March 25, 2010

Oh School House Rock, How You Teach Us Things

Posted in culture, diversions, feminism, feminist journey, music, our histories, Society, Uncategorized, why i am a feminist tagged , , , , , at 2:58 am by Eostre

More comics talk next week, and other things, there is a long post in the works but it’s not done yet…but until then I thought I would post a little something that will never cease to make me very, very happy. I hope you enjoy it. Also, there is a very interesting discussion about Twilight over at NPR’s Art and Culture blog, Monkey See, written by Linda Holmes who is reading Twilight through what is essentially a hermeneutics of suspicion. You all should check it out. Now, on to School House Rock:

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March 4, 2010

Comics, Cleavage, and You (or…well, me)

Posted in Art, Body Image, culture, diversions, Patriarchy, sexuality, Society tagged , , , at 2:06 pm by Eostre

I will state right up front that this is a topic that most people who will read this will only care about in the context of Bigger Things, as a small sign of more widespread cultural attitudes and whatnot. This is perhaps as it should be for those of us in school who spend most of out time thinking about Bigger Things.

But for me, this is something that is close to my nerdy little heart. You see, I love comics. I love reading them, I love monthly issues, I love origin stories and dark reinventions. That’s right, I am coming out of the comic-nerd closet. I don’t just love the Intellectual ones, either. Sure, I am completely up for Persepolis, but I have a gooshy, happy place in my heart for Sandman, The Justice League, and all of their sundry friends. I love the feel of the glossy pages and the bold typeface. 

Being a female comics reader can often be problematic, however. For, although things have vastly improved in the last 20 years or so, women in comics are often, frankly, ridiculous. To start, they are usually drawn with absurd measurements, and their body stats tend to be listed as something like ” 5’10” 102 lbs” (they don’t mention the Double-D boobs and lady-wrestler like muscles, all of which would make her something closer to at least 180, and that’s being generous), and then there are the outfits. This is well-known territory, so I will be brief. Spandex on a man, while still clingy, is nothing like spandex on one of these barbie-zons, with every curve lovingly drawn and accentuated. Yes, comics were for a long time drawn mostly by men for men, and many assume that is still the case. And titillation has long been a staple of comics fare, both within the superhero genre and outside of it.

So the graphic genre has well-earned its reputation for what can at best be called objectification, at worst misogyny (for example, one of the best known female superheroes, Wonder Woman, originated as little more than a thinly veiled BDSM fantasy), and it doesn’t help that many (if not most) women in the genre are attached to some other, stronger, male character (i.e. Batgirl, Hawkgirl, Supergirl, She-Hulk, etc), which, frankly, is one of my main complaints. If I have to look at overly voluptuous women in spandex, they could at least be more autonomous.

Of course, there are exceptions, and they normally come as part of a group (X-Men, for example, have a lovely cast of

She Hulk beating Iron Man at arm-wrestling, the cover for one of the upcoming Girl Comics Issues

 strong female and male characters). And even those who have been attached to other, male superheroes as part of an entourage are getting their own stories and features (I am particularly excited about the upcoming Girl Comics from Marvel).

So, after that not-very-brief-even-though-it-was-meant-to-be introduction, my point. I am willing to put up with some cleavage and porn-face in my comics, because if I weren’t my options for reading them would be nearly non-existent. And hey, feminism is all about making space within patriarchal structures for female voices, using and twisting those structures to make small pockets for women, but in a genre that is becoming more diversified as to who is writing/drawing the stories, the progress is far far too slow. Yes, there are better stories being told about female super-heroes than there were 40 years ago (and a few better heroes joining the canon), but the objectification is still so widespread and pervasive as to be the norm, rather than the exception.

I love the genre (and believe me when I say that super-hero comics are a genre, not a medium) I am too much of a feminist to not cringe at least once an issue, and I wish that weren’t so.

Since this is a topic I am super passionate about, there will be one more post next week addressing the good side of women in super-hero comics, including the ways that existing characters and norms have been used to create space for feminist readings, and the genre/medium distinction. So, as always, STAY TUNED…

October 5, 2009

Another Cosmetic Surgery Story

Posted in Body Image, Society at 6:26 am by Bast

I started to hate my nose around the time I graduated high school. It began with my mother asking me if I wanted “that bump taken out” like she did. Until she asked that, I didn’t know I had a bump in my nose! She kept asking if I wanted my bump removed, and gradually my dad joined in the chorus. They never said I should get it removed; they just asked if I wanted to. Slowly, the idea began to germinate in my mind. Every time I looked at it, the bump seemed bigger. Had I been delusional before? How could I not notice this huge bump on the bridge of my nose?
My senior year of college, my parents convinced me to have some small moles removed from my face for the sake of symmetry. (One thing I learned from my cosmetic surgery experience is that symmetry = beauty.) Did you know that to get moles removed from an obvious place, such as the face, you have to go to a cosmetic surgeon? Dermatologists won’t do it. Of course, my nose (and my chin, to my surprise) came up in the course of conversation with this cosmetic surgeon. I went so far as to get before and after pictures done (they do this with some fancy computer program; it’s pretty cool). But in the end, I chickened out.
My cowardice turned out to be a good thing—not because I didn’t have the surgery since, obviously, I eventually did, but because my dad ended up having something of a tiff with this particular doctor. (By the way, he was considering undergoing cosmetic surgery as well, but I doubt he wants me to talk about it, so we’ll leave it at that.)
A year, a bad breakup, and a college graduation later, I decided that the time had come. I would be going to graduate school in the fall in a different state where no one would know me. I would start my new life with a new nose. I don’t regret my decision at all. I don’t think it’s any less ‘feminist’ of me than wearing makeup, doing my hair a certain way, or trying to dress in a flattering manner—all of which I’m sure most women do. I’m not saying we necessarily should. Ideally, we wouldn’t even have the urge to do these things because there would be no pressure from society to put so much effort into our appearances. But we still do, and I don’t think I should feel too guilty about it because it isn’t really my fault that I feel so compelled. Societal pressure is a tough thing to beat, and kudos to anyone who can for their own (and, ultimately, society’s) betterment. I’m just not strong enough.