Misogynist (genius!)

May 2, 2008 at 1:21 pm 1 comment

(I don’t actually think Tyrell is all that genius. I just really like Le Tigre.)

So a while back when I was reading Tyrell, a friend mentioned that he really didn’t like the book because he found it so mysogynistic. I hadn’t noticed anything like that, so I paid a little more attention for the remaining pages, and eventually I figured out what he was talking about. While it’s true that every female character (with the exception of Yolanda, who has the briefest role in the story) either betrays Tyrell in some way or has an unhealthy relationship with a man (or both), I’m having a hard time seeing this as necessarily misogyny.

Now, I’m not saying I’m the best judge or anything; misogyny and sexism are insidious enough that they often go undetected. But honestly, I just don’t see this portrayal as all that unrealistic. Yes, the author could have included more sympathetic female characters. But is a book with awful women in it necessarily misogynist? Is a book with only stereotypically effeminate gay men necessarily homophobic?

This is something I’ve thought about a lot before. Should we be offering accurate portrayals in books and film, even if they’re portraying what we consider negative parts of reality? Hollywood is making a concerted effort to tone down the cigarette smoking in movies, and I have really conflicted feelings about that. On the one hand, I find smoking disgusting, and I’m extremely grateful to live in a state with smoke-free bars and restaurants. But on the other hand, a lot of people do smoke. Is it right to erase that reality from the media we consume?

I guess it’s really a question of whether art imitates life, or life imitates art. If we expect that young adults need role models in the media, we should be producing images of responsible choices. If we expect that young adults want realistic depictions of the world around them, we shouldn’t be sanitizing their media. But is it really either/or?

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Linda  |  May 5, 2008 at 8:39 am

    And, I think I said this during break a couple of weeks ago, the misogynistic reading of the story is something that probably comes totally from an adult mind, and not a teen’s mind. Most teens read Tyrell and love the story and the characters. They don’t analyze it to the degree that your friend did. And, even if they do analyze it, it’s from a very different perspective.

    On the topic of what we present to teens in the books that they read. I think this does relate to some degree to something like Gossip Girl. Just because GG is on the shelf doesn’t mean that a teen is going to take up that lifestyle. Just because the characters in GG act a particular way doesn’t mean that the library is saying, yes go out and behave that way. And, there are teens on the upper east side that do live (at least in part) like the teens in GG. Their lives make great stories and teens should be able to read about them. It’s real life. Maybe not the life most teens will ever have, but it’s real. (Probably more real in some ways than The Hills.)

    Reply

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