Problematic Badass Female Tropes #6: One Of The Guys

This is the PBFT that illustrates the story of my life, lovely lurkers. Please to enjoy it over at Writers’ HQ.

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5 comments

  1. Sorry to leave this here instead of WritersHQ, I’m not sure how commenting on that site works exactly.

    I will say to start off that as a woman, I understand and can sympathize with several points being made here. However, as a lesbian who falls slightly more on the butch side of the femme-butch spectrum, it’s difficult not to feel left behind or thrown under the bus, especially in the face of the villainization of Vasquez’s theoretical attraction to women. Being, as Hannah Gadsby put it, “improperly feminine” is neither an abandonment of my femininity, nor is it a defense against misogyny. While Eowyn and Mulan’s having to disguise as men to be seen as competent and threatening is certainly an interesting topic to discuss (though Mulan’s story is, to my eye, more specifically about Mulan abandoning the expectation of femininity, and then the requirement of masculinity, to find a place in the middle where she was present as a woman in whatever way she saw fit and comfortable, which as a butch-ish lesbian I relate strongly to). It’s sad, I suppose, to see the denouncement of Vasquez’s short hair and muscles in the middle of an article telling women they should be able to present themselves however they want and still be able to be seen as badasses.

    1. I very much appreciate this—thank you.

      I have ongoingly both apologized and asked readers to put views forth (and even write more, adding to the conversation), from trans, queer, and of-color perspectives, many voices of which I am not qualified to speak for.

      Having said that, I get what you’re saying, and wonder how I can put these concepts differently, so that I don’t sound like denouncing an active choice. My goal is to question and call out the forced norms of femininity and also to point out the hyper-sexualization of female badasses. Requiring a norm of masculinity or femininity is where the problem lies, in my (attempted) argument. Does that make sense?

      Deep apologies for making you feel left behind/thrown under the bus.

      I would very much like to hear your views on the Wonder Woman Trope article—I talk about sexualizing female warriors in that one, and would like to learn if I have inadvertently given similar feelings to a reader in that one as well.

      Thanks again—I appreciate it.

      1. I do definitely see the argument and the center of the piece. However, I think my difficulties in parsing the article in a way that supports that argument is that neither of the 2 ways cited as ways the trope pop up connected for me. The character trope of being “one of the guys” and, naturally, “not like the other girls” is an insidious trope that pits women against each other while still revolving around male approval, and I’m definitely not arguing against you condemning it, but the first way, where “the woman is ostensibly female, but shows enough masculine traits that she functions essentially as a man” doesn’t land for me because either the character is as I’ve already commented just butch, which doesn’t imply the abandonment of womanhood (only of the enforcement of femininity), or they’re someone who was born with a vagina but have chosen to represent themself and live as a man, in which case the character is a man. This point is, I think, where the article truly lost steam for me. The second way sticks a little better. Again, as I’ve said, there’s definitely something to be discussed in regards to having to pretend to be men to be taken seriously, and if memory serves both properties do, to some extent, address it. Actually, if memory serves, Mulan spends a good chunk of her experience disguised as a man uncomfortable with the men around her, specifically in “A Girl Worth Fighting For” when she brings up the appeal of a woman who speaks her mind and the others laugh, forcing her to bond with them through experience rather than an instant masculine camaraderie. However, as the two are fighting to save their respective lands instead of for that highest of honors, male approval, it didn’t really connect for me either. So while I see the argument, which the article does set the foundation for very firmly, the examples were, for me, somewhat counterproductive.

        Moving on from that long-winded bit of criticism: I have both read and enjoyed your article on Wonder Woman, and it’s part of what confused me about this article (at least, the point with Vasquez). The fact that Hollywood is terrified of having women who aren’t conventionally attractive take center stage is glaring and infuriating, and in an age of superheroes it’s an easy thing to pinpoint. Wonder Woman, the Black Widow, and Cat Woman are all hypercompetent women and it honestly feels like their sexualization is an apology for allowing them to keep up with their male peers at times. So as someone who whole-heartedly agrees on that front, and someone who adores Brienne and Arya, I genuinely hold a lot of appreciation for that article. Yet, while reading One of the Guys, I saw traces of the gender essentialism that the Wonder Woman article argues against. Again, this centers around the bit with Vasquez; sorry to overdo one point but it was the part which struck me as the most insensitive and the one that I had the most trouble with. Going from “there is a consistent issue that women must, even in battle, be hyperfeminine and beautiful” to “this character’s refusal to enact femininity is problematic” was a bit shocking. I understand, and completely agree with, the desire to see women as we naturally are without being pushed one way or the other in film, but the idea that a woman who fights in high heels and a catsuit or a corset is equally unnatural as a woman with short hair and a muscular physique is unfortunate to see. I think, for me at least, the article lost its way, which is sad because discussing the trope of the role of The Chick In The Group is something that is interesting and relevant.

        Which is all a horribly wordy way to say that while I see and agree with the core argument, I had trouble connecting the argument to the examples and then with connecting the examples with the lived experience of the people around me.

      2. Ah I gotcha. Okay yes I see what you’re saying, re: those examples.

        Thank you so much, you’ve given me much food for thought and, more importantly, to take into account as I adapt, rewrite, and expand these concepts further.

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