Tuesday, July 31, 2007
says Pooh Bear
The nice and thought-provoking folks over at The Hathor Legacy awarded me with a Thinking Blogger Award a while ago. Which completely surprised me and made my week.
But now I have to pick five blogs that make me think. Which would be easy as pie, if the obvious hadn't already been tagged. I could just tag Pandagon and the like for probably the ten billionth time, but I'd rather not.
So here are five not-quite-on-the-beaten-path blogs that make me think:
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:
Aside from having a wicked sense of humor the very smart bitches at SB, TB are a great source for thought-provoking commentary on romance novels and the romance novel industry. Romance novels get a lot of flack, and while some of it is deserved, they don't deserve to be treated as the pissing hole of fiction that most people treat them as. Candy and Sarah manage to balance the mockery that romance so often richly deserves with a great amount of respect and admiration for readers and writers of romance. All of which is injected with a large amount of fan enthusiasm.
Nothing New Under the Sun:
For reminding me that just because romance novels and their readers are treated like pathetic freaks by the industry and the media and beyond, that doesn't mean they can't benefit from some good constructive criticism. Bellatrys also writes lots of good stuff about SciFi/Fantasy, literature, sexism, racism, and more.
Scott Westerfeld's blog has a lot of the usual writer's "covers of my new book!" and "here's some picture of where I am right now!". All very good and worth checking out, but not a reason for a Thinking Blogger Award. However, it also has more than a few posts that demonstrate just why his YA books are so good - he's just that damn smart. Which is why he gets the award.
Do I really need to explain this one? Sometimes my lilly white ass needs some kicking, and while it's not Cheryl Lynn's job to do it, she does a fine job of it nevertheless.
And now I'm going to cheat and go all Times Person of the Year Award and give my last Thinking Blogger Award to the linkblogs Jade Reporting and When Fangirls Attack.
Being linkblogs, I'm excusing them from passing this award along (although the people who work so hard putting them together are more than welcome to do so on their own blogs).
Why am I giving an award to linkblogs? Because the theme of the Thinking Blogger Award is "Too many blogs, not enough thoughts!" While there are plenty of links I'd sometimes rather not have read, both of these linkblogs do us all a great service by compiling all these links, just so that we can access a variety of opinions more easily. Because of the topics they focus on (women in what are considered to be traditionally male fandoms) they also provide much needed and appreciated way for non-mainstream voices to connect instead of getting drowned out in a sea of marginalization. All in all, even the links that make you want to gouge out your eyes tend to result in more interesting posts from everyone else.
(yes, I picked 6 blogs, not 5. That's because I had written this up, let it sit for a while to review, and then someone else had tagged digital femme in the meantime, but I didn't want to take Cheryl off.)
Monday, July 30, 2007
Me should be in bed.
But I want to steal a quote from a commenter over at Shakesville/Shakespeare's Sister because it pins down exactly why all the hand wringing over the poor boys in this case is getting on my nerves.
....Kids in school are forced to put up with all kinds of abuse, even when teachers SEE it, and hitting back can get you expelled. If the boys had touched female teachers on the bottom and breast, they would have been immediately punished for the unthinkably inappropriate behavior. "Lots of kids at school do that," is being used as an excuse because middle school girls are so powerless. People question out loud whether the boys really did anything wrong are really wondering how middle school girls got the balls to inconvenience parents, teachers, law enforcement, the courts, and boys with promising futures, by complaining when they were molested.
If we can expect kids to respect their teachers, we can expect kids to respect each other.
We let kids get away with a lot of shit in the under the guise of expecting them to work it out themselves. But when the larger culture excuses or condones bad behavior it is our responsibility to step in - no matter their age - and tell them it's not ok after all.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue in schools and needs to be dealt with appropriately and definitively.
If for no other reason (as if kids harassing kids wasn't reason enough) than because places where crap like this goes on - which is pretty much everywhere - are also places where the people in charge turn a blind eye to adult behavior as well. We may wring our hands over child rapists and the like constantly, that doesn't stop us from ignoring the very real harassment that adults often put children through.
I do not want to have the same commiserating talk with my niece that I had with my younger cousin - the one about the middle school teacher who puts all the pretty/big breasted girls near the front.
And until kids feel safe speaking out when they've been wronged by their peers, we won't have much success in dealing with harassment from people in positions of power.
edited to add:
Why did I make the jump from kids to adult offenders so quickly, despite my last two lines below? Because both my cousin and I were pulled out of particular subjects because of such teachers. Kathy's point about the lawyers "boys with bright futures" sound bite reminded me of that, and of how sexist that line is. No talk of how the girls lives are affected by such behavior. No talk about the jr. high school science geek who couldn't take science her ninth grade year because the teacher was a sexist pervert who was later convicted of molestation. No talk about girls that have had to make similar choices to avoid peers that the people in charge refused to deal with - and I know of quite of few such girls.
(I really, really need to smash something right now.)
PS, re the whole sex offender registry, greenmorgaine also has this to say:
I also want to point out how screwed up it is that a law supposedly intended to protect people from sex offenders is causing people to propose letting sex offenders walk away without even misdemeanor charges.
The sex offender registry needs to be fixed or scrapped. We need to stop giving kids adult punishments.
And I really think that's all that needs to be said on that subject.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Hear ye, Hear ye,
Queen Augusta of Westmark proclaims that on the Sixteenth of August, 2007, The Kingdom of Westmark will host the Carnival for Feminist Fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy. All citizens of Westmark and her allies are hereby invited to participate in this Fantastical Pangynaskeia. In honor of her majesty's bravery, and in response to recent controversies, this month's Carnival will focus on "chicks with swords" - or any other type of heroine and her favored weaponry.
In order to further the education of the general populace and promote democratic debate, scholars of all backgrounds and education levels are welcome to participate. Please send any papers you would like to present in advance to Queen Augusta at QMickle at gmail dot com, by sundown on the Thirteenth of August, so that the royal aides may coordinate the day's festivities for the maximum enjoyment of all. Papers of all lengths are welcome, as long as they are written between the Thirtieth of June and the Thirteenth of August, and need not be on any topic more specific than the general theme of Feminism and Science Fiction and Fantasy.
