Poking through the TV stations and saw an ad for yet another show I call gun-dramas. It’s apparently about a team of quirky, brilliant ex-criminals that use their special knowledge of crime to catch other criminals. Kind of a domesticated Dirty Dozen thing, with thirteen episodes a season.
Only this one features not just men, but women – women who look like runway models of course, femmed out to the eyeballs even as they leap over exploding fireballs in high heels, sling lead from firearms, and talk shit like smart-ass adolescents (just like men characters have for some time now).
Not new. Women are regularly featured in almost all the new cop dramas, and they hit the Weaver firing position just like the guys, shout “Freeze!” and seemingly effortlessly throw bad men into walls and attach handcuffs to them in a split second. They also talk about making a bad guy their “bitch,” talk about “scumbags,” engage in righteous bullying of suspect and “perps,” and make wry quips over grisly corpses.
When De was editing Sex & War, we had an exchange of notes over my mention of the film GI Jane, because the film has a bizarre climax.
In this movie – starring Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, and Anne Bancroft – Demi Moore’s character, a female naval officer, is given the opportunity to be the sole first woman attending SEAL training. After a predictable series of confrontations with the boyz, and a rough start with the sadistic Mortensen character – who is the senior instructor in this scriptwriter’s SEAL training – Moore’s character reaches the climax of the drama, where she engages in a knock-down-drag-out fight with the Mortensen character, and after getting the best of him, stands bloodied over his prostrate figure and roars, “Suck my dick!”
Weee-heeee-heeeellll! I thought, when I first saw this. That was beyond weird. Weirder still is the follow-on scene, where her classmates welcome her as an honorary male, and she is summarily accepted into the SEAL fraternity as an equal.
There is a surprising degree of consensus that hostility and domination, as opposed to intimacy and physical pleasure, are central to sexual excitement.
— Nancy C.M. Hartsock
Then, the denouement. She goes to combat and proves herself once and for all by killing Arabs.
Some who have a slightly different grasp of what feminism is than I do might call this a “feminist” trend. Women are being shown as men’s equals. An interesting idea, when the men being shown are not the equals of any real, flesh-and-blood men, but that’s another complaint…
There is a school of thought calling itself feminist that celebrates any portrayal of women doing “man-things,” and there is an opposing school of thought that says women doing man-things is emasculating boys and men, because now boyz-n-men can’t do those things that men did that made them men because they were things that women didn’t do.
I would agree with the latter, but only in a very limited way. Masculinity is definitely constructed as being not-like-women.
I disagree with the “feminists” who celebrate macho women, for the reason that Andrea Dworkin explained so eloquently:
A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.
Macho men are dominators. Macho men are conquest-junkies.
In the real world, real macho men are very, very hard on real women. This doesn’t get turned off, as it does on the cop-dramas, where a macho-man cop becomes a principled defender of women against other male “perps.”
(I would point out that Carole Pateman, writing in The Sexual Contract, explains the “contract” as a woman obeying one man in exchange for him protecting her from all other men.)
That some few women have sold their souls and managed to be accepted into the boys’ club has done little to change that.
What’s really going on here is the re-valorization of dominator-masculinity; and the mythology it supports is that these macho types are necessary as a firewall between we – the people of light – and Them, the forces of darkness.
Macho women in the entertainment media are a sop to an audience that has been schooled in the shallow feminism of consumer-culture liberalism (by male directors mostly). That superficial culture has been trained to demand that women who do man-things. What is not questioned is the value or morality of those man things, and what is re-valorized is domination itself.
If feminism is part of a larger movement to end domination, then these fictional macho women are not feminist. Maybe, for some people, that is an IF too far.