A New New Bechdel Test

Recently, Tumblr users created the Mako Mori Test, a kind of alternative or addition to the Bechdel Test. Citing its inefficiency in evaluating a character like Mako in a movie like Pacific Rim, fans wanted to create a more versatile test. The results: a movie must A) have at least one female character, who B) has her own narrative arc that is C) not about supporting a man’s story. While I appreciate the usefulness of the Bechdel Test as a tool, it can be limiting. The Mako Mori Test allows for a different perspective than the Bechdel Test. Instead of focusing on the verbal and physical presence of women in movies, the Mako Mori Test emphasizes the development and complexity of a female character.

I know what this looks like, but I swear this isn’t really about Pacific Rim. The Mako Mori test, like the Bechdel Test, has the ability to draw our attention to the inadequacies of writing, beyond the scope of only one movie. The lack of Makos on film is a quality that is so engrained in the film industry that it practically defines it. One of the many things that struck me about the writing in Pacific Rim is that Raleigh’s development as a character is inextricably interconnected with Mako’s. Raleigh doesn’t advance at the expense of Mako; he wouldn’t have been able to grow as a character without her growing, too.

So I started to think. Though useful and well-meaning, tests like these always focus on female characters, essentially creating more and more rules for them. More restrictions, more ways we can critique the perceived inadequacies of female characters. Taken to an extreme they can become a version of the dreaded Strong Female Character, or the equivalent to slapping the Mary Sue or Manic Pixie Dream Girl label on every fictional woman.  So I thought: why not start regulating our male characters?

Today I propose the Raleigh Becket Test.

A movie successfully passes the Raleigh Becket Test if there is A) a central male character, whose narrative arc B) requires the development of a female character, and who C) never becomes romantically or sexually involved with this female character.

Obviously the first one is pretty easy. Almost every movie in existence passes the first one, but the other two are not so easy. As much as I’d love to see more Makos on the screen, I’d also like a few more Raleighs. He cares so deeply for Mako’s personal growth, without ever once wanting to have sex with her. That’s pretty revolutionary, too.

-Joanna

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Finding the Words

My apologies for the spotty posting recently. I can’t give any particularly good excuse, other than my (temporary) mindless minimum wage job. In general, the issue is that I’ve been finding it hard to muster the appropriation indignation for events like the Mark Millar “rape doesn’t matter” incident. My reaction was basically: am I going to get really angry about this, or am I going to just throw up quietly somewhere because this man is an actual, real writer of comics who has more cultural power than I probably ever will? I basically chose the second option. His comments went into the deep recesses of my brain, to join similar incidents whose deeply tonedeaf wrongheadedness have made me nauseous. (I’d give examples, but the specifics have become ether and joined the “background radiation of my life.”)

As for what hasn’t been making me want to find a hole to live in until the world is no longer terrible, I could very easily turn this site into a Pacific Rim fan blog, but I won’t.

Today, in light of my blogger’s block, I will consider the benefits and pitfalls of being able to find the words.

Being able to identify and express harmful aspects of our society by using precise terminology can be extremely empowering. For better or worse, words hold power. Language reinforces and influences culture. This is one of the reasons that, every so often, the internet finds itself in a debate about the real, quantifiable definition of sexual assault. Armed with the specific words to describe an incident, it can be easier to cope with. Being able to say, “that is sexist” or “this is racist” helps to reinforce the idea that inequality not only exists, but marks our everyday lives. We can point it out, say This Specific Thing is Bad.

But language is not always enough. When we lack the discourse and actions required to solve the problems we are able to point out, we remain as powerless as we are without the terminology. It seems that we, culturally speaking, have the vocabulary for identifying racism, but lack the teeth to enforce the punishment that should logically result from saying racist things and holding racist beliefs. We all, at some level (excepting extreme cases), think that racism is a real phenomenon, even if we think it means only Jim Crow or apartheid. Even if the definition is woefully inaccurate or incomplete, we believe at some level that it is real.

