Monday, September 10, 2018

It's the 21st Century and Women Can Be Anything. Almost.

Welcome to the 21st century! We have great news, because now you, my sister, can be whatever you want to be!

Unless what you want to be is a traditional wife and mother.

Then don't be that. We were just kidding.

A few weeks ago, my kids and I watched Zootopia for the first time. (I know, I know, we're a few years behind on popular culture. You don't need to point it out.)

The movie was clever and entertaining, and in a sense I really did enjoy it. The DMV staffed entirely by sloths was hilarious and made total sense of the world after waiting in my local social security office for an hour and 45 minutes to sign a single form.

There's just one thing feminism tells our girls they should not, cannot, must not be.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
photo credit

But Zootopia also packed some serious feminist commentary, and the irony was not lost on me that I was sitting right next to my kids as Disney told them with a hint-hint, wink-wink that my life spent raising them was a waste.

Let me explain.

Zootopia's main character, a bunny named Judy, dreams of becoming the first female police officer in the metropolis of Zooptopia, where the city motto is 'Where Anyone Can Be Anything.'

Her risk-averse parents don't want her to go, though. It's too dangerous. They want her to stay in Bunnyburrow, where they run a carrot farm and raise their hundreds of baby bunnies (rabbits, you know.)

Trying to talk her into staying, Judy's mom says "Do you know why we're so happy, Judy? Because we settled!"

"We settled hard," Judy's dad agrees, nodding vigorously.

The scene was done with humor and wit, but you read that right: they really did say that staying home and having babies is "settling."

Just why, in order for Judy to go to Zooptopia and shatter glass ceilings, does the movie have to make ignorant fools of the stay-at-home carrot farmers of the world? What's so wrong with making a life out of raising your bunnies, anyway?

It's clear that in Zootopia (and by extension, in our pop feminist version of Utopia,) the motto is Where Anyone Can Be Anything  with an asterisk, of course, reading: "except a traditional wife and mother."

This fake narrative of women's liberation leaves women like me behind.

It tells our girls it's fantastic to be police officers (or lawyers or heart surgeons or whatever,) but being a stay-at-home mom makes you a backward country bumpkin who is settling for less.

I guess it's no longer politically correct to suggest that baby bunnies and carrot farms are still appealing to women in these liberated days, and yet my own experience and observation tells me it is.

Virtually every woman I know wants the bunny-and-carrot-farm experience, at least to some extent. Even the most professionally accomplished of them feel that their families, not their careers, are the most important achievements of their lives. Even BeyoncĂ© says so.

There's just one thing feminism tells our girls they should not, cannot, must not be.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Not Beyoncé. This is a slightly blurry photo of me holding my son while he tries to escape.

When even Disney movies are telling my kids that being a judge or a scientist isn't simply another path for intelligent women to choose, but the only path worth taking, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried. There is so much more I want my kids, and particularly my daughters, to know.

I hope they know that paychecks and credentials don't define their worth.

I hope they know that choosing to raise a family is one of the most rewarding things they could ever do.

I hope they know they can truly be anything, without explanation or apology  and that includes, most especially, being the mothers of their children.

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11 comments:

  1. JENNY. This is my favorite thing you’ve ever written. Yes yes yes. I couldn’t agree more. That scene made me feel frustrated as well, and just the overall attitude of our culture in general is concerning to me.

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  2. This is great! I have to confess that when I watched Zootopia that commentary didn't really hit me, probably because it's just sadly so common and I've gotten used to hearing it.
    I particularly love your line "When even Disney movies are telling my kids that being a judge or a scientist isn't simply another path for intelligent women to choose, but the only path worth taking, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried." It makes me really sad that there's this current "need" in culture to shove certain jobs or roles at girls. It's great that some women want to take the path of being computer scientists or architects (I personally know a few women who have pursued these paths!), but empowering women to do those things should not come at the expense of making other women and girls feel like they're "less" for choosing to be homemakers or work part time or pretending to be princesses or whatever.

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    1. I definitely don't think it was the main thrust of the movie, I think most of it focused on workplace sexism and racial stereotypes, but this one little line just bothered me for the whole film.

      Also, I pretend to be a princess every day, and it's exhausting work that does not get NEARLY enough recognition.

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  3. Check out the book The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. It's about a mother bunny that actually was respected for being an awesome mother bunny.

    Also, I really didn't like Zootopia. Not just for the frustrating feminist slant. I struggled with the idea that the animals had evolved beyond their "traditional" natures of predator and prey. Carnivores being carnivores was a bad thing. It was a strangely neutered animal kingdom that was at best just a bit too Stepford for me to enjoy, or at worst, a subversion of traditional biological norms aimed at small children. I think it only bothered me here because it was the whole point of the movie, where in other anthropomorphized animal films (say Robin Hood), it isn't a problem because the focus of the movie isn't the animals eating or not eating each other.
    ...or I've thought way too much about it.

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    1. You know me too well, I've actually written a post about how much I love The Country Bunny. To me, THAT is feminism.

      If you're interested in reading, here's the URL (sorry, you'll have to cut and paste:)

      http://www.unremarkablefiles.com/2016/03/my-new-favorite-book-is-feminist.html

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  4. Maybe it's just my naivete, but when I watched it and heard them say they settled, I didn't take it as staying home and having babies is settling. I took it as being carrot farmers, for them, was settling. Like, they settled for carrot farming instead of something more exciting that would take them away from their family. My kids thought the same thing. They in no way think being a parent is settling. Their favorite aunt is in her 30's and is devastated not to be married and having kids. I think seeing that - along with knowing that they couldn't survive without a stay at home mom - as Parenthood is the cream of the crop, strived for, career they all want. But I have friends and family that have settled for careers that weren't their first pick because they worked better for family life. For example: working as a teacher's assistant when all the kids are school-aged instead of going back to the pre-mom job as a flight attendant. Just my opinion.

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    1. That's a much more positive interpretation. I also know a lot of people who made the same choices and are perfectly happy with striking that balance.

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  5. yeeeesssss!!! (typing one-handed while holding sleeping baby). DZidn't see Zootopia but thought the movie Sing did the same thing-- that mama pig who wanted a singing career...made it look like drudgery just serving all her baby piggies at home. not that it's not drudgery some days, lol, but there's purpose and meaning and the 'drudgery' is part of this life-changing worek.

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    1. Exactly. Is anything exciting all the time, anyway? Show me a really fulfilling job that never makes you do pointless paperwork or extra things you don't particularly like in order to comply with regulations... there just isn't one.

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