In the most recent Coming Out of the Basement Podcast, we discuss sexism in geek culture, with a bit of a closer look at comics (along with the Mass Effect 3 ending). For the first subject, I had enough sources and examples that I thought it made sense to do a post on the topic.
I meant to mention three areas:
- the portrayal of women in geek culture media (comics, games, RPGs, etc.)
- the treatment of women in geek culture in real life situations, and
- women in positions of authority in the industries (writers/artists/creators/editors/etc.).
Lots more below.
Here are the recent examples we mentioned:
- Harassment of Miranda “Super_Yan” Pakozdi on Capcom’s reality fighting game show, Cross Assault. More coverage at the Guardian, at Ars Technica, at The Mary Sue and at Penny Arcade.
- The attacks on Bioware’s Jennifer Hepler, which reportedly led to her deleting her Twitter account. Also covered at Kotaku and at Destructoid, and an update to the first article linked at The Mary Sue.
- Jackie Lee harassed at a Magic the Gathering tournament, also covered at the Daily Dot. (Update: Thanks to a comment on a friend’s Facebook share for this link to a terrific response from Jackie Lee.)
- Depictions of females in the Mass Effect series (thanks to commenter Sarah for the link!), also covered at 1Up.
On the Starfire/Catwoman New 52 Controversy
- The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’ – Laura Hudson of Comics Alliance discusses the issue- and why the criticism isn’t slut shaming (which is also something we should pay attention to)
- Dear DC Comics, where Michele Lee talks about her 7-year old daughter’s response to changes of her favorite character
- A Response From A Female Comic Book Fan
- Scott Lobdell Answers Your Questions (Even Ones About Starfire), from Comicvine. Scott Lobdell is the writer for Red Hood and the Outlaws. I agree with something he says (or implies): slut shaming Starfire would be wrong. I don’t think that’s what the criticism was about.
- DC Comics: Bad at Math, a fun strip from the webcomic Shortpacked!
Depiction of Women in Comics:
- Women in Comics, An Overview from the comicbookGRRRL blog
- No, it’s not equal, from the really interesting She Has No Head! column at Comic Book Resources
- Grant Morrison Talks Straight About Sexism in Comics
- A Non-Comic Book Website Talks About Sexism in Comics, from The Mary Sue, about an article in the Guardian
- The Rape of Ms. Marvel by Carol Strickland
- Pros: Are Comic Books Sexist? – Some responses from industry professionals. And I should add, I was really disappointed in Mark Millar’s response for reasons I’ll get into later.
- Supergirls Gone Wild: Gender Bias in Comics Shortchanges Superwomen, a 2007 Mother Jones article
- DC Women Kicking Ass, an awesome tumblr.
From the show notes on the podcast: Here’s what if the male avengers posed like the Black Widow, if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman, and a Why does this female superhero pose keep happening? thread.
The Comics Industry:
- Sexism in Comics
- Where are the Women in Comics?
- An Open Letter to DC Comics: Why Not Go After Truly New Readers?
- Answering Dan DiDio: The Problem With Having only 1% Female Creators at DC Comics
- DC Comics Promises to Hire More Women After Backlash
- Female Superhero Characters and Sex: Creators Explain How Comics Can Do Better – Some interesting professional responses at Comics Alliance
- Marvel Editors Discuss Women in Comics and the Lack of Female-Led Titles
- Women as Comic Book Artists, from a 2005 Pavement article. One of the reasons I list this here is because it addresses manga a bit.
- Big News for Women Working at DC Comics, from The Mary Sue, about the mixed news from DC
Thinking about Geek Culture:
- Normative sexism: Geek edition
- Science Fiction, Geek Culture, and Sexism
- Sexism in Geek Culture, from Geek Girls Rule
- From The Mary Sue, Props: How to Apologize on the Internet for a Gender-Related Mishap
- Sexism in Nerd Culture is Not Okay, from the Escapist (video)
I’ve recently seen some really good discussions in the RPG industry. Paizo editor and author James Sutter’s article, Death to the Chainmail Bikini, discusses some of the issues involved. So does Wolfgang Baur in the latest issue of Kobold Quarterly (which as you can note from the cover, includes the Ecology of the Succubus). We’ve also seen several prominent female writers from the folks at KQ, like Christina Stiles, who has been editing KQ along with Miranda Horner, among others, and is writing Rogue Mage and Midgard Tales, among others. Plus, Tracy Hurley (aka Sarah Darkmagic) is working on the Prismatic Art Collection (another Kickstarter project!) which looks pretty cool. Ms. Hurley also created the Women Fighter in Reasonable Armor tumblr site, in this site’s links. [Correction! I confused Sarah Darkmagic's "More Like This" (in the comments below) with Kirin Robinson's Women Fighter in Reasonable Armor site. Sorry, all! They're both worth checking out.]
Let me say that I understand this subject is discussed very well in some places online. This subject also isn’t easy for some people to talk about or, especially judging by discussion threads, think about. It’s difficult for me. At times, people get really defensive. All I’m asking is that we think about it. There are two responses-to-responses that I’d like to share. First, Sexism in Games Bingo from geekfeminism.org covers a lot of the typical, and usually inappropriate, responses to these discussions. The comments on that link are also worth reading. It’s not necessarily that those responses are wrong per se (although IMHO, many are)- it’s that a lot of them have been addressed for the upteenth time, and those arguments tend to distract from the purpose of the discussion. We can definitely use the bingo card (and its variations in other areas, like skepticism) as a shorthand to maybe consider arguments a bit more. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make any variations of those points- just consider it, and see if they’ve been addressed elsewhere. The other link I want to share is a great post from Kotaku, Nerds and Male Privilege, Part 2- Deconstructing the Arguments. Like the bingo card, it addresses some of the common, often inappropriate, responses that people have in those discussion. (Part 1 at the original site and at Kotaku and their comments are also worth reading. Also, let me add, the attack on critical theory in the comments of the original post was one of the laziest I’ve ever seen. :P)
And finally, I’ll respond to one of the responses I’ve seen: X happens to men, too. The Deconstructing the Arguments article goes into that a bit, but I’ll also respond with what I think… I don’t think that makes it equal. I don’t think that violence against women in comics is the same thing as violence against men. If the overall comics culture didn’t have the issues it does, maybe… but it does. There are more male writers than female writers. There are more male heroes than female heroes. There’s more imagery for men than for women. So the fact that bad things happen to guys as well doesn’t necessarily mean as much as it might. Also, it may or may not be true; for example, that was a response to Women in Refrigerators. And as it turns out, that wasn’t exactly… correct. Bad things happened to male superheroes, but men tended to recover a whole lot better than their female counterparts. They even called this trait Dead Men Defrosting.
In a later post, I’ll talk about some of the writers/artists that got me interested in comics again.