By contrast, it is much more common to hear women identifying sexism without ever using the word. Women will say things like, “if men got pregnant, abortion wouldn’t be an issue.” Or, “women have to work twice as hard as men do to get just as far.” But they will rarely say that sexism is the cause of the problems they are identifying. And I think that a lot more women would deny the existence of “sexism” than people of color would deny “racism.” Yet, I would argue that the US’ cultural discourse on gender is (marginally) better than its racial discourse, if only because mainstream media outlets are free to frame gender discussion around upper-class white women.

So is it better to have the terminology, even without the power to enforce it? Or is it better to be able to state the problem without naming it? Do they leave us ultimately in the same position culturally? I don’t have any answers to these questions. But I figured I’d offer these somewhat coherent thoughts to you, O Internet, to consider. Next week, I promise to return to more tangible analysis. Until then, be glad this didn’t turn into “Mako Is Tha Best!!!!!!111 Part Two.”

-Joanna

An Unsurprisingly Insensitive Superhero Fight, Domestic Violence-Style

Apologies to the world for my spotty posting as of late. My non-internet life has been pretty busy recently with various things, not least of which is my sister’s conversion to Islam, decision to wear hijab, and the inevitable fragmentation of my family as a result. (Other events include: a planned vacation, an attempt to rid myself of internet addiction, an upcoming concert, the first week of classes, video games, and being really poor all the time.)

My return post is, surprise surprise, about Storm and Black Panther. Specifically, Why It Makes Me Feel Skeevy That Storm and Black Panther Are Going to Fisticuffs.

For those of you who aren’t following the Avengers vs. X-Men, Marvel’s giant summer money-making scheme tie-in event, Black Panther and Storm broke up. By that I mean, BP acted like a jerk and annulled the marriage behind Storm’s back. So now, in the tie-in to the tie-in, Vs., a limited series that showcases plotless superhero fights, BP and Storm are hashing it out.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the underlying reason why this makes me uncomfortable: they’re a recently-divorced couple who are physically fighting each other to deal with their marital issues.

Seriously, Marvel?

I’m not going to say that there’s no way that a comic could use what is essentially domestic violence in a way that is meaningful, insightful, and interesting. But this is AvsX: VS, and that was just never going to happen.

The first thing that could have made this less skeevy-feeling is not allowing Black Panther to prevent Storm from using her weather powers. Without those powers, they’re forced to go to actual fisticuffs, rather than allowing the melee/ranged difference between the character’s fighting styles as a buffer to prevent it from devolving into a husband/wife fistfight disguised as emotional depth.

Another mistake: making it about their marriage rather than about the big superhero war that enabled the divorce.


When Storm says, “this is about you and me,” this issue abandons any hope of not making me feel skeevy.  At that point, we really are watching a husband and wife beat each other up over their relationship. What’s worse, that last panel just looks like Marvel isn’t taking this very seriously. Maybe it’s the art, but to me that punch looks a lot like a punchline, or at the very least an invitation to snicker, or to enthusiastically take a side. I don’t want to cheer on either of these fighters. The whole fight just makes me sad.

Later we get a thought from Storm: “If we’d only had children, maybe things would’ve been different.” Really? Really? This is how the writers are exploring the emotional depths of a woman who just got her marriage annulled behind her back and is now fighting her ex-husband?

And then there’s this page:

I hate how Wakandans show up, just so they can make Storm feel guilty for leaving. As if Storm didn’t look enough like a bully in this issue.

At the very least, there is no winner in this fight. (Vs. normally declares a winner after every fight.) Still, Marvel screwed up an opportunity with a lot of potential to show that it prints writing that actually has emotional depth and sensitivity.

The only way to make this worse is to bring them back together at the end of AvsX. I don’t want two people to get together after they felt the need to go to physical violence to properly end their marriage. That is an unhealthy relationship. So unhealthy that if Marvel glosses over this, should they choose to bring them back together, I will be very upset. If we’re supposed to celebrate their getting back together, expect an angry rant to appear on the blog.

Also, I think it needs to be said that Marvel needs to be careful what stereotypes about black people it reinforces with things like this. Again, not something you need to be a genius to understand. Or, at least, you only need to have a modicum of emotional sensibility to understand.

