Watch Powerful Heroines Humiliated Like Never Before!

Watch Powerful Heroines Humiliated Like Never Before!So, there’s some discussion going on about a site called Superheroine’s Demise. What, do you ask, is this site? Well, it’s a pornography site that focuses exclusively on the violence and humiliation of female super heroes. Honestly, although I define as sex-positive, my kneejerk reaction to this site was, “Ugh, yet more misogynistic porn. Just what the world needs.” And after several hours to think about it, I still can’t shake that feeling.

Maybe part of it is because I have issues with pornography, period. I’m not flatly against it, but I have yet to find porn that isn’t in some way problematic. Maybe, also, because I feel like I should be uncritical of this because humilation play is a valid fetish. But, you know what? I’m not uncritical of anything. So, fuck that. I don’t like this site because I think it’s misogyny dressed up in a super heroine fetish, and this post is going to be discussing why I feel that way.

I. Fantasy? Reality? Where’s the Line?

Heroines Defeated and Caged!Part of my problem with this site is the problem I have with comic books: I believe that the objectification of women here influences the way the consumers of the porn view women. On the one hand, at least this site is honest about wanting to see strong women torn down and humiliated (comics just resort to things like the women in refrigerators syndrome), and honest about acknowledging it as a fetish/fantasy. On the other hand, dressing up women in spandex and mixing up the storylines doesn’t change the fact that getting off to the humilation of women is normalized in Western society.

Where is the line between having a fantasy of degredation and wanting to make it a reality? For me, the line is a lot more clear in real life where two people play together than when a person with a fetish watches pornography. In the former case, there are easy guidelines to follow — safe words, boundaries, etc. In these circumstances, consent is clear. The sexiness of the situation is, in fact, based on the fact that both parties are getting enjoyment out of it. But with porn, it’s a single party: the porn watcher. The fantasy on screen doesn’t involve a beforehand with the parties talking about the scene that is about to happen, nor does it show the aftercare that one normally goes through. It’s just the scene, and the only thing that is there to stop the lines between fantasy and reality blurring is the assumption that, somewhere in the watcher’s mind, there is an acknowledgement of this being a scene.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s super heroes! Of course there suspension of disbelief. No one could mistake that for reality.” Maybe so, but it’s also actual women (and the occasional male villain) involved in these scenes. There’s a theme of dominating a strong woman — which I would argue is a common male fantasy, especially in a society where men are encouraged to see women as stripping them of their power (or, as Gay Prof says: “straight men are [encouraged to see themselves as] losing power… [to] a tyrannical matriarchy where women threaten to hamper men’s natural rights to denigrate others, ignore women’s point of view…”). Given the prevalence of this theme in real life, it’s hard to be sure that those who watch humiliation pornography, even with caped crusaders, don’t have it spill over into their real life thoughts and lives.

II. The Ideal Woman?

Another thing that bothered me about the site was the way in which the super heroes were described. Part of fantasy is often times an idealization of a situation, but the way in which these women are idealized is… well, honestly, I find it creepy. While I’m only going to pull relevant parts of the Mission Statement, I would recommend browsing it in full first to get the original context.

First off, the attraction of the heroines themselves:

The image of supergirl or batgirl standing proud, hands on hips, ready to destroy their foes with just a flick of their powerful wrists is quite, quite sexy. Perhaps it’s the tight costumes they wear, or perhaps it’s their indescribable beauty matched with purity, power, and justice.

Strong is sexy, but...Given the way that female super heroes are depicted in comics, it’s not surprising that we have the “sexy woman who kicks ass” paradigm. And I can’t complain too much about the whole being the objects of lust. It is, after all, porn. And, admittedly, I understand the sexiness of powerful women — and I’d agree that erotic stories are a fine place to explore those kinds of power plays.

When I was reading the mission statement, I was nodding my head up until that last line excerpted. Indescribable beauty? Well, cheesy, but… well… okay. Purity, though? Purity?! Arguments on the cannon elements of the purity of super heroines aside (my take: it depends on who we’re talking about), this description screams “guilded cage” to me.

In real life situations, people who “idealize” women like this do so in place of seeing the humanity behind those same women. They are delicate flowers to be protected, not equals to be understood. The “respect” for their “power” is just a way to erase the reality of the woman while having a perfect way to make her feel bad if she objects. Actually, maybe my argument about the “purity” of super heroes varying from woman to woman isn’t just an aside after all.

