What the Survival Girl Can Teach Your Daughter About Feminism

"Jason! You've done your job well and mommy is pleased."

Ginny Field (Amy Steel) – Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

When I decided to let my 13 year old daughter co-host this show with me, it was a no-brainer. She's been watching the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies with me since she was around 4, and probably knows as much about the films as I do. Initially, my wife was concerned that watching slasher movies at her age might be detrimental, but I convinced her that Allie knew it was fake, and that until we woke up to her trying to kill us in our sleep, it was probably fine.

And it has been.

Allie's not a violent person, and hates physical confrontation. She's never even been involved in anything you could remotely call a fight, and against all odds, she hasn't been “scarred for life”.

As a parent, I'm always looking for ways to encourage Allie to be a strong and independent woman. As her Dad, it seems all but impossible to find some overlap, or common ground, that I can use as a springboard to talk about ideas like feminism and gender equality, or other, similar topics. I realize that these are things that I could just come right out and say, and I often do, but I find the conversation more effective when it revolves around something she's interested in.  Recently, I've found that Friday the 13th provides a near perfect opportunity to talk with her about the kind of woman I'd like to see her grow into.

The slasher film, at first glance, might seem like it's oriented towards a male dominated audience, and in a lot of ways, it is. What teenaged boy (or similarly minded man) doesn't like the gratuitous nudity and copious amounts of sex the protagonists have while all of their friends are dropping like flies under the machete of a madman? I know that's what attracted me to the genre when I was a kid. As a parent who lets his daughter watch slasher movies, though, it's the Survival Girl that I'm interested in nowadays, and not for the same reasons.

The Survival Girl is the protagonist who survives until the end, and is usually responsible for killing said mad man. She is the least likely to get caught with her pants down, by the killer or otherwise, and doesn't normally partake in drinking or drugs. At the start of the film, she is probably the outcast of the group, embodying the innocence of youth. As the film progresses, and the blood starts flying, however, she is forced to take charge of her situation and figure out a way to survive the horrors of the night, and she rises to the occasion. I understand that the Survival Girl isn't exactly a bastion of feminism, but I think that at least some of the components are there, even if they have to be teased out.

Historically, families have relied on the patriarchal system, where the man is the protector and provider, and the woman is the caregiver and subordinate. The Survival Girl turns this notion on its head, relying very little, if at all, on a man for help, or protection. It's this point that I stress the most to my daughter. I'd rather see her figure out her own problems, and surmount them of her own volition, than rely on someone else because that's what the societal expectations are. That's not to say that I think she should never have to ask anyone for help, because she should if she needs it; I just think that she shouldn't have to ask, simply by virtue of being a woman.

There are many tools that a parent can use to teach their children life lessons in a safe environment, but I feel like there's an inherent problem with many of the so-called “standard” models of child rearing out there. Not all tools can, or should, be applied to all children, as all children are different. Some people would call me a terrible parent for allowing my daughter to watch Jason systematically kill everyone who steps foot on his turf, and maybe they're right. I have no way of knowing how what Allie's watching now will affect her as she gets older, but, on the other hand, at least she'll know what it means to be the Survival Girl.

What do you think?

Am I a terrible parent for letting my kids watch scary movies? Do you let your kids watch them? Do you think that the Survival Girl is a good example of feminism in action?