The marketing team behind Xbox have been working their little butts off lately, attempting to completely blanket all and every media with the glorious news that the new console is nearly here, OMG, let's set off fireworks etc etc. At first, the only thing I found annoying about the campaign was how totally comprehensive it was - I am perfectly aware the new console is coming out, and would really like it if I could stop reading out it now. However, considering this is from a company that are pretty notorious for making sexism related PR bungles, over saturation is a pretty small niggle. I actually even saw an ad for the new Xbox that I liked! They released a cute little ad called "His and Hers" that depicts a hot girl demanding her boyfriend turn off the soccer so she can kill some zombies, and while it's a little pandering, it's also pretty fun.
|I don't think my hair has ever been this perfectly styled, but otherwise this is a pretty|
accurate depiction of a girl gaming.
|Funnily enough, this isn't on the Xbox site anymore. The internet though never forgets.|
What DOES really get to me, on a personal and emotional level, is the impression I get from this letter that men are supposed to ask, nay BEG, the women in their lives for permission to get this new console. I really do not like this at all. I really, deeply, and passionately resent this role that media like this attempts to create for me as the Marshall of Fun, the Grand Killjoy General, the one who lives to spoil my male partner's fun. I am so, SO tired of seeing this portrayal ALL OVER the media - how many times a day would you estimate you see the trope of the Nagging Wife or Uptight Girlfriend played out? In TV Land alone, off the top of my head, I can name Married With Children, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, and Keeping Up Appearances as shows entirely built around the central joke that the wife is awful and the husband puts up with it. And movies? Lord, it would be impossible to collect them all. Any movie about "lads" or "blokey adventures" is almost guaranteed to have a shrewish wife in the background trying to rain on their parade. Think The Hangover, Knocked Up, Very Bad Things...I could go on and on. There are a few notable exceptions to this tedious trend - Ben and Leslie from Parks and Recreation are one of the most balanced couples I've seen on TV, in terms of who does the nagging when. Sometimes Leslie gets over excited and needs to be pulled back to earth, and sometimes Ben gets stuck in a rut and needs to be pulled out, but always they're portrayed as a team and I love that. But Parks and Recreation, while successful, is hardly as influential on culture at large as a show like Everybody Loves Raymond, and the wife in Raymond is relentlessly awful for apparently endless seasons at a time.
I've seen it argued before that this shrew wife idea is just a harmless stereotype, just a bit of fun. Everyone KNOWS that women aren't REALLY total killjoys, everyone knows it's just a joke when a man calls his wife a ball and chain. I don't honestly believe that everyone who tosses off a line about having to "check with the boss" really holds the same views as the MRA whackjobs they sound like. But these jokes, this bit of fun, can be much more impactful than you might imagine when it's SO prevalent.
This is where I am going to have to switch to personal anecdotes, because I can't really tell you about the effect being around this sort of humour has on other women, only myself.
I'm sure these jokes, these stereotypes doesn't bother some women at all. There are probably plenty of women that just think they're funny. Maybe some women prefer to be The Boss in their relationships, because they're with men who need them to make all the financial decisions to avoid bankruptcy, and the man in question is totally cool with that. But let's leave them all aside for the moment. Let's talk about women who want to enter into an equal, understanding, accommodating partnership in an environment where nagging wife jokes are everywhere. Let's talk about how it has been for me in the past. Honestly, this sort of environment can be really horrible. It can be frightening, and depressing, and deeply demoralising to feel like any time you express your needs, your wants, hell, even your preferences that you might be acting like a shrew without even realising. The women we see being painted as the bad guys in the movies, on TV, they don't realise they're the bad guys. They think they're being reasonable, and then their partners bitch and moan when they're not there. As a women in a relationship with a man, how am I supposed to be sure this isn't happening to me? According to the media, it happens all the time! It would be weird if it WASN'T happening to me.
After absorbing these jokes, this toxic depiction of the nagging housewife and uptight girlfriend all my life, I've developed a deep paranoia about being controlling and bossy, even when I'm not actually being controlling or bossy. Because of my mental illness, I'm prone to paranoia in the best of circumstances, and this is far from the best of circumstances. I am straight up scared that my partner will leave me if I insist too firmly on what I want. This is a real thing that really, honestly worries me, despite all current evidence to the contrary. Mind you, I've previously had partners who very helpfully decided to play up this anxiety by telling me I was being controlling when I was actually being objectively reasonable. These are examples of what is usually dubbed "gaslighting", and was undoubtedly shitty behavior on their part, but who can really blame them for taking a socially provided Get Out Of Jail free card for being selfish? Your wife won't let you do whatever you want? Well, obviously she's a shrew, a nagging bitch. This is a story that everyone around you will understand, and recognise, because they've seen it portrayed a million times. As a man in a relationship with a woman, if you don't mind taking advantage of it, this trope means you don't have to accept compromise on what you want - not without being able to complain to understanding friends anyway.
To be blunt, trying to have relationships with straight men in this kind of environment is fucked up, and it's fucked me up. Obviously I'm not totally incapable of relationships with men - Mr. Reluctant Femme seems quite determined to stick around, despite my paranoia. But it has made these relationships so much harder for me than they had to be. I think back on all the times I smiled when I wanted to punch something, when I said "Yeah, sure," when I really meant "Lord no", and I just want to burn everything.
So you know what? It's not "just a joke". It's not "a bit of fun." Talking about women like their sole purpose in life is to ruin men's fun is hurtful and harmless, and I'm fucking jack of it. Maybe it doesn't bother some women, and that's lovely. It must be nice for them. But it hurts me. Painting women as the Marshalls of Fun makes it hard for me to even SAY "this hurts me", because I'm afraid of my feelings being dismissed as oversensitivity, the hallmark of a Killjoy.
How fucked up is that?
Follow Me Everywhere!