So, this final death knell for Storm and Black Panther’s relationship hammered the last nail in the coffin for my interest in this series. Fuck this noise, Marvel. Seriously.

-Joanna

 

Invisible No More

Serious trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and trauma

One day I’ll write up a suggested reading list for the human race (the only book right now is J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, but I’m sure I can think of more). Once that’s done, I’ll write up a suggested viewing list for the human race. The Invisible War will be included.

The Invisible War is a documentary about the epidemic of rape in the military. It tells the stories of survivors, how their cases were either ignored or swept under the rug, how the military mangles both the prosecution of the assailants and attempts at rape prevention. It shows how rape culture has permeated the military and, by allowing most assailants to go unpunished, does nothing to stop rapists.

It’s a harrowing film, very difficult to watch, but incredibly necessary.

If you’re someone who might avoid seeing this film because you’re very sensitive about stories of sexual assault, please see it anyway. (Unless you’re a survivor yourself. Then that’s ok.) If these women and men were brave enough to share their stories, we need to be brave enough to listen. Then, having listened, we need to be brave enough to act.

It isn’t just that men in the most prestigious Marine Corps unit tell women they’re asking to be raped by wearing their military-issue skirt or because they’re wearing makeup, or that they spread rumors about women supposedly having sex with various men. It isn’t just that commanding officers are overwhelmingly the ones raping their subordinates. It isn’t just that these officers then get put in charge of their own rape cases, effectively acting as judge, jury and executioner for their own crimes.

It isn’t just that 40% of homeless female veterans were sexually assaulted while serving. Or that there is a higher rate of PTSD among women who’ve been sexually assaulted while serving than among men who’ve been in combat. It isn’t just that there isn’t a military sex offenders registry. Or that sex offenders have an average of 400 victims each.

It’s all of these things. All of them, and all of the stories these women and men share. It’s that one man, after raping one woman, put his hands all over her body and said, “I own all of this.” It’s that one man said he can still hear the laughter of his assailants. It’s that most of these men go completely unpunished. It’s that one assailant was actually awarded Airman of the Year during the rape investigation. It’s that evidence is “lost” or claimed not to be incriminating enough.

It’s hearing how proud and excited these women and men were to be joining the military, and then hearing that they would never want their daughter enlisting. One woman tried to dissuade her waitress at a restaurant from enlisting. One woman saw a high school-age girl wearing a Marines shirt and wanted to tell her not to have her life destroyed.

It’s seeing one husband sobbing while talking about having to stop his wife from killing herself. It’s how common suicide attempts are among this group of veterans. It’s hearing another husband say he left the Coast Guard because of the way they treated his wife. It’s a father in tears recounting trying to convince his daughter that she’s still a virgin.

It’s that this is a civilian issue as well as a military issue. It is a societal issue, not just a women’s issue.

I would like everyone to see this film. Then I would like people like Daniel Tosh (and the person I unfriended on Facebook over that incident) to fucking look me in the eye and tell me rape can be funny.

You can look at the film’s website to find a theater or screening. If it isn’t playing anywhere near you, I would suggest either contacting a local independent theater or an organization that might be willing to host a screening. This movie is too important to ignore. Our civilian judicial system is certainly flawed, and many challenges facing rape survivors are the same for both soldiers and civilians. But even among civilians, the rapists are never the ones who get to pronounce themselves innocent.

All of us, regardless of our feelings on the wars or the militarization of the US, need to take action to ensure that sexual assault survivors are not treated like criminals, and that the real perpetrators are punished.

The culture of silence is not just a military issue; if we do not do something to secure justice for sexual assault survivors, we too are complicit. We too perpetuate this violence and trauma when we say nothing. Tell the world, the country, the survivors, and the guilty: Survivors of sexual assault are #NotInvisible.

Because, to borrow from Janelle Monae, this is a cold war: you better know what you’re fighting for.

-Joanna

The Vatican: UN Member Circa… Never?

Another day, another week full of things to say. Man, does this War on Women and the general shitty misogynistic culture we live in ever give me a horde of topics to write on! What do I choose when day after day, I have so many possibilities?

