Here's a rare treat at The Winchester Family Business.  We have a guest columnist!  Faellie posted this on her livejournal site and was kind enough to share it with me.  Then, she was even kinder to let me repost it here.  Yes, its that good.  The title will certainly catch you.  A disclaimer that I make with guest posters is to please not repost this elsewhere.  Please provide a link to either this page or at http://shopstewardess.livejournal.com/618.html.

Thanks much Faellie, and I'm curious to read everyone's thoughts. 


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Dean Winchester Is A Feminist

Seriously, dude. Let me explain.

To start at the beginning, let's have a definition of "feminist", because there is an awful lot of crap surrounding the word - which I hope is the main reason so many women these days deny being feminist. (I certainly hope they're not denying it because they believe either 1) that women in general are inferior to men and deserve to be treated as inferior or 2) they think they themselves are inferior to men and deserve to be treated as inferior, because either reason is pretty sad. I can't think of any other reason for denying it.)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a feminist as "an advocate of feminism " and feminism as "advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes)". Not so scary, is it? (Unless you are a man who grew up with a patriarchal sense of entitlement purely because of that fact, of course.)

By the way, there are many good reasons why this post is not defending the sexual politics of either the content or production of Supernatural as a show, just those of the character of Dean Winchester. (As a very minor but very recent for instance, did anyone else notice that In 4.17 It's a Terrible Life, the depiction of the modern corporate workplace of Sandover Bridge and Iron excludes women, other than as the junior, passive and off-screen objects of sexual harrassment?)

Anyway, on to the good bits.

Dean, women and hunting things

Not much to say about Dean and the monsters, as he's an equal opportunity ridder of the world from evil, whether it comes in male or female guise.

Dean doesn't exactly have co-workers, but there has been one woman who has come on the scene other than as antagonist, love interest or passing cannon fodder: Jo Harvelle. In 2.06 No exit, his objections to Jo coming on the hunt are based on her inexperience, not her sex, and when she does turn up he treats her as an independent human being who can make her own choices, including dangerous ones: he could have physically stopped her from going into the narrower passages without him but doesn't, and makes her a full part of the hunt at the end.

I was going to say something about Dean and Bela here too, but frankly the less said about Bela the better.

Dean and flirting

Dean flirts practically the same way he inhales bacon cheeseburgers: its a frequent and enjoyable part of his life. His flirting is entirely compatible with being a man who sees women as equals. This is because he never flirts with women who are in any way vulnerable or subordinate to him. Often Dean's flirting is with women who are in a position of power in relation to him: they have something (access to a building, or to information) that he wants. Despite what Sam apparently thinks (in 1.16 Shadow Sam upbraids Dean for flirting with the bartender instead of working - "You mind doing a little bit of thinking with your upstairs brain, Dean?"), Dean is entirely capable of doing both at once to everyone's satisfaction - as is clear in his response to Sam's criticism in Shadow. Dean's flirting rarely if ever gets in the way of the job. And the flirting is always good humored and consensual.

Dean and porn
Porn which consists of photographs (moving or otherwise) of women can never be anything other than sexist. If you want to argue this point, please don't do so here. If you do try to argue this point here, your IP address will be passed on to Susan Brownmiller, Gail Dines, Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

Black mark to Dean, then.

But wait.

The only time we see Dean buy porn is when he buys two skin mags as a Christmas present for Sam in 3.08 A Very Supernatural Christmas. We do see him shoplift "Busty Asian Beauties" in 4.01 Lazarus Rising, but I think we can allow a little leeway here: this is Dean's first sight, after the equivalent of 40 years in Hell, of whole, living and untortured human beings. Well, untortured except for the implants. And that puffy thing that is done to lips. And the contortions needed to produce the poses. (What, you thought the female body naturally and joyfully falls into those poses? You've been spending too much time with your porn and not enough with real live women.)

Otherwise, there is in fact no proof against Dean on the porn charge. Yes, he makes plenty of references which show that he is familiar with our porn-sodden modern popular "culture". But no actual evidence. In 2.15 Tall Tales, Sam's laptop freezes on Bustyasianbeauties.com, but with the Trickster around, this hardly counts as evidence. In fact, when Dean tells Sam in 4.18 The Monster at the End of This Book to stay in and watch some porn, Sam has no comeback, and Dean's smirk tells us that he knows Sam won't have a comeback: after all, Sam is the one who got caught watching pay-per-view porn, in 2.04 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things.

Dean, dancers and prostitutes

Dean is shown giving a tip to a poledancer in 2.17 Heart, but he's in the joint only for work reasons. And it doesn't seem likely that he goes to such places on his own account: if he did, he wouldn't have said in 4.14 Sex and Violence: "Strippers, Sammy, strippers. We're on an actual case involving strippers. Finally".

In 3.06 Red Sky at Morning, Dean jokes "A hand of glory? I think I got one of those at the end of my Thai massage last week." But it's a joke again: it's clear that from high school days (4.13 After School Special) through to the present day (2.13 Houses of the Holy, 3.04 Sin City, 3.10 Dream a little Dream of Me) Dean's idea of massage heaven has never got more sophisticated, or more exploitative, than the Magic Fingers artificial massage machine. And while Dean makes plenty of jokes about going to prostitutes (4.02 Are you there, God, It's me, Dean Winchester: "Road trip. Grand Canyon. Star Trek Experience. Bunny Ranch") his only serious reference is a dismissive one in Sex and Violence: "Well, if you pay enough, anyone will be anything", and in Sin City Dean turns down without hesistation the only direct solicitation from a prostitute that we see him get.

