On Rage and Invisibility: A Reminder

Invisibility is a tricky subject.

On one hand, those who are truly invisible in our culture tend to be the ones who suffer most. Yet the factors that reinforce this suffering are also, by necessity, invisible. If people never see injustice, they will never realize that it is there. If they never know it is there, they will never do anything about it. And so on. Ad nauseum.

For example, take this ordinary, everyday scene. It demonstrates how tiny aggressions, seemingly meaningless moments, can render you invisible.

After meeting Ming Doyle on Free Comic Book Day and getting a quick sketch of Mohawk Storm from her, I showed off my spoils to someone I know. This someone is male, and was with his male friend. He turns to his male friend. “Is that who draws Saga?” I answer, “No, that’s Fiona Staples.” There is a split-second pause. His friend replies, “No, that’s Fiona Staples.” Then, and only then, does he nod and acknowledge this answer. The friend was deemed more knowledgeable solely because of his maleness. He was not the one who had just stood in line, beaming, to meet a favorite artist. He was not the one who answered first.

Taken on its own, this incident is small. It perhaps seems petty to dwell on it, to force upon it some significance about gender and the geek community. But this incident will never exist on its own. It sits among a wide array of minor offenses, all of which made me feel devalued and underestimated because of my gender: in the 7th grade, during a spat regarding The Return of the King, I was told by a boy in my class that I was wrong because I was a girl. On countless visits to Game Stop, staff speak only to my boyfriend, never to me. The same man from the incident above once offered to lend me some comics, thinking he could get me into some books I’d never heard of (although I had), as I was “suddenly into comics.” Despite the fact that the first time I met him, I was dressed as Delirium from the Sandman.

I remember these incidents, because they reinforce and practically verbalize the cultural messages we receive every day: Girls don’t know anything about Tolkien. Girls don’t play video games. Girls don’t read comics. Again and again and again. These words are intended to make me and my lived experiences invisible. They are intended to force me to devalue myself. Sometimes the microaggressions hurt more than the big ones, the obvious ones. When someone says women should shut up about equality until they’re ready to sign up for the draft, or that women can’t be in leadership roles because of their periods, or the countless other overtly hostile messages we hear every day, it is almost less hurtful. Long ago, I conjured an armor made of eye-rolling and quick-witted replies to defend myself against these attacks. But there is a part of me that still doesn’t know how to deal with the smaller offenses. When a comic store employee ignores me waiting in line so he can talk to some boys about Magic: The Gathering, there will always be a part of me that wonders if it is all in my head. I don’t have the right armor for this situation, and I don’t know the best way to forge it.

When we talk about all the factors, micro and macro, that reinforce cultural notions like racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and myriad other ills, the burden of proof always lies on the victim. Someone will always ask you if this incident you describe is an isolated incident. It never is, but you can also never explain the compounding of all the insults, huge and small, that has shaped your understanding of this incident. It is impossible to describe, because it is the story of living every day, since birth, in an unequal world. When a stranger says “hey beautiful” to me on my way to lunch, it is not that particular man I want to break in half, but all of the men who have ever, since I was a preteen, shouted things at me or stared at me in public.

The same problem arises when you critique media. People inevitably try to argue that it is an isolated incident, that it isn’t that bad because it’s just this one movie or book. It’s just one employee in one comic shop. Or they rely on individual interpretations: oh, well, when I read that book, I pictured this character’s dark skin as meaning a tan white personHe was just giving you a compliment, you should be happy. These tactics are both themselves invisible, and a method for suppressing complaints, rendering justified criticism invisible. The people who make these arguments do not realize that they are enabling oppression, because most of them would deny that oppression exists.

