Monday, 3 October 2011

Accidental feminism? Sons of Anarchy and the platonic White Guy

Things that have happened since last we spoke:

1. A dude at least three pay-grades above me literally talked to my chest instead of my face. It's been a long time since that happened. It was a bit like being in Mad Men, with sadly less smoking.

2. A dude thought I was pregnant. I'm not: I am, apparently, fat. Over the years I have, due to depression and being a lady under the patriarchy, hated literally every part of my body and everything about my personality, but the classic "does my bum look big in this?" body weight worry has, happily, passed me by. But no more! I am now ridiculously self-conscious but also very aware that full-fat dairy products are one of my chief pleasures in life. (Which is not to imply that all fatty obese epidemicoid fatsos are fat because they just can't stop with the doughnuts and calories in calories out JUST DO SOME EXERCISE, because COME ON; this isn't about "how do I lose weight!!" but about "do I want to become the kind of person who denies herself pleasure because she thinks it makes her ugly", or "am I big and strong enough to accept myself as-is in the face of overwhelming disdain". Or something.) Resolution has yet to arrive - until then I have named my food baby Cherry. Short for Cherry Pie.

3. I have watched Sons of Anarchy in its entirety. Near the beginning of this marathon, I heard that it was written solely for white guys.

What, then, do white guys like? White guys like your basic escapist (and sexist) fantasies: they want to imagine what it would be like to be bad, to be fearless, to live in a hyper-masculine world where Men Are Men who Take Care Of Their Women and also have sexy ladies on tap; where you run around looking mad cool with guns and leather jackets and beating people up if they get between you and your way. They like hilariously unnecessary shots of Unnamed Stripper's Bottom that really define the word "gratuitous".

White guys identify with characters who are pretty sexist, but not "raping people and pummelling sex workers" sexist. White guys are okay with casual racism, but not "neo-Nazi Aryan supremacist swastika tattoos" racism. White guys can take a bit of critique of characters' bigotry, and maybe even notice that there is a difference between portraying misogyny and perpetuating it.

White guys also like women, apparently, even women with faces and personalities: as Thomas details on Yes Means Yes, the female characters are fucking awesome; strongly written, believable, rounded characters; protagonists in their own right rather than adjuncts to the dudes. And, refreshingly, not just vehicles for misogynist stereotypes. (Except maybe the "menopausal woman breaks her husband's floozy's nose with skateboard" plot. Which actually isn't as bad as it sounds.)

White guys can be interested in a woman who is sexy, maternal, ass-kicking, menopausal and vulnerable, all at the same time; a woman who wears reading glasses to hotwire a car, who deals with the aftermath of being raped in the most believable, nuanced and in-character way I've ever seen - rather than going straight for the broken victim / castrating fury stereotype.

White guys even believe that women who work in porn are actual people, with personalities and storylines worth exploring. They seem to understand that sex work can be just a job, not the sole defining feature of an entire person; they even see that if one's partner has issues with one's porn career (as opposed to his own eminently respectable employment as an arms smuggler), maybe one's partner is being kind of a dick.

White guys apparently haven't had enough of the age-old "I'm having an abortion! Although actually I'm not, SURPRISE!" storyline. I, a White Not-Guy, have, but Tara's decision to continue her pregnancy rang true, as did her initial desire to end it. And while I love that Lyla went through with her abortion, I love that she gave her name as Sarah Palin ten times more. It's also interesting that - so far at least - there's been zero fall-out from her decision: Friday Night Lights was rightly feted (by us. Not by The Moral Majority.) for showing a character terminating a pregnancy, but that act began a catastrophic chain of events including the whole town finding out, protestors staking out the school, and the principal losing her job. Which does a nice job of showing the virulent opposition to choice US women have to face - but also makes abortion out to be a bigger deal than it inherently has to be. If SoA manages to show a woman making a decision not to continue a pregnancy without that decision destroying her (or someone else's) relationship/career/life, I will be one happy little camper. But my opinion doesn't matter: WHAT WILL THE WHITE GUYS MAKE OF THIS?

There are a lot of signposts in SoA that are there to let you, the not-white not-straight not-disabled not-guy, that This Is Not For You. You're allowed to watch, sure, but you're not allowed to complain, because It's Not For You: it's for the advertiser's beloved white guys, and if they're happy, everyone's happy. (Everyone who matters, anyway.) But I manage to zone them out - because if I took that hint every time, what would be left for me to watch? Sex and the bollocking City? We live on the margins. We know that nothing, really, is meant for us. Mainstream culture is designed with someone else in mind, even if only Kurt Sutter's willing to say so. And as much as finding something that is, actually, designed for someone a bit more like me is a huge relief... there's also a pleasure in turning the white guys' show to fit my own needs. Taking the boys' toys for our own game. Hammering swords into ploughs, turning neck massagers into vibrators, that sort of thing.

I might not be welcome, but I'm still here. Either I'm more like Sutter's platonic white guy than I thought, or that white guy is more savvy than we're giving him credit for.

2 comments:

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