Toxic Masculinity in Stranger Things

Ok let me just say this at the top. This post is full of spoilers for the new and past seasons of Stranger Things.

I really like Stranger Things. I don’t like horror, I don’t like gore, and yet the Duffer Brothers have me at the edge of my seat begging for more. The characters are interesting and I think they have been developed very well. The structure is smart and captivating. They fall back on age old story telling tricks all the time, and that makes it good.

I binged the new season, just as I binged the previous seasons, and found it just as captivating and engaging as before. I waited until completing the whole season to form opinions or critiques or judgments, because with a show like this you never know what they are building towards.

Upon finishing this current season, I came to a conclusion: the real monster in Stranger Things has been toxic masculinity. And I believe that has been entirely the point.

There has been a lot of critique of the male characters and the problematic use of women in the show. How the women are ignored by the men, how the women mostly serve as romantic interests, how they are introduced to be romantic interests, how the men are fueled by their temper. And I don’t disagree with any of that. But I also think that it has been done on purpose.

Joyce (Winona Ryder) is defined as the “distraught mother” right at her introduction, and in season 3 she is still being disregarded as being hysterical and illogical, despite being the first to notice something was fishy each and every time. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is pegged as naive and young, and yet she is also picking up on dangers earlier than most. It’s frustrating watching these plots play out where these women are trying to tell others “hey something is not right here” and watch them be continuously dismissed and ignored.

But I think that’s the point.

It’s not knock you over the head, overly done, in your face, “hey we are writing about the problems with toxic masculinity and the dismissal of women”, but the Duffer Brothers don’t use tropes by mistake. It may feel like a gag, or an overdone plot devise, that the women are aware that there is danger and the men ignore them, but I think that’s the point.

Unlike other stories that ignore women and just use them as plot devices, Stranger Things actually develops those women and puts them right at the heart of the action. These women don’t take no for an answer, they don’t stop because they are belittled or ignored, and the women are key in every defeat. If anything the only real plot hole here is where did Nancy learn to be such a good shot?

One of the many elements I appreciated about season 3 was how they split the characters up and each went on their own mini mystery plot line. Each group winds up investigating a component of the horror coming into town, but no one has all of the answers until they sync up in the end. And at the helm of each of these groups, you have women leading the charge, refusing to ignore what is happening, pushing to go deeper into the mystery. Joyce investigating why the magnets don’t work, Nancy chasing a lead everyone tells her is dead, Robin (Maya Thurman Hawke) translating the Russian message, all of these women drive the plot forward despite the men that ignore them.

Stranger Things also has had it’s fair share of toxic men. And this season those men were front and center. Hopper (David Harbour) is more troubled by his teenage daughter exploring her sexuality and Joyce standing him up than he is about the clues all around him. Nancy is continuously harassed and dismissed by her male bosses because they can’t fathom taking her seriously.

And then there is Billy (Dacre Mongomery). Introduced in season 2 as the vindictive and violent older brother of Max (Sadie Sink), Billy becomes the living embodiment of the villain in season 3 when the Mind Flayer takes over his body. But Billy isn’t just a mindless violent toxic man. What I appreciate about the handling of his character is that we see how he became the vindictive and violent older brother. Billy was abused by his father, both physically and verbally, and in turn became abusive himself. Has his father not been so toxically masculine and violent, perhaps Billy never would have either.

The women are ignored and dismissed all the time. Sometime most women can probably relate to. You can’t tell a story about toxic masculinity being a problem without ignoring women. While the men spend most of season 3 waffling about whether to listen to the women, it’s also the men who end up suffering as a result. And maybe if these men had listened to the women sooner, everyone would be much better off because of it.

If you are frustrated while watching all of these women being ignored GOOD! You should be! Now realize that women are being ignored in your every day life. Monsters from different dimensions may not be walking among us, but your coworkers are being ignored in meetings, passed over for promotions and raises, being dismissed because they are emotional and unstable, and finding ways to push forward anyway.

The monsters in Stranger Things may not be real, but the themes that drive the story walk among us every day.

