TV: Where are the women?

I’m dismayed, yet not surprised, that I have only noticed one new network action type show this season with a woman in front. Last year we got two, but they were dismally bad, with one dying a quiet death and the other getting renewed despite destroying the entire premise of the movies it’s based on (I won’t go into that more as I’ve said plenty about That TV Show here already). This year the offering is just as poorly conceived and written and starts off insulting me as a woman looking for a good fictional heroine right from the start. Our first meeting with the female lead of Fringe she’s having sex with her FBI partner, bringing home a major point of those opposed to having women in such jobs. I mean, could we gift sexists anymore than that? Oh, wait, it’s followed up by her new superior calling her sexist diminutives with no action by her to stop him.

Never mind that the show is just poorly done over all. It gives us a “heroine” who we can only look down upon. It’s sad. The rest are male led, most with female “sidekicks,” a formula that really needs to die. It was getting old in the ’60s.

Fortunately, cable’s summer season gave us a much better female led series in In Plain Sight. Even better, it’s supposedly renewed for a second season so we can again get a physically and mentally strong heroine on TV. Mary McCormack’s character is strong, complex, gritty, down to earth and probably the best female character on TV. But somehow not enough. Well, because how could, in a sea of male action leads, can one female be enough?

I keep thinking about the sort of shows I want to see, the sort of female characters I want to see. And even McCormack’s Mary Shannon fails a bit for me. Not that there will ever be perfection but I can hope for more.

Of course, I tend to prefer the supernatural and SciFi genres over straight cop shows, so that’s what I’d like to see more strong female leads in.

However, no more female characters whose strength is “male created.” That is no male mages giving the power (Buffy), no male scientists giving the power (both Bionic Women and others), in fact, let’s not have her have any power. Just her own strength and skill that she’s worked for. What ever the genre stuff might be, let’s not have it be about where her strength comes. Because we want a message that women do not need to be given strength.

Therefore have her visibly physically fit, as well as weapon savvy, survival savvy and all. Let’s even have training scenes to show this and inspire us. We can accept male teachers, we still live in a world where the majority of those teaching weapons and fighting are male, but let’s avoid the mentor-daddy-figure.

And not a kid, someone at least in her thirties. And not trying to hide it, not angsting over it.

Let’s skip the cliche that all partnerships have to me female/male if they’re not male/female. If she has to have a partner/sidekick then let her have a female one. And not a femme to “balance her out” but also capable, complex and interesting in her own right.

Let’s also skip all the dress issues that usually are played out. Neither have her dress femmy to try to make up for being tough nor have her phobic about wearing a dress. I’d want her mostly in tanks and jeans, showing off those muscles, but she should be able to pull off business wear when needed and not behave as if she’s in a costume when wearing a classy dress. And never should she need to wear a trashy one.

Let’s keep the private life private, no more than a hint perhaps. Certainly no sleeping with partners even if the partner is female. If we can’t have an out gay or bi heroine, at least keep her sexuality ambiguous. Let her sex life be left to the fanfic writers, because they don’t care what the cannon is anyway. And the show should be about her work or her cause or whatever.

She does not need to be emotionally shut off, however. Another cliche we can do without. A sense of humor is good, we need more of that. But let’s not go over board on the warm fuzzies, again, there is nothing to make up for.

Of course, Rhona Mitra should be on the short list to star if we go on the young end. Followed by Gina Torres, Yancy Butler and Cynthia Watros. Linda Hamilton would be there but I don’t think she’d have the remotest interest in this sort of role now, mores the pity. And McCormack is not included as I don’t want this to replace In Plain Sight, I want that to go on for many seasons as well. Michele Rodriguez is apparently not too keen on long term TV commitments either, but if there is a partner she’d be a good choice as she’s a bit too young for the lead.

These are just random thoughts of a frustrated physical feminist TV viewer while waiting for In Plain Sight‘s second season and to see if we have better luck with the networks next year. Of course, if anyone wants to act on them just let me know and I’ll tell you where to send the check. ~;p

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert

Thoughts on Weapons

A recent post on one of the SCCS fora about women and guns got me thinking about weapons and self-defense over all. Okay, I usually think about this a lot, but the past few days I’ve been thinking more about alternative energy and preparing for this coming winter instead.

When it comes to self-defense the first weapon is the brain. Train it. It really all comes down to knowing what you need to do and not letting your brain get in the way when the shit hits the fan. You need to be aware of what is happening, what dangers exist, what escapes exist, what methods will work and, very importantly, you have to not let your brain freeze you trying to sort it out. Which means you need to know how to get your brain to do this automatically, so it doesn’t seem like a list of things to follow and instead all happens at once. And, if it comes down to it, your brain does have to get out of the way of the body when it has to do it’s thing.

As it doesn’t always have to “come down to it” remember that talking your way out is a good strategy when ever possible. So you must train your brain to read people not only to recognize threats but to find ways to dissipate threats that are happening. Conversational skills may not get you out of every situation, but they’re not something to be dismissed as old fashion. If nothing else, they can buy you time, they can help you find weaknesses and it doesn’t hurt in court if you say you tried to talk your way out first but were left with no choice but to do physical damage.

I’m not going to say “use your brain to avoid all dangerous situations.” I actually hate that most “self-defense” advice tends to still start with this, even in an age where we have finally acknowledged that one of the most dangerous places for a woman can be her own home. And we do have a right to choose to do things and go places that might not be deemed safe, especially when we consider no place 100% is. Instead, I think it’s important to always realize what dangers you face in any situation, in any location. If you choose to go to a isolated parking garage do it with your brain in gear, know what/who is around you, see everything you can, know where your best bets for safety are and know that you may well have to fight if the wrong person is in that van over there. And know how to.

