Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Women, Comics, Biases and Ramblings:

This had started as a reply to an interesting entry at Shelly's Comic Book Shelf called Anti-Women Bias in Comics? but it ended up too long and largely tangential (focusing more on one particular paragraph than the real topic of the piece), but I'm going to post it here regardless.

" And I would prefer more attention be paid to the weakening of Roe vs. Wade and other issues that affect the lives of women than their depiction in comics. And yes, while you can argue that comics can foster attitudes that lead to those real world issues, the same was said about violence and TV and I don't really see that, either, not if kids are given a well-rounded environment and if not, well, TV or comics won't be the real problem, neglect and other issues will be. "

On one level, I see what she's saying here, and I agree. Real world matters *should* take precedence.

But the thing is, these problems aren't unconnected. The way women are seen in popular culture and media reflect the way women are perceived in the real world.

And I'm going to make that very argument mentioned above: comics, like tv and movies, are particularly important because of kids and young adults who are still impressionable, still forming their opinions of men, of women, of personal values and respect, they're absorbing what they read. They're incorporated into the growing world view of these young people, men *and* women.

How can we expect these young people to understand the ramifications of Roe v. Wade when everywhere they go, they see these images of women portrayed as significantly weaker/less substantial/Other than men, worth more for their ability to attract men than for their own selves...

I've heard young women my age express horrifically misogynistic attitudes toward female characters and by extension women that remind them of said characters. These weak portrayals replace empathy with the illusion of knowledge, and that faux-knowledge is negative and harmful.

These young women *my age* come from relatively happy families, kind and understanding parents, liberal backgrounds. But that doesn't actually change anything.

A good friend in high school automatically hated any female character *because she was female*. She actually claimed to hate women (she and I, she said, were special. Meant to be men. It'd started as a joke, but she *believed* it. She genuinely believed that there was something weaker about being women.) And she'd cite things like tv shows, movies, anime as *examples*.

Maybe she was stupid. Maybe not. But it was certainly a bother that sometimes, it was really hard to counter her negative examples. And any personal, positive example essentially becomes an "exception that proves the rule".

And even more shamefully, even more ridiculously, we'd first became friends because on one level I had *agreed* with her.

It's ridiculous, but I think, sometimes, my generation *is* innately ridiculous. And I think if we're going to fix things, we have to start with the small ridiculous things that my generation seems to pick up on first and foremost.

Besides, if we can't fix something small and simple like a damn *comic*, how can we change anything else?


  • At May 21, 2006 6:36 PM, Blogger Mickle said…

    Fantastic! I hope you don't mind getting a bunch of traffic from the next Carnival of Feminists, 'cause this seriously deserves nomination.

  • At May 21, 2006 6:40 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Aww, it's pretty incoherent, but thanks!

  • At May 21, 2006 11:57 PM, Blogger DivaLea said…

    Having read Shelley's piece and yours, I'm with you.
    Real-world matters take precedence in my world every day. One of those real-world matters is that the business of telling stories can be an extremely hostile place to women.

  • At May 22, 2006 12:03 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Makes me wonder a little about where I am.

    I just checked. In almost a year of blogging, the only times I've posted specifically about a male character were 2 short pieces about Hal Jordan getting hit on the head.


  • At May 22, 2006 12:27 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    lea: Thanks. It all ties together, I think. It's all "real world" when it comes down to it, and it all can have real, harmful effects. And it's important to talk about them, too, and not just let them fallow because there are "more important issues".

    marionette: :-) Well, you definitely have a lot more to say about women than men. :-) It's all very interesting.

  • At May 22, 2006 3:57 AM, Blogger Mickle said…

    I don't think it's so much that one is more real world than the other (having a pharmacist refuse to fill your birth control prescription is very "real world" to the woman it happens to) but that transforming mainstream media is also a very good way to make sure that the other bad stuff doesn't happen. It's much easier to get away with crap like that when women's voices are routinely silenced.

    When women's stories aren't heard - by both men and women - it's much easier for everyone to fall back on the male default and forget the real world consequences that the big stuff has for women. It's not so much about the violence per say as it is about gendered violence, silencing women, and treating women as nothing more than objects.

    And, yeah, "if kids are given a well-rounded environment" it won't matter, but well, if all parents read to their kids every night, we'd have a lot fewer kids having a hard time learning to read. Alas, teachers still need to deal with kids who aren't read to every night...and we still have to live in a world where most voters don't hear women's stories.

  • At May 22, 2006 4:58 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I agree completely. (And it never stops horrifying me that the Birth Control thing actually happens).

    As for if all children had parents that read to them, and had less trouble learning to read...well, it's all well and good to know how to read when there's not a whole lot out there *to* read, at least in terms of female perspectives.

    That's why I think there needs to be more widespread fixing than just the obvious, big issues.

  • At May 25, 2006 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Comics aren't the problem. Most fo the women are strong and sexy. Powergirl's breasts and Vicki Vale's ass might be nice to look at, but there is something more to them.

    MTV is the problem. Since the eighties, women have been shown as materialistic sex objects. Forget about how men view women, look at those reality shows on MTV and see what an entire generation of girls think of themselves.

  • At May 25, 2006 5:51 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Well, really MTV wasn't the start of the objectification either. It takes place over many years. The thing is, while both of these things are symptoms of a greater problem (and yes, there are problems in the portrayal of comics that go past Power Girl's cans), they are innately repairable. And should be repaired.

  • At May 25, 2006 8:42 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    David, baby, go back and reread the post.

    Don't just skim it and shoot off your keyboard because you saw a few keywords that set you off.

  • At May 26, 2006 11:55 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    My view is that when you're facing a ginormous problem, sometimes it's best to chop it up into lots and lots of itty-bitty problems, so people can tackle it one itty-bit at a time. So a single comic book or character is no big deal, in the grand cosmic scheme of things; but get enough people making enough positive changes in multiple comics to multiple characters, you produce a gradual shift in industry trends and attitudes. And you can send ripples through the community: one good writer can inspire other writers to follow his/her example; one good character can serve as a role model, both for other characters and readers.

    It's a bit like, say, voting or recycling: a single individual doesn't have that much impact, but working as a collective whole, people can have a great effect; and by doing one's part, you may inspire others to do theirs.

  • At May 26, 2006 3:21 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ragnell: :-)

    ferrous: I agree completely! Baby steps are the key!

  • At November 27, 2011 2:50 AM, Anonymous said…

    Thanks so much for this article, quite effective piece of writing.


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