Thursday, April 26, 2012

Advertising posers...

Via Wandering Librarians, there's an article up on about a particular pose that crops up a lot in advertising involving women characters. I'd go further and say that the particular "looking-over-the-shoulder-butt-shot" is pretty common in animation and comics, too. Hell, it's become one of the "go-to" poses for women and girls in comics, even comics that are, in large part, marketed as "comics for girls"
The thing that I don't understand is the endless defenses of these sorts of ridiculous advertising and drawings. One commenter posts "Seriously though, I do see your point, and yes, those films are marketed towards men, and yes, it is effective."
But, really, is it?
The original article pointed out that this was the sort of advertising done for Elektra, but Elektra was hardly a success. Advertising is certainly important, and there's no doubt that it can sway people toward or away from a film, but it's really absurd to suggest that just slapping a sexually suggestive picture as your advertising is somehow an effective marketing campaign.
That kind of defense is actually tremendously anti-man, too. What does it say about men if you honestly believe that that is the best way to advertise to men? Am I really supposed to believe that the advertising for Avengers wouldn't be as effective if they had Black Widow, you know, doing something--anything almost--other than showing off her ass? It's an action movie about a bunch of comic book heroes having adventures and fights and explosions and such. There's just no way that you need to pretend the movie is about Black Widow's derriere in order for that movie to be a blockbuster.
I don't remember Iron Man having a bunch of posters of women's cleavage or posteriors to be successful. I'm just tired of seeing other men argue that we, as men, are so easily duped. That we're so shallow that all soemone needs to do is slap some T&A on a movie poster or a book cover or whatever, and we'll fall all over it. I just don't believe that's true. I think that men, like women, are actually interested in being entertained, and that having a bunch of sexually suggestive posters advertising a movie is secondary to whether the movie is actually good. If it's a fun, exciting movie, it's going to generally do well, even if the posters are covered in women's asses. If it's a shit movie, having a bunch of butts on the poster won't save it. So let's stop pretending that it's somehow a winning advertising strategy, right?
For your reading enjoyment, there are a number of blogs that discuss, debate, deconstruct, and otherwise [insert "d" word] the issue of really, really bad understanding of women's anatomy. Escher Girls "Striking a Pose" by Jim Chines (and the follow-up "Posing Like a Man" is really good, too). "This Needs to Stop and Let Me Tell You Why" by Ils.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On circumcision...

In almost every conversation about FGM I've ever seen, someone brings up circumcision, and draws a comparison pointing out that women don't seem bothered by it, and that everyone is silent on the issue. This is one of those issues that drives me a little crazy; here's an opportunity for men to campaign for an issue that they care about, and where an argument can almost certainly be made that people routinely inflict an unnecesary and potentially harmful (well, they'd probably argue *always harmful) procedure on children too young to consent, and it usually gets brought up as a "gotcha" instead. It seems like a waste.

And it's not like there isn't a point to be made. We're talking about permanently removing part of a boy's body for pure reasons that have no actual basis in medical health. The reasons given for circumcision are primarily religious, cosmetic, or based on myths and tradition. That certainly makes the conversation difficult, since people who support it are sometimes going to do so for reasons that can't easily be logiced away. There's real room for men to promote a change that could benefit future children, if the conversation is taken seriously and made on its own ground, but when it gets brought up as a "men suffer too!" argument, it breeds ill will and distracts from the also valid conversation about FGM.

And it ends up feeling very disingenuous, to me. Certainly there are men who resent being circumcised, but the evidence of lasting harm is hardly conclusive. There are men on both sides of the conversation. And equating a normal circumcision with FGM is a false comparison, anyway; what is done to men in a standard circumcision is to FGM what an ear piercing is to a lobotomy (well... perhaps not quite, but the hyperbole is slight).

And, of course, the motivations for each bear questionable resemblance. The purpose of circumcising men isn't to remove sexual pleasure or ensure "sexual purity" for future spouses; even if you don't accept the validity of the arguments--and, clearly, there are many who don't--it just isn't the case that they're the same. The arguments against each are certainly similar, but why each happens is not.

Ultimately, there's nothing wrong, I think, with advocating an end to both. I just wish it didn't feel like every time I saw male circumcision brought up was antagonisticly on feminist blogs.