Your second weapon is your own body. Train it. I think that full-impact self-defense training is vital for everyone, especially women and children. We need to know how it feels to hit full force, both so that we know that we are when we are but also to see what it can do. Martial arts training is great for long term conditioning of both body and mind for fighting, but it often involves NOT hitting other people full-force. I believe the best course is to combine full-impact self-defense, with refresher courses, and combat focused martial arts, but if you choose to only do one do the full-impact self-defense course. And practice it at home…preferably with a bag and not an unprotected friend. Think through the scenarios you are taught, get the body comfortable with the moves, practice them. Practice, practice, practice. And get the brain to stay out of the way!

Like any weapon, you should also keep your brain and your body in the best condition you can if you are going to depend on them. Yes, this means avoiding overindulgence in mind altering, which also affects the body, substances if you feel you may need that brain to protect yourself. It also means staying in shape. Getting and staying strong and fast enough to use what you learn, whether it’s striking or running.

Now we come to other weapons. I’m all for carrying and keeping in the home legal weapons for self-defense. No matter how smart and strong we are, we’re not always dealing with bare-handed assaults and being armed ourselves is a right we must practice and fight for. Whether you choose guns, knives, pepper gas, blunt weapons or a combination, the first rule is know the damn weapon! Like the brain and body, it takes practice and more so because it’s not been a part of you before. Keep it/them in good condition.

Weapons are all around you, I refer to them as weapons-of-expedience, just let your brain find them and your body use them. Anything you can pick up, or even shove, can be used to defend yourself. Anything. I once used shampoo (having years of sensitization to the idea of being attacked in the shower.thanks to watching Psycho at a young age …it turned out to be a prank by someone who was particularly stupid). A regular mental exercise for me is to walk into a room, identify all exits, inventory all people there if any and inventory the weapons-of-expedience all around. What can I throw, what can I hit with, what can I pin someone down it, what can I drive through someone. How fast can I get to each object before others in the room, what would be the best way to weld it, how much strength will it likely take, what might it do to the human body. And, of course, at home and when otherwise able, I practice with various objects so I actually have some idea of the answers to these things imprinted on my body.

If you do have a third weapon, do not forget the first two weapons. You need to be very sure that the brain can handle the weapon you choose. No matter how good a shot you are are, a gun is not going to save your life if you realize you can’t shoot someone when the shit hits the fan. Deal with this possibility, the reality of what it would mean, think it through, BEFORE you get the gun. Just because you feel you can’t, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t change that. If you want to have a gun for self-defense but feel you might hesitate to shoot someone attacking you, find ways to train your brain to over come this issue. Or find a different weapon.

Also remember that you will not have any other weapons but your brain and body with you at all times. Therefore continuing your physical training so that you can use just your body or weapons-of-expedience if your weapon(s) is/are not with you or if you have to fight to get to them. Also be prepared that in tight quarters the advantage of some weapons may be loss unless you are able to fight to maintain control and possession of them.

What ever you choose, it is the brain and the body that will always be with you. Treat them well, keep them sharp.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert

The abuse of thin = fit

Recently a friend brought up the fact that, after a long bout with illness over the winter, she wanted to start eating healthier and get more fit. She felt this would help her immune system fight off such illnesses in the future.

The idea of starting such an endeavor, however, brought up negative feelings in her. She didn’t want to be focused on “losing weight” because she had come to realize how abusive pressure by family members, as well as the entire culture, was for her. This struck a chord in me, regarding how our culture looks at fitness, at least in regard to women.

That bad relationships with food, eating disorders from anorexia to binging, usually have roots in childhood abuse has been heavily studied and written about. Some of these studies do venture into the issue of exercise, typically the abuse of exercise to reach dangerous goals. What I haven’t seen addressed is what the constant message exercise is only supposed to be about getting thin makes any exercise at all seem to be giving in to the abuse for women who have striven to over come the abusive messages that they must fit an unrealistic ideal.

What can we do to over come this message, that fit=thin and what it does to women who have indeed felt abused in various ways by the message that thin=beautiful/feminine/the-only-thing-worthwhile/etc.? Not only for those suffering from eating and exercise disorders because they internalized this message into self-abuse, but also those women who have managed to gain a healthy self-image, who have managed to become strong and proud within themselves, yet find that considering exercise to become healthier and stronger brings up the old voices. And, yes, also women who are naturally thin and have been told that exercise is wasted because they already fit the “norm”…and also suffer negative health effects.

Because thinness simply should never be the main goal of fitness. Being healthy should. You do not need to attain a certain size, you need to keep your heart strong and keep your body strong. Because strength is what exercise should give you. Losing weight may or may not happen, getting strong will as long as there is no medical reason keeping it from happening.

My friend knows this, but I believe it’s not been without struggle to live it, with issues that it brought up for her. I’m sure this is the case for many women. And my struggle is how do we address this? How do we find a way to promote fitness without echoing any of those abusive voices that are out there?

This is not something I’m going to be able to answer here. Because it’s really a long road to undo this sort of conditioning. Especially as I see more and more diet companies and gyms focusing on “we all have our ideal weight” in ways that fail…that still give the message that it’s not about health but about being thinner than you are now, even if you fail at being really thin. That feeds the same message, as far as I’m concerned.

The thinness message should be the antithesis of fitness! As Colette Dowling points out in The Frailty Myth thinness is about taking up less space in the world. About having less impact in the world. Fitness should be about having more impact in the the world. Being healthy enough, strong enough to do what we need to do.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert