Monday, January 30, 2012

Men act, Women are acted upon

A week or so ago I was reading this post by TyphonBlue over at Genderratic. It was about how damaging it is to constantly cast women as victims who are acted upon rather than people with their own agency. Her post is a lot deeper than that so you should go read it. I just want to point out an odd example of this I saw a few nights ago.

I was reading a manga by the name Akuma no Elevator (roughly "Elevator to Hell"). The story centers around 4 people trapped in an elevator with no way to communicate to the outside world over a weekend (meaning there's a chance no one would notice them until Monday). The four people have dark pasts and in a moment of clarity, desperation, or who knows what they all decide to share histories. We eventually find out that:

One is a man that was in the apartment building visiting the woman he was cheating on his wife with. Oh and the wife is pregnant. Oh and the reason he was leaving (and was ultimately trapped in the elevator) was because he got a call from his wife saying she was going into labor.

The next is a man who kidnapped a little girl. He took her off somewhere and brought her back 30min. later. He doesn't actually say what he did to her before returning her but he does trail off, giving the implication that he did something to her. He lives in the building and was heading down to go out to the store.

Third is a man who is actually a cat burglar. He carries a spray that can instantly knock a person out. Easier to rob a place if you can knockout anyone that's home right? Not only is he a burglar but during one if his break ins he discovered a woman in the house sleep (he had cased the joint and thought the house was empty as the family was supposed to be on vacation). After spraying her to keep her from waking up, he rapes her in her sleep. He was in the building looking to break into an apartment and steal.

Finally we have a teenage girl. For years she was bullied, harassed, and put up with watching her parents argue. In all this her one true friend was her big sister. In an effort to help her the girl's parents got her in a counselling program which included a counselor that came over to talk to her. Her big sister ended up falling in love with the counselor, thus spending more time with him that with her. In retaliation she went to the counseling center and burned it to the ground (thankfully no one was inside). Fed up with her life her plan was to take the elevator to the roof and jump.

Thinking about Typhonblue's post I noticed something.

Did you notice that the three men's stories basically started with their actions where as the girl's story started with what how she was acted upon and then ended her actions?

Its almost like it was written so that the reader would have no sympathy for the men (who would have sympathy for three guys when all you know about them is that one is a adulterer, one is a kidnapper, and the other is a burglar/rapist?) but would have sympathy for the girl (who would not have sympathy for a girl who was bullied, harassed, had to put up with arguing parents and perceived abandonment from her one friend going on to burn down a building?). I mean if she had been presented in the same manner that the men had she would just be an arsonist that was there to commit suicide. Yet its only her life we are offered a pre-criminal look into....