Where Are the Female Buddy Movies?

There’s nothing I like better than female friendship movies. If only there weren’t so few of them.

The quintessential female buddy movie is “Thelma & Louise.” Come on, people! That movie is twenty years old this year. Isn’t there anything a little more recent?

Movies about friendships between women are few and far between. I found a couple of articles that contain lists of movies that supposedly qualify and I have to tell you: I am not impressed. Here are some of the candidates:

  1. 9 to 5 (1980)
  2. Beaches (1988)
  3. Mystic Pizza (1988)
  4. Steel Magnolias (1989)
  5. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
  6. A League of Their Own (1992)
  7. Waiting to Exhale (1995)
  8. Boys on the Side (1995)
  9. The First Wives’ Club (1996)
  10. Set It Off (1996)
  11. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
  12. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002)
  13. Calendar Girls (2003)
  14. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
  15. Sex and the City (2008)
  16. Baby Mama (2008)

“Sex and the City” is a bit of an aberration because it owed its success to a television series. In my opinion, TV has a worse track record than film as far as having main characters who are female and best friends. “Friends” comes to mind. So does “I Love Lucy.” But look at “Seinfeld”: of the four friends, only one is female. No gal friendships there.

So why does this matter? It matters because, for one thing, it reflects the fact that there aren’t all that many strong roles for women out there, either solo or ensemble. But more than that, it teaches women that their world is focused on men. Either that, or they go it alone. How many women sit at home while their husbands and boyfriends go out with the guys? How many of them say the hell with it and go out with the girls?

The picture we get of males and females in movies is made up of generalizations like: Women and men tend to bond over different things. Women’s interests revolve around men and children for the most part. Even the “Sex and the City” story lines almost always had to do with what the men in their lives were up to, although they probably came the closest to showing what women’s friendships can be like outside of whom they’re dating or marrying. The only way that men’s friendships focus on the women in their lives is when they’re talking about sex.

Women’s friendships are thought to be more “touchy-feely” than men’s are. Guys don’t talk about their feelings. (Think “City Slickers.”) Men tend to like to just “hang out.” That’s the message we get from the movies. Where are the women who get together just for companionship? Or the women who let down their hair with each other?

Women are afraid to show their dark sides to each other. They’re afraid to get mad at each other. Men can get into a fight and be best friends as soon as the fight is over. Women carry grudges and have high expectations. Men tend to live and let live.

The visual media are probably the biggest influence that any of us have on how we relate to each other. But they obviously don’t feel a responsibility to show strong female relationships. Movie and television executives have this crazy idea that so-called “chick flicks” don’t sell, so they don’t produce them. And the cycle of misreading and misguiding men and women continues.

It just occurred to me that one movie that could go on the list is “Mamma Mia.” It’s all about long-term, supportive, fun-loving friendships between three strong women. I highly recommend it.

For more examples of female buddy movies, go here and here.

MGM/Everett Collection

Read this article about “Thelma & Louise” at 20.



How We Dress: The Oppression of Women

It is commonly accepted that Muslim women are oppressed by their husbands and their culture. But many Muslims, women included, counter by claiming that Western women are “oppressed” by the demands their society places on them to be sexy.

A Muslim woman can be alluring, too, which is why the whole modesty thing as a reason for covering is somewhat pointless. Men will fantasize about women no matter what. In fact, you could argue that the more covered a woman is, the more a man fantasizes about her. But no matter how a woman is dressed, a man should never be allowed to use the excuse that a woman enticed him by the way she was dressed.

My standards are looser than most Muslims. I’m not offended by bare arms, necks or legs (as long as the dress or shorts don’t expose more than the leg!).I am uncomfortable with cleavage and bare midriffs, not to mention bikinis. But I don’t think that a woman who is “uncovered” is bad or even wrong. What I do object to is the subtle ways that women (and even girls) are told that they must be desirable to men.

Perhaps it is biologically wired into women to try to attract men, but that doesn’t mean that we should be doing it all the time, at any age, and regardless of our relationship status. What reason does a married woman have to doll herself up in front of other men? Hasn’t she already attracted her mate?

Some say that women dress as much for other women as they do for men. But why are they trying to prove that they’re sexier if they’re already in a relationship? Others say that men like their women to be perceived as attractive, even sexy, by other men because it’s an ego boost for them. But isn’t it a little crass for men to put their women on display as if they’re mere possessions?

Many non-Muslims think that the reason Muslim women are “made” to cover is because their men don’t trust them. They think they’ll attract the attention of other men which might lead to infidelity. They also don’t trust other men to keep their hands off their women. Because they know what men are like, they believe that a woman shouldn’t do anything to make a man think about her sexually.

