Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is the Problem Logic, or Reading Comprehension?

The Women in Refrigerators theory makes the assumption that women really are killed or treated worst then [sic] men in comics, but I’m not convinced that’s true. Below is the list from Women In Refrigerators. Following the “---“ is my commentary and some male characters who were treated similarly or worse.


What was that about anti-feminists just making shit up anyway when they run out of not so brilliant arguments from feminists?

Since the topic is WiR, I think it's safe to assume that what our intrepid blogger is focusing on is injury, death, depowerment, etc. - not badly written characters or the ratio of men to women, etc.

So - although the sentence is muddled so it's hard to tell - he seems to think that the point of the WiR list is to prove that more women die/etc. than men.

From Wikipedia, that bastion of feminist thought:

The site features a list of female comic book characters that had been injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books.......[Gail] Simone maintained that her, "... simple point (had) always been: if you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won't read comics. That's it!"


How the fuck do you get from that to "more women die in comics than men"?!?!?

Which brings us to the other question, is the problem reading comprehension or logic?

At no point in the wiki article - or anywhere else I've read - does anyone argue that more women are killed in superhero comics than men. That would be like trying to argue that female soldiers are more likely to be harrassed or assault by their fellow officers - by arguing that female soldiers make up more of the casualties than male soldiers. Which would be ridiculous.

It has been argued that female characters are more likely to be killed, injured, depowered, etc. than their male counterparts. Which may true - so long as you stick to recurring characters with names. Which brings us to the quote from Gail Simone and what most people consider to be the phenomenon known as WiR: the fact that women are rarely treated as interesting in their own right, but instead tend to be mainly important because they are someone's girlfriend, mother, sister, co-worker, etc. And that even when they are interesting, they don't tend to last long and usually die because a male character needs motivation or angst.

One of the things I noticed when I did a similar list for Lost - after being pissed at the whole concept of Libby's character - was that a lot more men died than women. But the men who died tended to be obviously temporary characters. The opposite was true when it came to the women who died, they tended to be people we had gotten to know - and more of the now dead people we had come to love were women - and of the women that we'd gotten to know, a greater percentage of them ended up dead compared to the men we'd gotten to know.

Plus, men and women tended to die in different ways. As I said back then:
All the men murdered on the island were either bad guys murdered by good guys or good guys murdered by bad guys. All of the women murdered on the island were good characters murdered by good guys. I'm not sure what this means, but there does seem to be a definite gender difference when it comes to being murdered.


While I don't know if comics has the same phenomenon going on, it does seem to have a similar one, where women are more likely to be murdered because of their association with good guys, if not directly by the good guys. As opposed to being killed because the bad guys/good guys see them as a threat. (I'm guessing killing off bad gals because of their association with bad guys doesn't happen often, not only because the bad guys wouldn't care as much, but also because only bad guys touch other guys stuff.)

In any case, our intrepid blogger is either incapable of understanding what he reads, or he doesn't understand the difference between saying that
members of group X are more likely than members of group Y to be [blank]
and
of the people that are [blank], more are from group X than group Y.


I shall leave you, dear readers, to figure out which of these is the problem.

7 comments:

Scott said...

From Wikipedia, that bastion of feminist thought:
The site features a list of female comic book characters that had been injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books.......[Gail] Simone maintained that her, "... simple point (had) always been: if you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won't read comics. That's it!"


How the fuck do you get from that to "more women die in comics than men"?!?!?


Well, I got it from the same Wikipedia article that you quoted from except that where you put “…….”, there was this sentence: “Also, the site seeks to analyze why these plot devices are used disproportionately on female characters.” My point is that I’m not convinced that they are used disproportionately on female characters.

I’d also say I'm not convinced that female characters are "demolished" in a way that is particularly different from that of male characters. For instance, if you look at my list, you’ll see that Gail uses things like "kidnapped" and "lost powers" as evidence of the female characters being demolished, but all superheroes get kidnapped and lose their powers, so if these things don’t stop male readers from reading comics, why would they stop female readers from reading comics? Also, Gail uses the deaths of male supporting characters (like Snowbird’s family) to say that the female character was demolished, but does that make sense? Was Spider-Man demolished by the death of Gwen? I wasn't just talking about the numbers. I was talking about the legitimacy of the criteria used, but I'm sure you know that, given your reading comprehension skills.

At no point in the wiki article - or anywhere else I've read - does anyone argue that more women are killed in superhero comics than men.

Right. They say women are killed etc. disproportionately more often than men. When I wrote this: “I think you’ll get my point that it is not enough to show that women are harmed in comics, you have to show that men aren’t to the same degree in order for there to be some kind of sexism or poor treatment of female characters.” I didn’t mean that men were killed etc. more often than women in comics (although they are); I meant that the odds of a female character dying or being kidnapped or tortured or whatever don’t appear on the face to be greater than a male character’s.

Which may true - so long as you stick to recurring characters with names. Which brings us to the quote from Gail Simone and what most people consider to be the phenomenon known as WiR: the fact that women are rarely treated as interesting in their own right, but instead tend to be mainly important because they are someone's girlfriend, mother, sister, co-worker, etc.

