Apparently, I’m one of the only few people who enjoyed the film Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on the YA fiction books written by Cassandra Clare, the film is about Clary who, on her 16th birthday, discovers she isn’t a normal girl but a shadow hunter – born to fight demons. Being YA fiction, there is the usual love story between Clary and the boy who saves her life, Jace. But, at it’s heart, City of Bones is a book about a group of teenagers fighting to save the world whilst dealing with friendships and love. All are brave, intelligent and loyal. And the two female characters, Clary and Isabelle, are both kick-ass fighters. Granted, its all a bit silly and escapism but, as the new Ghostbusters film has shown, girls want to see more films with brave girls. Not less.
This is why the new television series being shown in the UK on Netflix is such a disappointment. Much was made by the producers of having more space in which to be creative with the source material – something that definitely required better writers than they’ve hired (teenage boy in lust with teenage girl: “you’re so interesting” said no boy ever.) Instead of having two brave girls, they’ve gone with a much more whiny Clary and, most appallingly, Isabelle is no longer a brave shadow hunter equal to the boys. She’s a sex kitten who spends most of her time naked or having sex. Shadowhunters is aimed at an older audience so sex isn’t a problem. It’s the fact that the only person, out of all the main characters, who is having sex is the girl. And, not just having sex but her form of fighting demons involves being sexual.
This is Isabelle Lightwood in the film
Everyone else is dressed for battle in black leather.
Isabelle is in kitten heels and a tight red dress – one she’s just put back on covered in fairy dust having had sex with said fae to find out how to enter the vampire’s lair. Because, despite having access to a IT department that would make Apple jealous and, therefore, access to city planning information, the only way to discover how to enter the vampire’s clearly marked out lair through abandoned subway tunnels is for Isabelle to writhe around a bed half-naked with a random fae dude – something none of the boys are expected to do.
I know Netflix wants to be edgy, you just have to look at how much time Jessica Jones spends having sex rather than being a superhero to see that, but erasing yet another brave girl and turning her into nothing more than a sex-obsessed plaything for the boys isn’t edgy or exciting. It’s just the same old porn culture insisting that girls can’t be brave fighters. Their only role is victim or sex toy.
Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid by Rufi Thorpe is beautiful, heart-breaking and enraging on how mothering impacts women’s abilities to become a published author recognising the selfish and narcissistic behaviour of male writers is rewarded whilst women are held to impossible standards. Yet, buried within this incredible piece of writing are the following two paragraphs:
“I have never worried that the mundane world would muddy my celestial paws; I’ve always been perfectly able to lick my stamps myself. In fact, I have been far, far too able. The older I get, the more I recognize the leveraging power of ineptitude. My husband can’t cook well; I do the cooking. My husband accidentally shrinks a few sweaters; I do the laundry. My husband can’t lactate; the baby comes to New York. In his inability to do things, he is excused from labor. In my rush to excel, to shine, to be a good wife and mother, I have done nothing but ensure my labor will be lengthy and unpaid.” …
There are other ways too in which I am invisible. I often feel that the work I do around the house is the work of an invisible person. How else could my husband consistently leave his underwear tucked behind the bathroom door? His wet towel on the bed? Surely, he does not imagine me, swearing, swooping to pick up his damp, crumpled briefs with a child on one hip as I listen to a podcast and ponder going gluten free. He is not making a statement with his actions, saying, “Here, wife, pick up after me.” Instead, I think that on some level he believes that he lives in an enchanted castle where the broom comes to life and sweeps, and the teapot pours itself.
Women are expected to do all the unpaid caring work. That Thorpe recognises this but gives her husband a pass on being lazy, thoughtless and inconsiderate is just too distressing.
It would be nice if we all lived in a house where a cooked from scratch, nutritious meal was served three times a day. But this isn’t the Victorian era and servants aren’t a mandatory statement of social acceptability. You don’t need to be a great cook to make dinner for a family – pasta and soup aren’t hard to do (and I say this as someone with dyspraxia where following instructions and accurate measuring aren’t actual skills, as my children can attest).
Men do not believe they live in ‘enchanted castles’. They believe that other people (read wife or mother) are going to do the shit work. Men who consistently leave dirty underwear lying around are making a point about who actually matters in the relationship. It takes 30 seconds to put your pants in the laundry basket. It takes 30 seconds to turn the washing machine on and 15 minutes (max) to put away clean laundry. Working long hours is not an excuse for being unable to pick up your own dirty underwear – unless you think childcare and housework are not real work. A man who can operate a smart phone can read the instructions on the label of clothes and the manual for a washing machine.
Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid isn’t heart-breaking simply because it evidences the extreme inequality between women and men, but because Thorpe sees this as inevitable in her own relationship. Thorpe thanks her mother for sacrificing so much, including never writing her own book, in order for Thorpe to succeed. That her husband is unwilling to put his own dirty underwear in the laundry basket to help support Thorpe is male entitlement writ large.
A collation of brilliant writing by women