PS - Queen Mickle would like to apologize for the late announcement. The arrival of one Harry Potter caused no little amount of disarray within the court. We are much recovered now, however, so the Carnival should proceed as currently scheduled without any further delays.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Things you learn watching Angel, answers to silly questions like:
"I don't know why all you silly women get attached to characters based on their physical characteristics. Shouldn't you identify with characters based on other things?"
Random Detective: "Everybody knows you've gone all Scully. Anytime any of these weird cases crosses anyone's desk, you're always there. What's going on with you?"
Kate: "Scully's the skeptic."
K: "Mulder's the believer, Scully's the skeptic."
RD: (scratches his head) "Scully's the chick, right?"
K: (obviously exasperated) "Yes...."
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The smart thing to do would be to take my own advice and simply go "hmmm..." and nod and keep my mouth shut.
But this (via written world) made me think of my aborted letter to Newsweek. The one where I wrote asking why, when TPTB decided to ask some actual black folk who worked at Newsweek what they thought of Imus's remarks, they didn't also ask women what they thought of Imus's remarks. Or, better yet, make a point of asking black women what they thought of Imus's insults. (Although the answer to that last may sadly be "there was no one to ask.")
Cheryl is right, as usual, and I'm not writing this to say that she's not. I'm writing this to make it clearer to non-colored feministsn why they may feel she's not, so they - we - will stop turning a blind eye to racism.
I suspect that people often feel more compelled to put on a veneer of pretending not to be racist than they feel compelled to not voice their sexism - in public. It appears easier to get away with saying that women are genetically not capable of....whatever...than it is to say the same about race. (Unless you modify the "race" to mean "culture" - then anyone is fair game.)
People, of course, still say both. People get away with saying both. But mainstream university presidents seem more likely to feel safe saying sexist things in public (couched in evo-psych). Fortunately, they don't always get away with that either.
But what people say is not always the same as what people do.
Women still only make $.75 for every dollar a man makes. Except, that's not right. The correct stat is that white women make $.77 for every dollar a white man makes. Black men make only $.74 for every dollar a white man makes. Black women make $.68 for every dollar a white man makes. And all four of these groups have Latinos beat by more than a dime.
If economic power really is tied to political and social power, then I think it's clear that Cheryl is quite right. And that's even before we start discussing the messy business of how much power the women who marry the white men have. Or how the recent Supreme Court decision will impact such stats in the future.
Because of our past - recent and distant - we can, as a nation, be very hyper-sensitive when it comes race relations between blacks and whites. But that doesn't mean we actually bother to do a whole lot about racism. In fact, the bulk of what we do is blame the victim.
Just as importantly, there's a lot going on that we (white feminists) don't hear - or don't bother to listen to.
It's not as if universities across the nation are overflowing with black people. In fact, it's very possible that we actually hear more about the sexist remarks made by the Larry Summers of the world not because they are considered to be ok, but because they aren't. Sexist remarks tend to piss off a huge section of the student body and a significant number of the faculty. They same cannot be as confidently said about casual racist remarks. There is strength in numbers, and I suspect women feel more comfortable calling out sexism in college than people of color feel comfortable calling out racism. And that the same is true in a lot of other places as well.
We have to remember that our perception of what people feel is ok to say in public is colored by the fact that we (white feminists) hear the the sexist things people say in private, but we don't necessarily hear the racist things people say in private - or even in public places that we don't happen to be in at the time. My suspicion could very easily be wrong; it's hardly a foolproof enough theory to go around making stupid remarks about black women having advantages over white women.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I'm watching the movie version of Phantom of the Opera for the first time - I saw the musical three times in LA as teenager and loved it - and I can't help wondering if Schumacher bothered listening to any of the lyrics at all.
Right now, the Phantom and Christine are singing "Music of the Night" in his caves underneath the opera house, and the whole thing is brightly lit. Not harshly, it's all nice and warm and gold with soft shadows that give it texture without making it dark or hard to see. But that means that when the Phantom is singing about darkness stirring the imagination - he's standing in this gold glow, with everything behind him perfectly visible. And instead of the light being cold and white and "unfeeling" when he sings about her turning her face away from the "garish light of day" the light around them is all warm and welcoming. The only thing that's "garish" in the scene is the way his caves are decorated.
To which I can only say wha?
Ah, well. I'm also less enchanted by the story than I used to be. I think it's because rather than seeing the Phantom as merely a tragic villain, I can't help seeing him as a proxy for Weber himself. Not that I know much about him, but based on things like what happened with Evita, I can't help but picture how Weber must view all the women who have played his Christine's and Evita's when I hear the lines "I am the mask you wear/It's me they hear" and the like. (Yes, I know he didn't write the lyrics, but my mind keeps making the association anyway.) Granted, Christine ends up with the only person who argues that her talent is her own, but since the the story starts with him alone, the ending isn't a completely happy one either.
Besides, I love Minnie Driver's acting and I get annoyed with the way Hollywood always manages to write so many parts for new undiscovered ingenues but rarely has anything worthy of it's most talented, established actresses. This time around, I'm finding myself rooting for Carlotta.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Just a few notes in case anyone is interested.
The store's capacity is 1,000. The fire dept. totally should have shut us down Friday night. And that is with a lot of people outside around the radio station's booth.
We sold 1,300 copies the first night. It took us until 2 am (pretty much on the dot) to ring them all up.
As of sometime yesterday afternoon, we had almost doubled that.
Since we got around 5,500 copies in, though, were still doing fine.
(except for audio :( )
People keep coming in, looking around at our tables filled the the brim with DH, and making stupid comments to the effect of "It must not being doing as well as they thought." Please.
With regard to the "their slashing the price so much they aren't making any money!" meme:
Yes, we are killing small bookstores. But we, ourselves, are doing fine.
We made $65,000 Friday night. A normal summer Friday is around $30,000. 1,300*$20 = $26,000. That leaves $10,000 extra. So we increased our sales by about 25 -30% even if we only broke even on DH.
Saturday was pretty similar.
Now, must go to work!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Not that it's doing anybody any good at the moment.
