Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Wonder Woman Culture War That Isn't, and the Men Made Uncomfortable By Amazons

Third-wave feminist fans are celebrating the Wonder Woman movie as a triumph of feminism. In itself, that's a little odd—the character's been loved by men and women since 1941. But she has sometimes been written by men in condescending ways, and there have been few female superhero movies, so I completely understand why any fan of any political orientation is delighted that she's finally gotten a movie that the public loves.

But fandom's identitarians don't seem to notice that conservatives are part of the public that loves the movie. For example, in My Adventures at the Segregated 'Wonder Woman' Screening, Stephen Miller praises the movie at length, saying things like:
Wonder Woman, in terms of tone, may be the best superhero film since The Dark Knight and that’s mostly attributed to director Patty Jenkins who was able to bring a seriousness and sharp cinematic eye to the surroundings that is severely lacking in the bloated cartoonish CGI festivals of Marvel’s universe.
And yet third wave feminists are producing articles like Ben Kuchera's A letter to my sons after watching Wonder Woman which claims,
You know how the first chunk of the movie featured no men? It’s kind of tempting to think that uncomfortable feeling we both experienced is what women feel every time they watch a superhero movie with a mostly male cast.
Who are these men who felt uncomfortable watching the first part of the movie? I don't doubt Kuchera is one, and it's possible his discomfort was picked up by his kids, but why is he upset? Men like Stephen Miller aren't uncomfortable. Men like me, second wave Baby Boomer feminists, aren't uncomfortable. Men older than me aren't uncomfortable—they grew up with movies like High Noon where the cowboy's true love was a woman who saved his ass when he needed her. Conventionally sexist men think the first part of Wonder Woman is great—it's all hot women in skimpy outfits.

I suspect the only men who are uncomfortable are men who spent their formative years among third wave feminists. When I raised the question at Facebook, one fellow responded,
I spent most of my youth hanging around a particular kind of feminist activist community, where I managed to internalize that feeling attracted to women was oppressive and problematic. That even *looking* at a woman and feeling sexual attraction was The Male Gaze (and inherently awful and oppressive), and that even having sexual thoughts about a woman who hadn't given consent to having someone have such thoughts was tantamount to wanting to rape her.

So I spent most of my youth so massively ashamed of my own sexuality that anything that would remind me that I even had one would make me incredibly uncomfortable. In fact, at some point I managed to make this association so complete that I didn't actually *feel* sexual attraction anymore; I just got really anxious. In fact, when I started taking anti-anxiety meds, I actually became able to *feel* sexual attraction again.
I hope Kuchera's sons grow up in a world that recognizes that equality and sexuality are not at war with each other, that just as there's a male gaze, there's a female gaze, that humans like to appreciate the human form, and that has nothing to do with equality. It only has to do with appreciation.

If you're wondering what I thought of Wonder Woman, I tweeted this after I saw it:
Wonder Woman film: A or F if you're an obsessed WW fan, A- if you love superhero movies, meh if you don't like superheroes. Me: A-. Emma: A.