Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Project 52 (38/52): On False Equivalence (And Why It Gets Tiring Sometimes)

.:Project 52 (38/52): On False Equivalence (And Why It Gets Tiring Sometimes):.

I really wanted to talk about either hosting Best Of Anime last weekend or the brand-spanking new Anti-Cybercrime Bill, but I couldn't bring myself to cover that stuff just now.

So let's do this one instead.

Shortpacked: right again, like always. Click image to enlarge.

I have noticed a pattern.

It seems to me that every single time a discussion about sexism comes up in any of the fandoms I’m a part of, there will always be people who are so quick to dismiss the issue with a simple “I don’t see it as a problem. Ergo, it’s not a problem.” It points back to the whole deal about dismissing issues just because they don’t matter to us that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

When the issue matters to you, though, it becomes incredibly frustrating. And to me, equality does matter. A lot. Having been indoctrinated by safe spaces like Scans Daily, I feel rather uneasy whenever I see instances of sexism because you know what? They aren’t few and far in between. They happen often enough to be cause for alarm. In fact, they happen so often, and their presence in most forms of media is so pervasive, that we are actually surprised when they’re not present.

One of the common defences against sexism in comics or video games is that while yes, we have women with impossibly sexy bodies and much-abused backbones due to all their swaying, men have it “just as bad” because they are all impossibly handsome and well-built muscled hulks, and frequently wear their underwear on the outside.

That’s a nice defense, until you realize that it’s false equivalence: yes, the two are idealized, but the question is: for whom and by whom?

When you see Psylocke posing in a mind-boggling way where her chest and her behind are facing you at the same time, this is a fantasy put into play by the male artist to attract the male reader.

Hey, it’s Psylocke in a physically impossible pose! Must be a Tuesday.

When you see Superman as the epitome of masculinity, his well-chiseled face and his Adonis-like physique striking a powerful pose on the cover of a comic, this is a fantasy put into play by the male artist to attract the male reader.

Superman gets so boring sometimes, even the caption is more of the same.

See, therein lies the rub: at no point in either case were the desires of a woman taken into consideration. Do women aspire to be able to show off their chest and their butt at the same time? Probably not, but even if they did, obviously, nobody consulted them about it.

On the other hand, being a man, when someone draws an idealized body of Superman or Batman, then that is a power fantasy and aspirational in nature. Even if some people might find Superman sexy, the intent isn’t to be sexy, but to evoke strength and power.

Not that there’s anything wrong about being sexy, mind you. It just becomes a problem when women in comics and video games statistically become all about being sexy. Why the lack of variety? Contrast that to the range of men who are sexy, men who are powerful, men who are average, and just about everything in between, while women are just all sexy? Are there exceptions? Yes. But they are so few and far in between that one cannot help but ask the awkward question why the representation and the variety is so ridiculously skewed.

So we’ve pretty much established that the kind of objectification and idealization women in comics and video games receive are still every bit as male-centric as the kind that men in comics and video games receive. Both are bad, but to say that the fact that men don’t complain about these things means women shouldn’t either is just being disingenuous. Of course they wouldn’t complain! It doesn’t harm them the way it harms women!

As a matter of fact, when there is true equivalence and men in comics or games are indeed sexualized the exact way women are, these very same men who claim they won’t complain actually do. Case in point:

Whoah! Call the waaangbulance!

Here. Have a closer look.


Yep. That noticeable bulge isn’t really a power fantasy anymore, eh? Still, it’s definitely realistic. You wear something as tight as spandex, something’s gotta well, manifest itself, yet more often than not, as Spider-Man can show you, it doesn’t really work that way in comics.

The real reason why Peter and MJ aren’t married in the comics anymore…

So apparently, the men get every bit as outraged when they get “exploited.” They complain about how uncomfortable they feel with the artwork, and project all sorts of homophobic sentiments while they call the art out. Yet when it happens to women, they have the gall to say that “it’s nothing?” And they wonder why comic book and video game nerds get a bad rep.

Speaking of “realism,” that was the excuse people used to handwave the fact that Arkham City’s thugs called Catwoman a “bitch” so many times that it would ring in your ears. Funny how that “realism” isn’t necessary for crotch bulges, but suddenly, it’s integral when using gendered slurs. How utterly convenient. So in a world where people dress up as bats, cats, have freeze guns, can resurrect themselves by being dunked into a mystic pit filled with mysterious liquid, it’s important for hardened criminals to call Catwoman a “bitch”, but you can’t have Batman or Robin have any crotch bulges?


The sad part is, only one of two things will happen after I bring this whole thing up again: either people will argue with me and try to shout me down, or it will all fall on deaf ears because “women should be happy they can already vote.”

Sometimes I wonder about this planet, really.

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