Some people in the US think racism ended with the Civil Rights Act and that feminism became obsolete after Roe V. Wade. To suggest otherwise is to force people to consider their own, personal relationship to inequality. It is difficult to face reality. Sometimes knowing the truth about our world makes me not want to live on this planet anymore. But it is so much healthier than pretending to be too cool for politics, or whatever bullshit helps people avoid seeing what is happening around them. When people bemoan the apathy of others, they are really upset about the forces that keep us and our lived experiences invisible, and that, in turn, keep the forces themselves invisible.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is important. It is always important. The offenses great and small that remind you of your place in the social stratum. They are real. They are worth talking about. Even if they happen on a TV show, or in a classroom, or in a game store. They matter. If it makes you angry, there is always, always a reason why.

Stay strong. Stay angry. ❤

-Joanna

(P.S. I just needed a rant today. Early next week, expect a post about Pacific Rim: part cogent analysis, part gushing compilation of Guillermo del Toro quotes.)

Geekalitarian is back!

This time, with 100% more snark and incisive commentary!

I suppose I should begin by apologizing on behalf of myself and Bat Cat for disappearing for so long without notice. Finishing my thesis on top of, well, trying to get in some sleep and live a normal life and what not, made it nearly impossible to find the time not just to write for the blog, but also to do the required things that give me topics and issues to write about.

I’ve missed the blog. I’d gotten used to having a mouthpiece for my frustrations, a place to articulate and formulate my stances on social issues and more frivolous geeky problems. Although geekalitarian is still a pretty small mouthpiece, writing here has made me feel braver (even as I hide behind only my first name) and more useful. I feel more comfortable calling out problematic things in real life, without worrying about alienating people. The experiences I’ve gained here have helped me to remember that people who are upset or offended when I call out sexism and racism probably aren’t people whose opinions of me should matter very much.

This brings me to the teaser for our first, post-hiatus post: how the attribution of rigid racial characteristics in high fantasy helps to normalize racism in real life. A few months ago, my D&D group started playing with a couple who I now define by their casual racism. At the same time, (presumably by coincidence) our DM has been ascribing more moral/immoral racial traits to NPCs. It’s become common for an NPC to say something like, “Never trust a [member of some ‘evil’ race].” By responding, in character, with a joking-but-not-joking “That’s racist!” I feel (perhaps absurdly) more able to confront the IRL racism of people I’m supposed to like. But more on that in the coming week or so!

We’re in the process of giving the site a makeover. (And I may even sort through the daunting mess that is the blog’s tags, with the intention of making them actually useful.) Once we’re done with that, expect regular weekly updates!

So, to long-time readers: It’s great to be back! And to new readers: Welcome, and enjoy your stay!

-Joanna

Costumes, Costumes, Costumes

Regular readers will probably have noticed it’s been a bit of a ghost town recently around here. My excuse is, holy shit my thesis. But I’m back (today, anyway) for the one-year anniversary post about (what else) comics!

Now, after giving up on AvsX, I haven’t been paying too much attention to what Marvel’s been doing lately. (Again, holy fucking thesis). I do know that Marvel is relaunching Uncanny X-Force, and the updated costumes rock. Storm’s mohawk is back, and Psylocke gave up the bathing suit!

Comics Alliance interviewed the writer and artist about the new costumes, and guess what? They thought about practicality and character personalities when designing the new costumes! I thought the day would never come. Artist Kris Anka had this to say: “I felt that every costume should not only highlight the personality of the character it is wrapped around, but also of the function that the costumes will serve towards.” For this reason, Psylocke was given an outfit she wouldn’t be “falling out” in, and they took away her heels. While I’m extremely supportive of this change, I wish it hadn’t just been made with Psylocke. The other female team members also, despite not being ninjas, need “mobility,” so those wedge shoes need to go. It’s disappointing that in a design so heavily focused on functionality, wedge heels still make the cut.

They look great on Storm’s new costume (which I love! someone cosplay it! immediately!), and emphasize her regal posture, but since realism was a factor in the design, it falls a little short. It’s also one of those moments where I wish someone asked a woman what she thought of the design. Aesthetically it’s wonderful, but, again, these costumes were supposed to be more than just pretty.

