Friday, April 17, 2009

Am Me Feminist? (Also: Coda)

"I have always been into gender equality (not feminism, which is really one-sided)"

Jesus Christ, sometimes I really hate my culture. I mean, it's not even that poor idiot's fault; it took me a long damn time to outgrow that line of bullshit too. This is not just what we let people think, y'know. This is what we teach people with every afterschool special and every portrayal of a "feminist" in anything ever and every time we let Rush Limbaugh talk and every movie like the DtDVD Wonder Woman and every civics and history class that breezes past the Women's Rights Movement like it were the War of 1812 or something.

Seriously, it's like trying to win a knife fight with nothing but a bar of soap.

Such is the lament, in toto, that Bluefall expresses. And I have to say, my very first thought on reading it was: I like how it's "we let" Rush Limbaugh speak as if anyone could shut the guy up.

I'm also struck by the final simile, comparing what I assume is intarwub debate with deadly battle. Did no one know this battle was coming? Was it an ambush? Why did one side not secure a knife of their own?

But in the comments section of all that was a link to JaneGray's reposting of an essay from Tomato Nation: Yes, You Are.

Are what? A feminist, it seems, if you "believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes". The rest of the essay belabors this point: regardless of any other factors, if you truly believe in this notion, then you are a feminist.

So then, I guess I am a feminist. I've said before that I believe in at least as much as that statement describes (though I confess to doing more hoping for than working towards). And yet, like the aforementioned "idiot", I don't identify myself as a feminist. Which makes me, what, the Bizarro feminist or something?

In any case, the original essay makes a good point about defining one's self as a feminist, by cutting out all the dogma and assigning a clear, objective definition to the word. Were it truly that simple, I'd really have no problems going around, saying, "yep, feminist, that's me".

But Bluefall and the others in the comments section of her post discuss the media perception of feminism and place most of the blame on the usual suspects, such as Rush Limbaugh and the Reagan Era.

I'm sure Rush willingly contributes to any misunderstandings wherever he can, but the thing is, the reason I (and others, it seems) don't care to carry the feminist label is not because of Rush or some patriarchal conspiracy/propaganda, no. As liberal-leaning as I am, I'm not likely to let some right-wing talk show gasbag implant "feminazi" in my head.

It's feminists themselves that make me not want to be labeled a feminist; it's feminists who, it is my impression, largely reject me as being a feminist.

From JaneGray's comments section:

Feminism is an extremely important movement that has fought long and hard so that we women could be considered actual human beings with actual rights. So it makes me sick to think that the term is being rejected by modern women just because a few man-hating nutjobs have dirtied it.

Now, maybe I've had bad luck. Maybe it's been my fate to encounter the writings (and sometimes responses here in my own blog) of mostly the real wingnuts of fangirl feminism, and that if feminism as a whole were measured, the resultant "average feminist" would seem like a far more reasonable creature.

On the other hand, the fact that there are "feminist study" courses would suggest that, for a lot of people, "feminism" means far more than the dictionary definition, otherwise, there'd only be one class, right? Open the dictionary, read it, and "that's it, see you next semester!"

But no, you can learn all kinds of other things, such as the partiarchy, privilege, the male gaze, and probably a quart of even more esoteric terms, terms for which if you profess ignorance or disbelief you are likely to get regaled with "it's not my job to teach you Feminism 101", implying that yes, there's more to feminism than just seeking equality.

Hell, Bluefall and company take the recent Wonder Woman DVD-movie to task for promoting the wrong kind of feminist message. Apparently their standards for equality don't match up to the movie's standards. Do they accept the movie as being a feminist work, despite its flaws?

I have criticized many things written or said by self-professed feminists; I do not accept many things they take as givens, and feel many stances claimed by feminists are in opposition to other important issues. Whose determination takes precedence: mine, if I say I am a feminist, or the feminist who criticizes me, telling me I am not?

Mad Thinker Scott has often identified himself as a feminist, and has just as often been called anything but feminist by feminists. I prefer to avoid that sort of argument entirely...


