Do over: A Manifesto for Writing about Women

26 01 2012

I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve had a mocha.  Maybe, it’s the incredible high I got when I found out that two human beings actually read my blog. (that is sooo cool!).  But, I’m not feeling anything like the sum of my silver skin right  now.

I teach college…well, I’m adjunct.  But, I love my students.  They’re great.  They energize and motivate me, they teach me to be a better writer, to be a braver writer.

Tonight we talked about a great documentary, Miss Representation, which if you haven’t seen, you must.  The documentary touches on the subject of body image and women in the media.  And, oh the injustice.  But, it’s not just the ridiculous images of women that came up.  It’s also the men, and the effect that this has on them.  Anyway you look at it, the images of women in the media have messed us all up pretty good.

But tonight was a night about strategy.  After showing the trailer for the movie (which you can see at missrepresentation.org), I turned on the lights in the classroom and asked the students to look at themselves, and at each other.  The majority were women!  So, we got to work on how to counter these negative images.  How to create (not positive, not even realistic, just) more diverse and interesting ones.

We decided the following:

Where there is stereotype, we will 1)refuse to go into the binary of good/bad, and choose instead to look into the gray matter.  2)  instead of clustering similar behaviors to entire groups of people, we will look at the individual by highlighting “the beautiful incongruity of me!”  That is, celebrating those crazy qualities that act in direct contradiction to each other, the things that we all have, that make us unique and wonderful.

Where there is archetype, we will expand our discourse.  We’re not going to assign cliched characteristics to the “bitch”…we’re going to make her more interesting than ever.

In terms of power, we’re going to add power, keep those hard earned titles of “Dr.” “Senator”, “Madame Chair”, and “Madame President”. and remove words that make women seem overly emotional.  And while we’re at it, we’re going to explore power and femininity…why not?

In terms of community, we’re going to change our perspective, consider that backstory.  We’ll refuse to participate in what the American Psychiatric Association calls the “psychological annihilation” of women, telling them that unless they’re the Kim Kardashian, they are not here, they must isolate themselves.  Instead, we will heal our communities, by insisting that women–all women–are here, are not alone, and don’t need to be alone.

In terms of the relationships we portray, we’re not taking the easy way out.  We’re going to mix it up, detour off the beaten path, switch roles, bend gender.  End the end, we won’t rest until men have the rights to their emotions, their dignity, their connection to their children.

Instead of violence against women, we’re going to explore tropes of understanding, solidarity, resilience.

But, isn’t that just good writing?

We ended the night with looking at some heartwarming youtube animal videos…So, I’m feeling great.  And on that, I’ll say goodnight.