(uploaded on the T)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Great Graphic Novels for Girls

As the "about me" blurb suggests, I'm a fan of comic books. When I was a kid, we spent many summers driving down to Georgia to visit my family in Valdosta. As it turns out, Valdosta is hot in late July/August. Really hot. Really really hot. Going outside to play during the day just wasn't that much fun, but, lucky for me, one of my uncles had been an avid comic-book reader when he was younger, and had amassed a pretty large collection of X-Men books. I spent most of that summer lying on the cool floor of my grandmother's house drinking sweet tea and escaping into the world of "Marvel's Mighty Mutants." I was introduced to Wolverine and Colossus and Storm and Nightcrawler (my favorite) et al. I watched as they saved a senator's life, even though he was rabidly anti-mutant. I saw Jean Grey die and be reborn as the Phoenix. I saw old members leave and new members show up. I saw them hanging out dealing with a world that didn't understand them, and I saw them fight with each other and with the people who wanted to harm them and with the people they were trying to save. It was my first exposure to the world of comic books, and while it's hard to say what impact it had on my life, it fostered a life-long love of the form. I don't think it's any coincidence that the X-Men continue to be my favorite super heroes, even though I haven't read a current X-Men book in a long time. Those stories (written by Chris Claremont) were my first foray into the world of comics, and I think that it was a fortunate introduction.

My first exposure to comic books was with a book that, while filled with typical super-heroics (heroes with strange powers! In colorful costumes! Fighting evil! Saving people! Action and adventure!), recognized we live in a difficult world where being seen as "different" can make life hard. Claremont took the idea of mutants and turned it into a metaphor, and made the book, at least in part, about discrimination. The X-Men aren't just born as heroes, they're born into a world that "fears and hates" them. They're pesecuted not for anything they've done, but for who they are. It's not a perfect metaphor, by any means, and the writing was, at times, really problematic, but for young me, it was a good introduction to a topic that I didn't have a lot of exposure to. They were heroes, but the world around them treated them like villains. Even more than Spider-Man, who was often the target of public ire, the X-Men were outcasts. A lot of those stories are as much about the fight for equality as they are typical super-heroics. The villains of some of the stories--I'm looking at you, Magneto--can't even rightly be called evil (despite the unfortunately named "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants"). Magneto is (correctly, it turns out) concerned about the oppression of his fellow mutants, and worried that non-mutants will try to exterminate mutant-kind. Since that's exactly what happens, it's hard to fault Magneto, even if some of his actions go too far. The world of the X-Men isn't black and white, it's a morally grey world.

But I digress.

Another area that the X-Men were interesting was in their treatment of women. Again, not perfect by any means, but there were a number of women on the team, and they were given lead roles, instead of playing back-up. In fact, it wasn't long before Storm was leading the X-Men. It wasn't infrequent for one of the X-Women to end up in situations where it they were the ones taking the spotlight and saving the asses of their fellow teammates.

Which isn't to say that Claremont deserves cookies for writing women who were capable of being heroes in their own right. That Claremont's X-Men books are so unusual for their time is a larger criticism of the industry than it is kudos to Claremont. It shouldn't be unusual to find books where women share the spotlight evenly with their male colleagues, or to find books where women's experiences are centered. Instead, the industry tends to write books by, about, and for men. I can't say what the current state in most of the X-Men books are, anymore--I know that Cyclops is leading one team while Wolverine leads another, and apparently they don't like each other right now? Again. But you don't have to look hard to see that women in comics aren't always written with a lot of respect to character. Look at some of the controversy around DC's reboots--Starfire, Catwoman, Amanda Waller--to see some of it. Marvel doesn't fair any better, either.

All of which is to say that it can be hard to find books that take the time to portray women with respect and let them be the center of the story without turning them into eye-candy.

Luckily, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the bloggers at Great Graphic Novels For Girls. So, if you're looking for something good to read, you could do a lot worse than starting here. They've helpfully broken the books out into various genres, so you can jump right to whatever your interests are. If you're interested in graphic novels and comics, this is a great resource.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A quiet return...

According to this thing, it's apparently been about two and a half years since I put anything up. That's a long time. Lots of things have changed in my life in that time, including my relationship with the blogosphere (and the internet at large), but I've been dipping my toes back in a little bit here and there, and anyone who knows me knows that I can't shut up for long. I'm guessing my posting won't be anything close to daily, but I think I can manage more than once every two to three years. I like to set realistic goals, ha.

It's worth noting (to me, at least) that I finished an MLS during the gap, so a lot of my thinking has sort of shifted towards the communities I serve and about the ways that libraries can/should serve those communities. Working in a library is the perfect combination of my interests and passions, and I feel very lucky for that.

So, in the meantime:
what did I miss? What blogs ought I be reading? What's the best damn thing you've read so far this year?