Guest post: Playing it to the hilt

Originally a comment by iknklast on Genius shmenius.

While at a play this weekend, I found myself wondering something I have wondered frequently: Why is it that men dressed as women is considered hilarious and campy, while women dressed as men can be taken seriously and not laughed at or mocked?

Besides the obvious answers about men being default, and sissy, and all that, one thing struck me in this performance that I think says a lot: The men playing women were playing it to the hilt. They were dressed ridiculously, they simpered, they had foolish wigs, they posed “coquettishly” in a very exaggerated manner. The women playing men just…played men. They put on the outfit, they did the part, they didn’t butch it up, they didn’t exaggerate stereotypical male characteristics. They just played the role.

This, I think, is another aspect of that whole misogynistic thing that happens in the entertainment world. I have long found it uncomfortable when men played women and now I realize why – because they play us like some sort of alien being who is strange and unfamiliar, and very, very silly. When women play men, I can enjoy the show (if it is good in other ways) because they do not go out of their way to make themselves “macho” or do anything to exaggerate characteristics – unless the script calls for that because a character is a woman playing a man and doing it badly.

So much of entertainment is centered around the male as the norm, the female as the outlier. The male as the doer, the female as the receiver. The male as the leader, the female as the follower. And the most exaggerated, June Cleaver-esque distortions of woman’s reality.

I have a plan, and I hope I can stick to it. If you know anyone who is a creative type, or you yourself are a creative type, please join me. Maybe we can create a website, or something, that could send this around the world (I’m sorry, I have no idea how to send this around the world; I don’t do Facebook, and I have no idea how to get the message out). I plan to write something feminist – play, poem, short story, or essay – for every single day of Woman’s History Month. Every day. An entire work (which is why I do not say novel – I can write a 10-minute play in one day, but I have never yet managed to write a novel in one day).

I think women need to assert themselves in the entertainment world – maybe even take it over. The men have been in control too long.

If anyone wants to get this plan moving beyond my own little corner in my own little room on the second story of my own little house in my own little state, feel free to promote the idea, boost it, steal it, whatever – just, if you steal it, allow me to participate. That is all I ask.

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