Posts tagged sexism
Posts tagged sexism
I’ve got three things I’ve got to get turned in today, two kids to get fed and dressed and a bag to pack and a flight to catch, so I can’t respond to this the way I’d like, but I’m putting it here so I don’t forget.
I also need to let my temper subside a bit. If I were to reply right now I’d resort to name-calling and insults and we all know there’s no ground to be gained there.
Instead, when I’m not shaking anymore, I’ll recount my career trajectory AGAIN. [Magazine writer/research assistant—>comic reviewer—>7 years adapting manga into English—>anthology shorts—>co-writing gigs—>one-shots—>minis—->ongoings]
Maybe I’ll get Alejandro Arbona to attest—AGAIN!—that I was blind-submitted for my first gig at Marvel. I’ll offer that if you’re looking for Men to Credit for My Career, you should look first to Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Peter Rose, Steve Niles and Jamie Rich — all of whom were responsible for making introductions or getting me chances to submit my work well before Matt Fraction had any pull in the industry. (I’ll also state in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t sleeping with any of those men, because I know, dear Anon, that is your next assumption.) Or Brian Bendis, who had championed my work in a way I will never be able to adequately thank him for. (Ditto Steve Wacker.)
(Also not sleeping with Brian or Steve, just so we’re clear.)
Maybe I’ll ponder why it isn’t Fraction who’s considered to have benefited from nepotism. After all, more than 10 years ago now, Matt Fraction was my plus one to Joe Quesada’s 40th birthday party and it was me who sent copies of Last of the Independents to Joe and Axel. I mean, clearly, it was those gestures that got Fraction his career — certainly not the merit of his work, right? I mean, come on — those Hawkeye Eisner noms are part mine, right?
(I can’t imagine how sick Fraction must be of hearing me tell that story. But I bet it’s not half as sick of it as I am.)
(The first person I met in the industry was Wil Rosado. Through him, the first editors I met were Andy Ball, who’s since moved on, and Joey Cavalieri. Just in case anybody wants to make a chart. This would be… maybe 4 years before I met Fraction, Gillen, Ellis, McKelvie et al on the WEF.)
Okay, deep breath.
Bendis is going to tell me that I shouldn’t acknowledge this, that I’m feeling trolls, but here’s the pickle: people deny that this happens. We’re told that the insults to our dignity working women face are in our imagination, that it’s a thing of sexy Mad Men past. It’s WOMEN who make this a thing, right? (Hysterical, don’t you know.) We’re to the point where I meet young women who won’t identify as feminists because the struggle is over and it’s only a thing if you make it one.
It’s not a natural assumption to leap to the conclusion that I got my job because of my marriage. It’s the product of deeply-ingrained sexist thinking. I can name for you a half a dozen men who did, in fact, get their first big two gigs because of who they knew and their dignity and their qualifications have never been called into question. I’m lucky if I go a week.
I was recently directed to a post on a snake pit of a message board (what was I thinking, even going to look?) by a man I’d known as long as I’d known my husband, a man I’d met at the same time—a man who had felt free to ask professional favors of me on multiple occasions—who was lamenting how “easily” I’d gotten to where I was because of Fraction. When friends of mine pointed him to my CV, he half-apologized because he had no idea. Apparently he thought Marvel—a publicly-owned company—was in the habit of handing out gigs to freelancer’s wives just for kicks. Then he threw up the bit about it being a natural assumption.
I would say simply ‘fuck that guy’ and chalk it up to his not being half as smart as he thinks he is, but here’s the thing:
That guy has daughters.
For them, and for my daughter and for your daughter, I am going to occasionally shine a light on these things… even though it both enrages and embarrasses me.
I don’t know if it’s the right call, but I know that ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ isn’t working.
I need to figure out a way to contain my outrage enough to talk about it in a way that doesn’t attack, but invites dudes like Anon to rethink their ‘natural assumptions’ without setting myself up as an uppity bitch that they’re invested in proving wrong.
I… I clearly don’t know how to do that right now. But I’m going to figure it out.