The mountains of boxes arrived a couple days ago at the store. (Last night was my first night since they came in). No simple "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - SALE DATE: 7/21/2007" in black letters on the sides of these boxes. They are specially made white boxes with red lightening bolts and dire warnings in red Harry Potter font all over them.
Ours are also shrink-wrapped. Sort of. Once they arrived, they wrapped them in that plastic they use to keep pallets together. The mountains, not the individual boxes. To make it extra hard to break in.
Wizards and Dragons and Quills of every size and shape have taken over the children's section. There have been several owl and unicorn sightings as well.
Along with the regular festivities for customers, we employees are having a Harry Potter themed potluck contest tomorrow night. Largely owing to that fact that most of our lunch breaks will be between 10 and midnight.
So, I need to think of something good to bring!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
When I was in preschool, and my brown hair hung all the way to my waist, I used to beg my mother to make my hair like Princess Leia's.
If I was lucky, she would agree and braid my two pigtails and loop them up in an approximation of Leia's Cinnabraids.
If I was very, very, lucky, she would braid my hair and pile it on top of my head.
Long before I met Gertrude.....
.....or Kitty Pride.
Long before I met Buffy....
Long before Kaylee....
.....or even Penny......
Long before Alanna or Val or Gemma.
Even long before The Beggar Queen, Charlotte Doyle, or Meg.
Even before Anne....
.....and Princess Sara.
There was Leia.
I get nostalgic for VHS ghosts of Luke on Tatooine the way some people talk about the crackling on old records. I can remember the smell and texture and weight and look of all my Leia action figures better than I remember most of the things I've done in the last decade. My earliest memory of going to the movie theatre is not of a Disney movie, but of going to see Return of the Jedi. I was six and we had Burger King afterwards because they were the ones selling the movie cups.
When I applied to work in my college's computer lab, I wrote about stealing Star Wars files off the internet and setting my "alert" sound to Chewbacca's growl. When I decorated the bulletin board on my dorm door, Han and Leia took their place beside Emma and Mr. Knightly.
When I ditched my friends during senior week to go see Episode 1 on opening night in NYC, I brought with me a flashlight, empty Sprite bottles, and packing tape. Because real Jedi make their own.
So it bothers me when people say that Leia's slave girl outfit is her most iconic, because despite having wanted to be her for as long as I can remember, I rarely ever think of that outfit. And when I do, it's usually because That '70's Show is making a joke about dressing up for sex play, Wizard is turning Leia into a Sexy! Zombie!, or Comicon is trying to sell itself - to people who apparently aren't me.
Ewan McGregor once said that girls didn't like Star Wars.* When I first read that quote it sounded so ridiculous to me that I thought it was a joke at first. I bought the damn magazine for no other reason than because it had Star Wars on the cover, didn't I? I kept having to re-read the lines that followed because they didn't make sense - until I realized that he was being deadly serious.
This is the fandom in which Leia as Jabba's fucktoy is the representative image of her: the fandom in which real women are invisible.
"But, but but!" you say. "That's not fair! It's not just iconic because it shows the most skin, it's also iconic because she kills Jabba in that outfit!"
Bullshit, I say.
Princess Leia Organa Solo was a diplomat and high ranking leader in a military rebellion.
She didn't just wait around and pray to be rescued. She had the foresight to not only send word for help, but to make sure that vital information was passed onto the rest of the Alliance - despite her capture.
She told the scary bad guy that had us all quaking in our boots to fuck off. She told the creepy general to fuck off too.
She withstood torture.
She found a way out of the mess Luke and Han made of her rescue (with R2D2's help) and did her fair share of shooting at Stormtroopers. She did not stay inside the Millennium Falcon while Han when out to investigate. Neither did she stay on the sidelines during the Battle of Endor.
She faced down Jabba the Hut with a bomb in her hand and completed the most important part of her mission: unfreezing Han.
And she did none of this while wearing a metal bikini.
"But, but but!" you say. "It's women who dress up as slave-girl Leia at comic conventions. You don't speak for all women! You obviously don't even speak for most women!"
Most women wear make-up. Why don't you go ask a few of them if they always do it because they really enjoy putting gunk on their face every day or if sometimes they do it just because they are afraid of how they will be treated if they don't. Now, I'm sure plenty of them will simply liken it to bathing regularly and there are more than a few that do so because it can be fun. The point is though, that while Kirsten Bell is fully capable of making her own choices and speaking for herself, her decision to wear a metal bikini and not a long white, baggy dress is not uninfluenced by how she will be treated in each outfit.
In fact, Kirsten Bell happens to be wearing that outfit for a new movie called Fanboys. Which brings me to the point that while many women are dressing up as slave-girl Leia for their own amusement, they generally aren't the ones making and buying all the drawings, statues, etc. of Leia as Jabba's slave. I'll bet they're not even the ones uploading and downloading most of the pictures of women dressed as slave-girl Leia.
Pictures of Leia in her metal bikini makes up the vast majority of the first page of links that come up in a google image search of her name.** But to say that makes the bikini outfit the more iconic is just as ridiculous as saying that this (note: probably NSFW) is what comes to most people's minds when you say "american girl."
Let's not ignore that this (note: definitely NSFW!) in fact comes first before this in the above search. Let's also not pretend that anything other than rampant, malicious sexism (dare I say misogyny?) is the reason why a naked Leia being shown her home planet blown to bits beats a flirty but fully clothed Leia holding a gun. At least not when a google image search for Han Solo gives us no naked or nearly naked images of Harrison Ford. (It does eventually give us several more of Leia, however.)
Leia's slave-girl outfit is cool and I completely understand seeing as it as a symbol of women rescuing themselves from their aggressors. (plus, it's literally cool, which I can see being A Very Good thing in San Diego in July.) But, unfortunately, that isn't the only reason why Leia in her metal bikini is such a popular image. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's not even the biggest reason.
Remember too, that we're not just talking about women.
The kind of widespread and hardcore fandom that Star Wars enjoys usually only happens when most of the fans are introduced to the story and it's characters as children or teenagers. Most die-hard Star Wars fans are children of the '70's and '80's. So we aren't just talking about women, we are mostly talking about now grown up girls and their childhood idols. To say that Leia will always be remembered most as a scantily clad sex slave turned killer is to say that Ewan McGregor was right, girls don't like Star Wars.
