Saturday, June 02, 2007

Not My Cute Bunnies and Happy Puppies Post

I told myself I was going to write about some of the comics I've read recently that I really liked, even if for no other reason than for Ragnell's sanity, but, like hippokrene, stupidity offends me.

But do you know what offends me more? That our culture has managed to link women with vulnerability, and violence against women with sex to such an extent that normally not stupid people are unable to tell the difference between this:

and this:
It makes me wonder if these same people cannot tell the difference between this:
and this:
How many times do I have to explain that it's not just that women always! = sex that offends me, it's also very much the fact that so large a portion of my peers finds the thought of me in pain to be sexually arousing and that this is considered normal! That's what disturbs and enrages me. That's what scares me.

It's really not the fact that (heterosexual) men like looking at sexy women that bugs me. It's really not even just the pervasiveness of it, nor even just the double standard that says that they are not for looking at. It's not these things alone that makes me look askance at the guys around me. It's also very much the fact that time and time again "regular" people prove that they can't tell the difference between "women = sex!" and "violence against women = sex!" that makes me wonder and worry.

19 comments:

Indigo said...

So it's okay to be upset about the black man on fire...

...it's okay to be upset about the Daughters of the Dragon portrayed as hentai bait, and Misty in particular portrayed out of true for her ethnicity...

...but it's not okay to be upset about a handicapped person shown as having been knocked out of their chair to portray a cat fight?

I'm sorry. You seem to be missing a very important set of points about the Birds of Prey cover.

If you knock someone out of a wheelchair who is paralyzed, it is very difficult for them to get back in the chair without help. Barbara Gordon is an extreme example because she has studied martial arts and can use them from the chair. This means that the opponent had to have been really, really good to have knocked Barbara out of the wheelchair in the first place. Maybe they hit her with a bottle in the back of the head. Or maybe, as is the case with covers, this never happens inside.

But further, that design screams [insert Beavis & Butthead laugh here] "cat fight." Two women rolling around on the floor fighting. All that's missing is the cat-noise sound effects.

It may not be as overt as the Heroes for Hentai cover, but it's sexist, and it shows a real disrespect for and lack of knowledge of the plight of the handicapped.

And for that matter, is an insult to Oracle as a character.

It's not less degrading because Barbara's fully clothed. It's doubly degrading because they reduced her to "ooh, cute wimmens wrassling" and put her in a position no real live wheelchair bound person would ever want to be in...and would probably not be anywhere near as equipped to fight back as Oracle is.

Mickle said...

First of all, I never said you couldn't be offended by it, I said that it was stupid to say that I had to be.

More importantly, perhaps you're confused about the part where I never said I loved the Serenity poster, I was just making a distinction between it and the Captivity campaign.

I don't think that they reduced Barbara to "ooh, cute wimmens wrassling" and I don't really think it's relevant that they "put her in a position no real live wheelchair bound person would ever want to be in...and would probably not be anywhere near as equipped to fight back as Oracle is."

Two women fighting is always in danger of being seen as a catfight for obvious reasons, and people should be sensitive to this. But I also get annoyed by how few villains are female, and by how many of the ones that do exist are over the top smexy. So, I'm kinda torn about the "two women wrestling bit" because I like that it's shown in a away that isn't over the top - and yet it's still hard not to think catfight.

Because while there's catfight bits (hair pulling people, really?) there's also the fact that Barbara's jeans are ripped in a logical location* and that Ms. Villain's breasts are covered by other appendages. Plus (while I know this is part of what's bothering you) there is also a logical reason for them wrestling rather than fighting in another way. Barbara can't get up and it looks like Ms. Villain may have trouble doing so as well judging by the hole in her leg. Yes there's the question of "why do it in the first place?" (which I will sorta address) but there's also the fact that they aren't messing with characters in order to do it.

Like the Serenity poster there's plenty to both love and hate. I think Barbara looks strong in that image, just like River does. Even if, just as River's strength is diluted by her fanservice near-nakedness, Barbara's strength is diluted by the catfight references. Either way , the issue for me is that it's still the strength that comes across as sexier - or at least as sexy as - the vulnerability.

