Sexism, Gaming, Pax and Fear

Dr.Ghastly wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:

I'm curious, is there a reason for similarly sexualized images for items that are traditionally targeting women readership? The last time I was at a bookstore trying to find my wife, the romance section was getting to nearly softcore with very clingy blankets and such for both men and women there too.

Sex sells and most men don't realize women are just as sexual as they are. Women probably just control it better and don't shove it in people's faces.

Better wording for my question: If scantily clad females is not ok for comic books and comic book scantily clad or well defined men are also all about men's desires (more testosterone), why is this same imagery not called out for romance novels?

(Thinking this through myself, I'm guessing target audience (age) is probably why. These books covers are pretty tamed compared to their content, where as comic books have always been viewed similarly to video games where its expected to be viewed by a lower age demographic, in spite of what average age of gamers is reported to be ever year... rising! :P)

Also, I don't think many in this site's cohort particularly care about Harlequin romances as much as they care about Harley Quinn, Joker's chief hench...person?

That imagery is sometimes called out for romance novels, though.

Part of the reason why the comic book situation is worse is that romance novels are usually produced explicitly for titillation. It's like complaining that people aren't wearing much clothing in pornography; that's kind of the whole point! Comic books on the other hand cover a wide variety of subjects, but even in the many books that aren't all about sex or romance the women are dressed in very little.

If you're writing a book about a beautiful woman partying with sexy bachelors in the French Riviera, sure make her wear a bikini. If you're writing a book about a woman fighting a supervillain threatening to destroy the universe... why is she in a bikini instead of armor?

I don't think the romance section of the bookstore is a good example of women's readership unless skin mags are an example of men's. it may be the only thing targeted just for women, but that doesn't make it what the majority of women read. Romance books are about romance, hence the sexualized imagery.

*and Demyx beat me to it while I was typing slowly on my phone.

I'll Nth Demyx and Yellek.

Personally, if I have to deal with some bint and her heaving, uh, tracts of land, there better be a giant robot in the background.

Though I will say it was an interesting exercise when I lost a bet and had to write a bodice-ripper. It turned out to be a great exercise in self-reflection in terms of what I want out of a relationship. I long ago figured out I need Ulysses instead of Prince Charming, but this really made me think through some things about how that works in a daily sort of thing. Well, except for the part about telepathic werewolves.

Demyx wrote:

That imagery is sometimes called out for romance novels, though.

Part of the reason why the comic book situation is worse is that romance novels are usually produced explicitly for titillation. It's like complaining that people aren't wearing much clothing in pornography; that's kind of the whole point!

Okay so this is way off topic, but I want to address this fundamental misconception of the romance genre: that romance novels are about physical titillation - that they're equivalent to porn, only geared toward a female audience. Not true. If a woman wants to read a dirty story, then she'll just go read some erotica. She won't reach for a romance novel.

Romance novels are more about the development of a romantic relationship. Granted, most of the time that involves some sort of physical intimacy, but you'd be surprised how many "romance novels" don't even have sex scenes, nothing more than a chaste kiss and a fade to black. Romance novels are not about the sex, though sexual self-expression is usually embraced as an inherent part of the story. They're about, well, romance: that is, how two (or more) people fall in love. It doesn't serve the same function as porn, not at all.

That's fair, most of my exposure to romance novels comes from ones that were kept around as a joke in college (and those totally did involve sex; in fact, for maximum ridiculousness, it was viking sex).

Still, I think there are generally different expectations for a romance story than, say, an action adventure story.

I'm going to ask this without any ulterior motive just to get some opinions from the girls on this forum: How much should the audience matter? What I mean, is there anything wrong with making games that appeal to boys because boys are the ones that buy them? I know we have the chicken and the egg situation: how can we get girls into game if everything is designed for boys/we'd change If girls bought games. But, I mean, is it possible that there are certain hobbies and careers that just draw a specific group? Look at teaching. There are studies that show the lopsidedness of the profession is detrimental to boys in school. And maybe this is a "thing" inside the education industry and I just haven't heard about it because I don't post on education forums. But, are there things that are okay with being just for the boys or just for the girls? What's wrong with saying: Ladies, we built this widget specifically for teenage boys and we want them to buy it over you. Or on the flip side saying: Gentlemen, Justin Beiber isn't designed for you and if you don't like him that's fine but we want his teenage girl audience.

I don't want this question to be offensive just asking if sometimes we have conflict because when we get down to it not everything is designed for everyone. (I'm not talking about video games, comicbooks or any specific).

No, it is not bad to make a product/artwork with a specific audience in mind.

