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Bargain Lie, The (sex for food)
Gender Dimorphism, Exaggerated
Get the Girl
Rift in Womanhood, The
Save for anger, our culture has not only barred males from expressing emotions, but from even accepting that they have them. Masculinity has been defined in such a way that males are encouraged to psychologically paint themselves into a corner. The “Act like a Man” Box leverages shame against emotional personhood. It trains males (and essentially all of us) to treat the emotional part of the psyche like a disease by blocking it off from the “logical” parts, and stuffing it into a cognitive quarantine zone. This cognitive self-lobotomy is a strategy for feigning interpersonal invulnerability….an interpersonal “invulnerability” which is demanded by the very culture of social/emotional warfare that it perpetuates. By this ideology, the sheer idea of examining emotional states comes to be feared much in the way we might fear opening the proverbial Pandora’s Box. It is a formula that fails at both regulating and communicating internal affect, and therefore, fails at getting interpersonal needs met, interpersonal boundaries respected, or ensuring psycho/social wellbeing for individuals or groups.
Emotions are an intricate and integral part of our biological senses. Research is finding that emotions and empathy have evolved within us as a survival tactic. This is because we are a fundamentally social species and, for roughly 2 million years of our evolution as foragers, cooperation was necessary for our survival. Because of this, interpersonal relatability was important (the ability to not only sense and communicate our own internal states, but to also be receptive to the internal states of others, a.k.a. empathy).
Nowadays, when examining human problems on an individual or societal scale, ultimately we are faced with struggling to understand the complex underlying causes of human behavior (particularly undesirable behavior). Quite often we give up on trying to understand, and we resign to concluding that it’s some enigmatic force of “human nature” that must be to blame (which is really less of an argument and more of a cop-out). But what is this “human nature” but unexamined, underlying emotional mechanisms that are dysfunctioning? Nevertheless, we are conditioned to keep ignoring our emotions (and the emotions of others) as if denial would cause our internal affect to devolve to the point of extinction. This is clearly absurd…and, ironically, illogical. Emotions don’t just vanish when we refuse to express them. Much like poop, they get backed up and compacted, sometimes to the point where they stop trying to push their way out, or even become difficult to expel, and eventually it leads to behavioral and/or functional problems.
Understanding our own inner workings is paramount to social problem solving. We’d be hard pressed to realize viable solutions to fundamentally human problems without the ability to empathize with others. And we can’t very well empathize with others, if we are unable to empathize with ourselves.
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Get the Girl
All of the Damsel tropes (including Disposable Woman) work off of the establishment of a masculine protagonist that is motivated into action by his “need” (angst) to secure a (romantic or platonic) relationship with a feminine character. The contrast in gender is key to the function of this trope, which requires Otherization of the pined for feminine gender. (While a similar version of this trope is commonly employed for feminine characters “needing” to passively attract a masculine other, the message coding and socio-behavioral consequences play out differently).
Characters can be driven
by a multitude of different motivations within the scope of human
(let alone the world). The overuse of ‘Get
the Girl’ transmits messages about gender-relations that have harmful
consequences for both males and females.
For one, it doesn’t afford males much emotional or intellectual
complexity in their representation. Also,
it enforces the idea that ‘getting the girl’ is paramount to a man’s
self-worth and is, ultimately, what his self-worth should derive from.
It presumes that anything else a male does
just becomes a means to that end. And if that end is not achieved, then
meaning and value of all their effort crumbles, leaving males to feel
dejected failures, despite what they may have accomplished in and of
Further, not only does this trope teach males to invest their sense of self-esteem in the conquest of feminine others, but it also presumes males to be “the pursuers”, and encourages them to take action in order to obtain said prize(s). It is in this way that the trope’s message then becomes harmful to females. Because possessiveness is being equated with love and manhood, this formula for selfhood encourages males to engage females with a desperate desire to control them. This is preceded by an obsessive need to “figure women out” as an enigmatic and collective Other. This entitled approach imminently results in males feeling resentful when females behave as unique and autonomous individuals. This resentment then feeds into a broader culture of misogyny.
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While the white/male/straight/masculine perspective is not inherently problematic, the fact that it historically stands as our culture's predominant perspective definitely presents an issue. The stories we tell in our culture both reflect and inform ideas about humanity through representation and expansion. The number and diversity of characters that represent any type of person in a story, both symbolize our cultural perspective of that type of person, and inform how we continue to think about that type of person. In our popular cultural narratives, most centralized characters over-represent maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, and cisgender-ness. Not only is this type of character centralized and over-represented within most narratives, but it is also expanded and diversified into sub-types that demonstrate different ways of being for this type of person. Typically what we see is a bunch of White-Straight-Masculine-Males that all have different personalities, different styles, different skills, different backgrounds, and different philosophies on life. From this we learn to see the White-Straight-Masculine-Male perspective not only as the expansive default, but as the absolute perspective (and questioning, challenging, and criticizing this “optimal way of being” is met with huge backlash). Additionally, we learn to see the differing perspectives of all “others” as deviant, quirky, and misguided at best, and at worst, as unnatural or even sinister (see xenophobia). Of course, the opposites of Centralization, Over-Representation, and Expansion are Marginalization, Under-Representation, and Reduction. Marginalization in fiction is when a type (or types) of characters are pushed off to the side of a story and their importance in story-telling is diminished. Under-representation is when a type (or types) of characters are barely present or not present at all in story-telling. Reduction is when a type (or types) of characters are presented with very limited ways of being a person (this is most commonly refer to as stereotyping). In popular stories, the types of characters that are typically given the marginalization, under-representation, and reduction treatments are ones that are not male, not white, not straight, or not cisgender.
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More Coming Soon.