Dean and sex

All that flirting produces plenty of phone numbers, possibilities and outright offers. But it is not often demonstrated that Dean follows up. Although the impression given (by Dean himself) is that of cheerful promiscuity, the truth appears to be rather different. There are some passing encounters between consenting adults: Lisa "bendiest weekend of my life" Braedon 9 years before 3.02 The Kids Are Alright, rocking the trailer with Tara Benchley in 2.18 Hollywood Babylon, the "doublemint twins" in The 3.01 Magnificent Seven, Jamie in 4.05 Monster Movie. There is one relationship which is rather more serious, at least to Dean: Cassie in 1.13 Route 666. It's too soon to tell about Anna Milton in 4.10 Heaven and Hell (although she burned up the body in question, she has since twice reappeared in the same corporeal form, which in the Supernatural world leaves just about anything open.)

Now the sexual numbers game is something everyone has a different view on, and something very few people tell the complete truth about (as a general rule in my culture, if it's money, people don't give any details, if its sex they give false details). But given Dean's circumstances, half a dozen lovers over a period of 4 years doesn't seem that many. He's never taken advantage of anyone, never misled or told lies to anyone, and never slept with any of the monsters. He's turned down the opportunity to be a sex object (Lisa, second time around in The Kids are Alright) when he would have wanted a more full-on relationship. And he's wanted his one attempt at a longer-term relationship to be honest, truthful and healthy (Cassie in Route 666), and the fact that it didn't happen was her fault not his. All in all, there doesn't seem any reason to doubt that Dean's sexual dealings have been on the feminist side of righteousness.

Dean and hypocrisy
There are a couple of occasions when Dean has been on the other end of the pornographic gaze and hasn't much liked it: in the novelisation by Carver Edlund/Chuck Shurley of his relationship with Cassie: "I'm full frontal in here, dude", and in Bela's reaction to seeing Dean in evening dress in Red Sky at Morning "Don't objectify me". This would of course be hypocrisy if Dean himself used porn. But as has been seen, Dean's use of porn is pretty limited.

There is however a better reason for describing Dean as a hypocrite.

"I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy" (Oscar Wilde)

Here we come to it. Dean protects himself with a pretence of cheerful lechery, whereas the reality of his actual behaviour is much more thoughtful and restrained. It's an indictment of the society he lives in (blue-collar middle-America, as envisaged by and mediated through Hollywood, which itself is one of the most patriarchal businesses on the planet) that it is necessary for him to do this. The flirting provides both a distraction which prevents those who see it both from discerning Dean's real purpose as a hunter, and his personality as someone who treats women with respect in a society which doesn't. And Dean's frequent porn references are also a smokescreen, and one which holds a mirror up to a society which has lost its moral compass.

We know Dean is a righteous man, otherwise his spilling blood in Hell would not have broken the first seal. Obviously, four years of cheerful misdirection as to the precise nature of his sex life and his relationships with women is not sufficient to remove him from the ranks of the righteous.

Sam Winchester and feminism

Oh, and Sam Winchester? No, there's no way Sam is a feminist. But that's another story for another day.

Comments  

Bethany
# Bethany 2009-06-09 02:50
I hadn't really thought about it like that but now you've mentioned it - in 'In the Beginning' when he finds out his mum was a hunter he completely takes it in his stride just being glad to know her and to have something in common with her, which is why when she says that her kids being raised into the hunting life is worst thing she can think or it's an extra blow to Dean (in my opinion). It never seems to cross his mind oh but she's a woman, i'd hazard a guess that, that thought doesn't even come into his head. Which makes him a feminist - Dean likes women, all women and not just in a sexual way. Look at his relatioship with Ellen, that tells you everything.
Diane uk
# Diane uk 2009-06-09 04:26
I posted a reply but it seems to have gone into the smoke! SO will try again! I LOVE this take on Deans attitude to women. I knew I LOVED him! I SOO agree about Sam as well(still we all LIVE a bad boy!)We are still watching here in the UK so will watch both boys with "new" eyes!
Narcissus
# Narcissus 2009-06-09 07:14
*gapes* I never ever would have seen it from this light...but when you spell it out like that, it makes sense. I guess I'm a sucker, I totally fell for Dean's "pretence of cheerful lechery". Hmm..I've got to do mroe thinking about this...
trina
# trina 2009-06-09 10:48
See, this is why I love this sight. Even when I don't agree with what's written, I still find it interesting and fun to read. The only part I disagree with is that I think it has been well established that Dean loves porn, strippers, and one night stands. In "Are You There God, It's Me Dean Winchester" he even talks about how he thought that maybe the good he did balanced out the credit card fraud and ditching chicks. I don't think he is a misogynist by any means, but he certainly has a cave-man side to him when it comes to the opposite sex, and thank God for it.
vana naine
# vana naine 2009-06-09 12:19
I agree with trina.
Dean is very sweet with women, and rather feminist, but he still likes porn and one-night-stand s too.
Antoinette
# Antoinette 2009-06-09 12:58
I would be interested in reading your thoughts on Sam, too.

I think you missed one major area where I find Dean troublesome with regards to women and that is language. I'm at work and can't round up relevant quotes, but he has made me cringe on occasion with the words he uses to describe female antagonists.

