plainly and simply parasitical on the obvious or univocal reading

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Willing to Concede?

God damn it, dude.

I was all set to begin what I thought was a pretty awesome post about the strained antiradicalism of X3 (supposing that the self-evident misogyny has been covered, and also that, since I can't get the image of Ms. Mota's Arclight out of my head for more than five minutes, I may be undermining myself a bit on that score anyway... but come on! Can't I have one moment of drooling fanboyish weakness? Because I mean, holy shit...), and then I was clicking around on When Fangirls Attack, as I do, and found something that, on this of all days made me go from relatively calm but slightly angry to "Isaidnolunchnogangrenelunch" within minutes.

See, it was yet a third incredulous defense of an entitlement that does not exist (or more accurately exists, but shouldn't) from Erik Larsen that did it. I didn't comment on the first one, or the second, because, well, I'm lazy and update infrequently and also because there were plenty of people saying things that I thought anyway. Besides, his second article was full of "poor me" whining about how everybody was dogpiling him for no reason and from what I could see on message boards, people were actually buying it. So I held back, thinking maybe that was that. But he hasn't stopped.

The first thing that I notice is all the talk about how what he wrote was quoted out of context in people's responses. Fankly, though, that's only a valid criticism if putting the quote back into context changes its meaning. Alas...

And now, to take some quotes out of context:

I'm not saying that we can't do better. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to do better. I'm not excusing anybody. But I also don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to make candy bars for people that would like to buy candy bars.
The thing is, though, it is perfectly reasonable to bring critique against the idea that candy bars make people just as healthy as anything else, in a world where the message that "real" healthy people like to eat their candy bars, and by God it's their right to do so and anyway they just can't help themselves, that's just the way healthy people are after all. To then go on to say that candy bars and the consumption thereof are not harmful to chocolate, caramel and creamy, creamy nougat is a bit disingenuous, no?

And that brings me to this, then I'm done:

If somebody dresses in a way to provoke, is it wrong to be provoked? If you wear a dress with the neckline plunging down to your navel, somebody's going to give you a once over. If you walk down the street in your birthday suit, people will look. Is the person looking at fault? I've heard women get incensed about men checking them out when they're clearly dressing to get the attention that they've gotten.

And somebody's going to get on my case about that statement.

Yeah, me.

Because how do you know someone has dressed in a way to provoke without asking? And more to the point, how do you know they've dressed to provoke you, and not somebody else? Despite what you may have been told, the way a person dresses is not a license to gawk and leer and make them feel uncomfortable. Maybe the reason that women get so mad at being checked out is because they're being checked out by people they aren't interested in, and excessively. Maybe they're getting stared at or harassed (cat-called, for example) by guys who they don't want to talk to or even acknowledge. And what a dodgy statement that is anyway in a world where there are some women who get unwanted attention no matter how they dress or don't dress and there are also women who couldn't get attention of that sort when they do want it (from people they're interested in) no matter how they dress or don't and it has nothing to do with anything about them.

And shame on you for building your own victimization into the statement. Not really very brassy, dude.

So to wrap it all up, there are folks saying he's a decent guy, and I'm sure he is. But that's part of what bothers me: basically decent people do, say, and think this kind of stuff all the time. It's part of what keeps women from being people first. I don't think anyone's saying that the attitudes of individuals are the biggest problem, just that they indicate something deeper, an older and darker magic, if you will...

By the way, I'm not willing to concede that I'm wrong. 'Cause I'm dedicated like that.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The thing is, though, it is perfectly reasonable to bring critique against the idea that candy bars make people just as healthy as anything else, in a world where the message that "real" healthy people like to eat their candy bars, and by God it's their right to do so and anyway they just can't help themselves, that's just the way healthy people are after all. To then go on to say that candy bars and the consumption thereof are not harmful to chocolate, caramel and creamy, creamy nougat is a bit disingenuous, no?"

I want to hug you right now, if only for getting through that column, because I can't for the life of me pick a coherent arrgument out of that mess. It's degenerated into "Oh poor me, it's Larsen-against-the-whooooooole-wooooorld, and I'm not gonna say anything more about it. Oh and one more thing!"

Also, the provocative dressing? First of all, in the past I've been called a hooker for wearing a t-shirt and jeans because that's what some idiots consider sufficiently provocative. More to the point it's not like the CHARACTERS have the capacity to decide what they wear. That decision is made by some guy drawing her in a sexy outfit and saying 'being sexy is part of her character, so lets put in another crotch shot.'

Elizabeth McDonald said...

(I keep on scrapping this comment, because my attempts at writing it keep on looking like comment-spam: 'Congratulations, you have been selected!' 'Please check out my site!' but I beg you to bear with me.)

I'd really love to get your articles for girl-wonder.org. We've got a bit of attention from comics blogs lately, you may have heard of us. (Founder Mary Borsellino's interview with Sequential Tart, Newsarama blog mention.)

In fact, we'd really love you to be associated with our site in any way at all. If you'd like, we can give you as much space as you like to do with as you wish, on the understanding that you do not wake up one morning Dave Sim.

You can contact me at elizabethm*at*girl-wonder.org. Please let me know if there's anything at all I can say to convince you.

