Monday, April 21, 2014

Warehouse 13: Gender Equality and Why Chivalry Isn't Just For Boys

Watching the season 5 premiere of Syfy’s Warehouse 13, I was reminded by how often this show tries to portray women as the strong, independent people they are and not as the typical tropes of the television world. While no show is perfect, I feel that there are always moments when this particular show tries to challenge those stereotypes and move the conversation forward. In many cases, this is done in such a subtle way that it feels more like common sense than an actual argument and I appreciate that even more.

They are not making a case against misogyny or patriarchy - mainly - because they focus on portraying things the way they should be. There are no damsels in distress because there's women are smart, resourceful, and capable. Above that, the men in their lives, not only understand that, but they trust it. In many instances, this is pulled off successfully and is one of the reasons Syfy credits the show as such a success. 

Pete and Myka, the original agents in this context, have a very equal partnership

Minor Spoilers Ahead:

During the premiere, Myka finds out that her partner, Pete, risked the Warehouse to try and save her life. Instead of finding this sweet or endearing, her reaction is to punch him in the arm. She follows this up by explaining that the Warehouse always comes first and explaining to him that, "I am your partner; I'm not your girlfriend." She says this line in a way that not only proves her point, but shows just how out of fashion she thinks that type of thinking is. 

While I loved this moment and it represented their relationship in such a great way, I realized that it too had its faults. Once out of earshot Pete says that he's still going to put her first. The followers of this show understand that it's not because he thinks she needs saving, but that is who he is. In regards to masculinity, there's nothing wrong, in my mind, with men being somewhat chivalrous as long as they see it as a respect towards another human. We should all respect each other and try to be polite. Pete is a good example of this, he would do the exact same thing for his male counterparts as well - he takes care of his own. It has nothing to do with gender or misogyny, but a genuine care for those around him (strangers included). 
Myka however, is a little more complex. While she was annoyed with the idea of being rescued, and her tone implied that the notion was absolutely ridiculous, she still implied that as a man it would be okay for him to do reckless stupid things for a girlfriend. While I feel that the development of the character would lead me to believe that her tone said it all, the fact that this idea is even expressed can perpetuate that sort of thinking. 

Spoiler Free: 

While men may feel an obligation to play the hero and keep their girls/boys safe, I feel the real damage is towards girls and their views of masculinity and themselves. By allowing girls to think that men are responsible to save them, they are not only increasing the social pressure men face on a daily basis, but they're also turning men into objects in a sense. This also allows them free of the burden of protecting themselves, which is damaging to both sexes. 

I think the best solution to this sort of problem is that we should shift our thinking as far as chivalry goes to include women as well. Holding a door open for a stranger, giving up your seat for someone in need, risking your personal safety to protect those you care about - all of these are not just things men should be responsible for. We could all take a lesson from the interactions of the characters of Warehouse 13 and begin to learn what it looks like when people truly respect each other based on who they are as individuals and not sex. 

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