Thursday, March 8, 2012

And the Men Who Support Them.

This being a feminism site, and this being International Women's Day, we spend a lot of time talking about ladies. That's cool. Women are awesome. But every once in a while it's important to take a beat, and recognize the men who support their kickass partners.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the men.

Wash, Firefly
I've sung his wife's praises a couple of times, and I stand by that. But none of Zoe's awesomeness would be nearly as impressive if her husband weren't the perennially supportive, loving, respectful, and Hawaiian shirt clad Wash. Reasons we love their marriage? It's built on mutual respect. Sure, Zoe wears the pants and holds the gun, but when Wash raises real misgivings about something, she listens. They're both each other's favorite person, and they both greatly appreciate what the other can do. Zoe can fight really well, but Wash is equally skilled (arguably more so) at flying the ship. And they both understand that they can't do each other's jobs. That's why they need each other. Wash is great guy, but it's his marriage to Zoe that makes them both better. Plus, who doesn't love a marriage that still manages to be this passionate after six years?

Michael (Nikita, all versions)
The important thing to remember about Michael is that, lovers or enemies, he's always, always, respected Nikita. He's pretty much the only one who does. Currently played with firey intensity by Shane West (yup, that one), his relationship with her is rocky at the best of times, and never really characterized by mutual trust, but they have an undeniable chemistry built on the character's mutual respect. Michael's a lot of things. A widower, a spy, a killer, but he's also a man who's very much in love with a dangerous woman. He knows exactly how much that should worry him, and for that, we salute him.

Xander (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
For a guy who always hung out with girls, was a self-proclaimed loser, and spent all of high school getting beat up by vampires then his early twenties working at places like "Hot Dog on a Stick", Xander did pretty well for himself with the ladies. First Cordelia, then Anya, Xander was good at getting women who didn't need him to fawn all over them to make them feel better. No, his girlfriends were the women who knew exactly who they were and how much they were worth. They loved him because so did he. It's a different kind of masculinity and strength, to be able to abide in yourself and be strong enough to admit to some androgynous qualities. Xander was a nurturer, and he always brought out the best in those he loved. For this, he was my first television crush, and he's definitely one of the good 'uns.

Rory (Doctor Who)
It's been said a few times that if Rory and Amy were reversed, if Amy's character were a man, and Rory's character were a woman, people would decry their relationship as unhealthy and unreasonable. Well, I don't actually think that, but I do think that I'd like it way, way less. I also think that this kind of gender-reversal argument doesn't actually help anything. Yes, Rory and Amy have a slightly disproportionate relationship. She is the adventurous one, the exciting one, the one always dashing off with the Doctor to have glorious amazing adventures. She flirts. She's not sure of their relationship and sometimes she strays perilously close to cheating on him. But Rory loves her. He follows her, goes where the action is because that's where Amy is. And for a character that some have called out as weak, he does an awful lot of rescuing, not just of Amy, but of the world. Rory makes the biggest sacrifice he can, when he chooses to stay and protect Amy, knowing she won't remember it, knowing that he will be alone for literally thousands of years, and knowing that it may all be in vain. If Rory were a woman, I'd still be damn impressed. Because that is not passive longing or being a doormat. That's pure, unconditional love. Rock the fuck on Rory. Congratulations on your marriage, because you deserve a hell of a party.

Marcus (Inglourious Basterds)
You probably don't know who I'm referring to, so I'll be a little less specific. Remember Shosanna? Remember her boyfriend, the projectionist? That guy. So, fair, his entry is a little less detailed than the others, but I still give him props. One, he's living in a horrible place, and has chosen to stay and stick it out with his lady love, even though both of them are in danger from the occupying Nazis. He's supportive too, enough so that he's willing to go with Shosanna in her quest to burn down the theater with them inside, and in so doing destroy the Third Reich. He respects her, and he follows her lead. She's strong, and she knows what she has to do. Go them.

Shang (Mulan)
Admit it, you now have "Make a Man Out of You" stuck in your head, don't you? You're welcome.

Sure, when Shang first finds out that Mulan has girly bits, he's less than thrilled (though he also seems a little relieved), and he's horrified to find that he's been training a woman all this time. But when the Huns return, and Mulan is the only one who can save them, not to mention the only one still capable of acting rationally, Shang sees sense. He realizes that the qualities that made him like Mulan before haven't disappeared, and that he was being a poop for judging her based on her gender. At the end of the film, he finds her and proposes. And she accepts, because he respects her, and understands that he needs to come to her on her ground.

There are others, of course. Admiral Adama on Battlestar Galactica. Clive Owen's character in Duplicity. Peeta in Hunger Games. But the point is made here. No matter what the media, we need more of these guys. Just like we need more women who're well-rounded and capable of taking care of themselves and others, we need more men who respect that and are capable of picking up the other side of the banner and carrying it with us. Equality is a two way street and masculinity is an ever shifting goal. Let's shift it in this direction.

Ideally without a Cylon takeover, but whatever.


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