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Feminism and Equality in S8 and S9

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  • Feminism and Equality in S8 and S9

    Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
    I should also point out, since the subject at one point touched on Xander's feeling of uselessness and Renee as an example... I for one have never quite let go of the distinct possibility that Toru's plot was another Twilight outcropping. It was so bold, so intricate, so specific... and just a coincidence? Really, that's what we're to believe? But even if it was -- it served Angel's agenda well enough or he would have destroyed Toru himself to prevent his interference. So, not entirely sure I'm willing to say beating on Angel isn't a valid way of dealing with Renee as well.
    I do think it was just a coincidence. Only because every other threat was explicitly linked to Twilight in some way (the scar on Voll's chest, Roden's book, the VampyCats hailing Twilight etc) but no such connection is made with Toru. I guess a part of me still pities Angel enough that without concrete proof I won’t lump this on him as well, ya know? He has enough to answer for already. Although, I do agree with you that had Toru's interference been against Angel’s interests he would have put a stop to him.

    I said at the time and still believe that the point of 8.04, and the reason Joss tried so very hard (and unfortunately so futilely) to get the audience to engage this story on terms other than male power/female power, which is why the dialogue lampshades that as a misperception, is that he wanted this to be his "Kingdom Come", his "Watchmen", in concept.

    Both epic series dealt with the meaning of metahumanity as a construct, of how the mundane world reacts to the (literal and figurative, I wot) extraordinary among us. Certainly it fits with what Joss would later complain about in his letter, about the decline of magic and wonder, if the Slayers and demons and witches and supers were the great minds and paragons of our arts and sciences and so on. But it obviously plays on the very literal, Watsonian level as one of the great themes of comic book history, and those two series being some of the best examples. And, of course, I should probably add "Civil War", since he's a Marvel guy now

    And, you don't get to that story by trying to literally imply that robbing a bank = death. Voll's rant, and even Willow's or the big demon guy's talk about provoking, the bank robbery was just a symptom. The dangerous, provocative thing was Buffy's sense of license. That she could and should change, fix the world. That was the sentiment that Angel had such an easy time whipping into a frenzy shared by demon and mundane human alike.
    I agree with everything you say but I don't think it's mutually exclusive with male power/female power. This is Whedon and BtVS after all and in order to stay true to the essence of the series it, well, should be about that too! That's BtVS at its core. I think Whedon was being pretty blatant in Turbulence when he had the soldiers mistake the Slayers for witches. There’s a lot of history there with women being demonised for stepping outside of the patriarchy and it’s too explicit for me to ignore. Not to mention that at the end of the series he talks about the “hateful reactionary blowback” to “progress” which he of course is referring to the spell in Chosen, which is all about female empowerment male power/female power, so it's rather impossible to separate the two. So I certainly think it’s there, I just think it’d be a mistake to assume that’s the only reason people turned on the Slayers.
    - "The earth is doomed" -


  • #2
    I think you are right, Vamps. I think it was meant to play on both the level you mention and the one King mentions. But I think Joss himself knows that the patriarchal oppression story is passe -- hence Voll's emphatic rejection of the thought (in a way that to me at least doesn't really play as though there's really a there there, even if he says there's not).

    Maybe that's just me reading into things. It would be lame beyond the telling to invoke witch hunting as any kind of metaphor with purchase on the status of women here and now. Women make up more than 60% of the students seeking college degrees. They (we) are extremely well represented in the professional schools. Whatever issues remain pale (!!) in comparison, and it would be bad art to try to pretend that such reactions represent the sort of obstacles women face now in 2013. Moreover, I think propagating the notion that there's major, witch-hunting levels of oppression still out there when there really isn't is an invitation for women to see themselves as victims -- which is probably the one big obstacle remaining between a woman and her dreams. Screw that I say.

