I was reading earlier today about the till-now largely unnoted but completely undeniable fact that the wonderful movies from Pixar are wholly lacking in female protagonists.

As author Stefan puts it in a post on Persephone Magazine, “There aren’t any. Not a single one.”

Oddly, though it was true, that revelation didn’t bother me much at first. My son (8) and I have been catching up on Pixar (and other box-office smash) movies lately, having missed many in earlier years (long story), and — watching from a young boy’s perspective — I guess the lack of leading ladies hasn’t bothered me much. My conclusion, I suppose: thank heavens, at least, that Pixar hasn’t gone all Disney-princess. Speaking as a former tomboy, that is NOT my thing.

But then, this evening after my son was in bed, I settled down to wrap up my latest read, Oliver Sachs’ “The Mind’s Eye.” As I was reading, I realized my favorite non-fiction authors and all-around observers-of-life have been mostly male: Sachs, Isaac Asimov, Mike Royko, Paul Krugman, Werner Herzog, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Richard Feynmann, Douglas Adams, Stephen Jay Gould, Douglas Hofstadter. Outside of the brilliant Naomi Klein, Elizabeth Kolbert and Amy Goodman (note to self: must read Doris Kearns Goodwin), the female writers/opinion-makers I’ve followed are few and skewed toward fiction … Anne Rice was a long-time favorite.

Why is that?

Societal stereotyping that keeps women thinkers at second-tier status? Unrecognized sexism on my own part? Or just the natural order of things? The last option is easy to dismiss — too darned many smart, insightful women out there — the second unlikely (again, former tomboy here). I have to conclude that, while it’s gotten better, society’s view on smart women is pretty much that: “Here are some smart women to listen to/watch/read” … as opposed to “Here are some smart people to listen to/watch/read.” Women, I have to conclude, are — even in the most developed of societies’ eyes — women first and people second. And it’s hard, even as a woman, to fight that deeply ingrained mindset.

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