The issue is when the majority of media caters to a particular audience, such that everyone else feels excluded.

But treating it as a zero sum game is also part of the problem. Making a game appeal more to women does not automatically mean that it will appeal less to men.

Uliari, teaching is a really bad example here. The reason there are fewer men teaching (and in nursing) has very much to do with societal pressure as well. Men are taught that teaching is a "fall back" job, or being less than manly if not outright gay. If a man does decide to do it anyways, they're at higher risk of being accused of inappropriate behavior towards children.

And lately there's been a surge of men entering the field, and thanks to their gender they're rushed into promotion much faster than their female colleagues (the term for that is "glass escalator").

Ulairi wrote:

I don't want this question to be offensive just asking if sometimes we have conflict because when we get down to it not everything is designed for everyone. (I'm not talking about video games, comicbooks or any specific).

Sometimes, but I think the main problems arise when the culture surrounding a thing is actually hostile toward others who are different. Such as if my wife's scrapbooking group were so inappropriate toward men that I wouldn't consider joining it. That's not a barrier which involves scrapbooking itself at all.

There was a time in our history when a minority character as the star in a movie was unheard of. We were mostly bellhops, drivers, the love interest or hotel maids knocking on a door yelling "Housekeeping!" in a thick accent. Now, women and minorities can star in a movie without anyone blinking an eye. I believe gaming is finally reaching that point where we can encourage all different types of lead and support characters.

Also, it's amazing to me how popular manga has become to folks that don't read comic books. The difference? Manga actually caters to all kinds of audiences instead of just one. There is manga aimed at men, women, teens, young girls and boys... That's how entertainment should be IMO. Create it and they will come.

Ulairi wrote:

I'm going to ask this without any ulterior motive just to get some opinions from the girls on this forum: How much should the audience matter? What I mean, is there anything wrong with making games that appeal to boys because boys are the ones that buy them?

Ignoring for a moment that pretty much all current games are targeted at boys, I wonder what specialized content there should be that would increase sales to a boy market? Or conversely, what changes to broaden market appeal would not result in a decrease of sales to boys? I suspect that a lot is currently done with the intent of appealing to a male target market that wouldn't actually lose sales if it were changed.

Bloo Driver wrote:

An interesting little post -

"Drawing the Impossible?" Fully dressed superheroines.

As someone who likes the look of layers, longcoats, and buckles, this hit an easy target for me.

... and then, the comments section. Just don't read it, you already know what's there.

Wow, those redesigns are all awesome, and IMO universally better than the source material. Fully Dressed Supergirl in particular looks badass.

I really enjoyed all of those redesigns. Sure Wonder Woman's pants clashed a bit but they could easily texture them to make them look more leather or suede than dockers. Or they could have just made them dark gray/black.

I also think they missed out on an opportunity to showcase different types of stylish baggy pants:

IMAGE(http://fa.univision.com/attachments/univision/imagenes/1071517/1/anime%252520baggy%252520pants.jpg)

IMAGE(http://img1.ak.crunchyroll.com/i/spire2/07232008/b/f/6/0/bf60ce96129ed0_full.jpg)

IMAGE(http://s3.zerochan.net/Adora.Avis.240.85803.jpg)

I was trying to figure out why those costumes were striking me as so bizarre--they're actually less sexualized than most male superhero costumes. Which isn't to be all men-have-problems-too, more that I think the problem is less how women in comics are dressed (Psylocke not withstanding) and more how they're drawn.

Comics are such a weird world. When did we start drawing all superheroes as wearing tights, and more importantly, why is it that we never stopped?

kazooka wrote:

I was trying to figure out why those costumes were striking me as so bizarre--they're actually less sexualized than most male superhero costumes. Which isn't to be all men-have-problems-too, more that I think the problem is less how women in comics are dressed (Psylocke not withstanding) and more how they're drawn.

Comics are such a weird world. When did we start drawing all superheroes as wearing tights, and more importantly, why is it that we never stopped?

IMAGE(http://comicbooked.comicbookedllc.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/The_Boys_-1.jpg)

I think Wonder Woman is fine, just a poor color choice for the pants that makes everyone think they're slacks.

I don't like Wonder Woman's costume redesign. She's an Amazon. She should be wearing Ironman-Esque tech armor with a Greek theme. Slacks just send the wrong message. Still better than the star spangled bikini.

As noted, manga often demonstrates that outfits designed for the primary purpose of looking excellent and characterization often works better than something that mainly evokes "sexy," particularly if that's what happens all the time. The thinking that this will drive away male audiences is often assumed to be true but not universal. Bronies prove otherwise.

