May 30, 2007

14th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans

p.. Welcome to the 14th Edition of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, which will probably be known forever as "the carnival eaten by comics posts." When we stepped up to host this carnival, we had no idea how much you people blog! Especially if, y'know, there are two major "incidents" in one month (cough MJ and Heroes cough). So if you blogged about something other than comics and we missed your post, we apologize. We were caught off guard. We were overwhelmed. And Grace's dogs ate our homework. Thanks to everyone who helped by sending in links, and thanks to all the bloggers who wrote posts this month. Y'all rock! Off we go.... Sometimes the stories we (want to) love don't exactly love us back Perturbed on Pern on the Feminist SF Blog is lizzard's explanation of how the stories we turn to for comfort can fall apart if you look at them too closely: bq.. The Pern books are indisputably girl canon. That doesn't make them paragons of feminism, though. Since I'm feeling really bitchy let's pick apart some of the more annoying things about Pern. [...] Basically, unless you're one of like 5 women on Pern - unless you're a weyrwoman, or Menolly, or Mirrim, or maybe Manora - life totally sucks and you might as well not bother. p. Just Past the Horizon: Obligatory Power Girl Boob Post by Lisa Fortuner at Blog@Newsarama: bq. Look at her passive stance. The placid shape of her eyes and that confused tilt to her head. Her arms are limp at her sides, and her body is positioned as if its just an outgrowth of those round orbs attached to her chest. They are spherical, perky, and seem to float in the air. By comparison the rest of Power Girl, from her hair to her belt, seems to hang. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if the final cover showed a puppeteer at the top and strings attached to her head and breasts. She's like a doll. A robot. The vacant look even implies she's been turned off for the night. This is not Power Girl. p. ginmar looks at how Buffy's writers missed the mark during its last two seasons, contrasting it with Supernatural, in Everything to Everybody: bq. Buffy found out about monsters on her fifteenth birthday. She died for the first time when she was sixteen. The writers of Supernatural, example, have taken some trouble to show how weirdly the boys were brought up and trained by their dad. At least they were prepared. Buffy was really not prepared for anything except constant thankless fighting, a lonely life, and an early death. And even soldiers who train for war find an insurgent war---where the enemy can jump out at you at any time----hard to take. p. From Feminism and Final Fantasy by Moira on Feminist Gamers: bq.. Reading is dangerous business -- I'd always thought Tifa was wearing shorts in Final Fantasy VII, but I read that it was a miniskirt, and that there had been some serious discussion among the creative types at SquareSoft (now Square-Enix) whether to put her in a miniskirt or pants. Why couldn't it have been pants!? p. Heroes: Do Better by Purtek on The Hathor Legacy conveys the deep love mixed with acute disappointment that every feminist fan has experienced at some point: bq. I find it exceptionally painful when a show that is brilliant in every other way, and that I really, really love, fails miserably on the presentation of women characters. And everything about Heroes just keeps getting better and better, with that one glaring exception. p. From Princess Peach: Feminist? on Coin Heaven: bq. In the end, I have to give a tentative "no" to the question of whether Peach could be considered a feminist figure. That answer may not surprise too many people. Take one look at that dress and hear her cutesy giggles, and most would assume she's worse than a Disney princess on a high after her weekly prettiness injections. However, if you think about it, Nintendo's gotten better about treating her more like an actual character and not just a pretty pink thing waiting in Bowser's jail. p. The Right and Wrong Way to Write Wonder Woman by angryrantgirl on Neither Doormat Nor Prostitute: bq. And oh, Amazons Attack. Because, yes, DC. The perfect way to showcase Diana as a character is to say "Hey, all strong women are crazy bitches who threaten order and your very way of life." Of course. Because the very definition of feminism is to storm Washington and kill innocent fathers of small children. Oh, DC. Do you have any clue what you're doing at all? And now, a few words from our not-sponsors p.. From In Which I Help Out Marvel's Marketing Department by Kevin Church. Thanks, Kevin! VERY large breasted comic book woman, marketing text says It's OK we're lonely too It doesn't have to be like this Breastblog 2007 by Karen Healey at Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed) bq. So how do you think I feel, watching writer after writer and artist after artist saying "Yes, Power Girl is bold, she's angry, she fights the good fight - but don't ever forget the breasts! It doesn't matter if that personality isn't evident in the art! Emphasise the boobs, always, over everything else!"