Feminism/Sexism and Gaming/Geek/Popular culture Catch All

There is no better female super hero than Atom Eve!

Bloo Driver wrote:

Yeah, after looking at those photos and doing a little reading, I will say that "Well, but she's transgender!" doesn't really seem to make it less about her being a sexual object. It just seems like a handy excuse to deflect criticism or pretend this is somehow unique. I mean, if someone wants to be a woman who is overly sexualized, that's fine, but that particular matter has been hashed out over and over and over again. The fact she's transgender adds nothing to the particular discussion.

The thing it adds, I already mentioned.

1. I personally don't see her as a sexual object because I'm not attracted to transsexual women. Is this detail supposed to be immaterial to her treatment as a sexual object? I don't really know. It matters to me. Does it not matter to hetero males in general? I can't say. That's why I'm asking.

I'm not contesting what you say, I'm just asking for your opinion. In my circles of friends and acquaintances, transsexualism does matter. Some guys mind. Some guys don't. But it's always a source of worry and fear among transsexual women who get into relationships with men without revealing their transition for one reason or another. This angle is played in the story. I have heard of transsexuals who have ended relationships rather than divulge their true sexuality.

2. If she's not being made to be a sexual object for hetero males, then who is she being made a sexual object for? Is she even being made into a sexual object?

The thing is, from observation, overt sexualization of this nature is a common practice of some real transsexuals who have recently acquired more feminine physical traits, even when they were not as flamboyant before transition. I won't pretend to understand everything what's going on about that. I just notice that it happens. I think that's what the author is referring to here, though it is convenient that this portrayal is also common for female superheroes. Once again, not entirely sure what the thing is about that.

Zsazsa's story is one of personal obligation, not pursuit of an ideal, or a coming of age. It's also a story of transsexualism. That thread underlies and infuses the entire narrative. It's not a throwaway detail.

That's an awful long-winded attempt to justify "Hee hee lookit the giant oogaba!"

No. I totally get that side of it. If Bloo had reasoned as I did, I'd have argued the other way. Like I said, I don't really know what to think.

I'm not really attracted by oogaba in general, and particularly not in this comic.

Yes, indeed. Moving on...

There's apparently a woman-focused hook-up app of dubious quality, but it got Reddit naturally/of-all-f*cking-places asking "how society would react if I made an app that let men rate women they knew and gossip about how slutty they are?" I would think that level of irony/hypocrisy/lack-of-thought would tear the flesh from a human's bones, but there don't seem to be any reported deaths yet.

LarryC wrote:

No. I totally get that side of it. If Bloo had reasoned as I did, I'd have argued the other way. Like I said, I don't really know what to think.

I'm not really attracted by oogaba in general, and particularly not in this comic.

Ah, I misunderstood you. Yeah, in fairness I'm torn in opinion on the comic too. The thing that bothers me is that "sex sells" and so while the creative staff may have justifications for the heroine's exhibitionism, it just happens to coincide with blatant efforts to catch the eye of passersby and boost sales through traditional misogynistic pandering.

[edit]And egads, SpacePPoliceman, that's making my brain melt.

Farscry wrote:
LarryC wrote:

No. I totally get that side of it. If Bloo had reasoned as I did, I'd have argued the other way. Like I said, I don't really know what to think.

I'm not really attracted by oogaba in general, and particularly not in this comic.

Ah, I misunderstood you. Yeah, in fairness I'm torn in opinion on the comic too. The thing that bothers me is that "sex sells" and so while the creative staff may have justifications for the heroine's exhibitionism, it just happens to coincide with blatant efforts to catch the eye of passersby and boost sales through traditional misogynistic pandering.

I think it's a very interesting discussion, and I can't really form an opinion either. The transsexual issue probably is more off-putting than alluring to the stereotypical comic reader.

It strikes me as a commentary on the way female superheroes are represented. I don't know if it's smart or clumsy though. Maybe both.

LarryC wrote:

The thing it adds, I already mentioned.

1. I personally don't see her as a sexual object because I'm not attracted to transsexual women. Is this detail supposed to be immaterial to her treatment as a sexual object? I don't really know. It matters to me. Does it not matter to hetero males in general? I can't say. That's why I'm asking.

