Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Don't Project Your Shame Over Here.

Over at Occasional Superheroine, the Video Store Girl has an interesting post up about comics feminism and the real world, that's worth reading. This part is something I find particularly noteworthy:

Now go compare your struggle as a comic book fan angry that Stephanie doesn't have a trophy case to the s**t these women went through.

I mean, the MJ and Stephanie and Power Girl discussions, they're a good start. It's like school. Graduate from school, and apply all that passion and sense of social justice towards something in our reality. You can still discuss Power Girl. But break it up a little bit. Maybe devote 50% of your bandwith to Stephanie getting her trophy case, and 50% to Afghan women setting themselves on fire because their lives are so damn miserable. Or maybe 75% Stephanie, 25% Russian sex slaves. Or maybe two pages of posts on "Fangirls Attack" on MJ, one page on domestic violence in Canada. Maybe I'll stop being such a self-absorbed snarky blogger myself. You don't think I read about the real s**t that goes on in this world and feel like a jackass sometimes for the stupid fangirl s**t I write about?

There's just one thing I don't understand here. Why in the world is the Video Store Girl speaking as though real world feminist issues and comic book issues are somehow in competition with one another?

Why in the world would anyone feel like a jackass for posting about a subject that they care about?

Look, I'm going to be frank here for a moment. I have never addressed real world issues on this blog. I have never addressed real world politics on this blog, without a comic book or pop culture connection. I have no intention of ever doing so. Pretty Fizzy Paradise is a COMIC BOOK BLOG. I am not ashamed of it.

This is not to say that I don't care about real world issues, or that I don't have a lot of respect for people who do address said issues on their blogs, it's just that I don't feel the need to do so. I don't feel any guilt about that either, because this is a comic book blog. I consider real world issues to be something that I address in my real life and I don't believe that I have any reason to make a public show of it here.

What continues to bemuse me about arguments like this one on Occasional Superheroine is the insistance on comparing comic book slights like Stephanie Brown's death or the MJ statue to what is suffered by women in Afghanistan, (or any other real world atrocity one can fill in here).

NO ONE is making the comparison between the two. NO ONE is arguing that the circumstances of a fictional character even remotely compare to the tragedies and oppression suffered by real women out there. Or even some women here at home. No one, not even the most militant comic book feminist around, is making that claim.

The only people that I've ever seen bring up that comparison at all are people who seem to be, intentionally or not, trying to instill a shame in comic-book feminism activists for speaking out about things that are important to them.

Look, I haven't posted thus far about the MJ statue, because my reaction to seeing it was basically "...okay...and?" I don't care about it. I wouldn't buy it. But it's important to other people and I can respect that. I have my own hot-button issues as well. There is no reason that anyone should be ashamed of expressing their opinions about this.

Besides, ultimately, depictions of sexism in the media IS an important issue. Sexist caricatures, like racist or homophobic caricatures, are not a harmless phenomenon. They spread the idea that women, that racial minorities, that gay people are a certain way, which promotes a subconscious message that it's all right to treat people in an unfair and unequal way. It's all right to treat women like sluts or shallow, image-obsessed mental deficients. It's all right to treat minorities like they're somehow less than white people. It's all right to treat gay people like they're conscienceless, perverted, sex-obsessed freaks!

Most people are intelligent enough not to consciously buy into these stereotypes of course, but when these images are absorbed day in and day out, they do affect us on a subconscious level. I remember being a teenager and actively rejecting anything that remotely smacked of feminine, cringing away from pink or skirts or showing off one's body, because I had somehow absorbed the idea that these things were stupid, weak and silly. That if I dressed up, wore make-up, put on a skirt, carried a pink backpack, I was somehow becoming one of THEM. No one taught me this. No one told me to be ashamed of being female. My mother always tried to teach me to be proud of who I am, that I was smart and beautiful and could do anything. My father always encouraged me and my interests, no matter how traditionally masculine or feminine they were. This idea didn't come from them. It came from everywhere else. And I was definitely not the only girl I knew who felt this way.

I don't consider myself oppressed, of course. A minor gender-identity issue growing up is no comparison for being a virtual prisoner in my own house, or even killed for daring to transgress against behaviorial customs. But does that mean I should just let it go?