? p. White and Black Sexuality in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End by Lake Desire on the Feminist SF blog: bq. Anamaria, the black pirate captain in the first film, is long gone with no mention, alas. Is too much of a stretch of the imagination to have two women of color characterized as diversely as the plethora of white men in these films? p. It's Hard Out Here for a Fangirl, on the blog Sequentially Speaking: Comic Book Conversations: bq. Some women have even thrown in the towel, basically saying that superhero comics aren't for women. We just shouldn't bother because there are enough good non-superhero comics out there and the superhero comic book industry doesn't care if we like what they make or not and frankly, doesn't make it for women anyway. How sad is that? Give up on action? Give up on adventures? Give up on escaping to a world where people can fly and lift cars? She does the laundry so I can be the conqueror! Mary Jane statue The Mary Jane statue is widely regarded as a travesty, and we agree. But look at all the good blogging that came out of this episode! First, post titles that made us laugh. Spider-Sense . . . Cringing . . . by Jonathan Woodward. Because a woman's place is doing the laundry. In pearls. Barefoot. With her thong showing. Not to mention her ass. on Feministe. The necklace makes it classy... on Berts and the Bees.
Next, the comments we're so glad we read. Invite these people to your next party: * "Yep, we've come a long way. She would've had to wear a skirt to do this twenty years ago." (From I took the palm to the face on no two elements interlock) * "Mary Jane is a very important woman. She doesn't have time to stay home and do laundry." (From What have they done to you, Mary Jane? on Same as a Wildcat) * "MJ is clearly acting out a fantasy of Peter's, one in which she evokes both Donna Reed and Coyote Ugly while doing his laundry and, simultaneously, practicing yoga. Of course, the laundry and the sexual tension are distractions which interfere with the yoga, which is why this kind of scene so often results in chiropracty, but who am I to judge the games they play Chez Parker?" (From About That Statuette... by RiceVermicelli) p. Of course, there were also serious analyses of why, exactly, sexist representations of women like this one are bad news. We particularly liked Hold a mirror up to life by liviapenn: bq. When a girl or woman picks up "Wizard" and can't make it 5 pages in without being grossed out by the softcore and the sexist jokes, or when a woman walks into a comics shop and sees statues like MJ, Emma and Supergirl proudly displayed in a place of honor, and when (as you said) she can't buy JLA without the Peej cover-- or when a woman goes to a website and sees misogynist ads with a woman who's got a lock over her mouth-- more likely than not, she's going to put down the magazine, walk out of the comics shop, and close the website. If the creators and retailers are okay with the fact that, *to the average person*, they look like a bunch of creepy perverts, then fine-- they don't need to change anything they're doing. p.. And oh, the art. The Peter Parker Coquette by Nancy Lorenz. What if we turned the tables a bit? Spidey in a thong, doing Mary Jane's laundry? If it doesn't make you feel enough better, here's Nancy's page on deviantART, which rocks. (And a little bird told us she's releasing her first comic soon, so keep your eyes peeled and your wallet ready.)  You can also enjoy these truly inspirational posters by the most excellent Señora de la Cranky Pantalones. Mary Jane doing your laundry? You're delusional. Supergirl looking like that? Creepy. (There's one more in her post, so go there and enjoy.)   p.. Who has value? Yonmei looks at a Vernor Vinge novel in The Witling: how men think of ugly women on the Feminist SF blog: bq. A contemporary critic claimed of Charlotte Bronte that she would have given all her novels to be pretty: a dismissal that ignores everything we know about her writing life. Vinge seems to think that Yonnine would give everything - her career, her skills, and everything that makes her her - to appear attractive to just one person. In fact, he ensures she does. If they're heroes, why do they look like that? Heroes For Hire #13 cover Ah yes, the Heroes for Hire #13 cover. Comics blogdom didn't even have a chance to catch its collective breath from the MJ debacle when this appeared. Are you people serious? You think this is ok? Luckily for truth and justice, Lea Hernandez did a couple of remixes. If your eyes hurt from looking at the original, head over there and get a little healing. (Lea, we heart you. Thank you for trying to make it better.)