You're saying that since you're not attracted to her, she isn't a sexual object? That's a weird distinction. I'm not attracted to comic book drawings, in general, but I can pretty well say they are objects, yes. I think it has less to do with the case-by-case success and more with the intent and presentation.

Zsazsa's story is one of personal obligation, not pursuit of an ideal, or a coming of age. It's also a story of transsexualism. That thread underlies and infuses the entire narrative. It's not a throwaway detail.

This very carefully tries to ignore the fact that it's still a woman running around in the typical mega-skimpy superheroine costume and constantly standing in or being forced into provocative stances or suggestive positions. You talk about the transgender background as if that's new and unique - as if no female character ever has ever had some flimsy excuse given for "why she dresses like that, and that makes it ok!" That's common. Extremely common. She has decided to embrace her change by throwing her flesh around for everyone to see, and there's something to be said about feeling empowered and comfortable in doing that - but nothing that hasn't been said already by countless other "empowered, sexually confident woman who wants to embrace her gender" arguments.

So yeah, I'm taking issue with the concept that since it's a trans backstory, we have to see it as different. Which, really, it's not.

bnpederson wrote:

Furthermore that scene has quite a bit of relation to the game; if you talk to Piero and Callista before that point you find out he's been making awkward advances for some time, and Callista is against this. In MY initial play through of Dishonored I ended up berating Piero for looking at Callista in the bath and walked away just fine.

Really, there are flaws with the portrayal of women but the things he brings up are just stupid.

I must have missed that Piero/Callista dialogue, or just not clued in to it, but I did try to talk to everyone throughout the game. Still, the fact that you can go in that room (they could have made it locked from the inside or something, there are plenty of unpassable doors in the game), and the fact that there is specific dialogue related to you joining a bathing Callista in the tub is a little odd. Corvo doesn't have any developed relationships with anyone in the game, except maybe the girl Emily. So in that sense, Corvo's encounter with a bathing Callista is kind of out of left field.

Maybe some of the Errant Signal guy's conclusions were a bit off, but the larger point remains - the treatment of women in Dishonored is more than a little weird.

Jonman wrote:

OK. Yes, absolutely on the ugh. Totally, 115% on that.

However, and this sounds like an awfully apologist thing to say, and I'm going to say it anyway, but is there an argument for horrendous sexism in an utterly fictional world? Dishonored does a really good job of passive storytelling by way of it's worldbuilding. Is crushing sexism not in fitting with the oppressive totalitarian regime it depicts? Could that have been an intentional, and artistically valid choice?

I suppose a charitable view would suggest a historic or wold-building basis for the way women are portrayed in the game. The thing that bugged me after thinking about it a bit, though, is where are all the women in Dunwall? There are a few maids, there are a few whores, there are a few high-class socialites, there are some female weepers, but everywhere else, they are absent. There are no females in or around the Bottle Street Gang. The Doctor and the Art Dealer in the distillery district have either nonexistent or perverse relationships with women. There are no women in or around the Chancellors. There are no women in the City Guard. There are no women in Daud's organization.

Demyx wrote:

Uh, does Dishonored really give raping a woman as an option? Because I was considering that game as one to play but I don't think I'm okay with that, no matter how much it might be justified in the setting.

As Certis mentioned, there is no rape. I mentioned sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The episodes with Callista in the bath and handing off Lady Boyle to her stalker just feel icky at best, if you think about them too long.

You said there was an option to "force yourself on her" which I thought meant explicitly rape, sorry.

As for the superheroine, that pretty much just proves something I already knew -- comic books will feature women of all sorts, as long as they're young women with giant porn star bazongas. All other women are lucky to feature in a minor supporting role.

Demyx wrote:

As for the superheroine, that pretty much just proves something I already knew -- comic books will feature women of all sorts, as long as they're young women with giant porn star bazongas. All other women are lucky to feature in a minor supporting role.

You might not have noticed (I didn't get the memo either), but it's apparently been decided that if LarryC doesn't find a given woman to be sexually attractive, they cannot be sexually objectified by anyone.