Feminism isn't a one-battle at a time sort of war. It isn't a "oh no, poor oppressed women, we can't help you until we finally get a statue where MJ doesn't look like she's offering her orifices up to the highest bidder!" sort of deal here. We are more than capable of fighting on multiple levels at the same time. We can work to help stop real world oppression in our real lives while at the same time fighting a cause like comic-book feminism on our blogs.


  • At May 15, 2007 3:32 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    An excellent post. Personally I don't have much patience for people who want to play the worse off than game, especially when they are seemingly trying to dismiss or diminish the concerns of others. Then there is the pragmatic side. Outside of the obvious avenues of attack such as donating to international organizations who help women exactly how can a person not living in another country really affect the actions of people in that country? What is the point of becoming overly agitated about things that one has little hope of affecting change in? Better in my opinion to work to affect the changes that one can. So yes the battles to be fought in the place that you or I live are different from the battles to be fought in some place like Afghanistan, or Iraq. That does not make them any less valid, nor any less needing to be fought.



  • At May 15, 2007 3:42 AM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    Great post! :D

    I've always hated the "there are worse things happening in the world" argument b/c.. well there always will be XD

    And so therefore, the implication seems to be that we either care about nothing, or we can ONLY care about the super important things!

    And that's all. :\

    And for some reason the plea is never to ppl who dun care about nething AT ALL. It's to ppl who care about things, just not.. apparently... the things they think we should care about?

    And can't we care about more than one thing at a time?

    I care LOTS about world issues. Simply b/c I'm not talking about them currently doesn't mean I dun care. And they completely dun relate to comics. :o

    By her logic, you shouldn't help an old lady cross the street, until you free women in sexual slavery in Asia or something :o

  • At May 15, 2007 3:44 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Ami, you just made me think of someone going around saying that. "I can not help you unload the groceries, Mother, until I have proven myself a True Feminist by rescuing a maiden in grave peril!"

  • At May 15, 2007 4:04 AM, Blogger Volcano Todd said…

    I applaud you for this post. You make such a strong and REAL stance. Too often people get caught up in making everything about their causes or causing a ruckus over things that matter so little. I appreciate your being about to stand up in between them and pointing out the absurdities of both sides. The MJ statue made me shake my head with disappointment, but I'm not the type to make a big fuss about some stupid toy. And while I care a great deal about the real atrocities in the world, I don't feel the need to incorporate it into every asset of my life. What's the point in twisting every conversation I have with someone into a political argument? Nevertheless, I think I see where Video Store Girl was going with this. She's just looking for some engagement of real world issues within the comic blog world. That's nice and admirable of her, but it's also a bit naive. The idea of discussing serious geo-political problems within a community centered around characters in spandex is a bit absurd. It's not to say that comic book bloggers don't care about the real world problems, it's just that if you're looking for a forum to debate these issues, you should probably let them come about on their own within this community that is based on something else entirely or seek a community that actively seeks such input. For example, I would not go to a dance club to engage the people there in educational reformation even if there were quite a few people present who actually agreed with me or at least were interested in the topic. The fact of that matter is the dance club unites people for a certain purpose and if you change the purpose, you change what brought those people there, resulting in something completely alien to a dance club. Change the purpose and you change the community. The comic book bloggers can and should engage in issues they care about, but if those issues overwhelm the unifying ideas regarding comic books, those bloggers are no longer comic book bloggers.

  • At May 15, 2007 4:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the comment has more to do with the level and degree of rage and anger and moral indignation you people have against these things (MJ's statue, the size of PG's breasts in a Michael Turner drawing) and less to do with the actual topics themselves.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with being angry about these things because as you said, these things ARE important, but it almost seems as if more people are angry that Supergirl is depicted as a sex nympho in comics than there are people angry at the status of women's rights in Middle Eastern countries.

    And of course, this isn't saying that it's exactly entirely your fault, or the fault of the feminist comics blogosphere. After all, probably 90% of the internet that's not dedicated to pornography IS talking about some form of pop culture one way or another.

    But there seems ought to be some level of culpability and responsibility with you guys on this issue whenever there's a raging, militant, post somewhere about the size of a fictional character's breasts in a piece of literature less than a million people read each and ever day, because THAT seems to be the degree of moral indignation that people SHOULD only reserve for the suffering of women and children all over the world.

    If you people feel that women wanting to go to comic cons is something that merits a jihad, how does that reflect on the other, more relevant, more important issues in the world today?

    In short, I think the point is that talking about these things in the manner in which you and particularly Ragnell speak of tends to cause a loss of perspective of the bigger picture.