Right now, the kids need breakfast and my son has questions about the xenomorph that can’t wait another second.
so.. someone on tumblr suggested genderbent marauders for my livestream (a while ago considering how fast I was with drawing it, haha), so I figured I’d want to draw them as girls (although these guys are made to be..well, GUYS) :D
Just wanted to say here, that please don’t be confused with ‘James’ here. I don’t think he’d be COMPLETELY different as a girl. That’s just I think ‘she’ wouldn’t be pleased with her hair always being so messed up:D And girl-Sirius would always mess it up as a joke, ahah:D
And I think ‘Jane’ wouldn’t be so self-confident with ‘Liam’ either:3 And everytime she would spot Liam nearby, she would always try to fix her hair:3 Hahah I just don’t see ‘Jane’ being so suure about Liam:D So that’s why she acts like this here.
But she’s still ‘James’ at the same time, haha
that’s all I wanted to say I think^^
These drawings are really cute, but the artist’s description of “Jane” is really off-putting. Basically, because James is now Jane, a female, she’s not confident in her looks, in her self, or in her relationship to “Liam”. Subtle, internalized sexism like this is sometimes the scariest.
the art he chose in general, especially for the female heroes, is really gross and terrible, but here are a few more sexist, misogynistic, sex-shaming gems:
- “for those men that love rude bitches, [emma frost] the white queen is the way”
- [on natasha romanoff, the highest ~debut] “considering she’s fucked half the guys in the marvel universe, that’s quite a feat”
- [on elektra] she’ll “give you a nice, ninja-trained blow job”
- [on black canary] “i used to think she was the hottest chick in the dcu, but then i remembered that she fucks green arrow”
- [on dazzler] “a friggin’ great vagina”
- [on kitty pryde] “i want to anally do her”
- [on choice of art for jade] “i picked the one with the big tits”
- [on batwoman] “i’m hoping for a dc-marvel crossover so that tony stark can turn her; she could also have sex with nightwing and still be a lesbian”
- calls tigra ‘easy’ for no discernible reason along with calling stephanie brown that because she’s a single mother
- says that he’ll blow a load onto jessica jones’ face so he doesn’t have to look at her
This same article also includes such charmingly puerile humor as calling Gambit a “Cajun fruit” and sharing his vivid imaginings of “my balls slapping against Gambit’s” which, he immediately points out, “makes me sick to my stomach,” just so you don’t get the wrong idea.
He goes on to make fun of Dr. Manhattan’s penis size, and then, ”Many of the people who voted for the Flash were gay men. I have no idea why this is. But I do know if I was going to get fucked in the butt I too would want it to be by someone who would get it over with quick.”
And he STILL manages to treat the male characters with more respect in general than the female ones.
This is the man that Marvel chose (and Joss Whedon endorsed) to direct the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
super important to note as well
why did I read the comments
“Being a teen mom and all, you know she’s easy. Go for it.”
Wait, this is an actual working professional in the entertainment business? Is he stupid? He has now alienated tons of people who will now boycott his work(I know that’s what I plan to do). When will people learn that trying to be “humorous” at the expense of large groups of people will only work against you. That might not have been so a few years ago, but I think it’s safe to say that women, gays, and racial/ethnic minorities are starting to be more vocal about being treated as less than human, especially when it comes to where we spend our money/put our support. We make up a pretty significant part of the population, and if you want to consistently alienate us from your movies/comics/whatever else, than fine. Have a nice trip to the unemployment office.
At Comic Con today, I went as Black Cat. This is a shitty picture and there will be better ones of my whole costume coming up but I just want to say something.
Black Cat’s costume has a fair amount of cleavage (conservative compared to many other female comic characters but a good amount as far as what I’ve ever shown). I guess I was not surprised to have a couple men ask to pose with me and then do some doofy “WHOA LOOK AT THOSE KNOCKERS” poses. I just make a really ugly face when I see they’re doing it. One guy with the social graces of a lemur said to me “I was this close to wearing that same outfit. My breasts are large and supple and I think it would have been nice.” Nope. Stop talking.
But aside from guys being doofy and awkward (but clearly not foul-intentioned), I did have my first truly skeezy experience at Comic Con today.
And my first truly empowering moment as well.
This group of men from some kind of Stan Lee fan club blah blah internet video channel blah blah asked to interview with them on camera about Comic Con. I said well okay, sure. Camera is rolling. The “host” is a middle aged, rotund dude. It’s an all-male crew and lots of people (mostly guys) were beginning to crowd around. The following is the interview as burned in my mind. Keep in mind that I expected this to be about Comic Con in general.