This brings us to the second, but still necessary, element of this fantasy; the firm subjugation of these women:

See batwoman brutally defeated in hand to hand combat, and humiliatingly stripped, bound and photographed. See superwoman thrown through a wall and left sprawling on the ground in her shredded costume with plaster and debris all over her.

After all the talk about the “sexiness” of power, the what it comes down to is that the real sexiness here doesn’t come from these women’s strength, but in seeing that strength stripped away. Like I said above, power plays can be interesting. It’s the juxtaposition of these two issues — the gilded cage plus the end product of women’s subjugation — that bothers me well, if not the most, then certainly more than either issue alone.

It is, perhaps, the ultimate humiliation: a woman who is used to being dominant is not only physically beaten, forced to be submissive, but her personhood is erased. Completely. Without her personality, her powers, or her role in life she becomes yet another hole to fuck, or face to punch, or body to cage. Gee, sounds like mainstream porn to me!

III. Fanboy’s Dream Come True

Whether or not it’s true, the Mission Statement also portrays this fetish as a normal one for a comic book fan to have:

Simply put, this site is a comic book superheroine fan’s dream come true.

The implication here bothers me. Even moreso, because I think there’s truth in it. If you accept my premise that the fantasy of dominating powerful women is a pervasive one for men in Western culture, then it would obviously follow that (male) comic fans would have this fantasy, too. Not to mention those who write and draw these heroines. In essence, the fetish of humiliating strong women is perpetuated by the comics themselves, in turn influencing comic book readers to see it as erotic, which feeds the idea that this is what comic fans want… lather, rinse, repeat until you have these themes becoming codified into mainstream thought.

And, frankly, if I’m iffy about the line between fantasy and reality (and the ability to distinguish between a consensual fetish and the abuse of women) on a site that specifically markets itself to a fetish crowd, then you’d better believe that it bothers me that themes like this exist in comics, but in much more subtle ways. Most people don’t consider themselves sexually deviant. Most people would pale at the idea of looking into “risk-aware consensual kink” fetish practices. To most people, it would be very easy for this line to be blurred. If, of course, we’re assuming it hasn’t already been.

IV. Conclusion

Perhaps because it hits too close to home, it’s hard for me to see this site as being confined to purely fantasy. The theme has appeared in too many “normal” romance stories, or random bits of popular culture. It has affected my own life. And, you know what? Seeing that site makes me uncomforable. It makes my skin crawl. I really, honestly, and completely don’t like the idea of people getting off to the humiliation of women except in a strict BDSM scene in which clear boundaries are established. And given the history of violence against women in Western society, I really don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the way I feel.

The far-reaching implications of rape culture

“I think the bitch got what she deserved.” “However the woman was probably causing shit too.” “…there has to be more to the story.”

I do my best not to hang around threads concerning rape because the subject upsets me too much. Way too much. So, what am I doing with quotes like those above? Well, as much as those kinds of phrases crop up when dealing with rape, that’s not where I pulled them from. No, I got them from the bad_service livejournal community. According to two news articles, earlier one woman had spit on a fast food employee. Later, the woman’s aunt encountered the same employee. After an altercation that involved soda and lead to the aunt seeking a manager, the employee got a cup of oil and threw it onto the aunt.

Yes, that’s right: the aunt was punished for the “crime” of the niece. Does this sound familiar? Well, it does to me. Using women’s bodies to get revenge on others is one of the normal tactics embraced by rape culture. One that, for whatever reasons, tends to be unquestioned outside of feminist/profeminist circles. As pretty much happened with the livejournal post that lead to me writing this article.

Most commenters agreed that the oil was an over the top reaction for mere spittle (and in the ranks of those who violently disagreed was one tigerwolf, a gay male furry famous for his line that vaginas aren’t self cleaning but anuses are), but only very few commented on the fact that the “revenge” wasn’t even carried out on the person who had made the “offense.”

Amidst liberal throwing around of the word “bitch” (aggravated by the fact that all three parties involved are female), we run the full gamut of victim blaming, from the “I’d have done it, too!” response to the verbal bastion that every good victim blamer hides behind: “Justification and expectation of likely consequences are two very different things.”