While this may be true for some men (Muslim and non-Muslim), the Qur’an makes it clear that women are to be honored and cherished. The implication is that dressing modestly helps men to hold them in high esteem, not because they would blame women for being sexy if they didn’t, but because they appreciate it when a woman knows her own value.

I reacted strongly when I saw this picture of Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover of Elle magazine. Why did she have to pose in nothing but a sweater (and at least a bra) with her one shoulder bared provocatively? Wouldn’t she have looked just as attractive if she had been wearing slacks or leggings and had kept her sweater all the way on? It’s not that I think she looks sluttish (for this type of picture, it’s fairly tasteful), but I can’t help but wonder why she felt she had to pose this way? Or why she was pressured to?

I think I know what motivates some women to agree to pictures like this: It’s because women are seeking affirmation that they are desirable. If they see themselves in a photograph or painting looking sexy, it reassures them that they are. I would guess that most women would like at least one photo of themselves looking sexy and beautiful. That’s one reason for the popularity of Glamour Shots®. What woman doesn’t want to be recorded as looking beautiful at least once in her life?

But why do they want these pictures on public display? Wouldn’t it be enough to have them at home? I can see Paltrow hanging this picture in her bedroom for her husband to enjoy. But what motivates her, and so many other women, to present themselves this way to the whole world?

I’m not saying that women shouldn’t try to be attractive. I think there is something in a woman’s makeup that makes her want to be beautiful. (One reason why some women wear the niqab or full burqa is because they’re trying to erase that desire from their psyches. They believe that it is only appropriate to glorify God, not themselves.)

But when women start feeling that they will enhance their careers or be treated better if they dress the way that men want them to, they have crossed the line between self-esteem and self-pandering. “Selling” the way that they look in return for favors. What’s that called? Oh, yeah, prostitution.

Cross-posted on I, Muslimah, a blog about my thoughts and experiences as a Muslim convert.

The Female Vampire: A Model For Feminists?

I was reading an article on Ms. Blog yesterday about the remake of the Swedish movie, “Let the Right One In.” I haven’t seen the new version, which is titled, “Let Me In,” so this is not going to be a comparison of the two or a review of the latter. What I want to write about is female vampires in general, and whether or not they are good models for feminists.

Certainly, female vampires are strong figures since they have the power of life and death over mortals. The fact that they are aggressive is itself a departure from the usual depiction of women as passive. They don’t sit and wait for male vampires to bring them their sustenance; they hunt and kill for themselves. The subtext, as with all vampires, is that their actions are motivated by sexuality as well as survival. In that, too, female vampires are seen as aggressive, which makes them seem somewhat unfeminine.

When women act on their sexual desires, they are seen as seductresses, not as healthy women seeking to satisfy a normal human urge. If you consider the female vampire, you can see how unnatural sexual autonomy seems to be for a woman. Female vampires are excused for being aggressive because that is their nature: their lust for blood makes them into sexual predators against their will. Mortal women have no such excuse.

The female vampire, like the witch, is suspect because she acts outside the accepted norms for women in our society. She is self-contained, she doesn’t rely on men, she goes out and gets what she wants no matter the consequences,  she  “forces” people to do things that are against their nature, and she is certainly not nurturing!

The only nurturing female vampire I can think of was the woman (Madeleine) in “Interview With The Vampire” who cared for Claudia, but she was nurturing before she was “turned” and in fact was willing to be made into a vampire in order to continue to take care of Claudia and provide her with maternal companionship. Claudia wasn’t trying to do her a favor; she was merely following her own selfish desires.

In the movie, “Let the Right One In,” Eli is protective of Oskar, but not exactly nurturing. She kills for him, and offers him companionship and a way out of his dreary life, but is she motivated by love? The implication is that she can’t really love Oskar if she is “saving” him in order to satisfy her own needs. Women are just not supposed to love that way; we are supposed to become martyrs when we love.

I think that some people view feminists in much the same way as they do female vampires: they are seen as selfish, too interested in sex, and non-nurturing. But the female vampire—and the feminist—challenges us to be more assertive about meeting our own needs, to be more intentional in our lives’ purpose, and to be self-sufficient. The problem is, when mortal women model that behavior, they are seen viewed as if they were blood-sucking vampires who drain the very life from men, children, families, and society.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a woman could be sexual and strong without being seen as some kind of mythological boogey-woman?

For an interesting gender analysis of “Let the Right One In” read this review, including the comments, on Feminist Review (now reincarnated as Elevate Difference).