I normally steer well clear of politics in this blog (and mostly in life too, to be honest) but here’s a question that’s been playing on my mind, so I’ll open the worm can and see what wriggles out.
I hesitate to call myself a feminist- it’s a word loaded with meanings I don’t necessarily subscribe to – but I am certainly an equalist, and I do strive for fair treatment for all, regardless of gender (or lot of other things, but I’m talking gender here). And I like it when books, tv and movies seem to be heading in that direction. I like a story where the girl isn’t the damsel, the love interest or even a token neither-of-the-above to fill some unspoken quota.
I recently started watching Suits, and I’m delighted with the female characters in that series about lawyers – the Managing Partner of the law firm, an intelligent but suppressed paralegal, the clever and brave girlfriend and various clients who have a lot more going for them than the contents of their shirts and skirts. OK, the two leads are men, but to my mind, the show’s a fair one in terms of gender depictions.
In fact my only real problem (gender-wise) came in a recent episode where two girls went to the toilet together during a double dinner date, but then had their conversation (about men) standing by the bar. If these characters were men, I guarantee we’d have been shown the inside of the Gents’.
But Suits would fail MISERABLY in the Bechdel Test for gender bias. The girls very rarely talk to each other, and when they do it’s almost always about something the main characters (men) did. Because, you know, that’s kind of how fiction works. It revolves around the main characters and what other people do and say in relation to the main characters (MCs). So if those MCs happen to be male, boom goes your Bechdel test. flawed to the point of pointlessness.
My real question is whether as writers we should be pushing forward the underdogs (whether that’s women or some other group in society). Should we feel compelled to write about female Managing Partners, woman builders and engineers, stay-at-home husbands etc? Should we be trying to right the wrongs of society in our fiction, or are we permitted in fiction to reflect the real world, where most senior executives are still men, who make deals on the golf course and at the urinals?