[[FOOTNOTE]: Not really apropos of the point I wanted to make, but there's a line in the original "Yes, You Are" essay that bugs me: "You don't have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas's use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don't have to get better than a C-plus on it." It bugs me in that I have a hard time seeing Solanas' manifesto as being satire, considering this is the same woman who 1) shot Andy Warhol; 2) stalked him by phone after getting out of jail for shooting him; 3) drifted in and out of mental hospitals until she died. It's satire only if you take Rush Limbaugh's various "Feminazi" comments to also be satire, and just as I believe Rush to be in earnest when he says it even as he brushes it off with one of his "oh ho ho, I'm just laughing at things, I'm just having fun", so too I get the sense that Solanas was "joking" in the same forced-smile manner. Not that I really know what either Limbaugh or Solanas is/was thinking; nor do I know if satire is really how the original author of the essay viewed Solanas' manifesto. Just wanted to mention.]


This blog hasn't had much traffic (or more precise, a lot of comments and reaction, I really don't know how many folks are just lurking and reading this) since When Fangirls Attack had its recent long downtimes; that's just as well, because I haven't had much to say. A lot of things I started to say (but deleted) were retreads of mostly the same old opinions I've been saying since I started this blog.

This blog has never been my primary activity (or even my only blog); it's been kept separate and anonymous to allow me to express unpopular opinions to an audience I think is, in some instances, capable and willing to persecute those who disagree. So if I'm feeling like I'm repeating the same things over and over, it may be time to hang this up for a while. Anyone chancing upon this blog for the first time is welcome to browse the archives; quite possibly you'll find a post that has relevance to some new issue regarding comics and feminism (and a couple other matters besides). The characters and comics involved may change, but the issues will probably be the same for some time to come, and I'm going to be too busy to keep on repeating myself.

I could be wrong; some new blogstorm may strike and prompt an entirely different train of thought, in which case I may decide to weigh in once again; barring that, however, I foresee this blog becoming very inactive in the future.

(Now watch someone link this and I get a bazillion hits).

Until we meet again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

You Can't Lasso the Truth with the Lasso of Truth.

I'm going to make a bit of a liar out of myself.

Though I'm backdating this to appear to have been written on April 10th, the fact is that it's real early in the AM on the 19th as I'm typing away. I had one more thing to say, but I didn't want to mess up my "final" so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish post by plopping in one more thing after I'd just said "that's all folks". So with the magic of Post Options I'm shuffling the deck just slightly. It's not intentionally a trick (I'm explaining it, after all), but if you didn't read things closely you might be fooled into thinking this post was written earlier than it actually was.

How appropriate, then, that this post is about Truth.

Perhaps you have (like me) been following Noah Berlatsky's essays on Wonder Woman. Not sure I entirely agree with all his conclusions to date, but there's certainly an intriguing insight into the character going on there. One of the things he's posited lately is that Wonder Woman's lasso worked best when it was an all-purpose device for controlling people and not just a kinky lie detector. (And I'm not sure when the change happened, myself, but I suspect it could have been gradual. If you have total control of a person, supposedly you could compel them to tell the truth, and that might have morphed over time, the other aspects of control ignored and eventually forgotten.)

What should come up in his latest post on Wonder Woman but a mention of Bluefall's response to his truth vs. control musings, and having just been reading a different Bluefall post for my "previous/last" entry, I was curious enough to see what was up.

Here is a highly edited selection of her comments:

I know there are people out there who don't like the Truth thing. That's because, like this guy, they don't get the Truth thing. It's a peculiar sort of blindness for an internet generation, but there you go.

First, it's entirely ridiculous to say that self-knowledge is in any way related to purity. You know who's probably the most famous example of complete, vigorous, thorough self-knowledge in Western culture? The friggin Devil. That guy always knows exactly who he is.

Self-knowledge isn't about purity.

