[Discussion] Feminism and social justice, plus FAQ!

This thread is for discussing feminist issues--from the narrow meaning (a movement for social justice in terms of gender equality) to the broader meaning (a movement for social justice, period), and from the scope of issues in gaming and geek culture to kyriarchy in general.

Basic questions are allowed here for now, we will split out a Q&A thread should it become necessary.

One thing I want to clarify real quick: I'm not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that all violence is inherently masculine or that violent fantasy is incompatible with feminism. I personally am both a pacifist and strongly in favor of gun control, but I think violence generally and personal protection specifically are areas that aren't clearly good or bad from a feminist perspective.

Where feminism comes into it in artistic critique is in the presentation of those things, and that's where I'm coming from with Punisher: the framework for the violence is almost all about men knowing what's best and acting on that conviction. But credit where it's due to the show: nearly every badass team of operators in the show has women in it, and the men in these teams aren't all square-jawed dudes with torsos shaped like Doritos chips.

Thank you for the considered response.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

Interesting. I'd love to revisit this topic once I've finished the show.

I've now finished the show, and I'm just not seeing how it does anything but explicitly reinforce tired, toxic views of masculinity.

Unquestionably, Frank, the other veterans of Cerberus, and Lewis are depicted as deeply traumatized and on some level broken by their experiences at war. I have two family members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the stories of the vets in series absolutely resonated with their struggles to reintegrate and to process what they had gone through. That part of the show was really well done.

However, looking beyond that at the rest of the narrative, the show repeatedly buys into toxic masculine culture and even takes shots at alternatives. It questions one aspect of the culture but endorses the framework of the whole.

By the end of the show, everyone who questions the morality or necessity of Frank's vigilante mission directly vocalizes their support for it. Every objection they have, and their support for systems and due process, falls aside when the threat affects them directly. True justice and trie safety are only achievable by men like Castle taking it upon themselves to commit violence for the greater good.

Heteronormative, monogamous relationships are consistently presented as the right kind of relationship to have. I don't think there's a single queer person in the show, but relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are the exclusive domain of villains. Sexual kinks, casual sex, men who care about their looks: that's bad guy stuff. Frank and David joke about David's wife's attraction to Frank from a position of ownership, and her interest in someone other than David naturally evaporates once he's back in the picture. Meanwhile, Frank remains steadfastly celibate and committed to his wife even after her death, and yet for her part, his wife has no personality or even personhood in the narrative, existing solely as a platonic ideal of matrimony in a summer dress, an emotional and sexual prop for Frank's pain.

Everyone who begins the show uncomfortable with violence becomes comfortable by the end. The show's caricature of the gun control debate is embodied in a clean, professional Senator who confesses that he never even held a gun before finding himself in a firefight, and that fight is some kind of transformative moment in his life that makes him question "what kind of a man he really is". Naturally, he's also coward who literally throws a woman at a gunman as a human shield to ensure his own survival and then lies about it.

Cowardice is a repeated theme of the show, as are other nebulous concepts that form the backbone of toxic masculinity, like honor, family, and duty. The primary repeated objection to a domestic terrorist is not that he's exacting his political will through death and violence but that his means of doing so (bombings) are cowardly and dishonorable. Presumably, if he had shot only his intended targets and looked them in the eye first, it would have all been okay. Or not even "presumably", because if he had done that, he would have been Frank Castle, the protagonist.

In the end, the emotional trauma endured by Castle during his military service comes dangerously close to being depicted as a kind of necessary martyrdom. Frank Castle gets the sh*t kicked out of him and does terrible things so that no one else has to, and what sets him apart and keeps him good is his inner strength, honor, and unwavering moral compass. But that conviction that individual men should make decisions on behalf of others, even at great personal cost, guided by and answerable to only themselves is one of the cornerstones of patriarchy.

I just don't see how Netflix's Punisher show calls any of that into question, and if it does, the answer is very much one that supports sexist, toxic ideas of what it means to be a man and what men should or should not do.

