Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday Misogyny

I'll acknowledge that Misogyny may not necessarily be the most accurate term here. The comment in question is so confusing it's difficult to make an exact classification, though it does strike me as a definite form of anti-feminism, which is why this one goes under this heading today. You see, Passive-Aggressiveness can be a greatly confusing tactic. It results in offense, and it becomes difficult to pin down precisely where the offense came from. So, I've prepared a training exercise.

In the exchange below, I'm going to reproduce one of Kalinara's posts in it's entirety (she's given me permission to do this), and then I'm going to quote you from somewhere around the thirtieth comment. The commenter names will all be obscured, but the actual content is completely reproduced so you can judge what happened without looking back at the names.

What I need you, dear readers, to do for me is to explain to me precisely what Fan #1 is talking about, and what in the original post prompted such a comment. And then I need you explain exactly what point Fan #3 inadvertantly proved, how she proved it, and was she too hard on Fan #1?

This is a long one..Original Post:
An Open Letter to Male Comic Fans:
Recent developments over the cause of comic-book feminism have gotten me thinking. I don't know if a lot of guys really understand what feminism's really about.

At least what *my* brand of feminism is really about.

So I'll tell you.

It's not really about the costumes, be they midriffs, boob windows, fishnet stockings. Yeah, some of them are silly. Some of them are stupid. And yeah, when I think they are, I'm gonna damn well say so But I don't want female characters to go around in shapeless tracksuits any more than you do. I like most of the costumes, and while I might prefer it more if Kara Zor-El wore the Matrix Supergirl's costume and cheered when Huntress changed to the non-midriffed bodysuit, that's not what I really care about.

It's not about breast size. Look women come in all shapes and sizes. And in general, when it comes down to it, I like the variety in comics. I'd like to see more variety in comics. I certainly don't want Power Girl or Phantom Lady to suddenly become a b-cup or anything like that, (though I much prefer Phantom Lady in the recent BfB art style than the Freedom Fighters.) Regardless of what certain folks might think, I like Power Girl's breasts.

It's not about making comics less fun for guys. I don't begrudge you your action, attractive characters and power fantasies. I like them too. I don't begrudge you your eye-candy, though I want more male eye candy to balance out.

So what is it about?

It's about:

# Rape/Sexual Assault Storyline being few and far between. It's got incredible evocative power. But only when used sparingly and subtly. It loses all sorts of impact when everyone and her mother has it in their backstory. It should Never be the default method of establishing strength and development in a female character.

# Female characters being defined as more than just their male counterparts with boobs. Having two X-Chromosomes is not a sufficiently defined personality. Female characters should be as complex and developed as their male counterparts.

# Female characters being no more or less sacrificed for a storyline than their male counterparts. Characters have to die sometimes, we understand that. But a hero character should neither be specifically targeted nor specifically spared because of their gender.

# Female characters being on average of an equivalent competency level with their male counterparts. For every Steph Brown there should be an Oracle. For every Jennie-Lynn Hayden a Katma Tui. The woman should not always be the weakest of her ilk.

# Writers caring as much about the consistency of the characterizations of their female characters as they do their males. We love these characters for their personalities as much as their appearances and powers, these should be kept consistent. Growth is a good thing, rampant out of character-ness for the sake of the plot is NOT. For a man or a woman.

# Gender not being used as a crutch to stick to the same old archetypes. Men can be nurturers, women can be ball-breakers. Men can be sensitive, women can be sex-crazed. Variety is a wonderful wonderful thing.

It's about respect.

I don't want to spoil your fun. I don't want to make you feel bad or defensive. I don't think you're all misogynists and sexist jerks. I don't really see anything wrong, for example, with you liking to see attractive female characters in revealing clothing.

I just want the gals to have personalities, brains and skill to go with their beauty. I want female characters to have the same respect and consideration as male characters. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Our desires aren't mutually exclusive. We've got no reason to be adversaries. It would be very easy for us both to be happy. Think about it

This post gets to thirty comments before I see one that really sticks out to me, so I'll be nicknaming the commenter "Fan #1"

Nice piece. Of course, the two main things that would need to change is there to be more female leads (either in their own book or another series) and more female creators (not always working on female characters, either).