Women may want to look like Sexy Leia. They may even admire her strength. But little girls don't want to be slave girl Leia - Jabba killer or not. Little girls generally don't choose to picture themselves as chained to creepy monsters and they only choose to picture themselves in bikinis if that actually is the character's most iconic image.
You'll note that while Leia in her metal bikini is featured on the posters for Return of the Jedi, Mattel didn't make an action figure of her in that outfit.
I like the Comicon cover (mostly). (It's Star Wars! duh, of course I like it.)
I think having the characters pose for pictures as if they were just people dressed up as Luke and Han and Leia was a cute idea and was mostly well-done. I think that it was smart to try to reference the movie posters as well by having the appropriate background behind them.
I think the not as well done mix of the two ideas is the weakest part of the cover. Such as Han just looking like Han, while the other two are posed like fans in costume. I think that, whatever the artist's feelings and attitudes on the matter, the sexism that is still quite present in sci-fi fandom contributed to the bad mix of the two; the homage to the actual movies is thwarted by the desire to realisticly portray Star Wars fandom - without daring to question the sexism within it. Having all three movies represented by outfts from all three movies was cute; the fact that this gives justification for Leia not wearing her iconic white is not. And as far as the silly argument about color contrast goes, Leia in white and Luke in his black outfit would have solved the problem just as well (better, even) - and kept the three movies/three outfits bit going.
It hardly reaches the "yes, why don't you go and piss off your fans so much that they no longer want to give you money" moment that the Ewan McGregor quote achieved. In large part because Adam Hughes made sure to have Leia hold the chain in a (semi) aggressive way. But it is another little reminder that I'm often invisible. And the defensive reactions to my pointing this out are an even stronger reminder.
And yeah, I'm not looking forward to going to Comicon as much as I was before I heard the stupid argument that this is not Leia's most iconic outift.
However, I'll probably now be wearing Cinnabraids if I do still go.
*Sorry, I don't have the exact quote, it was from a British magazine article the year before Phantom Menace came out. I can't find it with google, and I obviously didn't drag the article back with me from Bristol.
**I started writing this weeks ago. Needless to say, several of the searches have shifted since then (not necessarily for the better) and one link isn't working. The now not working "american girl" link was something along the lines of this (note: very NSFW), but with enough skin covered up for it to not be porn.
Over at Dr. Petra Boynton's blog, an interesting discussion of "The sex Education Issues Parents Worry About" (via the 27th Carnival to End Sexual Violence)
One of them is:
Teaching them about sex will encourage kids to experiment
I. Do. Not. Get. That.
Especially since it's generally girls that are more worried about having sex than boys.
Comprehensive sex ed teaches kids that sex can be dangerous. It gives kids facts that they can then spit out at their ignorant peers. Not a fool-proof method of deterring peer pressure, to be sure, but a decent tool to have, nonetheless.
Even something as riske as being exposed to positive images of sex (by virtue of the fact that they tend to not ignore female pleasure quite as much as as the negative ones kids see all the time do) makes it less likely that teen girls will fall victim to the modern day version of "How little that which thou deniest me is." They are much less likely to see it as "no big deal" and more likely to experiment in ways that minimize risk and maximize the possibility of pleasure.
I take it back.
That's why sex ed scares parents so. They can handle the idea of little Johnny masturbating - they make jokes about it all the time in movies - but they can't handle the idea that little Janey might want to as well.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
First, to remind us all (on the odd chance that we need reminding) why this is so important to talk about, I'd like to share with you the conversation I had last night with my dad, who usually puts up with my rambling by just nodding along.
So this site had a before and after picture of a photoshopped magazine cover, and some stupid people are arguing that it's really a composite of two pictures, even though that wouldn't make sense, because it's usually harder to do. There's all sorts of patterns on her dress that would be hard to match up.
Me: They're arguing that they made her torso smaller by copying from another photo where her posture is different, instead of just squishing it, which would be much easier.
Dad: uh-huh ........wait - what?
Dad: They did what?
Me: They made her torso skinnier. And her arms and a bunch of stuff like that.
Dad: What magazine was this?
Me: Oh, some women's magazine (checks computer) - Redbook
Dad: But not, like, a news magazine or anything. They don't do that.
Me: Well, that depends.
Dad: ...like Newsweek....
Me: That depends on who's on the cover. If it's a headshot of someone like Obama, they'll touch it up a little...
Dad: Like, if he had a zit that day, they'll cover it up.
Me:...mostly, yeah. Depends. But if it's someone like even Katie Couric, they'll totally make her skinnier than she is.
Dad: (makes a sound of disgust and turns back to his newspaper)
I'd also like to clarify why I think it's important to realize that the images below are from the same photo. Someone else has suggested that the second arm is taken from another photo rather than copied from another part of the same picture. That's possible; and it's pretty irrelevant to the point.
The point is that not only is she "retouched" she's retouched in a way so that her posture is impossible. Not only is she photoshopped in a way that each different angle of her body is not just possible within a single pose, but the "angle" of her back is just not possible, period. There's not enough room left between her back and her front to make room for all her organs. There's not room left in her back for her shoulder muscles, no matter if she's standing upright or leaning over.
No wonder why so many idiots think that artwork like Turner's is simply "idealized" rather than "freaky" - even the photos we all see every day do the same general thing.
Monday, July 16, 2007
So, more people than should (ie, a greater number than zero) believe that the images below are from two different shots.
(from Jezebel, via Pandagon)
In order words, yes, the cover is photoshopped, but ya'll are seeing stuff that isn't even there.
Since the only coherent verbal reply that I can come up with to answer that is "WTflyingF?!?!?" I shall, instead answer with pictures.
Squished? or Naturally arched in a different pose?
Top dress fold on the right leg:
Distorted? or Different pose?
Hand replaced with arm? or Different pose?
What do you all think?
(you, know, all two of you.)
update: I've now added a poll. Shiny!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
So, in case I hadn't mentioned it yet, Into the Wild just plain rocks.