Also, I think Dean probably consumes as much porn as Sam. After all he says about Sam, "I know Sam, OK? Better than anyone. He's got more of a conscience than I do. I mean the guy feels guilty searching the internet for porn." Which could be taken to mean Dean does the same searches and does not feel guilty.
Bevie
# Bevie 2009-06-09 13:33
I like this article very much, and I agree with vana naine that Dean is very sweet with women (Cassie,who he even told the truth to, and Anna), but still likes porn and one-night stands. But I don't see any conflict in this as his one-nighters are consensual (and who would say no to him?) and I don't believe he leads them on to think anything else For example, Jamie, doublemint twins, Lisa. And never forget, he never got it on with Bela and never gave any indication that that had entered his mind! "You do her ear?" Haha!

Contrast this with Sam who was dishonest with Jess all the time he was with her, seemed to be ashamed of his family, and when he does have sexual encounters is extremely rough and demanding. (Madison and Ruby for example). We never saw how he was in bed with Jess. Hopefully a bit more tender with her. My favourite lady for Sam is still Sarah from season 1.

Don't get me wrong. I love Sam and try to understand his external reasons for some of his behaviour. But I always perceived Dean as a really good inner person, no matter what external act he tries to put on. I find his complex persona entirely endearing and it only makes me love the guy even more.

Keep the great articles coming. Love this site.

Thanks Alice and Elle2.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-07-11 15:19
Quote:
(and who would say no to him?)
The girls who probably come to know he is not a tv agent.Quote:
Contrast this with Sam who was dishonest with Jess
Sam did not want to put his dear brother and father in trouble :).There are reasons which have not been clarified by the show I hope we can leave it at that..and not make it so cut and dry.
Sandra
# Sandra 2009-06-09 14:02
Nice one, I love this site! My well in these times of Supernatural drought :-). And an interesting article, as always! I gotta say though, I don't get this porn thing. I really don't. And I don't mean the concept of porn or the people that produce, sell or buy it. I mean the view of it of many, many people. Why on earth would not someone be able to watch porn and fully respect woman at the same time? Be a feminist? Man or woman. I don't say that you are out to get porn here, but I always get the feeling that it’s always viewed as this ugly bad thing (on varrying scales). It doesn’t have to be. Of course there is a lot and a lot to criticize when it comes to porn. But why on earth would that make Dean any less feminist if he actually did watch porn on a somewhat regular basis? I don’t see the necessary connection here. I agree fully with much of what you say otherwise though (and if I got the above wrong then just set me straight ok :-)?). Especially the last part; that Sam is no feminist. Looking forward to that article!
Daniela
# Daniela 2013-07-11 14:07
Liking porn wouldn't make one sexist. You're right there. If someone watched porn and liked it and denied any aspects of sexism on the other hand, that would make them sexist. One is allowed to like a sexist thing and not be sexist as long as they admit the fact that said thing is sexist.
Antoinette
# Antoinette 2009-06-09 16:12
There's nothing inherently anti-feminist or anti-female about Sam not telling Jess about his background or about his aggressive approach to sexual encounters.

His childhood was a train wreck of neglect, his father drilled into them to never tell, Jess is normal and doesn't believe/know the supernatural is real, Sam is trying to start a new life. I understand the reasons a 19-year-old guy would have for not taking the lid off that Pandora's box.

As for his encounters with Madison and so on, all the women he's been with seemed quite pleased. Not every woman wants to be treated like a delicate vase in the bedroom.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-07-11 15:21
someone whose interpretations of the scenes are same as mine :)
Suze
# Suze 2009-06-09 19:29
I'm with Antoinette, just cos a few things got knocked over doesn't mean it wasn't fun for all concerned.

With regard to the porn thing I think there's a bit of a double standard creeping in ... I find myself thinking ... Oh yuk, porn, how tacky and demeaning ... and then spending 5 minutes staring at Sam in a slipping-off towel with my mouth open and my brain firmly set to lustful. Does this make me any less of a feminist? ( Answers on a postcard please, least insulting one gets a sweet ... )

I really don't think there is any evidence that Dean sees women as inferiors and while he does think about sex pretty constantly, so what?

It also occures to me that as the writers have 2 fit blokes stuck together 24/7 they possibly slung in all the porno and flirting references to underline that they aren't gay.
Daniela
# Daniela 2013-07-11 14:12
The fact that you recognized that you liking them with less clothes on could be considered sexist proves that you are not sexist. You are allowed to like a some-what sexist thing as long as you admit it's some-what sexist qualities. :)
trina
# trina 2009-06-09 19:29
As I know Alice wants to keep this a no brother vs brother zone (Amen to that), I am slightly hesitant to ask this, but I am curious about why some people see Sam as less of a feminist than Dean. My personal opinion is that neither of them have particularly unhealthy views of women, but they aren't especially concerned with equality between the sexes either.

Regarding this article, a large part of the argument is that Dean talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. I just don't think that is true. There is really no evidence of that, and plenty to support the opposite.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-07-11 15:22
Quote:
neither of them have particularly unhealthy views of women,
agree
Suze
# Suze 2009-06-10 05:25
Posted the previous at stupid-o-clock last night and forgot half of what I was trying to say ...

If Dean gets to be an Sister despite the splat mags and the strippers and whatall then what is it that Sam does that makes him an Enemy of Womenkind? Just asking, not looking for a fight ...
alysha
# alysha 2009-06-14 16:40
Interesting! I try not to think of the word or the label feminist more often than I need to. Conjures up all sorts of memories of endless college era debates. So I was a little worried to venture into reading this or the responses.