It is, however, the very essence of self-control. This, anybody who's spent ten minutes in psychotherapy can easily tell you. If you ever hope to stop yourself from doing something, you must know that you're doing it, and you must know why, so that you can know when you're about to and stop yourself before you start. What's the very first thing you have to convince an addict? That he has a problem. This dude mocks Diana's self-analysis in League of One as navel-gazing purity, and would prefer her commanding herself not to abuse her power. Seriously, how do you not notice what she's asking herself? It's right there on the page - "am I abusing my power"! Look at that, Diana struggling with self-control!

As for that power itself... again, I don't understand how anybody who's ever met the internet can fail to understand this, but knowledge is the foundation of all power. Secrets win and lose wars. Propaganda can build or destroy entire economies, and widespread dissemination of the truth brings entire religions (or cults) to their knees. Technology does not come from people exerting control - rather the other way around - and to bring us a bit back on topic, Batman does not win with prep time, Batman wins by knowing everyone's weaknesses. Truth is the most powerful thing there is.

Batman breaks your finger, big fucking deal. It's just pain, and your hatred can help get you through it; you were Willie the Snitch before he broke it and you'll be Willie the Snitch once it heals. But Wonder Woman makes you see yourself... how do you recover from that? How do you survive having your actual sense of identity completely shattered? You were Willie the Snitch yesterday, sure, but you can't be tomorrow, or ever again, not now that you've had to acknowledge what Willie the Snitch really is. And that is a far more horrifying prospect than some temporary mind control bullshit that goes away once the lasso is gone.

Truth is everything. Control over the Truth, over what is known and to whom, is the single most powerful weapon humanity has ever known. All an atom bomb can do is destroy. Control of the Truth can make something never have existed in the first place, or make something utterly unlike it used to be, or create something entirely new.

Reading this I had a flashback to some old arcade video game, the kind with plastic guns, where you try to shoot the bad guys who keep popping out of doors and past windows, and you've got a bead on the last bad guy, you pull the trigger and WHOOPS the lady with the baby carriage strolls in front of your virtual .45 Magnum to regrettable splattering.

There's a lot right about what's being said, but at the same time there's some truths missing from the equation.

But, back up: I always wondered if anyone had ever written a story where some crime boss tried to game Wonder Woman's lasso of truth. Suppose he tells his minions that he's going to be at a series of locations at specific times. In actuality, he's flying to Mexico or somewhere totally removed from the action. Wonder Woman, tracking him, shakes down a few of his thugs and uses the lasso to find out where he's gone.

They don't really know, but they think they know, so maybe they tell her where he'll be, but what happens is that she rushes to these various locations and meets instead horrible deathtraps or even just bombs set to go off at the aforementioned specific times. Meanwhile, crime boss yuks it up on his private jet until WW defeats the bombs somehow and saves the day and captures the bad guy.

That's the thing about the lasso: there's Truth, and then there's what we believe to be true.

If you are taught from birth that the Sun orbits the Earth, and this idea is never challenged, then when you repeat this idea you aren't exactly lying, but you aren't exactly telling the Truth , either. A lie detector will not register this as a falsehood, because that's what you believe. Still, modern science has pretty much proved that it's the other way around.

And that's just an objective fact; consider the answer to the question "what is the best color"?

Wonder Woman using her own lasso on herself and asking "am I abusing my power" doesn't fail because it's "navel-gazing", it fails because there's a damn good chance Wonder Woman doesn't have a freaking clue.

It depends on how the lasso works, and I confess I'm not deep enough into the mythos to know, but: Let's suppose for one train of thought that the lasso reveals the Truth as the individual under its power sees it. So in my above example, henchmen can give factually erroneous information they believe to be true. For another train of thought, we might assume that there's some external force that determines Truth, so that in my example, the thugs might somehow be compelled to reveal information they cannot actually know, like the boss' location.

Latter first: I can't recall any example of this ever happening, so I'm going to assume that's not the official method of operation. It'd open up a whole can of worms, such as: what agency is this that determines the Truth, and by what standards is it being judged? If Wonder Woman asks herself this question under the power of an externally-driven lasso, then the answer depends on how this other agency (the Gods, perhaps?) views her actions. But this stumbles in fiction, if you explore it too closely: the answer, of course, depends not on an omniscient being but the author of Wonder Woman's latest adventure, with all their own too-human biases. What is the value of the lasso's power of truth when written by a creationist? Or an atheist?

