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What I Learned From Spiderman: Homecoming

What I Learned From Spiderman: Homecoming

Jay’s Galactic Expressions

Warning: Major Spoilers ahead for Spiderman: Homecoming!

Everywhere I look in our society today, I am bombarded by messages of “girl power.” Some are very positive, encouraging and empowering. Others leave me – a grown woman – with the proverbial “very bad feeling” about what my younger female counterparts may eventually be molded into.

With the release of the cartoon shorts Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, there has been a noticeable spike in the conversations regarding female-centered role-models, and how those role-models are being utilized to market not only merchandise but the message of “what it means to be a girl.” I love the series, and I believe it sends positive messages that transcend all human-imposed boundaries. However universally acceptable I feel the series to be, there exist those who oppose and/or challenge that notion, for whatever personal motives or agendas they may have. As Palpatine said: “so be it.” I’m not here to change anyone’s beliefs or opinions, but I do have some things to get off my chest.

For quite a while now, I’ve been struggling with the messages of feminism I’ve been seeing/experiencing. I have discussed many of these messages, issues, and ideas with my husband, my two teenage boys, and some of my male friends. Don’t get me wrong – I truly believe that a person should have every opportunity as another, regardless of gender, etc., etc…but I honestly feel that the more we are trying to create an equal society, the more we are actually creating more hurtful separation. I am reminded of Leia’s statement to Grand Moff Tarkin aboard the first Death Star: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

I grasp the reality of sexual oppression (and/or suppression) against women, and it is very prevalent in today’s world. Trust me – I’ve experienced it – so I can empathize to a certain extent. However, I won’t pretend to know everyone’s struggles, nor do I expect anyone to fully understand mine. I also feel that collectively, we are crossing a line that may ultimately cause more harm than good. Some people are becoming so extreme in their beliefs and practices that they are becoming a version of what they say they are fighting against, just as Anakin became Sith because he thought he was doing the right thing in order to save Padmé.

Ever hear of misandry? If not, you’re in good company. Neither did I until recently. The antonym of misogyny, it is defined by Google as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e., the male sex).”  Misandry is a like badge of pride for some, but doesn’t that serve the opposite goal of equality?

As the mother of two teenage boys, I fear misandrists in our society. My boys are already seeing a lot of mixed messages of what it means to “be a man.” My husband and I have had open conversations with both of them regularly, especially when we see incidents and examples of things we feel worth discussing. One hypothetical example is “don’t open doors for women. We’re quite capable, thank-you-very-much”, versus “If you don’t open a door for a woman, you’re a rude pig who doesn’t deserve the time of day from her because you’re obviously disrespectful.” We’ve talked about how they feel, and what they would do. Not every young man has the luxury of parents who are willing to take the time to talk about these kinds of things (yes, I’m giving myself a parenting gold star), but where does that leave those boys who are left feeling befuddled and unsure of how to navigate the choppy waters of today’s gender climate? I just hope that at the end of the day, my own boys will mind what they have learned…save them, it can (yes, Yoda)!

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that on the whole, men and women are NOT completely equal. Men are stronger physically. Period. That doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t have every opportunity to show their physical strength. I am planning to run a half-marathon in September. No way does my husband have the desire or stamina to do that. But he can bench-press me every day and twice on Sundays.

Women are stronger emotionally. Period. But how has it been traditionally okay for women to show emotion, but not men? Trust me – I know how deeply boys’ feelings run. I never appreciated it until I had my own boys. Their feelings get hurt. Badly. Girls – you need to remember that.

Women are better caregivers, but that doesn’t mean men can’t – or shouldn’t – step up and be nurturing providers in the home.

For me, the bottom line is that old-fashioned values shouldn’t be completely negated because the popular view is that they’re somehow outdated or disrespectful. We can create in a world where a blend of old and new values can co-exist, we just need to be careful how we endorse it to our younger generation.

 

If you’ve gotten this far, bless you. You’re probably wondering “so, where does Spiderman: Homecoming fit into all of this?” Glad you asked.