Like the best books for young readers, it works on many levels. It's fun and the characters are believable and engaging. It's also very original. As much as I love retold fairy tales, this isn't one of them. This is fairy tale land completely re-imagined - but with a great number of familiar characters. On top of all that you get all the nice layers that make for the kinds of "oh. oh! OH!" moments that come only when you re-read at age sixteen the book you loved at age eleven. (Or when you are an adult obsessed with kids books.)
It's one of those books that's both enjoyable and easy to read, but still makes you want to pick it apart into tiny pieces and then put in back together again. Which I'm going to do, so don't read any of the posts that I will be magically appearing below if you haven't read it already, but plan on doing so anytime in the remotely near future. WHICH YOU SHOULD TOTALLY BE DOING.
update: I have the first two parts of the actual review finished, but they have so many spoilers that I don't want to post them until I can figure out how to hide/show posts. Which I had done at one point, but have now forgotten. Plus blogger layouts is making things weird. : P
update II hide/show now working! detailed review linked to below.
Part i: Mothers and Daughters
Part 2: The Power of Myth
There's lot's of good stuff to be found at the first People of Color SF Carnival.
Lots of stuff to make you cry and lots of stuff to make you mad at the world and even some stuff to make you smile. Pam Noles essay about about diversity of skintone and the Earthsea Trilogy is especially moving, and some of the reactions to it make me want to pull me hear out.
But it's equally depressing that there are parents like Pam Noles' who claim they have their kids' best interests at heart while encouraging them to identify only with fictional characters who look like themselves. Ye gods, what a crappy thing to do to a child.
Now, I don't mean to turn this into "well, at least I'm a good White Girl, not like those other white boys and girls" post. The simple fact that I've been keeping this blog for over a year now and have yet to write anything on the subject of racism shows that I have a long way to go. But still, sheesh people.
Having parents who care enough to point out the flaws in the media you consume is a good thing. It's a very hard thing to do and yet it's also very necessary in order to teach children to look at the media they consume critically. Noles' parents are to be commended for not discouraging her interests while also making sure that she is able to analyze them honestly.
In responding to people who think that the casting of the Earthsea miniseries really was colorblind, Pam has this to say:
A lot of white people - within the wide world and the narrow closet of genre - think that validation of Ethnic Self means exclusion or disparagement of Ethnic Other.
Which sounds to me a lot like when guys act like validation of women is invalidation of men. Neither is true.
There is a big difference between identifying with a single character just because they happen to have one thing in common with you, and identifying with the one character who isn't white, male, straight, etc. When I scoured the library and bookstores as a child for adventure stories featuring - or at least including - girls, I didn't do so because I couldn't identify with male characters. I did so because when you find yourself identifying with the boys all the time - while most of the characters that are girls annoy the shit out of you - you start to wonder if there is something wrong with you. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it must be to be pretty much completely invisible rather than just annoying. My heart goes out to that one black kid.
(An now we reach the point where I make a confession as to being even more of a racist ass than I am now.)
I read lots and lots of romance novels. I have yet to read one of the many where the heroine was not white. Several years ago I noticed this - to my discomfort - and then quickly dismissed such actions as only logical - after all, how could I really identify with black characters, etc. when it comes to something as intimate as sex and relationships? Which is just mean and dumb and wrong in so many ways.
I don't know what changed to make me openly admit how dumb and destructive this attitude was, but I think it was some combination of immersing myself in the feminist blogosphere and occasionaly bothering to read the excellent and illuminating rants of such women as Angry Black Woman and many other people not-like-me. I was still too stupid to figure out of lot of this on my own, but my experiences in dissecting anti-feminist arguments helped me recognize the truth in what people not-like-me had to say on various -isms - even when it made me uncomfortable.
So "thanks!" and "good job!" to Willow and everyone else who made the carnival possible. We all need to be talking about this more.
I just finished Into the Wild (which is absolutely brilliant, btw and WARNNG, possible small spoiler ahead).
So the first thing that popped into my head after reading Elizabeth's Bear's post about diversity in fiction, was this line from Into the Wild:
I can't run, she realized. Refusing to help was just as much of a fairy-tale act as helping ...
There are two things that bugged me about Elizabeth Bear's post.
First off, she starts off with the whole "don't kill me for this" routine just like guys tend to do when addressing a bunch of women and gender/sexism. Not a Huge Deal, but that crap is always annoying and dumb.
Secondly, she uses the stupid phrase "professionally offended". Now, it's quite true that there's a certain number of people who are just plain stupid. And that number is much larger than 3%, I fear. It's also true that there are a lot of people who are hypersensitive. ( I rather think I happen to be one of them. I also think I happen to be right a lot of those times. :) ) There are also people who can't seem to do anything other than complain. *cough* But using the same sound bites often abused by the very people you are trying to distance yourself from is just bad tactics, at the very least. (With obvious exceptions to be made for important and long-standing concepts like "freedom.") No matter how many disclaimers you add, it still sounds like you are on the wrong side. There's no need to leave the gate wide open to shitty connotations unless you have to.
Now, Ms. Bear also rightly points out that fear of criticism is more likely to silence well-meaning authors than jackass authors and that
....one of the major problems we find in dealing with racist/sexist/looksist/queerist/classist/ismist assumptions in fiction ... is that in some ways, there is no win.
She also goes on to offer a very obvious and good solution to this problem. That is, in fact, the purpose of the post, most of which is recommended reading.
But, with the huge disclaimer that I don't write professionally and so I don't quite know what it feels like to have your baby torn apart in public by the very people you hoped to make happy, I think that Ms. Bear left out something important.
The whole idea that "in some ways, there is no win" is not just a dilemma for well-meaning authors. It's just how things are when it comes to most of these -isms.
My mother teaches first grade. Several years ago, on the day the class made pilgrim hats for Thanksgiving, the mother of one of her students came to talk to her after school. The girl was crying and the mother looked close to hysterics. The mother also didn't speak English very well, and so had some trouble communicating the reason why she had come by.
