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Why Girl-Wonder.org matters to me

Taken (and edited a bit) from a comment I made somewhere else, mostly so I could file this under "rants".


It's not about specific events. Shitty -unnecessarily shitty, horrific events- happen to characters of all genders and species in comics. It's half because of the operatic nature of the medium, half because of bad writers taking bad shortcuts.

It's about the *causes* of said unnecessarily shitty events, the *form* of said unnecessarily shitty events, and the *consequences* (in-world) of said unnecessarily shitty events, how they differ between male and female characters, and what that means.


  • Those unnecessarily shitty events, when they happen to women, are overwhelmingly linked to some supposed 'mistake', 'error' or 'sin' they committed, or done because another -generally male- character wants to punish or trap a -generally male- character the victim is close to. When unnecessarily shitty events happen to males, it's caused by the fallout of some heroic or commendable act of them.

  • The form of said events is overwhelmingly sexualized when it comes to women (and by "sexualized" I mean, it's either a rape or you wouldn't know it isn't a rape without the text bubbles), and almost never sexualized when the victim is a man.

  • The narratives about the consequences of those events are, again overwhelmingly and with few although noteworthy exceptions, written from the POV of male characters (brooding, revenge) and not from the POV, or addressing concerns, of the victim. (Female) victims either die or miracously and magically "get over it". Harm and recovery, *consequences*, when it comes to female characters is almost never a narrative concern; hurt is swept under the rug as a "female thing".



So: Males are hurt in violent but not-sexualized ways in the line of duty, and the narrative follows their recovery/revenge. Females are hurt in violent and highly sexualized ways (read: raped or raped-but-in-name) as helpless bystanders, hero bait or 'punishable sinners', and the narrative generally jumps over or cuts off whatever happens to them afterward.

In a world where sexual violence against women is so prevalent, so seldom talked about, and so mind-boggingly seldom punished, the above pattern is horrific. And it's not integral to the medium, or even to the specific genre of superhero comics - it's just integral to a particular worldview about genre roles in narrative (and life) that has no business existing anymore. Nor ever had.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
marag
Jun. 18th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
And this is why I would marry you if I weren't already married ;)
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
Yay! :P
roachspit
Jun. 19th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)
I *adore* your icon.
marag
Jun. 19th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC)
::happy sigh:: Babs is my hero :)
ficbyzee
Jun. 18th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
You say this a lot more eloquently than I could've. I was talking to pearl_o about how it would be one thing if it was "just" the storylines or just the art, but no: it's misogynistic storylines, misogynistic pornography on comic book covers art, ingrained sexism in the industry and the fact that people get *spitting* mad at you if you even try to talk about it. Just. Grrr, arrrgh, etc.

(I feel like I should get a Girl Wonder icon, but Sue Dibny has been my avator of feminist rage for so long that I'd feel guilty using any other pictoral representation.)
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, in that vein, I think 4chan's behavior made a very elocuent argument about the extent of the problem...
cesario
Jun. 18th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
that's wonderfully well put, and seeks out the main issue at the heart of this debate with unerring sensitivity.
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC)
*blushes* Thanks!
onijade
Jun. 18th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC)
Well put.

And, yes, while I have no objections to a character being used to do something to another character (in a sense that's what characters are for) it the overwhelming trend that is disturbing. And the porn.

One thought on the POV, which is not yet fully formed, is that part of the problem is that the victim centered view is seriously hard to do well. Even in genres which are more interested in it (I'm thinking literary novels because that's what I know more about) the number of people who can do it well are very small. It's Hard.

Which is not to say that comics can't do it or shouldn't do it. Because they can. And should. And have.

Not just because it would be good on a feminist level, but because it's good writing.

For instance, wouldn't it have been more interesting for control freak Tim to lose Stephanie in a situation where she'd done absolutely, everything right, to the letter, but the dice had come up the wrong way?
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
You know, that would have been much more interesting. "She must have done something wrong" makes for both lousy writing and lousy ethics...
brown_betty
Jun. 18th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
Possibly I will kidnap this and put it on G-W. I have fallen in love and cannot be parted from this entry.
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC)
Squee! If you think it could be useful over there, I'd be *thrilled*.
rubynye
Jun. 19th, 2006 04:26 am (UTC)
This would be SO VERY USEFUL over there! It's a wonderful, well-argued statement. And it doesn't hurt that it's said by a guy.

And, thank you for it. *squeezes you*
__marcelo
Jun. 19th, 2006 05:09 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
katarik
Jun. 18th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
Can I put this in my memories? Because *yes*. Marcelo, guys like you make me hope.

*hugs tightly*
__marcelo
Jun. 18th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
Can I put this in my memories?

Sure! *is very happy*
roachspit
Jun. 19th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
Why can't I meet a guy like you around here? *sigh* Once again, I would offer to have your babies if I didn't totally hate kids.
__marcelo
Jun. 19th, 2006 02:22 am (UTC)
:) Glad you liked it!
kkglinka
Jun. 21st, 2006 03:46 am (UTC)
...raped-but-in-name... Check. Mind control.
...helpless bystanders... Check. Kidnapped and restrained.
...'punishable sinners'... Check. For her own good.
...jumps over or cuts off... Check. Skips a year or two and vaguely placed.

Oh wait, but I can do better:

...raped-but-in-name... Check. Mystery pregnancy.
...helpless bystanders... Check. WTFpolarbearhow?
...'punishable sinners'... Check. Self flagellation over murder. Quote, 'Something had to give.'
...jumps over or cuts off... Check. OYL.

Ahh, the good ol' pregnancy as punishment motif.

*yawns*
__marcelo
Jun. 21st, 2006 04:12 am (UTC)
*nods* Not exactly a never-before-seen innovative storyline, isn't it?
kkglinka
Jun. 21st, 2006 04:29 am (UTC)
Mm. I've seen this marketing move referred to as "One Yawn Later" and it seems to be shaping up that way. The "innovative and shocking" changes simply don't make sense and irritate readers. It works for a bit, driving up sales and then comes the book dumping, not by hysterical people trying to make some point, but out of sheer disinterest/confusion.

Personally, I'm waiting to see what the "shocking and innovative" paternity is (read; illogical and meh) just to see if the Stupidest Choice rule holds true. That's my real concern; not that it won't be what I want but that it won't be logical at all. In my experience with comics, a throw-away mommy/daddy usually translates to a throw-away baby. Off on a tangent again....

Which boils down to: exploit female sexuality for dramatic effect, then skip to the next bit. I was kinda hoping to read some crime noir but you know, whatever. It's not like women are really that competent or anything.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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