Men and Women: Use Your Words

angry businesswoman is slapping across the businessman's face
angry businesswoman is slapping across the businessman's face

I'm a feminist. And an "andrist," as well. By that I mean that I advocate for both women AND men alike. Working for equal rights, equal pay, and equal opportunities for women doesn't mean that we have to build a distaff version of a chauvinistic patriarchy, which, instead of encouraging freedom from binary expectations, puts people back into gender boxes and roles. A progressive future is one in which our identifiable gender (if we claim one) should not prescribe who we are and how we are treated.

That's why I'm so distressed by a trend I've witnessed in TV and film during this evolution over the years from a patriarchal towards a more egalitarian culture. We are understandably appalled today when characters Ricky Ricardo engage in what we now term domestic violence. Such scenes were sadly a reflection of their era, when violence against women was tolerated -- and even promoted in the media. Today, fortunately, family and acquaintance violence is considered a crime, but, unfortunately, it still exists, most frequently against women and vulnerable populations. There is still much work to be done to eliminate violence from our daily lives. Reducing the levels of violence that we are exposed to in the media would be an excellent step.

Efforts to reduce domestic or acquaintance violence perpetrated by men against women have successfully removed the "Pow, to the moon" mentality from our screens. However, we've seen a regression in the opposite arena. Over the past few years, for example, on several popular one-hour procedurals on major networks, dynamic, strong, capable women characters, characters who've ostensibly achieved the personal and professional goals the feminist movement strove for years ago, reach out and slap male lead characters who've "misbehaved".

Would any popular TV show today dare to have a "good guy" male character "knock some sense" into a female lead? Of course not -- the man would become a villain even by threatening such a move. The same rules should be in place for women. We don't go around face-slapping our colleagues, friends, or ship partners when they do something we don't agree with or support. "lovers' quarrels" and angry exchanges should be framed in civility, and sexual tension should be presented in witty banter, not flailing palms. The key word for both genders in films and TV shows should be "respect".

Feminist progress does not mean repealing the Golden Rule. It's not okay for men to hit women -- and it's not okay for women to hit men.