Warning: Spoilers of the latest Alice in Wonderland are in this post.
What’s the last movie you’ve seen where women aren’t objectified or placed into narrow parameters of female stereotypes? For me, it was Alice in Wonderland, which I saw this weekend with my parents and Mr. B. Since we are all avid lovers of Lewis Carrol, (especially me, who memorized The Jabberwocky for a high school poetry recitation,) we went to see it. The actual fleshing out of the story was somewhat hazy and didn’t mesh well with the image of wonderland that I always had.
But the backstory that Tim Burton developed was brilliant. In his version, Alice is nineteen and about to be married to a count of some sort with digestive problems out of expectation on her mother’s behalf. But Alice is different, dreamy, and nonconformist, and as he proposes to her, she runs away and goes down the rabbit hole to revisit the characters in the dreams she’s been having since she was little. In the end, she herself slays the Jabberwocky and, in reality, goes on to reject her marriage proposal and help run her father’s company of trade with China instead.
What I like most about this movie is that it has female characters in almost all of the lead roles and that Alice’s drive is the engine of the women. And, in the end, she rejects her mother’s expectations of her, turns down the proposal, and goes on to sail to China with the company, which isn’t a message that we get a lot these days in movies, as XKCD showed some time ago. The movie itself wasn’t anything spectacular, but the fact that Alice was donning the armor instead of a guy knight was so refreshing that I would give the movie a 6/10 just based on that. I love that they left the ending ambiguous. Maybe Alice goes on to head the company, but maybe she also finds love in the process.
Unfortunately, women often get this message to be funneled into domesticity in the real world too. Either you are a homemaker- the stereotypical mom-or you are a sex goddess, or you are a corporate bitch. There’s nothing in between and it’s impossible for women to take on multiple roles. I forget where, but I read last week that in this season’s Dancing with the Stars, Kate Gosselin is introduced as “the mom” and Pamela Anderson as the “sex symbol,” even though Pamela Anderson hasn’t been a sex symbol in a long time, and Kate Gosselin is no longer really a mom in her public life. It’s impossible to have the audience believe a more multi-dimensional approach to either woman.
The thing that I am most upset about is this recent article about a Harvard grad who wrote her thesis on the mortgage crisis in America by articulately and systematically gathering data from Wall Street firms(which you can read here if you’re a nerd like me).
We tracked down Barnett-Hart, a 24-year-old financial analyst at a large New York investment bank. She met us for coffee last week to discuss her thesis, “The Story of the CDO Market Meltdown: An Empirical Analysis.” Handed in a year ago this week at the depths of the market collapse, the paper was awarded summa cum laude and won virtually every thesis honor, including the Harvard Hoopes Prize for outstanding scholarly work.
“It was a classic example of the innocent going to Wall Street and asking the right questions,” said Mr. Lewis, who in his 20s wrote “Liar’s Poker,” considered a defining book on Wall Street culture. “Her thesis shows there were ways to discover things that everyone should have wanted to know. That it took a 22-year-old Harvard student to find them out is just outrageous.”
Having written, painfully, an undergrad thesis that was nowhere nearly as groundbreaking as hers, as well, with a million things going on around me and not even being at Harvard, I have to give this girl major props. I just wanted to get mine done, even though it was in a topic I was immensely passionate about. She has enormous balls in creating this thing and putting herself out there in the male world of economics and finance. Sure, it may not be 100% groundbreaking when compared to financial journalists, but, for an undegrad thesis, it absolutely is.
Sure, these were in the minority. But, as someone working in the same industry as her, it makes me want to bash skulls. So does this. How do we encourage women to go into non women-intensive fields like engineering, math, economics, etc? By not having men like this be part of our work culture. Why can’t Barnett-Hart be judged solely on her economic merit? What if she were, or masqueraded as, a man? Can’t she be ostensibly pretty and smart, too? Or does she now fit into one category of Econ Hottie, unable to be anything else? Maybe that’s why she doesn’t go by Anne Katherine, but A.K.
How can we get to a point where all women experience the same choices as men (who almost never have to worry whether they can take a job that allows them to be a good father and be flexible around their kids’ schedule), and not to be boxed into one role? When we face the same choices as Alice and are not ostracized for them, we’ll be as good as in the movie. For now, we just have a bunch of these blog posts (including mine), and Tim Burton’s script.