One of the most common themes in the thread is the idea that she must have done something to instigate it, even though the oil was out of line (yeah, because someone who would throw hot oil onto someone would never do so without a really good reason). This sentiment was actually expressed in one of the linked articles, where the restaurant manager is quoted as saying, “Nobody would just throw grease at somebody without provoking.” But it’s not really victim blaming — the manager understands that it’s not okay to take it to the level of hot grease! You should just rape her stick to the soda!

Seriously, have we made no progress in understanding that it’s not okay to claim that a woman “provoked” violence onto herself, especially when said woman wasn’t the one who made the initial insult? Are women still so ill thought of in 2006 that the majority of people don’t see using us as objects to enact revenge as something completely inappropriate?

I guess, all I’m left with is one last question: How can we ever hope to eradicate rape culture when it pervades the very fabric of our lives? Do any of you have any ideas? Because I, for one, am fresh out of them.

Via Darth Sidhe.

It's not rape if they don't say no (this time)

I know I haven’t been around lately, and I’m sorry. I have some posts half finished, but I haven’t had the time lately. I have a big test on Monday (continued on Wednesday), but Golden Week is coming up so maybe when I get back from Nagoya I’ll have some time. But, while you’re waiting with bated breath for more words of wisdom from me, let me point you to a post by regular reader and poster here, Darth Sidhe.

I haven’t actually read the news article that spawned the original discussion that lead to her post, but question asked was thus: If we take it that Editor (woman) brings home Drunk Guy, eventually says no to sex, he goes off elsewhere, then comes back to “her” room. In actuality, it’s Roomate’s room. Roomate is sleeping and he initiates sex with her. She wakes up and, thinking Drunk Guy is her boyfriend, doesn’t resist. She later finds out that Drunk Guy was not, in fact, her boyfriend and is pressing charges. Is Drunk Guy guilty of rape?

In Washington state (the state I identify as my home state), hell yeah he is. While alcohol is one of the factors for removing consent, I’m fairly sure it’s trumped by, you know, having sex with a sleeping person (who hasn’t consented to have sex with you under those conditions). As Darth Sidhe also points out — Editor, the woman Drunk Guy thought he was sleeping with — had already said no.

It seems pretty cut and dried, right? Well, not in the community that Darth Sidhe found the question in. She has this to say on the matter:

I’m still pretty much confused by the reactions. Several comments, disturbingly, assert that since Roommate was sober and Drunk Guy was not, she was raping him, largely ignoring the fact that Drunk Guy initiated sex with an unconscious woman. Does someone who wakes up to being fucked by a drunk person have the legal responsibility to do everything they can to stop sex or else be considered a rapist? That sounds ludicrous, yet could the letter of the law protect such a thing? I imagine that if the conscious, drunk person regretted the sex, they could legally press charges.

Anyway, go read the post and the discussions. I think they say a lot about the way Americans view rape that isn’t violent stranger rape. I’m leaving comments on for the time being, but I’d like to remind any potential posters that victim blaming is not allowed on this blog. Keep the discussion civil or I will delete your comment and ban you without notice. This is non-negotiable.

Heads up on a new organization…

Ragnell is trying to spread awareness for a new organization called Friends of Lulu. I don’t have the time to write about it myself, so here’s her e-mail instead (formatted for blog):

Hello everyone.

I started (and lurking around your sites, actually) because I noticed a sharp increase of social awareness posts in a blogging community where a Feminist is someone who argues that Wonder Woman can beat Superman in a fight (and it was a tie AGAIN last time). A lot of people were thinking about women in comics because a column described a sexual assault at a convention. It didn’t name names, because the legal difficulties were still being ironed out

Anyway, today Ronee (the columnist) did a follow-up story. Taki Soma describes, in her own words, what happened to her which is something that takes a lot in the comics industry. It’s heavily male dominated, which I think is due to being left by the wayside during the women’s movement and a major sense of entitlement among the men who’ve been entrenched in it for a long time. There are a number of sexual harassment horror stories in the archives of WFA and in the columns and blogs of female workers/ex-workers.

In response, the Friends of Lulu, our resident Feminist organization, has put together a fund for fees when a woman in the industry wants to take legal action in sexual harassment/assault cases.

Unfortunately, our community is small, and news travels slowly beyond the main fan-sites. I’m mailing you specifically because I know you all get a lot more traffic than either of my little blogs, and I felt this deserved a wider distribution than I could give it.

