Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Busting bile

"When word first broke about a female-led reboot of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 fantasy-comedy Ghostbusters, the internet reacted with a stream of sexist bile more foul than the slimy green ectoplasm spewed up by an angry demon." (Mark Kermode, The Guardian, 17 July, 2016)

One of these days, if you're not careful, and possibly even if you are, I'm going to write a book on this kind of anti-woman bile and my sons, who last night gloated to me, as I was serving them dinner, about what an 'epic fail' the Ghostbusters reboot is, are going to be the first to read it -- though they don't read this blog, at least not often. Perhaps they will read this one.

I love my boys as well as any other keen mother does, I hope, but having raised them to adulthood, or near adulthood in the case of my second son, much of it whilst writing a doctoral thesis on male violence against women and the long history of misogyny that substantially causes and denies it, I feel increasingly torn and tortured by this love, I am sorry to say. Indeed all humour drains out of me when I reflect on this subject, which is why most of the time I pretend the boys are fine and not inclined to side with the sexism deniers and perpetrators.

And I think most of the time they actually are fine and not so inclined, at least not any more than the average young male rather than the minority, if sizeable minority, of mostly young males who have taken such offence to the new Ghostbusters film and to other recent attempts to correct the gender imbalance in art in favour of more positive portrayals of women as heroes and comics -- and ghost busters, indeed -- rather than sex objects and side kicks.

Still, I will not ignore their ridicule of these worthy efforts, however lighthearted. And last night when they strutted their stuff in mockery of the Ghostbusters remake (which I haven't yet seen, nor have they), I abandoned the table and left them to their mockery, making it clear at least that I knew what they were doing and didn't like it.

I think it's tough being a boy, tougher than being a girl in many ways, but I don't think we make it any easier on them, or us, by encouraging them to feel better about being male by mocking females and the efforts made to expose and combat institutionalised male privilege. Indeed I think we compound the problem.

The recent documentary The Mask You Live In about the limits and challenges of modern masculinity, is interesting and illuminating on this most challenging of issues. The woman who wrote, directed and produced it, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was motivated to do so by the birth of her son. I hope to get my sons to watch it, as there's absolutely no chance of getting them to watch the new Ghostbusters.


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