Interestingly, the female version of Fantomex has smaller wedge heels than Storm:

This means that they considered that two female characters might choose different heel heights, but still decided that they would both choose heels.

Still, there’s a lot to like about the new costumes and the new team, including the 4:2 female-to-male ratio. Kudos to Anka and Humphries for making my week better after it was ruined by seeing this gross chained-up Storm cover of Wolverine and the X-Men. Also, kudos to commenters on the Comics Alliance article for suggesting Storm’s hair be left natural, and even posting this cool picture of a natural mohawk.

And, in case reading about these costume changes is getting you in the mood for making your own costumes, there’s a great site called Take Back Halloween that catalogs really cool costume ideas and how-tos for women who aren’t interested in the generic Sexy Version of Whatever Men are Wearing style of Halloween costumes.

Til next time!

-Joanna

Badass Linkspam

I’m using my part-time wage slut, part-time worker-for-no-pay status as an excuse for three consecutive lazy posts. Sorry, world. On the bright side, you get some delicious, hand-picked linkspam for your consumption!

– Sometimes the rage of the almighty internet is used for good, and sometimes that rage results in action. A 17-year-old rape survivor who tweeted the names of the rapists (after they had already plead guilty) was facing jail time, because waaa rapists deserve privacy, especially rapists who take and distribute pictures of their crime. Thanks to the viral anger of the rest of the country, the District Attorney decided not to press charges against the survivor.

– A just plain badass article by Becky Chambers on The Mary Sue called “For Anyone Still Wondering, Yes, Women Can Wear Full Armor, Too.” The article rather concisely calls bullshit on the still-accepted argument that women have to wear skimpier armor than men for an arsenal of stupid reasons. And explains, for those of you on the internet who still seriously need this explained to you, that unrealistic costumes are based in het male sexual fantasies when they’re worn by women, and power fantasies when they’re worn by men. (Seriously, have you still not seen this comic? How?) For those of us who realize these things, it’s still a good read, especially if you sometimes find yourself floundering at the illogic of your opponents in arguments about this. It’ll help you more clearly define your points.

-Speaking of badass: introducing the BAMF Girls Club!

I love Lisbeth in this. I wish she’d had a little more screen time.

-In case that wasn’t enough badass for one day, here’s a tumblr I found thanks to the Mary Sue article. It’s called Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor, and it’s amazing.

– Archie Comics, inexplicably becoming one of the most daring and progressive comics publishers, is taking on the difficult class questions of the Occupy movement. Right on, Archie.

– As if this day couldn’t be more badass, new Storm Tokidoki shirt!

With that, I’ll let everyone go on with their badass days.

-Joanna

How to Avoid Writing a Real Post

Whew, all that not being patriotic on July 4th was exhausting or something! So I’m allowing myself a lazy post today. (Sorry, rest of the world that didn’t get to pretend to like their country yesterday.) Behold, the linkspam!

– Someone who wrote in to the blog STFU Moffat helped me to understand why sometimes the 11th Doctor says things that make me a little uncomfortable:

Another problem I see with Moffat is his alleged ‘self insertion’ within the Doctors character. After reading through this blog, I have come to see why I was so uncomfortable with the 11th Doctor as a character. As much I like 11 some of his lines seem very OOC. As a fan who has watched both old and new who, I as a viewer have come to understand that the Doctor is someone who can and will accept anyone (unless you are about to commit a terrible crime, which even then he’s willing to give them a second chance). One of the lines (I can’t remember exactly how it goes) mentions that River is so emotionally changeable because she is a woman. (wanting to kill him but then suddenly wanting to marry him). Personally I think that the Doctor as a character would have left it just as ‘brainwashing’, instead of adding that she is woman.

The whole comment can be found here.