If you can, please help spread awareness for Friends of Lulu so that it can continue to effectively fight for the rights of women in the comic book industry.

Ban? I don't think that means what you think it means.

Gamestop has done an excellent job of setting up a strawprostitute in its recent article, Prostitutes call for ban on GTA. Tim Surette, the author, is pissed off that SWOP, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, has spoken out against Grand Theft Auto [GTA]. Pissed off enough, it seems to conflate the words ‘ban’ and ‘boycott’.

From the first paragraph of the article, he says [emphasis mine]:

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is getting attacked from all angles. Joining the ranks of politicians, policemen, and attorneys in their crusade to see the game lifted from shelves are the nation’s sex workers. On its Web site, the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is asking parents to assist them in calling for a ban of Take-Two Interactive’s controversial game.

The two parts I have highlighted give the mistaken impression that SWOP is out to enact legislation that would bar GTA, and games like it, from being made and sold. He later on dismisses the repeated assertion from SWOP that it is “adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship” because they express the wish to speak out to parents. Given the tone of the article, this only serves to further conflate boycotting (and, dare I say, criticism) with censorship and banning.

So what, exactly, does SWOP say on this matter? Well, here’s the first paragraph from SWOP-USA Statement Regarding the Video Game Grand Theft Auto created by Take-Two Interactive:

Although SWOP-USA will always be adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship, as concerned parents ourselves, we wish to inform other parents of the potential danger extremely violent video games pose to children. And in the interest of furthering sex worker’s human and civil rights to life and personal safety, we object to any media which represents sex workers as legitimate targets of violence, rape and murder. Censorship is a blight on the freedoms we hold dear but we wholeheartedly encourage citizens to vote with their dollars by refusing to purchase products which encourage the denigration and destruction of prostitutes. Since the video game Grand Theft Auto accrues points to players for the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes, SWOP-USA calls on all parents and all gamers to boycott Grand Theft Auto.

Notice the word ‘boycott’ and the conspicious absence of ‘ban’ or any call to legal action. This is a very, very important distinction that Surette (intentionally?) glosses over in his post.

I share the concern about the sensationalist backlash to video games, and other popular culture, but, and this is a big but, that’s not what SWOP seems to be aiming for. Do I necessarily agree with their cited research? Well, no. I haven’t read it, but I don’t need to because my agreement with their premise or not is immaterial. They aren’t advocating a ban, or anything like it; they’re advocating an informed boycott based on what they perceive to be a tangible threat to themselves. They have, and should have, that right.

Via feminist.

Understanding isn't the same as excusing

Andrea of Vociferate has written a post, Bring on the trolls, on the harm that ignoring male participation in the patriarchy can bring. I don’t agree with everything she says (I think there is, and needs to be, a place for men/men’s issues in feminism, and that sometimes it’s okay to step off a point in order to speak on a level that others can understand), but I’m 100% there with her underlying point. We can’t ignore, or downplay, male responsibility for hurtful acts just because we’ll be labelled “man-haters” or “offensive.” Guess, what? As long as we continue to fight for equal rights, we’ll be labelled that no matter what we say.

She said a lot of good things in her post, but these two paragraphs resonated deeply with me [emphasis mine]:

Sure, they live in a society which tells them it’s acceptable, good, fun, what they’re supposed to do, but the choice to do it is still their own. If we excuse the men who do these things, we must excuse anyone who commits an atrocity in a society which tells them it’s OK. Nazism must be OK, slavery must be OK, since nobody can resist what society tells them, can they?

But they can, every man who looks at porn and laughs at the retching girl deepthroating someone, every man who raises his hand to a woman, every man who rapes, every man who is disrespectful towards women and regards them as less than himself has chosen himself to do so.

So I do blame men, I blame men for what they are responsible for, and I blame them for what they allow other men to get away with.

I think that it’s useful to understand why the men in question do what they do. I think it’s useful not ony for feminists, because understanding the principles of oppression is the first step to finding ways to fight it, but also for all men – whether or not they subscribe to whatever action is under question – because ignorance is one of the most effective tools of privilege. If they can’t see the harm they do, then they can continue beliving that they do no harm.