If feminism is simply described as thinking men and women are equal then most people in the US are feminists. Anyway...on to Dean:

I think your Oscar Wilde quote is what really got me..how TRUE! Dean is a complete front that hides a very tender, sensitive, GOOD man beneath. So he likes to look at porn [and there's a long discussion there, what exactly falls into the catagory porn]! Women like to look at Dean! In "Kids are All right" those two women at the party were undressing him with their eyes the whole time. And I'm sure there have been other examples.

He never has made the statement nor insinuated that he thinks women hunt or do other jobs with less skill than men. With Jo he was being protective because she was inexperienced and much younger.

Now if he can just drop his bad swearing habit, he might be perfect! :-)
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-06-18 19:44
Thanks to all who commented - and to Alice for giving me this lovely audience.

As to Dean and porn, I agree it's possible to think that he does use porn, but my view is that as there is lots of supposition but no real evidence against him, I'm going to carry on considering him innocent until proven guilty - it fits with the way I like to see the rest of his character.

Antoinette and alysha made good points about Dean's use of language. My impression at the moment is that the worst of it is not directly spoken to women, but to men about women. I'll have to rewatch with this point in mind (such a hardship!)

Sandra asked why someone who watches porn couldn't also respect women. That's a big topic, and I've set out a few suggestions for reading up on it at www.shopstewardess/livejournal.com. Maybe start with the on-line articles by Robert Jensen? But please be warned, it's a topic that seems to need examples, and you may not want the examples in your head. Suze's example of Sam in a towel is not the same thing at all.

OK, soapbox moment coming up here - alysha suggested that if thinking men and women are equal is feminist, most people in the US are feminist. But the definition of feminism refers to "advocacy", and advocacy isn't just something you say, it's something you do. I've love to think that in the US half the housework and childcare is done by men, that half the high paid high status jobs go to women and half the low-paid low status jobs go to men, that women are no more at risk of violence from men than men are from women. Roll on the day?

I have a number of difficulties with Sam and feminism, and the most obvious is his tendency to kill women he sleeps with. And while there can't be many (any?) who didn't cheer Ruby's death, Madison's death seems to me to be more complicated and to need a bit more thought (and more rewatching).

Thanks again, everyone.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-07-11 15:25
Quote:
Madison's death
Madison = werewolf that was the reason she was killed ..not Sam killing the woman he slept with because he slept with her? I am really confused what you mean by it.
Suze
# Suze 2009-06-19 07:04
Not dissing Dean but for someone who doesn't like porn he does go on about it rather a lot ... and I Spit On Your Grave as a date movie? Hmmm ...

Be fair, Sam's only killed one woman he slept with. It was Dean who actually stabbed Ruby, and she had just tricked them into kickstarting the end of the world so I feel she had it coming rather ... Madison ripped people apart every month. OK they weren't particularly nice people but still ... Kill monsters - Job description?

I would have said neither Sam or Dean was a sexist, they both seem to regard men and women as equals but I don't see either as a crusader for Womens Rights. Sorry!
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-07-01 05:15
Hi, Suze

I Spit On Your Grave is a film in which a woman castrates and murders her rapists and gets away with it (at least within the time frame of the film), so I agree its an interesting date movie suggestion from Dean. Even as a joke (not then showing at his nearest multiplex, I suspect, although apparenly a re-make may be on the cards), I think it shows at least an awareness of men/women issues. Feminist discussion of the movie is at -

http://ferdyonfilms.com/2008/08/gender-attitudes-in-two-reveng.php
and
http://www.obsessedwithfilm.com/specials/is-i-spit-on-your-grave-really-a-misunderstood-feminist-film.php

Sam helped kill Ruby, so he's just as responsible (I can't think "guilty" is the right word here). And weren't the people Madison killed just as much monsters (albeit human ones) as some of the people Dean and Sam kill? But more thought required on my part here, I agree.
Suze
# Suze 2009-07-02 15:57
I've watched it ... not really my thing though.

I don't buy the whole it's OK to depict graphic rape as long as the victim gets her own back after idea, seems like a have your cake and eat it charter for exploitive film makers ... The audience at the all-nighter we went to didn't look much like your average Spare Rib readers ... Didn't look much like our boy Dean either, more's the pity! :lol:
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-07-03 17:16
Suze, your experience echoes the Michael Kaminski review I linked, which says that the film was originally titled "Day of the Woman", and conceived as a reposte to the lack of justice for rape victims through the police and court systems, but then retitled for sale as an exploitation movie.

I agree depictions on screen of violence against people in disadvantaged groups, including sexual and racial violence, are problematic, whatever the framing story. Can't see them stopping soon though, so in the meantime the frame does matter - too many films show or imply rape with few or no consequences for the rapist.

Sadly, I haven't seen any Dean lookalikes in real life either. Even Jensen Ackles (I saw him at the recent Asylum Con) isn't Dean Winchester.
Narcissus
# Narcissus 2009-07-03 21:32
Lookalikes? Let's face it ladies...The Dean is the one and only..even if lookalikes would pop up, they still can't even come close...
Suze
# Suze 2009-07-04 16:16
I'm all for scumbag rapists getting their cumuppance, I just don't want to have to sit through the first half of the film with my hands over my eyes ...
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-07-05 13:32
I'm completely with you on both counts. And on watching violence on screen, theory is one thing, its practical application is another, and my personal squick level very much another again.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-10 14:54
I'm really not sure I would classify Dean as a feminist. He does have an inherent world view that women can be hunters and monsters alike, and doesn't really care or assume to the contrary. In that way, I think Dean can readily separate contexts--work v. play and I think his attitude changes accordingly. When women are hunters, they're hunters. When they're in a bar, they seem to be fair game.