It's been awhile since I watched it, but I felt it showed that Frank's vigilante mission was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than an actual necessity. Several times his lack of self control, his violent impulses, and his inability to trust others ruined the possibility of less violent methods working. While a lot of what you've said is how Frank was, I think the show does not treat Frank as an ideal to be aspired to, but as a warning instead. I don't think they portrayed him as having much honor, or a functioning moral compass. Several times his "honor" got in the way of actually achieving his goal, not because he felt it would be dishonorable, but because he wanted to personally get revenge. His moral compass is so f*cked up his first thought on how to get Micro's son to behave better was to hold a knife against his throat and threaten to kill him. He's a miserably broken human because of how fully he embodies aspects of toxic masculinity. It's not a complete rejection of it, but it's far better than how most action hero tough guys (particularly the comic version of the Punisher) are portrayed. I think it functions more as a trojan horse to toxic masculinity than an outright assault on it.

His moral compass is so f*cked up his first thought on how to get Micro's son to behave better was to hold a knife against his throat and threaten to kill him.

I'm glad you brought this up, because it's a very good example of what I'm talking about.

Look at that scene in its full context, not only what Frank does but what precipitates that action and the consequences that it has. The boy, Zach, perpetually shrouded in an oversize hoodie, had been mouthing off to his mom, stole a skateboard from the neighbor, and slapped his sister. Sarah, Zach's mom and David's wife, calls Frank in tears one night because she found a combat knife in his backpack and is afraid that he's going to hurt someone. (Where did he get the knife? Certainly not from David, who wouldn't use such a thing. Frank, naturally, is intimately familiar with that knife. Zach has crossed over into his world.)

So to address it, Frank sends Sarah and Zach's sister away from the house. He's banished Sarah's hapless, feminine parenting from the house and is addressing the topic with Zach man to man.

Zach cops an attitude with Frank, but Frank stays cool. He tells Zach in lurid detail about killing people with that kind of knife and what he likes about it. Then he grabs Zach in a headlock, puts the knife to his throat, and threatens to cut his head off.

And Zach breaks. He drops the attitude. He cries. He tells Frank what's really going on and how he's feeling.

The next scene shows the two outside the house, happily throwing a football back and forth. (How much more stereotypically American masculine can you get?) Zach isn't upset anymore but is instead open and personable in a way he hasn't been in the show up until that point. David shows up, looking panicky and uncertain, but Frank convinces him to leave before Zach can see who he is.

And from there, Zach is fine. Gone are the hoodie and the skateboard. Gone is the attitude. He is cooperative and obedient with his mother from there on out, and it's because of Frank. Frank's method was violent and scary and not acceptable by modern standards of parenting, but it worked. It exorcized the attitude and bad habits right out of Zach. It scared him straight.

Zach isn't even nervous about the guy who held a knife to his throat. He likes Frank more afterward.

That's exactly the kind of narrative about toughness and discipline that permeates toxic masculine culture. Yeah, maybe Frank is a little over the line, but Zach wasn't going to get put straight by his mom. This is the narrative that people have in their heads when they hit their sons and dress them down: it's necessary, and he'll respect me afterward, and he'll straighten up and fly right.

If there's a Trojan horse in that scene, the toxic masculinity is on the inside.

Consistently, the show has Frank do something extreme but then takes care to show that the end result was better than if it hadn't happened. He always does what is right in the long run. As for Frank's mission being self perpetuating, the show goes to great lengths to suggest that without him aggressively pursuing his revenge that the men at the top of it would have been allowed to get away with it.

My take on that scene was that Frank's method absolutely did not work, and only when Frank was shocked off that path and tried something else did Zach respond positively. Frank's initial choice of discipline and fear completely failed, and only exacerbated Zach's emotional distress (he went from being sullen to begging to die). He needed a encouragement and positive reinforcement which was the opposite of Frank's default of toxic masculinity, and tossing the football (even if incredibly cliche) was one of the few ways Frank knew how to provide them (he was praising good throws instead of berating him for bad ones). I didn't really see Sarah's parenting as feminine parenting. When I see that phrase used (particularly as a negative), it's by people who define it as talking about emotions and feelings too much, but Sarah was not doing that. She was falling into another toxic masculinity trope that boys don't need to talk about their feelings. She knew he was having a tough time dealing with what happened to his father but called him an asshole when he lashed out and misbehaved instead of getting him into therapy or at least talking to him about it. Sarah's method of parenting was definitely failing Zach, but not because it was too feminine.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Consistently, the show has Frank do something extreme but then takes care to show that the end result was better than if it hadn't happened. He always does what is right in the long run. As for Frank's mission being self perpetuating, the show goes to great lengths to suggest that without him aggressively pursuing his revenge that the men at the top of it would have been allowed to get away with it.

