“A Simple Answer”

Linda Holmes’s “At The Movies, The Women Are Gone” (which I linked to yesterday) put me in mind of something I wanted to add to that post I made recently about gender parity in the media.

One of the consequences of a gender disparity like the one Holmes is describing is that stories about women simply aren’t readily available.  It’s easy to a man to find a movie about someone (more or less) like himself, but it’s much more difficult for a woman to do.  (We’ll say nothing of whether that movie, once found, is any good.)  In other words, men have to, to borrow Holmes’s turn of phrase, “go out of their way to see any kind of film that’s about people other than themselves”.

In other words, the experiences (and emotions and agency and personhood) of half of the population are all too easy to ignore.  Men don’t even have to work to get the impression that women aren’t real people.  Hell, if the movies are to be believed, only about 30% of women are even capable of speech. As far as most mainstream viewers are concerned, women exist only as as wives and girlfriends, as props, as window-dressing.

Meanwhile, women pretty much have to do the work of empathy, if they want to watch a movie (or read a book or watch a TV show, etc).  A woman might luck out and come across a story about someone a lot like her, but chances are when she sits down in front of the screen, she’ll be asked to identify with someone with whom she has next to nothing in common.

Is it any wonder, then, that studies suggest that women tend to have higher emotional intelligence than men?  How could we not, when we’re required to exercise it in a way men simply aren’t by the mainstream media.  This isn’t some nonsense about women’s intuition.  Women are trained to empathize — not only by our elders and peers, but by the stories we consume, from the very first — while men, largely, are not.

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