I disagree that Dean has always been honest with his sexual encounters--he was honest with Cassie, the one girl he thought he might be serious about. However, you can just as easily wank that one away as a self-destructiv e take on the relationship--t hrowing hunting into the equation as a means of pushing her to break up with him. I'm not saying that's what happened, I just don't think there's enough evidence to suggest that Dean is always truthful with the women he flirts with and sleeps with. Moreover, we see him lying to girls to impress them and supposedly get them into bed, though we admittedly don't often see him complete the deed. Still, flirting should not have to be synonymous with lying, and there is something somewhat problematic about it, even if it is in good fun. After all, the fact that women appreciate Dean doesn't actually make it less an issue. Objectification is objectification , whether or not the subject of it is a willing participant. Something being consensual does not automatically make it alright.

I think Dean is a good man, but he's not a perfect man. Righteousness as it is used in the show is not clearly defined and seems to have no definitive weight on whether or not Dean is a feminist or not. In fact, I would argue that someone could very easily be righteous and not be a feminist, since not being a feminist does not make you a misogynist or necessarily a bad person by default.

Dean can work side by side with women, no problem. He can also treat them as objects of his affection, no problem.

(And I'm curious--you mention in an earlier comment that Sam's unfortunate luck with women makes him not a feminist. It seems an odd criteria for me that his personal tragedies somehow make him less a candidate. Not that I actually think either boy is a strong candidate because they both lack the advocacy part entirely.)
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-10 23:05
I was also thinking about a few other things in regard to this. Mainly, I think there's a huge gap in the argument in regards to porn/strippers. Even if we assume, as you posit, that Dean does not engage in these behaviors regularly, he still has and does. Moreover, he jokes about them, encourages others to do them, celebrates them, and seems to overall approve of them. Even if deep down, Dean believes women should be equal, he is not a feminist by the mere fact that he is actually hurting the feminist cause by propagating things like pornography and stripping. If he were a feminist, he would not even jokingly approve of them. That's like claiming not to be a racist and making racist jokes--even humor can perpetuate harmful stereotypes that are counterproductive.

This also relates to your last point on hypocrisy. Dean can be putting on a guise--and I totally believe that. But the guise he puts on is something we have to judge him on--especially in regards to feminist which does have to do with advocacy as your definition suggests. If Dean is actively advocating that pornography and stripping are okay, then how is he a feminist?

Like I said, I don't think Dean's a bad guy. He's just not a feminist in my mind.
Castalan
# Castalan 2009-08-10 23:42
I can't buy in to your analysis. Dean presents himself as a horndog and woman objectifier, but because you feel there isn't sufficient evidence (which is very subjective), or the women were willing/obectif ying him back, then it's okay. Also, you seem to think he's projecting an image he doesn't actually live out--that he he's all about just seeming to get it on with whoever is attractive enough (the "waitress in Tampa," the ogling of the waitress in "Dead in the Water," the twins he flashes Sam a two-thumbs-up for when he knows Sam is sitting in the car, privvy to what's happening), and again, that makes it okay. To me, that makes it worse. Pretending to either be something you're not so you look cool (or, in Dean's case, "normal") or jumping on the bandwagon of negative societal stereotypes for the same reasons (especially when no one else is even putting pressure on him to do it) still supports those stereotypes.

Dean does objectify women. He doesn't abuse them or take advantage in any way, but in general, he's into them for a quick good time and nothing else (Cassie being the exception). And he at least wants to be viewed as a porn-and-skin-m ag reading/watchin g "real man," whether he is in reality or not. Which negates your major premises.

Also, how is Sam not a feminist? Jess was a hot, smart chick, he literally asked, "what he would do without." Sarah was smart and a businesswoman and a full part of the hunt she went on. Sam only kissed her, and even that was a stretch because he was both grieving and didn't want her hurt. (And he was encouraged to pursue her by Dean). Madison was an actual love interest for him, and on top of that, Sam wanted to try everything to save her and was the last one to accept nothing could be done. She basically committed suicide, making him pull the trigger.

Dean was the one who killed Ruby. Sam held her; he was definitely complicit. But Dean had the intent and the knife. That moment played as less about killing a woman and far more about being on his brother's side again against a demon that had tried to take them apart.

S4 Sam was definitely more Dean-like, but the only actual example is Cara (who came onto him). Ruby manipulated him from the get-go, climbing aboard even when he told her no. He let himself be led down the garden path after that, but their first tryst about her objectifying him, not the other way around. She had an agenda and used sex to get it in motion.

Dean is not a bad guy. Or, by any stretch, an abuser of women. But at the least, if Dean is a feminist, Sam definitely is too, by the same definition you're using. And at most, Dean's had some rather questionable dealings over time that have left him some room for improvement.
Castalan
# Castalan 2009-08-11 01:31
Also, Antoinette's point is right on: if Sam's being judged negatively because his onscreen sexual pursuits were a little less than a vanilla, it's a bit ridiculous. The women he was with met him head on and had no verbal or nonverbal objections before, during, or after.

