Stephanie gets her due

Via In her memory: Batman #673:

Project Girl Wonder has led to a number of shout-outs in comics in the year and a half since it began. We’ve had Rip Hunter wonder “No Trophy = Stephanie?” on his board of time-travel conundrums. We’ve had Tim remark in his inner monologue that she never had a memorial in the cave. We’ve even seen a future Bat Cave in Action Comics with a Stephanie memorial in it.

Batman #673 means so, so much more than any of these. Because, in two panels, we were told everything that mattered: that inside Batman’s heart, Stephanie was Robin, the same as Dick and Jason and Tim — her gender made no difference at all to that. That her loss is felt as keenly as those other losses Batman has been shaped by.

In those two panels, in that one gesture of Batman contemplating the Robins he’s lost in front of the symbol of those losses, that line of suits in cases, the glass ceiling keeping girls out of the red and green and gold costume at Batman’s side finally cracked and fell.

All I can say is: about fucking time. Way to go and all of the people, in and out of the industry, who made this possible.

So I just finished reading the Runaways collection Vol 1…

I bought the first volume of the Runaways collection when I was down at WisCon and I just wanted to make a short post on my initial feelings after reading it. Once I finish my WisCon writeup for Cerise I might return to the subjects I touch on here and do a better analysis (oops, I got my rant on by accident… I think I’m almost incapable of doing short posts).

So, first off, I’m definitely buying the next two volumes. I have no idea where I’ll put them, as my bookshelf is filled to the brim, and that’s not counting all the books I bought at WisCon, but, that’s life I guess. The first story arc was fun, the art was overall pretty cool, and I think I have a soft spot in my heart for rebels with a cause. Or maybe it’s just a soft spot for a team that’s mostly kick ass women, or girls in this case. I also like the clothing, and if I knew how to tie a tie I would so be wearing the shirt and tie getup that Nico was in for a bit.

That being said, I had two major issues with what I read. But since they are spoilers, especially the second one, I will put them behind the jump. SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned. Continue reading

A post to read while I'm away

Still on break. Having fun playing Final Fantasy XI. While I’m gone, you can check out this post by Tamora pierce.

Here’s an excerpt:

[…] But honestly, why is it strange to like to write for girls?

Aren’t they worth it? Look at them on the soccer field, or bent over a book. Watch them in the mall, looking at music or clothes, or at home or in gym, practicing headstands and somersaults. Do you see them in class, getting all fired up about injustice, or in a club, dancing to set the world on fire? Do you see them bent over sketch pads or lap tops, working away, or read their internet posts, where being unseen sets them free to say what they think? They’re a more tremendous resource than oil or water, and they are trashed, ignored, lectured, talked down to, shoved aside, told they’re hos/sluts/technoignoramuses, tied up and abused in games/movies/comics/television, handed diets until they collapse from the weight of them–and yet they are still thinking, still active, still passionate, still idealists. They are world-beaters.

Why aren’t more people writing for them, and I mean “for”, as in, in ways that makes them feel like what they are: a powerful force. People who make a difference. Not toys, not negligible quantities to be shoved aside every time people get their panties in a bunch about boys, but serious players on the world stage. Serious contributors to everyone’s lives.

Using Wikipedia as a Marketing tool?

The recently published How to Make Money Like a Pornstar comic has been the subject of some controversy on the blogsphere. The comic was given to Karen Healey, a well-known feminist comic’s blogger, (I Can’t BELIEVE They Sent This To Me )as well as to Kevin Church, another well known comics blogger (Review: How To Make Money Like A Porn Star). Their reviews are pretty negative, and have recieved some attention from other comic bloggers (see links at bottom of post).

Church followed up his review with one discussing possibly fake reviews (Marketing Conspiracy Theory Machine Go!). His sentiment is echoed by simargl_wings (Pass me the tinhat….), but with added controversy: discussion of the Wikipedia Entry for the comic.

I’ve stuck my nose into Wikipedia’s business exactly one other time. An attempt to make the VAWA article comply with Wikipedia’s NPOV policy. Since the controversy is still going on (check the talk page and the history), I wasn’t the least bit successful. This time I didn’t try to modify the page in question, but rather stuck an NPOV tag on it and addressed the issue in the talk page.

Wikipedia can be a great resource for non-controversial subjects, but the nature of it is that anyone can modify a page for any reason. And that includes advertising — even though it is against the rules.

Continue reading

Sexualizing Powerful Poses

In my post Female Villains Can’t Win, one of the things I mentioned was that even in their powerful poses, women were sexualized. Peatbogfaery asked if I had any other examples than what I provided. Initially I was just going to reply on the thread, but it’s taken on a life of its own (when does it not?), so here it is.

