided to condemn ‘non-female’ heroics by women? Should she be considered a feminist hero? Should little girls look up to her? Were her actions, to quote you, ‘remotely female’?

        Anne Franks saved the lives of no one, and risked nothing. Freddie Oversteegen saved an unknown amount of people, including people like Anne Franks, and risked her own life, repeatedly, to do so.Report

  11. Superhero movies are mostly crap, which follows from the fact that they’re a subset of action movies, which are mostly crap. But it’s a good thing that some of them feature a woman, just as Black Panther was a good thing*.

    Similarly, romantic comedies are mostly silly fluff, and Crazy Rich Asians was no exception**. But it was nice to have a film by and about Asians, whether it was otherwise much good or not.

    *Even though choosing a king via a fistfight is even sillier than watery tarts throwing swords about.

    **The heroine’s only sensible response was to be furious with the hero for having lied to her the entire time they’d known each other, leave, and refuse to see him ever again.Report

  12. Avatar Maribou says:

    @kristindevine
    Not sure if you’ll find this as resonant with your piece as I did, but I was struck tonight by what I see as resonance, anyway, so I thought I would share it:

    “”For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become. It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity. You come from a long line of poets, some of the greatest poets since Homer. One of them said, ‘The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.’

    “You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon. We cannot be free until they are free. God bless you, James, and Godspeed.”

    — James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

    The part I found particularly to connect in some way was ” in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity”Report

  13. Kristin,

    I haven’t (and probably won’t) see Wonder Woman, so I’m speaking from ignorance, but I do like your review. I may differ a little along the lines some others have already about what your review seems to imply about distinctly “feminine” virtues. And I have reservations about the Jane Addams style activism.

    But those are tangential to your main point and I heartily agree with what I take to be your critique against “using violence more effectively = empowerment.”Report

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