Archive for January 2010
Bloomsbury USA has done it again.
No, not found “the next Harry Potter,” unfortunately. No, Bloomsbury USA has, once again, whitewashed a book jacket. This is the second time within a year that this company has done this: first was with Liar, about a bi-racial girl with short hair who mysteriously turned into a long haired white girl on the cover of the book. Liar, thankfully, was fixed before the hardcover went to press, though advance reading copies featured the white model.
Magic Under Glass, however, was released in hardback with the white model. Some people have called for a boycott of Bloomsbury, while others are writing to the company to express their dissatisfaction, but avoiding the potential harm to the fledgling author’s career.
So, what to do? Bloomsbury has withdrawn the whitewashed cover, and a new design is in the works. So, while you may be dying to read what sounds like a really fun fantasy novel, I suggest holding back and waiting until the new & improved cover is available at a bookstore near you. Don’t buy the whitewashed cover, if it’s still available. Wait until the corrected version comes out, and then get you and everyone you know to buy it, so that Bloomsbury (and other publishing companies) will know that yes, people do buy and read books about people of color, so they can stop representing characters of color with white models.
A few days ago, Sociological Images* had a post about the evolution of the Dungeons & Dragons player handbooks. I mentioned that it would be interesting to see a cover with a monster woman and a sexy man, the reverse of the current cover, and Leigh mentioned that “[t]here is also a risk of putting a strong, non-human female on the cover and being accused of making strong women monstrous,” which is an interesting point.
Then today, J posted a link to this article about Bayonetta.
Having never played either Dungeons & Dragons or Bayonetta, I can only comment on the content of the articles, and I feel like the XKCD strip sums it up for me. We have this problem because women in the media haven’t been individuals; all women are symbolic of Woman. (Laura Mulvey might mention something about this in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, look under “III Woman as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look.”)
This is not the fault of individual artists (note: see edit), but rather, of a systemic, cultural problem. If men are A, women are not-A. (I can’t find the article that I got that from, since I don’t remember the title or the author; you try Goolging “men a women not-a” and tell me if you find anything relevant.) Since women are not-A, they are the Other, and all Others are interchangeable; thus, if Bayonetta’s super sexualized, all women are (or should be) super sexualized; if Kairi’s useless, whiny and annoying, all girls are useless, whiny and annoying.
Now, a big part of the problem in media is that, for a long time, female characters were few and far between. The token girl was usually a sidekick, and a helpless one, at that. Moreover, even when she was awesome, she was a stand-in for all girls; boys could chose between being the Blue Ranger or the Green Ranger or the Red Ranger or the Black Ranger or the White Ranger, whereas girls got to be the Pink Ranger or the Yellow Ranger, and even that’s an improvement because there were two, instead of just one. (Maybe a better example is that boys could be Brock or Ash, whereas girls had to be Misty. This example repeats: Harry, Ron & Hermione, Morpheus, Neo & Trinity, etc.)
… ’cause as we know, all girls(women) are the same; they aren’t individual girls(women) they’re Girl(Woman).
I think that as we see more female (lead) characters of varying types and personalities, these issues will begin to ease up, but until we, as a society, move away from the idea that women are Woman, we’ll keep running into it over and over and over again. Female characters should be free to be as sexy, girly, chaste, tomboyish, weak, strong, badass, helpless and varied as male characters without those traits being applied to all female people. I shouldn’t freak out with joy when a series has not one but multiple awesome female characters and no female characters I want to punch in the face; I shouldn’t have to. I mean, it’s not like I throw a mini fangirl party every time a series has strong, interesting, varied, deep male characters.
tl;dr » xkcd makes you smart, SocImages is awesome, I want to be Riza Hawkeye when I grow up.
edit: this is not to say that artists don’t have any responsibility, here
*my personal favorite blog ♥
It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Well, now that my semester is over, I have plenty of free time… and a resolution to keep this blog going! Since I’ve had time to kill, I’ve been poking around AVEN. It’s a pretty interesting place to hang out and talk about stuff like gender and sexuality that all of my real life friends put up with but aren’t that interested in. (Though as a side note, my friend Anna has a voice in her head that sounds like me and critiques TV commercials for sexism!)
Until joining AVEN, I had never thought of my asexuality as marking me as a member of a minority or marginalized group. It just was (or wasn’t). I knew from a relatively young age that I didn’t want to get married or have children, and for awhile I assumed that this was just because I value my time & space and like having those things to myself… which is true, but maybe not the whole story. For awhile, I thought I was bisexual because I was basically attracted to men and women in equal proportion… which is to say, not really. I found Johnny Depp and Miranda Otto equally aesthetically appealing and had zero desire to jump in the sack with either one.
So when I read posts like I Love a Charade at asexy beast, I’m always a little surprised. I mean, I’ve really got no problem elaborating on my (lack of a) sex life. I actually sat and talked to one of the boys in my study abroad program about it for awhile, since he was so flabbergasted at the idea that someone might not want to have sex. C was a pretty interesting character, though, who liked to hear everyone’s story. He didn’t judge or ask anything really personal or invasive, but was still curious about everybody. He was a receptive, polite audience, so maybe that made it easier to talk about.
Or, you know, maybe I’m just a bit odd like that. I don’t mind playing “never have I ever” because I always win. (It helps that, in addition to being asexual, I don’t drink, smoke, cut class, or imbibe substances that aren’t prescribed to me. On the whole, I’m a little boring, but it makes for some easy-to-win party games.) I always pick “truth” in “truth or dare” because I’m scared of getting a sexual dare, but not of a sexual truth. (“Have you ever had sex?” “Nope!”)
I’ve never had a significant other, and while some people are curious about that (and some would-be boyfriends get annoyed with it), I’ve never gotten a very bad response about it. (I say boyfriends because I’ve never had any female suitors.) Sometimes people feel sad for me, at least until I explain that I’m happier this way, and then they usually just shrug and say “that’s odd” and move on.
Then again, I’ve always been a bit odd and I’ve never minded it. People just chalk up my lack of desire to my general weirdness and nobody’s ever surprised when I’m weird. My asexuality has never put me in a threatening situation, just an uncomfortable one as I’ve had to explain to a couple of boys that it really was me, not them. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe I’d be this way – open and unruffled – even if I were sexual.
I don’t post this to question or demean the experience of other asexuals, just to add a different narrative than the one I usually see. It’s about as hard for me to understand shame about asexuality as it is for me to understand the state of being sexual, so there you have it. I can rationalize it, break it down into it’s logical components, but when I take it apart and put it back together, it seems to be missing a piece. I can’t get to the “greater than the sum of its parts” result, where I really feel it, but I guess that’s another post for another time.