Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ban the Soul, Eh.

In recent readings. I've seen some people declare their blogs to be places where they just spew out personal thoughts as they happen, without editing, the implication being that criticism of what they say is pointless and overkill.

Well, why not use that for myself? If you disagree, I'm just sharing my thoughts!

Meh. I typed the above mostly because I was intending to foreword this post with a notice that it may meander a bit. I'm searching for something, not sure if I've found it yet. But rather than apologize if this one doesn't actually go anywhere, I figured I could JUSTIFY it, and make it all criticism-free! (He said, trying to avoid biting his cheek-planted tongue.)


A few years ago, I was rummaging through some stack of old magazines somewhere, I forget where. Secondhand store? Library castoffs? Whatever it was, I happened across an article about some feminist-oriented media watchdog group. The magazine was dated somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s, and the article was about this group and the things they were criticizing, and what caught my eye was their critique of ads for Bain De Soleil (I think that's how it's spelled, maybe) tanning lotion.

I vaguely remember the TV ads, with a sexy tanned woman in a black bikini luxuriating at some pool while a woman's voice sings "Bain De Soleil, for the San Tropez tan..." What I didn't know was that there were print ads for this stuff, too, I'm guessing they appeared in women's fashion magazines. And the watchdog group was against these print ads.

Here's what the ads depicted, and the group's reactions, as best as I can dredge up from memory. (Wish I had the article, but if I actually acquired the magazine, it's probably long since lost/thrown away.)

The first ad was of a woman very much like the one shown in the TV ads, a tube-top bikini, stylish and glamourous, reclining by the side of a pool. Bright sunlight, deep blue sky. The picture is taken from the side, showing her nearly lying down on the concrete or tile, knees bent a little, resting on her elbows, her back arched a bit, her head tilted back, eyes closed, as if she's drinking in the sun's rays. Very sexy.

The watchdog group's statement called this a depiction of a lifeless, dead woman. Their analysis of the woman's posture was that the woman was supposed to be unconscious or dead, a helpless victim to whatever person wished to assault her.


There was another ad shown, from a later campaign. The overtly sophisticated sexy model was replaced, this time with a similar model in the same bandeau swimwear, but one with a more active posture and expression. (Or it might've been the same model after all, I dunno.) My guess is that they were aiming for a more general, family-appeal look. Now the woman was not on her back, but on her side, facing the camera, smiling pleasantly. And also in the picture, also smiling at the camera, was a young girl of maybe 6 or 7, decked out in the same style of bikini, also fairly tan.

The watchdog group's statement was every bit as harsh as before: now the ad depicted a woman offering up her daughter for the viewer's sexual use.

Oh....kay. So first they're marketing tanning lotion to necrophiles, then to pedophiles. So says this group.

That was as far as the article went (I don't remember seeing any third ad campaign featuring dead 6 year olds or something).

Now, here's what goes through my head first when presented with this: is that really how it works? The ad agency is showing a woman that some might interpret to be dead in order to appeal to people and make them want to get tanned and buy lotion? Or presenting a young girl in a bikini is going to inflame the passions of pedophiles, who I suppose must have lots of disposable income?

The next thought that comes up is: now, wait, who's going to think that's a dead woman, anyway? There's no ad copy going, "yup, once they've reached that San Tropez tan stage, that's the best time to throttle them to death." If it's just a woman laying down limp and still, well, that describes a lot of real live sunbathers I've seen in my life. And there's no sign in the other pic reading "juvenile hooker for rent". To get these messages, you kind of have to be reading meanings and symbols into them that probably aren't intentional, if they even exist in the first place.

And after that, I have to think: and who is that going to appeal to, anyway? Unless you actually are a pedophile, are you really going to get all aroused by a 7-year old in a bikini? If you see a picture of a reclining woman and think she looks dead, is that going to be sexy for you unless you actually are a necrophile?