However, understanding and excusing are different things. Yes, the reasons behind an unacceptable action should be taken under consideration. But that in no way, shape, or form gives a person a “get out of jail free” card for their continued bad behaviour. At some point we become adults and take responsibility for our own lives. And, furthermore, as Andrea said: if we refuse to call people on bad behaviour because society has condoned that behaviour, then we are condoning it as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m a feminist because I’m sick of the unnacceptable being packaged as acceptable. And if that makes me a man-hater, well so be it, because I don’t want to love anyone who doesn’t see and treat me, and my gender, as a worthy equal.

Hat tip: Mind the Gap

Tragically Funny

I don’t know what it is about tragic things that make them such fodder for sarcastic humour. A defense mechanism, maybe? A way to deal with the horrors of the world without killing oneself? Regardless, it is undoubtedly the form of humour I use the most, probably because I’m awful with jokes (the only set that I can ever remember starts with, “What do you call a cow with two legs?”). I feel like my brand of dark, sarcastic humour gives me a way to purge the taint left on me by the injustices of the world; by speaking it in a humourous context, it can be exposed for the sheer idiocy it is. It becomes something to laugh at, not to be taken seriously. I also like that it turns something that normally brings pain into something that, even briefly, can bring the pleasure of laughter.

In that vein, I was having a totally serious (well, serious except for the interruptions of pictures from Cute Overload) with darth sidhe on Trillian. And she, sharing this brand of humour with me, took my totally innocent comment about not giving away things, and spawned the following sludge-filled bit of humour. Be warned, however, for it’s the traditionalist notion of sexuality that’s under fire and there’s talk of rape in it.

tekanji: and it’s not like I’m giving *away* something most cases
darth sidhe: yeah.
darth sidhe: like OMG UR VIRGINITY
darth sidhe: ;_;
tekanji: waaaaaaaaah
tekanji: no man will ever want to touch me now
tekanji: wait
tekanji: that might not be a bad thing
tekanji: 😛
darth sidhe: “So you’re saying a woman is only worth her virginity?” “No, I’m saying it’s her honor.” “Wait, a woman’s virginity is her honor? So she lie, cheat and steal and it’s okay as long as she still has her hymen?”
tekanji: haha
darth sidhe: a man’s word is his honor, but a woman’s honor is between her legs.
darth sidhe: yeah, fuck that.
tekanji: but we hold aaaaaaaaall the poewr because men want to fuck us
tekanji: don’t you see how that makes us more powerful than men?
darth sidhe: especially when men just can’t help themselves and go around raping every woman they see. It just shows that we have the power to withhold! Or not.
tekanji: well, those women were asking for it. I mean, if they hadn’t worn clothes or lived in their house or had male relatives then they wouldn’t have been raped!
darth sidhe: the only way to solve that problem is to kill all the men and save their sperm for the propagation of the race.
darth sidhe: and when boys become of age, collect from them and kill them off. for ever and ever amen.

It's not "just a song" when someone believes in it

Moby (as in the musician) apparently has a blog. On this blog, he blogs about stuff that’s not music. Apparently he’s pretty outspoken about many issues surrounding intolerance and hatred. I don’t know if it’s real sentiment or just an attempt to get more fame, but I really don’t care. What I do care about is his post on misogyny. I care not only because I’m a feminist who focuses on how pop-culture influences individuals and society, but also because the link between misogynistic lyrics and abuse/domestic violence is a very personal issue for me.

I’m not going to reproduce the post here (except to yoink quotes as my section headers). You can find it at the above link to read it. This post is not about moby, really, this is about me and my experiences with misogynistic music, domestic violence, and my “friends” who thought it was appropriate to marginalize my experienes by saying, “it’s just a song!” and other excuses like that. Just in case it wasn’t clear enough: the following material is triggering for domestic violence an abuse surviors. Read at your own risk.

I. Making a big issue out of something that no one else seems to care about

Go through enough of my “personal” section and you’ll find out that I was abused by my first boyfriend. He never took a bat to me, or even smacked me around, but all he needed were words to systematically destroy my life for the year and a half that we were together.

I’ve gotten used to the idea that most people don’t understand the form of abuse I went through because most of them have either given it or recieved it in lesser doses as a part of their “normal” relationships. When I bring up potential red flags with my friends they say I’m being “oversensitive” or when they see one of their friends being verbally abused they make excuses like, “Well, she’s not perfect either! I’ve seen her go off on him before.” Emotional violence is seen in our society as an acceptable, if not ideal, part of a relationship.

