A Woman Visible

Search for beauty. Search for adventure. Search for the visible you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Women in the Driver's Seat at Indy, or We Can Drive as Fast as You, Boys!

I have loved racing and Richard Petty for as long as I've been aware of racing, meaning, most of my life. As a kid, my uncle worked on and played with cars of all sorts. I became enamoured with the sport because, well, most of my family was. Richard Petty was the coolest because he drove a huge Dodge Charger (remember when they were that big?), and he always seemed to be in control of his car, his career, and well, the entire sport of racing.

Last week, Richard broke this little girl's heart, and said, "I just don't think this is a sport for women." See, in spite of the fact that I'm probably better off not getting on a track with anything faster than a bicycle (some would question this as well), I've always harbored this dream of sitting behind the wheel of a race car and dusting everyone in my path. I play racing video games (this is one of those things that lifts my status with my son, Stuart. He thinks it's cool that I often win these games) in an attempt to fufill those dreams. These dreams are actually connected to my deceased grandmother. See she also dreamed of racing. She wanted my uncle to build her a race car so she could go down to the local speedway and race against the boys. If she had survived cancer, I believe she would have driven to victory.

NASCAR, and racing in general has not been extremely open to women racers. Apparently, Petty's views go back some thirty years or more. I guess I should have known he'd take this position, but being a fan doesn't always open you to grasping the intricacies of your favorite celebrities position. His target in the past was Janet Guthrie, the first female racer to earn a starting position in the Indy 500. Today, his target is Danica Patrick, a twenty-four year old who has managed to place in the top ten in the last two Indy 500s. THE TOP TEN! I'm not sure that Petty's argument holds much water against such accomplishment.

Petty is correct--racing is a difficult sport. He says that "being a racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough." Well, duh. It's tough for the men as well, but that doesn't seem to stop them from continuing to succeed at the sport. It doesn't seem to stop them from working harder and harder to go faster and faster. If a woman wants to get out there and push herself to the same degree, why can't she and why can't her competitors welcome her?

Perhaps, Petty is not truly reflective of today's racing circuit. Perhaps, he's just reflecting the views of his generation, and not the racers of today. As a fan of racing, I can only hope that is the case. If it is not, then it looks as though the men of the circuit are going to learn a lesson the hard way. Girls like Danica aren't going to go away. They will keep coming, and they will continue to win. It may take a while for a woman to actually go to the winner's circle.

I think Sheila Scarborough of FastMachines has the right idea:

Ya wanna spout off like that, go ahead. It's America. But don't expect many
people to take you seriously.
Still, the attitude does break my heart. You'd think his mama would have taught him better manners. You'd think an old coot like Petty would know better than spouting off to the press about such nonsense. I guess this is what happens when an old racer gets bored.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Response was Deafening and Delicious

I was a little taken aback at the overwhelming response to my last post. At first I was going to post this as a response in the comment section of the blog, but then I realized that I'd written a post, not just a comment. Because of this, I decided to make a post with my comments. Here it is:

Wow! So many comments, so little time! Thanks to all of you for the great insights, corrections, and general discussion here.

Marionette: Thank you for the insight on Jean Grey. I've never been a real fan of this character, but you've made me really reconsider. Still, I have to wonder about the whole Mastermind thing. It seemed a bit contrived. I have to wonder why, with all of the power that Phoenix had at that point, she didn't fight him a lot sooner and a lot harder. Still, I like your "18 wheeler" analogy. The "everyone has evil tendencies" argument just really doesn't wash with me. I still love the storyline, otherwise I wouldn't have shelled out what I did to purchase and re-read the story arc. I just think that sometimes the women of comics get the short end of the stick.

Oh, and thanks for the heads up about Andrew. I will do more research, and dig deeper. I wouldn't want to end up losing characters I love.

ARJ: I had totally forgotten Hal Jordan, but he's the only male character that I can recall that has had and experience like this.

100LittleDolls: I'm not really fond of this whole "going crazy because I can't have babies thing" either. I would say it is completely unrealistic, but honestly, I know someone that did have that happen. She went over the edge, and ended up destroying herself and her family.

I think Wanda did consider adoption at one point, but for some reason (I think it had to do with her lifestyle), it didn't work. I also believe that she became obsessed with having babies (I think that had a lot to do with her divorce from Vision).

To all of you:Thanks for such a lively, and energized discussion. I often post things like this because I want to hear what others have to say. Even if I don't completely agree with what you have to say, it's very cool to see that others are thinking about such crazy things.
I have learned much more than I ever thought I would when I posted my thoughts this weekend. Keep up the comments and I'll continue to try and respond.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Absolute Power Only Corrupts Powerful Women Absolutely?