It turns out that the mother had come by the classroom because she thought something really awful had happened, but she wasn't able to get what had happened from her daughter. (The daughter was simply upset because her mother was.) Why did she think this? Because her little girl was wearing a white hat, and white is the color of death in Chinese culture.
My mother was horrified and, feeling extremely guilty, tried her best to explain the history behind the pilgrim hats - all the while making the little girl a pink hat to replace the white one. After telling me the story, my mother kept wondering aloud what she could have done to prevent all this. (And she meant this quite sincerely; my mother was on the verge of tears herself at that point.) I told her that there was nothing she could have done; she did everything right.
This isn't strictly true, of course, but this was the first second-generation Chinese-American my mother had taught, and the girl had just joined the class, so it's not like she'd spent years ignoring all the differences between her student's cultures and her own. Fuck-ups will happen; the real solution isn't just to try to prevent them, it's also to simply deal with them as best you can when they do happen.
The correct solution, however, is never inaction. It may be tempting to use our privilege to shield ourselves from having to deal with all this crap, but that's not a solution, that's a cop-out. The real solution is to say. "Hmmm, I hadn't thought of that. I'll do my best to consider that carefully before my next story." Or even "Well, I did that for reasons, X, Y, and Z. I understand that you disagree with me, but we aren't going to agree on everything. Please don't take this to mean that I don't care what you have to say, however." Lot's of times, it ain't gonna help; but trying to be respectful and then also trying to be gracious - ok, honest and respectful, in any case - about criticism is certainly a better choice than doing nothing at all.
One last bit of advice from the non-professional - just because no one is yelling at you doesn't mean they think your stuff is all a-ok. It may easily be that the -isms in your work are so commonplace as to not be worth giving special attention to. Or, it may be that not even bothering to address the issue has made you sunk so low in their expectations that they no longer think you are worth addressing either. After all, Joss Whedon doesn't get hit with so much feminist critique because feminists think he doesn't care
Remember that the next time someone complains about x,y,z in your work. When they aren't doing it because your stuff is so spectacularly bad that to let it slide would be a crime against humanity, they are usually doing it because you managed to make something that meant something important to them.
note: this doesn't apply to abusive and malicious criticism, but that didn't seem to be the kind of criticism Ms. Bear was talking about.
Posted by Mickle at 2:57 AM
Friday, July 13, 2007
First of all, Revena and the rest of the crew at The Hathor Legacy are crazy. They've obviously caught me on one too many good days.
Secondly, I should be in bed.
Third, you should really go check out the rest of the blogs they picked. The ones I already recognized are very good, and the others that I've checked out so far are as well.
And since the topic is thinking, I thought I'd share a few thoughts prompted by the archives at Marketing to Women Online.
I recently started using Dove shampoo/conditioner and deodorant.
I like both. Although I can't promise how long the shampoo/conditioner part will last. I can't seem to find one I like. And I hate the design of their economy sized bottles. (Stupid Dove, my hands are smaller than average, not bigger! And please get on the upside down trend.) Which I pretty much must buy not because of the cost but because my hair is insanely thick and currently long and I run through regular sized bottle way too fast.
I bring this up because one of the posts talks about the Dove ad campaign and an article by a guy discussing it's effectiveness. Holly concedes that dude Seth may be right, Dove's campaign may get a lot of positive attention now, but the goodwill may turn sour once the campaign has lost it's novelty. She ends, however, by saying that Dove has finally made it onto her radar screen while shopping, and that's a big first step.
What we really have are two questions. It's not just, "Did Dove make a good decision or not?", it's "Did Dove make a good decision?" and "How far should they push it?" In another post Holly mocks* people who have just now realized that advertising requires strategy. Maybe Holly means something different by strategy than I think she does, but it seems to me that Seth's long term grade supposes that Dove's strategy ends with the part of the campaign that we had seen at that point.
When companies are trying to completely re-brand, their initial advertising is always much more "edgy" than later and - even the majority of concurrent - ads. (ABC bananas, anyone?) There is no reason to think that Dove will be consistently aggressive** in promoting their tagline of "real beauty." In fact, having never seen any ads on the actual TV except for their stupid deodorant ones, I can safely say their initial ads were as much about getting free positive publicity - mostly heard/viewed by a targeted demographic*** - than the effect of the ads on the average viewer.
I personally think that the Dove ads were a freakin' brilliant move, and that their best strategy is to make the long term campaign balance out more widely accepted images of beauty with the occasional well-placed "edgy" ad.
They get bonus points for focusing their most recent mini-campaign around one of the things women simultaneously fear and love the most. Being an older woman means being invisible to the male gaze, something that women are taught to fear. Being older means supposedly being ugly in an irreversible way, which is what makes one invisible to the male gaze.
But being older also often means being better at ignoring the male gaze and loving the real you. Even for younger women, images of older women don't just make us say "ick, I don't want to think about that!" When done well, they often remind younger women of the people they admire most: their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, great aunts, mentors, role models, etc.
Dove manages to demolish the idea that older women are not beautiful and remind women that inner beauty matters too. And in just 30 seconds? And lucky Dove for getting rejected by TV. What brand doesn't want to be considered both too riske for the mainstream and yet not too out there for baby boomers - and beyond?
Which brings us to edgy advertising. Something Holly has also written about.
There is a difference between being shocking and being outside the norm. Sometimes the two converge, but not always. The Bluefly ad Holly talks about is shocking, but it's hardly outside the norm. The TJ Maxx, commercial, on the other hand, is not really shocking at all, but it's certainly not quite as done to death as using women's bodies to sell products. Especially not when it's a woman - and one other than the bride - focusing on something other than "happily ever after" at a wedding.
Same with the Dove campaign. There is a insane amount of idiotic "just be you!" advertising out there. Besides not being idiotic (yes, I'm talking to you, Sprite), the Dove commercials manage to be "just be you!" ads while also being both shocking and outside the norm. As the shock wears off, they will have to rely on other techniques to sell their products. But as the success of "Let Me Play" campaign showed, women are more then willing to open their wallets to brands that market themselves as anything resembling real empowerment. And like the Nike ads, Dove's new campaign makes emotional connections**** to it's potential consumers that last long beyond the shock and awe. Plus, Dove also has the huge gap between "ideal" beauty and real beauty on their side. It's not like they have to try to convince people that up is down, they just have to remind everyone that variety is a good thing and women are wonderful in all kinds of ways. Unless TPTB are stupid, Dove's "real beauty" campaign should do well for quite a while.