- Him: I’m here with…
- Me: Mandy, aka Felicia Hardy aka Black Cat
- Him: ..And she is HOT. Do you think I’m hot enough to pull that off?
- Me: Uh, I’m not sure, I’ve never seen you in drag.
- Him: I’ve got a great ass. Go on, spank me.
- Me: (look at his large ass, popped up mere inches away from me then look into the camera like are you kidding me . No thanks. I may hurt you, I’m a lot stronger than I look.
- Him: Aw come on!
- Me: No, seriously. Stop.
- Him: Damn, alright! Well let me ask you an important question then…what is your cup size?
- Me: (big talk show smile) That is actually none of your fucking business.
- Him: Oh! I think that means to say she’s a C.
- Me: I actually have no breasts at all, what you see is just all of the fat from my midsection pulled up to my chest and carefully held in place with this corset. It’s really uncomfortable, I don’t know why I do it.
- Him: (to the male crowd) Aw, come on what do you guys think? C cup?
- —a few males start to shout out cup sizes as I stand there looking at this guy like this has to be a fucking joke, then look at the crowd and see that no amount of witty banter or fiestiness will stop making this whole thing fucking dumb. It was clearly a ploy to single out cosplaying women to get them to talk sexual innuendos and flirt with this asshole and let him talk down to them simply because they were in costume and were attractive. Whether I’m in a skintight catsuit or not, I’m a fucking professional in everything I do and I don’t need to play nice for this idiot.
- Me: This is not an interview, this is degrading. I’m done. (I walk away)
- Him: (clearly dumbfounded and surprised) ..Come on, it’s all in good fun!
- Me: Being degraded is fun? That was unprofessional and I hope that isn’t your day job because you can’t interview for shit, my man.
And the entire crew and the crowd were SILENT. NOTHING. SHOCK, HONEY. It felt like I was in a heated fog, full of rage and pride and I sashayed away feeling like the most badass motherfucker in the whole damn room, but kind of also on the verge of tears. A slow build of applause would have been appropriate, but from the looks on people’s faces, they were just completely not expecting me to do what I just did- which was really nothing more than speaking up for myself. It wasn’t something one should feel brave for doing but crazy for not doing when necessary.
It’s because many people at these cons expect women cosplaying as vixens (or even just wearing particularly flattering costumes) to be open/ welcoming to crude male commentary and lecherous ogling, like our presence comes with subtitles that say “I represent your fantasy thus you may treat me like a fantasy and not a human in a costume”. And maybe that will always be how the majority of people see us. But that does not mean we have to put up with shit that crosses the line, it does not mean we owe them a fantasy, it does not mean we dress up to have guys drooling over us and letting us know that we turn them on. It is not all about your dicks, gentlemen. So I encourage cosplaying women everywhere to be blunt and vocal with their rights, their personal boundaries, and their comfort level at conventions. I actually encourage girls to be brashly shameless about these things, to not be afraid to speak up if you feel uncomfortable and to let the person doing it know that they are crossing the line. Don’t keep quiet because you’re scared of what they might say or think- because if you say nothing they will continue to see what they’re doing as OK.
This is such a fascinating issue, right, because most of these women who cosplay as female superheros dress up for the same reason men do— because they love the character and want to celebrate her. They’re dressing up as strong, bold, brave women because they love their stories. But because these characters are outfitted and drawn to cater to the male gaze, rather than being understood by others as strong, heroic characters, they’re understood as sex objects first. Which is probably the most incidental portion of the costume to dedicated cosplayers.
I am sure, if this post reaches a wide audience, a million people will say something like “Well, if you didn’t want people to stare at your boobs, why would you go out dressed like that? You’re secretly getting off on all this attention.” But the answer is simply: she dressed this way because that’s how Black Cat dresses, and she loves Black Cat. And that doesn’t mean that either she *or* the character are there to be gawked at.