    Whatever Joss's inner (outdated) liberal tells him the story is about, I think it's really driven by his issues about the otherness of genius. And that's a real story that will be with us for the ages.
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    • #3
      Voll doesn't fill me with confidence. I mean, I believe that he believes it isn't about misogyny but his "you think it's only men who want to bring you down?" is the most clichéd and weakest of arguments. As if women don't perpetuate misogyny or aren’t products of the patriarchy too, or something. So whilst I don’t think Voll is anywhere close to, say, Caleb or that his beef with the Slayers is primarily about sexism, I don’t dismiss it based just on his saying so. He hardly strikes me as the kind of guy who recognises his own privilege and he demonstrated enough pig-headed ignorance that it doesn't surprise me whatsoever that he'd dismiss the idea of internalised misogyny of at least being at play here.

      The way I see it, the Twilight campaign welcomed all forms of prejudice against the Slayers. Whether it is Voll's hatred of the demon within them, fear of their power and how they wield it, or internalised misogyny. The VampyCats, for instance, were blatantly misogynistic and they pledged allegiance to Twilight. What I think Whedon was trying to evoke with the witch-hunt is not that there's that same level of discrimination going on today but that some form of it is at work here. In the context of the story it makes sense because Twilight was campaigning an anti-magic agenda and referring to the enemies as “witches” is his way of stirring up hate. On a meta level, I think it’s Whedon’s way of winking at the audience and drawing on RL history to suggest that part of this ‘hateful reactionary blowback’ is to do with a group of women exercising all this power.

      I guess I just don't find it out-dated. I wish I did but whilst I think we’ve made a lot of progress I hate to think we’ve been lulled into a false of sense equality when there’s still so much injustice out there. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that people would react very differently to a group of woman having access to all this power and that it would feel threatening to them. As a feminist text, I think the story has an obligation to at the very least explore that and that it would have been a betrayal of BtVS at its core if it had failed to do so. I do think it’s just one part of it and that the story is intended to work on multiple levels, but I think it’s there.

      *ETA* I'd also add that stories of this nature do tend to magnify RL issues for the sake of drama. I don’t think Whedon believes there are witch-hunt levels of oppression going on today but in the Buffyverse Slayers really were being hunted down by lynch mobs etc. It’s not unlike Xmen where being a mutant is a metaphor for being gay and mutants are being exterminated by giant robots and the like. The writers are exploring such themes like discrimination and inequality and they are still very relevant to today – but they don’t really believe gays are being hunted down and massacred in America. It doesn't make either franchise out-dated. Things just tend to be exaggerated, if you will, for the sake of drama.

      But I don't want to derail the discussion too much. I certainly don't mean to imply that Voll was motivated solely by misogyny and Twilight's forces were against the Slayers because "they hate womenz!" It doesn't do justice to the story. To try and bring it back around to my original point; I just wanted to stress that trying to characterise Voll as a sane individual who only attacked Buffy because he thought she was a dangerous terrorist and risk to public safety is incredibly flawed. It ignores his diatribe at the end of 8.04 when he reveals his hatred for Slayers and the view that they’re not even human. He was not just your average general but rather someone who had in-depth knowledge of the supernatural world (he even references Buffy’s battle with The First) and who despised Slayers based on their origin story. He'd have been gunning for Buffy regardless of whether she had robbed a bank or not. He didn't want thousands of Slayers in the world. Period. When you hate somebody/something that much you've already made up your mind and the destruction of Sunnydale or bank robberies are just welcomed facts to justify said hatred.
      Last edited by vampmogs; 21-04-13, 05:41 AM.
      - "The earth is doomed" -

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      • #4
        I'm very much reading out of my own experience, which is that I essentially crippled myself for the first half of my career because I was focused on oppression. Once I stopped worrying about it, it went away and I've had all the success/respect I could ever have dreamed of during the first half of my career.

        Part of my "cure" was reading the writings of women who wrote a hundred years ago, back when they couldn't have even dreamt of having my career options. Really smart women who were shunted off into home economics because the "real" academic departments wouldn't make room for them. They just did their work and didn't say a peep about the manifest discrimination they were dealing with. And they were far better writers/thinkers than I was precisely because they weren't worrying about the oppression. They just did their thang and they were awesome. So I decided to be like them, and I became awesome. And because the world has changed, I got external rewards that were unavailable to them, even though they were awesomer than I ever could be.

        So that's where I'm coming from when I diss Joss and his feminism and say that his real genius is on other themes.

