The main problem I have with feminist fiction, mainly, is that it puts masculinity in a bad light. Femininsts, or at least the post-femininsts, argue that feminism is about equality, but in fiction, an idea usually has to be touted at the expense of another idea, making it look weak in the process. In the case of feminism, it has two enemies–traditional masculinity, and traditional femininity.
Over and over again in feminist-themed fiction, I see a ton of bullying, making ideas I like, or am at least sympathetic to, look weak–and the stortelling isn’t even that good, to boot, and there go the left-wing critics, fawning over it, applauding the cleverness and ignoring its moral preachiness simply becasue it’s singing their song.
I’ve done the same thing too, folks, applauding bullying, namely, because I agreed with the animating idea, and not examined the full scope of my actions. I’ve loathed superheroes’ obsession with nonviolence, finding it lame, and then came across a comic where the Punisher forced Daredevil to violate his values by forcing him to violate his values. I was enthralled, or was until somebody told me he hated seeing people written out of character, and then I reconsidered.
In my reckoning, good writing is the same as clever writing, but what keeps good from great, you see, is attention to detail, and tolerance for cheap shots, even if they don’t fit the greater tapestry. It’s sometimes annoying, but at the least, it’s given me a pretty fair measuring stick to judge others, and hopefully steered me from hypocrisy.
A great example of feminism making men look weak comes at the end of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Willow takes charge. Joss Whedon, the series creator, was trying to make Willow into a leader, but what of Giles and Spike? Well, in terms of what came before, neither Willow, nor Giles, nor Spike acted much in character, and while cleverly done, lubed by ideology, that neverthless ranks in my mind as a classic case of clever bullying. Folks like Whedon believe in female empowerment, equality, but when that devolves, I take offense, because he’s essentially what he thinks he’s despising.
Contrast such characterization on Buffy with The Powerpuff Girls, where the namesake protagonists must contend with the most pathetic of patriarchs imaginable in a boss. There’s no sideswipes here, just a hapless old fudddy-duddy who can’t even open a pickle jar unassisted. As an individual, there’s nothing to respect, but respect him the girls do out of courtesy to seniors, and also commitment to authority, a fine sight better than the arrogance of Buffy, in my mind.
Feminism is widely said to be about equality, and if they mean it as a means to promote merit, I wholeheartedly endorse it; some animals are just more equal than others, and man or woman, I appreciate the exceptionalist. At its worst, though, if the drive for “equality” makes one tar a group for the other’s expense, not only is it bad morality, it’s also bad writing.