For some advice I turned to comic books (thanks to Ragnell for the links!). I’m putting the rest behind a cut because of the pictures.

I. More Example Poses

As strong-willed as ever, PowerGirl (bless her soul) demanded to be first with this pose:


In it she has a very active stance — rushing at the camera — and her face isn’t a sultry “come hither” look, but rather a, “I’m gonna @^!% you up!” expression. But, yet, the lines of her arm draw the eye to her breasts?

Adam Hughes also has some good examples in his Wonder Woman gallery. I’m going to just pull two of them. First up is this one:

Wonder Woman - Pose 1

It shows WW clutching a fist full of lightning with a clearly “I’m in pain but I will endure as much as I have to!” kind of look. Not to mention that her muscles are bunched with effort. Unquestionably powerful. But if you notice the lighting, it draws attention to the breasts, and her hunched posture is all about the butt-action.

Secondly we have this one:

Wonder Woman - Pose 2

There’s the clear power in her clenched fist, and it’s clearly the focus of the piece, but equally shiny and eye-catching are her two breasts (which I swear given the pose you shouldn’t see both of) and then her hair. In this, she is not even given the dignity of a face. One may argue it gives her an “Everywoman” kind of appearance, but it also reduces her to a fist and a pair of boobs.

Greg Rucka‘s webpage also has many good examples. Again, Wonder Woman is the focus of these pieces and again I’ll take only two. First up:

Wonder Woman - Pose 3

This is one of WW mid battle. Though she is in some ways in the visual disadvantage, being lower than her enemy, she is fighting actively instead of being a passive part of the scene. In addition, her fist is connecting to her opponent’s face. However, her body is contorted (possibly anatomically impossibly so) in order to show both her breast and her butt.

Second and final picture:

Wonder Woman - Pose 4

This picture of WW in the process of using her whip of submission lasso of truth. She is given an artificially wide stance (seriously, would anyone advise unbalancing yourself like that while trying to lasso something?) in order to stick out her butt for the reader. Again, you have the power of the active stance versus the sexualization.

II. Conclusion

Although my original post was on video games, I went for comic books because — being a still medium — it was easier to find examples of deliberate posing. If one were to look through box art and other promotional items that feature video game women, some of the same poses would come up.

I’m not, as everyone and their dog assumes, putting down sexuality. I’m just pointing out that women — whether they be comic or video game characters, or even real life women — can’t escape being sexualized. It doesn’t matter how powerful we are. It doesn’t matter if we’re feminine or not. Or whether or not we want to be sexual. Or whether or not we want to be sexual right now. The lens is forced on us without caring about whether or not we consent to it. And that lens applies to popular culture as well as our real lives.

Men Stereotyping Men [Red-blooded American Sexist, Part 1]

Disembodied Womanparts, Yay!
What kind of man misogynist are you?

Right now the comics blogsphere is abuzz with criticisms of Wizard Magazine’s latest disaster: their How to Draw series. Well, perhaps not latest, as it seems that there have been complaints about this series for a while now.

Following a trail of links, I came across a 2005 post by LJ user Rat Creature. Which lead me to a link about the “Triple Threat” — which, contrary to what it sounds like, is not a wrestling move. The triple threat, of course, references the three ways (boobs, butt, legs) in red-blooded American guys objectify view women! The blurb that I will be tearing apart can be found here (JPG). For reference, the person writing it is Joseph Lisner, known for drawing Dawn.

I’ve actually split this analysis into three sections, the first of which will deal with the way that Lisner constructs American masculinity.

I. Introduction: Red-blooded American Masculinity

I’m somewhat surprised that Linser managed to pack in so many negative stereotypes about men into such a small space. I know I’ve said this before, but articles like these make me realize how stupid it is to call feminists man-haters — those who buy wholesale into the Western construction of masculinity do far more in the way of painting men negatively than feminists ever could. Anyway, let’s see what tropes he has brought out this time.

II. Men as Beasts

What about the opposite sex hits me like lightning and instantly shatters my self control?

This trope is used everywhere from journal articles about rape (the good old “boys will be boys” defense) to abstinence only education (“you gotta hold on to your virginity, girls, because those men are beasts who would take it without a second thought!”). One reason I think this one is used and abused by men is because it acts as a “get out of responsibility free” card — “I can’t be held accountable for my behaviour, Your Honor, after all I’m a man and she’s a woman!” kind of deal. Men lose their self control around women and become these sexual beasts who can only think of the woman sexually and, sometimes, will go to any length to get what they want.

But, really, what does that say about men? That y’all are, deep down inside, horrible people? That you have no more control over yourselves than a baby does over its bladder? Is this really a view of manhood that’s worth perpetuating?