This is true for pretty much every Marvel movie (the normal authorities/process cannot handle the threat and extra-legal or outright illegal means are the only way that will actually stop it), and The Punisher is no exception. But Frank repeatedly exacerbated his situation to that point where his methods were the only way to stop it. His refusal to cooperate, insistence on doing everything on his terms, and his predilection for violence were a huge part of what allowed the villain to evade being discovered/caught by traditional authorities. I ended with the impression that the show presents Frank's idea of what's right is incredibly twisted and that the biggest threat to Frank achieving any sense of peace is Frank himself.

We might just be approaching from very different perspectives. It is not a perfect repudiation of every toxic masculinity trope out there. It absolutely does use a bunch of them (kind of impossible not to given the character and source material), but it presents most of them as failures of character that need to be overcome, not positive traits.

double post

sometimesdee wrote:

Matreon - support women’s emotional labor (satire)

There are not enough synonyms for "brilliant."

Agreed, it's great stuff, thanks for sharing, Dee. Although I think the amount for "special offer" was way too low.

Eleima wrote:

Agreed, it's great stuff, thanks for sharing, Dee. Although I think the amount for "special offer" was way too low.

Isn't women's work always undervalued, though?

Touché, Dee. Well played.

Thing is, I never realised how hard it is being the primary carer for children and trying to hold a job down at the same time until I switched roles with my wife around the time I started my own firms. There's still quite a few households in Australia with the "male breadwinner" nuclear family structure (and it's probably the same across a lot of the Western world) and I suspect this is why proper recognition is never given for household responsibilities. But as dual income families become more common (and this is becoming a necessity in a city like Sydney which rates as having some of the highest living costs in the world), I think growing recognition will be given to the value of household work.

I think the other major barrier to recognising household work as valuable is the gender pay gap. If there was no gap, then both sexes would equally be giving up the same earnings for the household; otherwise, there is an unfortunate link between women and housework.

Men. Men are the reason we can’t have nice things. The first female Ballon d’Or in history and the dude ruins the historical moment. And offers a non apology (“I apologize if you were offended”).
A female soccer player’s historic moment was spoiled by one man’s question: ‘Do you know how to twerk?’ (Washington Post)
And *of course* she had to laugh it off because if she calls him out on live TV, she’s the bitch without a sense of humor. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’m so angry on Ada Heherberg’s behalf. This was HER moment, HER triumph, and he ruined it for her. It’s so sad.

Screw, Martin Solveig. Another example of an individual belittling, and tarnishing another based on their own personal distorted views regarding gender.

Also, Martin, thanks a bunch for knocking men, as a whole, further down the douche scale for those who will use broad strokes.

Thankfully, he has been met with wide criticism, from women, and men. Maybe he will learn. Hopefully it emboldens those in opposition to such outdated outlooks to continue making positive improvements.

EDIT

Martin Solveig says he is ‘especially’ respectful with women. What a twerk!

Marina Hyde wrote:

Enormous commiserations to French DJ Martin Solveig, the latest person to be filmed doing something in public that apparently doesn’t reflect who he is. The this-is-not-who-I-am defence gets a lot of run-outs these days, as cameraphones catch non-racist people being racist on buses, non-homophobic people screaming abuse at gay people outside a nightclub, or any of the other variants that increasingly adorn the age. The point is: this is not who they are.

Very occasionally, the person saying the thing is saying it on a stage, in front of a large audience and multiple television cameras, and is deploying remarks they have worked out in advance. But this, too, is not who those people are.

Destroyed!

Saying it like it is.

Marina Hyde wrote:

For her part, Hegerberg got through it graciously, though wearing the unmistakable expression of a woman realising that it is somehow going to be on her to manage the situation in a way that causes as few ripples as possible. It won’t have been pleasant having to do this even at one of the very highest points of her professional career so far, but it certainly won’t have been unfamiliar. Not making dickheads feel like dickheads is one of the earliest ingrained lessons.

