Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.
Hi guys and welcome to my first Feminist Sunday! (I probably won’t participate every week, but I’m participating this week.)
I thought I would tackle a phrase that drives me up the wall. It’s often seen in, but not limited to, romance novels. And it goes like this, “Any other woman would’ve X, but she Y’ed.”
Why does that phrase make me so annoyed? I’ll grant there are times when it is true: Any other woman would not have been able to relate to my experience as an unmarried European monarch, but Elizabeth I truly got me. Or: Any other woman would have not been able to follow my dissertation on the physical properties of radium, but Madame Curie helpfully critiqued my experimental design.
And there are times when its hyperbolic use seems appropriate, in that there probably are other women who would share the response, but they are few and far between: Any other woman would have called the police and run far away when she realized my psychopathic murderous hobbies, but Lila was completely into it. Or: Any other woman would’ve divorced me after I caused an international scandal with my affairs, but Hillary stayed with me through the entire ordeal.
But unfortunately, most often the sentence runs like this: Any other woman would have freaked out/cried/become emotional and therefore useless, but Heroine remained calm, assessed the situation and utilized her abilities to best help the situation OR remained calm and did nothing so I could rescue her. And this is quickly followed by romantic navel-gazing ending with the conclusion that this is why the hero loves the heroine.
That’s not super flattering, now, is it? Most women are apparently incapable of handling any tense or dangerous situation (because EMOTIONS!) and so, boys, when you find one who doesn’t act like a woman in these situations, you should marry her.
I am going to point out here that I know plenty of women who remain calm in tense or dangerous situations and end up being quite helpful.
It’s also weird that a heterosexual man finds himself falling in love with a woman because she doesn’t act like he thinks a woman should act. Let’s run through that logic, shall we?
A) I am attracted to women, presumably because they look and act like women. I have very defined views on how women should act; this is part of my attraction to them. B) But the only woman who is worthy of my love is one who acts like a man. Which brings us to C) women are inherently inferior to men and therefore not worthy of my manly love unless they D) act like men, which makes them worthy of my manly love. But E) I am not attracted to men. Only women. Just not women who act like women.
Setting aside all inherent problems with how women are viewed in that particular train of logic, it doesn’t make much sense, does it?
I don’t have a problem with that trope when it’s as such: Most other women would not have shared my interest in restoring classic Chevy trucks. That is a) probably a fairly true statement and b) does not imply negative things about most other women. It is not a character judgment to say someone does not share your interests and hobbies. (Assuming you don’t murder people for fun, that is.)
And as an ending point, I do occasionally see this trope used against men, usually in a domestic sense, as in: Any other man would have run screaming from the sight of the baby, but he stayed and played with it. Which has many of the same problems as above.