What My Son Is Learning About Women

My friend Nicole is always trying to get me to read or watch articles and videos that will make me smarter and more well-rounded. Sometimes I even listen. I’m always glad when I do.

She directed me to a video the other day of a TEDTalk by Colin Stokes about what movies teach about manhood. He discussed the Bechdel Test, which is as follows:

  1. Does the movie have at least two (named) women in it?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. About something other than a man they’re both interested in?

I was actually a little dismayed to find that not as many  movies pass this test as I would have thought. Like, the Lord of the Rings, for example. There are two predominant women in the movies (Arwen and Eowyn) and they both have their girl power moments, but they don’t talk to each other.

Bechdel Test fail.

Or Batman Begins. Or Fight Club. Or Secondhand Lions. Or Star Wars.  I could go on.

The guy in the talk then goes on to share an alarming statistic: 1/5 women have been sexually assaulted (according to a New York Times study). He then asks, What has gone awry in what we’re teaching boys about manhood?

It’s a valid and very important question. What do modern children’s movies teach boys about what it means to be a man? When there are few, if any, female characters, and those female characters are either boyish warriors or helpless sylphs, what are we establishing as their expectations?

One of Aidan’s favorite shows, Thomas & Friends, is predominantly male. There are a couple female engines (Emily {who is a bossy know-it-all and Lady {who’s cool but underfeatured}) and there’s Dowager Hatt and a woman in charge of the construction trucks, but that’s it. Sodor is a sausage fest, and it’d be really nice to see a female engine who is heroic and a good friend and hard worker.

It reminds me of a talk Joss Whedon gave about why he has so many strong women in his work. His mother is a strong woman, and his wife is a strong woman. He respects them and sees no reason why his work should be lacking because it doesn’t have strong women in it too.

I’m butchering it, but that’s the gist.

I suppose the best way to raise my son to be a good man is to model for him that women are strong, and worth respecting, and raise my daughter to be strong and respectable. So that she knows she doesn’t have to relinquish her femininity to be a force to be reckoned with. That she can be feminine, and nurturing, and beautiful, with a strength that is so apparent as to be elemental.

That’s really all I can do. Well, that, and maybe recommending to HIT Entertainment that Thomas could use a few more female friends.

2 thoughts on “What My Son Is Learning About Women

  1. Off the top of my head, “America’s Sweethearts” passes. Not bad for a rom-com, right?

    One of LO’s favorite shows is “Peppa Pig” – about a girl pig named Peppa and her family. Unfortunately it follows the other fallacy of many movies & tv shows of portraying the Daddy/husband as a bumbling idiot while Mommy/Wife is very smart. That negative role also needs to be fought against!

    Thanks for making the attempt to rise Aidan above the false images portrayed in media!

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