Like Holly, and apparently a lot of other women, Dove is on my radar. This is after years of seeing it as the kind of soap that grandmothers with no flair or taste use. Even more shocking than the shampoo/conditioner and deodorant, I've even now been known to use Dove body wash instead of Bath and Body Works.
And none of this was on purpose. I didn't see the Dove ads and decide "I'm going to support pseudo-feminist brands today!" I walked into Tarjay to buy shampoo/conditioner/deodorant/soap and thought "Huh, why don't I give this a try. Looks as good as anything else." And turns out it is. Possibly even just the tiniest bit better than most of my previous regulars.
Plus, as another article points out, "If more women feel beautiful, goes the underlying marketing premise, more will be inspired to take great care of themselves by buying beauty and hygiene products." (It also has some interesting stuff to say about men and women and wanting to be connected versus being on the top of the heap.)
Far too much of the advertising aimed at women is about making us feel worthless without what is being sold - especially when it comes to our value as objects to be looked at. Imagine if most of the ads aimed at men were like those stupid Bowflex commercials. That's pretty much how most things are sold to women. Especially when it comes to beauty products - or pretty much anything not directly related to kids or housework.
It's not just that Dove is now on my radar. It's also that I didn't care before that Dove's soap was soft, but now I do. And it's not because I now believe that it's soft and I didn't before. It's because not feeling shitty about myself makes me feel like I deserve small pleasures like soft soap, instead of soap that is simply smelly and may - in an alternate universe - get me noticed.
Advertising does work, it just doesn't all work. I think it's safe to say, though, that Dove's campaign works better than many, if not most.
*Gently, though. She's a lot classier and more professional than I am. At least on her blog, anyway. :)
**Yes, I realize that there is lots about the ads that aren't aggressive at all.
***and by target demographic, I don't just mean "women who buy beauty products and soap" I also mean "women who look critically at how such things are advertised to women." I do not know what my mom, sister, etc. would think of Dove's ads. But I also don't know if they've seen most of them. But I can promise you that every single flippin' feminist and budding feminist blogger/lurker/bitch reader/etc. has heard of them and thinks of the campaign as a whole in a more positive light - despite still having complaints - than just about any other ads for such products.
****I still cry whenever I see those damn ads. And I hate Nike.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Golly ghee whiz I can’t think of any heroines who are equally immersed in gore and sexual muck without a clear-cut hero who enjoy a very devoted romance following. No, wait, I just ran out of fingers on which to count.
(ps - If you haven't checked out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books yet, you really should. Seriously.)
Next time I get into an argument with someone about which is more sexist/more feminist: scifi/fantasy or romance, I'm just going to ask them - "Which romance novels are you claiming as pure scifi/fantasy?" I have a feeling that will end the debate before it starts. Because I'm beginning to suspect that a large portion of the best of both genres are being claimed by fans of both genres at the same time.
There's a reason why I hardly ever read the movie reviews in the LA Times. And that, when I do, I usually take the opposite of the critic's advice.
Aside from being a condescending snob, is Mr. Schickel unaware that the Harry Potter books are unfinished? Or was he expecting the Harry Potter movies to turn out more like the Fullmetal Alchemist anime?
I personally think that Harry Potter - the Musical would kick ass. (And I soooo....want the anime. Preferably about Mooney, Prongs, Wormtail & Padfoot.) Most fans I know would as well. And the variety of fanfiction alone disproves the idea that fans only care about cannon. The bigger issue is that cannon is the only thing we (occasionally) agree on - and that's just because there's someone to break up the fights.
Most of all, though, most Harry fans would not be happy with a movie made only by people who weren't ever able to read all of the source material. I really don't think that suggests that fans only want movie adaptations of books that are exactly like the books.
After all, if they did, Harry Potter fans would be so upset at the loss of S.P.E.W. and the like in #4 to even consider dragging themselves down to see David Yates latest interpretation.
You'd think someone who ranted about opinions not being the same as reviews would understand the difference between teenagers howling "what about the part I've loved the best since I was 12!" upon first viewing and fans being able to appreciate someone else's interpretation of the a book they like.
(That said, I'm curious if the movie versions of either The Goblet of Fire or The Order of the Phoenix make any sense to anyone that hasn't read the books.)
So, I know I'm the only one that ever cared about this, (and that it is again a Thursday and not a Wednesday) but I need something to make me write more about books. Partly because maybe then I'll take a big chunk out of my TBR pile.
So, today's Wednesday Words of Wisdom come from Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst, which I picked up because
a) I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales.
b) The title reminded me of one of my favorites: Into the Woods (I'm a sucker for anything Sondheim as well)
c) Tamora Pierce raved about it
Oddly enough, today's quote has nothing to do with fairy tales, and everything to do with working in the service industry:
The problem with being a hairdresser, Zel thought, was that you had to listen politely to everyone's pet theories, right or wrong.
And yes, today's quote takes up less than a fourth of the post.
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.
This reminds me of the time some guy tried to correct me when he asked for a physics book on a particular topic and I didn't give him the answer he liked.
(I don't remember exactly how it went but basically he was using a physics term to mean something slightly more narrow than it actually meant and I was answering as I would to any other random person - which means I was broadening the topic more than I would if I was back in physics lab.)
I tried to be nice at first, but when he flat out told me I was wrong - in slightly condescending tone of voice - I explained that I had a degree in physics*, not so gently corrected him, and explained that I was answering the question assuming the common usage of the word, not the way physicists use it. Then I explained that we don't carry books that specific; he would have to order a textbook from us. (duh)
Generally, though, I get the sexist stuff less often because I work in the kid's section; in fact I'd imagine the guys get it almost often as we do in the bookstore - especially if they work in the kid's section.
In other customer news, I had a lady ask me today about a book that I was never able to find, even in the computer. Why not, you ask? Well, this was the information she gave me: it was about the wedding industry, it was new, it was an expose, she heard about it....somewhere.
