“Dear Madam, I find thee exceptionally captivating and would be honoured is thou didst accompany me to a most excellent dance rave this night.”
“Thank you, dear sir, for the emphatic offer but I disirest not to be wooed at this time.”
“Very well, milady. As disappointed as the answer finds me, I must accede to thine own self-wisdom. Shouldst your position alter, I pray, considereth me!”
“O, I shall, good sir! I shall!”
I’m getting a little tired of hearing how the feminists have ruined chivalry for us straight men.
A recent article/essay from Psychology of Women Quarterly defined acts of chivalry as “benevolent sexism” and since then there has been no shortage of responses to this redefinition. Why are the mean feminists making it so hard to be respectful? Why do they hate gentlemanliness so much?
And aside from the article from the quarterly publication and its reactions, the internet is a great place to find inane articles where feminism is pitted against chivalry. As if to suggest that, only one of these two incompatible forces can survive and, right now, it looks like feminism has taken the lead.
There has been a great deal of conversation online these days about what is known as the “friend zone”. For those of you who are unaware of what or where this place is, it is that strange, hypothetical place where a guy (and it is always a straight, cissexual guy) sometimes feels he goes when the girl of their dreams refuses (or is ignorant of) their romantic advances. The romancer is then left to dangle, hoping that the potential “romancee” will one day realize how great he is, come to her senses, and take him up as their boyfriend or lover. In the meantime, the romancer’s heart is ripped asunder afresh each and every day that the two cannot be together since he generally seems to spend his time helping his crush deal with her life problems while taking the romantic back-seat: i.e. being a friend.
When put that way, it sounds almost poetic, doesn’t it? I’m sure the users of the term would like to think there is some elements of classic tragedy in the suffering they endure. But the truth is it is just male entitlement, plain and simple. It’s just a bit more of a passive-aggressive flavour than we normally see.
It is 2012 and we still haven’t reached gender equality. There is still evidence to suggest that women are earning less, on average, in the workforce than their male counterparts. Culture is still rife with constant reminders that suggest that a woman’s body is, unless meticulously trimmed and sanitized, a horrifying spectacle. Unfortunately, I don’t say anything revolutionary when I suggest that much of what keeps us entrenched in a sexist culture are the ways in which women are framed in the popular media.
In that regard, I can understand why some people would get up in arms when we see, once again, a woman in the role of the domesticated housewife grace the silver screen. The “housewife” is a trope that we really ought to be leery of. The smiling, obedient and well-maintained archetype has been long-identified as an oppressive ideal that suggests and encourages women to bear the brunt of the household work, raise the kids, keep the husband/father happy, and do so with a smile; the satisfaction that is derived from putting her family’s needs before hers is “the housewife’s” reward.
Additionally, anytime a housewife enters the frame, we can assume that, unless the film is intent on flipping the status quo, heteronormativity is not far behind. Standing beside their determined, breadwinning husband, the “housewife” is one of the footsoldiers of the heteronormative, patriarchal, slut-shaming army at its most cliché.
However, a film that features a housewife is not inherently evil either. It is not fair to immediately dismiss a movie as sexist simply because it features a stay-at-home mom. There are, after all, moms, and dads for that matter, that opt to stay at home and act as the primary caregiver for a growing family. These people do exist and a portrayal of such a lifestyle in a film ought to be criticized on a case by case basis.