        (Also, just watching my students and seeing the shift in numbers and confidence. There are more women than men in my classes, and the women know what they're doing, while the men are kind of stuttering and confused. I don't want my super-self-confident women students to stop doing their thangs and start counting the ways in which they are oppressed. They are awesome and I want them to keep being awesome! And I want to find a way for my male students to be more awesome than they presently are.)
        Last edited by Maggie; 21-04-13, 05:41 AM.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Maggie View Post
          So I decided to be like them, and I became awesome. And because the world has changed, I got external rewards that were unavailable to them, even though they were awesomer than I ever could be.
          I get that. But surely you'd have to acknowledge that the world didn't just change on its own? It changed because there were women (and some men) who did worry about oppression and sought to rectify it. If everybody had just thrown up their hands and said "Ah well, I'm not going to worry about it!" then you wouldn't have those rewards that were once unavailable. Progress only happens because people fight for it. And that can only happen when you recognise and acknowledge that progress needs to be made. You have benefited from other women standing up for your rights.

          I mean, Rosa Parks wasn't victimising herself when she said she was "tired of giving in" and refused to give up her seat. This idea that she should have just stopped worrying about oppression and accepted how the world works is deeply flawed to me. Without pioneers the world wouldn’t have evolved.
          Last edited by vampmogs; 21-04-13, 06:46 AM.
          - "The earth is doomed" -

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          • #6
            Sure. But two responses: (a) the real change was effected not by Rosa Parks sitting around counting her oppressions, but rather by her actually sitting down in the bus seat*; and (b) it's just a mistake to say that the live issue for women in 2013 is that they face oppression that has already been set aside.

            There are live issues -- but not the sort captured by appeals to patriarchy and witch hunts. That's the problem. Getting women focused on ghosts of the past isn't going to help anyone or anything move forward (whatever that means). And construing the issues of feminism this way is just substituting pat truisms for real thinking. I just don't think Whedon is ever any good when he tries to do straight up politics (or philosophy). He's better in the dark labyrinths of the soul, and it's only by exploring that that he has anything to tell us about these other issues.

            *This is a more profound distinction than it might appear. The way to liberation is not to catalogue the ways oppression oppresses. It's to just do your thang and then deal with the results. I'm far more moved by the Civil Rights movement than I am by any of the voluminous literature on race one finds in academe. The modern feminists I used to read voraciously held me back. It was the old home economists who liberated me by the intelligence of their analysis of the subject matter that was before them, the lucidity of their prose and above all the self-possession that shone through every syllable. Their male peers never gave them their due. The world paid them no mind. But who cares? They were glorious. That's the key, you know. To realize that at the end of the day, all that matters is that you're awesome.
            Last edited by Maggie; 21-04-13, 05:16 PM.
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            • #7
              But where we differ is that I'm not sure how pointing out equality equates to "sitting around counting our oppressions" or being victimised by them. To relate it back to what we’re discussing, you can hardly accuse Whedon of that or his characters. Whedon had something to say about inequality so he wrote an extremely successful TV show about it. A TV show that inspired many people and that many will argue changed the face of television and opened up the path for strong female characters in media. The TV show then led to Equality Now which has raised money and helped many people. Regardless of one’s opinion on Whedon’s feminism, one cannot deny that he felt strongly about it and was motivated to do something about it. And that he followed through on that conviction.

              In regards to his characters, Buffy didn’t play the victim when she accused Voll of misogyny. She had just brazenly stormed into a military organisation, battled through an army, rescued her friend, disarmed Voll and then stood up for herself when he called her a monster. It hardly equates to her twiddling her thumbs and counting all the ways society oppresses her. She had – very literally – just changed the world. “Changed the rule.”