But the thing feminist comic fans need to remeber, is that it's going to take time. Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was the comic industry. Things are changing to the better for women in comics (both in the books and in real life), but there is still more to be done. Guys understand that. But it seems that a good bit (not all, because not everyone is the same) of comic book feminists are a VERY impatient lot (and concidering the patience of "regular" comic fans, that's saying something).

We know you want to make things better. We even want to help where we can (because, I'm sure it wasn't just feminist comic fans who wrote in and saved Manhuter and Spider-Girl). But when you get impatient, you really hurt the cause more than help it. This is just a little something you should keep in mind, when you want to go off on rants about something you don't like. Normal comic book fans look stupid when they do it, having a "cause" behind you doesn't make you look any less so.

Let's keep making those strides to make better comics for men and women (has anyone here been reading Witchblade lately? Man, that is some good stuff.). But don't let the passion you feel for the issues, cause you to turn people sour to your points, simply bacause of your tone and attitude in expressing them.

When someone is screaming in your ears, the reflex is to cover your ears. Not listen more intently.

Just a little something to think about... :)

Within ten minutes, Fan #2 replies (With a slight edit for the name):
[Addressing Fan #1], you remind me of Terry Long.

It's a full hour before Fan #3 comes along, and feels a need to point something out:
When someone is screaming in your ears, the reflex is to cover your ears. Not listen more intently.

Conversely, when someone continually refuses to listen, the reflex is to raise your voice.

You're very quick to take this opportunity to point out the shortfalls of feminist comic fans, when none of these shortfalls apply to Kalinara's post.

The original poster returns:
[Addressing Fan #1]: Female Leads and Female Creators are all well and good, but the thing is that respect should be across the board. Many male creators clearly respect women, many female characters are written respectfully even when not the star. There's no reason to segregate ourselves to just stories with female leads written by women.

[Addressing Fan #2]: Heh.

[Addressing Fan #3]: Conversely, when someone continually refuses to listen, the reflex is to raise your voice.

There's definitely that factor. We've spent centuries not being listened to, being overlooked and disregarded, so it's perhaps understandable that now that we're actually getting somewhere, well, we're impatient.

Fan #1:
[Addressing Fan #2]: How so? I'm genuinely curious.

[Addressing Fan #3]: True enough. But then, some people won't hear you, if you had the "voice of God" telling them something. Sometimes, you just have to chalk some people up as a lost cause and focus on finding those who aren't.

And I think it fit in fine with Kali's piece, insomuch as she seemed to think men don't understand "the cause". While I think many do, but get turned off by some of the tactics and attitudes some feminist comic fans employ. It's yin and yang here. Both sides have their weak points.

Kali: A key factor in respect if equalit and/or balance. And the comic industry isn't (although it is much better than it used to be). With each new generation of creators coming in, I think things will only imporve. Afterall, a lot of the creators who hold on to those sexist conventions, also grew up in thimes when that was considered "normal". Today's younger creators know that's not true anymore and act accordingly (both in their writing and personal lives).

But as I said, it's still going to take time. I understand the impatience (some) women have. But that doesn't mean it should be acceptable, anymore than the sexism they deplore should be.

I think what it really comes down to, for me, is exactly how women express the issues. Sure, everyone jumps on something that's "wrong." But how many also praise what's "right?" Not nearly as many. I know you, Ragnell and a few others do, but you guys hardly make up the whole of "feminist comic fans." There is very much a lack of "respect" from the feminist comic fan movement, IMO, by that lack of "fair play" in reporting events and issues. If all one does is complain about the bad, but never acknowledges the good, how can you expect someone to really listen to you, no matter how LOUD you get? Who listens to someone who is always complaining about something?

As I said at the start, a key point to repect is balance. But it's not just men who need to work on it, but the women, too. Perhaps that is something to think about for another "open letter" style entry. I certainly think you are up to the task (as this entry showed). :)

Fan #3 reads more than enough:
True enough. But then, some people won't hear you, if you had the "voice of God" telling them something. Sometimes, you just have to chalk some people up as a lost cause and focus on finding those who aren't.

