What We Can Learn from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By: Avery Serven

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The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a film trope that most of us are familiar with. If not, here’s a quick definition coined by Nathan Rabin: “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition.” Some of the best examples are seen in the lead female characters from films like Elizabethtown, Garden State, Paper Towns, Almost Famous, and (500) Days of Summer.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl continues to be a character created by white, heterosexual male writers to satisfy a trope that they deemed absent from film. A character trope that, I might add, was designed to satisfy these writers’ own pipe dreams of a girl who could fill their emotional voids. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists for the purpose of bringing the brooding cynical “sad boy” male character out of his sheltered world so he can embrace all that life has to offer. She is often white, slim, beautiful, and, of course, quirky; the kind of girl that these heterosexual male characters might call a “cool girl.” She probably has dyed hair, crazy piercings, or listens to The Smiths (see Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer).

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. For women, even a mention of the word “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” will probably elicit some eye rolling. Although she is “not like other girls,” she still only serves one purpose–to change the male lead’s cynical way of living. This ideology is dangerous, because even though the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is just a character on a screen, she represents the larger societal notion that women must complete men. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl does not seem to have any real goals of her own. Instead, her only goal throughout the film is to completely alter the male character by the time the credits role.

I will give the Manic Pixie Dream Girl some credit, though. Many of the female characters that have been placed into this category by film scholars have interesting personalities. They might like unconventional music, wear eccentric clothing, or think about life through a different lens. While these traits often serve as the only basis for the male character to fall in love with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I believe that these girls break the mold by creating three-dimensional female characters, who do not fit the standard “Sexpot” or “Brainless Beauty” tropes that most female characters fall under. Unfortunately, while the Manic Pixie Dream Girl definitely doesn’t fit the stereotypes that other female characters often adhere to, her unique outlook on life is usually exploited by the male character for his own needs.

 Additionally, although many Manic Pixie Dream Girls only seem to care about their boyfriend’s dreams, many of the girls initially have dreams of their own. While these dreams are rarely fulfilled, the fact that they exist in the first place signifies hope for a change in the future of female film characters.

I believe we can learn a lot from Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Yes, these characters often perpetuate the notion that women, with their spunky attitudes and quirky demeanors, are supposed to help men achieve their goals. And yes, even though they have complex personalities and dreams, they often channel all of their energy into helping the men in their life. However, if in Hollywood writers continue to create three-dimensional female characters and allow them to be passionate about achieving their own dreams, the romance genre could be completely transformed. 

Sources

https://film.avclub.com/the-bataan-death-march-of-whimsy-case-file-1-elizabet-1798210595

Why Don’t We Have a Men’s History Month

By: Sabrina Schnurr

March 1st marked the beginning of Women’s History Month, an official recognition of women’s contributions to civilization, culture, and humanity throughout history. I commend lawmakers for establishing Women’s History Month in 1987. Women, after all, are chronically under-represented in textbooks, and women’s achievements are often ignored or minimized by historians. Having March officially designated as Women’s History Month puts a focus on women’s overshadowed role throughout history, and forces many to recognize that women drove a large portion of technology and culture. The existence of Women’s History Month begs the question that if Women’s History Month exists, shouldn’t we also have a Men’s History Month? After all, isn’t equality the driving force of the progressive movement?

By stating that “I don’t think there should be an International Women’s Day if there’s not an International Men’s Day, too” is like saying, “I don’t believe in Black History Month without a White History Month to balance it out.” There is no need for balance. The imbalance is the point.

Literally every month is already Men’s History Month. Men have controlled every aspect of civilization for thousands of years, and they are celebrated constantly. Almost every historical holiday focuses on men: Columbus Day, MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. The default is thinking of men as important historical figures.

Nothing about Women’s History Month diminishes men. The fact that men feel upset about celebrating important women simply underscores the male-focused nature of our society. We can’t even talk about celebrating women without some guy grunting, “Yeah, but what about us?”

To the fellas saying that men deserve some time just for them, remind those men that of International Men’s Day! IMD is an annual international event celebrated every year on 19 November; the month of November is also occasionally recognized as International Men’s Month. Jerome Teelucksingh chose November 19th to honor his father’s birthday and also to celebrate how in 1989, Trinidad and Tobago’s football team united the country with their endeavors of qualifying for the World Cup. Teelucksingh has promoted International Men’s Day as a day where all issues affecting men and boys can be addressed. IMD strives to gain “gender equality and patiently attempts to remove the negative images and the stigma associated with men in our society.” The aim of International Men’s Day is generally to celebrate positive male role models and to raise awareness of men’s issues, including topics such as mental health, toxic masculinity, and the prevalence of male suicide.

Weird flex, but okay.

5 Flash Fiction Pieces to Celebrate Women’s History Month

By Annie Jonas

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have chosen 5 flash fiction pieces written by, or about, women. These pieces take no more than 5 minutes to read, and are perfect for any spare moments you have throughout your day.