III. Men as Buffoons

To any female artists out there reading this, if you’re looking for some cosmic insight the best I can say is “good luck.” Please don’t ask me about the feminine/masculine mystery… I’m just as lost as the next guy–I’m only following my nose.

This one is somewhat less insidious than the “Men as Beasts” trope, but is similarly used to abdicate responsibility for bad behaviour (see the Ellison incident). You can see this in other areas, too, such as domestic product commercials that feature men — you know those ones where the man is responsible for cleaning up, or cooking dinner, or whatever and he botches it so badly that you wonder how he got through life without accidently killing himself from sheer stupidity.

Though presented in a comical fashion, the underlying message here is that men are just large children. As I mentioned above, this can be played to men’s advantage in certain situations, but overall I’d say that most men recognize this stereotype as insulting. Too bad Lisner isn’t one of those men.

IV. Men as Simple

In America, men usually like to keep it simple and break down their preferences into three basic groups.

A variation of the “Men as Buffoons” trope, this one is about simplicity. Sometimes this is “men are simple minded” and sometimes it’s “men like things simple,” though in the above instance I’d argue it’s a bit of both. I’m not exactly sure what benefit this trope gives to men, but I’ve seen it used often in a way that presents men as wanting to avoid having to think, which implies that they don’t have high intelligence.

V. Men as Pigs

Yeah, yeah, yeah men are such pigs (smart men never argue this one).

Which brings us to the last stereotype that I could find in the article: men revel in their own misogyny. This one is, in some ways, a combination of the “Men as Beasts” and the “Men as Buffons” tropes. It has that “men are naturally beastly,” element of the former while throwing in that bit of “aren’t I a naughty little boy?” inherent in the latter to act as a deflection of any criticism that could be lobbed at them for misogynistic behaviour. In terms of negative stereotypes — well, the last time I checked, men don’t exactly like being labelled women haters, and even if this on the surface deflects such criticism, I just can’t see it as a good thing to pretend that men naturally hate women.

V. Conclusion

Lisner did not invent these constructs, but that he so naturally employs them in order to form a sort of “buddy-buddy” relationship with the (presumably male) reader is rather disturbing. The tropes that he employs are harmful to both women and men, and serve to reinforce this strange dichotomy where men are on the one hand portrayed as the rational, logical gender and on the other hand portrayed as beastly children who have no self control.

Erik Larsen on getting non-comic book readers into the fandom

Get thee to the kitchen, Goddess!(Two short posts involving comics, it must be procrastination weekend!)

Out of the mouth of Erik “I think women’s issues with comics are all about the boobies” Larsen, we actually get some surprising insight on the difficulty of finding the right comic book for someone who doesn’t read comics. Sure, true to form, I found the tone of the article to be at times condescending to women and I rolled my eyes at his little quip about not wanting another “lecture” on why certain books will likely turn female readers off, which, of course, he oversimplifies the reason as being that the book is “loaded with sex and violence.” Yes, Mr. Larsen, it’s the “sex and violence” not, you know, the way that powerful women are often second fiddle to the men in their lives, or inappropriately sexualized and then killed off and forgotten when convenient, or anything like that.

Anyway, if you can get past his dismaying attitude towards women, I think his ongoing quest to get a “non-comic book reader” is pretty darn insightful:

I mean, I want to share. I really do. Comics have been such a delight to me over the years. They’ve kept me entertained and enthralled. They’ve lifted my spirits and broken my heart and touched my soul. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried and all the rest. You know, you’ve read them. A good comic book is better than damned near anything but things are subjective, I realize. While I might get a charge out of “Devil Dinosaur” or “Jimmy Olsen” or the “Dingbats of Danger Street,” I realize that those books aren’t universally cherished.

Let me pull out that last important bit: I realize that those books aren’t universally cherished. Right there. That. What all those Girlfriend List articles don’t get: you can’t assume someone’s taste based off their gender, race, or any other part because we’re all individuals with our own likes and dislikes. The closest you’re gonna get is if there’s a theme that a person enjoys you might be able to interest them in comics of a similar theme. Period.

No, wait, there’s something else I want to focus on beyond the above. It’s where he says this: I mean, I want to share. I really do. Comics have been such a delight to me over the years. See that, kids? Mr. Larsen doesn’t want to get his (presumably) significant other into it as a way to shut her up when they’re not having sex, but because he enjoys it and wants to share that enjoyment with another human being. Novel!

By the way, thank you, Mr. Larsen, for recognizing that just because the person involved happens to be female, it’s not a “woman” thing, but rather a comic fan versus non-comic fan thing. Seriously, seeing that warmed my little, ice-cold heart.