Good point. I won't even bother reading or responding to your comments anymore.

Fan #1:
>>Good point. I won't even bother reading or responding to your comments anymore.<<

Thank you for proving my point for me.

For today's Monday Misogyny, please readers, explain to me what exactly happened here and weigh in -- impartially -- on whether this is misogyny or a hair-trigger in action. Both Fan #1 and Fan #3 used passive-aggressive tactics when arguing, as those tactics are the bane of the candied civility that tends to replace actual civil discourse and productive debate. But what exactly in the original post was Fan #1 responding to? What set Fan #3 off? Was Fan #2 justified in his comparison, and was it an insult or a misguided compliment?

The original comments are still intact back at Pretty Fizzy Paradise so that you can check them for accuracy, but I'd prefer you not take the names into account while trying to explain. Although if you go over there, you'll see Fan #3 broke her promise.


  1. Although I think I tend to fall into feminazi, hair-trigger, passive-aggressive tactics myself most of the time, I'll take a stab at it.

    (without checking names)

    Fan #1 was just using Kalinara's topic of feminism and comics as a jumping off point to say whatever he/she wanted to say about that general topic. Its pretty common for people to do this; sometimes its appropriate and sometimes its not. (I have to admit that I've done this quite often myself. It was when I realized I was doing it far too often that I decided I needed to get my own blog. That hasn't helped much, though.)

    Since the topic is feminism, and there has been a long history of people responding to legitimate feminist complaints with exactly this kind of side-stepping, and trolls on feminist sites have a bad habit of using this kind of tactic (seriously, they're worse than I am), I lean towards innapropriate in this case. In fact, such behaviour usually throws up red flags for a lot of readers, including myself.

    Plus, Kalinara was claiming the title of feminist, and Fan #1's post was all about things feminists get wrong. Considering that 1 didn't bother to address anything Kalinara actually said about feminism, Fan #1 was being pretty damn rude as well, because that means 1 was attacking Kalinara without having the decency to actually address her directly.

    Either or both of these is what set fan #3 off, and why 3 responded by essentially saying that sometimes you need to shout to be heard - because in most feminists' experience, you do. The guy that won't stop doing whatever the hell he shouldn't be doing when you ask him nicely will often get the hell out of your way when you act like a bitch - even if he complains while doing so. It's a tactic we've learned for self-preservation - but its one that isn't always useful for fostering conversation and debate.

    I still think its better than letting the conversation be derailed, but there are better tactics out there - I just wish I knew what they were.

  2. First off, I thought fan 2 and 3's comments were pithy and insightful. Both are, of course, a little aggressive towards fan 1, and could have been aimed more at his arguments than him personally ("I won't listen to you" vs. "I won't listen to wrong opinion"), but, as we'll see below, he deserves what he gets.

    I could take the entire comment apart bit by bit, but this comment is too long anyway, so I'll stick the first paragraph that set me off, and you know the criticism applies to the rest. And I quote:

    But the thing feminist comic fans need to remeber, is that it's going to take time. Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was the comic industry. Things are changing to the better for women in comics (both in the books and in real life), but there is still more to be done. Guys understand that. But it seems that a good bit (not all, because not everyone is the same) of comic book feminists are a VERY impatient lot (and concidering the patience of "regular" comic fans, that's saying something).

    Yeah, that is a Terry Long statement. On the one hand, many of the things he says are true and he SOUNDS like he supports feminism. On the other, beneath all his qualifying statements you can find the core of his patronizing attitude.

    "Feminists need to remember" that things have improved but there is still a lot of work to do, as if any woman who cares about gender equality isn't intimately aware of that fact.

    "Guys understand that." No qualifier, no explanation from where this knowledge comes from either. Simply, ALL guys understand the struggle for equality better than feminists.


    But my favorite bit is "it seems that a good bit (not all, because not everyone is the same) of comic book feminists are a VERY impatient lot." So much joy packed in such a small space.

    Okay, he's learned that when making ridiculous sweeping generalizations, especially ones that don't apply to the specific post he's commenting on, he needs to include a qualifier. Good for him. Not that he included such a qualifier for "Guys understand that," but, whatever.