How badass Rep. Lisa Brown is for performing the Vagina Monologues on the steps of Michigan’s state house? How that whole situation makes me want to run through various legislature buildings, yelling “VAGINAVAGINAVAGINA! I HAVE A VAGINA AND I VOTE!”? What about the serious crush I’m developing on Mr. Jay Smooth, eloquent video blogger extraordinaire whose total awesomeness is finally going viral? Or how lazy writing is claiming Lara Croft as its next victim, by using the age-old ill-advised plot device of sexual assault as a way to make a female character more sympathetic and give her a big obstacle to overcome? How, if we have to spend our time squabbling about basic legal rights women should already have, we’ll never get to other stuff that matters, like the absolute travesty of justice that is the CeCe McDonald case?

I could talk about these. But I won’t. Instead, I’ve linked to websites that are already doing excellent work on these topics.

Today I’m moving the discussion to Brazil. Specifically, to Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. As Zonibel Woods at RH Reality Check explains, the conference, which began in 1992, “was the first of a series of United Nations global conferences that sought progress on sustainable development, including human rights, population change, social development, women’s human rights and gender equality.”

The 2012 conference attendees are currently negotiating the Future We Want document. The contested portions of the document surround– what else? –reproductive rights and other rights unique to women and sexual health. According to the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, “This morning [June 19] the draft text compiled by Brazil does not include any reference to Reproductive Rights, it has been removed.”

Youth SHRH goes into further detail: “Yesterday the G77 proposed to remove references to young people in paragraph 147 which outlines commitments to reducing maternal mortality, improving health of women, men, youth and children and reaffirming commitments to gender equality and language on youth having control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health.

The Holy See, Russia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Syria, Egypt, Costa Rica all spoke against including reproductive rights in the Gender Section of the draft outcome document. This was the ONLY reference to reproductive rights in the 80 page document. These governments not only questioned reproductive health, they also claimed to not understand the relationship between sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights within the context of sustainable development. They claimed that reproductive rights go against national legislations and constitutions, and that reproductive rights was a ‘code word’ (for abortion) and they have to protect rights of unborn and right to life.”

After reading this, in addition to being upset, I was confused by the idea that the Holy See has any say in this. I have since discovered that the Vatican is what is considered a “permanent observer state,” which apparently means it is a “Non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent observer mission at Headquarters.”

Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure that attempting to prevent reproductive and sexual health is really observing. In any case, G77 members are also guilty of this push to refuse to acknowledge that empowering women can help lead to a sustainable future. Achieving a sustainable future, after all, is ostensibly the purpose of Rio+20.

I have no idea when the Vatican will get its head out of my and everyone else’s uterus, but I can tell you that a future without global reproductive health, sexual health, and women’s rights is not a future I want. So please spread the word all across the internet, so that activists and G77 leaders alike can be told that sustainability means including women’s human rights and reproductive justice.

-Joanna

Gender and Creation in Prometheus

My quick, spoiler-free review of Prometheus goes something like this: It was incredibly enjoyable, despite a few minor script-related flaws. I want to write books and books of feminist analysis about it, and I plan on seeing it several more times. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, partly because it managed to deeply disturb me while also raising fascinating questions about creation, creators/the created, and the place of gender in all of this. 8.2/10

Now for the in-depth, spoiler-ridden version:

The difficulty of writing this post

This post has gone through several re-writes, way more than I usually bother putting in for a blog post. (Sorry, blog and blog readers, you’re unique and special and deserve good writing, but I don’t have the time to write the same blog post five times every week.)

The issue wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find the best way to order and phrase my thoughts, though that was certainly a factor. The issue was that, initially my impulse was to write this grand, feminist psychoanalysis of the film, because, after the credits started rolling, that’s exactly what I felt it deserved.

But then I went on the internet. I found out that for whatever reason, Prometheus was as viciously polarizing as Pepper Potts wearing denim shorts around her house. Probably more so. So then I thought, even if it means dumbing down the blog, I must point-by-point defend the (often hyperbolic) attacks on this film! People are overreacting, and damn it I will stop them!