 

  1. Break, by Rabih Alameddine

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Image Source: Chloe Scheffe, The New Yorker

This piece chronicles the relationship between a sister and a brother who correspond over the course of seven years with just photographs. What is the reason for such a peculiar form of communication, you may ask? The narrator is a trans-woman whose family disowned her upon her transitioning, and threatened her brother not to speak or write to her without consequences. This story is a haunting portrait of the breaking and reparation of family, love, and loneliness.

“He broke first. I received a four-by-six portrait of his son with a slightly bleeding nose, taken hastily, badly lit, likely by a bathroom bulb. On the ten-year-old face, a thread of blood trickled from nose to upper lip, curving an ogee around the corner of the mouth and down the chin. The boy was in no pain; he looked inquisitively at the camera, probably wondering why his father had had the urge to bring it out.

I held my breath for a beat or two or three when I saw the image. On the back of the photograph Mazen had written, ‘I keep seeing you.’”

 

  1. Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid

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Image Source: Jefferson Wheeler

In this laundry list of dos and don’ts, demands, and warnings, Jamaica Kincaid exposes the unembellished realities of growing up as a girl in a patriarchal world. Written in 1978, in the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, Kincaid’s story feels just as personal as it does political. It is not flashy about its brilliance, and yet in its modesty it proves to be a nuanced masterpiece.

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know”

 

  1. The Huntress, by Sofia Samatar

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Image Source: Del Samatar

In this sci-fi fast fiction piece, an impossibly large female monster called The Huntress terrorizes the inhabitants of a city below. The narrator is a foreigner to this place and is fatally unprepared for the wrath of The Huntress. This piece weaves together intense sensory imagery with disorienting ambiguity; we, as readers, feel just as on-edge as the narrator.

“The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?”

 

  1. Housewife, by Amy Hempel

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Image Source: VICE

In this one-sentence story, Amy Hempel humorously captures the pure delight of a cunning, two-timing housewife rejoicing in her latest affair. Hempel relays the sexual freedom and polyamorous nature of a modern-day woman who seeks her own pleasure first, and protocols second.

“She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, ‘French film, French film.’”

 

  1. John Redding Goes to Sea, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Image Source: Fotosearch / Getty Images

Zora Neale Hurston is one of my all-time favorite female novelists as well as an iconic figure in feminist history. Although she is primarily known and celebrated for her novels, her fast-fiction and short stories are equally deserving of praise. In this piece, Hurston masterfully uses dialect to illustrate the story of John Redding, a ten-year-old daydreamer who imagines his backyard stream is a great sea.

“The little brown boy loved to wander down to the water’s edge, and, casting in dry twigs, watch them sail away downstream to Jacksonville, the sea, the wide world and John Redding wanted to follow them.

Sometimes in his dreams he was a prince, riding away in a gorgeous carriage. Often he was a knight bestride a fiery charger prancing down the white shell road that led to distant lands. At other times he was a steamboat captain piloting his craft down the St. John River to where the sky seemed to touch the water. No matter what he dreamed or who he fancied himself to be, he always ended by riding away to the horizon; for in his childish ignorance he thought this to be farthest land.”

For those who feel like they don’t have the time to read a full-fledged novel, or who desire a fast-paced narrative, fast fiction is the way to go. However, do not assume that just because these pieces are short, they are any less than a novel or a lengthier piece. Fast fiction is an important subgenre of literature because it stretches the expectations of what we perceive fiction to be. It teaches us to be creative and really think about the words we are writing. Fast fiction is a lean and efficient form; nothing is arbitrary. It is important that we read works like these so that we, too, may become better readers and writers.

For more fast fiction pieces, check out:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

http://www.100wordstory.org/

http://thecollagist.com/

https://everydayfiction.com/

Congrats, It’s a… Human! The Problem with Gender Reveal Parties

Maria Ordoñez

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Like a scene from a Pinterest board, the expectant mother takes one last swing at the stork-shaped pinata hanging above her. Confetti bursts through the air, raining down on the smiling mother as she removes her blindfold.

It’s… yellow?

Her friends and family stare in confusion, trying to decipher whether yellow means boy or girl. With tears in her eyes, the mother runs into the arms of her partner, both delighted by the reveal.

“It’s a human!” they exclaim.


Parties like these are part of the latest trend taking over social media: gender reveal parties. You’ve seen them everywhere from Instagram to YouTube, elaborate tactics employing pinatas, paint guns, and even smoke bombs to reveal one of two colors – pink or blue. Boy or girl. 

With the increased accuracy of pre-natal DNA testing, gender reveal parties have started to replace the traditional baby showers we know and tolerate. In some cases, they can be organized as one and the same, but there aresome fundamental differences between the two. See, the gender reveal party, held much earlier in the pregnancy, is a co-ed event that is generally restricted to close friends and family. No more of those female-only showers where you have to invite all your coworkers and that one cousin you’ve never even met!