What do these two lovely women have in common? Let's take a look:

  1. Both are superheroines and are pretty.
  2. Both have tapped into cosmic levels of power on more than one occasion.
  3. Both women have used the cosmic power they've tapped into to either change their universe or, much worse, to destroy and devour their universe.
If you read my other journal, The Other Invisible, you may have seen my post from Thursday concerning Phoenix (the lady in green and gold) and the X-Men.
I am a big comic book and X-Men fan from way back, and I am fascinated by female superheroes, mostly because I'm female and of course, many people have this idea that
comics are mostly geared for and written by males. In case you are unfamiliar, let me introduce the ladies at the left. At the far left is Wanda Maximoff, also known as the Scarlet Witch. Next is Jean Grey. Some of you may recognize the name from the X-Men movies that have been released over the last few years. She is also known as Phoenix, though not in the movies (not yet). As Phoenix, Jean Grey is the most powerful mutant in the universe. Unfortunately, she's not ready for the cosmic powers she wields and ends up almost destroying the entire universe in order to fill her mighty hunger. She finally self-destructs in order to save the very universe she desires to devour.
I probably need to explain why I'm even talking about these two characters in this blog in the first place. This isn't exactly the place you'd expect to find a discussion about comic book superheroines.

Let me explain:

I am an unusual woman in that I adore comic books and have since I w
as a young girl. While other girls were reading about horses and Nancy Drew (which I did read for an entire year at age 10), I was devouring the latest issue of Spiderman and Avengers.

As I have matured as a reader, (yes, I still read comics) I have seen a trend in the way female superheroes are sometimes dealt with. Karen of Outpost Mavarin, made an excellent comment in response to my other post. She said:

...the Dark Phoenix sequence bugged me, as if she couldn't be strong and not become evil.
Her comment really hit home. I'd been thinking of this for a bit myself, and I realized that she was right. Phoenix wasn't the only victim of this problem. Scarlet Witch has just gone through a similar problem.

You see, the Scarlet Witch has the ability to manipulate reality. This comes in handy when dealing with bad guys, or personal problems. Unfortunately, she is unable to have children, and this desire has become a rather destructive force in her life. She is so distressed that she ends up accidentally killing two very close friends, and goes over the edge. The other superheroes are scared. She has these dangerous powers and she's out of control. A discussion insues about what to do about her, and there is even a discussion about killing her. Her brother, in an attempt to make her (and everyone else) happy, and save her life in the process, manipulates her into creating a world where mutants rule, she has twin sons, and all is well for everyone. Sort of...This misuse of her powers ultimately causes great chaos and pain.

Are the writers trying to tell us women something about ho
w we manage power? It's a curious thing. The writers for both of these stories (stories that were actually issued some twenty five years apart) are men. The Dark Phoenix Saga was written by Chris Claremont, and the House of M series, which was released last summer and fall, was written by Brian Michael Bendis.

Now, I'm not saying that these men have it out for women. I don't think that's the case at all. What I have to wonder, however, is if they realize the message that is coming across in the stories they create for these marvelous characters is less than flattering for women. It's like their saying that women can't handle a huge amount of power without some sort of cataclysmically terrible thing happening that we cannot control. It's almost like these men are afraid of what a woman could possibly do.

Think about it. How many male superheros can you think of that have become cosmically powerful and ended up having to either be destroyed or have destroyed themselves to save everyone else. hmmm

Did you come up with none? I thought as much. I've been wracking my brain for the same answer. There aren't any.

What I find most interesting is that this follows the very Victorian idea that women cannot handle certain tasks because they tax a woman's very being, and can cause a woman to become overwhelmed to the point of destructiveness. A woman can't be given power because she will become corrupted by that power, and could become dangerous. Women may use the power to destroy things, or worse, women can be manipulated by others to use our power to change things in what seems positive but is really a step into chaos.

We might devour whole solar systems!

I know I'm being extreme. I'm not saying that I will not read comic books ever again, nor am I saying that my daughter shouldn't read comics. Comic books have always fueled my imagination. I just have to wonder if there is a hidden agenda here. Some of you are saying, "You're reading too much into this." Perhaps you are right. There are many strong, powerful superheroines that are stable and don't go over the edge. My own daughter reads Spidergirl. Of course, most superheroines don't have cosmic powers either. Still, it's a message that you can't help but see if you look at the comics. I'm also sure that this trend might move differently if there were more female writers in the system.

So does Absolute Cosmic Power corrupt women? I don't know. I do know that we need to help our girls understand that they are powerful and that all people can be corrupted if they have too much power given them without boundaries. All people have the potentia
l to be planet devourers if their power is not put into check...