But then I realized that IMDB is IMDB, and me posting that the critics are allowed to dislike the film, but they need to relax about it because this was hardly the worst movie ever, really isn’t going to change much. It definitely won’t change the minds of ultra-super Alien fans who probably wouldn’t have been happy with the film regardless. So now this post is a hybrid analysis/defense/general speculation collection. Enjoy!

All these questions!

One of the primary criticisms launched at the movie is: plot holes/they raised all these questions that were never answered! I think this is partly because Damon Lindelhof is an easy target, having been one of the writers responsible for ruining one of my formerly favorite shows with total nonsense.

One of the enormous problems with Lost was that the writers became infamous for introducing a whole bunch of bat-shit things that they never explained. So from now on, every time Lindelhof writes a script that doesn’t explain every single thing, people are going to wave the Lost flag all around.

I’m not going to say this is entirely unfair. After all, my bitterness about Lost runs so deep that whenever I see that a former writer for or producer of Lost is working on a project, my instincts tell me not to bother. So I can understand where people are coming from. However, there is a major difference between the questions that Lost didn’t answer, and the questions that Prometheus didn’t answer.

Lost made you ask questions like, Where did that polar bear come from? Why are they weaving that tapestry? Wait, so who’s Jacob? Are they all dead? These are all storyline and plot-related questions; questions the writers should already know the answers to. Unless I’m forgetting some major unexplained plot points, the questions raised by Prometheus were more like, What is the purpose of creation? How do the created react when they encounter their creators, and vice versa? How does this relate to real-life parent-child interactions? These are fascinating, thematic questions, ones that I’m sure Damon Lindelhof doesn’t have the answers to. Because no one does. I would have found it condescending of him to attempt to answer these questions, as though he is somehow privy to the secrets of the universe.

There were a few storyline-based questions I had (i.e. what David’s motivation was for putting the worm thing in Charlie’s drink), but I still had enough evidence from the film to allow me to arrive at a few possible conclusions. I may have wanted one particular motive to be hinted at the most, but I’m also content with being able to choose which one I prefer. Similarly, both sides of the “is Vickers a robot?” debate have plenty of logical arguments in their arsenals. Giving the potential for many answers is not the same as giving no answers.

Blah blah realism

Another accusation pointed at the film surrounds the believability or realism of various characters/situations/motivations. This is usually my least favorite criticism of films and books, and it remains so for Prometheus. Ignoring the debate as to whether a scientist actually would approach a strange, seemingly hostile creature on an alien planet, etc., I have this question to pose: Honestly? If we’re going to talk about realism… what is realistic about Ripley taping her two guns together at the end of Aliens? Furthermore, why do I even care about whether or not Ripley could feasibly tape together and carry around two heavy guns, and then fire them? It was incredibly badass when she did. Similarly, I don’t really care how after a present-day Cesarian, no one could run around and what not. Not only is this the future, but it looked badass as hell! I don’t care if Shaw would have been, realistically, fainting or stumbling everywhere or dying out of exhaustion. This is a movie, not real life. And if Ripley is allowed to tape two guns together, Shaw is allowed to run around and be awesome after just having a Cesarian.

Body autonomy, gender issues

This now-infamous Cesarian scene was one of my favorite scenes in any movie. Everything about that scene was horrifying. My mouth hung agape as I watched, and I have a fairly high tolerance for gross things. What I found even more intriguing about the whole situation is how it reflects and comments on the current state of women and healthcare.

This picture describes the current state of women and healthcare.

Like many authoritative men with ulterior motives, David was being rather shifty in giving Shaw all the information about her pregnancy. He was uninterested in giving her a clear-cut objective answer to her questions and request to see the fetus. When she demanded to have the fetus removed, she ultimately had to do it herself because he would not, even though it posed a health risk to her. Sound familiar? Of course, it wasn’t necessarily an abortion, but the subtext of the ability of women to make their own health-related choices despite facing resistance from men was definitely there.