Stengah wrote:
Demyx wrote:

As for the superheroine, that pretty much just proves something I already knew -- comic books will feature women of all sorts, as long as they're young women with giant porn star bazongas. All other women are lucky to feature in a minor supporting role.

You might not have noticed (I didn't get the memo either), but it's apparently been decided that if LarryC doesn't find a given woman to be sexually attractive, they cannot be sexually objectified by anyone.

I believe he also defined masculinity as what women he finds desirable find desirable in men. I might be paraphrasing incorrectly, but that was the general idea. If he did not desire them, or they did not desire men, they don't factor into the definition.

Demyx:

While I agree with the underlying sentiment, it depends on which sphere of "comic books" you're drawing from. The heroine from Hana Kimi would (and does) pass for a young boy. Of course, that's "manga" which you might not classify the same way.

There's also the "Lolita" archetype which, while still catering to male hetero sex fantasies, is markedly different in form from the usual sex bomb in US comics.

Stengah:

If you want to make the point that Zsazsa is still a valid sex object for a particular audience, then make that point. I did NOT say that my opinion was definitive. In fact, I was VERY careful to say otherwise.

SixteenBlue:

You are paraphrasing incorrectly. I was stating that that was my opinion, not that my opinion was definitive. I have been taken to task before for making generalizations, so I try to avoid it when I can. I only speak for myself. Is that the wrong way to phrase it, too? What's the right phrasing there?

Bloo Driver:

You're saying that since you're not attracted to her, she isn't a sexual object? That's a weird distinction. I'm not attracted to comic book drawings, in general, but I can pretty well say they are objects, yes. I think it has less to do with the case-by-case success and more with the intent and presentation.

I was presenting it as a personal viewpoint to avoid semantics. I don't know if other heterosexual males, or transsexual males, or homosexual females would find Zsazsa's person attractive. I'm asking. Personally, I don't. This is relevant in the sense that a person is only being made into a sexual object in the sense that other attributes are being downplayed in favor of making her an object of sexual desire. But you see, she's not, for me. Ever.

So, if she's a sexual object, who's the target audience? Who would desire Zsazsa? What's the intent?

EDIT: I just realized I have to qualify those. Those are all perfectly straightforward, honest, non-rhetorical, literally meant questions.

So yeah, I'm taking issue with the concept that since it's a trans backstory, we have to see it as different. Which, really, it's not.

I agree with that to some extent. Undecided, you see. That's what I was going for with my suggestion to NOT look into her story. Just see it for what it is. As-is, it's clearly a sexist portrayal.

The other side of that is that being trans is NOT her backstory. It's the entire story. The story is a transsexual one. It deals with her relationships being trans, the conflict, and the fantasy. It's her "backstory" in the same way that being a mutant is the X-Men's backstory, which is to say that it isn't. Their identity as mutants underlies everything they do and stand for. X-Men classically is about being different and being accepted or ostracized for it. Characterizing that as mere "backstory" is not a fair assessment.

There's a tendency in this thread to equate "opinion" with grand statements about the reality of the world for everyone. I've done it to others and had it done to me.

In other words, your phrasing is fine, Larry.

Edit: that being an opinion, not a grand statement, of course.

Oh god, we're stuck in the Hair-Splitter Black Hole's gravitational pull... PULL UP, PULLL UPPPPPP!!!!

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Yes, indeed. Moving on...

There's apparently a woman-focused hook-up app of dubious quality, but it got Reddit naturally/of-all-f*cking-places asking "how society would react if I made an app that let men rate women they knew and gossip about how slutty they are?" I would think that level of irony/hypocrisy/lack-of-thought would tear the flesh from a human's bones, but there don't seem to be any reported deaths yet.

I think there's definitely a "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" vibe coming from that particular article, which caps off with an attempt to make it seem not so bad after pointing out how problematic such behavior is. The ever-present stupidity of Reddit's participants aside, you're either for that sort of thing or against it. Trying to mince words or say it's different doesn't work for the guys, it certainly shouldn't be used in defense of something like that, too.

