Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If The Fanboys Think We're Jealous, How Do We Win?

In my entry "Beyond The Catfight Fantasy" I brought up my concern that fanboys (generic catch all term) may read feminist stances against over-sexualized female characters in comics, as a catfight. They might very well see our objections as us trying to bring down the 'prettier than us' fictional characters. of Maid of Might sums it up pretty well in her comment here, quote:

Because that would explain perfectly the average, unthinking fanboy response to complaints, which generally boils down to "But don't you want women to look good? Surely you don't want the women to look ugly?!"

The Pretties vs The Uglies. That primary school scandal raises it's ugly heads. Even if you weren't a part of it, even if weren't paying attention to which side you were on; the boys were paying attention. And they didn't just see it on the playground, it's everywhere. Women tearing down other women who're more successful than they are, or younger, or more beautiful. Sometimes those women don't even realize what they're doing when the claws come out.

But if it's made such a huge impression, if it's become coded behavior, how do we uncode it so that the fanboys running and working in the industry listen to our actual points and not just see the whole thing as noise. I don't agree with James Meeley's points about needing to have patience and not shouting. But I do wonder now if his response was what it was because he was also reading 'catfight' into what we feel is righteous anger at misrepresentation and exploitation.

So now what do we do? How do we win the pre-fight? How do we shift perception, if this is the perception, away from a sterotyped understanding and towards our real points? How do we set up dialogue? What language do we use?

The fanboys point out over and over again that male characters are over muscled, and unrealistic and they don't object. Is it machismo? And if so, do they think we're whining? Are they really saying they aren't inimidated by heroic figures so why are we? If their stance is - we're men, we know we're not heroes, we don't expect to see heroes just like us - is that why they can't understand that we do expect to see heroines who remind us of our mothers, sisters, teachers and other important female figures?

I don't think fanboys are that blind to inspiration. They like Batman's unwavering goals. They like Superman's epic heroism - as in his essential goodness. And those characteristics are displayed within figures who are larger than life, thus muscles and broad shoulders and tiny hips and intensely low body fat. But the men are still men. They're still men fanboys can relate to and understand and feel represented by. If they had superpowers and worked out that hard and had the time, money, energy - they too would do right for the world and try to juggle a private life or social life or any life at all. (Reverse that if they're a villian loving fanboy with private plans for world conquest)

I might not be able to think of a single individual in my life who I see in Mystique. But I do know I admire her survival instinct and her pure mettle. They're attributes I can recognize in myself and women I admire. I admire Helena's pluckiness and grit. She'll go to the dark place, she'll deal with the scum to protect the greater good. That's something I can admire. But Huntress stops being a woman I can recognize when, without super powers, she flaunts her body's weak and vulnerable spots even though she's been previously injured. That's not me if I had the super dedication and worked out hard and had the time, money and energy.

What language do I need to communicate that more clearly than I just did? I know I'm not in competition with a two dimensional representation of a heroic female. I know that it's a fantasy. But it's a fantasy set in a real world analog. Real world dangers apply. People can die or become critically injured. People can be tortured. Science has a level of similarity as well from medical to fissionable. Gravity apparently works the same if they're on planet earth. So what are the right words to use to show the difference in wanting that potential role model and icon to show due concern for her personal safety and self image without it seeming like I'm comparing myself to some norex wearing 'beauty queen' and wanting the bitch to go down?

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