Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Be The Change You Want In The World

In response to my recent post about how not to engage in a feminist dialogue, Kalinara wrote the following:

"A ball-busting feminist doesn't have to understand where male complaints against accusations of feminism are coming from. We already know. Society shows us this every day, from the default comic book magazines highlighting T&A shots (and finally declaring themselves "for men") to the argument that a television show with a female lead is a risk because both men and women can identify with a male lead, but half the audience is lost with a female lead."

Hey, blaming society & the media is awesome. I get a lot of great posts out of it. But I'm not going to fool myself into thinking it's empowering me.

Blaming others doesn't empower you. I mean, the other party might really be "blame-worthy." But the act of blaming Jeff Robinov at Warner Brothers doesn't get me anything other than another few thousand hits on my blog. It doesn't accomplish anything real. And -- most importantly -- the act of blaming makes me feel helpless, at a disadvantage, not in control. It makes me feel like crap.

The only way I can feel empowered is if I say "the buck stops with me."

I have to say, "yeah, there are some shitty stuff in this world. how am I going to change it?"

Not how if the media changes, my life will be better. But how am I going to change things?

Not how if Jeff Robinov changes, the lives of women will be better. But how are women going to change things?

I can approach this comic book industry either with confidence and exultation at the accomplishments of myself and my gender, or as a Victim.

My forays into comic book feminism can either be a celebration of what my gender has contributed to the medium, or a dirge.

I can either navel-gaze or I can find ways to get funding for young female comic artists to hone their craft.

I can fill post after post about how women have been screwed in this business -- and in some cases they have -- or I could use that space to profile the work of females of distinction.

I've made my choice.

And if you define yourself as a "ball-busting feminist" and you notice that men are reacting to you poorly, maybe it's not all the media's fault. How much has a squashed nut -- or a demolished ego -- really accomplished?

I want solutions, and I want progress. I want measurable progress for women in this industry. Concrete progress. I am tired of splitting hairs over semantics.

Yeah, a man doesn't know what it is like to be a woman and my struggle. Understood. Does he like great comics? I like great comics. Hey, there are a lot of women who produce great comics; let me introduce you to some of their work...


  1. Cool.

    I think I said a simple version of this a while back. More women comic book fans, writers and artists will drive the content to be more balanced.

    So if you can help spotlight the female creators, and more people follow suit it might just help. Right now there just aren't many at DC and Marvel. I'm hoping for more Cloonan and Amanda Conner stuff, but hopefully more people cross my radar soon, lol.

  2. I've never claimed acknowledgement of society's role in social programming is somehow "empowering".

    To be honest, I consider "empowering" to be a fairly empty, meaningless phrase. Feeling "empowered" doesn't actually exert change, finding and attacking the problem at its source is what gets results.

    Even if that means something as minor as not teaching my daughter that she has to suck up her irritation and smile like a good girl. It's a start.

    Congratulations for your successes in self-empowerment, I genuinely do admire your achievements, but I don't believe that acknowledging the general source of the problem has any effect on those personal achievements. It merely provides some direction for effective long-term strategy.

  3. Here here, Val. However, it shouldn't be forgotten that it's still important to attack sexism as it occurs. I'm the first person to groan when people focus on blame instead of solving a problem, but sometimes the specific source of the sexism must be addressed.

  4. \m/ (^_^) \m/

    Throwing the devil horns of rocking because this post does!

  5. Kalinara: I agree that the word empowerment is meaningless shorthand for an even more meaningless concept.

    However, I will say that there is a lot of wisdom in the eastern belief that attacking something forces you to become it.

    I find that, in their entirely justified anger, too many feminists behave in ways that are just as sexist and knee-jerk chauvinistic as the attitudes they hate.

    I want change as much as you do. I promise. I find the state of women in comics today to be fucking deplorable. I want more product by women because I like women, and I want to hear what they have to say.

    I want more women heroes because most of my real heroes are women.

    I'm just getting a headache from all the yelling, and I'm losing the thread of the arguments in all the rhetoric.

    I think Val's attitude is a good one. Speak your mind, firmly, truthfully, but with some restraint, and to strive to act rather than just get angry.

    I respect you both very much, and just because I'm a dude doesn't mean I don't get you.

  6. I am, I think, missing the dialogue between a couple of different blogs here, & so I'm not going to address any of that. I will say that I think that, just like in basic psych, positive reinforcers is a lot more likely to effect positive change than negative. If you want to see female characters treated like characters & not plot points for male characters, BUY COMICS where that happens. TALK ABOUT those comics. When public opinion backlashes at a company but their sales are still flat (because the old demographic is still buying them), the company has no reason to change. If, however, a comic like Birds of Prey comes along where the female leads are dealt with well, & people buy it, well. Suddenly a new demographic has opened up, suddenly there is a reason for the execs to pay attention.

    Which isn't to say that any negative feelings shouldn't or can't be discussed. Hell, lay on, MacDuff.

    I guess I'm getting afield. I think my point is that Occasional Superheroine, by pointing out the positive, is making more of a difference than griping about negatives.