– Here’s Jay Smooth’s take on How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist. This video is really old, but it became relevant to me yesterday when a member of my D&D group posted a Facebook status with some not-so-subtle racist undertones. (Let’s just say it had to do with assuming not just that “Hispanic” means “immigrant,” but “undocumented immigrant,” and probably “criminal.”) I wasn’t sure how to confront the comment, since I didn’t want it to go unremarked on, and I wanted to convey “that sounded racist” without seeming to say “you are a racist.” I thought of this video, and thought I’d spread it today, in case any of you intrepid readers find yourself in the same awkward position.

– I know Namor’s never been the most clothed of characters, but the Phoenix Force and I seem to be on the same page with male costuming. Dear Marvel: dress more male characters like this, all the time. And then draw them bending over like Emma Frost always is. That will finally not be a false equivalence.

-If you’re still bitter about the new(ish) Star Wars trilogy and will probably take your anger at George Lucas to the grave, you’ll enjoy this parody of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

– And, because puppets, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

‘Til next week!

-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

Love Letter to Storm

Dear Storm,

Why are just the coolest? I mean it, the coolest. Look at you! Harnessing your control of the elements with your badass glowing eyes!

Image credit: Windriderx23 on Deviantart.com

When I grow up, I want to be like you. I’m sure other women and girls feel the same way. You’re physically and emotionally strong, independent, can control the elements, and when The Dazzler wants to have girl time at the mall, you’re sort of wary of this whole thing until you start dancing. When you talk, it’s sort of funny to me in the same way that it’s funny to me when Thor talks. All in all, you’re like my favorite superheroine ever! The thing that I don’t get is, why, when you’re such a total badass, haven’t you gotten the chance to star in your own movie?

I know the easy answer: you’re a black woman. And because we live in the dumb society we live in, movie executives think that black women (in general, but especially in action movies) won’t sell movie tickets. That, for some reason, no one would want to see a movie about one of the most beloved X-Men of any gender. Not only that, but you’re (I would argue) the second-most easily recognizable superheroine. (Name one other black superheroine with white hair.)

But, I know that’s the problem. You’re a superheroine. We can’t even get THE most recognizable superheroine her own movie or TV show. Because spell check doesn’t even want to acknowledge the existence of women like you. So why should movie execs? Never mind that ever since you busted into the comics world in the ’70s, you’ve been a vital part of the X-Men. Never mind that practically everyone knows who you are. Never mind that Halle Berry, when she was a super-duper star, even played you in the X-Men movies.

You know what else bothers me, Storm? The fact that I can’t go into stores like Target and buy Storm T-shirts like I can buy T-shirts of Hulk or whoever. (I’d have to buy them in the men’s section, but that’s a whole ‘nother letter.) You’d think that Marvel would love to market you. If I were Marvel, I would market the crap out of you. You know why? Yes, because you’re a total badass. But also because you are so visually recognizable. People, the kinds of people who’d be buying superhero shirts, would look at a Storm shirt and go, hey that’s Storm. Part of the reason why certain superheroes still get merchandise without a recent movie release is that they stand out visually. They don’t look like other superheroes. And nobody else looks like you, Storm. How could they? No one else’s mom is a Kenyan witch-priestess princess.

Someone tried telling me that regular non-comics people wouldn’t recognize you or care about you if they did make a Storm movie. I don’t believe that. I don’t know for sure how many people would recognize you (though I’m willing to bet it’s a lot), but it’s not like people only watch movies because they decided to before they saw a commercial for them. The point of trailers and marketing is to make people interested in movies. And, tell me Storm, who wouldn’t want to see someone wielding lighting and creating windstorms in the name of justice?

And since when has anyone who doesn’t care about superheroes known about Deadpool? He’s getting his own movie, and he’s not even half as cool as you, Storm. So I don’t want people to give me this bullshit about how people wouldn’t want to see your movie because they don’t know who you are. (Sorry about the language, Storm, but this really bothers me.) When I Google “Storm,” your Wikipedia page is the second link, despite the fact that your name is a common noun. But, you know, you’re not that well-known or anything.