Sorry to reblog twice but THAT COMMENTARY
I think it’s awful. First of all, there are plenty of lame male superheroes out there, why single out the female ones? Well, according to person who created the poll, girl superheroes are always crappy, because they don’t wear proper costumes (the original text is: Girls are great. So why are girl superheros always so crappy? Any why aren’t they allowed to wear reasonable crime fighting outfits, like slacks or bras? There is probably a correlation between impractical costume and general lameness, but we don’t have time to find that out. We just want to know which female superhero is the worst.). Notice how he doesn’t even bother to figure out just why he thinks these characters are crappy…after all they’re just silly girls, why waste the time?
First of all, if you really insist on focusing only on female characters, atleast take the time to a)list actual lame superheroes, b)give reasons to why they are the worst. Neither of these things are presented in the poll. Most of the characters that are listed are empowered, kick-ass, iconic, loved, and even groundbreaking female heroes. Vixen was the first Black female hero to have her own series at DC, Misty Knight was one of the first popular Black characters over at Marvel, and Batwoman was the first gay character to don a Bat-title. Starfire is one of the most beloved characters, and has been in several series, including a popular tv show. Even though Harley Quinn was created for the Batman cartoon, she was so popular that creators started writing her into comics, and she’s been a favorite ever since. Emma Frost is one of the most powerful and influential characters in modern X-Men comics.
I could give an argument for every character in that poll as to why they are amazing, unique, kickass, and influential women…and his argument as to why they’re “the worst” is that he doesn’t like their costumes. While I agree that most female superhero costumes are problematic, there is more to these women than how they look. Most of these women have really cool powers, are smart and resourceful, and are just generally cool and interesting to read about. But all of that is thrown out the window here, and no respect is given to these awesome characters or the people who read their comics.
I don’t think this poll is the most horrific thing to happen in the world. It’s just a stupid poll, created by someone who I don’t even think reads comics. However, it is a symptom of a society that puts a value on women based on their appearances, and that is a problem.
Again, the issue is not that woman are always objectified/sexualized(because they aren’t always) and men never are(because like you said, sometimes they are drawn in compromising poses or attire), the issue is that it happens on an unequal scale. Sure, Nightwing’s butt gets plenty of shots, and maybe once in a blue moon Superman’s butt will be shown on the cover. But these occurances are few and far between. I would also like to point out that there are some really amazing artists who draw women in strong action poses, with not alot of revealed body parts. But that isn’t the norm. The norm for female characters is for them to have impractically revealing costumes and sexualized poses. Does that occasionally happen for male characters too? Yes, but it isn’t the norm.
I’m going to give you a little test to try out….Google search some images of the most popular male comic book characters and then the most popular female characters(it doesn’t have to be the most popular, it could be any male and female characters, really) and compare their costumes. Overall, how much skin do the female characters show? How much do the male? You’ll notice that almost all of the male characters are fully clothed…like literally head-to-to covered. The women? Guaranteed their stomach, butt, thighs, or cleavage is showing…or maybe even all of the above. Now examine the positions they are drawn in. How do they compare? Feel free to check out fanart while you’re at it, because this issue spills over into fandom as well.
And that’s just one symptom of the sexism that is displayed in comics.
Thank you for your questions and your response!
Firstly, the the “Jason Todd genitalia incident” is a questionable defense, because it’s really not clear if it’s an actual outline of his private parts, or if it’s just the fold/detail in the clothing. I personally don’t see it as being sexual. And even if it was drawn to be that way, it’s the first time(that I can remember) of that ever happening, whereas women’s body parts are shown on covers all the time. In fact, it’s rare to see a woman on a cover that is fully clothed, and NOT posed in a sexualized manner. For men, if it happens at all, it’s pretty rare.
As far as Starfire’s bone structure being different because she’s alien…her physiology has never been explained as such, so there’s no reason to believe that’s so. Like I said in my post, if this was an isolated incident, than maybe, maybe you could find logical explanations for the way she poses. However, the “brokeback” syndrome (no seriously, it occurs so often that there’s an actual term for it) happens all the time for woman in comics, alien or not. Attributing some false reasoning for putting female characters in these positions is just an attempt to push the issue under the rug.
I’m writing this in response to the whole “well Jason Todd was naked in that one issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws and you all loved it so now you’re a whole bunch of hypocrites for hating on Starfire!” argument that’s going around the internet. This whole argument rests on the basis that Jason Todd was objectified and sexualized in the same way that Starfire has been, just because he was seen without clothes on in a few panels. Let’s talk about why this isn’t true.
