A “woman problem” or a “thinking problem”?

According to Jennifer Armstrong at Entertainment Weekly, the movie “The Social Network” has a “woman problem”. Why? Because “the way the women who do exist in the film are depicted is horrendous, like, ’50s-level sexist”. Really?

The first example Armstrong provides is this:

The shiniest example of female-dom is Rooney Mara’s idealized-woman-figure Erica Albright, who dumps anti-hero Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and, in a way, inspires him to start the company that eventually takes over the world. When Mark blogs nastily about her breast size and works out his rage at her by inventing “Facemash,” a viral hit allowing Harvard students to compare the hotness of co-eds on campus (before first considering comparing them to farm animals), it’s noted in the movie that this does not make him popular with female students. But that all seems to change once he invents the wildly popular Facebook. Then, we’re treated to a sequence in which a girl named Christy Lee (played by Suite Life of Zack & Cody‘s Brenda Song, in her I’m-not-a-kid-star-anymore moment) and her friend approach Zuckerberg and his business partner, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), because they’re the guys who made “the Facebook.” Oral sex in a public restroom ensues before Zuckerberg — inspired by a tense run-in with Erica — decides to expand the company. As he hands out orders back in his dorm room to his programming buddies, the girls look on blankly, until finally asking if there’s anything they can do to help — and being pointedly turned down, the floozy jokes of the otherwise geeky scene. Christy Lee will steal her most memorable moment on screen by setting something on fire, the ultimate crazy girlfriend.

One gets the impression Armstrong wants you to think this is all somehow horrible and offensive. I have to wonder if she would be offended by women rating the hotness of male students or blogging nastily about men’s penis sizes. But of course, that isn’t what is supposed to spark your ire. The bit where  Zuckerberg and Saverin are approached by women for starting Facebook seems to be where Armstrong starts her whining in earnest. As if somehow this is not how many women act, as if this is just some sort of patriarchal fantasy. But worse yet is that the women get turned down when they ask if they can help. Should the men have lied to the women? Should the men have patronizingly give the women some make-work to keep them busy? Would that have been less sexist? I doubt it.

But that isn’t the silliest part of her article. This is:

The Social Network certainly provides, if nothing else, strong evidence that we still need feminism, that we need to inundate boys with it in particular — and that we need to nurture math and science skills in girls more than ever before, so they have as good a chance at changing the world as these guys did.

Really? We need to inundate boys with feminism? That’s her solution? Oh yes, and nurture math and science skills in girls. Basically she is saying we need to brainwash children and to manipulate girls into being more interested in math and science so that women like Armstrong can lay claim to some sort of fantasy equality that has less to do with equality and liberty than it has to do with settling some sandbox level resentment that girls are just as good as boys.

With what sort of feminism is it that Armstrong wants inundate boys? That women should be respected? That women offering themselves as sex objects should be turned down? That women, who seem to have no problem with denigrating men or rating them or commenting on penis sizes, should not have men comment on women’s bodies or say mean things about women? Seems to me Armstrong has it backwards. Maybe the women in the story would have been depicted differently if some of them had been as concerned about being treated like honorable and intelligent women as Armstrong is about fixing the boys.

And yes, that is part of my objection to Armstrong’s solution. Her language makes clear that she thinks males need to be fixed by overwhelming them with feminism while females need to be helped by trying to get them more interested in math and science. Notice what she says. We need to “inundate boys” with feminism, but we need to “nurture math and science skills in girls”.

inundate – a verb meaning to overwhelm as if with a flood.

nurture – a verb meaning to feed, protect, support and encourage.

Her attitude is clear. Males must be overcome while females must be carefully cultivated to prove they are just as good as males.

If girls and women are going to be free to chose their own path in the world, shouldn’t we be letting them decide if they want to pursue math and science rather than artificially trying to “nurture” it in them? Don’t get me wrong. I am all for teaching girls all the math and science they can handle. But basically Armstrong’s approach seems dehumanizing. It seems to say, let’s not treat children, both boys and girls, as individuals with their own minds, but rather as pawns in some sort of getting equal with men game. Is that really what we need to be teaching our children? No, it is not.

One Response to “A “woman problem” or a “thinking problem”?”

  1. It appears that she would like to see men barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. If biologically possible. Women like this scare me, because they are found in authoritative roles that will influence my girls. Will they see my submission to my husband as an act of love or something archaic? My only recourse along with many other women is to lead by example to show that we are not oppressed but given great freedom by the women before us.

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