Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Agent Carter, Gamer Gate, and the plight of the modern day woman.

So I finally caught up with Agent Carter, and I love every second of it.  It blends wonderful female characters with the challenges of being a woman in a man's world.  I don't consider myself a radical feminist, but I definitely believe in the equality of all human beings regardless of their skin color, sex, or orientation.

I'm really excited to see how the show deals with women's issues after the war.  As horrible as it was, war was actually a great opportunity of equality for women because society as a whole had no choice but to accept women into the workforce to keep the country running.  When all the GIs came back, the women were pushed out and forced to go back to their previous lives as secretaries, phone operators, and homemakers.  Carter actually says at one point in the pilot, "during the war, I felt I had a purpose."  There was a new hierarchy in the workplace: men, cripples, and then women.  The newly empowered women were instantly depowered, because who would begrudge their job to a returning GI when so many men didn't make it back?

But that was the 50's right?  Everything is different now right?

Blue seems to be a power color.
Mad Men, from AMC, is another dramatic portrayal of a time that was where men ruled and women were crushed under their feet.  While the treatment of women on show often makes me uncomfortable, the show itself is a very (well written) guilty pleasure.  There are some strong women in the show like Joan and Peggy, but they are still forced to fit into the roles that society has set for them.  But like Agent Carter, those women were stretching the boundaries of their society and laying the groundwork for me to be a strong independent woman.

But that was the 60's and 70's right?  Women are equal and guys have accepted that women are their equals?  I wish.  Women are still lacking in high level corporate positions, government, and science and engineering roles.   I majored in Physics and Math in college.  There were 6 people in my graduating class for physics and 3 of us were female.  A great ratio right?  Well, at my college it was 1 guy to every six girls, so technically we should have had only one guy in our class to really represent our schools gender ratio.  Look at the picture of the curiosity crew below and count the female faces.  Definitely not a 50% ratio.  There is no reason for it not to be 50:50, but for some reason, many women feel blocked when it comes to entering supposedly male-dominated fields like the sciences.

Picture of the Curiosity team.  I counted about 25 women, not a bad ratio, for Nasa.

In Agent Carter, Peggy Carter is the center of a man's world.  She is essentially grandfathered into a special agent unit because of her work during the war, but the men around her treat her like a secretary.  She handles it all with grace and poise, and even uses their misogyny against them (quoting "lady problems" to take a day off work).  Like Joan and Peggy from Mad Men, Peggy uses her femininity to her advantage.  She is very much a woman, but is very capable without being a "bitch".  She can take care of herself and is unapologetic about it.  I love how she is allowed to have vulnerable moments and she recognizes that she has support around her (Jarvis and Angie).  Often strong women in TV and film are strong all the time, a constant rock, but in reality, to be human means you feel, and you should be allowed to show those feelings.  I just remember all of those shows from the 80s and 90s showing working women with their huge shoulder pads to make them more powerful.  You never saw them cry, you never saw them flinch.  When they do break down, they are alone and they have a good cry, freshen up their face and go right back out there.

We have come a long way towards equality, but we are not there yet.  When you look at films and TV shows, there is still a derth of female characters carrying a movie or TV show.  At the recent Golden Globes, Maggie Gyllenhaal said thank you to Hollywood for allowing her and many other woman to play complicated women.  It is no longer all about being the strong woman who don't need no man to be happy, but about being a real person with feelings and emotions and agency.

That's great that Hollywood and TV Land are getting with the program, so when is society as a whole going to pick up on this?  The fact that GamerGate even happened makes me feel like we rocketed back to the 1950s gender norms.  It is another instance in which petty men felt threatened by their female counterparts.  It just reminds me of part of the lyrics form the Mob song from beauty and the Beast, "We don't like / What we don't understand / In fact it scares us / And this monster is mysterious at least."  The GamerGaters just proved that those men were threatened by the female gamers, and so they lashed out in the only way they know how, rape and death threats.   Because nothing screams, " I am Man" like the threat of someone physically overpowering you and taking away all of your agency and potentially your life.  Many of the women being targeted by the gamergaters were being labeled as milking the victim card and being attention whores.  If Peggy Carter were around for this, I know that she would have stood against them and kicked ass and taken names.  If fact thanks to the many women who exposed GamerGaters for who they truly are, scared little boys clutching at their toy, the movement is wasting away as we speak.

Bravo Marvel for taking the chance and giving us Agent Carter.  Bravo to the writers for giving us everything we wanted, action, nuance, and sass.  And kudos to Hailey Atwell for being a true role model to all girls, boys, women, and men out there.  You rock girl!

Mae Linh Fatum is a frequent guest on the Ace of Geeks Podcast, a teacher, cat-lover, and knitter. She found her love for geekdom when the first Harry Potter book was thrust into her hands.

Did you enjoy this article? Follow us on Facebook to get more great content! We have a weekly podcast you can find on our main site. Also follow us on Twitter and Tumblr!

1 comment:

  1. Well said! Its how it has been with society, a few steps forward and then a few steps back. We just need to take heart in the forward steps and continue to improve.