Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

soft sexism

I was thinking about ants today, and bees, and the movies made about them. You know, Jerry Seinfeld voiced a bee in "Bee Movie" (which I admit I did not witness for myself...), and Woody Allen played an ant once. The Bug's Life, as well, was about ants. All of these movies, naturally, feign innocence for the sake of the children. They have no interest in being deep or thoughtful, only in entertaining the children and their parents with simple morality tales. 

But they're all sexist. Ants are all female. All of them. (Except drones.) Workers and warriors are all female. Bees, as well, are all female. We subjugated this life form and personified it, but altered the genders into what we perceive as "correct". The hero's journey plot requires a boy to take the journey, apparently. Somehow the story would be lessened if it was a group of women ants struggling together to thrive against a harsh world. The female empowerment message implied by the true gender of all the fictionalized insects is less important than imposing our own genders upon the bugs, for the sake of appeasing a cultural zeitgeist that requires a male lead to be the center of the story. 

This is what sexism really looks like. It isn't an overt thing, and it even feels innocuous. Probably wouldn't even notice it if someone didn't point it out to you. It isn't as bad as what used to be, but it's still not fantastic.

So, when you're writing your own world of insects, I encourage you to think about what is true to the culture you're creating, instead of the one you are imposing upon them. Maybe try to find a happier medium?


Janet said...

No, the hero can be male or female. This is really well explained at Kal Bashir's 510+ stage hero's journey site at

J m mcdermott said...

Not in Hollywood kid films. You are absolutely correct, of course, but in our culture it is a rare thing.