You can believe that’s what the WiR site says, but it doesn’t. I don't mean that Wiki article; I mean here:

http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/

It just looks at women in comics and wonders if they are disproportionately … demolished more than men. And that’s where I start. That's all I'm looking at just like it was all that Gail appeared to be looking at. Like Gail, I'm not coming to any conclusions either. I’m not saying that men are demolished more or if women are. I don’t know. As I said in my post, I’m unconvinced.

What was that about anti-feminists just making shit up anyway when they run out of not so brilliant arguments from feminists?

What makes you think I’m anti-feminist? I support equality of the sexes in every way. However, that does not mean that I have to believe every theory that a women suggests might be true in regard to comics. It is not a tenant of feminism that female characters are disproportionately killed in comics. Some feminists believe that to be true, some don't, and some aren't sure. I’m not convinced that it is true, but that doesn't mean I'm against feminism, does it?

Betty said...

been about to ask that blogger if he had the brainworms, but then I realized he obviously did, so it seemed a bit insensitive to bring it up.

Mickle said...

plot device =/= specific type of action

Even Boone's death was qualitatively different from Libby's because it was written to be about his journey as well as his sister's. The same can't be said for Libby's

I’m not saying that men are demolished more or if women are. I don’t know. As I said in my post, I’m unconvinced.

"… and happening to men maybe more frequently."

And yet it's also obvious that you have a definite opinion as to which you think happens more often.

You can believe that’s what the WiR site says, but it doesn’t.

from the site:

"Several respondents mentioned that male superheroes ALSO get beat up, cut up, and killed up-an undeniable truth, I say. However, it's my feeling that a) the percentages are off. If there are only 50 major female superheroes, and 40 of them get killed/maimed/depowered, then that's more significant numerically than if 40 male characters get killed, since there are many times more of them total.

And b) I can't quite shake the feeling that male characters tend to die differently than female ones. The male characters seem to die nobly, as heroes, most often, whereas it's not uncommon, as in Katma Tui's case, for a male character to just come home and find her butchered in the kitchen. There are exceptions for both sexes, of course, but shock value seems to be a major motivator in the superchick deaths more often than not."

What makes you think I’m anti-feminist?

Mocking feminist complaints while trying to pretend they are something other than what they are.

Scott said...

Mickle,

"… and happening to men maybe more frequently."

And yet it's also obvious that you have a definite opinion as to which you think happens more often.


And how, pray tell, does “maybe more frequently” get translated to “a definite opinion”? How does my use of “unconvinced” suggest a definite opinion? And why would you make such an accusation on blog about reading comprehension?

from the site:

"Several respondents mentioned that male superheroes ALSO get beat up, cut up, and killed up-an undeniable truth, I say. However, it's my feeling that a) the percentages are off. If there are only 50 major female superheroes, and 40 of them get killed/maimed/depowered, then that's more significant numerically than if 40 male characters get killed, since there are many times more of them total.

And b) I can't quite shake the feeling that male characters tend to die differently than female ones. The male characters seem to die nobly, as heroes, most often, whereas it's not uncommon, as in Katma Tui's case, for a male character to just come home and find her butchered in the kitchen. There are exceptions for both sexes, of course, but shock value seems to be a major motivator in the superchick deaths more often than not."


Those quotes do not suggest that Gail thought that “women are rarely treated as interesting in their own right, but instead tend to be mainly important because they are someone's girlfriend, mother, sister, co-worker, etc.” In fact, she says that she began looking at this because the characters that she thought were interesting were being killed, depowered, etc. She refers to them as “my favorite female comics characters,” not “those dull characters I didn’t care about.” While we can talk about the motivation for the deaths as separate issue, WiR does not say that women are rarely interesting in comics.

Mocking feminist complaints while trying to pretend they are something other than what they are.

I disagreed with a complaint, but I did not mock it. I did mock the evidence for the complaint. For instance, noting that a female comic character was kidnapped at some point and suggesting that somehow suggests that female characters are treated differently than males is ridiculous. Virtually all comic characters have been kidnapped … and lost their powers and been tortured etc. Bringing up the deaths of male supporting characters as evidence that female characters are killed more often is patently foolish and would appear to contradict the very point she was trying to make. I did mock poor scholarship. I will admit to being against crappy scholarship, but that does not make me against feminism anymore than your mocking me makes you a pro-misandry.

Mickle said...

By doing the kind of list that you do, you are so very obviously missing the point of the original list, and the updated version that kalinara and ragnell worked on last year.

How does adding "but this happened to a guy too! - worse even!" beside several of the the female characters on a list say anything other than "but it happens to guys too!"?

It is in no way an adequate or reasoned reply to the WiR list.

You are also condescending throughout the entire post. (Not that condescending isn't at times warranted, just that it tends to indicate a disdain for one position and a leaning towards another.) More importantly, you holding the differing arguments to different standards.

You say that the WiR list makes "the assumption that..." but then later claim that you are simply following Gail's example - and that means you are simply posing a theory and providing evidence, not taking sides. Which is extremely contradictory.

