I’ve been enjoying the new Supergirl series much more than I expected. There are a few places where it’s overdone, but that’s to be expected in any show while it’s still finding its legs. One of the things that I love is the costume: It actually looks like it can stand up to intense battles with robots or aliens and the stresses of high-speed flight. The fact that the costumes no longer look incredibly silly on screen is a big part of why the modern crop of superhero media can actually be taken seriously.
Kitty Stryker answers this question today in a very lovely and touching article at Slixa, based on her experiences taking clients in London. It doesn’t actually tie in with the common stereotype:
Working with TLC Trust in London, I found myself encountering a very different sort of client than the media-projected stereotype. I was a companion for an autistic man whose sister wanted to help him learn how to navigate flirting and dating with hands on experience. Just coming to my space was difficult for another person who had social anxiety. I had more than one female lover who sought me out for erotic massage so they could relearn how to be touched intimately and communicate triggers after sexual assault experiences. Sometimes the people I met wanted to snuggle and cry in my arms about the restrictions they felt about their faith, or their struggle with expectations of gender roles, or relationships they had lost. I hadn’t fully realized how being a switchboard operator with psychology experience gave me training on how to be a better provider!
The injunction to “never forget” the Holocaust apparently doesn’t apply to the women who died, at least not as far as the Haredi newspaper Bakehillah is concerned. When the newspaper ran an iconic photo of Polish Jews being rounded up after the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, they blurred out the face of Matilda Goldfinger and her daughter Henka for reasons of “modesty.”
Ynet reported that the Haredi newspaper “Bakehillah” (In the community) censored the face of Matilda Goldfinger, the woman who appears to the left of the little boy wearing a yellow star with his hands raised in the iconic photo documenting the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943, following the Jewish uprising there that began on the first night of Passover that year. Goldfinger’s daughter Henka (Hannah) was killed moments after the photograph was taken….
In response to inquiries from Ynet, Avraham Dov Greenboim, editor of “Bakehillah,” said the blurring of the woman’s face was appropriate, given that the article was focused on the little boy. “In addition, we honor the memory of victims of the Holocaust, and we also respect our readers and only put in front of them what they need and want to see,” he said. The paper, along with other Haredi publications, operate under the watchful eye of a “spiritual commission” that ensures “modesty.”
For my most recent piece at the SF Weekly, I wrote about the controversy that’s been boiling up around a new Tumblr Blog, The Hawkeye Initiative. In a way, it’s a blog that I’d like to applaud. It’s based on a very real and serious criticism of superhero comics for depicting female bodies in really weird, oversexualized, and distorted ways. The most famous example is the “boobs and butt” pose, which has become ubiquitous in superhero comics. A few examples of female characters contorting their spines in order to give the viewer tits and ass are seen below:
The Hawkeye Initiative has tried to critique this over-the-top aesthetic by having fans submit redrawn versions of comic book art that substitutes the Marvel character Hawkeye for female characters, in the hopes that it would make the absurdity of the poses more visible to people who take the boobs and butt approach for granted. And at first, there was a lot of positive response. The Hawkeye Initiative became the meme of the month for December of 2012, with media coverage from Wired, Geeks Are Sexy, Bleeding Cool, and i09, among others. But there’s also been an increasing amount of criticism on grounds that Hawkeye Initiative is using the very old trope of mocking effeminate men to make its point.
Transfeminist blogger Natalie Reed has been a very vocal critic of the Hawkeye Initiative. She was one of the first people I interviewed for the SF Weekly piece, and in fact, her thoughts make up the bulk of the quoted material in there, along with the ever-fabulous Kitty Stryker. One of the most painful parts about writing the article was figuring out just what I could cut and what to leave. She has a lot to say, and says it very well, and with her permission, I’m posting the full text of the interview here. There’s a lot to think on here; not only about gender and how we perceive it, but also about how to build and maintain truly intersectional analyses, instead of fighting one evil by building up another.
Chris Hall: First of all, could you summarize for me your criticisms of the Hawkeye Initiative?
Natalie Reed: So, my main concern with the Hawkeye Initiative, and related strategies of critiquing the representation of women in comics by placing men as substitutions in the poses, costumes or anatomy of female characters, boils down to how much of this strategy is based in the basic idea of “But it would be ridiculous if Hawkeye / Batman / Iron Man / Captain America were placed in this pose”, which is the suggestion that a male character being placed in the same pose/costume/anatomic-style will be perceived as more ridiculous than the female character, or make the ridiculousness more obvious while obviously the basic “point” here is to expose the ridiculous, impractical or anatomically impossible nature of the way female characters are represented, that point ends up falling over pretty heavily into transphobia and femmephobia by imagining these representations become more ridiculous by placing men in them. Frequently, in the Hawkeye Initiative or similar strategies, you see things like word balloons saying “I’m so pretty!”, or caption jokes about “look at Tony Stark’s seductive face!”, wherein the humor and “ridiculousness” of the drawing comes not from the basic preposterousness of the female representation itself, but from the way our culture perceives it as innately or intrinsically ridiculous, funny, disgusting, absurd or frivolous for a man (or person whose body we perceive as male) to dress, behave, or perform in “feminine ways.” This idea that it’s somehow inherently comical, or ridiculous, for a man, (or someone so designated), to do “feminine” things is one of the cornerstones of both trans-misogyny and femmephobia (the idea that femininity is inherently more superficial, silly, ridiculous, weak, or impractical than masculinity). [Read more…]
Most of the time, I try to defend my sanity against the onslaught of media weirdness by remembering the words of Elvis Costello: “I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused.”
But sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Sometimes these things overload even my dark and macabre sense of humor. Case in point: the right wing’s response to the Newtown shooting. First, you had Mike Huckabee claiming that it happened because kids aren’t allowed to pray in school. Okay, stupid, insensitive, and untrue, but it’s kind of de rigueur for someone on the right to say this. It might as well be Huckabee, right?
Then, the gun nuts stepped out and claimed that the real problem was that we don’t have enough guns, and that if only all the teachers in the school had been armed and able to return fire, then this whole clusterfuck could have been avoided.
This definitely turns up the crazy a notch, but it’s not totally unexpected. We all know about the right wing’s persistent fantasies that if everyone (i.e., white, Christian people) regularly carried around semi-automatic weapons with hollow-point rounds, violent crime would be naught but the mere rumor of a memory. Again, loopy, but this is another one of those sentiments that’s you expect to hear from the right. It’s almost like an agreed-upon ritual that someone looks at a bunch of people gunned down in a mass shooting and says “If only there had been more guns….” [Read more…]