But in the former situation, it comes down to whether in her own heart of hearts Wonder Woman believes she is or isn't abusing her own power, and really, if she's self-aware enough to actually ask the question, I'm not sure whether extra prompting by the lasso is going to help her know the answer any better than without.

Because here's the thing about Willie the Snitch: Most of us know when we've done something considered "bad" or otherwise frowned upon by society at large. Willie doesn't avoid being locked up by the cops by being ignorant of his transgressions. But it's easy for Willie to get around all his faults by rationalizing them, justifying them in some way. It's not his fault, you know. Times are tough. It isn't fair. He has to get by. Sure, he stole a bit, but he's gotta eat somehow. Yeah, maybe he put that guy in the hospital, but the other guy started it, he had it coming. He feels bad, sure, but there really wasn't any other way...

Even if Willie was wrapped in the lasso and forced to somehow examine the Truth of his own life (and is Wonder Woman actually going to do that? She probably is more interested in where the jackass who's setting bombs for her is hiding rather than asking Willie some leading questions towards his greater self-awareness), the only Truth he's going to get comes from his own head, complete with his rationalizations (which, even if stripped away, would only be a life-shattering experience if Willie had enough of a conscience to still feel guilt or shame). And the same goes for Wonder Woman, noble though she may be. Unless you go for external truth, which goes right back to what I said before.

The anti-aborton nutjob who bombs a clinic probably sincerely believes that his act, though it flies in the face of a lot of Christian notions like forgiveness and not killing people, is justified by the lives of the unborn he may think he's saving. That is Truth to him, and making him ask the question "is this the right thing to do in this case" is only going to receive an answer of "well, of course it is!"

Self-awareness is not actual Truth. It may lead to more personal honesty, but if anything it breaks down existing inner truths with doubts and questions. That in and of itself does not reveal truth. It is useless to be aware of one's self if you are not also aware of your own position and perspective relative to those around you, to be able (and willing) to compare facts and premises between yourself and others. To break addiction, an addict must admit they have a problem, but to admit to having a problem, you have to accept the premise that you are mistaken about something. Your personal truth: "I don't have a problem" has to be somehow replaced with an external truth: "yes, you actually do have a problem".

(This is, of course, what starts Internet Fights, two or more people who each Know That They Are Right, and burn up keystrokes and bandwidth attempting to prove it, to supplant the other's Truth with their own. Internet people are often not really particularly self-aware, in the sense that they prefer not to ask difficult, challenging questions about their own beliefs.)

So there's how it stands: If the lasso has an external source for Truth, Wonder Woman can be assured some higher power is monitoring whether she abuses her power, but then we have to question the source and veracity of that power and its Truth; or, all the Truth revealed comes from within, and isn't inherently True at all, leaving Wonder Woman to assume she is or is not abusing her power based on her own assumptions. And that's why Wonder Woman's self-truth session fails.

EDIT, June:

So it seems "nevermore999", who left a comment on this post as "bookwormwithanattitude" - I think, I'm never good at juggling other people's multiple aliases - has made a post that challenges my position on the Lasso of Truth as stated above. It's on Scans Daily and cross-linked on her own blog, the latter with this bit:

That is my argument. Anon is welcome to refute it in his own blog, we'll link it on WFA. I will not refute his refuting, because I've said my piece, I've represented another side to the argument, and I'm content with that, and I have too much experience with internet arguments to be caught in a circlejerk. I just wanted the good readers of WFA to know there's another side. I would appreciate it if Anon did NOT come over to my blog to argue with me, when and if he sees this. I did not do the same for him, when he first posted it, I posted a kneejerk reaction, but I hope he'll forgive that.

