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Women in Star Wars

DANA-kin Skywalker

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In a sense i agree with you: being able to whine about "petty crap" and privilege on the Internet is a form of privilege in and of itself, and too many people think their happiness and actualization are being held hostage by the words, actions, even opinions of others.



That being said, if somebody's day is ruined because there aren't enough female Gungans with dialogue in the new Naboo movie while they make nary a peep about some guy in some other culture legally beating on his wife, that's their prerogative.

I wouldn't deny anybody their prerogative. But doesn't it seem strange to you that among people who are oh so concerned about power and privilege, the woman offended by the lack of female gungans gets so much more media attention than the foreign guy who beats his wife? Are their issues less important because they're foreign? Because Star Wars characters are more likely to be a concern to the people who are fortunate enough to have the time, the money, the basic security and so forth to even see a SW film, let alone have access to the "education" required to 'deconstruct' the racist undertones of popular culture and access to the technology and media required to actually publish their views on line? This sounds pretty damned privileged to me. And that's not a bad thing ... unless opposition to power and privilege forms the whole underlying moral basis for the denunciation of said SW film. Then it becomes pretentious and hypocritical.


So yeah, I think you're barking up the wrong tree there. Telling somebody their opinion on a certain issue is less authentic because they don't focus on what you think is important is just as arrogant and ignorant as telling somebody they cant have an authentic opinion on an issue like "Women in Star Wars" because they are a white male. There are unique vantage points both from within and without the personal experience.

My basis of what is or is not an "authentic" opinion really comes from observed dissonance between the professed egalitarian and populist basis of the opinion, on the one hand, and the decidedly privileged and elitist source of that opinion on the other. There's a lot about this that's suspicious as far as I'm concerned. As a bit of a reversal of fortune here, suggesting that I can't raise issues like this seems rather like saying critics can't raise issues like racial or gender representation in SW films. I'm not saying "don't raise the issue." Rather, I'm suspicious of their true motives for doing so. Since "social context" is such a prized concept among identity politics types, I'll observe that shoe-horning personal gripes and grievances, some of them quite legitimate, into broader social narratives that cast whole swaths of the population as heroic "victims" and others as villainous "oppressors", implying a moral supremacy on part of the charmed circle of "victim" groups, is very pervasive in post modern social criticism, and this SW criticism seems very typical of that. There's also the fact that controversy sells, and criticisms of entertainment based on "political correctness" are naturally divisive, bringing out both defenders of the franchise and identity politics ideologues, resulting in wider circulation, hence viewership, hence advertising revenue, for the blog in question. I therefore don't think it is at all out of line to suggest that manufactured controversy plays into issues like this.


I revel in the sputtering, often incoherent and contradictory indignation of 21st century identity politics as much as anybody, but that doesn't change the fact -- and yes, it is a fact -- that the Star Wars movies have been pretty lame in regards to their quantity and quality of female characters (and let's not even get into the merchandising and such). Even if you allow yourself to entirely forget whatever the Princeton Women's Studiers have to say about this issue, the new movies should still have more female characters if for no other reason than to have a more diverse, interesting cast of characters.

No argument here. Let's also have better characters, characters with depth. Characters with varied temperments, strengths, weaknesses, goals. What concerns me about these types of issues is that one brand of one dimensional female stock character, the damsel in distress, will be replaced by equally uninteresting and one dimensional "Mary Sue" types with no weaknesses or character foibles lest they otherwise be denounced in the blogs as reinforcing some gender stereotype or another.


To conclude people, I don't doubt that female characters have not typically been done well in sci-fi, and there's plenty of room for improvement. I'll grant you that. But race and gender based criticism frequently (though not always) passes into its own realm of absurdity, wherein manufactured controversy and outrage and the self righteousness that generates, has become the order of the day, at least in many social media settings. Given this, forgive me if I don't immediately sympathize with every concern they raise.

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Mary Sue characters are just as bad as the damsel in distress. And can be equally as bad as the popular portrayal of the "strong female". The point is to create characters who are not tropes. But there's no good reason for excluding half the population to do so.

