Okay, the comment threads have exploded on my previous post, which I guess I should have expected considering that I had the nerve to say nasty stuff about GenCon. Only I didn’t expect it, and am now fighting con crud and find that I don’t have the energy to keep up with the multiple conversations. Also, there are a lot of comments (mostly troll comments) that pretty much duplicate each other. So I skimmed through the comment threads and picked out the stuff I felt warranted response.
Stuff that deserves a proper response:
I was not aware of the D20 girls. There was no sign at that particular booth, and I didn’t get close enough to read their badges. Having read the website, I have to say I’m left with pretty mixed feelings. They have some very body-positive stuff to say, and I appreciate that they want women who are knowledgeable about products to be the ones representing them. However, the fact that they are still hiring themselves out as models makes me uncertain of how I feel about this. I’m willing to say mea culpa – I wasn’t aware that these women were any different from the usual model booth babes you get at usual conventions. But I also don’t think I want to be seen as endorsing them either. I think for now I’ll say that I’m Switzerland (neutral) on the subject until I’ve had a chance to think over how I feel about their business model.
Man. I walked away for half a day and this conversation just exploded on me, way past my ability to track it right now. So I’m going to say some stuff that I realize might not respond to everyone’s concerns, but I’m doing my best here.
I don’t have a particular like or dislike for corsets. They’re not for me, but that has a lot more to do with the fact that I trained as a singer for many years; I habitually breathe from the diaphragm which is something you just can’t do in a corset. That said, I understand some women love them, and if it’s something they enjoy then more power to them.
As a tween, I desperately wanted a subscription to 17 magazine. My dad tried out outlaw it, but I bought it with my own money. Something he didn’t articulate until I was in my 20’s that I wish he had said to me earlier was that he was afraid that it would distort my body image and give me harmful ideas about what I was supposed to look like. And he was right – it did. And I wish that someone had SAID THAT to me when I was that tween looking through 17 and not understanding why I didn’t look like those girls. It could have saved me a lot of heartbreak and self-loathing.
So when I see this little girl looking at corsets, I can’t help but put her in a context that is full of distorted and dehumanized depictions of women. And people have made some really good points – I can’t know what’s going through her head. I can’t know that she doesn’t just want to try on that corset because she thinks is pretty. But at the same time I can’t know that the opposite isn’t true. In a situation where the image that is being sold is predominantly white, beautiful, impossibly thin, and entirely distorted, I have trouble thinking that this is entirely a healthy thing.
And who knows, maybe this is a purely personal thing. Maybe I’m doing nothing more than reading my own childhood reactions to distorted images of women into this situation.
I hope that does a better job of unpacking my feelings on the situation. If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to come back later. While I think there’s some good food for discussion, it seems like a tangent to all of the things that I have to say about GenCon.
Troll comments (ie. stuff not really worth my time)
You’re irrationally angry/Sex sells
Screw you. If you’re coming here and saying that, you obviously haven’t been reading anything that I’ve been writing for the last 8 months or so. If you want to come here and have a serious conversation, fine. But if you’re not prepared to check your privilege long enough to try listening to an opposing point of view, then I feel no need to seriously engage with anything you say.
Women need to complain less and do more to change things
You know, it’s really easy to dismiss women by saying that women need to “do things” to change the state of affairs. And the thing that gets lost when you say that is the fact that there are very good reasons for the lack of female involvement in illustration and game development. While I’m not going to say that this is universal, sexual harassment is a huge problem for any woman who “dares” to venture into the world of game development. Even if you’re lucky enough to not have to deal with harassment from your bosses and co-workers, it is not at all uncommon to be harassed by one’s fans. Just look at the fiasco that happened with Jade Raymond, where a pornographic comic was circulated suggesting that she was exchanging sexual favors for promotion of the game. And when some people, rightly, pointed out how reprehensible this was, the response from a lot of male gamers was ‘well that’s what she gets for being an attractive female in game development’. So with all of this, can we be surprised that women aren’t leaping into game design/development/illustration?
