Comments on: Big Dog /2010/12/16/big-dog/ A feminist pop culture adventure Tue, 23 Apr 2013 09:05:27 +0000 hourly 1 By: Serra /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-490 Sun, 19 Dec 2010 09:16:15 +0000 This guy gives me some hope for the future…

By: Miranda /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-489 Fri, 17 Dec 2010 10:39:30 +0000 In reply to Alasdair.


I am such a fangirl for Danny from the West Wing. I think he’s a really good example.

Favourite Danny quotes:

“Look, I’m not trying to turn you into Doris Day. I know if we have a future together, I’d be Mr. C.J. Cregg, that’s fine.”


“I want you to do what you want to do… I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it will mean and we’ll make it work. I want us to talk like we’re gonna figure it out together. I want us to talk… because I like the sound of your voice. I just want to talk.”

He’s like a kind of postmodern feminist-friendly Tintin, is Danny. He’s one of my favourite fictional men on TV.

Shrek is also a really good one, because in the second film he actually gets to inhabit a literally more “manly” body when he drinks the magic potion to turn him human. And Fiona also transforms back into a stereotypically “beautiful” woman. He says “We could stay like this!” And she’s not interested, and they let the potion wear off and go back to being ogres. I’ll always love the Shrek franchise for its determination to keep the protagonists ogres, flying in the face of the skin-deep happy endings of traditional Disney (which I also like, as it goes, but I love how Shrek adds a further inclusive and subversive layer to its interpretation of the fairytale happy ending).

Karl from Up is a fantastic protagonist. I want more octogenarian balloon-selling nice guys as leading men.

So, yes, actually, those are all good examples.

By: Alasdair /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-488 Fri, 17 Dec 2010 09:46:25 +0000 In reply to Stephen B.

Off the top of my head, from stuff I’ve been reading/watching in the last few months: Pick more or less any male character from Harry Potter. Mitch Royce from Transmet. Dane or Lord Fanny from The Invisibles. Strange and Norrell. Matthew Swift. Matty from DMZ. Shrek. Karl from Up. Danny Concannon from The West Wing.

Real world: A significant chunk of the speakers at TED. Jonathan Ive. Clay Shirky. Billy Bragg. Tom Watson MP. Bill Bailey. Wil Wheaton. David Mitchell. Big Hairy Alan Moore.

None of the above are “manly” in the mighty thews and shagging sense but that because as far as I can see, your complaint is that our culture only prizes that, which I simply don’t accept, because I see so many middle class white men on the telly ever day who are hugely successful without recourse to sex and violence. (I’ve delibarately picked a spread of different kinds of people – some are more famous than others, without necessarily being top of the cash heap, some are richer than others without being as famous, some are neither rich nor famous – the point is that they all have some level of cultural acclaim and they are men I can admire, explain why I admire them and might wish to be thought of in the same sort of category as them and absolutely no-one is going to look at me funny for doing so.)

By: jeffliveshere /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-487 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 23:30:33 +0000 In reply to Miranda.

Thanks Miranda! I would love it if my humble little blog were part of your links page…

By: Ian Sturrock /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-486 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 21:24:15 +0000 Interesting stuff. I agree with most of the points made, though speaking as an anarchist, I am interested in loners, self-reliant people, misfits… those who don’t fit in to the current capitalist, statist, sexist society, but make their own way in life, relying on their own instincts. I think it’s important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater — yes, the “Conan model” can be misused, and indeed probably usually is, but the image of the self-reliant, independent HUMAN BEING — not necessarily man — is a powerful one not just in terms of dominating others, but in terms of refusing to be dominated.

Oh, and arguably, though original Conan character from the Robert E. Howard stories was rarely much of a feminist (they were written by a male Texan in the 1930s, which is an explanation but not an excuse for what might be seen as sexism and racism in some of the stories), he did several times encourage the oppressed to throw off their shackles, literal or figurative, and seize their own freedom… he’s a very anarchist, anti-authoritarian, anti-tyranny figure, in many respects, and so perhaps not the ideal one to choose for the “alpha male dominating others” image.

By: Stephen B /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-485 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 18:07:05 +0000 In reply to Miranda.

The reason I think the masculinity issue is relevant here is, it takes something extra to be called manly or (my personal favourite) a “real man”. Isn’t that a telling phrase. Pushing to earn that title is what drives some men towards Alpha behaviour, because society is telling them they’re not male enough… which is precisely the pressures facing women and expected images of them. This hasn’t gone away just because men can find a wider range of roles in life.

What I found very interesting (but didn’t have space to include as it rapidly turned into a 2000+ word epic!) is that what makes a man successful in his social group is thought by some sociologists to be determined by the *women* in that group. They decide who is a loser, and who is attractive, and it varies with social class and geography. It could be that feminists have more of a chance to influence stereotypes than we think.

By: Stephen B /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-484 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 17:50:58 +0000 In reply to Miranda.

Taking it separately to the super-manly male tv hero (although I totally agree with you), what I really hate is the lead female who is “obviously empowered and equal because she can roundhouse kick just as hard as the men” (while wearing skimpy clothes and being the only woman in the entire cast – I’m looking at you, Hawaii 5-O remake…) This happens a LOT, and is not equality! Grr.

By: Miranda /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-483 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 17:33:08 +0000 In reply to jeffliveshere.