There are a few other things that bother me, Storm, like why you aren’t in the X-Men Vs. Avengers series, and why they made you marry the Black Panther. (No offense to him or anything, but Storm, you’re an untameable force of nature! You don’t need him! They just married you two so that they could inexplicably pander to the women and black readers, as though all we really wanted was a black supercouple, not constant, positive portrayals of people like us.)

But anyway, the thing that bothers me the most is that, despite being one of the most visible superheroines (or -heroes, really), you’re practically invisible from non-comics pop culture. Even though, you as you are, without any changes, are already an amazing role model for girls and women, you get thrown into the corner, because the racist, sexist world of media and marketing has decided you aren’t worth their time. In reality, they aren’t worth your time. Because even though they might try to make excuses and place the blame on the public, I know, and I’m pretty sure you know, that it’s really just that they can’t handle your power and your poise. They want to control you by silencing you, but they can’t, because you already control yourself. They can’t tame you and belittle you, so they try to destroy you by ignoring you. They would do anything to destroy what you represent. But you won’t let them, and I know you never will.

Lots of love and admiration,

Joanna xoxo

Am I Ugly?

First Posted: 02/21/2012 5:54 pm by Huffington Post writer Emma Gray:

“People say I’m ugly. So … tell me — am I?”

A young girl stares earnestly, and perhaps a bit awkwardly, into the camera asking the world wide web of YouTube users to comment on her appearance. With 35,000 views and nearly 1,200 comments, her video is just one small piece in what seems to be a growing trend of teen and “tween” (between the ages of 11 and 13) girls taking to the Internet to broadcast concerns about their looks — and asking strangers to weigh in on these insecurities.

First reported by Jezebel, these YouTube videos seem to be made predominantly by middle-school aged girls, though there are boys featured in some of them as well. A simple search turns up pages upon pages of similar clips, entitled things like “Am I Ugly?” “Am I Ugly Or Pretty?” “Am I Ugly, Be Honest” and “Am I Pretty Or Not?”

One video, posted in December of 2010 has gotten over 3.4 million views and 92,000 comments. “I just wanted to make a random video seeing if I was like, ugly or not? Because a lot of people call me ugly and I think I am ugly … and fat.” She goes on to show the audience a series of photos of herself and asks users to “tell me what you think.” The comments on these clips range from astoundingly awful (“my vote: UGLIER THAN A DEMON” or “F*ck off whore wannabe”) to supportive (“I think you look pretty and nice,”) to concerned (“Sweetie, ur 2 young to be using the Internet, much less having these losers judge you.”)

The sheer number of these videos, and how regularly their creators reference other ones, suggests that a virtual community has formed around the concept.

SFGate’s Amy Graff expressed concern that these young people are only harming themselves by asking anonymous strangers for look-based critiques:

A 12-year-old isn’t mature enough to deal with vicious remarks made by their mean-spirited peers and sick-minded Internet trolls … Adolescence is dark and savage and when teenagers put themselves up on the Internet it only magnifies the experience.

HuffPost Teen reported recently on another disturbing online trend — a community of “thinspiration blogs” on Tumblr. As reporter Carolyn Gregoire discovered, this “thinspo” collective is built around young women encouraging one another to lose extreme amounts of weight, in an insular (well, as insular as the Internet can be) environment. In contrast, these YouTube videos are built around the anticipated responses of “outsiders,” and though the young people in them purport to want honesty, they’re likely also looking for affirmation.

This need for approval coincides with the girls passing an age when self-esteem tends to peak. After age nine, researchers find that body confidence plummets. According to the NYU Child Study Center, one study showed that 59 percent of girls in 5th through 12th grade were dissatisfied with their physical appearance.