My issue with H4H is not that the characters are bound and no one would want to be in that position (duh) it's that they look helpless and are over the top smexed up. And yeah, most people would be helpless if they were bound or knocked out of a wheelchair, but the point of super-heroes is that they are stronger than your average person. Unlike H4H, Barbara is in danger here, but she isn't defeated.

I cringe when I believe my heroes are in danger, but that makes it just that much sweeter when they win. What I don't like is when my heroes are shown to be only victims and not heroes at all.

I'm not always in the mood for it, but (when I am) I often like it when the tables are turned and our super-heroes get themselves out of the kinds of situations we fear most. After all, who didn't cheer when Leia killed Jabba? To me, the "getting out of it " part is absent in both the cover with the burning black man and the H4H cover, but present in the BoP cover.

You are welcome to say that I'm wrong and that I'm being insensitive to others, but I'm only being a hypocrite if I don't object to the BoP cover, but would object to the remixed version of the H4H cover as much as I object to the real one.

*not really, since I can't see the knees of her jeans getting really worn and they aren't all that likely to rip when she fell, but if they are going to be ripped, it's the most logical place to have them be ripped

Gail Simone said...

Bless you.

As I posted elsewhere, Andy "Jarod Russell" has been a freakish little troll to me since the begining of my BOP run. The whole story is too pathetic to tell, but he deliberately frames scenes inaccurately (let's be blunt, he lies like a dog) to make them somehow seem as if I'm 'undermining' the characters.

This is a very specific fan-weirdness, I think it needs a name of some kind (I don't ever use the word fan, I use the word 'reader,' but in this case, it fits a lot better). This kind of 'fan,' has a mental crush on a character, and sees any scene that shows them as less than icy perfect as a personal assault. In Andy's case, if it doesn't match his fanfic, he loses his mind and starts trying to get his little handful of friends (like Indigo here), who don't read the book, to say, "Oh, Andy, you're right, if only YOU were writing Birds of Prey!"

Except, honest to god, he writes dialogue stolen from every shitty action movie ever, and has about as much idea of how women speak and think as Krypto.

This same handful of people generally show up on threads like this to get angry on his behalf, so be prepared. I don't know Indigo at all, so I'm not lumping him in with that group as far as I know.

Anyway, I've gotta a million complaints about the book and my writing. Every writer on every comic that gets read does. But Andy's notion that I'm somehow trying to 'undermine' (I know, it's stupid, but that's been his obsession for four years now) Oracle is a notion I have never heard, not once, from any other reader, even people who hate the book.

It's in his head, and reality doesn't fit the delusion.

It was sad the first couple years, now it's just disturbing and pathetic.

Anyway, thanks for calling bullshit bullshit.

Gail

Gail Simone said...

"Catfight."

I already covered some of these 'points' in this note elsewhere, but I maintain they're just sad. They should come to the conventions and listen to the disabled people I talk to every time who fricking LOVE Oracle and how she's portrayed. I say again, Andy doesn't speak for all disabled people.

For Christ's sake. People gotta grow UP.

Gail

Indigo said...

Ms. Simone, I'm sorry, I have to correct your assumption.

I actually have read Birds of Prey during your run.

I personally don't have the strong opinions Andy has about Oracle most of the time, but in this one instance I happen to agree with him. He didn't ask "his little friend who doesn't read the book" to speak up for him. The fact that we're acquainted doesn't automatically mean I'm incapable of forming my own opinions and voicing them independently.

I do prefer your rendition of Oracle to the "she is too smart. She shouldn't be a god in a box" renditions I've seen elsewhere. Your rendition make me not mind so much that she's not Batgirl anymore.

But unless you drew this cover, my concern is not with you.

That said: I'm sorry, "lots of people like it, so the few who don't like it don't count" rather disappointing to hear.

That's pretty much the response given to women offended by the MJ Laundry statue and the H4H cover and the Captain America cover. I didn't think anyone should sit still for it there, and I don't think so here.

I'm sorry you're having some sort of ongoing feud with another person, but you don't know me from Adam. I'd like to think it's beneath you to automatically assume I'm some sort of Stepford sidekick just because I happen to agree with someone you have a problem with.