    That's why it's not much a call to be ashamed about the kind of topics that you post, but more of a call for moderation in the degree of righteous indignation leveled against such matters.

    Hence the '50% Stephanie, 50% Afghan Women' thing. Don't go for a full 100% for your anger against Dan Didio, because there's obviously lots more things to be angry about.

    I don't think anyone here believes that the absence of a trophy case for Stephanie Brown is a much much more important issue to consider than the self-immolation of Afghan Women do they?

    Anyway, that's just what I think.

  • At May 15, 2007 4:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    David, the thing you have to realize though is that you're reading comic book blogs. Most people who have comic book blogs use them for comic book related issues.

    Just because I didn't mention my cat dying on this blog, for example, doesn't mean i feel grief any less for it. However, i'm not going to talk about it on a blog that's primarly about entertainment.

    Let me put it another way, just because 100% of the anger I show here is related to comic book issues does not mean that I'm expressing 100% of my anger. It's merely that that sort of thing is expressed elsewhere, and frankly, not anyone else's business but my own.

    To be honest, I find the assumption that I should have to account for all of my anger in a manner that someone else deems appropriate at all is one I find incredibly arrogant. I'm sure that's not the impression that you intended to give, but it's the impression carried across all the same.

  • At May 15, 2007 7:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    I think Val was probably being more than a little tongue-in-cheek about how people are trying to guilt her (and, to an extent, all of us who prefer to write primarily about pop culture) into acknowledging repeatedly that no, what we talk about isn't as "important" as life or death situations. As I said in the comment I left there, it's frustrating that there are so many people out there who perceive this as an either/or. How do these whiners know that any given cultural feminist ISN'T doing other, more "vital" anti-sexism work just because that's not what she chooses to put on her blog?

  • At May 15, 2007 7:50 AM, Blogger arielladrake said…

    David, there's some interesting moralising there about how much indignation (mostly) women are supposed to show that is likely not intentional, but leaves me uncomfortable all the same.

    That said, there's some interesting stuff that stems from that in terms of how one comes up with an idea of a person via how they act in a particular setting about a particular section of issues, and the kinds of assumptions that sort of 'building an idea of someone' requires, and the problematic nature of those assumptions. But that's probably a better topic for my philosophy class. Sorry, kalinara. :)

    To come back to some sort of point, Ragnell, on her blog (and others) suggests that all of the talk about 'fangirls' vis a vis the MJ issue forgets that a large portion of the reaction recorded on WFA isn't actually coming from regular comics fans. It's coming from folks who saw it on a post somewhere else; folks who saw the movie and went looking for Spiderman stuff.

  • At May 15, 2007 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Why in the world is the Video Store Girl speaking as though real world feminist issues and comic book issues are somehow in competition with one another?"

    Time for each of us being finite.

    And railing against someone comparing the a character statue with segregation, judging by the rest of the post. (Which it would've been nice to repost in full, since it supplies the context.)


  • At May 15, 2007 8:32 AM, Blogger arielladrake said…


    Well you're obviously not allergic to clicking a link, and kalinara does point out that she's referring to a part of the post. So I'm not exactly sure why reposting something someone else wrote is necessary, or even appropriate, unless you're fisking or you have permission.

    Of course, again, the time issue involves some assumptions as to how much time people are actually spending on certain things with the only measure being posts on the internet. That's a pretty dodgy measure, right there.

  • At May 15, 2007 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Occasional Superheroine was just responding someone posting on her blog that the statue situation to the Rosa Parks event. I think she was just trying to say (and I agree) that comparing the statue bruhaha to the Civil Rights movement is just a bit tacky, and if you want to compare the Civil Rights movement to anything it should be the way women are treated in the real world, be it in Suadi Arabia or the USA. This is not to say that the feminist comic book initiative is unimportant, but that it is one of the facets of improving views of women and women's rights and it might be a little offensive to compare it to the Civil Rights movement rather than, say, a part of that movement that focused on improving depictions of African-Americans in comics. I really don't think OS is saying that everyone posting on WFA has an obligation to talk about real-world issues too, but that she was calling the bluff of the particular person who wrote that response. That's just wnat I get out of it though.

  • At May 15, 2007 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good post, as per usual.

    One thing I'm trying to figure out: why is it that it's only the female comics bloggers who are told they should be worrying about Sex Slavery in Russia or other heavy, serious issues?