Those links are really interesting – thank you. The gender essentialism notes don’t really appeal to me, either, although I do like the friendly-discursive “come join the conversation” side of their marketing.

The optimist in me’s kind of been hoping that they’re distancing themselves from the dreaded f-word to reach more people. On the other hand, I really wish people wouldn’t do that. How else is it to be reclaimed? :(

I’ve been meaning to mail you, actually, Jeff, to thank you for featuring us on your “blog of the month” spot – much appreciated, and I’m pleased you’re enjoying reading us. Feminist Allies will be on our Links Page as soon as I’m done typing it up.

By: jeffliveshere /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-482 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 17:17:13 +0000 Thank you for taking on this stuff with a fairly nuanced eye–it’s always nice to stop by one of my favorite feminist blogs and find a post dealing with how patriarchy negatively affects men.

That said, while I was really excited to check out The Good Man Project, I’m disappointed in its overall tone–seems to be pretty based on a gender essentialist framework that isn’t (to my mind) particularly helpful. Some examples, from just a cursory look:

Snowden Wright has a long-ish article describing what are (to my mind) the horrors of rushing a fraternity during college, and then ends his article with a stereotypically “no regrets” attitude, even about his own misogyny:
But the pain wouldn’t last. We had been different people back then. On our way home, I thought back on the person I was during those years, rude and crass and smug, without any sense of regret or shame. None. Call me an asshole, label me a misogynist, wish me an early death. Doesn’t matter. I will not apologize for having one hell of a good time. Because that’s the point of college: not only to figure out who you want to be as an adult, but also to spend four years being the person you don’t want to be.

Tom Matlock, in an interview, is the dictionary definition of a gender essentialist:
“I actually disagree with your POV here, Henry. I don’t think it’s about transcending gender at all. I think it’s about men being men. We are different. Just look at all the various statistics about what men are doing and how it differs from women, from education to incarceration to parenting. And what we as men like to do, what interests us, what inspires us. I would hate to think that our mission is a great leveling of the genders. I love women. Because they are so different. I quite honestly cannot tell you how or why my wife does or says or thinks what she does. But I love her for it. (Because, y’know, women just think differently!)

Andrew Ladd has a slightly more nuanced take on things, but still ends up playing up the stereotypically “male” traits as positive, by noting that being a good man often means being a sissy:
So what to make of all this? Should we all go back to acting like Don Draper? The Man with No Name? Bogey? No. I stick by my own sissiness, and those iconic men of the past century are hardly perfect either. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that what we talk about today as being “good” masculinity often is sissiness, with all the word’s pejorative connotations, and not the purely positive thing we make it out to be. As if being a sissy can’t be a purely positive thing…

Also, the creator of The Good Men Project, Tom Matlock, explicitly distances it from feminism:
The way Boston-based founder Tom Matlack tells it, the website owes its existence, at least in part, to one very important feminist in his life – his mother. “My parents don’t like it when I call it this, but I basically grew up in a commune,” he says. “My mother had a strident form of feminism and it influenced me on a personal level – I found it scary.”

Although Mr. Matlack understandably won’t label his project “feminist” – its mandate includes topics too broad to be boiled down to any one political agenda – he admits there is a relationship. “I think it’s feminism on its head,” he says. “Women were trying to get out of the home. Men’s challenge is the opposite: how to be at home.”

By: Miranda /2010/12/16/big-dog/#comment-481 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 17:13:55 +0000 In reply to Stephen B.

I think that how men and women relate on screen together needs some thought. I’ve seen a lot of films where the setup is:

1) Super manly dude!
2) …. and his Strong Female Character Love Interest!

3) He’s super manly!
4) She has a scene where she roundhouse kicks somebody, picks a fight with the villain’s female sidekick, or says some sarky lines!
5) The movie is still basically all about him.

Like, it doesn’t negate the all-about-the-menz bias of a lot of Hollywood cinema just because the leading lady “has some spunk”. Similarly it doesn’t make the male lead more of an exponent of gentler, less ass-kicking ways to Be A Male Hero just because his female companion is As Ass Kicking As The Men.

I think the dynamic Hollywood often attempts to give us as feminists is “women kicking ass just like the men!”

To upend the gender essentialism in play there, how about “men expressing gentler emotions and taking time to pick the odd flower just like the women!” for a change?

It often feels like film-makers pump up the female character’s ass-kick ratio, as though she is the one who needs to competitively make up the numbers. This is all fun and good in many films, but it’s not the only way to do it.

(I’ve always admired Linus from Peanuts because of his unashamed relationship with his blanket – I had a similar blanket thing going on, and it always pleased me that Linus is quietly clever whilst also not caring to ditch his comfort toys. Similarly I remember liking the episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Dewey decides he wants to wear a handbag. Admittedly he ends up putting a brick in it and knocking out a bully, so much shit does he get for carrying said bag. Both of these are child characters. I’m sure Alasdair has some examples in mind, but I can’t think of that many leading adult male characters who perform “gentle”, “nurturing” and so on as their key characteristics off the top of my head. However, this is more ’cause I’m at work and addled than anything else, I suspect. Hagrid from Harry Potter, who is a giant with a love of animals and a habit of emotively blowing his nose into big spotted handkerchiefs, perhaps, is a good comedy supporting character example.)