    But then it gets to the numb nuts core of his argument (again, attacking the argument, not the man. I'm sure his nuts are quite sensitive). "Feminists are VERY impatient" and impatience hurts the cause.

    What? As if equality will come through natural progression without the aid of human intervention. Here I though impatience was the root of feminism, and every kind of social change.

    To sum up, the Terry Long award for Monday June 26th goes to the statement, "Yeah, women should be the equal of men, but almost all of you women are too impatient for it. Be quiet, and let us guys take care of it."


  3. Huh. Well. All I can say is, I read Kalinara's original post and thought, "Well that's a decent open letter, makes her points well." And I didn't even bother to read the comments. And for once, I'm very, VERY glad I didn't.

  4. Against my better judgment, I went and checked to see if "Fan #1" was really oversensitive, homophobic brat I guess he or she was, so guilt ridden that he or she has to stamp out any accusations of wrongdoing whether it applies to him or her or not, and it usually doesn't, but that doesn't stop him or her from bleating "But Things are GOOD, really!"

    Then again, if Kalinara was directing her open letter more directly about fan behavior, I doubt this person would have had a problem.

    Nobody puts a gun to this person's head and makes him or her read blogs.

  5. I think Mickle hit the nail on the head here- the guy didn't really seem to parse the post itself, just picked up on "feminism" and "comics" and then took off.

    I'm wondering why we SHOULDN'T be impatient- the feminist movement has been around for, what, 30-40 years? And comics are STILL behind the times in terms of equality. That's not an example of Rome not being built in a day, it's creators dragging their feet!

  6. I just love THIS quote from fan
    #1...Comic book feminists are a very impatient lot (and considering
    the impatience of "regular" comic
    fans, that's saying something)

    You know, I'm a 48 year old mother
    of four teenagers. I've been
    reading and collecting comics since
    I was fifteen. I AM a "regular"
    comic fan dammit! Sheesh, now I'm
    feeling all huffy.

    Oh, and thank you so much for your
    insight. I just discovered this
    blog recently, and have enjoyed
    it enormously.cwpvybly

  7. Uh, I found all comments you mentioned to be long-winded semantics and I tuned out. Kalinara's original post was decent, I liked it.

  8. Having read Steven and anon #1's comments here - I think pointing out the inconsistencies they mentioned out is the best tactic.

    A well-meaning person may get defensive at that point, but will probably start to actually engage you and would still think about it and possibly change his or her views later on. Someone who really wouldn't listen to you even if you were god will probably just accuse you of being nitpicky.

    (guess which group I think fan #1 falls into)

  9. I really liked Kalinara's original post. I confess I skimmed some of these comments -- my eyes glossed over at some point.

    Not knowing who Terry Long is (thus not getting the reference) I can't say much about the exchange surrounding Fan #2.

    However, I think what happened is that Fan #1 and Fan #3 both took preexisting prejudices about the "other side" and ran with it. It seems likely that both Fan #1 and Fan #3 have butted heads with "the opposing side" before, and are running into this debate with a lot of assumptions about the people on the other side, rather than the arguments. This didn't help matters -- in the end, both were overeager to dimiss one another rather than to listen to one another.

    That being said, Fan #1 expresses a common viewpoint when they feel threatened (and they DO feel personally threatened) by a dissenting, minority viewpoint: Fan #1 argued that it's not WHAT we're saying, but HOW we're saying it. Fan #1 doesn't necessarily agree or disagree with the feminist comic book outlook (one can't really tell one way or another from his comics) -- but it sounds like they don't count themselves amongst the feminists (the use of someone screaming in "your" ears, as a reference to "them" in "mine").

    Fan #1 normalizes non-feminist comic book readers, marginalizing the feminist comic book fan as a "feminazi"-type (although they doesn't say this explicitly, the intention is obvious). Fan #1's problem is that they are arguing that feminists would get somewhere if we were nice, patient, and generally oblinging towards "regular" readers (and I agree with anonymous -- "regular"?!?). Talking about incessant screaming by feminists is just another way of dismissing our viewpoints -- it's to ask that even while we protest, that we do so at the convenience of the majority, and subjugate our viewpoints for their comfort. The disconnect, I think, is that this debate shouldn't be framed around how feminists say what they say, but WHAT THEY SAY.

