I absolutely identify as a feminist. But before you run screaming for the hills, let me explain what I mean by that. I believe that feminism means equality for all peoples regardless of sex or gender or even race. It doesn’t mean that I hate having the door held open for me by men or that I think men need to be put in their place. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate my male counterparts for everything they bring to the societal table.
However, it does mean that I get the hold the door open for other men and women too just as much as they might for me. It means I work in concert with my male and female peers because we’re approaching the game of life on equal footing. This does mean that I believe certain standards held in society need to change and it has been amazing to live my life born as a millennial to stand witness to this next wave of feminism that is pushing American society father than ever before.
Recently, I had the privilege to read the book series The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Maybe you’re more familiar with this title because of the recent television show by the Syfy channel (although I will always argue to read the books before watching a TV show adaptation). While the TV adaptation is substantially altered from the original book series, it has remained true to the feminist themes present in Grossman’s original books (and yes, Lev Grossman is a male writing a book with strong feminine themes. Gasp!).
I’m going to work on not having any spoilers but if you’re unfamiliar with the series and are interested in reading or watching it, you’ve been warned. I would also warn anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse of any kind to consider having your therapist on call when enjoying this series as there are some incredibly graphic scenes depicting an issue that absolutely needs to be brought to society’s attention but may also be highly triggering for many individuals.
The main character in the series is Quentin Coldwater. It’s sort of a Harry Potter skips Hogwarts and goes straight to American magic college. It’s pretty cool and full of hilariously whimsical wit. Along his journey, Quentin meets many new friends and many of his friends from his life before magic also continue to make their appearances. But the part I want to focus on the most is Grossman’s portrayal of Quentin’s relationships with women. Constantly, Quentin is referred to as a less amazing of a magician when compared to his female counterparts. He certainly has less challenges to overcome, runs into less trauma (although the dude goes through A LOT still), and is overall considered to be an average guy.
What I love though is that while the women of The Magicians take front and center stage for a great majority of the series, the men are never discarded or made any less valuable. Their privilege and certain cultural masculine tendencies are certainly acknowledged in many parts of the book, but they’re never cast aside and still remain integral to the plot all the way through. Their stories are still important but are not more important than the women’s stories. The male, female, LGBTQ, and straight stories are all considered equally valid and important.
To me, this captures feminism more accurately than many interpretations I’ve very recently encountered. Many women have been incredibly wounded in ways that most men may never understand simply because most women are still viewed as “the weaker sex.” However, feminism, true feminism (in my opinion anyway), does not look to settle the score. We look to even the playing field. That takes a lot more craft and wit than two wrongs making a right. It also means that men need to give a shit about women’s issues because in reality, feminism is not a “women’s issue.” It’s a humanity issue. And since true feminism is a humanity issue, that means that women cannot dehumanize men or take men outside of their circle of moral inclusion. That will accomplish nothing.
We’re certainly allowed to have our arguments and disagreements, but ultimately all of our stories are equally important. There is so much more that we can accomplish moving forward together as a human race instead of segregated by sex and gender. As you continue to enjoy The Magicians, I encourage you to continue to dwell on this series’ deep commentary on feminism and gender issues. Leave your comments below with your thoughts!