Which brings me to how this “health-related choice” was described as a “Cesarian” (terminology I’m using for the sake of clarity and because I’m on the fence about the whole “abortion” thing). Right before Shaw told the machine the procedure she wanted, I was practically on the edge of my seat waiting for her to say “abortion.” But she doesn’t. She chooses a Cesarian, not an abortion. While that doesn’t erase the fact that Shaw still chooses not to be pregnant, I think it it’s a significant point. Abortion or not, the fact is that she, despite David’s efforts, chooses to be un-pregnant and will be damned if he stops her.

Furthermore, the med pod being programmed only for men’s bodies is a larger statement on the healthcare system in general. The American healthcare system refuses to acknowledge the existence and particular needs of women by allowing special interest groups (like David) to get involved by telling women what they do and do not want to do with their bodies.

So even though that scene grossed me the fuck out, I was cheering for Shaw not just because I didn’t want her to die, but I didn’t want anyone telling her she couldn’t have a life-saving medical procedure done to her body. Of course, the fact that birth/quasi-birth scenes are usually portrayed in film as disturbing and traumatic definitely underscores the idea that to men, the female body is mysterious, terrifying, and very much an Other. The female body is a disturbing place full of gory weirdness. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress made an interesting point about this scene, which was evidently why the rating got pushed from PG-13 to R: “It’s funny, how we have a tendency to treat damage done to women by other people as less threatening than women asserting their own autonomy over their bodies.”

Creation

In addition to raising questions about women’s body autonomy, the movie raised interesting questions about creation and the creators/created. What is the purpose of creation? For what reasons do entities create? What do they intend to do with the created? How do the creators treat their creations? How do creations treat their creators? Is it worth knowing who created you and why? These questions are developed not only through the human quest to discover the Engineers, but through David’s unusual position as quasi-human created by humans. I could write a book on all the fascinating things about David’s character, but I think that deserves a separate post. Suffice to say that, just as sometimes your creators don’t turn out the way you hoped, the same happens to your creations. When David says, “Doesn’t everyone want to kill their parents?” I could have stabbed out my eyes with Freudian excitement (ha, Oedipus joke, get it?). That comment alone significantly raised the quality of the creation subtext.

The questions about creation can all be further applied to gender theory, since women are traditionally seen as the creators. (Despite Judo-Christianity telling us that a man made the universe.) Speaking of that: the gender or lack thereof of the Engineers is rife for exploration. Were they actually intended to look male? We saw no genitalia, but the Engineers certainly had a typically masculine look to their bodies. Was this an attempt at gender-neutrality, or were we supposed to assume they were in fact male? If they were genderless, we would need to decide why a genderless race would create a gendered species. If they were intended to be male, we would need to figure out why female Engineers were absent, other than because Hollywood is sexist. Was it an intentional inversion of the typical notion of women as creators? Was it a thoughtless omission of women? Was it meant to make a statement about patriarchy? I can’t really answer any of those questions, but I find them interesting to consider.

Men with boobs

One final gender-related thought: There were some complaints that Shaw is nothing to Ripley, Shaw’s two-dimensional, would get her ass kicked by Ripley, etc. etc. Ignoring the obvious “she wasn’t supposed to be Ripley” and “I don’t see why Ripley would fight Shaw unless Shaw started murdering her crew” arguments, I’d like to pose a question: Are those people angry because Shaw isn’t Ripley, or are they angry because, unlike Ripley, Shaw displays more “feminine” characteristics?

I like Ripley, I like her a lot. In fact I love her. I think she’s one of the greatest examples of how to write an effective female lead in an action role. Effectively, Ripley is gender-neutral in Alien. We don’t see her being overly-macho/purposefully unfeminine (see: Men with Boobs) or being overly feminine. Even the motivation in Aliens of saving a child is sometimes shared by male leads.

More women in movies should look like this.