IMAGE(http://anime-themes.net/data/media/24/Card_Captor_Sakura_aaw.jpg)

I like the costumes in this show.

If you guys haven't already seen this somewhere else - and since we're on the topic of comics - my friends and I always check out Escher Girls. Definitely relevant to the over-sexualized female comic character.

EDIT: Before going to Sakura-Con, I was reading this thread and decided to touch on the subject on my Youtube channel. Currently I'm in a debate with someone in my comments section, and I need your guidance to know if I'm taking this in the right direction or if I'm failing.

NathanialG wrote:
kazooka wrote:

I was trying to figure out why those costumes were striking me as so bizarre--they're actually less sexualized than most male superhero costumes. Which isn't to be all men-have-problems-too, more that I think the problem is less how women in comics are dressed (Psylocke not withstanding) and more how they're drawn.

Comics are such a weird world. When did we start drawing all superheroes as wearing tights, and more importantly, why is it that we never stopped?

edit: actually this thread is a particularly bad place for this.

KaterinLHC wrote:
Demyx wrote:

That imagery is sometimes called out for romance novels, though.

Part of the reason why the comic book situation is worse is that romance novels are usually produced explicitly for titillation. It's like complaining that people aren't wearing much clothing in pornography; that's kind of the whole point!

Okay so this is way off topic, but I want to address this fundamental misconception of the romance genre: that romance novels are about physical titillation - that they're equivalent to porn, only geared toward a female audience. Not true. If a woman wants to read a dirty story, then she'll just go read some erotica. She won't reach for a romance novel.

Romance novels are more about the development of a romantic relationship. Granted, most of the time that involves some sort of physical intimacy, but you'd be surprised how many "romance novels" don't even have sex scenes, nothing more than a chaste kiss and a fade to black. Romance novels are not about the sex, though sexual self-expression is usually embraced as an inherent part of the story. They're about, well, romance: that is, how two (or more) people fall in love. It doesn't serve the same function as porn, not at all.

I agree. When asked to do a "mommy-porn" romance; I read a bunch of traditional (i.e., not mommyporn) romance novels (my knowledge of erotica was already established), and there is very little actual salaciousness in the vast majority of the books I read. I mean, in a 300+ book, there may be two scenes where the protagonist has a physical encounter that goes beyond a kiss, and those encounters are usually written in such a way as to require a thesaurus to work out which bits are doing what.

There is a significant amount of time spent on character development; and the majority of the emotional impact of the stories told comes from the emotional/intellectual interaction of said characters. I have to admit that I used to dismiss romance as "girl-fic", not worth bothering with; but having read the new wave of romances, the mommy-porn romances, the "urban" romances, and some of the other specialty market romances; I have to say, I've read some really good writers, have read stories that were well told enough to be remembered later, and have quite enjoyed the fact that they aren't the formulaic dreck that romance novels are accused of being.

Which, in a long ass way, brings be back to the topic, sort of. Romance novels are one of those things that are seen as primarily a woman's niche; and if you think about how people talk about romance novels...they're seen as shameful to read, embarrassing to write, and sniffed at superciliously by the literati. And yet, the industry is doing just fine, more romance novels sell than any other genre, women who write them well, actually make a living as writers, unlike most other genres.

I guess what I'm saying is that were romance novels aimed at men, and pushed the same sort of numbers; the genre would be touted as all that is good about the written word, but because it's "chick-lit", written by women, for women, it's the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world.

The facts behind romance novels are intriguing to me (do we need a new thread for this?). Thanks for sharing, everyone.

I did some analysis of the role soap operas play in American society a few years back; i am struck by some of the similarities that genre of television has with what you're describing about romance novels.

Because soap operas intentionally focus on the emotional reactions to events by the characters - vs the events themselves, which is what drives every other popular television genre - you get a stylized and different approach to making the end product. Plots for entire seasons are often laid out prior to the season beginning, so that the audience can focus on the interactions and relationship developments vs the storyline. This is also why soap operas employ the much maligned practice of lingering on facial expressions prior to cutting to another scene / commercial break; because the reaction is much more important than what happened.

(I did this research prior to the meteoritic rise of reality shows in television entertainment, and they generally fill the same niche. That said there's another layer of exploitation inherent in reality shows that make them fundamentally different than soap operas). My point is that soap operas are geared toward a female audience, and much like romance novels, derided as the lowest form of television entertainment, despite providing great jobs for actors in a field not known for its consistency.

Is the comparison fair, or am I way off base?