Why Mainstream Comics Suck, Part 467 by Elin: bq.. Misty Knight was one of those characters that you just sort of encountered in comics when you grew up in the 1970's. She was a butt-kicking powerful black woman, like Pam Grier in Coffy, and she was really cool. Her friend, Colleen Wing, was also a butt-kicking strong woman, though not as cool as Misty, of course. As I recall, Misty and Colleen don't really even have any kind of superpowers, they just kick ass. So, now even the women without superpowers have to be made powerless and weak? Is that how it is, Marvel? p. Heidi MacDonald quotes Elin, and adds her own thoughts in the aptly titled post And the tits just keep coming: bq. The really really sad thing is that inside the Biosphere, up on the mountain, probably nobody gave this a second thought. Nobody thought that "Misty Knight and the Black Cat and Colleen Wing shouldn't be shown this way because it demeans them as characters." p. Humph predicts some bad fallout from the cover, In which Misty Knight isn't black any more: bq. Who wants to bet that Marvel's response to complaints, if they even acknowledge them at all, will include, "But you said you wanted more women and non-white artists and now you don't like the results so we're sticking with teh white menz in future AND IT'S ALL THE FEMINISTS AND ANTI-RACISTS FAULT THAT WE'RE NOT EMPLOYING WOMEN OR PEOPLE OF COLOUR!!1!!" p. We'd have to flip a coin to pick our favorite of these two comments: * "Hey the comics industry: I got tired of your sexism so I went to sports fandom. Men's sports fandom." (From Sport fandom vs. Comics fandom by unloveable hands) * "This is shocking! Nine years old is far too LATE to learn that women aren't human!" (By harriet_spy, referenced by Ide Cyan in a post on metaquotes) p.. What do feminists want? p. It's as simple as this in a post on Iamza's Kraal - Argh!: bq. As for what I'd like to see when it comes to female characters in comics, well, I'd like to see women who aren't afraid to speak up when they're getting mistreated. I'd like to see women who aren't afraid to fight for what they believe in, and who retain some semblance of personality in the doing. deconcentrate starts out "This was, initially, just a comment in someone's blog. I decided it merited a full post." We're so glad he did: bq. Next time you want to pretend this sort of sexist twattery in superhero books doesn't upset the people who are supposedly the target audience for superhero books, think again. Because we, the men, don't need to sit here and be told this is what we want when it really isn't. p. From Feminism For All? by Cheryl Lynn on her blog Digital Femme (emphasis ours): bq.. [...]I honestly believe that the addition of black female characters with a wider variety of features will not result in greater diversity. It will simply result in dark-skinned women being eliminated from the scene completely. After all, we're not what turns the fanboys on, right? And if we're no longer needed for token diversity, why keep us around? And where would we go? To manga companies? To "female friendly" comic companies and imprints? Black women are ignored to an even greater extent in those arenas. We're shunned by the very companies that are heralded as alternatives for women and girls tired of the sexism found in the mainstream. And those companies are so busy patting themselves on the back that they cannot even see how they've turned their backs on us. p.. (Don't skip that post, y'all. Seriously.) p. sabonasi checks out Upfronts Day 1: NBC and the pilots they showed: bq.. Now, both Bionic Woman and Lipstick Jungle are a part of a push on the part of NBC to win the female demograph. I've heard this before, both regarding television and regarding other forms of media. I appreciate the effort. Really, I do. However... Female is not a genre. We're not a niche market or a monolith. "What women want" doesn't work because women vary and we have varied interests. p. Some feminists would just like to see some reasonable costumes for a change. Comic Costume Week: Women Wednesday on 79soul: bq. I get it. She's a ninja. She does ninja... stuff. She wants to be agile and, uh... sneaky? Whatever. This costume doesn't work. Unless, of course, the goal is to look like a stripper or a porn-star. In which case it works really well. p. Mind the Gap reviews a poll in Men and Women like different films (except for Star Wars) according to Sky: bq. I