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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Lara Croft is a feminist's wet dream


What does feminism want? No one really knows. As a general statement, they want a woman who is tough rather than dainty; has a her own agency and can take of herself (not a damsel in distress), is independent from men, but still looks like a woman. They want a woman who is sexually liberated, rather than a woman who has to 'cover up' and be 'chaste' because that's denying female sexuality. They want a woman who is intelligent and well-educated. Who fits this bill well? Ms Croft.

No one in the creative industries can invent a fictional character without people having to analyse their 'race' and 'gender' and 'class.' I understand that sometimes this is necessary to see how a character may represent the zeitgeist, particularly if the director is specifically trying to focus on a socio-cultural issue (Spike Lee, Jordan Peele). But sometimes I think a story just needs to be a story, and the 'sociological analysis' doesn't need to be overdone. I like Sex and the City because its funny and the characters are likeable and relatable (to me); I don't associate it with 'feminism' or 'women's liberation.' The discussion of women's issues are there, but they're in the back and the story is up front.

Since Lara Croft was invented, she's constantly been torn apart by feminists. One of the main reasons is the way she looks. I get it to a degree; most female athletes don't have large breasts because working out a lot and wearing a sports bra reduces that level of bodily fat. But this is a game that has been marketed to young boys. Isn't it funny how no one moans about how Christian Grey, James Bond and Edward Cullen are all designed to pander to a female fantasy? (And what about looking at it another way; breasts represent femininity and womanhood, and give Lara feminine attributes when everything else about her is so traditionally masculine?)

Male protagonists are designed with six-packs, chiseled jaws and v-lines, but you don't hear men complaining about how they feel 'objectified' and that women want men with 'unrealistic bodily proportions.' Fat men are depicted as dumb and annoying in cartoons such as Family Guy and The Simpsons, but fat guys in real life don't beg to be 'accepted' and to stop being depicted in such 'offensive' ways.

Lara Croft was designed with large breasts and a small waist to cater to a male fantasy through marketing. That is true and I don't see why that is a problem, because everything else about her caters to a feminist fantasy. She's a well-educated wealthy white woman, she doesn't have a key love interest, and she's a tough fighter who doesn't need rescuing. Change one thing about her - i.e., give her smaller breasts - and suddenly feminists love her! (Talk about superficial; yet men are the one who 'reduce women down to objects'?)

Lately I've been becoming more disheartened about the 'Second Wave' feminist movement, due to the negative impacts its having on our modern world and the confusion and hypocrisies within. The original aims of feminism were voting rights, education and property rights. The French saw (and still see) feminism as something that went hand-in-hand with an economic revolution, believing liberation of women was necessary to further economic liberation of the people of France and move into a socialist utopia.

Betty Friedan's novel 'The Feminine Mystique' catered to the bored, upper middle class white housewives who had gone to university and felt something was missing from their lives. It ignored all other women who were already working, as well as gay women and women of colour. Gloria Steinem possessed anti-male sentiments, claiming 'a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle'. (So you don't need your father?) Slogans of the movement included signs like 'don't cook dinner, starve a rat today!' Yet we're still being told feminism was all about gender equality, when it never has been; it's about women's rights. (And maybe even a vision of women living without men...)

I guess I'm becoming a bit distrustful of everything I've heard about feminism and how its done such a great job. Its the same as being told Islam is a 'religion of peace' when everything about the ideology and those who practice it states otherwise. I'm not going to compare Islam to feminism as one has killed loads of people and the other has simply disrupted gender relations.

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that before the period of Second Wave feminism, the rights for (white, upper/middle class) women were being campaigned for in France, Britain and America, and were won. Property was something that was typically passed down from man to son. But a couple women - Friedan and Steinem - suddenly wanted to speak for 'all' women, and turned the movement into something radicalised - and even perhaps unnecessary?

In the case of sexual liberation and contraceptive rights, which I support; maybe this isn't an issue of men vs women, but religious fanatics vs non religious fanatics. People who are against abortion tend to be religious, and Roe vs Wade was over-turned by an entire Supreme Court of men, not women. Women also tend to be anti-abortion more than men - ironically, although it makes sense for women to have stronger opinions on abortion considering we're the ones that get them. The contraceptive pill was invented by a man, and his intentions had more to do with Science than feminism (although he was supported by a feminist activist).

And coming to things like 'women shouldn't have sex till marriage' and 'nice girls don't sleep around'; these are sentiments enforced by Abrahamic religions; in countries like Sweden (and the UK), where people tend not to be religious, liberal attitudes to sex are more common. So is sexual freedom for women (and when I say freedom I mean having agency about your sexuality and not feeling bad for wanting to wait or wanting to sleep around) more to do with religious conservatism vs non-religious liberalism, than feminism?

So I know this post started off as me going on about Lara Croft and then ended up with some sort of critique of post 60s feminism. But as usual, I want to hear your thoughts, on where I may or may not be right or wrong (and when it comes to the social sciences there typically isn't a definitive right or wrong answer). I think feminism is, if anything, reductionist; it reduces too many of societies 'problems' to being gender issues, rather than looking at additional factors. Lara Croft was designed as attractive because it would sell more games, not because men hate women and only see them as sex objects. The original creator wanted to create a feisty action heroine, not a page 3 pin-up.

Links:

http://www.nme.com/blogs/the-movies-blog/tomb-raider-2018-lara-croft-feminist-icon-2251438

'it may well be a stereotype, but it seems to be people are over-analysing this whole thing' (regarding Lara Croft's body image)
https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3292/interview_with_toby_gard.php

Anglo-phone vs Franco-phone feminism:
https://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/blogs/the-man-who-coined-feminism.htm

https://frenchly.us/what-french-feminists-know-that-american-feminists-dont/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/french-feminists-catherine-deneuve-metoo-letter-sexual-harassment

The pill:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/a-brief-history-of-the-birth-control-pill/480/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/the-team-that-invented-the-birth-control-pill/380684/

Just a great article:
https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/11/feminism-weak-women-equality-sameness-difference/

Great blog about feminism:
http://progressbeyondfeminism.blogspot.com/2018/03/FeminismIsRadicalAndUnnecessary.html

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