Case-in-point: the “boys will be boys” mentality. Just this weekend when I was out to dinner with my family, the subject of my female cousin’s now-ex boyfriend came up. I made the case, as I always do, that his behaviour (ditching her on their aniversary to get drunk with his friends, getting into fist fights with people, etc) was unacceptable. They – my uncle, aunt, uncle’s cousin and his wife, everyone except my male cousin who removed himself from the situation – ganged up on me, telling me that “he’s 20 years old.” And I, being 23, said, “Yes, that’s my point. He is 20 years old. He should know better.” But, no, they argued things like “girls mature faster”, “he won’t always be this way” (really? if no one tells him it’s not okay to act that way, why would he ever change his behaviour?), and my uncle even had the audacity to say that “men aren’t in total control of themselves.” He compared men to rabid dogs. Rabid. Dogs. It took all my willpower to not make a pithy remark about rape and rape culture, because that would have only served to make the situation worse.

The point I’m trying to illustrate this is misogynistic culture and the way even the most innocuous things can contribute to it. My family sincerly believed that “accepting” his behaviour (ie. dismissing the real hurt it caused because my cousin would “move on” eventually) was not the same as “condoning” it. But if we don’t speak up about these things when they happen, does our silence not imply our complicit acceptance? And if we continue to defend injustice because “that’s how life is”, does that not give a green light for the injustice to continue to perpetuate itself? My family members may never have raped anyone. Or physically abused them. Or even systematically mentally abused someone. But, even if they have never engaged in the “lesser” forms of emotional violence (which I doubt; I’m fairly sure that all of us have in some way or another), they are contributing to misogynistic culture by dismissing the importance of recognizing all violence as unacceptable.

II. Music that glamourizes misogyny

It’s no secret that misogynistic messages are part of many song lyrics, but yet so many people act shocked – shocked! – when you point that out. When you use clear-cut examples that talk about doing violence to women people pull up the, “Well, the musician wasn’t serious!” defence or say, “Chill out, it’s just a song!”. Instead of engaging in a discussion on how, and to what extent, these songs may contribute to Western culture’s continued silence on violence against women, they dismiss the possibility as unimportant or unreasonable. Or they act as if I was trying to say that there is a singular and direct causation between misogynistic music and violence against women. Please, these people know better than to confuse correlation with causation.

As with all problematic expressions of pop-culture, the “extreme” – and I use the term loosely in conjunction with the subject of domestic violence – examples are often dismissed out of hand. While I can understand the rationale – that a sane, rational person wouldn’t take a baseball bat to a woman in this day and age – it also misses a bigger picture: the impact isn’t confined to major violent outbursts, but can and does affect the way women are viewed and treated by our fathers, brothers, friends, and even other women. You can’t listen to music that degrades women without being affected by the message. And when you couple that with a blanket refusal to critique the music, and the culture it is a part of, what that means is that you internalize the messages and begin to see what they preach as normal and acceptable.

III. Maybe there’s no connection. Maybe there is. It’s disgusting that we even have to ask that question.

When I was still with my abuser, and quite aware of his hatred of women, I learned that he and his brother listened to Eminem. Loved his music. Loved to sing along to it. Especially the parts about raping and killing women. They’d be singing it while I sat in the room. I tried to bring the subject up, once. I was told that it was funny, you see, because Eminiem was just being offensive to create controversy. You know, singing about raping and killing women is funny. Ha. Ha. Okay, well, I expected that from him. I was too used to his other BS remarks that I just asked him to not listen to it/sing it in my presence and went on with my life, filing Eminem as another artist I never wanted anything to do with.

Who I did not expect it from, however, was my friends. On several occasions I got into arguments with them about the impact of the lyrics.

“Come on,” they said. “Eminem doesn’t really endorse that kind of stuff. He’s just a showman. And a good one at that, look how many fans his controversy has gotten him!”

“That’s not the point,” I replied. “The point is that there are people who listen to his music who believe in it. The message behind his songs is that it’s cool to treat women this way.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m going to run out and buy a bat to beat women with after I listen to his songs.”