Well, unless someone's checking this old post for updates, I doubt WFA will link to it (did they ever link it in the first place? I think Noah Berlatsky did...) I like the "I know I flamed off at you first but pleeeeeese don't dirty up my blog with your presence" bit. I suppose it's about as close to an apology as can be expected.

The sequences shown in the Scans Daily piece were, indeed, new to me. I have not bought a Wonder Woman comic, hmm, probably since Byrne's run, so most of my experience with the character has been based on earlier adventures.

I contend still that the earlier use of the lasso was, to my best recollection, never that dramatic or intimate - these pages are the first I have ever seen Wonder Woman actually jump into another person's head and poke around.

And, okay, that could be fairly traumatic. I mean, hell, you're some racist scumbag and WW has you tied up and then holy crap Wonder Woman's eyeballs are huge and you're falling into them and suddenly she's talking about your dead hooker mom and--

And then somehow that leads to the Nazi's confession about all the evil plans he and his cohorts had for WW and the Amazons.

...Uh? Did I miss the logic here, somehow? And when did Diana's lasso turn into her own private Abu Ghraib? Because what we just saw was Wonder Woman trotting out this guy's traumatic childhood and rubbing his nose in it before getting to the germaine point, being the plot against her people. What do we do next? Waterboard him or bring up that time his girlfriend broke up with him at the Prom?

Look: Oldschool Wonder Woman didn't do any of this. All she would have had to do around 1979 was tie the guy up and say, "tell me what the plans are!" and the guy would stiffen up and grunt, "no - but - something makes me! These are the plans..." and that would be that.

Now, she apparently has to reveal all of the truth of this one guy, break the guy entirely (someone mentioned in comments, to the point of catatonia) to get at this one particular kernel of truth. I'm detecting a serious loss of efficiency here.

Well, while this certainly means the way the lasso operates is currently much different than the method I'm familiar with, it still doesn't really refute my points. For one thing, it still doesn't mention whether this "truth of the soul" has anything to do with "truth as absolute fact" - remember my example of goons having been given false info to pass onto Wonder Woman? What if everything this Nazi knew about the plans was a lie, fed to him by treacherous partners? Okay, I don't know how it actually was in the story, but it would have been a good example.

But more important, this whole argument from the other side still turns on the idea that being confronted with the raw truth of things is such a powerful, moving experience that one must be emotionally transformed by it - and I don't buy it. Truth is not of itself empathy, is not emotion. Obviously this particular character is still hurting, still traumatized by his past and who his parents were - but what if he'd been some other guy, hardened, inured - "Yeah, my Mom's dead, she turned tricks, my Dad was a murdering scumbag, big deal, I never liked either of them." This "truth of the soul" only works if you assume that everyone has a compassionate, caring soul, even if it's hidden in secret dark places, and that when confronted with one's misdeeds and troubled past, guilt and shame will automatically kick in somehow.

And that's just it: I see people on the news all the time that commit absolutely horrifying acts of depravity and seem to show no signs of remorse, and I have a hard time believing that some of these monsters have any kind of conscience to reach, let alone that a replay of their horrible experiences would stir it just by virtue of being played back on the lasso's internal TiVo.

Go back to the Nazi - why should his crap childhood shake his faith in anything? All we see is that he doesn't like Wonder Woman bringing it up inside his own head, but we never see anything beyond that, no "here's where your crap childhood made you take the wrong choice and here's why it's wrong, and therefore your life is a lie and your brain shuts down now," no, all we get is him reacting badly to some bad memories and it's all over.

Make man cry, man see lie. No, sorry. It's a bit too simplistic for me.

There's even a reference to some other Scans Daily post (here), a much longer sample that revolves around Wonder Woman screwing up by letting her impulses get in the way of the "real truth" - which sounds great, except it's really a cop-out, since all the various perspectives shown are entirely subjective, even the one settled on at the end that sets everything back to rights, at least as far as Wonder Woman is concerned. What's the truth? Depends on who you ask, doesn't it?