Given how fragile kids are at this stage, not to mention privacy concerns and the potential longevity of Internet exposure, bloggers have responded to these videos by urging YouTube to shut them down. Jezebel’s Katie M. Baker asks “How do we get YouTube to make this illegal?” And while the video sharing site officially requires users to be at least 13 years old, getting in when you’re younger is simple. Graff calls for parents as well as YouTube to more closely monitor kids’ use of the site. Given that many parents already believe they should be making decisions about their child’s Facebook use, this solution doesn’t feel particularly far-fetched.

The (somewhat) good news is that a small but growing number of “response” videos to the “Am I Ugly?” trend have been posted, which means some kids are questioning the idea itself. But, in a world of carefully curated Facebook profiles that put personal lives (and looks) at center stage, and a constant bombardment of “aspirational” digitally altered images both online and offline, it’s perhaps unsurprising that young people are sharing their body image anxieties in such a forum. Deleting these videos from YouTube channels could act as a band-aid solution, but their existence is indicative of something much larger.

What do you think the role of parents is in situations like this? What can we do to encourage our children to feel confident about their looks?

Valentines Day Power Couple: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

Happy Valentines Day, readers!

On this day of love and special things I want to give a shout-out to my favorite famous couple: Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi. Both women are independently successful, philanthropic, and -you guessed it- lesbians! In American media, we love to focus on homosexual male couples- Neil Patrick Harris and his partner received a cover and spread in People when they had twins- but where was the public outcry when Wanda Sykes was diagnosed with a breast cancer? Or when Jane Lynch and her wife were married in 2010? (I vaguely remember a photo in one of the magazines- but that was it.) So not only are Ellen and Portia successful separately, together they have broken the mold of Hollywood media and became important as lesbians as a couple.

Recently, the retail store JC Penney hired Ellen as a spokesmodel for the season, which has caused outrage from right-wing group One Million Moms (the group also opposes Macy’s ‘two grooms’ advertisement). Although Ellen is already a spokesmodel for CoverGirl and American Express, Ellen representing clothing is a step too far.

Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families. More sales will be lost than gained unless they replace their spokesperson quickly. Unless JC Penney decides to be neutral in the culture war then their brand transformation will be unsuccessful.” -OMM

Since JC Penney has shown its support for Ellen as refuses to bow down to OMM, the support for JC Penney has blossomed. The JC Penny Shop-In is a Facebook event in which people go to their local JC Penney and take pictures of themselves shopping. Additionally, a ‘Gay Day‘ flashmob was organized in front of a JC Penney to show the public’s support of JC Penney.

Relatively recently, Portia released an autobiography, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. The book is about Portia’s struggles with her weight and self-image as a model and actress. And it was truly one of the saddest things I have ever read. I have never had an eating disorder, but after reading this book I can understand how easy it is to slip into that line of thinking. While the book itself has had some mixed reviews, I feel that it is incredibly important for all women to read.

Like I harped upon in two earlier posts, Fhotoshop by Adobe and Why I Shouldn’t Watch TV, the way women are portrayed in the media is sickening (sometimes literally). While stick-thin models are still used to promote most things, Ellen (a real women who is always herself) is now the spokesmodel for some very important companies.

So on this Valentines Day, let’s not wonder how Brad and Angie might be spending the evening, or who Jennifer Anniston really wants to be her Valentine. If we are to focus on any celebrity couples at all, why not the ones who are challenging conventional roles and changing the way the media sees lesbian couples?

Hell, I’d sure care a lot more about what keeps Ellen’s skin so glowy than which Kardashian is getting divorced.

-BatCat

Male Feminist Ally: Joss Whedon

So I’m pretty late to be jumpin’ on the Joss Whedon bandwagon. It’s not like I ever disliked Buffy the Vampire-Slayer or Firefly, two of the TV shows that have canonized him in many circles. It’s just that I didn’t really pay attention until recently, a fact that might betray my youth. But now that I’ve started watching Firefly, and appreciating the genuinely strong, not-tokeny women I see on my TV screen, I’m starting to put the pieces together: Joss Whedon always writes strong female characters. It’s like he does it on purpose or something. But what male writer/director ever cares enough to specifically write women like they’re people? Joss Whedon does.