First of all, anyone who thinks people are upset just because Starfire was half naked in RHatO, clearly isn’t paying attention. If you look at the treatment of Starfire and Jason side by side, there is no way you can say each has been portrayed equally, either in personality or in the way they’ve been drawn. For those of you who are having a hard time understanding this concept, let’s break it down for you. I’m only going to stick with the physical aspects of the situation, because I could seriously write an essay about this if I included characterization and dialogue.
*This isn’t a problem in itself. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body, and I don’t think anyone is calling for Starfire to be ashamed of her sensuality or her nudity. The reason so many people have a problem with the way Starfire(and other women in comics) have been portrayed, is because these characters are clearly and overtly being manipulated to satisfy the male gaze. It’s not the nudity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that women are drawn as semi-nude or nude much more often than men are. It’s the fact that even when women and men are both semi or fully nude(ex. Jason and Starfire), the woman’s nudity is depicted in a sexualized manner, and the man’s nudity is portrayed much more naturally. It’s the fact that most woman superheros aren’t even given the chance to be fully clothed when they’re in battle, or in everyday dress.
Another point that I think is important, is that nobody is judging anyone for thinking a character is sexy, or wanting to see them with less clothes or in sexual situations. Thinking Starfire is hot and being excited to see her naked is not bad. Thinking Jason is hot and being excited to see him naked is not bad. The problem is that we are forced to look at Starfire in a sexual manner because of the way she is drawn and written. Nobody is forced to see Jason’s nudity as sexy. Most men will not feel uncomfortable or awkward when reading the latest issue of RHatO, because Jason is not purposefully displaying his naked body so that all viewers are hit in the face with his man-bits or sexy booty. He has not been drawn for the sole purpose of titillation, and that makes his nudity seem more natural. When this happens, the viewer is free to see the character in a sexual way, or they can see the situation as humorous, or they can ignore it and move on with the story. It’s not imposing or opressive.
I think the main problem here is that it’s not an isolated incident. Woman(and sometimes men) are actively and openly complaining about the fact that women are not being treated equally or fairly in comics. We’re bringing up the fact that we feel objectified and that we feel uncomfortable and embarassed when reading certain comics because of the way women are drawn and written. THIS IS PROOF THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG. There aren’t any men complaining about male characters being objectified or being sexualized, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. And even if it does happen, it’s not a problem if nobody has an issue with it. But woman do have a problem with the way their gender is being portrayed in comics, so we are going to talk about it.
If you feel like I’m wrong in this, or if you have anything to add, feel free to drop me a message! I think it’s good to keep this discussion going until something is changed within the industry, so let’s keep talking about it!
Mainly the whole Jason prancing around naked throughout the issue. Well my issue isn’t so much that Jason is naked it’s that all the fangirls/boys threw a fucking fit in the first issue about Starfire. How she’s being objectified even though she flat out said that it was all about “free love” as far as her people were concerned. People got their panties in a twist because of swimsuit as well, so I’m wondering why these same people aren’t so up in arms about Jason’s scantly clad moment. In fact they seemed rather pleased. So objectifying women within comics is okay, but not men right? Makes total fucking sense. Next time you pick up a cause don’t fuck yourself in the ass with contradictions. It makes you look like an idiot.
- +5 for “But comics objectify men, too, see!”
- +5 for “double standard - you post Jason Todd nearly nude/shirtless”
- +5 for “people concerned about sexual objectification of women are just hypocrites!”
- +5 for “she wasn’t objectified!!!”
- +5 for “it was just a swim-suit!”
- +5 for “don’t pick up this cause since you don’t even know what you’re talking about, idiots!”
- +5 for “people who were upset about sexism just were petulant children who threw a fit!”
Well, now we know — SEXISM IS OVER.
Thank you fuckyeahjasontodd for making us laugh, and giving us some truth at the same time:)
If you read about Kelly’s post over at CBR today you know she hit a slam dunk on things not to like about women in comics.
I think it’s time for another rule. I think we need to develop criteria or examples that represent the best of what women in superhero comics can be. We need a crystallizing moment, panel or set of criteria that can be said is the epitome of women should be portrayed in superhero comics.
But will the criteria be? What should we call it? What should it look like?