And for the record, I was a DOOL person. Loved it so much I even watched Passions since it was on right after.

duckideva wrote:

Which, in a long ass way, brings be back to the topic, sort of. Romance novels are one of those things that are seen as primarily a woman's niche; and if you think about how people talk about romance novels...they're seen as shameful to read, embarrassing to write, and sniffed at superciliously by the literati. And yet, the industry is doing just fine, more romance novels sell than any other genre, women who write them well, actually make a living as writers, unlike most other genres

My mom had a LOT of Harlequin romance novels and she displayed them on a bookcase out in the open. I remember asking my dad about them and he kind of laughed a little and rolled his eyes. I don't believe he was looking down on them really (kind of hard to once my brother and I found his naked girl motorcycle magazines) but it was years later that I realized it probably has to do with how men are more physically stimulated and women are more mentally stimulated. This is probably why they do so well, the target audience eats them up and the people who look down their noses at them are probably just elitist pricks. I still kind of laugh about it though because my dad was semi-super religious and my mom as well but much more private so there would be the occasionally hypocritical moment growing up where I could just point out the two collections they had.

If a man does decide to do it anyways, they're at higher risk of being accused of inappropriate behavior towards children.

Yup. Reason number 3 I got out after student teaching. Basically being told as a male teacher that I would not be backed up for calling out dress code violations during the inevitable "what were you doing looking, you pervert?" from the kid or parents... Didn't inspire a lot of confidence for me to deal with higher levels of management as a teacher without telling them they are morons. :p

Demosthenes wrote:
If a man does decide to do it anyways, they're at higher risk of being accused of inappropriate behavior towards children.

Yup. Reason number 3 I got out after student teaching. Basically being told as a male teacher that I would not be backed up for calling out dress code violations during the inevitable "what were you doing looking, you pervert?" from the kid or parents... Didn't inspire a lot of confidence for me to deal with higher levels of management as a teacher without telling them they are morons. :p

Before my wife's school implemented a dress code, all of the male teachers would send for my wife to enforce dress code violations on the female students.

mudbunny wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:
If a man does decide to do it anyways, they're at higher risk of being accused of inappropriate behavior towards children.

Yup. Reason number 3 I got out after student teaching. Basically being told as a male teacher that I would not be backed up for calling out dress code violations during the inevitable "what were you doing looking, you pervert?" from the kid or parents... Didn't inspire a lot of confidence for me to deal with higher levels of management as a teacher without telling them they are morons. :p

Before my wife's school implemented a dress code, all of the male teachers would send for my wife to enforce dress code violations on the female students.

This was after they implemented the code, sadly. I was actually there at a meeting where its update implementation was being discussed and my assigned teacher and I asked that (I asked him, he asked them) and they basically said no, they would not help in any way, no legal costs, no school support, not even as a character witness against such allegations.

Back to the main point: Men/organizations/cultures who/that objectify women and possibly harrass them are not likely to change their behavior when women get offended or threatened. They are already objectifying these women, and will consider to disregard their feelings.

For the men who want to try to help out and improve this culture, it's good, but it's not enough to support the women speaking out. Men have to get offended and speak out against the behavior of the fellow mem.

Side note: Bookseller here with some random romance novel information. In 2009, romance novels made up over 50% of paperback fiction sales, and about 14% of total fiction sales. Romance publishers are generally increasing their profits year over year, while the book industry as a whole has been slowly declining. "That's absurd," you say, "my bookstore carries like, two romance novels amongst a thousand better books!" That may be true, however, every walmart, grocery store, drug store, department store, and a few gas stations have a magazine/book rack that'll remind you how many of these romance books are really out there getting sold.

The fact that they aren't on the shelves means they are being sold in droves ;P

Squee, that doesn't shock me. Anecdote here.

While I have always sort of looked down on them, my mom loves these things. She began to have problems with her sight, and while she was in the middle of her treatment she got to a certain point she couldn't read anymore. These aren't exactly the first books that end up on tape at the library and it really upset her. To help her keep up with her favorite authors, I used to read them onto tape for her. By the time it was over I'd read about 20 of them.

Some of them were awkward. She does like a certain amount of bodice ripping but she didn't feel too bad when I found a way to fade to black rather than read that stuff aloud. I got dragged back and forth through overwrought aftermaths of the Battle of Hastings more times than I care to think about, but I learned that there are some good writers in this genre.

The writers she likes are good at the craft of characterization and setting. I learned from them. A couple of the stories are good enough that I got a copy of the books for myself once her treatment worked and she could start reading them on her own again.

I can tell you that I never paid full price for them. And yes, I did feel compelled to say that I wasn't buying them for myself to the clerk when I bought them. There is a stigma to it in real book stores that you don't get at the grocery store.