You are also claiming to be approaching this logically, all the while accusing the other side of not being logical. Even though your approach is less grounded in logic that any of the WiR lists.

On the original list, Gail notes that "it's hard to think of exceptions", which is crucial to understanding the list. But your only nod to that is to essentially say that they are comics, everyone gets hurt. Which again contradicts your feeling that men are hurt more than women. If "everyone gets hurt" is an argument against the WiR list, it's an argument against the idea that men are hurt more than women as well, so why bring it up?

Plus, there's an updated list on sexual assault/mind control that includes both men and women that you never even address. Even before you take into account the greater number of male characters, and the way such event are treated, the women's list is still longer.

re: the importance of context, as Kalinara comments on the list she worked on:

"We know that many people define portrayals of sexual assaults the same way. We're going by the most literal expression.

We're avoiding value judgements in the lists because it's the matter of how the sexual assaults are played that make for the most interesting comparison."

Scott said...

Mickle,

How does adding "but this happened to a guy too! - worse even!" beside several of the the female characters on a list say anything other than "but it happens to guys too!"?

It doesn’t say anything other than “"but it happens to guys too!" That’s the point. When Gail points out that bad things happen to female characters and theorizes that bad things are more likely to happen to females, but when we look at male characters, we see that same bad things happen to virtually all of them too, the WiR theory doesn’t hold up. If the same things are happening to characters no matter what their gender, what happens to them doesn’t say anything about how women are treated in comics. It says something about how comic book characters are treated in comics.

You are also condescending throughout the entire post. (Not that condescending isn't at times warranted, just that it tends to indicate a disdain for one position and a leaning towards another.)

As I said before, my disdain is for bad scholarship. If someone made the opposite theory and said that men are subject that being kidnapped, killed, and having their powers taken from them more than women, I would have equal disdain for that theory if it used the same low-grade scholarship. If someone just listed all the male characters, that wouldn’t prove anything either. If someone listed the deaths of the female supporting characters to prove that bad things happen to male characters, not only would I express my disdain for that horrible scholarship, you would too. The question becomes, why aren’t you expressing disdain for WiR showing the death of male characters to show that bad things happen to female characters? You don’t have to agree with every dopey theory or ill-conceived act of scholarship to be a feminist. Doing so doesn’t strengthen feminism, it weakens it. I am a feminist. That’s why I feel it is a good idea to strengthen it by being critical of the poorly thought out theories that people try to pin to it.

You say that the WiR list makes "the assumption that..." but then later claim that you are simply following Gail's example - and that means you are simply posing a theory and providing evidence, not taking sides. Which is extremely contradictory.

You are correct. What I should have said is that “Gail theories that women are killed/depowered/etc more than men in comics” and that “feminist fangirls frequently act with the assumption that Gail’s theory is fact.” Both Gail and I are theorizing, she that women are killed etc more than men and I that they are not. But neither of us saying we know the answer.

You are also claiming to be approaching this logically, all the while accusing the other side of not being logical. Even though your approach is less grounded in logic that any of the WiR lists.

I modeled my approach after Gail’s list. How can it be less grounded in logic if it is virtually identical? She made a list of bad things that happened to women (and some supporting male characters – as if that were logical) and I made a very similar list that is longer to reflect that there are more male characters in comics and used virtually identical statements about the characters (without the irrational inclusion of female supporting character deaths to prove that bad things happen to men.)

On the original list, Gail notes that "it's hard to think of exceptions", which is crucial to understanding the list. But your only nod to that is to essentially say that they are comics, everyone gets hurt. Which again contradicts your feeling that men are hurt more than women. If "everyone gets hurt" is an argument against the WiR list, it's an argument against the idea that men are hurt more than women as well, so why bring it up?

Ugh. I’m saying men are attacked more frequently because I’m theorizing that men have about the same probability of being attacked, not that they have a greater probability of being attacked. I have to show that more men are attacked in comics because there are more men in comics. Let’s say there are 3 times as many men in comics as women. In order to show that men are attacked as often as women, I’d have to show that there are 3 times as many attacks on men as there are on women to make the percentage chance of an attack on each sex to be equal. My point has never been that men are treated worse in comics than women. My point is that WiR doesn’t do a good job at showing that women are treated worse than men. My point, which I made several times, was that I was unconvinced by WiR.

Plus, there's an updated list on sexual assault/mind control that includes both men and women that you never even address. Even before you take into account the greater number of male characters, and the way such event are treated, the women's list is still longer.

Now wait a minute. Are you actually getting on my case for not responding to a list that I never made any comment on in my blog? I now have to respond to all lists or my response is invalid? Jeez. Cut me some slack.

However, if you are referring to this list:

http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/06/damned-list-side-progress-report.html

May I suggest that you go here:

http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/06/open-letter-to-male-comic-fans.html#c6467605086349486272

and

http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2007/03/interesting-list.html

And do some reading because I did respond to that list, which Kalinara proves the bizarre and clearly wrong assertion that 80% of women in comics have been raped, and I think I showed that her theory is way off base.

CryptoGay said...

GAWDAMN!!1! this "scott" guy's biggest weapon is writing posts so long you get tired of listing everything wrong with them and give up! sheesh!