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Best female characters in scifi:


Ellen Ripley

Imperius Furiosa

Zoe Washburne

Kara Thrace

Dana Scully

Eleanor Arroway

Katniss Everdean

Sarah Conner


Why? Mainly because most times, most writers, write "strong female" as either bitchy or ass-kicky. Certainly the women on this list have those moments-- but they also have moments where they are not and are actually nuanced.

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Complete rubbish? Can you honestly tell me that you believe that women are treated equal to men in most situations? And blacks treated equal to whites?


If you can, then we're done with this conversation. I'll just leave you in la-la land.

You see... If we look at the broader wide world you are absolutely spot on. But I disagree that first world women or blacks (in the larger part) are oppressed. Which I think was Kurgan's point. There are isolated instances of racism and sexism sure, and I am in no way trying to trivialise that as it's unnacceptable. But for the most part I believe that most people have the same opportunities in life.


I can't speak for America and I won't try to understand what it's like where you live. But in the UK we don't really have a great deal of this kind of oppression. In fact in some cases Women and Black people or people of any other ethnicity than white have more rights than white men. Case in point... up until recently Women had all the rights in regard to children in an unmarried relationship. The man in the relationship was not allowed to assume custody or to take their child abroad on their own without the explicit consent of the woman or a court order.


Also, if a relationship broke down for whatever reason. A woman with a child was entitled to free housing and state benefits.

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It's not necessarily "oppression" we're talking about. We're talking about long-ingrained cultural attitudes that people don't even realize they have sometimes. It's lack of paid maternity leave in the US. Threats to reproductive rights. Lack of women in upper management positions. The belief (still prevalent in some circles) that women aren't cut out for certain jobs or types of professions. The fact that people asked how being a grandmother would affect Hillary Clinton's presidential run when they don't ask similar questions of every male candidate. The fact that we're going to hear people discuss how she looks ad nauseum instead of actual important stuff. The fact that some people assume all women like princesses and pink and want to get married and have babies and stay at home and if you don't, you're not a good woman.


Are those things as "bad" as it is in other countries? Of course not. But it's still something that needs to be changed.

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The canary in the coal mine as far as I'm concerned was not so much the issues that Mara Jade raised above, but the jealous vendictiveness with which women's groups defend the whole idea of raising gender based grievances as being something that is exclusive to women alone. Were a male to raise the issues of family law that Stevil brought up, the feminist response would be so unified, so consistent and so uniform that it could easily be assumed to be choreographed, and Driver's "poor white males" copy pasta response above exemplifies it perfectly. Some might agree that men have problems too, but suggest that feminism has all the answers for these problems too. I won't try to reconcile that with the notion of universal male privilege.

This tells me a great deal about the real vs. the stated motivations . That the ensuing flame war would consist of responses so predictable and rehearsed that I could probably write it out myself if I felt like it, suggests a complete lack of creativity, empathy and desire to understand the issues raised from any kind of a frame work that does not cast one's own group as victim and their opponents as oppressors. The MRAs, it should be observed, are no less guilty of this.

Were the redressment of grievances all this was really about, what you'd see is a lot of co-operation between feminists and MRAs. Shared parenting and access to children, as an example, is something that they should agree on - father's rights for the MRAs, moving away from mother as default parent and archetype for feminists. Yet you almost NEVER see this. Were I oppressed, which I'm not, but if I were it would not take away from my grievance in the least to acknowlede the mistreatment of others, when warranted. Yet this is an infrequent occurance. Usually what ensues is a big flare up over who's the "most" oppressed: between men and women, between black and white feminists, between gay and straight black feminists and so on.

Compound that with the academic and media issues I've raised above, and what this looks to me like is a struggle for a certain group to monopolize the right to petition the state (and their fellow citizens) for redressment of grievances. Which would result in this actually ceasing to be a right, and instead make of it a tool for social control.


Having said that, I certainly do NOT suggest that concerns raised by feminists be thereby dismissed. Not at all. Am I not objecting to dragging "social context" into the argument to dismiss the concerns of certain groups? Their issues should be taken, debated and resolved on their merit. But I do think it's well past time we open our eyes to the fact that the whole notion of groups objecting to how they are portrayed and represented in public has become a contested matter, and with some groups demanding a monopoly on the right to do this. The implications of this desperately need to be recognized and more widely understood.

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