I was able to glean quite a few personal a-ha moments. As a result, it helped me with where I see my thread in today’s feminist/misandrist fabric being woven:

1. Spidey had difficulty navigating the suburbs as he tried to chase the weapons dealers, and he realized his usual web-spinning skills just weren’t cutting it. He needed his comfortable New York rhythm.
Point taken: As a woman, I sometimes feel uncomfortable in today’s expectations of being female, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less capable – or worthy – of being myself, especially when I’m in my own element. I am more powerful when I am surrounded by the strength of those who celebrate me for who I am, just as Spiderman gained strength from the structure of the buildings he counted on in his familiar neighborhoods.

2. Spidey/Peter could have killed Vulture at the end of their confrontation. Instead, he showed compassion in the face of destruction. Did Vulture deserve Peter’s compassion? He had done some awful things, but just because Peter had the power to destroy Vulture for those things, didn’t mean he thought it to be the right thing to do. In turn, Vulture chose not to reveal Spiderman’s true identity when asked about it in jail.
Point taken: In this crazy little thing we call life, we have decisions every day to either build others up, or tear them down. Women today have the power to destroy men as we know them. Yes, there exists horrible negativity, bigotry, and violence against women. Some is certainly unforgivable. But not every man deserves backlash. We can relate Vulture’s reciprocal respect to our own actions. Yes, stereotypes exist for a reason, and I firmly believe some can actually serve to save our lives, but I’m also reminded of the old adage “what goes around comes around.”

3. Peter refused Tony Stark’s offer to join the Avengers, because he wanted to finish being a kid, despite his undeniable, significant abilities. It was so heartwarming to finally see Peter building the Legos Death Star with his buddy Ned. Peter realized that despite his powers, he was still only 15. He needed to be a kid.
Point taken: Just because I CAN be a woman just like in the old Enjoli commercial, doesn’t mean I HAVE to be, just because someone – society, whoever – expects me to. I want to be my version of a woman. My terms, in my own life. Those who love me will support that. If someday I want to evolve into a different version of me, and join the Avengers, that’s okay, too (just kidding). It’s also okay for those women who want to live the Enjoli life. We’re not all meant to follow the same path.

4. “Without the suit I’m nothing.” Peter made himself believe that his powers were useless without the augmented abilities Tony Stark had given him. Peter came face to face with death – without his suit – and was able to overcome the massive obstacles (literally) that could have crushed him.
Point taken: (more of a general life-lesson) We all need inner strength to overcome obstacles in our lives. No magic shield, suit, or mythical hammer is going to do that for us. Yes, its definitely helpful to have an arsenal of people and resources (who wouldn’t want to have their own Karen?), but ultimately, we all need to rely on our inner strength to get us through the tough stuff. Sometimes all we need to do is believe.

I realize the ideas and opinions I’ve put forth here will be very unpopular with many. That’s okay. I’m not necessarily trying to change anyone’s viewpoints. Everyone has reasons for feeling the way they do about certain issues, and many of those reasons are very valid. There are just reasons why I don’t agree with much of what has become “popular opinion” today.

Who’s right?

Who’s wrong?

…Only Sith deal in absolutes.

Leave your comments below, or you can contact me directly! My favorite social media vice is Twitter, just so you know!

email: jayk@coffeewithkenobi.com
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Spiderman image source: Monkeys Fighting Robots.com

