After overdosing on Nordic crime novels, I finally touched something else during my holidays in the climbing paradise of Arco (bumble brag) with Anu Silfverberg’s Sinut on nähty (You have been seen could be a translation) about female representation in movies and Finnish ex-boxer Elina Gustafson’s biography.
Anu Silfverberg always delivers for me. Her recent article about the representation crisis in science was a hit (with me) and even though the topic area of female representation in movies is quite familiar to me, she still managed to keep the interest up. Silfverberg and I share so much similar background that her recollections of what she saw and thought as a child, teenager and university students seemed eerily familiar. Yes, we both woke up in women studies courses and probably talked about it too much like we were the first ones to realise it.
Elina Gustafson’s story was interesting to me because she used to be an athlete on a high level but quit because it stressed her out. In general, the lifestyle of an athlete is not the healthiest and there was some interesting questioning of the values I also internalised during my sporty times, but the book itself was quite terrible, which caused me to reflect also on how women athletes are currently representing themselves in media, especially social media. There is some kind of continuum from fierce LGBT fighters like Megan Rapinoe (and Gustafson) to mindful yoga personalities and in some ways they recite similar narratives of individualism, transparency, body positivity and the occasional product placement (part of the profits naturally going to a charity of their choice): while they look different, they all sound the same.
Even if they did indeed share the same experience, which is possible because we are not special, how come they use the same vocabulary? Like they all read the same books or went to the same therapist, who helped them find those words. And because they do that, it feels empty, not real or lived, which makes one wonder if they actually just read the Instagram manual for businesses while they might have benefitted more from Byung-Chul Han’s Psychopolitics.
It could also be that I am too old for my bubble and cannot relate, but I am still wondering if the diversity of representation Silfverberg called for is still quite monotone in many ways. A bit like companies are touting diversity but at the end of the day everyone is the same because cultural fit. And even the diversity of thinking visible in places like Twitter is actually mostly just bipolarity. It is amazing to see female footballers in Nike ads and hear them say I can do it too, but is it just another version of the princess dream modified to 2020 capitalism?
But of course it is their job: these people have created their platform, they need to deliver to it, and these things sell. Like a colleague said when I agonised over this: do unfollow.