While this all seemslike a perfectly sweet excuse for a party, and an improvement from the classic baby shower, gender reveal parties have proven to be quite problematic. Let me tell you why:

  1. Did you mean “Genitalia Reveal Party?”

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As it turns out, the supposed “gender” revealed at these parties is actually the chromosomal sexof the fetus determined at the time of fertilization. In other words, XX or XY chromosomes, testes or ovaries, penis or vagina. It’s all strictly anatomical and has nothing to do with the baby’s gender. In fact, the baby doesn’t even have a gender yet!

Although often confused with sex, gender is actually a social identity shaped by a person’s own life history and cultural context. For some people it can take years to define their gender identity or come to terms with it, which is why everyone should throw their own gender reveal party when they’re good and ready.

I happen to be ready for mine… I am 20-years-old and I identify as a cisgender female. WOO HOO, SOMEBODY GET THE CONFETTI!

2. Male, Female, and nothing in between.

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Gender reveal parties are binary af.

For those not familiar with the term, binary means relating to two things. In terms of gender, binary refers to the assertion that there are only two genders, male and female. That’s why you’re only allowed to use two colors for decoration (you know which ones).

The thing is that, even anatomically speaking, nothing is binary. According to an article by The Guardian, 1.7% of people are intersex, meaning that they’re born with a combination of male and female biological traits. What color smoke bomb would you use for that? Purple? Yellow? No-colors-at-all-because-it’s-a-problematic-concept? I don’t know…

Gender identity exists on an even more varied spectrum, ranging from transgender to gender queer to gender fluid. But, the truth of the matter is that the fundamental structure of these parties is not set up to consider all the possible variations of gender, so why even have them in the first place?  

3.  You get a gender role, you get a gender role, everybody gets a gender role!

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A list of popular party themes: Rifles or ruffles, ties or tutus, boots or ballet, and so on and so on.

From before these babies are born, their parents have decided what they can and cannot do based on their biological sex. Babies with penises will grow up to wear ties, not tutus, and babies born with vaginas will grow up to wear ruffles, not play with rifles.

This is not only potentially damaging to these babies as they grow up, but it also perpetuates a culture of female domesticity and toxic masculinity. Not to exaggerate or anything, but gender reveal parties are single-handedly reinforcing the patriarchy. Just saying…

As surprising as it is, as much as cultural norms surrounding gender have evolved, problematic traditions like gender reveal parties still exist. It seems like with every increase in awareness and acceptance of identities outside of the binary, the patriarchy finds a way to reinforce what it defines as the norm. The worst part is that it does this by hiding behind hashtags and confetti and a lot of cake.

But I see you, Patriarchy.

You can’t fool me.

Women in Tech Breakfast

By: Rhian Lowndes

Bringing Diverse Thinkers Together on International Women’s Day

 

At the General Assembly training center on Summer Street, a networking event kicked off International Women’s Day for over fifty attendees. The Women in Tech Breakfast hosted three speakers who shared their own experience of sexism in the workplace, how they overcame it, and how they’re using their positions to change to game.

Gabriela McManus of Drizly, Roxanne Tashjian of Monster, and Sanam Razzaghi Feldman of Rapid7 emphasized to a largely female crowd–with just three men in the audience–that changes can be made in small steps, as long as women advocate for ourselves and our values, while creating a community of support.

They pressed issues such as Referral System hiring, which encourages the consistent employment of similar candidates with similar backgrounds and experience. Job descriptions also pose a problem, and can be redesigned to be more inclusive.

Mei Li Zhou, Partnerships Specialist at General Assembly, explained that the importance of collaborating with the International Women’s Day campaign lies in shared goals. For these two groups, a focus on “thought” is key: “The International Women’s day team has been a major player in shedding light on these issues and their #BalanceForBetter campaign really resonates with our goals of promoting a workforce that is diverse of thought, gender, and race.”

Events like the Women in Tech Breakfast are not only held for women on International Women’s Day, but for everyone who needs a leg up in their careers year round. They enable people who struggle to advance their careers to share concerns in a community of support. For Zhou, the event was, “from beginning to end, a very safe and warm environment where women can connect and share their struggles.”

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-in-tech-breakfast-building-inclusive-teams-for-success-tickets-55789399596#
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-in-tech-breakfast-building-inclusive-teams-for-success-tickets-55789399596#

Tina Belcher, an Iconic Animated Character

By: Rachel Harmon

If you have not seen Bobs Burgers, you need to start. Not only is this an iconic animation series for young-adults, but also has one of my favorite animated characters ever: Tina Belcher. She is the oldest of her two siblings and her family owns a Burger Shop. She is the awkward girl we all were at some point in our lives (or still are). She gives us many cringy but hilarious moments in every episode. She may have minimal social skills and may not understand what is socially acceptable as a teenager girl, but she is happy with who she is and refuses to be like everyone else. Some of her most notable quirks are her fantasies about Jimmy Junior, her erotic friend fiction, AND her obsession with BUTTS. She is definitely one of the most empowering animated female characters I have ever watched because she expresses her real feelings, even if they are “weird.” It is difficult for a teenage girl to be herself unapologetically, but Tina owns it. Tina is my animated icon and she should be yours too.

Please enjoy one of my favorite Tina moments, because like her, I appreciate a good butt.

Tina Belcher giphy