However, Shaw is very much a woman, sometimes doing the kinds of things that men mock women for doing. She cries about being infertile (this was actually a scene I hated, but not exactly because of what she was doing), she has a visible male love interest, she displays the irrational aspect of negative female stereotyping because she holds on to her faith, etc. And, as important as un-gendered female action stars are, it is perhaps even more important to write action protagonists who are consciously women. I mean to say that instead of ignoring the fact that the character is female, embracing her feminine qualities, for example the ability to create life (another big theme in Prometheus). Now, this isn’t to say that I think all female action stars should paint their nails while wearing frilly pink dresses and reproducing. They don’t have to be caricatures of femininity, and certainly the apparently inherent link between women and motherhood is one that not all women desire and does not describe all women’s experiences with femininity. I’m simply saying that I commend Prometheus for being daring enough to occasionally remind the audience that the hero was a heroine, rather than ignoring it.

Furthermore, the fact that some people mocked Shaw for not being supa-tuff like Ripley reflects the way society stigmatizes female and/or feminine behavior. They don’t want to see a woman in an action role acting like a woman. They want to see a woman in an action role not acting like a woman.

There are practically a million other things I’d like to say about this movie, and about gender in it. Perhaps, upon a second viewing, I will revisit this topic for a later post, one that includes Vickers.

But for now, I a million percent agree with Tally Art:

-Joanna

Catwoman as Contortionist and Tropes Vs. Women

Today I was all ready to post my thoughts on Prometheus, but I’ve decided to let those stew a bit longer, so instead, here are some interesting links for your perusal.

First, ComicsAlliance posted a compilation of artist responses to the most recent WTF superheroine pose, this one belonging to Catwoman:

This cover definitely makes me wish that I didn’t have a spine. Think of all the cool pictures I could take of my boobs and butt at the same time, if only I didn’t have that pesky spine. Ugh! As if being a woman wasn’t hard enough!

Speaking of life being hard for women, boy am I glad I’ve never had the audacity to make a video explaining my KickStarter project! Because apparently, if someone disagreed with the premise of my project, I’d be setting myself up for rape threats. Yes, this is the world we live in.

Anita Sarkeesian over at Feminist Frequency wants to fund (and, in part due to the vehement harassment, has already succeeded in funding) a series of videos called Tropes Vs. Women: Video Games. Tropes Vs. Women is an existing series that deconstructs gender tropes present in pop culture, i.e. in Legos. This particular series would focus on video games.

Like women the internet over, Sarkeesian is now facing brutal harassment, including misogynistic and racial slurs as well as rape threats, simply because she pointed out an area of pop culture where women don’t exactly fare very well. The mildest of negative reactions from YouTube commenters involve griping that women are not only equal to men now, but are more equal (which is obviously why we get paid less than men– we’re just trying to level the playing field) and that Sarkeesian is trying to guilt regular ol’ gamers into feeling personally responsible for gender-based injustice (which, if you actually watch the video, she clearly isn’t). People are also having a field day pointing out numerous (read: one or two) examples of strong female characters in games, like The Boss, as though Sarkeesian hadn’t said in the video that she would also be discussing games that actually do get women right.

As her mission statement clearly maintains, “This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. The series will highlight the larger reoccurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.” That sounds pretty horrifying and insulting, right? I mean, take a look at this outrage yourself:

The fact that this is the internet’s response to a fairly mild suggestion (sometimes video games portray women in ways that are the same as ways women are portrayed in other video games) proves just how important Sarkeesian’s work is. I commend her for fighting the good fight, even after suddenly finding herself the target of enormous backlash and harassment.

The sad thing is that this is hardly an isolated occurrence. Every day, women (feminist or not) and other members of marginalized groups face this kind of internet harassment. I guess life must really be hard for people faced with the thought of losing the firm grip on their privilege, the grip they’ve had since birth. Sorry, male gamers, that women have the audacity to play video games and then analyze them. Life is really, really hard, right?

At least I’m given some hope. Sarkeesian hoped to raise $6000. At the time I’m posting, she’s raised $73,388. Looks like Sarkeesian and her smart, incredibly necessary analysis of pop culture ain’t goin’ anywhere.

So you know what? Fuck you, trolls.

-Joanna

P.S. BatCat’s presence will be a little sparse until August, as she is off empowering girls through art at Girl Scout camp.