              I guess I just don't see how a story acknowledging inequality or oppression is guilty of holding women back. Especially a story that is more often than not pretty inspiring and shows female characters overcoming these obstacles *shrugs*

              The world paid them no mind. But who cares? They were glorious. That's the key, you know. To realize that at the end of the day, all that matters is that you're awesome.
              I want to tread delicately here because this is a personal thing and these women clearly inspired you. However, I do want to stress that if nobody cared you wouldn't be reaping the rewards you have now. As much as you may feel you owe these women you also owe women who very much *did* care that the world paid them no mind and fought against that for not only their benefit but *yours too*. To bring back to what you said earlier; the world changed and you got the external rewards and that’s because of women who wouldn’t settle for being ignored and who weren’t satisfied with being treat like second class citizens. The women you talk about may have been fantastic and inspiring but they didn’t win you your rights. It’s just my personal belief that it would be best to acknowledge both approaches.

              We might be entering Boiler Room territory now?
              - "The earth is doomed" -

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              • #8
                Probably it's boiler room territory, but we're at cross purposes here, I think. To sum up my position: Women today aren't faced with the problems of "patriarchy" or "witch hunting". It's good someone in the past took on those things. But it's old news and worse it's actively counterproductive to pretend that these are current issues for women for the reasons I've tried to explain. That's my point and that's my problem with that aspect of the story. Note that I do agree with you that Joss means for that to be part of the story. Happily for me there's the other reading about the otherness of genius and that works well for me. But if it really were just a story about how women who try to be independent provoke the collective wrath of the patriarchy in 2013... well, let me just say I think that's a story that doesn't show much reflective thought on the complexity of women's history or their current situation.

                ETA: In addition to thinking that obsessing over patriarchy ends up handicapping modern day women causing them to be less able to enjoy the victories that have been won in the past, I also think that obsessing over patriarchy entails elevating external goods out of proportion to their true value. It's nice that I have access to external goods today that wouldn't have been possible 100 years ago. But they aren't the main point. And at least in my case, it turned out that the best way to get external goods was to stop caring about them.
                Last edited by Maggie; 21-04-13, 11:46 AM.
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                • #9
                  I many parts of the world, and Joss is the kind of writer/director who has a world-view not an exclusively American view, women are just as oppressed as ever, the patriarchal system is alive and well and women are literally feeling it's sting.

                  Reading about women of the past who were able to achieve some level of success and didn't complain about their fate is not going to help them one jot.

                  All humans should be aware of the second-class nature of many women in the world and do what they can to change it. And we should use the "O" word: Opression.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Reddygirl View Post
                    I many parts of the world, and Joss is the kind of writer/director who has a world-view not an exclusively American view, women are just as oppressed as ever, the patriarchal system is alive and well and women are literally feeling it's sting.
                    Sure. But if that's the story Joss wants to tell, it's probably best to not use a middle class white girl from California as the vehicle for talking about the sorts of issues faced by women of color who live in entirely different cultures, don't you think? It's been a long time since feminism was OK with the idea that we can focus on the plight of privileged white women and thereby assume we've addressed the plight of non-privileged non-white women everywhere. I also don't think using the US military as the face of patriarchy is adequate to the story of the woman on the bus in India, or the practice of genital mutilation in Africa, etc..
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Reddygirl View Post
                      I many parts of the world, and Joss is the kind of writer/director who has a world-view not an exclusively American view, women are just as oppressed as ever, the patriarchal system is alive and well and women are literally feeling it's sting..
                      As a white, middle-class American woman, I somewhat feel like Maggie does right now. There are inequities but I don't feel oppressed. Frankly, I feel more vulnerable and put down as a Jew than as a woman- and I don't even really feel marginalized by that. However, I completely agree that it’s a totally different animal being an Afghan woman vs. an American woman. Heck, being lower class migrant female worker in the United States than being me.

                      However, the Buffyverse isn’t my United States but yet it is. It’s a United States disfigured by a secret war in S1-7 and then, an open war in S8. The demons, the magic, the powerful cabal that is the Watcher’s Council makes the Buffyverse fundamentally different than My United States. In that sense, the Buffyverse is transformed by the war going on to become a place where misogyny IS a big factor right here in the United States. That very dynamic happens to countries.

                      Take what’s going on in Mali or Egypt as case studies. Women may think they’re safe from being raped on the streets, unless in usual circumstances, until war comes. In the field of war, men go off to fight in an army or they may drink themselves into a stupor. However, women are left to defend their children and property alone. Scarlett O’Hara thought that she was a cosseted, privileged Southern belle until war came and she REALLY wasn’t anymore.