 

-Darci

An Independence Day Full of Anger

Tomorrow is our nations biggest national holiday. The day that we are supposed to be consumed with pride for our country. We celebrate by grilling meat, baking pies, and exploding things in the sky. Objectively, it’s a pretty solid holiday.

But this year, I don’t feel particularly full of pride for my country. The state of our nation has sunk to a horrifying low point that I honestly don’t even know how to talk about some of these horrors. How can you celebrate your country, be proud of your country, when your government is actively operating concentration camps? How can we celebrate our founding values when our government has become the very thing we rebelled against? When anyone who is not a white man lives in daily fear of the next law that will serve to oppress them? When there is a real possibility that the president will actually get re-elected in 2020?

When your country is full of hate, how do you love your country? How does one reconcile that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of people who support the government and all their atrocities? The racism that fuels the treatment of immigrants, the sexism that fuels the laws being written to restrict women, and the greed behind all of the motivation. At best, there is still eighteen months left of this horror. At worst, this is only just the beginning.

I am not proud to be an American this year. I am not proud to be from a country that criminalizes the poor rather than helps them. I am not proud to be from a country that rejects or imprisons people because of the color of their skin. I am not proud to be from a country that operates concentration camps. I am not proud to be from a country that uses fear as a manipulation tool to profit from. I am not proud to be an American, and I do not love my country.

We will still grill. I will bake something with red, white, and blue. We will probably watch Captain America. I will probably even wear our country colors in one form or another tomorrow. We will enjoy our day off from work and try to find some joy in all of this mess.

But I will not forget that I am angry. That I have been angry for quite some time now. And I will not become numb to my anger. I am no where near done being angry.

 

-Darci

Galentine’s Day

Ya ya Valentines Day is around the corner blah blah blah. But more important than that, February 13th (that’s today!) is the most sacred day of all: Galentine’s Day.

Made popular by the wonderful show Parks and Rec, Galentine’s Day is all about ladies celebrating ladies. And what could be better than that?

In a world where women are constantly being put down, made to feel small and weak, told to be quiet and pretty and polite and to smile more, this day becomes more important with each passing year.

So ladies, let’s celebrate each other. Here are 5 ideas for how best to celebrate each other this Galentine’s Day!

Go On A Date With Your Best Girlfriends
Who said dates are just for romance? Dinner, drinks, a movie, all the classic date ideas are wonderful to enjoy with anyone you love. Share a special night with you best gal pals and celebrate your friendship!

Have A Spa Day
Is it cliche? Yes. Is it also wonderful? Absolutely. Taking care of yourself is important, and the occasional pampering goes a long way. And what makes self care even better? Enjoying the pampering with your best ladies. A mani/pedi, a massage, a facial, all can be a great way to celebrate and love each other.

Watch Movies With Strong Female Leads
Host a movie night for your best lady friends and enjoy a story together that features strong female characters. Legally Blonde, The Hunger Games, Wonder Woman, The Sound of Music, just to name a few. Laugh, cry, sing, and cheer together.

Brunch
Another cliche that lives up to the hype. Mimosas, breakfast food, and friendship is the perfect way to celebrate one another. Catch up on all the happenings in each other’s lives, toast one another’s accomplishments, and shower yourselves with celebration.

Reach Out To Out Of Town Friends
Life moves fast and we all mean to stay in touch more than we do. Use Galentine’s Day as the perfect opportunity to reach out to friends too far to see and celebrate your friendship from afar.

Bonus: Drink Wine
Whatever activity you end up doing, just make sure there is wine.

Friendship is a beautiful thing, and any excuse to celebrate and love one another I love. Bring me as many cliches and hallmark traps as you can find, I am all for it.

Happy Galentine’s Day, to all the ladies near and far!

-Darci

A Year of Anger

It’s been one whole year of Angry Feminist. To those who have followed along since the start, thank you. To those who are just discovering me, welcome. And to all, I hope this has been as helpful to you as it has been to me.

I’ve been a feminist for a very long time. Before I even knew what a feminist was, I was a feminist. But these last few years, I’ve been an angry feminist. I think it was Brock Turner that really pushed me over the edge. Then Trump. And then #MeToo. By the end of 2017 I was raging. And I needed an outlet. My partner encouraged me to start a blog. And here we are one year later.