Right now, it's Gail Simone's standards for truth that hold sway. Tomorrow it could be, I dunno, Geoff Johns or hey, Judd Winick. The problem with portraying an absolute morality-based truth in comics is that no author can actually come up with absolute truth, only a fictional construct disguised as truth (why did WW's lasso dissolve? Because Joe Kelly told it to), and for it to work you have to be willing to just sit back and let the author tell you that it works and just not question it at all. It's magic! It just happens! God from the Machine!

And that's the truth.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

When Retards Speak

Women being able to hit men and it be funny is not a double standard. That assumes that men and women under present social conditions are equal or nearly so. But they are not. The prevalence of male on female rape and domestic abuse is enough of an indicator that men (as a gender) oppress women (as a gender). In this context, an oppressed person striking back at an oppressor esp. in self-defense can be empowering and funny. That’s not to say such violence is free of problems, but it is not hypocritical.

Complaining about women hitting significant others is like privileged white boys whining “why can’t we say the n-word if they do?” So, why not quit whining and start working to end domestic and sexual violence if a comic book portrayal of a women punching her husband bothers you so much?

--"Other Bob"

Other Bob totally nailed it.

We don’t live in a world where domestic abuse figures are equal. Men are the overwhelming majority of abusers. Period. If we ever live in a world where that number approaches anything resembling equal—when men who beat women are as rare as women who beat men—then you can start making a big deal out of things like this story created by men (primarily) for men.

Getting huffy over a fictional “husband-battering” in a medium that is overwhelmingly male-oriented is insulting to real victims of abuse.


More evidence that people are

A) prone to rationalizing their own dogmatic points of view; and
B) stupid.

The above comments come from "mbrady"s Newsarama blog, where he mulls over the seeming lack of reaction to Black Canary decking her husband Green Arrow. (Actually there was some reaction, but not a whole lot as far as I've seen.)

Remember me referencing the "inequality" argument last post? Well, this is a prime example. According to "Other Bob", the fact that women have been oppressed justifies (and makes hilarious) any abuse they dish out to members of the opposite sex.

But by that kind of reasoning, the last Bush Administration and its subordinates were perfectly justified in using methods of interrogation some would call torture. Because, you know, terrorists crashed some planes and killed lots of people, so because of that act of evil, the US should be able to get away with its own morally objectionable acts. (Or, if you're more left-wing than I am, you could say that years of US fiddling in the Middle East justified slamming planes into the World Trade Center.)

Inequality does not automatically grant virtue to the disadvantaged. To think otherwise is the same kind of reasoning used by religious fanatics.

To top it off, look at how "Other Bob" paints the incident: "In this context, an oppressed person striking back at an oppressor esp. in self-defense can be empowering and funny."

Really, this is sanctioned prejudice, a way to label one group of people as "the oppressors" and then justify everything done to harm them as striking some kind of blow for justice. The Israeli kid blown up on a schoolbus, or the Palestinean child vaporized by a tank? Part of the Zionist Occupiers, or the Savage Terrorists, and therefore perfectly acceptable targets.

But wait: Was Black Canary being attacked by Green Arrow? (No.) Did the incident occur because Green Arrow was oppressing Black Canary in some way? (Not from what I've heard.) She was pissed, and she hit him, not because women have been oppressed by men, but because she was embarrassed by his actions.

The lack of parity between genders is a serious issue, but that is not the reason why a man beating his wife is bad, it's because most of us believe (at least in theory) that hurting someone you supposedly love is wrong in an absolute sense. It would be wrong if it were a couple of gay guys or gals, and it's wrong if a woman hits a man. If advantage affects whether or not this is wrong, then if Something Happened and men became the disadvantaged sex, hitting your wife would no longer be reprehensible, but a blow for equality and worth a chuckle.

If you can justify her hitting him on the basis of oppression, you are leaving open the concept that under certain circumstances it's okay to smack your partner around, and that means that you're into the gray area where if you can justify it for the right reasons, it'd be just fine for Green Arrow to haul off and clout her once or twice, too.