    PS: As a feminist, I tend to feel pretty annoyed whenever anyone on either side of the debate tells me I'm not one.

  7. "effective long-term strategy"


  8. Didn't take long to get back into the semantics, lol.

    Good thing I snagged first post.

  9. But the act of blaming Jeff Robinov at Warner Brothers doesn't get me anything other than another few thousand hits on my blog. It doesn't accomplish anything real.

    Hey, don't knock getting a few thousand extra hits on your blog. :)

  10. And now we see part of what's wrong with comics these days. They hire assistant editors who cant freakin read! At least you linked back to kalinaras post so everybody can see what a condescending brat you were to her and to one of her commenters. How the hell is it positive to call out other people on the net, point your finger and say that they aren't empowering anyone? Grow the hell up.

    I never thought you could seem more full of yourself than you did during the original TMI Identity Crisis whine whine whine fest, but you get more full of yourself every frickin' passing day. GROW UP ALREADY!

    Ya. okay, maybe you heard of othering in college. maybe you didnt like the theory. How in the name of frickin hell does that give you the right to pass right by what somebody said about male gaze being overused and disregard that by trying to channel eleanor FRICKIN' ROOSEVELT AND PLAY "NOBODY CAN MAKE YOU INFERIOR WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT" games with a person. i nearly frickin lost my lunch. i can't believe kalinara and the other person you disrespected was so POLITE WITH YOU given the circumstances.

    And so the heck what if you don't find social criticism empowering. Another person might think it's empowering to "shine a light" on what they percieve to be a dark corner in our society. You get to spotlight the good art.... ooooh, aren't you frickin' special. Just because you're too damn sensitive to not feel like crap when you deal with the negatives in the world doesn't mean every other person is a sad-sack TMI attention addict like you.

    And those artist you bring to our attention - o mistress of the positive, example for all feminists?

    Won't anything about their work be about getting their perspective on society?

    isn't that one of the purposes of good art?

    Oh, never mind. you can't get blood from a stone or anything but self absorbed wank out of Val d'orazio.

    Grow a spine, learn how to frickin read for context and grow the hell up. You are part of the problem with comics not the solution. You are just old boy network who happens to be a girl.

    You burned your bridges and now you want to kiss asses instead. poor poor you.

    Screw you and the respect people seem to treat you with even if you did nothing at all to earn it.

    You are part of the problem not part of the solution.

  11. Im sure Val can defend herself, but let me ask you a question, Anotherrover, if I may?

    Would you speak like this to her face in her living room?

    If the answer is yes, I'm of the opinion you get invited to few social gatherings.

    If the answer is no, then maybe you should reconsider your tone, hm?

    The internet is not an open forum for people to spew venom.

    I think everyone here should take a step back.


    Some civility, people.

  12. A. J. Muste said, "There is no way to peace; Peace is the way."

    I suspect there's a parallel for all social justice movements.

  13. As one of the few female creators, working full-time in main stream Superhero comics, I can honestly say that I've never been given a hard time in this industry because of gender.

    This is a hard industry for anyone to crack.

    As for how women are depicted, everyone has their own personal tastes and styles. I get to draw sexy, ass-kick'n chicks all day long but it's my choice to avoid them looking like 70's porn music will start up at any moment.

    Comics ARE a bit of a boys club, but who cares? There ARE more men creating and reading comics. But the balance IS shifting. A little at a time.

    I believe in making change rather than commenting on the lack of it, though I'm not here JUST TO MAKE CHANGE. Working in comics is more for ME and what I need than anything else but I think change is being made because I'm here.

    I think the same can be said for Occasional Superheroine.

    Nicola Scott.
    (Buy Birds of Prey!!)

  14. Anotherrover ... [decides against typing up first reaction] ... what Ryan said.

  15. anotherrover - I can fight my own battles, thanks. And there really isn't much to fight here. I went over my comment on kalinara's blog, and tried to see if I was coming off like one of those women's studies nuts my conservative soul hates with a passion.

    Do I think I was?

    No, no I don't.

    Do I think she warped kalinara and geek girl's arguments, intentionally or not? Yes, I do, even though I'm more in agreement with Occasional Superheroine on these issues than in agreement with them. (Saying that kalinara made a good post meant that I enjoyed it, not that I was in agreement with it 100%)

    And I thought that by pointing out my displeasure with much "male gaze" theory, I was trying to downplay the oft-inflated significance of "othering" while still granting that the concept carried quite a bit of water - That it's a part of male priviledge that men often fail to see.

    Do I feel as though I was treated in a condescending manner... Well, yes, yes I do. But, oh well. I take comfort in the notion that I shall soon be a college professor, able to warp a generation to my victim feminist will. MWAHAHAHAH.

    But seriously: There's a place for social criticism, for consciousness raising, for good old fashioned "accentuating the positive," and most importantly, for taking control of one's own life. Part of what I like about Occasional Superheroine is her... Well, confidence in her own opinions?

