This past Sunday, the most recent episode of Game of Thrones aired, ending in cringe-worthy fashion. A female character was raped on her wedding night after being forced into a marriage. The scene set the Internet ablaze with complaints and protests about the show’s depiction of women. The upset viewers cried, “Did she need to be raped in order to keep her character interesting?” Thrones, an adaptation of the widely popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire, is deviating from the book’s story more and more. In the book, this female character wasn’t raped; this particular scene was added by the TV showrunners. As a result, many viewers who saw this scene as gratuitous and sexist are vowing never to see another episode.
Beyond female nude scenes and gender roles on TV shows, a broader topic has emerged to the surface-feminism. What is feminism? Who is qualified to speak about feminism? Are men allowed to chime in on women’s rights, or are we all inherently the oppressor because we are males?
I’ve seen tweets throughout the week from women urging other women to ignore the opinions of men when it comes to feminism because they are not us. I posted a question on my Facebook-Can men be feminists? Women responded with Yes and Absolutely. This role of men in feminism has been debated by women for years.
My belief is this: feminism exists because there’s an imbalance in society. I am fully aware that women have it much worse than men do in general terms. Women have to bear children-that sucks. Women are constantly degraded to being nothing but sexual objects by men-that sucks. The vast majority of domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace occurs at the expense of women-that really sucks. Perceptions and stereotypes also affect women: If a woman is quiet in the office, she’s often considered timid and lacking in leadership qualities, whereas a quiet man may be looked at as introspective and refined.
In my opinion, feminism is the belief that women deserve the same basic rights as men do. I also believe that it’s very important to be wary of generalizations when it comes to men and women: not all men are creeps and misogynists, and not all feministic women despise men.
The biggest badass on the planet right now is probably Ronda Rousey. She has risen to the top of the mixed martial arts world, obliterating the competition along the way. She has dispatched her opponents so quickly that entire fights can be shown on a single Instagram post. Sports Illustrated, the magazine that normally puts women on their covers because they’re wearing bikinis, recently put Rousey on the cover with the headline: Ronda Rousey Is The World’s Most Dominant Athlete. I tend to agree.
But even Rousey isn’t impervious to gender biases. She continues to get asked from time to time, “Why are you single?” Some may believe the underlying message behind the question is a compliment-You’re successful, attractive, and men must throw themselves at you, so how do you not have a man? Others, however, may see the question as a gender-biased slight, inferring that something must be wrong with her since she’s single while, on the other hand, successful, famous single men are celebrated for being such ballers and pimps.
Rousey has said that she never intended to be an example for women, but that’s exactly what she has become-a role model. She is a woman at the top of a predominantly male field. Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), once famously said that women will never fight in the UFC; he has since changed his tune dramatically. Ronda Rousey was merely pursuing a passion of hers, blocking out any noise about her gender. She now realizes that she is doing much more than that. This 15-minute segment on Rousey by HBO’s Real Sports is worthwhile to watch:
I do believe in gender equality, just as I believe in racial and sexual orientation equality. But is saying that enough? What role should men play in this battle?
I don’t want this to be a woe-is-me situation; I know that the world’s smallest violin is playing for me. Like many things related to women, I’m just left wondering.