Playing Catch Up (Not to be Confused with Ketchup)

I know that I am behind on my usual post this week. I plan to catch up tomorrow (actually later this morning). It is late, I am tired, and I know that if I try anything terribly complicated, I will only make a huge mess.

I want to talk a little about superheroines, empowerment, and how super-powered women might possibly be reflecting things that we don't initially see or recognize.

Blame my tiny obssession with X-Men...see you after I get some serious sleep.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Do the Sexes Really Have Secrets?

It would seem that I'm am going downhill for the last few weeks. Since the end of my semester, I have become a bit of a tv junkie. Not that I don't watch tv at all during the semester...I stopped doing that my senior year of college, but I have indulged a bit more than I normally do. Last Friday night, my kids were gone with their dad, and I was free to watch "grown-up tv." Some of you remember "grown-up tv." It's that stuff you watch when your kids aren't around.

No, I didn't watch the Chippendales..stop laughing...really!

Instead, I watched something really cool and mildly educational about...the sexes. Yes, I am a boring person, but this series I saw on PBS really rocked! It is a three part series called, aptly, Secrets of the Sexes.The first episode, "Brainsex" questions whether men and women are really, really different. For those of us "out in the field," this is a no-brainer sort of questions. The answer is yes, we are different! Scientists being scientists, however, need more proof,and apparently, so did BBC. So they did a survey and actually brought real people into a lab for deeper investigation. While I expected them to find things that we already know to be true, it turns out that maybe we don't know as much as we think about the other sex. My favorite study was the one they did on promiscuity. It's pretty widely accepted that men are pigs concerning sex, that they think about it often, and that they are only interested in sex, while women are less concerned with sex.

Not so, say the amazing BBC scientists!

According to their work, which included surveys and brain scans, women think about sex about as much as men do. So much for that idea that men are libido driven monsters. The scientists have discovered our female secret!

The second episode is called Attraction, and is by far the episode I enjoyed the most. The BBC scientists are at it again as they set up a speed dating service for twenty young singles (I didn't see a one of them that were old I tell you), and after some study, they attempted to match the singles to other singles in a scientific manner. I thought for sure the scientists would succeed. They did things like discover what woman is actually men's ideal (turns out Queen was right...men dig fat bottomed women), and what man is actually women's idea (the guy looks like a mix between Superman and Aquaman...muscular, but not overly so, and a nice chiseled look to his face). They also theorized that we often choose partners that have similar facial structures. All of this is rather news to me.

In this episode we also meet some of the twenty participants. One was a young woman I couldn't believe was dateless, but anything is possible. There was also a man my age that was an anthropology lecturer at one of the open universities, I think. He was either Welsh or Scottish--I think Welsh. He felt that he was not that attractive. The scientists dressed him in his usual clothing, put him out on the street to talk to women...and no one would give him the time of day. Then they changed his clothes...he was wearing a nice leather jacket, dark sunglasses, and nice clothes. Suddenly, womeon were interested in him. The funny thing is that later on, during the speed dating, many women thought he was sweet, but none of them were really interested in a relationship. They liked him, but not that way. I thought it was sad because he was actually quite attractive, funny, and seemed like a genuinely good guy...but he was passed over.

What I found most amusing is that all the hypotheses set by the brilliant BBC scientists were off base. Only one couple they'd matched up actually got together, and then it didn't last long. For all the wonders of science, it still can't define how we fall in love. In a way, that's a comforting thought. I kind of like the shroud of mystery and magic that hovers around falling in love. If all it took was a little science, we'd all find our mates with only little trouble.

The final episode was on love. It primarily focused on couples having issues and blocking love. I liked it, but having been at that place where you can't save a marriage, it was tough to watch. Still, at least one couple was helped by therapy and a little science. The cool part is that the participants were able to learn how they deal with things differently and that sometimes the way your spouse acts in certain situations is based on chemistry as well as personality and love. It was a bit of an eyeopener for me and it explained a lot about how I respond to certain things, and how I can change how I reaspond.

So do we have secrets? It would seem that we do...let's all revel in those differences, and instead of worrying about what the other has, let's find ways we can be together, work together, and ultimately, love together.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Twenty-First Century Woman Visits Nineteenth Century Texas

The last few nights I've been watching something that might seem really silly, but I've found interesting and curious. I have been watching Texas Ranch House. The premise of the show is this: fifteen modern people are trained and then sent to a 1867 style ranch. These people live on a 1867 style ranch for two-and-a-half months. During the two-and-a-half-months, they are expected to make a go of the ranch. I enjoy these sorts of "reality shows" because they are a reminder that as smart as we think we are in 2006, we are not the match we think we are for the challenges our ancestors had to deal with.

