Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

You don't have to know the cause to feel the effects...

On a post of Ragnell's a few days ago, she makes a point that gets an interesting response in her comment section. This is what she says re: sexism in comics:

"And if you are saying "Its always been this way," you're being an ass. If that's true, then how did all of these people who are so "easily offended" by the "natural state of comics" ever get to the point of being regular fans?"
The interesting response is by "Monroe" here:

Because they started as kids and most kids don't give a shit about feminism or even know what it is?
Now, I'm going to hazard a guess, just a guess mind you, that this Monroe person is male. I may well be wrong about this, I admit now.

Okay, I can't speak for all women, because I know we all have different experiences, but me personally, as a girl growing up, I was NEVER not aware of sexism or feminism.

I didn't know the names or the concepts of course. I wouldn't have been able to tell you who Betty Friedan was or understand why the heck someone would burn their bra, I didn't know about privilege or glass ceilings or sexual harassment.

But I knew that girls were different than boys. But more than that, I knew that girls were treated differently than boys. I noticed that while I could play Ninja Turtles or He-Man or Thundercats with my male next-door neighbors at home, none of them wanted to be seen playing with a girl like that at school.

I noticed my mother, herself a very feminist woman, frown when I'd be more interested in climbing a jungle-gym, chasing kids with sticks than in playing house. I remember the odd looks my father got when he brought his eight year old daughter to computer club meetings and let her play Hillsfar on his Tandy while they talked about whatever it was they talked about.

Now, some of that might have been more obvious to me because I had generally more "boyish" interests. I did like dolls and girly cartoons too. But I was happiest with "boys' stuff" and seeing the girls fight alongside the men.

And I noticed when the girl was always the one in trouble. I noticed when the girl was the one who always fainted and had to be carried. And you better believe I noticed when the girl was only interested in clothes or hair or boys, when all the male characters had their own pursuits.

I noticed the Pink Ranger's skirt-thing and her shallow dialogue. I noticed that there was no female Ninja Turtle (on the cartoon, at the time), I noticed that talking Barbie never said anything INTERESTING.

I noticed that Troi was the only crewman of the Enterprise not in a uniform and that all of her outside interests could be summed up by the word: Chocolate. I noticed that Dr. Crusher never got to do much of anything besides have romantic tension with Picard or be Wesley's mom.

I noticed that Jesse Spano was treated as a neurotic freak for caring about grades, when Kelly Kapowski and Lisa Turtle got into shopping and dating mishaps. And a lot of the time, only the guys got to do all the fun schemes. Believe me I noticed when two of the girls weren't there anymore, replaced by some new hot girl for Zack to lust after and NO ONE SAID ANYTHING about it.

I noticed these things. I cared about these things. They made me angry, defiant, ashamed, without ever really understanding why. And I noticed that none of the neighborhood boys I played with ever had a clue.

Now again, I have no idea if other girls' experiences matched with mine. I know my interests were fairly atypical for my gender. But I bet you ten to one they noticed SOMETHING. Boys being called on more in class, booksmarts and boyfriends treated as constantly irreconciliable forces, being told to act ladylike when in the middle of a mild argument, while the boys across the room are practically fist-fighting...

I'd imagine that we all have some sort of experience in this matter. For that matter, I would not be surprised if the men out there have their own experiences relating to gender issues that are very relevant to the discussion, but I don't know, not being male. I do know however, that I do not remember a time when I wasn't at least somewhat aware of sexism or feminism, even if it would be a long time before I'd ever heard the word.

You don't have to know the medical terminology for an injury to know that you hurt.


  • At November 06, 2007 9:54 AM, Blogger Dave Menendez said…

    You don't even need to be female to notice these things.

    When my sister and I played Star Wars with the neighbors, we ended up having two Princess Leias, because she was pretty much the only option for the girls. We had the same problem with Voltron.

    (Admittedly, we had the reverse problem with Jem.)

  • At November 06, 2007 9:58 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Is it wrong that my first reaction to your post was jealousy that you got to play "Hillsfar", one of the few SSI D&D games I could never track down?

  • At November 06, 2007 10:46 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Lurkerwithout: Not at all, Hillsfar's fun! <3

    My dad's an engineer and computer game geek, so I was playing that thing at age six/seven. (I think it came out in 89 or so. I was born in 83.)

    I wasn't very good at it mind you, but at that age, it was more than enough fun just trying to dodge hay stacks and divebombing birds on horseback and getting chased by pixelized people across a bizarrely planned Tardis-esque building with no resemblance to whatever it was supposed to be. Also, the "You are dead" effects were very funny. And hard to get. (It was remarkably hard to kill off a character in that game, even if you're seven, yeesh.)