I am not going to provide the answers to the first two questions. I have my ideas, I’m sure others have theirs. Let’s hear them.
But for the third answer, I can try and help. I have created a new Tumblr blog that will let fans of female superheroes show the world what they want in terms of positive portrayals of female characters. The moments, issues, runs, panels that illustrate the way women should be positively portrayed in superhero comics. The moment. The “THIS” moments.
And because incentives work well, if I get 25 new submissions by Friday, I will randomly pick one of you to receive a handy dandy set of Catwoman folding note cards. Make sure you drop a note in my ask reminding me you submitted.
This is why I love Laura Hudson from now until forever.
”[…] It’s important to remember that idealization of the form is not the same as sexualization of the form. Something can be idealized without being sexualized. But in superhero comics, because the forms that female characters are based on have their roots in porn and…
Great article. I think it’s more important to make sure that people realize the inequality of how women and men are portrayed in comics than it is to judge people for liking how women are portrayed. If you personally like that women are frequently drawn like pornstars instead of superheroes, and wear impractical and revealing clothing…who am I to say you can’t like that? But to argue that women and men are both objectified in the same way is ignorant and inaccurate. People need to start owning up to the fact that just because they like something a certain way doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean that other people aren’t affected or offended by it.
Welcome to: If Male Superhero Costumes were Designed Like Female Superhero Costumes!
Aaaaa I dunno. I got tired of guys having no idea why girls find female superhero’s costumes kinda sexist, so I, um, made this?
My main goals were: 1) Make it so the first thing you think of when you look at them is sex, whether you want to or not. 2) make it so that any male human who looks at this feels really uncomfortable. 3) make it funny, because, well, it’s kinda hilarious really.
Not trying to start a war here, just wanted to poke a bit of fun.
So, here you go menfolk, welcome to being a girl who likes comics.
Really what commentary do I need to add to this?
Nerds and Male Privilege (definitely worth a read!)
I want to tell you a story.
A few years ago, I was dating a girl who was decidedly not nerd curious. She tolerated my geeky interests with a certain bemused air but definitely didn’t participate in ‘em… not even setting foot inside a comic store on new comic day. She’d wait outside until I was done… which could be a while, since I was friends with several of the staff.
She came in the store exactly once, after I’d explained that no, it’s a pretty friendly place… well lit, spacious, organized and with helpful – and clearly identified – staff members who were willing to bend over backwards to make sure their customers were satisfied.
She was in there for less than 4 minutes before one mouth-breathing troglodyte began alternately staring at her boobs – evidently hoping that x-ray vision could develop spontaneously – and berating her for daring to comment on the skimpy nature of the costumes – in this case, Lady Death and Witchblade. She fled the premises, never to return.
When both the manager and I explained to him in no uncertain terms as to what he did wrong he shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, I was just trying to help you guys! She couldn’t understand that chicks can be tough and sexy! Not my fault she’s a chauvinist,” he said.
And that was when I shot him, your honor.
So with that example in mind, let’s talk about a subject I’ve touched on before: Male Privilege and how it applies to geeks and – more importantly – geek girls.
MALE PRIVILEGE: WHAT IS IT, EXACTLY?
I don’t think I’m breaking any news or blowing minds when I point out that geek culture as a whole is predominantly male. Not to say that women aren’t making huge inroads in science fiction/fantasy fandom, gaming, anime and comics… but it’s still a very male culture. As such, it caters to the predominantly male audience that makes it up. This, in turn leads to the phenomenon known as male privilege: the idea that men – most often straight, white men – as a whole, get certain privileges and status because of their gender.
(Obvious disclaimer: I’m a straight white man.)
In geek culture, this manifests in a number of ways. The most obvious is in the portrayal of female characters in comics, video games and movies. Batman: Arkham City provides an excellent example.
The women are all about sex, sex, sexy sextimes. With maybe a little villainy thrown in for flavor. They may be characters, but they’re also sexual objects to be consumed.
I will pause now for the traditional arguments from my readers: these characters are all femme fatales in the comics, all of the characters in the Arkham games are over-the-top, the men are just as exaggerated/sexualized/objectified as the women. Got all of that out of your systems? Good.
Because that reaction is exactly what I’m talking about.
Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo. Nobody wants to acknowledge that a one-sided (and one-dimensional) portrayal of women is the dominant paradigm in gaming; the vast majority of female characters are sexual objects. If a girl wants to see herself represented in video games, she better get used to the idea of being the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. If she wants to see herself as a main character, then it’s time to get ready for a parade of candyfloss costumes where nipple slips are only prevented by violating the laws of physics. The number of games with competent female protagonists who wear more than the Victoria’s Secret Angels are few and far between.
The idea that perhaps the way women are portrayed in fandom is aleetle sexist is regularly met with denials, justifications and outright dismissal of the issue. So regularly, in fact, that there’s a Bingo card covering the most common responses. Part of the notion of male privilege in fandom is that nothing is wrong with fandom and that suggestions that it might benefit from some diversity is treated as a threat.
But what is that threat, exactly?
In this case, the threat is that – ultimately – fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future. The strawmen that are regularly trotted out – that men are objectified as well, that it’s a convention of the genre, that women actually have more privileges than guys – are a distraction from the real issue: that the Privileged are worried that they won’t be as privileged in the near future if this threat isn’t stomped out. Hence the usual reactions: derailment, minimization and ultimately dismissing the topic all together.
As much as my nerdy brethren wish that more girls were of the geeky persuasion, it’s a little understandable why women might be a little reticent. It’s hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome. It’s small wonder why geekdom – for all of it’s self-proclaimed enlightened attitudes towards outsiders and outcasts – stil retains the odor of the guy’s locker room.
HOW MALE PRIVILEGE AFFECTS GEEK GIRLS IN REAL LIFE
Don’t make the mistake of thinking male privilege is solely about how big Power Girl’s tits are, fan service and jiggle physics in 3D fighters. It affects geek girls in direct, personal ways as well.
Remember the example I mentioned earlier with my then-girlfriend in the comic store? Her opinions were deemed mistaken and she was told she didn’t “get it”… because she was a girl.
Y’see, one of the issues that nerd girls face is the fact that they are seen as girls first and anything else second. And before you flood my comments section demanding to know why this is a bad thing, realize that being seen as a “girl” first colors every interaction that they have within fandom. They’re treated differently because they are women.
We will now pause for the expected responses: well that’s a good thing isn’t it, girls get special treatment because they’re girls, guys will fall all over themselves to try to get girls to like ‘em so it all balances out.
If you’re paying attention you’ll realize that – once again – those reactions are what I’m talking about.
Y’see, nobody’s saying that women don’t receive different treatment from guys… I’m saying that being treated differently is the problem. And yes, I know exactly what many of you are going to say and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Male privilege – again – is about what men can expect as the default setting for society. A man isn’t going to have everything about him filtered through the prism of his gender first. A man, for example, who gets a job isn’t going to face with suggestions that his attractiveness or that his willingness to perform sexual favors was a factor in his being hired, nor will he be shrugged off as a “quota hire”. A man isn’t expected to be a representative of his sex in all things; if he fails at a job, it’s not going to be extrapolated that all men are unfit for that job. A man who’s strong-willed or aggressive won’t be denigrated for it, nor are men socialized to “go along to get along”. A man can expect to have his opinion considered, not dismissed out of hand because of his sex. When paired with a woman who’s of equal status, the man can expect that most of the world will assume that he’s the one in charge. And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault.
Now with this in mind, consider why being a girl first may be a hindrance to geek girls. A guy who plays a first person shooter – Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, what-have-you – online may expect a certain amount of trash talking, but he’s not going to be inundated with offers for sex, threats of rape, sounds of simulated masturbation or demands that he blow the other players – but not before going to the kitchen and getting them a beer/sandwich/pizza first. Men will also not be told that they’re being “too sensitive” or that “they need to toughen up” when they complain about said sexual threats.
Men also won’t have their opinions weighed or dismissed solely on the basis of how sexy or attractive they are. The most common responses a woman can expect in an argument – especially online – is that she’s fat, ugly, single, jealous, a whore, or a lesbian – or any combination thereof – and therefore her opinion is irrelevant, regardless of it’s actual merits. This is especially true if she’s commenting on the portrayal of female characters, whether in comics, video games or movies.