The conversation would continue on in this vein with me explaining, for what seemed like the thousandth time, how Eminem’s violent lyrics had directly connected to the violence that I had experienced in my own life. Not that my personal anecdote swayed them in the least. One of them, who was intimately acquainted with many of the scars I carried from my abuse, had the audacity to respond to my story with, “Men get abused, too, you know.” I had no response to that; I was so shocked that he’d dismiss my arguments, and my very real and very painful experiences, with such a callous remark. Without Eminem, or others like him, would my abuser still been abusive? Certainly. But if we lived in a culture that condemned expressions of violence against women, it would have been a lot harder for him to pass off his violence as “normal”.

IV. You have blood on your hands, and you should be deeply, deeply troubled at the culture that you’ve helped to create

Musicians, actors, video game designers, journalists, writers, families, friends… we all have blood on our hands. We may not be criminal, or evil, but every time we condone violence with our silence, or our excuses, we are contributing to the problem. It is not enough for us to simply be against violence, we must actively be against it. And I, for one, am deeply troubled at the culture we’ve all helped to create.

Via feminist.

Because sexual harassment is hilarious

I’m not sure what bothers me more about 行殺! Spirits (“Line-Kill Spirits”): the game itself or the response to it.

Screenshot from Line-Kill SpiritsLet’s start with the game itself. It seems like a typical cutesy all-girl fighting game. The art style employed is one that is generally associated with pre-adolescence – it tends to be used in children’s manga and lolita porn. I’d put the girls at middle school at the latest, personally. Still, that sort of thing isn’t unusual; I’ve known plenty of fighting games that employ those marketing tactics.

What is unusual, however, is an added game element: picture taking. Not just any kind of picture taking, however, panty shot pictures. As anyone who has watched anime knows, there is a seemingly cultural fixation in Japan on women’s underwear. In particular, men and boys lifting up unwilling women’s skirts to look at their underwear. I can’t speak for how common it is in real life (not being a Japanese woman, nor living in Japan), but I do know that harassment is a part of women’s daily life there. One example of this is the women-only trains that companies began to run because of the unnervingly high instance of sexual assault (groping, mostly, but I’ve heard stories about men using women’s asses for masturbation aids).

To add fuel to the fire, it is not creepy old men taking these pictures (which would be bad enough), but the other girls themselves doing it. Showing women participating in their own objectification (ala. Levy’s “raunch culture”, girly kissing culture, etc) only serves to normalize the behaviour. After all, if the girls are willing to do it then it must be okay, right? While I wouldn’t think that anyone would confuse LKS with reality, having the girls do it to each other rather than a man doing it to a girl undoubtedly helps the players to rationalize the game as “harmless fun”.

And, indeed, that is exactly what many of the commenters did on the Inverted Castle thread. I counted six overt “that’s funny” kinds of comments – four instances of “hilarious”, one pertinent “lol”, and one “amusing” – and five comments that the gameplay was “interesting”, “innovative”, or something along those lines. The ones condemning it, even in part, were an overall minority. Two people called it “weird”, two people called it “disgusting”, four people used “disturbing” (two in direct context to the girls’ ages, rather than the mechanic itself), but only three people addressed women in particular. Out of 61 comments only 4 addressed the obvious gender issues of the panty shot mechanic, one of which was posted by the same person. For a game that is blatant objectification and sexual harassment, that is just sad.

To get an idea of some of the worse comments out there, I’d like to post a few of my… ah… “favourites”.

dj kor said:

dj kor like panties and japanese girls.

NoShit Boy said:

If that’s not innovative, then I ask, what is?

Although, I happened to like the comeback posted to that one: “The Nintendo Revolution’s remote control, of course.” (commenter’s handle was Revolutionary Remote)

MasterBaytor said:

Where can I get me one of these? Seriously, this is why Japan is one of the 3 most creative countries on Earth, according to a recent study (the other two are Sweden and Finland).

Of course, the three parties speaking up didn’t exactly give the game a ringing condemnation for its treatment of women.

Thoughtless said [emphasis mine]:

I don’t know if it’s supposed to represent little girls as sexually appealing; then it’s pretty sick, but obviously the panty shot was meant as humiliation. This is an interestingly insightful; if odd insight into real cat fighting tactics. I don’t know if my distaste for the game is my American prudishness(I didn’t watch the clip) or a genuine effort to avoid prurient material of most disgusting nature. Some perverts like little girls in panties sexually, but most of just yell at them to put closthes[sic] on or they’ll catch their death going outside. If this game gets girls playing video games then I say it’s good if it’s designed for perverts it is illeagal[sic] in the USA(and should be).

