Won’t someone think of the insensitives?

Every time sexual harassment at conventions comes up, somebody trots out the red herring that it’s just too hard for certain persons to know when they’re being polite and when they’re being rude, and it’s just unfair to ask these poor insensitive people to read the fickle minds of the lovely mysterious creatures they’re attracted to.

To which I say, with as much respect as I can muster: Please fuck off.

Sensitivity can be learned. Manners can be learned. Manners in fandom are not, much as some fans like to pretend otherwise, significantly different from manners outside it. Erring on the side of being a shy violet because you’re afraid of giving offense may cause you to miss out on a sexual opportunity or two over the years, but if it also causes you to miss out on even one occasion of putting some other person (who, we hope, you’re well-disposed toward, right?) in fear and ruining their convention, then it’s a public service and well worth the sacrifice.

There are people in the world who are physically and mentally incapable of learning to tell the difference between courtesy and rudeness but as a proportion their number is vanishingly small, even in fandom, despite what some self-serving fans like to pretend. And even if it weren’t, their right to hit on people does not come close to trumping the right of other people not to be sexually harrassed.

(Please don’t anyone say “What about the Aspies?” which is usually where this goes next. The autistics and the folks with Asperger’s syndrome that I know are too polite to punch you but that won’t stop me wanting to and my blood pressure doesn’t need it this week, for reasons completely unrelated to SFWA.)

(I know this isn’t a new sentiment and I’m sure it’s been put better by other folks, and recently, but it wasn’t being said in certain venues. So I posted there, and I’m reposting here.)

In which the author hopes for once to avoid attacking the entire enterprise of mainstream superhero comics

So over on FB Amal posted a link to this comic strip by David Willis, to which Ben responded:

the sad thing is, it’s not that DC comics is bad at math. it’s that DC and Marvel don’t see comic books as for selling; not for selling copies of.

they see them as for generating IP to sell in more lucrative media.
misogyny is just a traditional part of that package.

I think the middle two sentences are true as far as they go, but there’s something about the last sentence that irks me, and when I started trying to explain to Ben what it was, I found I needed paragraph breaks. So here we are.

So, I think it’s true that DC doesn’t have any intention with this reboot of trying to sell Red Hood to as many readers as watched Teen Titans, and to that extent, yes, the comic is not likely to change any minds at DC. But to shrug and say “misogyny is a traditional part of the package”, to me seems dismissive to the point of unhelpfulness. That much, if true, might explain the general situation of women in comics; it doesn’t in itself explain the sudden jump in misogyny at (and sudden sidelining of creative women by) DC in particular, and by treating that jump as business as usual, it discounts criticism and invites passivity. And as the comic itself points out — however incidentally — the level of extreme misogyny in the DC reboot doesn’t necessarily fly in “more lucrative media”, broadly considered.

That said — I went to the movies last weekend and saw “Moneyball”, which on the whole wasn’t bad apart from the obligatory scene showing that our hero’s ex-wife’s new husband is an effeminate twerp. And thanks to bad timing I had to sit through a raft of ads, including ads for NBC’s entire fall lineup, and through a clutch of film previews that ran the gamut from predictable to depressing. It would be an exaggeration to say that “sexism” was the pitch for NBC’s entire fall lineup, but it started with The Playboy Club and went downhill from there, culminating in some sitcom the name of which I can’t be bothered to google about a new married couple, in which the humor apparently derives entirely from the new bride’s desperate attempts to attract her husband’s attention while he treats her like a piece of furniture. And of the previews, the one that stuck in my mind was for “50/50”, which appears to take what could have been an offbeat romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Anna Kendrick, and stir in a big greasy bucket of Seth Rogen bromance.

So contra Mr. Willis, I have to admit that misogyny sells, or at the very least that the Powers That Entertain think it sells. It’s not that DC thinks they’re going to sell comics to every Apatovian dudebro, but if they can hook enough of them with soft porn and date rape jokes, seat those brand names deeply enough, then when these properties hit the big screen, with the misogyny toned down from the embarrassingly appalling to the merely egregious, they’ll entice their bros and drag their girlfriends to the theater. Or that’s the best theory I can come up with, at any rate.

That being the case, yes, I have to say that misogyny is part of the more-lucrative-media package. But “traditionally”? That makes it sound like there’s nothing anyone can do, that it goes back to Adam West and George Reeves. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got a few mylar bags somewhere in someone else’s attic that show it doesn’t really even go back to the 80s. At least, not to the level it’s at now. The best I think you can say for DC is that they’re reflecting a broader trend; it’d be more accurate to say they’re exploiting and amplifying it. And while I don’t think anyone should expect comic books to do better than pop culture at large, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand it.

In praise of weak female characters

I am going to quote Mlawski’s “Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women” at length. Because once in a while there comes a topic so solid that even I, even in these latter days of the Law, cannot relegate it to the ephemerality of Twitter.

  • “It was very clear that [the 2007 Transformers movie] was made for a very specific audience: young white nerdy men who wish they could bone models after watching them sexily fight robots so sweat cascades down their luscious tanned bodies.”
  • “This Super Strong Female Character is almost like a Mary Sue, except instead of being perfect in every way because she’s a stand-in for the author, she’s perfect in every way so the male audience will want to bang her and so the female audience won’t be able to say, ‘Tsk tsk, what a weak female character!’ It’s a win-win situation.”
  • “Good characters, male or female, have goals, and they have flaws. Any character without flaws will be a cardboard cutout. Perhaps a sexy cardboard cutout, but two-dimensional nonetheless. And no, ‘Always goes for douchebags instead of the Nice Guy’ is not a real flaw. Men think women have that flaw, but most women avoid ‘Nice Guys’ because they just aren’t that nice. So that doesn’t count.”
  • “And, by the way, it’s OK if these women are hot. The characters I just mentioned above… are all quite attractive. But they also DO get beat up and they DO look like they could kick your ass. Except for Zhang Yiyi, who’s like thirty pounds. But she at least looks graceful enough that she could fly and kick your ass with a sword, and she looks angry and batshit crazy enough that she’d do it twice.”

And now that I am done quoting it, you are going to read the whole thing.