The more I read about him, the more I love him. According to everywhere on the internet, he created Buffy to be an “alternative feminist icon.” (I can’t find the original source of that quote, but it’s reported on many different sites.) During my research, I came across that quote and wondered about its accuracy. More important, the accuracy of Joss Whedon using the F-word in this context. Despite what I’ve seen of his work, my reaction is usually to be a little nervous when someone says they wrote a feminist character.

This is one example of a time I was wrong. Joss Whedon actually minored in feminist film theory at Wesleyan. In interviews, he says things like, “When people say to me, ‘Why are you so good at writing at women?’ I say, ‘Why isn’t everybody?’ Obviously there are differences between men and women – that’s what makes it all fun. But we’re all people. There’s a lot of good writers who are very humanist, but still manage to kind of skip 55 per cent of the race. And I just don’t get that. Not to be able to write an entire gender? To me, the question isn’t how do you do it? It’s how can you possibly avoid doing it?” Obviously the man understands two vital points: one, that women are people, and two, that feminism at its heart is merely the recognition of that seemingly obvious fact.

In the same article, he describes going from the home of his “radical feminist” mother, out into the bleak, anti-feminist world: “It was only when I got to college that I realised that the rest of the world didn’t run the way my world was run and that there was a need for feminism. I’d thought it was all solved. There are people like my mom, clearly everyone is equal and it’s all fine. Then I get into the world and I hear the things people are saying. Then I get to Hollywood and hear the very casual, almost insidious misogyny that just runs through so much of the fiction. It was just staggering to me.” It’s like he read my soul and repeated it back to me.

Armed with all this new knowledge about Mr. Whedon, I couldn’t be happier that he’s writing/directing The Avengers. When that was first announced, I was pretty indifferent. Now I’m pumped! Maybe Black Widow will be there for more than ass-shots and eye candy.

While we’re on the subject of comics, here’s what Joss Whedon thinks of modern comics: Nowadays I’m really cranky about comics. Because most of them are just really, really poorly written soft-core. And I miss good old storytelling. And you know what else I miss? Super powers. Why is it now that everybody’s like “I can reverse the polarity of your ions!” Like in one big flash everybody’s Doctor Strange. I like the guys that can stick to walls and change into sand and stuff. I don’t understand anything anymore. And all the girls are wearing nothing, and they all look like they have implants. Well, I sound like a very old man, and a cranky one, but it’s true.

I don’t mean to keep filling this post with great quotes, but I just want to make absolutely 100% sure that everyone gets how gosh-darn cool Joss Whedon is. I can’t help but gush about these quotes, because he’s a man involved with comics, sci-fi, shows with supernatural elements, etc who actually, really believes women should be written as people because they are people, and is really outspoken about it. Whedon doesn’t seem to give a damn what anyone might think about his attempts to empower women and girls. He doesn’t care if people reject him and his work because they hate feminism and feminists, because he knows feminism is relevant and more important than playing nice with sexist Hollywood.

And, I mean, look at him.

How could he not be a nice guy?

Interestingly, Joss Whedon’s outspoken feminism hasn’t hurt his career too much. It seems like everything he does develops a cult following, including many people who would never actually admit to being feminists themselves. I think this proves, among other things, that today’s culture has corrupted the meaning of feminism so deeply that people who actually at heart are feminists don’t realize that they are.

I wish I’d been watching Joss Whedon shows and movies all along, instead of now having to retrace his filmography. Still, better late than never, right? As for Joss Whedon himself, I wish him and his genuinely empowered female characters (and his not-sexist-pig male characters) the best of luck. I hope they continue to make the worlds of sci-fi, comics, TV, and film a much, much better place.

-Joanna