Mickle said...

"They should come to the conventions and listen to the disabled people I talk to every time who fricking LOVE Oracle and how she's portrayed."

Thats good to know, and I think it's how I'd feel too, which is why it sounded like bullshit to me.

To me, the impression of "catfight" is mainly just the fact that it's hard not to think catfight whenever two women are shown fighting because that's how they're usually shown. Sadly, catfight was my first thought when Buffy started wailing on Glory. But as with Buffy and Glory, there's little about this cover besides the gender of the fighters that actually says catfight. Which, in the end, helps diss the whole catfight stereotype a lot more than it promotes it
.
I can even give the most catfighty aspect of it (the hair pulling) a partial pass cuz I'm not sure the more realistic eye-gouging would be appropriate for the cover.

Gail Simone said...

Indigo,

I am duly chastened and happy to apologize. I did say that I don't know you, and therefore it could be wrong lumping you in with that group.
Nevertheless, your point is well-made and I hope you'll accept my apology for that.

As for the rest here, let's please not frame this as a little internet squabble. Honest to god, this weird , very dishonest guy has been obsessing over myself and Geoff Johns, trying desperately to convince the world that we're every kind of bigot, all to draw attention to himself and his horrendous fanfic. I was too nice to him for two long, and it really seems to have made him nuts. He's one of the very very small handful of people I've asked to leave my message board in going on eight years. He apologized to me for his obsessiveness many times, only to be twice as bad when I began ignoring him. It's more than creepy.

Now his friends are calling me an ableist, based on his habitual misreading, in this case of a scene he's not read yet.

I'm sorry, calling someone a bigot on the word of a lunatic is just bad form, and it does tend to get their dander up.


I disagree hugely about the catfight sentiment, but I've heard it many times before, and I'm sure I will again. It makes me sad, it seems so antiquated and so NOT what I write. I've written ONE catfight as a joke. Two women fighting...eh, never mind.

You disagree with the cover, fine, that's two people who have complained. Perhaps there will be a flood. But I suspect that in fact, most readers know the regard I have for Oracle, and will see it for what it is, a statement of what kind of power she REALLY has when push comes to shove.

However, intelligent people can respectfully disagree, so let's do that, and I appreciate your note.

Fair enough?

Best wishes,

Gail

Gail Simone said...

"They should come to the conventions and listen to the disabled people I talk to every time who fricking LOVE Oracle and how she's portrayed."

Thats good to know, and I think it's how I'd feel too, which is why it sounded like bullshit to me.

To me, the impression of "catfight" is mainly just the fact that it's hard not to think catfight whenever two women are shown fighting because that's how they're usually shown. Sadly, catfight was my first thought when Buffy started wailing on Glory. But as with Buffy and Glory, there's little about this cover besides the gender of the fighters that actually says catfight. Which, in the end, helps diss the whole catfight stereotype a lot more than it promotes it
.
I can even give the most catfighty aspect of it (the hair pulling) a partial pass cuz I'm not sure the more realistic eye-gouging would be appropriate for the cover."


Yeah, I do understand it, but...ugh.

Really, I just think it's a reminder that we have a ways to go. This is an action/adventure comic with a nearly full female cast. I wrote one scene as a deliberate catfight parody, but when they have a female foe, and they fight, you CANNOT win with some people. Clothes, no clothes, brutal, soft, whatever, it's all going to be called a 'catfight.'

I still think it's nonsense. This scene is something people have been dying to see since the first issue where Spy Smasher appeared. The history is there, and it's not the least bit titillating except to fetishists, and hell, they don't NEED any actual encouragement.

But whatever. Two strong, determined, smart, fully clothed women who know how to fight. To some people, that's always gonna be a catfight no matter what.

Bleah, I still think it's kind of sad.

Gail

Ami Angelwings said...

I think part of the problem is that we've been conditioned to see two women grappling on the ground as a "cat fight" and therefore exploitive and sexual. >.>;;

I've personally never understood why two women fighting is a turn on for guys. :(

But it is.

So therefore it's sexual. >.>;;

Except it's not?