Dan Jacobson said...

You got it. I want to help that project out any way I can. Do you know where I can get one of those nifty link buttons?

MJ Norton said...

A tricky subject, aged by over a week regarding threads I haven't read - and, to be honest, have little interest in digging into. Most threads quickly degenerate to ad hominem attacks, and too few people are willing to read more than five sentences and fewer still are interested in a true exchange of ideas. Minds are already set and getting in a show-stopping zinger is often considered the highest art. Besides, I get my comics twice a month and so am perpetually at least two days and sometimes as much as three weeks and two days and behind the times, making every comic I've just read old news in the eyes of the mainstream of comics fandom.

Back on the topic here, I don't want to push much into it. I do think it's naive to expect human beings to divorce people, especially strangers, from their sexuality.

A quick bit of background info on me, as I think these things are important: Recently turned 45, just passed his 21st wedding anniversary with no sign of anything but death bringing that ride to an end, father of 2 sons. Comics fan since roughly the age of 7. Reasonably professional type, I'm a lab director for a consulting engineering firm. By some reckoning I seem to have skipped some aspects of puberty despite being over 6'2" -- I've never gone through that sex-mad phase that many I know have never left. I've never had a porn stash and haven't been able to watch any without having it threaten to put me off my next meal. If women hadn't asked me out I possibly never would have gone out on dates, though had I gone very long without a date that attitude might have changed.

What's evocative for one person can differ radically, and some people's sexual objectification buttons have a hair trigger. The sound of breathing at too high a pitch can set some guys off. That said, if a woman wears, well, something like a costume of the sort seen on many women in comics -- something skin-tight and/or something with a hugely plunging neckline, exposing most of the breasts, and/or an ultra-mini skirt... she's either not thinking or she's trying to provoke a response. This doesn't mean she should be harassed, much less touched without permission, but on the other hand it's approaching outrageous that she could even feign indignation at not being automatically "respected" as a person above and beyond gender.

It also has to be realized that many a woman has employed such dress as a tool -- perhaps something just shy of a weapon -- because they know that it'll reduce some men to gibbering bobbleheads who'll say "yes" to anything in hopes of winning favor. Meanwhile, other more nervous and restrained types are put off because they're desperately afraid of saying something germane to her state of dress or undress and having that used against them.

So, to summarize - evocative dress should never be used as a defense for a rapist or other predator, but to say that only the person doing the dressing can state for the record whether or not the outfit is provocative... strikes me as naive.

As for X3, I must confess I'm mystified by two statements regarding X3:

One, is the "self-evident misogyny", which simply eludes me. The film was vapid, largely mindless and offensive for all the shortcomings arising from that, but misogynistic strikes me as fairly lofty charge to level at a stinkbomb that offered little more than explosive eye candy.

Two, you thought Arclight looked hot? A wide world and different strokes, I suppose. My eyes went straight to her face (I couldn't describe her costume in the film -- as I've said, my libido's seldom been a grand factor) and my first impression each time was that they dug up Sandra Bernhard's kid sister. But, hey, she probably has a great personality, too.

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Thanks! Nifty promotional images can be found here and here, depending on the level of niftiness you want.

tinderblast said...

Also here from girl-wonder.org, for the record - beautiful post. I really have no idea what Larsen's like as a person, but I find his essays intellectually and politically infuriating, so it's great to see you take it apart so neatly.

Mr. Norton, if you're reading this - there are ways to indicate you find the way a woman dresses sexy or attractive without making them feel like you're seeing them as a sexual object rather than a person. ("Hey, nice outfit!" with eye contact and a smile is a good start.) It's as simple and as complicated as that.

MJ Norton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MJ Norton said...

Apparently my reponse was deemed beyond the pale. Anyone who knows me knows I'm the essence of propriety, so apparently this site is under some bizarre set of criteria. I receive some out of left field "advice" for a problem I don't have, advice that portrays me in a negative light, and respond by pointing out a portion of what I'd said previously... and it's apparently too much for here.

Not my place, so not my rules.

Dan Jacobson said...

Unfortunately I couldn't get rid of the part that offended me without deleting your response to the previous poster, which is a clarification I may have wanted myself. I suspect that tinderblast's post was referring to this bit here:

"Meanwhile, other more nervous and restrained types are put off because they're desperately afraid of saying something germane to her state of dress or undress and having that used against them."

I must confess that I'm not sure what "used against them" means in that context.

As to my comment policy, there really isn't one. If I find a comment to be interesting or relevant it stays. If, on the other hand, it is rude to another poster or to myself or threatens to steer the conversation in a way that I don't want it to go, I will delete it. As I said above, I considered it rude of you to suggest that I might be treating you unfairly merely because of a difference of opinion on a matter or two. Your first post, as you will notice, remains above where it has always been, and though I take issue with a number of points, I have not had the time to address them. I was hoping that some others would, but it didn't happen and then the post was old and no one was looking at it anymore. Anyway, I'm sure you meant no offense; however, I took offense and that's sometimes just the way it goes. We work through these moments and hopefully grow. While those who know you may know that you are always proper and polite, I am afraid that I don't know you, and so have only your words to go on.