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5 Comments

  1. Shay
    July 23, 2017 at 19:05 Reply

    Thank you *so* much for this, Jay!
    Just like you were saying the “holding the door for girls” thing is so hard for boys today to navigate, it seems that girls today are expected to be tough and strong and never show emotion, when that’s actually one of our greatest strengths. As a teen girl growing up in the midst of this, it’s sometimes really hard to figure out.
    I’ve even got a Star Wars example: Padme Amidala.
    For almost as far back as I can remember, Star Wars has been a major part of my life. My dad first let me see TPM when I was little more than a toddler. I grew up on the prequels, and to this day, I love those movies and will defend them with everything in me; I understand they have their flaws, but I’ll never understand all the hate people want to give them. Especially when it seems that a lot of that hate is focused on Padme. She was always one of my top fave SW characters, and still is. She was a great role-model to a young girl like me – she was a strong leader, caring deeply for her people; she could hold her own in any blaster fight, and was quite the escape artist when the situation arose; yet she was still always caring and kind, always willing to have a heart-to-heart talk with Ahsoka when she was struggling with something. Yet for some reason, many people seem to totally discount her from the ranks of “strong female characters”. It seems that many people think shedding tears of grief, choosing to love when there’s so much evil in the world, and giving your life’s last energy to ensure your children have a future are all examples of weakness.

    1. Jay Krebs
      July 29, 2017 at 11:55 Reply

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Shay!
      It’s nice to know that there are still young people like yourself who still hold traditional values. I’m sure navigating today’s gender equality paths is very daunting for a teenager! It sounds like you have a very strong sense of self, and of the woman you want to become. Good for you!
      I very much agree with your thoughts about Padme – she is often discounted as being weak, simply because of her dying act. In reality, that showed her depth of strength that much more!!
      Best of luck to you as you move forward in life, and never give up your principle beliefs!!! 🙂

  2. MelindaW
    August 5, 2017 at 13:49 Reply

    You are an excellent parent, an excellent mother. Your boys are lucky to have you. And their father.

    It definitely can be challenging navigating the world of our culture based on female vs. male [makes it sound like a contest, doesn’t it]. But is it as hard as so many people seem to make it out to be? And when do traditional roles come into play? I have a daughter who is strong, confident, independent … and yet, she believes [at least at its crux] that it is up to the boy [really, man; she is over 25; I am the one who will use “boy”] to make the overtures in the beginnings of a [possible] relationship. [Her mother – me 😉 – definitely does not think this way. Goodness, if it wasn’t for my boldness, Tom and I never would have gotten together almost 40 years ago! 😉 ]

    If a man opens a door for me, I gratefully acknowledge it. I have been known to do the same for a man, and he will utter his thanks as he passes through the portal. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Truthfully, one really can’t err when attempting to be polite. If one of your boys opens a door for a girl, and she puts up a fuss, it is her problem, not his. I applaud him! 🙂

    more…

  3. MelindaW
    August 5, 2017 at 13:52 Reply

    … When I mention to people the path my life has taken, they seem to be stunned, even in awe [although it all has been quite natural to me 😉 ]. I became a journalist – and a sports writer – when it still was ‘unfashionable’ for women to go into that career. I left that to be a U.S. Marine – definitely finding myself in the minority in the nation’s smallest military force [doing a job in the USMC that even fewer women participated in!]. I endeavored to earn my private pilot’s license. I have been a Star Wars fan since 1977. I like to sail, drive fast cars, and to say I go through life to the beat of my own drum [yes, I can play the drums! 🙂 ] is an understatement. Oh, did I mention I am of the female persuasion? 😉

    I have been the subject of prejudice, and wrong assumptions have been made about me – just because I am a female. When such happens, the offending party is called on the carpet. S/He won’t make the same mistake twice, at least not with me. From my point of view, however, I do think it is important to fight injustice, bigotry in all its ugly shapes and sizes, and to strive for equality for all. I’m not talking about being militant (unless warranted). However, I don’t think anyone should be left behind. There are too many in our society who are marginalized because of their differences. That is something none of us ever should forget.

    more…

  4. MelindaW
    August 5, 2017 at 13:58 Reply

    …I could take up a lot more space about this topic, Jay, but I’ll stop here. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I’ve enjoyed reading what you had to say. As always, your ideas are well thought out, and enlightening. 🙂

    In the end, all any of us really can do is to be true to ourselves. And to remember that others have just as much right to be who they are. We all have feelings, and they never should be discounted.

    MTFBWY 🙂

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