    I mean, there's more men blogging about comics then women, presumably. We keep being told the industry is male dominated. Why don't some of those men stop wasting THEIR time arguing about who would win in a fight between Ultra the Multi-Alien and Crazy Quilt and blog about the effects of global warming or the increasing American debt?

  • At May 15, 2007 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh I wish you could edit these things. What I meant to say in the first sentence was.

    "I think Occasional Superheroine was just responding to someone posting on her blog that the statue situation is similar to the Rosa Parks situation or the MLK Birmingham jail situation."

  • At May 15, 2007 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi. I'm the idiot that probably inspired that post.

    For the record, that's really how it felt to me. I make my opinons, and you can agree or disagree with them, but you can't say I shouldn't have made that opinon.
    Besides, I tend to ramble.
    Rosa Parks was much different from letter of a Birmingham Jail, FOR THE RECONRD.

  • At May 15, 2007 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah I got a little mixed up there, sorry. I saw the "it starts with one woman" line which was not even written by you and may not have even been a reference to Rosa Parks. I am aware of the huge difference between the two.

    Yeah, and I never said and don't think you shouldn't have said it, just that I wouldn't be comfortable making that comparison because I think it's a little overdramatic/tacky/what-have-you. YMMV of course. My main objective was not really to bash you anyway but more to speak up for OS because I think she is getting accused of making an arguement she's not really making.

  • At May 15, 2007 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Oh I wish you could edit these things."

    Mmm. It'd also be nice if Google would stop trying to foist a global Google services cookie onto us, rather than one for Blogger.

    "So I'm not exactly sure why reposting something someone else wrote is necessary"

    It's passing over the intent of the original post (noting the tackiness inherent in a comparison someone made) in favour of choosing a sound bite to bounce writing about other things off.

    It casts the quoted person in a worse light than the rest of the entry; unfairly in some opinions.

    "We can work to help stop real world oppression in our real lives while at the same time fighting a cause like comic-book feminism on our blogs."

    Yes, people can. They generally don't -- and the original poster seems to have been passing comment more on individuals who can spend whole evenings feeding a five hundred post flame thread off a stray comment on a community, rather than people advocating and tending constructive discussion.


  • At May 15, 2007 12:27 PM, Blogger Betty said…

    You know how when you go to donate blood someone asks you why you're not feeding the homeless?

    Oh right. People only do that when you're doing something they oppose. Never mind.

  • At May 15, 2007 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    D'Orazio shotgunned all credibility with me when, after all the "Gilgongo" and Vickie Victim comics posts, she admitted she reads Justice League of America, because she "felt bad" for slamming Meltzer.

    Uh, Meltzer didn't write Identity Crisis with a gun to his head. He's just as culpable as DiDio and DC editoiral. This excuse making for creators really has got to stop.

  • At May 15, 2007 12:55 PM, Blogger Sleestak said…

    The discussions going on right now remind me of the Anti-Apartheid stories in comics in the 80s. DC did not bring down Apartheid by using Starfire to condemn it but every little bit helped and it certainly didn't hurt.

    So there is nothing inconsequential about not appreciating the style of Comiquettes when there are greater crimes against women out there because education and discussion is what comes before any change.

  • At May 15, 2007 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't have anything worthwhile to contribute to this debate but I would like to add the to list of folk congratulating you on the quality of your initial post. An excellent job.

    It's posts like that which remind me why your blog is one of my favourites.

    Again, nicely done.

  • At May 15, 2007 3:31 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Grrl, you knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. Yours is one of the most elegantly written arguements about why it is important to talk about sexism in the media.

    Thank you.

  • At May 15, 2007 4:08 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I used the blockquoting feature because I wanted to showcase the part of the post that caused me to respond as I did.

    I provided the link so that there is less chance of misrepresenting the original post. If you want to see the context of what was said, all you have to do is click the link. That's as fair as I feel that I am obligated to be.

    Yes, people can. They generally don't -- and the original poster seems to have been passing comment more on individuals who can spend whole evenings feeding a five hundred post flame thread off a stray comment on a community, rather than people advocating and tending constructive discussion.

    I'm not sure exactly how you can say "they generally don't". Reading someone's blog or message board posts is a fun way to get to know someone casually, but it is certainly no substitute for real life. There are a lot of things I don't talk about on here and I'd imagine that's true for every other blogger, message board commenter, or the like.