Does the fact that a pedophile could get turned on by the image of a young girl in a bikini mean that we should never show the image of a young girl in a bikini? Should we forbid girls of certain ages to wear swimwear that reveals X percent skin because it might excite a pervert? Should women always be depicted in action, so as to avoid any scene that might have some necrophile fantasizing about running a hand over room-temperature flesh?

If so... why?

Setting that aside for the moment, my thoughts turn to the watchdog group, and what kind of mentality they must have to be looking at things like this and seeing the most depraved interpretations in every last thing that catches their eye.

And then I think...

What good is this going to do, anyway? Let's suppose for the moment that they're right about these ads. And the ads get changed or removed.


How does this improve society? What harm were the ads causing anyway? Do they think the ads would generate an increase in pedophiliac or necrophiliac tendencies? Is someone going to look at them and, out of the blue, think, "hey, that's hot, think I'll go rob graves and hang around the schoolyards in a white van now"?

Or perhaps they think that the people who do have these desires will be "worked up" by the ads to the point of committing some crime? Maybe they think that taking that kind of ad away will somehow calm perverts down?

I dunno.

A few posts back, I mentioned Stephanie Brown's death. In response, "Lexi" said this:

"Oh, certainly there are people who would find the sexualized brutal murder of Stephanie Brown hot.

Statutory rapists (she was only 16).


Snuff film enthusiasts.

You know, sexual criminals."

Anonymous, who appears to be BrokenPorcelainDoll, who wrote one of the first "not taking your sexy away" posts I read, also offered this:

"If I'm taking you correctly, then that "nymphet" manga- the one about the preteen girl who tries to have sex with her teacher- is all well and good? What about snuff? Is sexualising rape and murder okay?"

Somewhere in the Bible, Jesus says:

"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Interesting quote, that. A lot of times when you see it referenced, the last "in his heart" has been dropped, so the message presented is, "If you think about adultery, you are actually committing adultery." But, the actual quote straight from the Bible keeps things in the realm of thought, a temptation to be resisted.

Lexi's quote, as I pointed out in the comments section where it appears, presumes that the ones who look upon Stephanie Brown's corpse with lust are by default criminals, that is, they have committed real crimes.

Anonymous/Bunny/BPD implies, in her quote, that presenting a work about a sexually precocious girl, or a work that links sex and death, is wrong. No crime is actually committed, but images and thoughts are presented that deal with things that might very well be crimes if they were real.

The battleground would seem to be over other people's thoughts. Because think about it: When the scene of Stephanie Brown lying on the floor, post-torture, is discussed, I've seen it mentioned that she's been drawn in a "sexy" pose. I'm not sure how many ways there are to lay on the ground that absolutely could not EVER be described as "sexy" in SOME way, but okay, let's say it is somehow "sexy". When YOU look at the scene, do you think it is sexy, do you find it "hot"? No? Do you assume that someone else finds it sexy? How do you know someone else thinks it's sexy? And if someone else does find it sexy, what does that matter to you?

I just read a post about the anime-style DC superheroines figures. The writer gripes about the sexualization of the characters, and later, replying to a comment, says it "represents a larger problem".

What problem is that, exactly? That someone might get a little too frisky, alone in their room, with some statue?

Why are so many people so concerned about what goes on in the innermost reaches of other people's heads?

What do people really think will happen?

Which is more correct: What Jesus actually said, or what a lot of people think he said? Is a fantasy every bit as criminal and evil as a real action?

Will it be enough that less actual crime and nastiness occurs in real life, or must thoughts be regulated, filtered, and sorted into appropriate categories to appease people disturbed by what gives other people some sort of thrill? Will everything be judged by a panel of experts in order to ensure that no offense is ever given and no bad thoughts are inspired?

Who will be first to join the forces of the Thought Police?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More on "the Sexy".

I do not find women who exceed a certain weight-to-height ratio sexually attractive.

I just don't.

My tastes in this regard are probably a lot wider than, say, a Parisian fashion designer, but still there's just some body types I don't find sexy, and that's just how it is.