Reading some of the other comments, it's becoming clear that what you're really doing is making an argument that Dean's not a misogynist. I totally agree. Neither is Sam. That doesn't, by default, make either of them a feminist.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-11 09:23
The onscreen sexual style is a point that I don't think holds any weight because it's highly subjective and almost always skewed by which brother we are more attracted to or which style meets our own fantasies.

If you can argue that Sam's behavior shows a desire to dominate, you can also argue that Dean's behavior reflects an old fashioned image of a woman as a delicate flower, which is hardly a way to treat a liberated, free woman. Moreover, we see them both in a top position, which clearly suggests their dominance in the act.

Or not. Which is what I'm saying. Their sexual style is their sexual style, not necessarily indicative of their views toward feminism.
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-08-11 12:06
Joanna and Castalan, thanks for reading, and such thoughtful comments. Lots to think about in them.

Someone made the point elsewhere that there must be some 13 year old boys in the Supernatural writers' room. It's an explanation I'm on board with. I think porn is actively misogynistic, so Dean's references to it are troubling - and why I've tried to find an explanation for them when I don't think they fit in with his general behaviour towards women. For instance, I think lying in all sorts of ways is a way of life for Dean, but I don't think he's misogynistic, or even sexist, about it, it's just necessary because of the life he leads.

I'm a bit troubled by the idea that a man can be misogynistic and/or sexist, and still be "righteous". Not in my book!

Sam I'm still thinking about, and something will come in due course - finding the time for it is a problem at the moment (and the first time I tried to write about him turned into a different post entirely).
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-11 12:18
I don't think we can separate the writers from the character quite so easily, though, which is my biggest hesitation in advancing that theory. Of course, the writers are the ones who put such phrases in Dean's mouth, however, it should be noted that Dean is wholly a construction of the writers. We cannot separate Dean's characteristics by ones we like and dislike and blame the ones we dislike on the writers. That's just not an honest read of the character and does not agree with what the show itself puts forth.

Dean's lifestyle and upbringing and emotional issues do influence the way he acts and even soften some of his flaws. However, again, this understanding of Dean's characters means that despite sometimes questionable behavior, he's still not a misogynist/sexi st. I don't think, however, that you can take it to the next step and claim he's a feminist. The evidence just isn't there.

The fact is Dean does reference these things in an approving way. Everything you laid out in your argument accurately explains to me why Dean is not a misogynist despite his love/admiration /approval of these industries. However, his explicit jokes, comments, and references do exclude him from being labeled a feminist.

I think righteous is a term used loosely in canon. Not that Dean isn't a good guy, but by traditional moral standards, Dean isn't necessarily righteous in many ways. I am on board with those that think the nature of Dean's deal--his life for Sam's--is what made him righteous despite his other flaws.

I would also posit that you don't have to be a feminist to be righteous, which again, draws me to the conclusion that Dean is in no way a feminist.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-11 12:20
I don't think we can separate the writers from the character quite so easily, though, which is my biggest hesitation in advancing that theory. Of course, the writers are the ones who put such phrases in Dean's mouth, however, it should be noted that Dean is wholly a construction of the writers. We cannot separate Dean's characteristics by ones we like and dislike and blame the ones we dislike on the writers. That's just not an honest read of the character and does not agree with what the show itself puts forth.

Dean's lifestyle and upbringing and emotional issues do influence the way he acts and even soften some of his flaws. However, again, this understanding of Dean's characters means that despite sometimes questionable behavior, he's still not a misogynist/sexi st. I don't think, however, that you can take it to the next step and claim he's a feminist. The evidence just isn't there.

The fact is Dean does reference these things in an approving way. Everything you laid out in your argument accurately explains to me why Dean is not a misogynist despite his love/admiration /approval of these industries. However, his explicit jokes, comments, and references do exclude him from being labeled a feminist.

I think righteous is a term used loosely in canon. Not that Dean isn't a good guy, but by traditional moral standards, Dean isn't necessarily righteous in many ways. I am on board with those that think the nature of Dean's deal--his life for Sam's--is what made him righteous despite his other flaws.

I would also posit that you don't have to be a feminist to be righteous, which again, draws me to the conclusion that Dean is in no way a feminist.
Seraphim
# Seraphim 2009-08-12 02:42
Well-developed, three dimensional characters cannot have words put into their mouths because that is one of the cardinal sins of writing. I know, I'm a writer (hoping to get published *fingers crossed*). When your character is so "real" that you, the writer, know what they will do, say, think, and not-think in any given circumstance, that's the moment truth crossed over into fiction and fiction needs that level of truth in order to be good--if not great--fiction.

"This is the difference between a true writer and a hack." --carsonshepherd

Dean's comments, then, are indicative of one part of his nature. Yes, he lusts after Busty Asian Beauties, and has some crass comments that have made my eyes roll (can't think of one, but I'll come back to that), but we also have to question what a feminist is. Faellie mentioned that feminism is "advocacy." Has there really been any moment where Dean has been an advocate of women? I know--and love the fact--that Dean respected Ellen because he was afraid of her, but is that the same as advocacy? Also, with Jo, it took on more of a big brother/little sister dynamic with "little sister" pining for something she cannot have (insert incest joke here). Again, Dean's roll as guardian (in regards to Sam) came up again, just with a new face, so he simply resumed this roll because it was such a natural skin for him to be in.

