Certain words are inflammatory. I seem to remember writing a post about this a few months back. Words like abortion, liberal, conservative, gay, lesbian, Christian, Muslim, etc have the potential to really get the blood going. Another example would be the word, feminist. Some people hear this and they get excited about female empowerment and gender based justice, and others become irritated at the thought of Joy Behar and Rachel Maddow going off on a sarcastic tangent. Certainly, we all have a gut reaction to the word.
I have used the title, Thinking Like a Feminist, but I’m sure I’m not using the word exactly as it is meant to be used. (Notice that I used the word used three times in that sentence. This breaks one of my “unwritten” rules on sentence structure.) For my purposes today I am using it with the meaning, women’s advocate. So, my title is really, Thinking Like a Women’s Advocate. Very good.
I recently saw the film, Limitless, with Bradley Cooper. The premise is that he’s a struggling loser of a writer who gets access to a drug that makes him a zillion times smarter. In a few short days he finishes an incredible book and finds that he can convince any woman to have sex with him. Then he… oh, wait a second. What did I just type? Let’s see here, “he can convince any woman to have sex with him.” Hmm, what’s that about?
This character learns that with all of his new-found confidence and smarts he can charm women into sleeping with him. It’s actually a little like what Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day when he learned all about Nancy in order to eventually sleep with her. But Groundhog Day revolves around a solid love for the female lead, so I don’t think it can be condemned on this front.
In one scene Cooper’s character seduces his angry landlord’s wife. She goes from hating him to lusting after him in about five minutes. I found this, and similar occurrences in the film to be troubling. What does this say about men and women? What does this say about women? I don’t think it’s good.
Showing a male lead easily seducing women by charming them is not new to Hollywood. Just about every Bond film has him charming the pants off of women in order to engage in shallow sex. How many times have you seen a male character use manipulation in order to sleep with a female character? Too many, I assure you. When someone is “The Man” they can disarm any woman. Women are helpless to resist. What’s wrong with this?
Do you remember the Garden of Eden? Remember when the serpent manipulated the woman (some would say charmed) into disobeying God by eating the fruit? How is this any different? You have the strong, charming, confident character exercising his dominance over a “weaker” creature. Just as Eve appeared helpless to resist the clever devil, women on screen cannot seem to resist confident clever men. This exercise in dominance should infuriate anyone who claims to love women. It implies that women are the objects of male pleasure, and also that they lack moral fortitude and value as individuals.
I want to see women respected and valued in art and in life. When a man dominates a woman by cleverness and superior will, true lovers of women should be stirred to anger and action. If this makes me a feminist, well, I guess it is so. I’m just as surprised as you.