Credit to, Hegerberg, for keeping her cool and maintaining her dignity. Pure class. It cannot have been easy considering the timing of the remarks.

RnRClown wrote:

Credit to, Hegerberg, for keeping her cool and maintaining her dignity. Pure class. It cannot have been easy considering the timing of the remarks.

This is where you're completely and utterly missing the point.

Eleima wrote:

And *of course* she had to laugh it off because if she calls him out on live TV, she’s the bitch without a sense of humor. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

There is no alternative behavior for us. We've been socialized to be the peacemakers, to not make any waves, since birth.

Eleima wrote:
RnRClown wrote:

Credit to, Hegerberg, for keeping her cool and maintaining her dignity. Pure class. It cannot have been easy considering the timing of the remarks.

This is where you're completely and utterly missing the point.

Eleima wrote:

And *of course* she had to laugh it off because if she calls him out on live TV, she’s the bitch without a sense of humor. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

There is no alternative behavior for us. We've been socialized to be the peacemakers, to not make any waves, since birth.

IMO men especially need to get into our heads that it's not just acceptable but appropriate for women to be outwardly angry when confronted with this sh*t. I think it would have been classier were she socially permitted to say "how about you twerk your boney arse for us first?"

"Did you ask [previous year's Ballon D'Or winner] the same question?"

When I catch my own behaviour, this is the basic test of whether I'm letting sexism in the way: would I react like this or speak like this to another dude?

I ran into an Instagram account that really resonated with me, SuperSnippan. Specialized in feminist memes and quotes. A few examples:

I wish men understood that when women are talking about feminism and rape culture and sh*t, it's not just a political conversation. It's not about being a "social justice warrior" or whatever. It's about our actual lives being shaped by misogyny since childhood, and the daily reality of living in fear of violence. This isn't a f*cking game or philosophical debate. This is our f*cking lives.
You say women hate men, as if we are gang raping, creating revenge porn, sexualizing young male bodies, cat-calling, and shaming men for their sexual past.
Women's careers are hurt more by having babies than men's are for sexually assaulting coworkers.

Edit: Browsing Netflix tonight, I had “Snow Wite and the Huntsman” pop up. Now I like this film, it’s not winning any oscars, but it’s a fun romp, I open it up and it says:
Cast: “Johnny Harris, Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane”

So Kirsten Stewart - who is one of the two titular characters - isn’t even mentioned.
What - the - actual - fudge?!?

Edit number two: I also ran into this article:
Women are happier being single way more than society thinks they are (FemPositive)
Which frankly reflects my personal experience, unscientific as that is. Not to mention that of my mother, my best friend, several friends in my close social circle (two of which are currently trying to get away from abusive partners).

That might be a case of Netflix personalization run amok.

Or they are just in alphabetical order

onewild wrote:

Or they are just in alphabetical order

Then you'd see Sam Claflin listed first.

The top-billed cast on the poster (which is intensely negotiated during the contract phase of signing on to a film) are, in order: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones. Johnny Harris wasn't even listed.

So either it's someone at Netflix being a turd or, much more likely, an algorithm blindly parroting systemic biases because that's what they do.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

So either it's someone at Netflix being a turd or, much more likely, an algorithm blindly parroting systemic biases because that's what they do.

Potato, potato.

Good: Lower court ruling stands, SC not taking up planned parenthood issue.

Bad:

Kavanaugh joined the majority to allow the lower court’s decision to stand, leading some to speculate that he and others on the Court want to avoid cases related to abortion rights or Planned Parenthood for now after his bruising confirmation fight.

Justice Clarence Thomas said as much in his dissenting opinion, in which he also cited the claim that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the “illegal sale of fetal organs” — an unsubstantiated claim made by an anti-abortion group whose members were later charged with a felony.

WHAT THE FUUUUUUUCK?

One of the first things I said when Kavanaugh stole took a seat on the Supreme Court was that they would now seek to overturn Roe vs Wade.

I was right. Just wait, you’ll see.