And besides, they're killing evil and risking their lives for no reward and have the odds of an early retirement stacked against them. People need sex to unwind. (Which is not the same as flashing it everywhere, but I digress.)

Love that this conversation has yet to lag.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-12 10:09
I agree--a character does take on a certain life of its own, but I really do think that the porn comments and the like are an ingrained part of Dean's character. The writers may have the minds of 14 year old boys sometimes, but, then again, so does Dean at times. With something as frequently brought up as Dean's porn/stripper/s ex comments, I think it is safe to say that these aren't examples of the writers not knowing their character, but a purposeful development of who Dean is. To say that each porn reference and sex joke is just the writers and not Dean is not an honest read of the overwhelming textual evidence to the contrary.

And I don't think it makes him a bad person. I just think it disqualifies him from the feminist label by default. If we are to believe, as the argument is posted here, that porn in all forms is wrong and inherently sexist, then Dean's comments alone even if he doesn't partake, are inherently sexists and therefore he is NOT a feminist. He can't be an advocate for women's rights while also promoting industries that attempt to objectify/subve rt women.

That's my biggest problem with this argument. There's no indication that Dean thinks porn is wrong. There is every indication that Dean thinks porn is kind of awesome. By the guidelines set up in the original post, that makes him not a feminist.
Seraphim
# Seraphim 2009-08-12 20:58
Joanna, I see what you mean. (Man I love the debating spirit people bring to this site!)

Also, this is a little off topic, but what if Dean were a woman (Deana--his grandmother's name, you know) and she loved male porn, would that make her sexist or would she still be considered a feminist? And then what if Deana was a lesbian and loved female porn, does the same criteria apply?

Like I said, off topic. :-)
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-12 21:38
I think the issue of porn in and of itself is a debate that the OP skirts entirely. My arguments above are based mostly on the post's own suppositions, not necessarily my personal views.

To your aside: in general, I don't believe porn is a morally sound practice for either sex to engage in. However, I know that in the depths of fandom, that is not an overly popular sentiment. And for me, part of the argument is less sexism as it is the over-sexualizat ion of our culture and other moral purity issues. But that really is an aside :-)
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-08-14 06:43
More great comments - I'm amazed and grateful for all the thought that's going into this. They are really making me work at refining my own views.

I'm beginning to conclude that there's maybe not so much "neutral ground" where someone is neither sexist nor feminist. If someone treats women as human beings equal to men, then they're feminist, if not, then they're sexist - even if its just the usual "go with the [sexist] flow" behaviour ("institutional sexism", to go alongside "institutional racism", perhaps?), rather than anything more overt and obvious.

I think "advocacy" is something you do as well as something you say. What Dean does in his real-life relationships is more feminist than what he says (the porn references) and also what he does when away from women (the porn use) - which is why I've tried to find an explanation for what he says about porn, and suggested there's limited evidence of his use of porn, which creates a coherent stance for his character on the subject of women. But from the responses it's clear that its possible to have many more different views on all this than I could have possibly thought up - which is great fun, and a further tribute to all the work that's gone into the creation of the character.

My comment about the writers (it was from a Sera Gamble comment, I think maybe at Comic Con, about the level of humour in the writing room) wasn't intended to exclude that humour from being a necessary part of the assessment of Dean's character, so sorry if that's how it came across in my earlier reply. Comments on the writing process and what it results in are a whole 'nother topic, and not one I could even start to write on. Any volunteers?
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-14 08:41
But isn't feminism purposefully working to go against the accepted cultural sexism? The jokes and little assumptions seem to be one of the most problematic obstacles for women in everyday society, and, to me, expanding the definition to allow those who so casually and happily engaged in such things seems to greatly devalue the feminist cause. Isn't that like saying that employers can then make sexist jokes in the break room as long as they're letting women do equal jobs?

I still argue that even if he doesn't use it, the porn jokes are just as problematic for calling him a feminist. Dean is inconsistent in this way, and I have a problem holding Dean up as the model of feminism on the show when he clearly promotes certain things that are sexist. I think Dean's a complicated guy and reducing him to a feminist means writing off layers of his character just so we can cheer Dean on a little more.

Advocacy is both actions and words, and, really, it's both--but it's also somewhat purposeful. I think the point is that Dean doesn't think about it. While Dean may be supportive of women hunters, he's working contrary to other feminist goals, making me feel like he's neither feminist or misogynist, which is the middle ground that most people live in, I think.

I'm sorry, but I just don't see any feasible that Dean is a feminist, unless we ignore large chunks of canon and reduce the concept of feminism to something so ineffective that it's not actually worthwhile or meaningful. After all, if some guy is feminist while making "socially acceptable" sexist jokes, then are we ever going to overcome such implicit societal norms? As a woman, I find such language even more dangerous because it IS so common and accepted. A true feminist, I would hope, would be aware and rally against that.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-14 10:52
Just to add, what makes this more problematic for me is that the argument bends over backwards to make Dean a feminist, glossing over aspects of his character and softening the concept of feminism until it works, and yet it still maintains without debate that Sam isn't one. This one-sided attempt to make Dena fit the role while staying hard lined on Sam's perplexes me, especially given the bi-bro nature of this site.
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-08-16 09:01
Thanks again for these comments. I don't have a problem if you don't see Dean as feminist - I still like the argument I made but it's not one I think everyone has to agree with (although I might take issue on the idea that being feminist is something one is reduced to).