Which works if you have google, but inside the store I don't get to use google.
Now, normally I'd just feel bad and hate our lame search engine and our lack of internet access. But this was one of those times that I don't feel bad because this was one of those times when I had the bookseller's equivalent of a backseat driver. (Backseat bookseller?)
As I'm searching she asks:
"Can you search by topic?"
(Um, yeah, just did. A couple of them, actually. I got squat.) "I can search by keyword. You said it was new?"
"Do you know how new?"
It just came out.
(Oh, that's helpful.) - I do a broader keyword search, but this time only searching books published in the last six months. Again, I get squat. - "Did you read about it in a newspaper?"
(mumbles about hearing about it everywhere) "Can't you just browse new books?"
"No, not for weddings. We don't have a New Release section for Weddings. But I can narrow the search by publication date. I just did that. You don't remember any specific publication you heard about it in?"
"No. Can you look up books that are in the news recently?"
"I can, but only by specific publication. There's no overall list." (Which is why I'm trying to get you to give a good guess about which newspaper/magazine/show - doofus. Because the major ones are giving me squat.)
"Can't you just look in weddings?"
(I'm noticeably annoyed by now. And so is she.) "I could, but the problem with this book is that it could listed under a bunch of different topics. It may be under Weddings, or it may be under Business or Current Affairs.** You don't remember anything else about it?"
"Well, thank you."
Needless to say we were both lying through our teeth.
*which of course led to "what are you doing working here?" grrr....
** turns out it's under Sociology. Which makes sense when you know that it's not just an expose on the wedding industry but also an analysis of why the wedding industry has grown to the size it has and what this means about all of us. And Sociology doesn't have a New Release bay/shelf either.
Seriously, people, this is why when your bookseller asks you questions, you should respond with actual answers, not annoying questions that amount to "have you thought of doing this obvious thing, idiot retail worker?"
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 02, 2007
This deserves a longer and more emphatic response, but since I need to be at work in five hours and my brain is mush, for now I'm just going to say:
In direct opposition to my previous post, I'm taking a hard stand on this topic. Cheryl is right. And a lot of people are being dumb and are demonstrating that it's not just fanboys that can exercise privilege.
Seriously people, how hard is it to say "Gee, I hadn't thought of that. I'll have to go ponder my ignorance for a while and see if it changes my opinion." ??
And Cheryl - some of us are listening, we just aren't always sure how to add to the conversation and forget that sometimes "Hey! look at this!" or "Oooohh. Good point!" or even "Peoples, please. Think of someone other than yourself for a change," is all that's really needed.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
I really, really, really should be asleep. Or at least trying to get to sleep.
But I think I've figured out why so much of the recent conversations about "offensive" covers and whatnot have been bugging me so much.
After I finished writing an overly long response to ami's questions about girl gazing, I realized that what bothered me about the other responses was not just that they weren't really thinking about what it's like to be the woman being watched, blah, blah blah. But that they answered an open ended question as if the only two responses were "yes" and "no."
I can't condemn girl watching - when it's done with all the caveats they include - but a I can't completely condone it either. Not because I think their wanting to do it is wrong or anything but healthy and even good, but because life is messy and complicated and their intent and actions and being deserving of happiness themselves aren't the only factors.
But most of all because I don't see it as a "yes or no" question.
ami partly presents it as a "yes or no" question herself with her first line and by talking about when men watching her makes her uncomfortable and when it doesn't, and by talking about what she does when she looks at guys. But she also presents the possibility that it's something more by not coming to a conclusion and by not repeating "Is it just a harmless sport or can it be harrassment sometimes? :|" - a line paraphrased from the original article - after her final "What do other ppl think? :3"
What I think is more complicated and less concrete than any answer to her first question could ever be.
Joel, however, starts out by saying:
I think there's a line between an appreciative look that's harmless... and an outright ogle that creeps someone out.
and everyone else agrees.
I don't. Or at least, I don't think that the line is solid and clear and always in the same place.
I don't the line is even where the conversation should always be focused on.
A woman was near death.... There was one drug that....might save her....the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. ....The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together.....half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No..." So Heinz...broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife.
Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?
Why is this the question that is always asked? Why is Heinz's the only one whose actions are scrutinized?
Why are we always asking "is this offensive or not?" as if that was only question that applied? Why are we constantly turning others thoughts into this pigeon hole of "condemn or condone?" when even their own clear answer to that question is contradicted by the nuances within their rant?
"Offensive" suggests a solid, clear line. But that's not what I'm getting from most of the complaints I'm reading. Even the ones condemning DC, Marvel, the world, whatever. Perhaps I simply need to be more thorough in my WFA link-reading, but most of the rants that I read (that are longer than a sentence or two) contain a multitude of ideas that go beyond a simple yes or no answer.
In the end, agreeing on whether the answer is "yes" or "no" is not the most important issue. The variety of people supporting the campaign for a memorial for Stephanie Brown - many despite their own feelings on the matter - shows that better than anything else. Because the real question is not something as simple as "should DC give Stephanie a memorial?" the real question is messy and complicated with no clear answer. It's "what can we do to make this better?" and "how can we change was so obviously needs to be changed?" and "how do we even begin such a task, much less finish it?"
Examples and narratives are useful, and that's why we talk about covers and art and story and character development and everything else. But we aren't making guidelines. We shouldn't be making guidelines. The question isn't "is this offensive or not?" Nor is it "what about this is offensive and what isn't?" The question isn't even "what about this challenges sexism, racism, the status quo, etc. and what supports it?" The questions are "What does this mean? What do people take away from this? Where is it's place in all the other narratives of our lives?"
The fact that sexism is often our focus does not necessarily change these questions into the kind with clear yes or no answers.
Just because we have to make decisions ("support the Girl Wonder crusade or not?") or feel the need to take a stand ("the Heroes for Hire cover is/is not degrading") doesn't mean that we always have to answer yes or no questions in everything we write.
It doesn't have to be Feminism Vs. Zombies*. It can be fun and silly and stupid and sexist - all at the same time.
*betty, please don't take that to mean that I didn't really, really, love what you wrote, because I did.