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.
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.
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.