On Poetry and Culture Shock

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

It bothers me the extent to which feminist criticism can easily become resentful and defeatist. It’s very hard to make good feminist criticism; I understand it as paying great attention to gender roles and more attention than has been given previously to female characters, under the assumption that gender roles are a construct. Not much more than that. Feminist criticism does not need to assume or denounce that women are badly represented by an especific piece of art, because the problem with this is that _all_ art can be put under suspicion.

Let’s put action and crime movies and TV as an example. We like to see violence onscreen. the problem of feminist analysis is:

Female victim, and you’re accused of perpetuating the role of women as passive victims. Pretty victim, you glamorise violence. Ugly victim, she has been punished for being ugly.
Female villain and you’re accused of making your female characters unlikeable.
Male villain and victim, you’re accused of inventing an all-male world. I have seen analysis of Harry Potter around the publication time of the third book that complained that Wizard women are too passive and badly represented.... because there were no female villains.

Same for every theme. We live in a world in which women are undoubtedly mistreated so some of us are too used to see the author mistreating the female characters. I don’t want to do that in my work as a critic, but it is nearly unavoidable.

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