Men can expect that their presence at an event won’t automatically be assumed to be decorative or secondary to another man. Despite the growing presence of women in comics, as publishers, editors and creators as well as consumers, a preponderance of men will either treat women at conventions as inconveniences, booth bunnies or even potential dates. Many a female creator or publisher has had the experience of convention guests coming up and addressing all of their questions to the man at the table… despite being told many times that the man is often the assistant, not the talent, only there to provide logistical support and occasional heavy lifting.
Men are also not going to be automatically assigned into a particular niche just based on their gender. A girl in a comic store or a video game store is far more likely to be dismissed as another customer’s girlfriend/sister/cousin rather than being someone who might actually be interested in making a purchase herself. And when they are seen as customers, they’re often automatically assumed to be buying one of the designated “girl” properties… regardless of whether they were just reading Ultimate Spider-Man or looking for a copy of Saint’s Row 3.
Of course, the other side of the coin isn’t much better; being dismissed for the sin of being a woman is bad, but being placed on the traditional pillar is no less insulting. Guys who fall all over themselves to fawn over a geek girl and dance in attendance upon her are just as bad. The behavior is different, but the message is the same: she’s different because she’s a girl. These would-be white knights are ultimately treating her as a fetish object, not as a person. It’s especially notable when it comes to sexy cosplayers; the guys will laude them for being geek girls and celebrate them in person and online. They’ll lavish attention upon them, take photos of them and treat them as queens…
And in doing so, they’re sending the message that women are only valued in geek culture if they’re willing to be a sexually alluring product. Everybody loves Olivia Munn when she enters the room ass-cheeks first as Aeon Flux, but nobody is particularly concerned by the girls dressed in a baseball tee, jeans and ballet flats. One of these is welcomed into geek culture with open arms, the other has to justify their existence in the first place.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN TO YOU?
The reason why male privilege is so insidious is because of the insistance that it doesn’t exist in the first place. That willful ignorance is key in keeping it in place; by pretending that the issue doesn’t exist, it is that much easier to ensure that nothing ever changes.
Geek society prides itself on being explicitly counter-culture; nerds will crow about how, as a society, they’re better than the others who exclude them. They’ll insist that they’re more egalitarian; geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don’t exist the way it does elsewhere. And yet, even a cursory examination will demonstrate that this isn’t true.
And yet geeks will cling to this illusion while simultaneously refusing to address the matters that make it so unattractive to women and minorities. They will insist that they treat women exactly the same as they treat guys – all the while ignoring the fact that their behavior is what’s making the women uncomfortable and feeling unwelcome in the first place. They will find one girl in their immediate community who will say that she’s not offended and use her as the “proof” that nobody else is allowed to be offended.
Changing this prevailing attitude starts with the individual. Call it part of learning to be a better person; being willing to examine your own attitudes and behaviors and to be ruthlessly honest about the benefits you get from being a white male in fandom is the first step. Waving your hands and pretending that there isn’t a problem is a part of the attitude that makes women feel unwelcome in fandom and serves as the barrier to entry to geeky pursuits that she might otherwise enjoy.
Bringing the spotlight onto the concept of male privilege as it exists in nerd culture is the first step in making it more welcoming of diversity, especially women.
*Thanks to Madoka for bringing this to my attention.
Pretty much all of this. I especially love this quote:
As much as my nerdy brethren wish that more girls were of the geeky persuasion, it’s a little understandable why women might be a little reticent. It’s hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome.
Most men will try to squash issues that women and minorities have with comics and other geeky things, because they’re afraid of losing the privilege they have in that particular area. They’re comfortable in it, and changing too much about the things they know, scares them. So we get brushed off as being too dramatic, or too sensitive. For anyone reading this that mind whole that view..I really wish you’d understand that we’re trying to change things for the better! Being more inclusive of different perspectives will ultimately open up avenues for more stories, characters, artwork, and everything else that we love about geeky culture! Why would you not want to enjoy stories that are more diverse, and that maybe you can even learn from? Come on people, let’s work together here. Nobody is trying to sabotage your beloved comic book character, or make things too “girly” to the point that you can’t read it anymore. We just want to be able to enjoy the same nerdy things that you do, without being offended by it or made to feel pigeonholed into a certain stereotype. Geek stuff is awesome, and we just want to be apart of something we love, without constantly feeling like outsiders.