How are they supposed to be fighting exactly? o_O;;;

I would argue that Barbara would have a better chance of fighting out of her chair than in it.

As I commented in that other post, being handicapped does not mean you're helpless without the chair. In fact sometimes a handicapped person may prefer to be out of the chair (like my friend for instance). :)

Gail Simone said...

Right, but why in god's name should I have to write to an idiotic and antiquated stereotype?

Does ANYONE thing the way I write the Birds is not about empowerment, ultimately? As flawed as they are, as many mistakes as they've made, do they not ultimately all learn something and come out stronger and happier?

They're not wimps. They're all martial artists. They have enemies, a few of which are female. Barring the deliberately silly Canary/Cheshire fight early on, I am hard pressed to find any of the female/female fights that play out or pander to that 'catfight' nonsense. It's just not what the stories are about.

Anyway, thanks again, Ami, I always enjoy hearing your pov.

Gail

Gail Simone said...

Man, I've written more typos tonight than the last decade. Sorry, everyone. :)

Gail

Mickle said...

"I've personally never understood why two women fighting is a turn on for guys. :("

You know, I didn't either, until I watched Queer as Folk.

(cough) ahem (cough)

To me, this whole conversation just shows that the pervasiveness of the male gaze is by itself damaging. And that's it's not just men that internalize the message that women = sex!.

And may I thank you all for contributing to what I think is the longest comment thread I've ever had? :)

Gail Simone said...

Oh, I'm so sorry, I do not mean that at ALL, about the male gaze. That particular bit of goofiness is non-gender-specific, I promise. And while there are certainly some goofy guys out there, guys have been supporting Bop like crazy. I really am dead set against that kind of pre-judging the audience. It's not fair, you know?

Respectfully, though!

Gail

Mickle said...

I didn't mean "male gaze" as in men looking women, but "male gaze" as in the assumption that the looker is always male.

Like.....the difference between "the patriarchy" meaning an actual conspiracy vs. "the patriarchy" meaning that the cultural default is male, etc.

And I didn't mean you internalizing it, I meant me. As in me seeing Buffy fighting Glory and me thinking "catfight" for no reason than it being two women fighting.

Gail Simone said...

AH!

Okay, I'm an idiot. :

Sorry, point well taken.

Gail

Anonymous said...

Hi, Aiguille from CBR here.
Indigo, as a woman with Cerebral Palsy I don't consider my *plight* at all. That's a fairly loaded, term, in fact. I'm not upset about Oracle being knocked out of her chair because she's illustating that she can fight back no matter what. Lea's remixed Heroes for Hire does the same. They have been placed into vulnerable positions, yes, but they've got AGENCY. No REAL LIVE ABLE person would want to be tied up with aliens menacing them. But I like Lea's cover just the same. I've been braced, sported canes, crutches and been a wheelchair user, and as I age I will inevitably use these things again. I would not want to be in Oracle's position. But I'd want to fight like her. That is the POINT of superheroes. I don't appreciate being told I have a *plight.* It's condescending to those of us with disabilities, as is the nature of the offense Russell claims to take, because it's rooted in pity

Gail Simone said...

Anonymous, BLESS YOU!

Most of the people I talk to who ARE differently abled would find this whole line of thought sad and condescending. Andy IS in a wheelchair, I'm told, so I feel he definitely is going to know that experience more than I likely ever will. But I still don't write characters by that method--Oracle has guts few characters can compete with, and she doesn't give up because she's scared or injured. It's practically her whole character!

Best wishes and thanks,

Gail

Anonymous said...

Aiguille again. I have read an entry where he talks about his perceptions of ableism. I'm sort of sad now. He's right, that it's sad and embarassing to be knocked down, but the fighting back is what counts. I (and my twin sister, who commented as "Greythorn" on another thread)have lived with spastic di and triplegia all our lives, so maybe that's the difference. We're scared when we fall, but we're more used to it now. Perhaps now I'm presuming, but the spectrum of attitudes of those who've acquired their disabilities, rather than been born with them, has always been somewhat inscrutable to us both.

Mickle said...

Gail - no you aren't. :)

Or at least no more and probably less than a lot of people.