                      The United States isn’t so perfect a country that isn’t vulnerable that misogyny won’t really come out surprisingly in the field of war. See the rapes of female soldiers or privately employee female aids in Iraq and Afghanistan and the response of the top brass to those stories.

                      On that level, the heightened misogyny from the demons or the Watchers’ Council work very well for me- as an illustration of the brutalization of women that happens in war. And there are two versions of the misogyny against women that we see in war- the secret rapes and murderers that come from demons waging a secret war in S1-7 and the demi-institutionalized misogyny from governments wise to the fact there’s war going on in S8.

                      That very transformation happened with Buffy that make her a gripping feminist character for me. Before she was called, Buffy was living Maggie’s and my lives. I don’t think Buffy had any complaints about being a white, pretty, upper-class girl in the United States. However, war found her and her life changed.

                      Heck, Laura Logan covers war as a correspondent and she’s somewhat privileged and vaunted to fame because she’s a gorgeous, charming woman who can cover military stories with intelligence and brilliance and relate to US soldiers to get great stories. However, her life as a woman in the violent changed when she was she was sexually assaulted in Tahir Square covering Egypt’s “revolution”.

                      With that in mind, some of the misogyny and feminist statements work very well for me on this show and some really don’t.

                      The gender-policing (much of Cordelia says in S1-3) and the slut-shaming are very real. However, IMO, the show keeps it in perspective as sadly formative, but hardly a great evil and contrasts it with equally painful masculinity policing (what Xander has to endure). However, fandom (See Mark Watches) isn’t that sensible.

                      As indicated above, any misogynistic problems brought on by Sunnydale as a theater of war with vampires and demons and even those humans that want to get in the war (the Watcher’s Council, sometimes the Trio) is VERY effective for me. The Biker Gang’s rape threats, all of Angelus’s and Spike’s gendered threats and murders, the exploitative nature of the Watcher’s Council, and to a lesser extent, but still General Voll.

                      However, IMO, the show over-did sexism and brutalization of women from ordinary human guys. Some guys are jerks. However with Pete from Beauty and the Beasts, Rebound Guy in The Zeppo, Go Fish swimmer, pre-coming out Larry, Parker, I was fatigued with demonization human guys and the indication that this is the typical threat that women experience.

                      The show also over-did glorifying women’s responses to sexism- even when it shouldn’t have been glorified- because the show just expects people to leap to the touchstone that in this cruel, sexist world, women should have a pass to do whatever mendacious, dangerous stuff to beat it back. Anya is my ultimate example of this. Also, the whole way Tara was dealt with in Family. Especially after S8 immeasurably improved the Slayer Empowerment spell from not just a phony and manipulative Montage of Empowerment to a mixed bag.

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                      • #12
                        Dipstick, I do see your point about ordinary guys being portrayed as villians but on the other hand the reality is that two likable star athletes who are good students can take cruel disadvantage of a young woman and post it on the internet.

                        So in retrospect I don't think it was overkill to show human guys, especially teenaged or yound adult males, behaving like "monsters". And to be fair, many young girls defended the boys I'm referring to on media sites and the young female victim was slut-shamed. There was definitely as sense in the community that while what the two boys had done was wrong, their whole future shouldn't be tainted because of ther actions.
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                        • #13
                          Interesting discussion. A few quick points.

                          1. While Buffy is middle-class white woman, many of her army of slayers in s8 are not. S8 was deliberately (if not always successfully) about global issues.

                          Notably, the story of Buffy herself ends up being tied up with an abusive ex who beats her (and her girlfriend) because he loves her. That *is* a middle-class American white woman type problem, albeit an extreme exaggeration of one.