    Had the bizarre side effect that in second grade, I could spell charisma and "quaff" (and could use them in sentences!) but got tripped up on "flower".

  • At November 06, 2007 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Troi's uniform issue was actually adressed when another captain took command in season 6 who disaproved of her lack of formality afterwhich she wore a standard medical blue uniform
    In "Disaster" she had comand, and there was actually a whole episode devoted to her pursuit of O-5 promotion following "Desent PartII"

    As for Dr. Chrusher watch "Ethics" for a great character episode for her.

    Interesting fact for your case though: In the Robin Hood "Qpid" episode, these 2 cast members were the only ones w/ sword training, yet because they were girls weren't allowed.

    Tom-Boys are hot BTW,IMO
    pardon the trek geekiness

  • At November 06, 2007 11:32 AM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    (Disclaimer: These are all my opinions and I am a white male between 18 and 45. Feel free to ignore them.)

    Why there are female comic fans even if the medium is almost uniformly sexist? Because people get used to things they like not being perfect. Before the internet, people would appreciate things despite them having flaws.

    And why do they complain of comics now? Because a part of any good relationship is to bring out the best of the other side, and comics are really not showing their best side. It's all about potential.

  • At November 06, 2007 11:53 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    In general, Men AND Women alike get "used" to the way that things "ought" to be. I was a history major in College, and I've noticed this phenomenon before. If you explain to someone that a certain battle never actually happened, or a certain familiar story in history wasn't actualy that way, they get annoyed. They get annoyed with YOU for challenging their old familiar point of view.

    In challenging the way that it always used to be, especially in comics, the samed darned thing seems to apply. Even when you can point out certain facts, while holding the actual book in your hand, a lot of people still won't believe you...and get very pissy about it.

  • At November 06, 2007 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To quote Obi-Wan: Many of the truths we cling to are based on a certin point of view"
    IOW: Right on sallyp.

    Z: Your arguement is false because prior to this blogosphere people made these and other protests on this topic and everyother by phone, mail, oraition and base force, all of which are still in use. Just because something is good as is, is no excuse whatsoever not to want improvement.

  • At November 06, 2007 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These are good points that you have brought up. But every example that you've used are from the '80s on up. I started watching TV and reading comics in the late '60s (yeah, I'm old). Feminism was a fairly new concept in mostly every part of the U.S. And yet, our generation still had Emma Peel from the British TV series The Avengers. We boys loved her! Not just for the outfit that she wore, but that she was a Class "A" bad-ass, as well.
    But yeah, considering that it was about twenty years before you were born, very few strides have been made in the comic/sci-fi world in that period of time.
    That is something to think about.

  • At November 06, 2007 1:23 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Z: There's some truth in what you say, but I think we can also have a little bit of trust that for people who are sensitive to such matters, things probably have gotten a bit worse.

    I personally, looking at them now versus back issues from the Silver/Golden Age, do see some ways where they're much better than they used to be, but also ways in which they're much much worse. I can't say what I would have thought of such things as a child, since I wasn't exposed to comics much, but as an adult at least, I can see where someone who had been reading comics all his or her life might perceive a "worsening".

    WM: Yep, I was born in 1983, so all my life examples are late eighties on. :-)

    I do think though that while feminism in those words might have been fairly new by the sixties, the roots of it can be dated quite farther back.

    The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963 as a critique on problems in the 1950s.

    Rosie the Riveter was in the 1940s, while even before that there was the Women's Suffrage Movement.

    So, at least some of the underlying concepts of feminism/sexism could be at least subconsciously dated farther back, I think. I'm not sure how that really effects my argument, or if it does, but it's definitely interesting to consider.

    I do think there's been some inroads by way of feminism in terms of sci-fi and comics. But I also think that we've slid backwards in other ways. It can be remarkably frustrating. Yeesh.

  • At November 06, 2007 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I noticed the "differences" in the way boys and girls were treated starting at home. The "girls" helped make dinner, set the table and do the dishes afterwards everyday, and my brother mowed the lawn once a week. At school I was asked by my guidance councilor ask me if I really wanted to take a "hard" advanced biology and algebra class. I've had guys assume I like Dungeons and Dragons because my boyfriend does. I've had doctors who've examined me talk to my husband and not me. I've had a doctor ask me if my husband was alright with my husband we were adopting (he was my allergist). I've also had to be restrained by my husband from choking potential adoptive parents who want to adopt a daughter because they are "easier to raise" then boys.