But you know what? There are already lots of female game designers, artists, etc out there. There are already women doing some amazing work, and a lot of them don’t get the attention they deserve. So it’s not that we’re not here. It’s that women getting into the development side of things face SUCH a high barrier to entry in terms of feeling welcome, and that many of the women working in game design/development/illustration don’t get the attention that they deserve.
You are against all women being sexualized ever
At the risk of being repetitive, I’m going to quote myself:
I’m not against all sex ever in RPGs. I’m not against all sex ever in art. I’m not against all people ever who like sexy art, or who like sex, or who like sex and RPGs. I’m against people who purposefully, deliberately, and systematically dehumanize women for personal gain and profit.
The problem is that these sexualized depictions of women have become a commodity. The objectification of women becomes a standard practice used to sell games, a practice in which women are reduced to nothing more than their sexy bits while men are allowed to be complete characters with dimensionality beyond their sexayness.
I don’t want to see sex removed from games, because sex is part of the human condition. But the endless parade of dehumanized chainmail bikini porn needs to be addressed, because these sexualized depictions exist solely for the male gamer. It’s not “empowerment” of female sexuality, it’s the commodification of female sexuality – something much, much different.
Men just like sexy ladies
Isn’t it kind of insulting to say that men are inclined to buy any product that has sufficiently luscious T&A associated with it? Do you seriously expect me to believe that men as consumers have all of their purchases decided by whether or not a product is seen as sexy? That’s just ridiculous.
There are men out there who like sexy ladies, sure. There are also men out there who like sexy men, and men who don’t like sexy ladies, and men who like sexy ladies but not marketing that panders to them, and – shockingly – there are also WOMEN who buy products for whom some or all of the above might also be true.
Proclaiming that “men like sexy ladies” as a justification for the systematic marketing of dehumanized sexualized female characters is doing your business a disservice, because you’re proclaiming that your market ONLY consists of straight male gamers – a fact that just isn’t true.
Feminists have no sense of humor/Feminists are dumb/I won’t listen to you unless you’re hot/Feminists are ugly
I love it when trolls quote almost directly from Anti-Feminist Bingo.
Anime encompasses many things that don’t include sexual harassment
I’m quite aware of that fact. When I made that joke about the cover of collateral damage, that was sarcasm.
The human body is art
If the human body is so artistic, then where are all of the mostly-nude depictions of men? Where are all the sexualized male characters with impossible anatomy and distorted poses? Is it only the female form that is beautiful? Or is the male body somehow less than human?
OMG HOW CAN U INSULT ECHO CHERNIK SHE’S A WOMAN SO SHE CAN’T BE SEXIST!!1!ELEVENTYONE
I have repeatedly made a point of criticizing artists who distort the human body and objectify women for personal profit, and Echo Chernik’s artwork fits that criteria very well. Even then, I was (mostly) happy to keep my hatred of her art to myself, were it not for that banner proclaiming proudly that that godawful Shadowrun cover was her work. Because that cover? Is BAD. The breasts were lopsided and defied gravity, the ribcage was wrong, the neck was wrong, the hips were wrong. In addition to being a sexualized distortion of the female figure, it was a poorly done sexualized depiction, and not even up to Echo’s usual high standards of craft and workmanship. Even if I hate Echo’s art, I am still happy to admit that the level of skill and aesthetic is very high, and the Shadowrun cover did NOT live up to that usual high standard.
But let me also add that being a woman does not give someone an automatic pass when it comes to sexism. As is common with any form of oppression (homophobia, racism, sexism, etc), members of oppressed minorities often internalize oppressive ideas. You can’t say that Echo is incapable of producing sexist art because she’s a woman, because sexism is something that all of us participate in. Even you, and even me.
[And that’s enough of that. My next post will be the other half of my photos from GenCon.]