First things first: I haven’t watched neither CAPTAIN MARVEL nor ALITA BATTLE ANGEL yet. I intend to watch both – and I probably will identify more with the latter because it is a story I know (see here) and love, unlike the Marvel hero, which I never followed nor have a specific affinity for. But the polemic about these movies, particularly the first, has climbed to a different level, far above the appreciation of this or that film. It is also not alien to the fact that this week we celebrated the Day of the Woman, and also to the fact that the Rights of Women have been gaining deserved attention in the last few years. I always thought of myself as a feminist of sorts, so here’s what I have to say about all this.
In a basically unrelated matter, I have been having problems with my car. It’s in the shop, it has been for a month, and the insurance company has been dragging its feet to the matter. I spoke about this to a family member who basically said: ‘I should rely on the goodwill of people and just talk to them, the insurance company, and they would probably help me.’ I felt annoyed. In my experience, things rarely get solved that way. But I understood one thing: in the experience of that family member, doors are easily opened and knowing the right people will assure you will be helped and successful. What this family member does not understand is that she is privileged. Privilege in our society reinforces itself and makes the privileged believe that other people will do what is right for them most of the time. They don’t recognize that that is privilege itself: being naturally helped in situations where others would be ignored or nudged away. Privileged people even believe that this is their own merit – that they are able to be effective by doing things in a different way, in a successful way, in a positive way.
Being a white male in the Western world is being privileged. Women and black people and others have been trying to tell us this for a long time, but it is almost impossible for us to understand it. We just don’t experience it. I could understand in a world where the dominant individuals would need to wield a sword or push a plow that women would be at a disadvantage, as unjust as that may be. But today? When most jobs are not physically intensive and many rely on intellectual power? It is abhorrent to me that women are paid less for the same work – just because they are women. It is abhorrent to me that women have more barriers to climb the career ladders than men – just because they are women. It is abhorrent to me that they find it more difficult to choose what they want to be, more difficult to be free – just because they are women. And this in the Western world alone. It is impossible for me to even imagine what a woman has to go through in other cultures.
Last week I had a meeting with a British investor, a man of Indian ascent (yes, I work for a living). I told him the negotiations we were engaging were difficult because we had eight people on the other side. ‘Eight?’ he raised his eyebrow. ‘You told me they were four.’ I shook my head: ‘Four brothers and sisters, plus their spouses.’ He sighed in disgust: ‘Their spouses? Why? If there are men who are married, their women have no business negotiating any deal – it’s the man’s job.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and the meeting went south from then on. This was last week, my friends, not in the 1800s. Sometimes we forget that it was only in the last few decades that the most advanced societies in the world gave women the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to decide on conjugal matters, the right to have a job, to go to college, to keep the money they made, to get loans, to get married to whom they decide, to make decisions on their own bodies, etc. In many other countries, these rights are not yet asserted at all.
And this without even mentioning the abhorrent subject of sexual harassment and other types of violent behavior. Men suffer from sexual harassment and other types of harassment – these problems are hardly discussed and as they differ in nature from women’s sexual harassment, they are not in anyone’s radar. They are clandestine and ignored. Much as sexual harassment over women was so ignored for so many years. But the nature of harassment to women is for sure much worse, pervasive, perverse and grave. With the unveiling of characters as Cosby, Weinstein, Trump and many others, sexual harassment to women is becoming more and more obvious and fought against. It’s about time. And still, on the other hand, the large majority of victims of other crimes as domestic violence and sexual assault are women. It’s time to stop that as well.
I’ve been heard to say in public, and even in conferences, that I believe oppression of women is one of the worst problems affecting Humanity in its History, as every man has a mother and so everyone is affected by it. I’m not the kind of guy who goes to marches and walks with signs, but I’ve tried to address the subject in all my writing. Let me focus on my Scifi novels alone. In THE ALEX 9 SAGA, the hero who changes several worlds is a woman – Alex 9 is a woman, a powerful woman who still has doubts and flaws, but whose will no-one will be able to ignore. She seems to be in a story well beyond her comprehension and her destiny seems to be prepared for her by others – but still, she makes her own mind and her own decisions. In THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES, the story goes on in another solar system, but the scenario mimics Earth’s WW2. So it starts by being chauvinistic, of course. World War 2 had a major impact on the role of women – they were so important for the war effort that things were never the same again. As the novel goes on, the role of strong women like Mirany Cavo becomes more and more crucial – in fact, she almost single-handedly wins the war (a mild exaggeration). When it comes to my latest work, LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING, women get an even more important role, from the child, Laura, to her impressive mother, Maria. I intend to continue to develop strong female characters, I believe, and, in fact, fall in love with many of them (resigned eye-roll).
This text is not an Ode to Women. That was the first title I thought of: Ode to Women; but then it came to me that women do not need odes dedicated to them – they have those in excess. Odes to women are mediocre clichés. What they need is for facts to be recognized, for discrimination to end. I still want to be chivalrous – I still want to hold the door for a lady. But I also do it for older men or my bosses. It’s a sign of respect, of deference, and I believe in that – in being humble and respectful – so I’ll keep doing it. It’s a sign of character, in my book.
Women are not equal to men. They will never be. As someone said: ‘Vive la différence!’ We are naturally unequal. But what has to happen – what has to be completely obvious – is that this difference does not imply superiority from one or another. We are used to saying: ‘Men are better at this; women are better at that.’ But these generalizations are basic, useless and for the most part prejudicial. Men are said to run faster, jump higher, be stronger – but I personally know a number of women who run faster than me, jump higher than me, and are physically stronger. That doesn’t make me less of a man: it just makes those generalizations more ridiculous.
The future holds a better world. I strongly believe that. So let’s keep fighting, fellow warriors. We have our work cut out for us. See you around the next campfire.