Jay's Galactic Expressions
Warning: Major Spoilers ahead for Spiderman: Homecoming!
Everywhere I look in our society today, I am bombarded by messages of “girl power.” Some are very positive, encouraging and empowering. Others leave me – a grown woman – with the proverbial “very bad feeling” about what my younger female counterparts may eventually be molded into.
With the release of the cartoon shorts Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, there has been a noticeable spike in the conversations regarding female-centered role-models, and how those role-models are being utilized to market not only merchandise but the message of “what it means to be a girl.” I love the series, and I believe it sends positive messages that transcend all human-imposed boundaries. However universally acceptable I feel the series to be, there exist those who oppose and/or challenge that notion, for whatever personal motives or agendas they may have. As Palpatine said: “so be it.” I’m not here to change anyone’s beliefs or opinions, but I do have some things to get off my chest.
For quite a while now, I’ve been struggling with the messages of feminism I’ve been seeing/experiencing. I have discussed many of these messages, issues, and ideas with my husband, my two teenage boys, and some of my male friends. Don’t get me wrong – I truly believe that a person should have every opportunity as another, regardless of gender, etc., etc…but I honestly feel that the more we are trying to create an equal society, the more we are actually creating more hurtful separation. I am reminded of Leia’s statement to Grand Moff Tarkin aboard the first Death Star: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
I grasp the reality of sexual oppression (and/or suppression) against women, and it is very prevalent in today’s world. Trust me – I’ve experienced it – so I can empathize to a certain extent. However, I won’t pretend to know everyone’s struggles, nor do I expect anyone to fully understand mine. I also feel that collectively, we are crossing a line that may ultimately cause more harm than good. Some people are becoming so extreme in their beliefs and practices that they are becoming a version of what they say they are fighting against, just as Anakin became Sith because he thought he was doing the right thing in order to save Padmé.
Ever hear of misandry? If not, you’re in good company. Neither did I until recently. The antonym of misogyny, it is defined by Google as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e., the male sex).” Misandry is a like badge of pride for some, but doesn’t that serve the opposite goal of equality?
As the mother of two teenage boys, I fear misandrists in our society. My boys are already seeing a lot of mixed messages of what it means to “be a man.” My husband and I have had open conversations with both of them regularly, especially when we see incidents and examples of things we feel worth discussing. One hypothetical example is “don’t open doors for women. We’re quite capable, thank-you-very-much”, versus “If you don’t open a door for a woman, you’re a rude pig who doesn’t deserve the time of day from her because you’re obviously disrespectful.” We’ve talked about how they feel, and what they would do. Not every young man has the luxury of parents who are willing to take the time to talk about these kinds of things (yes, I’m giving myself a parenting gold star), but where does that leave those boys who are left feeling befuddled and unsure of how to navigate the choppy waters of today’s gender climate? I just hope that at the end of the day, my own boys will mind what they have learned…save them, it can (yes, Yoda)!
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that on the whole, men and women are NOT completely equal. Men are stronger physically. Period. That doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t have every opportunity to show their physical strength. I am planning to run a half-marathon in September. No way does my husband have the desire or stamina to do that. But he can bench-press me every day and twice on Sundays.
Women are stronger emotionally. Period. But how has it been traditionally okay for women to show emotion, but not men? Trust me – I know how deeply boys’ feelings run. I never appreciated it until I had my own boys. Their feelings get hurt. Badly. Girls – you need to remember that.
Women are better caregivers, but that doesn’t mean men can’t – or shouldn’t – step up and be nurturing providers in the home.
For me, the bottom line is that old-fashioned values shouldn’t be completely negated because the popular view is that they’re somehow outdated or disrespectful. We can create in a world where a blend of old and new values can co-exist, we just need to be careful how we endorse it to our younger generation.
If you’ve gotten this far, bless you. You’re probably wondering “so, where does Spiderman: Homecoming fit into all of this?” Glad you asked.
I was able to glean quite a few personal a-ha moments. As a result, it helped me with where I see my thread in today’s feminist/misandrist fabric being woven:
1. Spidey had difficulty navigating the suburbs as he tried to chase the weapons dealers, and he realized his usual web-spinning skills just weren’t cutting it. He needed his comfortable New York rhythm.
Point taken: As a woman, I sometimes feel uncomfortable in today’s expectations of being female, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less capable – or worthy – of being myself, especially when I’m in my own element. I am more powerful when I am surrounded by the strength of those who celebrate me for who I am, just as Spiderman gained strength from the structure of the buildings he counted on in his familiar neighborhoods.
2. Spidey/Peter could have killed Vulture at the end of their confrontation. Instead, he showed compassion in the face of destruction. Did Vulture deserve Peter’s compassion? He had done some awful things, but just because Peter had the power to destroy Vulture for those things, didn’t mean he thought it to be the right thing to do. In turn, Vulture chose not to reveal Spiderman’s true identity when asked about it in jail.
Point taken: In this crazy little thing we call life, we have decisions every day to either build others up, or tear them down. Women today have the power to destroy men as we know them. Yes, there exists horrible negativity, bigotry, and violence against women. Some is certainly unforgivable. But not every man deserves backlash. We can relate Vulture’s reciprocal respect to our own actions. Yes, stereotypes exist for a reason, and I firmly believe some can actually serve to save our lives, but I’m also reminded of the old adage “what goes around comes around.”
3. Peter refused Tony Stark’s offer to join the Avengers, because he wanted to finish being a kid, despite his undeniable, significant abilities. It was so heartwarming to finally see Peter building the Legos Death Star with his buddy Ned. Peter realized that despite his powers, he was still only 15. He needed to be a kid.
Point taken: Just because I CAN be a woman just like in the old Enjoli commercial, doesn’t mean I HAVE to be, just because someone – society, whoever – expects me to. I want to be my version of a woman. My terms, in my own life. Those who love me will support that. If someday I want to evolve into a different version of me, and join the Avengers, that’s okay, too (just kidding). It’s also okay for those women who want to live the Enjoli life. We’re not all meant to follow the same path.
4. “Without the suit I’m nothing.” Peter made himself believe that his powers were useless without the augmented abilities Tony Stark had given him. Peter came face to face with death – without his suit – and was able to overcome the massive obstacles (literally) that could have crushed him.
Point taken: (more of a general life-lesson) We all need inner strength to overcome obstacles in our lives. No magic shield, suit, or mythical hammer is going to do that for us. Yes, its definitely helpful to have an arsenal of people and resources (who wouldn’t want to have their own Karen?), but ultimately, we all need to rely on our inner strength to get us through the tough stuff. Sometimes all we need to do is believe.
I realize the ideas and opinions I’ve put forth here will be very unpopular with many. That’s okay. I’m not necessarily trying to change anyone’s viewpoints. Everyone has reasons for feeling the way they do about certain issues, and many of those reasons are very valid. There are just reasons why I don’t agree with much of what has become “popular opinion” today.
…Only Sith deal in absolutes.
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