I agree with you about the problems of casually sexist language and jokes. I need to go back and check this (such a hardship to re-watch!) but my impression is that Dean overwhelmingly uses those jokes with Sam, rather than with a wider audience. So that will be relevant to what I'm likely to say about Sam - which I want to be pretty positive about, as I've no wish to be anything but entirely "bi-bro".
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-16 17:26
I didn't mean that being a feminist was somehow a lesser thing. I just meant that by not taking Dean's character holistically and for who he is, we are not doing justice to his character. While being a feminist may be a great thing, we can't take Dean and stuff him in the feminist box because we personally are feminists.

It would make sense that most of the jokes would be around Sam--as the majority of what we see is the boys together. And even then, I'm not sure how that is reflective of Sam when it is Dean's choice to say them--it's still a persona that Dean chooses to craft for whatever reason. I realize we're not going to agree, but the more I think on it, the less of a feminist Dean seems and the more worried I get for the feminist cause that he might be labeled one.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-16 17:32
Rereading, talking about stuffing Dean in a feminism box still might sound negative--but it's merely a reflection of the notion that I feel like we have to take Dean out of context and out of character to define him as a feminist. We have to be liberal in our interpretations of the text and we have to write off key elements of who Dean is in order for him to fit the bill. In that way, we are reducing Dean's character just we can give him the label. I think working toward the feminist cause is noble; I don't think we do it any favors by labeling Dean a feminist despite some very problematic behaviors.

I'll stop explaining it now. Like I said, we won't agree and I will watch for your take on Sam with a great deal of trepidation.
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-08-17 05:21
I agree we seem unlikely to agree, but it's been an interesting debate, and I'm glad we've had it. I do hope my labelling Dean a feminist hasn't harmed the cause!

I don't want to frighten anyone with my take on Sam, and I'll try not to. Alice and Mae have each put up some awesome character analysis of Sam in the last week, and I've liked everything they've said.
Joanna
# Joanna 2009-08-17 13:19
I just worry because when it comes to inherent respect, I think both boys definitely show it to the women they work with and seem to engage women they're interested in in a meaningful, reciprocal way. My trepidation stems from the fact that you've already said point blank that Sam's in no way a feminist, and given your generosity in Dean's argument, to know that Sam's personal tragedies and personal issues will still be counted against him is problematic for me on a fairly personal level. So don't take it personally that I'm not really looking forward to another debate on why Sam isn't quite as good as Dean, since clearly one of the implicit arguments here is that being a feminist is better than not being a feminist.
Sandahlphon
# Sandahlphon 2010-10-09 09:07
I do think there is a kind of double standard used to judge the brothers, and much of it seems to be quite appearance-base d. There is a level of obsession over Jensen Ackles "prettiness" that many fandom writers literally blind themselves to the reality demonstated by Dean's own references. I think the term "mysoginist" would be harsh in use for either brother, simply by watching how they react around women they trust, who are not the same as monsters pretending to be women. People are substantially more foregiving of the flaws of people they regard as physically ideal; this is cultural, and has only a little to do with actual character. I was once "Unhired" from a job I had only just gotten a few minutes before, when a girl came in (late, may I add) who was far more conventionally pretty than I, applying for the post I HAD BEEN HIRED FOR FIVE MINUTES BEFORE. People tend to ascribe character traits they value to persos they fancy from a physical standpoint.
Daniela
# Daniela 2013-07-11 20:41
Whoever "unhired" you from that job was a douche. (And that girl is kind of a bitch for taking a job that was already yours.)
Autumn Aura
# Autumn Aura 2011-06-20 07:16
I agree for the most part but "feminist" is a stupid word to use for this context, you mean he respects women...a woman is a feminist a man shouldn't be described as a feminist it sounds incorrect.
Dana
# Dana 2011-10-07 21:19
Quote:
I agree for the most part but "feminist" is a stupid word to use for this context, you mean he respects women...a woman is a feminist a man shouldn't be described as a feminist it sounds incorrect.
Why can't men be feminists? You should welcome the idea. My dad and brother both identify as feminist and I'm proud of them.
Dana
# Dana 2011-10-07 21:18
I love this article :D Makes me smile.

Is there an article about Sam/Feminism?
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-07-11 15:14
Quote:
Sam Winchester and feminism Oh, and Sam Winchester? No, there's no way Sam is a feminist. But that's another story for another day.
Waiting for this article.
About this article:well a very (at times funny) different spin to what happened in the show.But I loved reading a different perspective.Thanks for this article,What is your take on Dean lying to get some girl into bed?
Atleast I did not see enough evidence to support conclusively that Dean is a feministQuote:
We know Dean is a righteous man, otherwise his spilling blood in Hell would not have broken the first seal. Obviously, four years of cheerful misdirection as to the precise nature of his sex life and his relationships with women is not sufficient to remove him from the ranks of the righteous.
I never understood how Dean remained righteous after many things he did..but then again I am am not ptb.
Daniela
# Daniela 2013-07-11 15:47
I love Dean, but sometimes when he's hitting on girls he says something along the lines of "oh, you're an actress? well I happen to be in the movie business..." et cetera.
Once in 3.05 (Bedtime Stories) when Dean and Sam had to investigate the fairy tales coming to life, Dean said that the only Snow White story he knew was the porn version. Also, in an episode (I can't remember which one) Sam said to Dean: "I think you're confusing real life with porn again." (So I'm pretty sure he actually does watch porn, that's all)