  • At November 06, 2007 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh man! How can I forget the women of Love and Rockets? They were full of flaw, but you never doubted their inner strength --especially in Palomar!!!
    Does Love and Rockets count?

  • At November 07, 2007 3:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    My mom's favorite story about me as a child was when she was babysitting one of my kindergarten classmates for the first time.

    John came over and looked into my toybox and asked, "Whose trucks are those?"
    My mom said, "Those are GeekGirl's trucks."
    John said, "Nuh uh, girls don't play with trucks."

    My mom said I pulled myself up to my full kindergartener height, and said, "Those are TOO my trucks!"

    So, yeah, I was pretty acutely aware from an early age that the fact that my folks let me play soccer (one of three girls in the entire league), go fishing and catch tadpoles was weird to a lot of people.

    My dad was also the person who introduced me to comics. It was a huge summertime ritual at my grandma's cabin to walk down to the general store and pick up the new load of Harvey Comics, with the occasional Silver Surfer and Tales from the Crypt thrown in.


  • At November 07, 2007 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh I SO resonate with this post.

    I hope you don't mind but I'm kinda... gonna expand on my own experiences of this on my blog. I will link to here, though!

  • At November 07, 2007 3:56 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Anonymous: I don't mind at all. :-)

    As I figure it, anything I put up here's pretty free for comment or criticism either here or elsewhere. :-) It's flattering actually if/when someone does take up on the topic.

  • At November 09, 2007 10:31 PM, Blogger Alix said…

    You don't have to know the medical terminology for an injury to know that you hurt.

    And that sums it up right there.

    As shy as I have always been around people, I have always known my own mind. It helped that I don't much care for people in general - it's much easier to brush off others' "should"s if you don't give a damn about them in the first place.

    But lately, I've been wondering which came first - my not giving a damn about anyone, or their shoulds and their sexism. I mean, logically, I know - they came first. But when I started really reading about feminism, I was like "This is what people make such a fuss about? Isn't this stuff kinda obvious?"

    I'm rather misanthropic. It's probably my biggest character flaw; I can't stand idiots, and I think people in general are stupid. But I'm starting to think my misanthropy grew out of a stubborn child's reaction to being told "girls don't do that" or "go clean up the dishes" one too many times.

    ...Wow. Even for me, that's incoherent.

  • At November 10, 2007 12:00 AM, Blogger zhinxy said…

    I do think though that while feminism in those words might have been fairly new by the sixties

    < etymology nut > Hubertine Auclert coined the term "feminisme" in France circa 1880, and "feminism" came into usage in the U.S around 1900 < /etymology nut >

  • At November 10, 2007 12:44 AM, Blogger philippos42 said…

    As a boy raised by a single woman, I was used to women being in positions of authority, & missed out on some of the internal normalization of sexism. But I was aware of it from the other side. I got flack for liking "girly" things, & had a lot of self-distrust over it.

    And I was born in the 1970's. I learned the word "feminism" young, with the assumption it was a good thing. It was later that I got turned off by people who seemed to use the word to mean a certain kind of raging contempt for men.

    I avoided the word as a teen. It took me a while to start calling myself a feminist again.

  • At November 10, 2007 12:56 AM, Blogger philippos42 said…

    Oh, & I hate the token female trope in fiction. It'll be like, you have the strong guy, the black guy, the leader, & the girl. Just one girl. Girl is an ethnicity (as in the multi-ethnic street gang in Warriors), or a single personality type, or something.

    And of course the women in these stories are often amazing everywomen who encompass all women, who inspire deep fan devotion (I'm thinking of Wonder Woman & Princess Leia)--& of course they're often written lousily, because their personality is "the girl," whatever the writer thinks that means.

  • At November 10, 2007 2:18 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ooo, thanks for the info Zhinxy! As is evidenced, I didn't know that! :-)

  • At May 25, 2009 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When one looks for injury and insult, one usually finds such. Furthermore, no matter how much we fight it, all things return to their natural state.

    Hating and/or feeling insecure about oneself is altogether a different malady.

  • At May 25, 2009 10:42 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm not actually sure what you're trying to say in that comment at all.

  • At September 27, 2010 12:58 PM, Anonymous Generic Viagra said…

    Well what an interesting answer! I definitely think the sexism is present in all comic books and it is something we have to stop, or at least to reduce, because the epochs have changed and we can not continue like 50 years ago, that's impossible!
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