(Just for completeness' sake: I tolerate skinny a lot better, but there is a point where skinny becomes anorexic. And I mean real anorexia, not "OMG that celebrity is anorexic and I hate that she's famous and thin". Skeletal isn't my bag, either.)

How did I come to prefer what I prefer? I dunno. How do people become gay or lesbian?

I doubt, however, that it was society drilling into my brain that "thin is sexy" repeatedly.

For me, at least, what I find sexy is just there in my head. And anyone trying to tell me that I should find Person X also sexy is going to succeed or fail based on what triggers the old lizard brain, not any inherent fairness or unfairness in my perceptions.

So every once in a while someone says something similar to "well, they should add more realistic body types to comics heroines, so that there's some normal-weight people in there." And then some other people say, "Ew, I don't want to see average or heavy-looking superheroines, that's not sexy." And replies to THAT sometimes go like, "You're just brainwashed by society into thinking that these scrawny women are sexy! If the media had more heavy sex symbols, heavy would be sexy!"

Nnnnnnnnoo. I don't think so.

Look, it's rare, but there've been points where heavy meets sexy. Cameron whatsername on that lawyer show, The Practice. A host of Jerry Springer episodes titled "I LOVES MAH FAT WOMANS" or something like that. There's fat porn. And to some that is sexy, but thinking about it makes me shudder in proportion to the weight involved. Because the covers of magazines like Maxim or FHM feature taut, bikini-clad women of within a certain body mass index, I can infer that a majority of people think in a similar fashion to me. Yes, heavy people fall in love, have relationships, I've seen it in person. Lucky them, that they found people that find heavy attractive. But there's a reason why sex symbols, models and movie stars tend to be thin, and it's not a conspiracy of the fashion designers and Hugh Hefner.

Not like I want to deliberately hurt anyone's feelings by saying "you're fat, so I don't find you sexually attractive", but there it is, and maybe you're a wonderful, beautiful soul under that cellulite, but if you're overweight, that's just going to limit how deep our relationship goes. Whether that's fair or not, that's how it is. And you can't impose different standards for attractiveness on me just because we should all be all understanding and not judging people by their looks. Adding, what, fifty pounds to the physique of many a superheroine would make them that much less appealing to me.

Tell me - would you want a 250-pound Nightwing running around? Or better yet, a 350-pound Guy Gardner? His ring's power comes from his mind, so he doesn't have to actually keep fit, he could scarf Cheetos down constantly inbetween buying buckets at the KFC...

Feminist Baggage

I don't want to be a feminist. I believe in equal rights for the sexes, but if I call myself a feminist, that carries extra weight I don't want to bear.

Do I think there's sexism in comics? Sure. Do I think there should be more comics that women like? Oh yeah. Do I think DC or Marvel are somehow morally* obliged to provide women with comics suited to their tastes? Uhhhhh... no. Do I think having lurid, sex and violence, even misogyny-filled comics in the "mainstream" is going to damage people's perceptions of the genders? I doubt it.

Let me digress for a second: What is it with the idea that if comics are sexist, that's going to make people sexist in real life? It's like saying that most of everyone is stupid and can't tell comics from reality. Oh wait, maybe they are! I'd buy that. But then that means that the whole "make media less sexist" thing is part of a larger battle to steer the "herd" of barely-thinking cattle-people into believing one way or another. Is that what it all comes down to? Intellectual elitism? "We know better than all of you how you should think, so we'll take responsibility for showing you what's acceptable to read..."

Thanks. Moo.

Anyway, once you get past having equal rights and move into engineering a better world by stamping out that which offends you, that's where feminism loses me. And I don't want to call myself a "feminist" and then constantly have to justify why I don't live up to someone else's feminist standards.

I mean, look what that gets Mad Thinker Scott.

*"Morally" being a separate issue from "financially".