He starts out really well with the humiliation angle; one of the best tools for control is shame. Humiliating a woman (or girl) by exerting ownership to her body (in this case, the unalienable right to take pictures of her private areas) is one of the oldest tricks in the book. I think this game displays this tactic quite obviously, but in a way that reinforces its ideology. Certainly, the amount of people who didn’t think to comment on its use of women speaks volumes about how invisible this issue is, even in our so-called “equal” Western societies.

I can understand Thoughtless running with the first part of his initial sentence (the paedophilia angle), as that is what was most commonly focused on by the detractors of the game, but his insight into the humiliation tactics had really had me rooting for him to be a guy who gets it. His second sentence, however, made me weep with frustration. Real. Cat fighting. Tactics. Why, thank you, Thoughtless, for being one of the billion privileged men who is not only uncritical of the term “cat fighting”, but has no problem reinforcing the idea that women do things (like getting into fights) solely for men’s amusement.

And on what planet would a game of women taking panty shots of other women get girls playing video games??? It’s not erotic. It’s not cute. It’s not interesting. And it’s nothing new. Newsflash for you gamer guys, since so many of you seem to be blind to this small fact: a great many games have some implication of girl-on-girl action and we women (especially the ones who love other women) are not amused.

Moving onto Ms. I’m-not-a-feminist-but, Noneofyourbusniess said:

This is so childish and this game so turns to perveted[sic] males(as always). No i am no feminist but you get rather tired of seeing games that always is about less cloth, more boob bouncing etc. I mean really. I at least dont wanna buy a game cause i can see boobies or something. There is adult games for that(not that i like them either).

Not the deepest reading into it, but it doesn’t need to be. The message: objectification of women isn’t cool.

She adds:

A second thought on that game. Why would a girl take a picture of a girls pantises?[sic]

The same reason two straight girls would kiss: fulfillment of male fantasy. And there’s no doubt that LKS’ purpose is just that.

The third and final commenter, ditchwitch, took issue to NOYB’s feminist bashing:

Feminist isn’t a dirty word btw, and you shouldn’t feel the need to qualify your statements. Just say what you think. Anyway I am of 2 minds on the game, on the one hand it’s pretty amusing, at the same time I object to media which consistently links sex and violence together, and it’s hard to argue that this game doesn’t.

It does make me a bit sad that she saw any kind of amusement in this game. This kind of treatment of women, even in a video game (especially in a video game), just doesn’t strike me as funny in the least. But at least she sees the link, which is more than I can say for 98% of the other commenters.

I guess, in the end, I have to say that the overwhelming response to this game is worse than the game itself. In a way, the game is just a response to the demand. While it undoubtedly perpetuates the stereotypes it utilizes, it only exists because of the invisibility of the harm caused by this kind of “entertainment”. Until we – the gamers, the bloggers and readers, and our societies at large – educate ourselves on these kinds of issues and unabashedly speak out against it, games like these will continue to be made and distributed. And, while this kind of thing might be on the extreme end, make no mistake that the kind of attitude it holds towards women can be found in a majority of mainstream games both in Japan and the West.

Via New Game Plus.

Support Rape: Blame a Victim Today!

Is November “National Blame The Victim Month” or something? No, I mean seriously. First it was Nick Kiddle’s post on hir near-rape experience and the discussions that followed it, then there was the McDonalds thing, and the British poll, and now some idiot who I’ve never heard of before now (Vox Day) believes that rape is a man’s right because women are his property. No joke.

Shit like this makes me lose what little faith I had left in humanity.

Update for all the Vox Day supporters: I don’t know what, exactly, drew you lot to my blog, since I was careful not to link the original post and I didn’t have my pingback notification on, but if you’re going to comment please be advised that while there are many kinds of comments I tolerate on this blog, flames, personal attacks, and victim blaming are not acceptable and are grounds for editing or deletion of your comments. And please don’t bother to point out that my policy is hypocritical because I have no problem calling the victim blamers “idiots” or telling them to fuck off. It’s my blog; you don’t like it, don’t post here.