    That is, after all, what Kalinara is talking about. The irony is that she wasn't even screaming in anyone's ear -- she posted on her own blog.

  10. From what I could make out, Fan # 1 was pointing out all of the bad things about feminism and acting as if this was what the majority of feminists do (not true), and s/he also distanced him/herself from feminist comic book fans, presumably because s/he is rational and wants to point out the good things about comic books, and that's something feminists don't do. So, in a way, it's a backhanded compliment, saying that Kalinara is rational so she's not an eeeevil feminist. I think that's what fan # 3 reacted to, though maybe s/he overreacted a bit.

    While I'm not a fan of shouting or aggressiveness either, people who write comments like this are annoying. Either you agree with the cause or don't, and if you don't, then get out. There are degrees of feminism, and it's okay to be feminist and not be radical. Most people don't understand that about feminism.

  11. Hm, the part that would get my hair-trigger response (if I had stayed in the comments long enough) was the "things are getting better... just not as quickly as you'd like". Quite simply I look at the superheroines of my youth and today's prospects and I think we've taken several steps backwards.

  12. Oh, and I was going to add some more thoughts, but Jenn said all I was going to say.

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  15. I hear that Fan #2 guy is totally handsome and all the ladies want to have like ten thousand of his babies.

    Just sayin'.

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  17. Just skimming over the exchange, I wouldn't call it misogyny, per say, but rather a large dose of privilege.

    Definitely the person could benefit from reading my How to be a REAL Nice Guy post.

  18. Oh, and Steven... "gets what he deserves?" Wow. You make it sound like this guy is some serial killer of kids on death row, not someone who had an opinion you disagree with. Talk about overreactions... sheesh!

    By saying "he deserves what he gets," I never meant capital punishment. I thought it was clear from the context that the argument "deserved" to be mocked and aggressively challenged, and was.

    See, what I was talking about attacking the argument, and not the person. I didn't know who I was disagreeing with until I checked Kalinara's site just now and, surprise surprise, it's YOU.

    So let me be clear. I don't know you. I'm sure you're not misogynistic, i.e. you don't HATE women (as tekanji says, the title's something of misnomer, probably chosen for its alliterative qualities) and I assume that you are genuinely supportive of equal treatment of female characters and creators. So I certainly don't mean to insult you personally and I would never threaten you with violence.

    But, James, saying "Guys understand" the struggle for equality is a long hard slog, and "impatient" feminist comic book fans don't, that their "impatience" hurts the cause, and that they shouldn't try aggressive and loud tactics because most guys understand already and those that don't are sexist pigs who will never listen, is patronizing bullshit.

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  20. Oh, but steven, we feminist comic book fans just don't understand what its like for all the regular fans out there.

    Fan #1 was only trying to help, really.

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  22. I should step in to clarify, regarding Ragnell "making a big deal out of this", she asked me for permission to re-post the relevant post and comments and told me what she intended to use them for and I agreed that it was a good idea.

    So I've as much a role in "making a big deal out of this" as she does.

  23. Hang on ... I think you lost me a few times there with the moral conundrum surrounding Leopold's awareness of Blazes Boylan, but then I never really understood Joyce.

  24. James,

    First off, this is the second time you've tried to end a discussion by saying it's useless because we'll never agree. Why are you still arguing then?

    I didn't apologize. You didn't understand what everyone else understood, so I clarified. Do I have to again? You are not a murderer or a supervillain. You are a moron who deserves ridicule.

    However, you're also misquoting me (and check what I actually wrote or copy and paste for accuracy next time), so at this point I have to assume you are deliberately misinterpreting me in order to take offense.

    You don't know what "alliteration" means.

    Every comic fan, even "regular" ones, have an agenda and political philosophy that changes their enjoyment of comics books (including you). So your distinction is a false one that further demonstrates your patronizing attitude towards feminists and women in general.

    You still haven't addressed the fact that your comments are patronizing bullshit.