Neither seem to defend anything. The second one is purely about Reddit's moronitude, responding to same, and the first one is headlined "Rating Men on Lulu Isn't Empowering. It's Creepy." while the tab bears "Lulu app for rating me: It's just as creepy as rating women." That seems pretty firmly Against.

Farscry wrote:

[edit]And egads, SpacePPoliceman, that's making my brain melt.

No doubt. It's really shocking just how irrational irrational hate can be.

It's worth noting that trans women may very well be sexualized even more than cis women, which makes the idea of a trans woman superhero who is portrayed as flaunting her sexuality perhaps even more troubling than such portrayals of cis women. Not that cis women aren't objectified, but popular portrayals of trans women (and trans people in general: trans men pretty much don't get portrayed at all) fall almost exclusively into "ultra-masculine, freakish, and usually violent" and "ultra-feminine, attractive, and usually deceptive". Portrayals of cis women fall into tropes, but at least there are a few more to choose from.

It looks like other parts of the story might do better on those terms, though. I will admit that transgender characters are a hard thing to include in a story of any form in good taste without making a big deal out of their trans status. I think the only thing I've seen that really approaches it well is Claire in Questionable Content. Her being trans was the explicit subject of two strips, if I recall right. Since then, it was subtly relevant in a more recent strip (and made me laugh out loud). And aside from that, she's pretty much just been treated like any other character in the series. But she hasn't been around for very long, so we'll see where things go.

As for who would be sexually attracted to Zsazsa: well, it's common enough that the trans community has a word for people who are interested in trans people only for their sexual novelty: "chasers". The phenomenon is a real problem for trans people who are trying to date--if you're open about your trans status, you can pretty much expect to be besieged by chasers wanting to hook up and get ignored (if not worse) by anybody else. Outside of that, I'll note that there's a heck of a lot of "chicks with dicks" porn in the world. When people assume that being trans is about sex (which many many people do), it makes it terribly easy to objectify trans people.

In short: It's still upsetting when a character (no matter who they are) is sexually objectified, even when the character "is objectifying themselves on purpose". Because, after all, "they want to be a sex object" is part of the fantasy, too. The problem is not that such people don't exist, because they do. The problem is that certain classes of people (women, for example) are portrayed that way a majority of the time. If there were plenty of non-sexualized portrayals of women, then the occasional sexualized portrayal would be no big deal. (This is, in fact, one reason that sexualized portrayals of men are much less remarked upon, because they are out there. It's just that they're a small sliver of the male characters, compared to a large proportion of female characters.) Sexualized portrayals of explicitly trans women are no different, except perhaps in that they make up an even larger proportion of the portrayals of trans people, and that the vast majority of non-sexualized portrayals are even more negative.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Neither seem to defend anything. The second one is purely about Reddit's moronitude, responding to same, and the first one is headlined "Rating Men on Lulu Isn't Empowering. It's Creepy." while the tab bears "Lulu app for rating me: It's just as creepy as rating women." That seems pretty firmly Against.

I should have clarified I meant the second link (the Nymag article). And I don't think I can agree, especially the last couple paragraphs. It seems to cap off with "yeah, those reddit dudes - creepy. Also, this app - kinda funny!"

Demyx wrote:

As for the superheroine, that pretty much just proves something I already knew -- comic books will feature women of all sorts, as long as they're young women with giant porn star bazongas. All other women are lucky to feature in a minor supporting role.

This is pretty much true of mainstream comics, but considering the underground/independent scene since the '90s, comics have actually been a pretty powerful medium for women. Consider Alison Bechdel, for instance. I confess I haven't paid much attention to comics in the last 20 years, so my familiarity with the work of creators like Bechdel (or Jennifer Abel or Megan Kelso, to drop a few more names) doesn't go much farther than Wikipedia, but I think their work is worth mentioning, and what I've seen of it is quite interesting and altogether different from the mainstream "Babes in Spandex Land" treatment.

(edited for clarity)

Not directly related, but since Alison Bechdel came up this is a good moment to plug the Bechdel Test.