If the primary argument against a man beating his wife is that, as a man, his gender has oppressed his wife's gender and he is perpetuating that inequity, then fine, there's no hypocrisy involved. But if that's what you really believe, you need serious counseling. If, like a sensible adult with at least a double-digit IQ, you feel that beating your wife is wrong because it's just wrong to beat people you say you love, then excusing Black Canary's punch is indeed hypocrisy, and can be nothing else.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An Adolescent Stunt

During a journalist rant session at GDC last week, Heather Chaplin, a writer who covers the games industry for grown-up outlets like NPR, railed against what she sees as a business dominated by "stunted adolescents."

"You aren't men," Chaplin told developers. "You are stunted adolescents."

--Heather Chaplin, via an
article by Keane Ng

Apparently, Ms. Chaplin is disheartened by the fanboy-pandering aspects of the video game industry, to wit: violence and sexist titillation, so much so that she decided to vent some steam directly at game developers.

Okay, I'll concede that a lot of video games are sold more towards one half of the population than the other. And sure, it would be nice if the medium matured to become the equal of, um, er, Hollywood, pop music and prime time TV. Sure.

But reading the above quote, I couldn't help but think: Wouldn't there be an absolute shitstorm if some guy had spoken to a room of women in this way?

Tex Tosterone steps to the podium at Yaoi Con, fixes the auditorium full of manga artists and writers with a steely gaze, and passes judgement:

"You aren't women," he remarks. "You are stunted adolescents."

Holy Crap! Leave aside any general criticism this straw man may be making against creators of a woman-oriented product, he's done what? Denied women their identity as women, and infantilized them all at once! He presumes to be able to judge women and tell them whether they qualify as such based on his standards - not those of any actual women!

I suppose this is the time someone chimes in to talk about "institutionalized" behavior, and how it's worse when men are sexist or denigrating to women than vice versa because they're the ones in power. Maybe, but it's not that much worse, and that argument always, always reeks of an excuse to get away with behavior one would not tolerate in others.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let's Talk About "Assumptions".

But, alas, this is how the male gaze works. The artist makes the assumption, consciously or no, that everyone looking at the image is a het man, a het man who objectifies women just like him.

Or does he? Or does she?

To talk about the male gaze and objectification in comics is all fine and dandy, but it is somewhat telling when someone complaining about the assumptions of an artist drawing Power Girl makes a number of broad, sweeping assumptions themselves.

Assumption 1: The artist is male.

Did anyone read either the Power Girl or Terra miniseries drawn by Amanda Conner? Plenty of cheesecake, plenty of shots from angles that serve to draw focus to women's body parts. She has the advantage of being a great artist, with a solid grasp of anatomy, but she's not afraid to play up the sexy, even at the risk of contributing to this 'male gaze' thing.

The examples Crowfoot brings up may have been all drawn by men, I didn't check. But I did check enough to see that many of the images she links to are on a Power Girl fansite with a whole gallery of images from both professionals and (seemingly) amateurs. It seems a little disingenuous to me to broadly smack a brush on the professional comics industry using fanart to bolster your claims. (And I like how the one example cited as being "good" has Power Girl folding her arms over her breasts, concealing them. Bad breasts. Stay hidden.)

Assumption 2: The artist is obliged to make art that appeals to every last cranky person on Earth.

"You aren't serving MY needs as an audience member, therefore you fail art!" You know, I realize it can be frustrating when it's hard to find the kind of comics (or other media) that you like to read, tailored to your personal preferences, but what is with this recurring idea that people making this stuff are somehow obligated to appeal to everyone, or avoid hurting anyone's feelings, or any of that stuff? Is there any reason this should not be called entitlement?

Assumption 3: The artist makes any kind of assumption, conscious or otherwise, about their audience.

Oh, I'm sure some do, but I'm also sure some people drawing Power Girl do it simply because they want to, and whether they think anyone else viewing the picture shares their particular viewpoint enters into the equation not one bit. How can you tell who does and who doesn't? Why, gosh, you can't.