This blog has been a wonderful outlet for me, a form of therapy. I’ve been able to sort out my thoughts. I’ve been able to find my voice. I’ve even been able to share my platform. It’s become a place that I look forward to coming to each week. And I hope you do too.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year while writing this blog. I’ve learned that a lot of people actually like what I have to say. I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t like what I have to say. I’ve learned that a lot of women are just as full of anger as I am. I’ve learned that the more personal I get with my blog the more people read it. That one is particularly hard for me. I would much rather write about statistics and cite sources and make my cases than share my personal stories. But the problems facing us women everyday aren’t just a statistic, they are personal. So if I want to get peoples attention, if I want people to really listen, I have to get personal.

When I started this blog in January, my goal was to write once a week for one year. I was a little anxious about it. Would people read it? Would people care? Would I be able to come up with something to write each week? What would my family think? How much time would this actually end up taking?

But here we are, the last Wednesday of the year. And I managed to write something every week. I have more readers now than I started with. I’ve connected with some women in my life that I don’t think I would have engaged with otherwise. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with some very thoughtful men. I only had one commenter try and bully me all year long.

All in all, it’s been a good experience for me. As I hope it has been for you. And I am excited to say I plan on sticking with it for at least one more year. I hope you do too.

For next year, I hope to find more personal stories to share in explaining my anger. I hope to find more women to share my platform with. I hope to connect with more people through this shared discomfort in our society.

For this year, I leave you with this: thank you for following along. And for those interested in revisiting, this post was by far my most popular.

Enjoy! And I’ll have more for you next year!

-Darci

A Self-Care Reminder for the Holidays 

Holidays bring a lot of happy celebrations. From Christmas parties, to presents, to caroling, to the hope of snow there is a lot of joy and magic during this time of year. But the holidays can also be full of struggle. Just because there is cheer all around us doesn’t mean all of our problems disappear. The holidays also bring lots of temptations that can get in the way of our long term goals, like health and financial goals. And with the stress and the struggles can come a lot of guilt for not being cheerful enough.

So this year, amidst all the joy and holiday cheer, it’s important to be mindful and intentional about yourself. Here is a checklist to help plan your self-care:

Take Care of Yourself
With all of the holiday parties and events and family time and friend time, this time of year books up fast. Don’t forget to carve out time for you. Take your moment, your evening, your day, to just be. It’s important to decompress. Seek out a quiet space from time to time so that you can collect your thoughts and recenter yourself as you need. Take a walk around your neighborhood, enjoy a luxurious bath, find a show to enjoy. The important part is that you still get you time.

Be Mindful About Alcohol Use 
I am not someone who drinks terribly often, so the holidays hit me hard. With all of the gatherings and parties, with all of the holiday stresses, a glass of wine to take the edge off or join in the celebration is very tempting. And suddenly my one glass of wine translates into a glass of wine every day. So it’s important to be mindful and aware of your consumption during this time. Pick a personal limit, find an event to skip the drinks at, and check in with yourself before your next drink.

Practice a Healthy Relationship with Food
There are many tempting indulgences during the holiday season. From an abundance of sugar, to larger portions, to decadent meals, food can take as much a toll as alcohol and make you feel out of control. Find the balance for yourself between enjoying the special holiday food while also paying attention to your bodies needs. I love all the fun holiday food, and I only indulge in most of these things once a year. It’s not about denying or depriving, it’s about balance.For me, being hyper intentional during the work day about eating good things, and being more intentional with a healthy breakfast on the weekends can really make a big difference in my holiday relationship with food. Find your balance, and don’t forget that your body still needs some vegetables.

Remember, Holiday Stress Will Pass
Just like all things, this too shall pass. Keeping a strong sense of self during the holiday season will give you a sense of consistency and security during the ups and downs during the holidays. Focus on the things you enjoy, breathe through the things you don’t, and remember that this holiday season will eventually come to a close.

 

As always, be kind to yourself. Happy Holidays!

 

-Darci