IMAGE(http://farm1.staticflickr.com/21/34585797_d7fd14edfb.jpg)
The Rule by Alison Bechdel, on Flickr

Bloo Driver wrote:

I should have clarified I meant the second link (the Nymag article). And I don't think I can agree, especially the last couple paragraphs. It seems to cap off with "yeah, those reddit dudes - creepy. Also, this app - kinda funny!"

Not to get too bogged down with one column, but the last few paragraphs are spent addressing the falsehoods and hyperboles of Reddit's reaction. It caps with some tweaking of their obvious insecurities.

Even still, it's the truth, those Reddit dudes are creepy, and their reaction made the app funny--even funnier considering how places like OKCupid and Zoosk have had ratings for years.

Seth wrote:

There's a tendency in this thread to equate "opinion" with grand statements about the reality of the world for everyone. I've done it to others and had it done to me.

In other words, your phrasing is fine, Larry.

Edit: that being an opinion, not a grand statement, of course. :)

Quite right, I think Larry is being piled on a little unfairly.

He's asking questions in good faith because he's trying to learn about something he finds difficult to imagine. Like most men find issues women face to be difficult to imagine. So asking questions like his is kind of the point of the thread.

Thanks to Hypatian for the illuminating answer. My instinct was that the sexualisation of the character was definitely a bad thing, Hypatian has explained very well why.

-------------------------------------------

As for the rating app and reddit reaction. Honestly I've never liked rating the opposite gender, hell back when it was built into Myspace, every time I did the rating game I felt guilty for giving low scores.

I struggle to summon up any indignation about Lulu though, largely because every dating site does the same, so a gender targeted app really doesn't do anything unusual.

As for the reddit reaction, all I can really do is roll my eyes, shrug my shoulders and carry on with my day. It's not really worth comment, IMHO.

The Dishonored thing is interesting. I actually thought that scene with Callista and Piero was well-executed. The fact that they depict Piero spying on her is perhaps the most objectionable thing about it (due to the inherent asymmetry of male privilege), but from that point it becomes sort of an interesting bit of commentary. If you want, you can shoo him away and leave it at that, but if you choose to be a creep you can do so to three different degrees of creepiness (looking through the keyhole; opening the door; opening the door and approaching Callista). In no situation does Callista find any of these behaviours attractive; the player is not rewarded for transgressing with any positive feedback or really any especially negative feedback either. Thus the game communicates to you that your actions, while profoundly creepy, are so de rigueur in this universe that they barely even merit a response. One gets the sense that this kind of thing happens to Callista frequently, which, like every other aspect of the game's setting, is dystopic and a little horrific. The game essentially tells you "Congratulations on being roughly as awful as everything else in this setting", which is a clever insult.

I explored that sequence fully to see what would happen, and it left me feeling pretty sh*tty about Callista's situation, which, assuming you agree to the game's overall premises (which, again, are somewhat objectionable for privilege reasons), might represent a best-case scenario. I think it also gets points for not being a bald-faced example of the 'women in peril' trope; rather than depicting some extreme situation where the 'bad guys' are all trying to do the very worst thing to her, it depicts one of the better guys engaging in a much more routine sort of sexual intimidation.

A game like Arkham City is more exploitative in that it puts various female characters in extreme, exceptional scenarios and rubs the player's nose in the question of their safety. For example, a TV reporter crashes in the prison colony and you hear radio chatter indicating that a horde of freaky borderline-subhuman rapists has surrounded her (and, of course, they take special care to fit the word "bitch" into that modest little five minute scene). Additionally the player is in the role of Batman, a straight-up good guy (at least with respect to women re: Sexual violence) who is responsible for defending the reporter, so it creates this false consciousness that somehow what's happening in this prison is a big aberration (when we know that in reality it is the opposite of aberrant: Something that happens all the time, a big, sad part of the status quo). Dishonored, by contrast, depicts women in situations that are mundanely terrible. It doesn't try to shock you or prey on too many gender tropes to provoke a programmed response from the (assumed male) player; instead it gestures vaguely towards the institutionalized horror happening all around you and c*cks its head a little bit.

