Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
I’d like to thank CA NOW for giving me this opportunity, and say hello to all of you reading.
The bulk of this post comes from my Geek Girls Rule! Blog, on July 25, 2008, but I feel it gives a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from, so I tweaked it a bit to post it here.
I spend an awful lot of my time writing about pop culture, predominantly about comics, videogames and movies. There is a criticism frequently aimed at me for writing about these things that annoys the hell out of me. “Why are you wasting your time worrying about video games/comics/movies/books when there are REAL issues to worry about?”
This criticism gets thrown at me and other Feminist critics of the comics or video game industries, or critics of any media deemed “entertainment.” The idea that if we were “Serious Feminists” ™ that we wouldn’t be wasting our time on frivolous shit like comics, movies, books, TV shows, etc… Because there are terrible things going on like the rapes in Darfur, and human trafficking and child abuse and domestic violence and, and, and…
Yes, all those horrible things and many, many more are going on every day. Every day women and children are killed by partners/fathers. Every day women are raped, sometimes so savagely that they may never recover, in addition to being shunned by their families because rape is “always” the fault of the woman. Women and children are trafficked for sex.
Yes, all of these horrible, terrible things happen. And yes, they are things that I care very deeply about, and believe me, if someone gave me a license to track down and kill every last criminal who committed them, I would. But no one has, as of yet, gifted me with the job of “Divine Vengeance” so I send money to organizations who can hopefully help the victims of all this horrible shit, and try to raise awareness of it by writing about it and letting people know that it happens all the time and how they can help.
So, there. Yes, I admit there are many more pressing and horrible things going on in the world than the size of Powergirl’s tits. But guess what? I can still care about the big things while I rail at the “frivolous.” Really. I can. Honest.
The thing is, the media is the bellwether of attitudes in the society in which it is produced. Now, I’m not going to get into a “chicken and egg” argument with you about whether the media causes the societal perceptions, or whether the societal perceptions cause the media. Because, frankly, I don’t care whether the chicken came first or the egg, what I do care about is that the god damned chicken is shitting all over my house.
Do I believe that comics, videogames, movies, what have you are the source for all the world’s ills when it comes to the mistreatment of women? No. Do I believe that by eliminating the more heinous misogynistic tropes in these media, and the rest, that it will solve all misogyny? No. Do I think it will help if young people aren’t being constantly told that women are decorative and helpless, and secretly want sex even if they say they don’t, and need rescuing? Yes. Yes, I do. Do I think it will help if maybe we have a media that quits normalizing the objectification and dehumanization of women? Yes, I do. Do I think that by re-shaping the media we can help change attitudes toward those very real, terrible, horrible things that happen every day? Yes, I do.
Popular culture is important as a reflection of societal and cultural attitudes and practices. And I think you can do some good by changing the reflection first, in order to influence the rest.
Can I single-handedly stop the rapes in Darfur? No. Can I stop domestic violence, rape, human trafficking and child abuse? No. Can I convince a bunch of angry people to write in and tell media conglomerates that rape isn’t funny and they need to quit making it a joke? Maybe.
One of the rallying cries of the Feminist movement(s) is that “The personal is political” (Carol Hanisch, 1969). What that means to me, is that sometimes to make big change, you have to start small. People are less resentful of little changes over time than they are of cataclysmic, earth-shaking changes. Think of the end of the objectification of women in media as a little step towards convincing certain men that raping women is not their right, towards not viewing women and children as property, towards actual equality. And yeah, there are days when I wish I had God’s own wrath and power to strike down the assheads, but I don’t. So I do what I can, where I am, how I can. And if that means irritating people by harping on women’s roles in media, then oh well…