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Privilege of the Unprivileged

... which is, by and large, that they can dismiss anything said by someone who's got it better than someone else. Have more money? Whiter skin? The right genitals? You've got "privilege", and you can't see the bad stuff properly, because your life's been SO GOOD. So that thing you said is just nonsense.

This doesn't mean that privilege doesn't exist, but it is used as an argument-ending "you're just wrong" by some. In its own way, it can be equally as prejudiced and stupid as "you're just a woman so your opinion doesn't count".

People like to take the easy way out, and many feminists are no exception. Slap a label on something, pass it through the "yes/no" machine, and be done with it without having to really think about things too hard.

And then when people call you on it, just say they're privileged and you don't have to take their critique seriously. Win.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whose sexy?

A general question. Cheryl Lynn started it, but others continued it, so this is not aimed at her (only), but at all:

If you don't want "to take away the sexy", whose sexy are you referring to?

Let's take Dead Stephanie Robin, for example. One of the critiques of that incident was that she was drawn in an erotic manner, in a situation where she was tortured to death. That her death was eroticised.

So maybe it was. So maybe somebody could look at that part of the comic and "get off" on a girl being tortured and killed.

Which means, maybe you don't find it sexy, but someone else might.

And maybe you think that's sick.

So then what? Take that kinda thing out of mainstream superhero comics? Okay. But then, you're taking the sexy away. Maybe not YOUR sexy, but could be SOMEONE'S sexy. Even if it's a sick sexy.

Is it okay to take away the sexy if it's sick? If so, isn't that kind of contradicting the whole "not taking the sexy away" thing?

Or is it only sexy if you say it's sexy? (Answer: of course not)

Is it that you don't want to see what you think is sick?

Is it that you think kids might see what you think is sick?

Is it just that it really creeps you out that someone might find that sort of thing arousing, and you just don't like at all the idea that someone might be getting his/her jollies off on what you find disgusting?

Or some combo of the three?

But really: is it playing fair to say "I won't take the sexy away", but define "the sexy" only by your terms, not those of the one whose "sexy" you're promising not to take?

I confess, I's skeered. READ FIRST.


you have probably come across something I've posted on someone else's Blogger account and decided to go looking for more info on me, for whatever reason. But you won't find much info about me here. Or anywhere. This is just so I can post on accounts that don't allow anonymous comments. (edit: and, I guess, post a few thoughts I probably wouldn't dare to speak with my name attached.)

I've recently been made aware of When Fangirls Attack, a site that links to discussions about feminism as it relates to comic-book fandom. I found it kind of randomly, by reading someone else's blog who linked to it. And I kinda wanted to enter the discussion, but seeing some of the discussion, I was kind of nervous. Because some of the reaction to people who disagree with some other people is kinda creepy.

Blame "nenene". Whoever the heck she is, I noticed that as I browsed around, if someone on their blog talked about a different person who didn't agree with the standard feminist/sexism party line, there she was to call them a "misogynistic troll" or something, especially if they were a guy. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but then again, I remember the name from seeing it a lot. She's not the only one, either. Some people seem to make it their duty to try and beat these people down by remote because they disagree.

SOME BLOGGER: Gosh, that Mad Thinker Scott annoys me.
NENENE: He is a misogynistic troll, I hate him too! Ignore him!
SOME OTHER BLOGGER: What is the deal with Rational Mad Man?
NENENE: I know! Ignore the woman-hating troll!

It's like every time I read a post that talks ABOUT someone else, there she is to stick her own dagger in. I mean, WTF? Is all some people do going around on other forums trying to belittle people who disagree? And not even directly against THEM, it's like gossiping behind someone's back.

So maybe all feminist comics fans aren't like that, I hope not, but enough are just a bit on the scary-obsessive side of things that I don't want to use my real name or anything around them. Yeah, I really need to disagree with someone using a real name and then have some wingnut go around slagging me on every other blog that mentions my name.

So I've made "Anon, A Mouse", an identity I can use and, if I need to, abandon. Am I lacking in guts and courage? You bet. Try to tell me I have no reason for concern. Go on.