And finally:

Every time I see female characters drawn this way I want to grab the artist and shake him “stop fantasizing jackass and draw me some awesome comics!” I feel like I’ve just been unwillingly brought into his porn fantasy. I mean, ew! Dude! Put it back in your pants! We don’t want to see that, or know it!

...You know, if there were scenes in a comic of a homosexual couple being affectionate, or (as has happened) a male superhero were to be portrayed with prominent "bulging", and I freaked out with disgust and went "ew, I don't wanna see your gay fantasy stuff", I could easily be called a homophobe. Is it heterophobia when someone has a spasm over heterosexually-appealing material, particularly what they perceive as someone else's sex fantasies?

I think you could make that case.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Look, If You Don't Need More Female Superheroes, Send Them Over HERE, Dude.

Look, I may not appreciate a superheroine for the same reasons a hardcore feminist might. Maybe what I like about Wonder Woman is the fact that she runs around not wearing a whole lot. I watched more hours of Xena Warrior Princess than I should admit, more to see Lucy Lawless packed in leather than to see her kick ass, but the fact that she did kick ass didn't put me off.

Maybe my reasons and motivations aren't feminist-approved, but still: I'd go to a Wonder Woman movie in half a heartbeat. It could be co-written by Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas and I'd still go (well, since they're both dead, I guess that in itself would be a novelty, but anyway). Oh, sure, it'd be possible to screw it up, after all, I like Halle Berry, I like the Catwoman concept, but somehow, they made a Catwoman movie that failed to interest me even enough to rent it (what an ugly costume)! But if we assume that they'd at least make half the effort on a Wonder Woman film that they've put into the last couple Batman and Superman films, I can't see me not going.

So do I need someone pontificating about how a Wonder Woman movie isn't going to appeal enough to women to justify making it? Hell, no, and dude, SHUT THE FUCK UP. What're you, gay? (No offense to gay people.) Even if you're right (which I doubt), nobody needs you to talk people out of making a Wonder Woman movie. Even if it's the male audience that would make the movie a flop or a success, what makes you think men would not want to see a Wonder Woman movie?

Come ON. It's Wonder Woman!



Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy 2009, Fence-Sitters

Here's a thought I can't believe I didn't have earlier.

People who are victims of child abuse sometimes become abusers, themselves. I have heard estimates ranging from 10% to as high as 40%. And the probability that a victim will themselves turn to abuse can be affected by things like a dysfunctional family or other social factors, it's true.

If we go by the standard that even one abuser committing abuse is one too many, then would society not be justified in compelling all victims of child abuse to register for a "potential sex-offenders" watchlist of some sort? After all, considering all the abuse that we know happens, even taking the low estimates means that there's a disturbingly large contingent of child abusers being created every day.

So we should watch and monitor them, for their own good, for the good of society. No, don't bother with "blaming the victim" arguments. If this prevents even one child from being harmed, isn't it worth it? Were you abused as a child? Well then, we should keep an eye on you, eh? Just in case.

Isn't this a perfectly reasonable proposal?

Except it isn't, unless you're an alarmist, paranoid about what might happen, willing to punish the majority of victims for the transgressions of a few. Unless the "PC fascism" that right-wing talk-show hosts keep harping about really does become as bad as they predict, I can't see a proposal like that becoming a real law, simply because the invasion of privacy and loss of freedom would be too great for most people to tolerate.

In the Neil Gaiman post referenced a couple times earlier in my blog, a self-described "fence-sitter" wrote to Neil asking "if just one child is saved, isn't it worth it?" And Neil wrote about freedom of expression and censorship and ultimately convinced the fence-sitter to come down on the side of less censorship.

This is my opening statement for 2009, and it is directed at anyone who wants to take out certain things in comics, wants to suppress certain works, wants to clean up objectionable material on the basis that it might trigger some bad person's darker urges, or might teach someone the wrong thing, or, frankly, have any impact at all.

Because what you want to do is, in effect, the same thing I've described above. It is justified in the same way: "if only one can be saved". Only you'll never know if one is saved or not, and you'll punish many for the sins of a few.