FAQ

Commenting GuidelinesQuoting Guidelines

These are some comments and questions we often get here.

What on earth is “gender essentialism” and why can’t I talk about it in comments?

Long answer: this post. Short answer: it’s an academic term for the idea that there are inherent differences between men and women. Some people claim there’s science that proves that boys and girls are naturally different, with different capabilities and potentials, so we should just accept some sexism as an unavoidable reality. But there’s no way to do an experiment in which a sample pool of boys and girls are taken at birth and raised by robots who treat them identically, and see whether or not the girl develops inferior math skills and a love of pink, so none of this “science” can be taken very seriously.

We believe males and female are born with indistinguishably similar potentials and interests, and that parents, teachers and cultures teach us to conform to the gender roles most people think of as “natural.” The reason we don’t allow essentialism on this site is because it can only lead to a debate about essentialism itself, and that derails conversations. (Also, there’s a lot of nasty racial essentialism that tends to leak into these conversations, so it’s just a real headache.)

Would you tell the Take Home Chef/Cesar Milan/L.A. Ink/[insert TV show here] that I want to be on their show?

We’re not affiliated with the shows or movies we critique.

But I don’t think the creators meant to be sexist!

They probably didn’t. But so what? We’re judging the product they put out, not the creators themselves. If it contains sexist messages, it doesn’t matter whether they intended those messages or just unconsciously passed on the messages they were raised with. The fact that people come up with them unthinkingly means that it’s all the more important for us to point them out, because we’ll never break out of the mold unless we recognize that it’s there.

But—Everybody Loves Raymond! Men are portrayed badly, too!

And we hate that, too – and often discuss it in passing. But there is big important difference between stereotyping white straight men and stereotyping other “minority” groups: white straight men run the world. Those stereotypes have never hurt their position in the world. In fact, they’re often used as excuses: poor Raymond is such a pathetic mate because he’s a guy! He can’t help it! Bull.

I can think of movies/TV shows that are far worse than this one you wrote about

And? So? But? Therefore? Write an article, and maybe we’ll post it.

You’re overthinking this/reading too much into this.

Or you’re missing something. Either could be the case, so when you feel the need to say someone’s “reading too much into” something, be sure to state that as an opinion and be polite. Also, read this.

So, what do you want? I’m seeing what you don’t want, but what would make you happy?

When we talk about the search for “strong women characters”, we’re looking for a woman depicted as a complete, complicated, nuanced human being, with qualities and flaws. We’re looking for a variety of images of women, including heroes, villains, mothers, sexist pigs, etc. We want some clue why the filmmakers think they became the individuals they became.

And if you stick around, you’ll see a lot of enthusiastic chatter about those instances where filmmakers get it right, or even get it less wrong than usual. (Some people even accuse us of having standards that are too low – guess everyone’s a critic.)

They’re only giving the audience what they want to see!

Hollywood v. Women
Women don’t go see movies
Why women can’t vote with their dollars in film and TV
Women viewers need not apply
WB and UPN merger: aiming for the young female market