    It seems awfully presumptuous to assume anything about someone's actions in their private life just because you're reading some internet rantings.

  • At May 15, 2007 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, and one other thing I should have said earlier to Kalinara: I think your post was excellent and well-spoken and wasn't really talking about you when I said that I felt some people were misinterpreting what Occasional Superheroine said. You used a part of her post as a jumping-off point to write on another topic instead of talking about her.

  • At May 15, 2007 5:48 PM, Blogger Captain Infinity said…

    I'm reminded of a poll from the Newsarama boards where someone asked about fans' opinion on Marvel's smoking ban. The first response was "WHO THE #%^%$ CARES? Why don't you worry about freeing Tibet or something. Holy crap."

    I was struck by the irony that the responding jackass was spending his time on comic books message boards rather that, you know, freeing Tibet.

    I'm being flooded with many similar thoughts, so I'll stop now instead of spiraling into a rant.

  • At May 15, 2007 5:56 PM, Blogger Tinderblast said…

    Following up on what David said ... "us people"? There is no "us people" - putting aside how condescending and distancing a way that is to refer to a group, most of the links Kalinara and Ragnell gathered were from the blogs and livejournals of women (and men!) who don't, or only tangentially, know each other. I don't think it makes much sense to say, "As a whole, y'all need to moderate your actions" when there is no conscious collective force.

    I'm sure there are some social dynamics at play - women feeling more comfortable to come forward with their opinions after the first ten, fifteen, or fifty before them have done so - but the way Valerie and David are criticizing the reactions of hundreds of different people as indicative of a cohesive group's political goals is deeply wrongheaded.

  • At May 15, 2007 7:24 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kalinara,
    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post, and the reminder that Comic Book Blogs talk about, well, Comic Books.

    This, in particular, I applaud:
    Besides, ultimately, depictions of sexism in the media IS an important issue. Sexist caricatures, like racist or homophobic caricatures, are not a harmless phenomenon. They spread the idea that women, that racial minorities, that gay people are a certain way, which promotes a subconscious message that it's all right to treat people in an unfair and unequal way.

    Because in the end, Our Popular Cultures reflect Us. My academic work is in Victorian literature and culture, all of which is *flooded* with images of confined women, women in peril, monstrous women a la vampires, etc. because the literature reflected the Hopes, Fears, and Beliefs of the culture in which it was produced.

    It's Foucault's repressive hypothesis: that which is forced down appears *everywhere*.

    Although I'm not arguing post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this"), it is true that after 9/11, America was flooded with superhero movies. It is true that the Wonder Woman tv show came on the heels of second-wave feminism.

    I truly believe that Popular Culture is important because it tells so much about Us. Therefore, Comic Books are important, too.

    Whenever this argument comes up--and it comes up a lot--I point to Mr. Dickens who was the Stephen King of His Day. Now, he is one of Our Greatest and Most Respected Writers, he who got paid by the word, pandered to his audience, and was read, and discussed, by everyone, far and wide.

    He, who wrote popular novels.

    Thanks again.

  • At May 16, 2007 1:57 AM, Blogger Iko of the Shadows said…

    Dear kalinara, it's been over a year since I've been to e-confession, but my shame is weighing be down. Today, while I was surfing the web, a group of Indians teleported into my living room, and set a women aflame in what looked like an honor killing. I could have saved her, but I was too busy chuckling over letters answered by this girl named Misfit.

    What should I do?

  • At May 16, 2007 10:09 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Coming in late to the discussion, but there have been some very pithy comments and thoughtful ponderings, for which I thank you.

    The logical extension of course, is that we should ALL give up comics and start wearing hair shirts adn flogging ourselves, I guess.

    The heck with that, I'm going back to mocking Snapper Carr.

  • At May 17, 2007 10:28 PM, Blogger enamine said…

    Well, I think that I have learned a lot about feminism since I started reading your blog. I never much cared or really understood much about feminism before. In fact, I originally just came to your blog for the humor and comic talk. But since then I've found myself increasingly interested in and no longer dismissive of the issues you bring up.
    I think, to open my mind to feminism, I needed the silly mental image and discussions on how male artists should have to walk around with sandbags on their chests, and your joy over Power Girl becoming Chairwoman, and all the little things, like how you used to hate pink (I did too), but now embrace it (still not quite there).
    So, I guess I'd just like to thank you for that.
    As ever, I love the blog.


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