    Your entire comment comes from someone who wants to "help" feminists, but not be a feminist.

    Dude, I'M a feminist! I don't have to be a woman to be a feminist. I just have to believe that women should be treated as the equals of men that they are.

    If you want to "help" a cause, but not want to be part of that cause, THAT is patronizing bullshit.

    So I ask you James, are YOU a feminist? If not, why not? And if not, where the HELL do you get off telling feminists how they should or should not go about pursuing their goals?

  25. Yeah, constantly bringing up your grudge against Hal Jordan fans and your constant carrying of Ron Marz's water whether it's even remotely relevant to the discussion or not is in NO WAY an agenda.

  26. James, I've been reading comics
    for more than 35 years. I'm
    probably old enough to be your
    mother. DON'T make me reach back
    behind the seat young man!

  27. James, before I say anything else, I'm gonna help you out: "alliteration" means having multiple words with the same first sound, i.e. "Monday Misogyny". You didn't commit the alliteration, Ragnell did -- this is Ragnell's weekly feature in which she posts issues of sexism and misogyny in the comic book community. To that end, while James isn't a misogynist (Ragnell says as much), I think it was an appropriate topic to post. James wasn't the special recipient of the alliteration.

    Two things struck me when reading James' comment. The first is this: I think it is highly inappropriate to compare an issue of sexism in comic books with ordering a pizza. The consequences are nowhere near as mundane, the discussion nowhere near as irrelevant. While it is difficult to get people to agree on things, it is far more important that there be some consensus that sexism is wrong and women deserve equal treatment than whether or not we order a half-pepperoni, half-anchovies pizza with thin crust. That and the use of "regular" (with quotes) suggests a dismissive tone about the issue that probably struck most feminist responders on a very poor tone. That was strike one.

    The other problem is this: why should a feminist cater to your conveniences? Why should we subjugate our narrative and experiences so as not to bother you or offend you or make you upset? Sure, we want people to agree that sexism is wrong, but that doesn't mean that the symbolism of making sure members of the patriarchy who enjoy male privilege should be catered to is a better alternative for the feminist. Ultimately, James, what's so offensive about a feminist who speaks loudly and carries a big stick?

    Your main point is that feminists don't treat you with respect when telling you their issues. But, ironically, you don't characterize feminists or the cause of feminism with respect (at least not in your comments here). Why should we do any different?

    BTW - I didn't know he was Fan #1 either until Steve said as much. That was a little sketchy, dude, agreeing with Fan #1 when you're him.

  28. Jenn,

    Goddamit, PIZZA IS IMPORTANT! (though that half-pepperoni, half-anchovey thin crust does sound good).

    Yeah, I didn't notice either, until he called me out by name, and Chris Sims, who is much funnier and subtler than I, made the same point in a, well, much funnier and subtler way.

    (Though "Terry Long" as an insult, yeah, I should have known who Fan #2 was instantly).

  29. well, thanks to james... i'm getting a pizza craving. anchovies, though? ew. and i prefer dough-y crust.

    ... would someone be willing to explain the terry long thing to me?

  30. Here

    And Here

    Terry Long is Wonder Girl's ex-husband. Some find him to be a creepy loser who loudly professes to support women's equality, while oozing a charming aroma of sexism, desperation, paternalism, and occasional misogyny.

    That Donna Troy married him, and beared his seed (ew), is above and beyond her headache inducing backstory and inability to read a history textbook without crying, why a lot of people have trouble with Donna being the new Wonder Woman.

    Thanks, Chris!

  31. thank you! and oh GOD that's creepy......

  32. You're welcome.

    And that is why the ladies love me.

  33. "For the record: "regular" = comic fans without a cause or agenda in their comic reading and enjoyment.

    Hence why it was put into quotation marks. Of course, why ask for claification, when empty speculation will do just as nice, right?"

    Let's see - at least two people complain about how much that statement pisses them off and wonder about what you meant by it, but you don't clarify until someone directly accuses you of being an ass.

    No, we're not defensive at all are we? No, we care about debate and conversation. Yessirree.

  34. - and we in no way ignore female commenters for male commenters - until they start screaming in our ears, anyway.