What I found most interesting about this particular show is the gender problems that became evident as the episodes unfolded (the closing episode was tonight). In 1867, a woman's place was quite different than what it is today. Not that women were completely subservient (many women were independent in the old west), but they weren't expected to be a part of certain parts of life, even on the ranch. In particular, women weren't supposed to be a part of the relationship between the ranch owner and his cowboys. Unfortunately for everyone, Mrs. Cooke (the rancher's wife) never quite caught on that she needed to tend to the business of the house, and not the business of managing her husband managing the hands. This lack of time-period sensibility partnered with her husband's marked inability to make "manly" decisions without her strong guidance, led to some resentment from the hands. She (and all the women) read this as blatant disrespect and sexism. What was disturbing was that she never caught on that maybe, just maybe, her forced visibility in matters not her business was the root of the disrespect. It would seem that, at least in Mrs. Cooke's eyes, the men could do no right, while, in fact, her manipulation of her husband caused him to lose face with the men, and with anyone else that came within her force range. I'm not saying she should have been quiet, but she should have let him deal with the men without demanding to have a say in every part of the ranch.

Another person that fed the gender conflict was the "Maid of all Work," Maura. She was trained to be a vaquero, but ended up in the ranch house. She took any comment by the cowboys as sexist. I have to wonder if she would have had it harder in 1867. By standards of that time, women were only rarely seen riding after cattle. I think her problems were primarily caused because of her attitude toward the men, and because of the way she ended up getting to join the round-up. Once again, Mrs. Cooke raised her ugly head.

In the end, even the folks that evaluated the ranch pointed out that the ranch would have failed, at least in part, due to the resentment Mrs. Cooke's actions had caused during the time they were working. They also stated that Mr. Cooke bore the majority of the responsibilty for the failure. Translation: Mr. Cooke needed to grow some balls and act like the man he should have been.

I know it sounds like I'm supporting the idea that "a woman should know her place" or that "a woman's place is the kitchen," but that's not really what I'm getting at. Or maybe it is. A woman's place should be where ever she can be of the most use and most support for her family, friends, lover, husband...whatever. When she become an impediment to usefulness, or uses her visibility and voice to hold others back and cause tension, then maybe she's stepped out of her place. If Mrs. Cooke had simply let her husband do his job, and offered support without demands and commands, I believe that the whole experience would have been a positive one. Mr. Cooke spent more than his share of time having to make choices to make her happy, often at the expense of his men.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that visibility demands a sense of control (for yourself), common sense, and respect. The number one reason why the cowboys didn't respect her husband is because she didn't treat him with respect. Instead, she hounded him till he acquiesced and did what she told him to do. Sometimes it's best to simply let the man handle the business of the workers, and allow yourself to manage your part of the system. In her case, that would have been the ranch house.

I believe in equal rights and women having a say, but to take over like she did is just...well, wrong. Visibility is not about being in control, or being the most powerful...it's about giving the best that you have in any given situation, and being as kind as you can without losing integrity. To me, the whole family lost their integrity right away. The worst moment was when they ripped off Jared (one of the hands) over a horse, and then had the gall to accuse him of stealing the horse.

It was a great show, but I have to wonder how a different set of people would work out. I also wonder how different women would act in a situation like this.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A while back I talked about how I wasn't sure about Dr. Phil McGraw and his advice. I'm still not a huge fan (how seriously can you take a man who hosts a show with guests that totally disfunctional), but I think he might have some interesting ideas about getting your head straight about relationships. So, after arguing with myself over whether reading a Dr. Phil book would be helpfu, I purchased a copy of Love Smart, his latest book on relationships.

Ok, so this balding, overspoken Texan is going to tell me how to become smarter about falling in love. Yeah, right. Well, I've read three chapters, and the funny thing is--he makes sense--good sense. So far, he's talked about figuring out exactly what you want in a mate. It's funny, I thought that I had under control--I thought I knew. Once I thought about it, however, I found that I really had never considered what I really, really wanted and needed in a mate.

I feel sort of silly about reading a book like this. I've never thought I needed a book to tell me how to find a mate. Does this mean I can't do this on my own? I'm not sure. I've tried, but apparently I'm not doing or thinking or acting right, I guess. Anyway, it is a curious book.

I've said before that visibility doesn't equal nabbing a man, and I still stand with that idea. At the same time, it is part of visibility. I guess when you get down to it, having a partner in life is a thing we seem to crave as humans, and I'm no different. I don't need a man as definition,but rather as compliment.

It's something to consider anyhow.

I'll tell you how the book goes...