    If that means a nothing blogger like me gets condescended to, well, C'est la vie. I can't help but enjoy the way she dismissed my perspective with a wave of her Big Name Fan hand.

    And I'm not being passive aggressive. Such chutzpah wins points in my book. (As if my book counted with her. ;) )

  16. Anotherrover, please don't leap to my defense like that.

    Val's got every right to respond to my post on her own blog (or in my comments for that matter). Do I think I may have been misread/misrepresented? Sure. But it's equally as likely that I didn't present my opinions as well as I thought.

    It's also possible that we simply disagree. It happens.

    I'm more than capable of defending my point of view, myself, thank you. And I do not like the idea of being used as a weapon to attack a fellow feminist, regardless of how we may disagree on the topic at hand.

    Please do not do this again.

  17. Amen.
    A little carrot goes a long way.

  18. Amen.
    A little carrot goes a long way.

  19. So . . . I'm thinking. "Land Without Bread." "I Was A Fugitive from a Chain Gang." "A modest proposal." THE JUNGLE. HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES. "Fahrenheit 911." "Sicko." SILENT SPRING. UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED. "Bowling for Columbine." "Roger and Me." UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.

    Positivity is a many-splendored thing. But being nice, being supportive, being sharing and caring, only gets us girls so far. Some things require that a very bright light be shown on them, the bright light of scorn and long, well-justified rage.

    Support our women, yes. But playing nice with those who perceive niceness as weakness and lack of will has never gained us anything. A pen dipped in bile, words etched in fire, images printed in acid, leave an impression when niceness just flows off that surface of indifference.

    You have your way of doing things, and I have mine. Others will choose theirs. But I doubt the fellow who ordered me to cook him dinner because I disliked a comic is going to do anything but laugh and say, "You see? You just have to show him who's boss," if I come back nice.

  20. Well Tamora,

    You do things your way and I will do things my way. And in one year's time, let's compare notes.

    And in my opinion Michael Moore's incendiary movie coming out at the same time as the 2004 presidential elections helped seal the Democrats' fate.

    How do you win over undecided conservatives to the Democratic ticket? By being confrontational and vicious and attacking them? Or talking to them like human beings?

    Stephen Colbert has done more through humor to facilitate dialogue between the liberals and conservatives than Michael Moore's entire filmography.

  21. "Stephen Colbert has done more through humor to facilitate dialogue between the liberals and conservatives than Michael Moore's entire filmography."

    Here here. ^^

    I will say on the subject that sometimes it's appropriate to be nice and other times it's appropriate to wave a chainsaw around while screaming. Both approaches have legitimate grounding, it's the situations that dictate which approach is probably best to be used.

    On that note, this post and the other recent one have been awesome to watch the dialogue back and forth. ^_^ And it's attracting professionals like Tamora here and Nicola Scott in the other! Eeeeee!

  22. I don't think making either side out to be an extreme position is the answer, either... and I've seen that referencing this conversation. It seems like a balanced approach is necessary. Praise the praiseworthy, and damn the damnable.

    Sometimes, though, the criticism gets a bit out of hand and there's a rush to judgement in which neither side seems really appealing- the lousy comic or the enraged fans. Not a choice one would like to make.

    But I also think that's the result of taking so many blows. One can become either desensitized or hyper-sensitized to the pain. And the positive thing is, even if I don't necessarily agree with every argument made, I'm glad people are making this noise.

  23. Oh... but I definitely do want to come down on the side of positive action. If you look at the models of other social movements, the most successful ones tended towards actual activities meant to bring about change and not just theorizing and arguments.

    I'm not saying that's not the case with the online comics feminist movement but just that power is something you take for yourself through your actions as well as your thoughts.

  24. Well Valerie,

    A policy of appeasement may grant single individuals small favors/scraps, but it rarely results in gains for a group as a whole. Instead the favor conveying persons get to say, "Well, I know one [insert gentle humorous non-critical person here], and s/he's okay, not like those other [insert invective here]."

    If we relied on being nice, we wouldn't have the vote today. We wouldn't be on juries. We'd still be a Jim Crow society. We wouldn't have labor unions and we would have 12-hour days and child labor. We wouldn't have abortions. We'd still be in Vietnam.

    Compare gains in a year if you must. But the only person you'll make any gains for, I guarantee, will be you.

  25. "If we relied on being nice, we wouldn't have the vote today. We wouldn't be on juries. We'd still be a Jim Crow society. We wouldn't have labor unions and we would have 12-hour days and child labor. We wouldn't have abortions. We'd still be in Vietnam."

    The real battles for all these things were won one person at a time communicating with another person. Martin Luther King was a communicator. He changed hearts and minds by his speeches, speeches that were filled with love and a call to action and understanding. He said he envisioned a world where people of all races and creeds and religions could come to an understanding and live in peace. Civil Rights were won by non-violent protests and the tireless work of great communicators. They weren't won by bitterness, navel-gazing, or hostility.

    "Compare gains in a year if you must. But the only person you'll make any gains for, I guarantee, will be you."

    This statement says far more about you and where you're coming from than it does about me.