BadKen wrote:

Still, the fact that you can go in that room (they could have made it locked from the inside or something, there are plenty of unpassable doors in the game), and the fact that there is specific dialogue related to you joining a bathing Callista in the tub is a little odd.

I agree it's a bit odd. I suspect that there were more scenes where you could interact with others and they were cut for whatever reasons. I absolutely disagree that it's a bit "rape-y" as the YouTube video you linked put it.

I'm not shocked the guards are all male as that's a traditionally male role in western society, see the US only recently letting women in the army into combat. As I recall there are female civilians around just as there are male civilians, and the same with zombies. The fact that one of the missions takes place in a brothel probably helps color people's view of women in that world, but that's also the only place prostitutes show up and I'm not quite sure how you'd make that level more favorable towards women, outside of deliberately avoiding the whole idea of sex workers.

Meanwhile you have the characters of Callista (who I would argue is relatively strong and one of the few examples of good morals in that world), the Empress/Heart, Emily, and Granny Rags as strong female main characters.

So given all that, plus the absurd lengths the linked YouTube video went to try support and support its point... No, I don't think that there's a lot off about Dishonored's portrayal of women, or at least nothing worse than most other video games.

LarryC wrote:

Stengah:

If you want to make the point that Zsazsa is still a valid sex object for a particular audience, then make that point. I did NOT say that my opinion was definitive. In fact, I was VERY careful to say otherwise.

Yes, but you're also arguing against that those that think she is objectified. If you were just asking a question because of your unfamiliarity with the concept, you'd probably be a little more willing to accept the answers people give you. But now that the answers you've gotten are ones don't like or agree with, you're insisting that they're wrong and you're right.

Basically, it doesn't matter that the character or the poses she's drawn in doesn't titillate you, they're pretty clearly meant to titillate someone.

Interesting article with pretty cool discussion in the comments about quantifying sexism.

In many areas of life, especially in cases where a person must apply to enter an organization, field or job, there are large gender gaps. Whenever feminists call for equal representation by women in a particular endeavor, detractors often claim that adding more women means better-qualified men will get bumped down. They claim that in order to get an equal number of women and men, the bar must be lowered on quality. For example, some in the skeptic movement have claimed that adding more women speakers at skeptic and atheist conferences means replacing more qualified men with less qualified women.

As a feminist, I don’t believe this is true. I believe that increasing representation of women will increase the quality of the endeavor. I also believe the thing keeping women from certain fields in which they are under-represented is institutionalized sexism. As a social scientist though, I don’t just want to believe these things. I want to prove them and I want to measure them. To do that, we have to find something measurable that would be an effect of institutionalized sexism.

It is a strikingly similar attitude seen towards efforts to maintain racial equality. I recall a MSNBC or CNN panel, that Dave Chapell was on (remember when every panel needed a comedian?). A common thread when asking about affirmative action, racial equality measures was a statement that as white people, there would be an automatic assumption that under such a system, any Black, Latino hire into a company would be assumed under or unqualified relative to a white counterpart.

The logical issue, was that the questioner made this to be a problem with a system of equality, rather than an inherent prejudice.

Stengah:

You're completely missing the part where I said that I was undecided. Just because I'm arguing against it doesn't mean that I disagree. This may be strange to you, but there is such a thing as entertaining two or three different positions on a given topic and seeing the topic from each POV. You might say that I was holding the exact same argument inside my head against myself.

In short, I'm not insisting on anything. At all. Whatsoever. If you got that impression, you're misreading what I've been saying.

FWIW, I liked the opinions that I've read so far, which is not to say that I agree that they all have merit.

LarryC wrote:

Stengah:

You're completely missing the part where I said that I was undecided. Just because I'm arguing against it doesn't mean that I disagree. This may be strange to you, but there is such a thing as entertaining two or three different positions on a given topic and seeing the topic from each POV. You might say that I was holding the exact same argument inside my head against myself.

It's not strange to me, but in the future try to be clear that you're doing that before you start doing it. "I don't really believe what I'm arguing for" doesn't grant you a pass for arguing that "it's not sexist because she likes it" is a valid excuse.