                          2. I don't actually think Parker was that extreme. That is how a lot of guys are. And he was never actually cruel.

                          3. I think that BtVS works in a complicated way where issues are brought up but discussed from different angles over time, depending on the age of the characters. Anyanka is a villain in her first episode. Then once she's human and her demon, man-punishing past comes up,

                          i) she's seemingly not a threat anymore;

                          ii) most of her past actions were taken during times in which women *were* more heavily oppressed than they are at present, and Anya(nka)'s extreme views are genuinely a throwback to a different era -- much of the whole point of Anya is that she is far out of step with modern society; and

                          iii) Most importantly, the issue of how far women should go to deal with men who hurt them is not really a big theme until post-HS graduation, because the show is dealing with a different level of issues and (more importantly) Buffy's power is much higher there. S3 and 4 have female Little Bads (Faith, Maggie) and s5 and 6 have female Big Bads (Glory, Willow) who mirror Buffy's own struggles.

                          The issues related to Anya and the question of how much the concept of female victimization gives licence to hurt others are introduced in s3, but the show isn't ripe to deal with these issues at this time, and so it's backgrounded and played for comedy, especially because Xander subconsciously thinks men suck and hates himself too. It ripens and falls off the vine in late s6 and early s7, with Entropy and Selfless, the latter of which argues *strongly* that Anya is non-justified and *Anya* realizes this. This is the season in which Buffy comes to a point of peace with former-slayer-killer Spike whom she abused in the previous season, so the concession of the limits of female power resulting from a feeling of victimhood doesn't happen until s7 when it's important to Buffy's story, playing mildly in the background before then.

                          4. Re: Tara in Family, I don't think the show argues that any measures are justified. I do think that Willow et al. forgive Tara too quickly, but Tara acknowledges that it was wrong to cast a spell on her friends and talks at the end of the episode how this episode was her at her worst. But once again I think some of it was that the wrongness of Tara's actions are a bit undersold because Tara's a minor character and the show isn't there yet. Willow and Buffy are the major characters. Tara acts out to hide her "demon" which she has been told she has, but Tara doesn't have that demon. It's not that Tara doesn't have a dark side, but when it comes right down to it Tara does not have the kind of mystical power and thus the power to hurt or kill that Willow or Buffy have. Family is meant to provide one side of the story and to reinforce some of the themes going on with Buffy and Willow -- in particular, the way *both* end up making huge mistakes and violations of others in an attempt to hide their own perceived darkness -- but the story is going to go on to tell more complex stories with the leads where there is a greater degree of truth to their fears of their own darkness.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Maggie View Post
                            To sum up my position: Women today aren't faced with the problems of "patriarchy" or "witch hunting". It's good someone in the past took on those things. But it's old news and worse it's actively counterproductive to pretend that these are current issues for women for the reasons I've tried to explain.
                            I respectfully (and quite fully) disagree with this actually. But probably off-topic? It'd be good to have a space to have a discussion on it as I could make a pretty cogent argument for why (even western) women are still, very much, facing problems of 'patriarchy' and yes, even modern-day 'witch-hunting'. Perhaps not with the same face they wore in the 1800's but there nonetheless. But I don't want to derail the thread, so I'll stop there.
                            Last edited by Sienna; 22-04-13, 04:51 AM.

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                            • #15
                              I guess I should add -- while I don't really think that universities are free of patriarchy issues anyway, to the extent that they are they do not represent the sole possible experience for white middle class Americana or at least North Americans (i.e. Canadians). Personal experience: My mother works as a professional (sort of mechanical-ish; I am deliberately keeping this vague) in a position that is well-paid and largely government run. And while there haven't been any instances of sexual harrassment or threats of violence, there has been gendered harrassment, sexist double standards, women taken seriously only if they are sufficiently attractive and then only for their attractiveness, etc. To give clarity, my mother pretty much was against feminism before she got this job a decade ago because she thought that these issues were mostly over, but it's taken a big toll and the way things work with the younger employees in their twenties is not all that different. It's basically ruined her life (granted, not that great to begin with) and I wouldn't be surprised if she dies a decade plus early from resulting stress. She has used the term witch hunt before or something like it, I think. Granted -- some of the harrassment/etc. are not gendered, but a lot are. This (can/cannot) be compared to the plight women faced in the past but it is a big deal regardless.

                              Some women would be able to be awesome in this situation and get on with their lives as best they can, but some (while nevertheless awesome) are not really able to withstand it without severe mental/physical health damage. So...I think many of these are live issues for women today.
                              Last edited by Local Maximum; 22-04-13, 05:20 AM.

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