absolutely cannot abide Star Wars, so if anyone can explain the appeal to women that would be good. In addition to the sexism, the conservative pseudo-religious bumbling really gets on my nerves (Anger leads to the dark side? Oh fuck off George), but I have to admit I'd be more inclined to put up with that if Leia got to be a lightsaber wielding Jedi Knight too. p. Amber Night says It's All About Teh Fun. Her post is substantive and interesting, but we're going to cheat and pull out a good one-liner (even though it's not representative) because it was just too good to pass up: bq. On the other hand, sometimes girls really do just want to have fun and beat on shit with their female avatar. Do I Really Have to Go This Far Just to Make a Point? at Dave Ex Machina gives us this intro to "the newest superhero sensation" as a reminder to creators: bq. Marketing research for comics companies show that the audience for mainstream superhero comics is overwhelmingly male. For some people, this means that companies such as Marvel and DC don't have to worry about being inclusive (or even merely not being offensive) to women. If they're not reading, why worry about them? p.. Does this example help? From Power Girl: Spot the Difference on Paperghost.com: power girl done wrong comic book cover power girl done right comic book cover Some people do right by us The Angry Black Woman likes Martha, the new Doctor Who companion, and quite a few other aspects of the show, as she explains in ABW's TV Corner - Doctor Who: bq.. When the first episode aired, all of my hopes were fulfilled and moreso. Martha is clever. Brilliant, really. She asks smart questions. She loves an adventure. She's brave and awesome. And the writers do a really good job of acknowledging that she's Black without making her be All About The Blackness. [...] One thing I've noticed about Doctor Who (and some other BBC shows) is that the show does not suffer from the "all white universe" syndrome that American SF shows do. No matter if they're in the present or travel into the future, there are brown people there. Brown people of all kinds -- leaders, lackeys, stupid, smart, important to the plot, background filler. There are even some brown people in the past. p. Julian Seal writes about Sexism in the gaming industry on Adventure Classic Gaming: bq. The protagonists Zoë Castillo and April Ryan [...] in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey are by far perfect examples of females with a heart and a mind. Zoë and April aren't back seat drivers, they're leaders. Zoë is hot. She's also smart, caring, and charismatic. Zoë possesses the type of background and storyline that not just women can relate, but both sexes can. The same goes for April. [...] Like a good story, you follow them every step of the way. p. Rebecca on Active Voice liked the young adult science fiction novels Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment and School's Out--Forever. We particularly liked her comments about Max's relationship: bq. When Max sees Fang kissing someone else, she's jealous; but that jealousy doesn't consume her. (Also, when she meets a boy she really likes and their date goes well, she's excited...but not so excited it changes her core character. When it comes to the split-second choice between trusting him and running when she's being chased, she runs for it. It's a great, if sad, moment, that really shows Max's consistency and strength.) p.. What a long Carnival, do you need a break? As liz says, this helpful sign from the Museum of Science Fiction is "not quite deconstructing binary gender, but funny": bathrooom sign with woman and man symbols and alien symbols too p.. Why it matters kphoebe describes the Most Important Things fallacy in WHY? WHY?: bq.. It goes like this: "OKAY, so that statue might be a tiny weeny little bit offensive to YOU, though I can't see it. But BIG DEAL! How can you spend all your time complaining about a statue when women don't have equal pay/women in Muslim countries are oppressed/domestic abuse stats are so high? YEAH! BURN!" This neatly decries both the importance of pop culture artefacts as the product and supplier of cultural norms and gets the either/or love going. p. Kalinara, in Don't Project Your Shame Over Here: bq.. Sexist caricatures, like racist or homophobic caricatures, are not a harmless phenomenon. They spread the idea that women, that racial minorities, that gay people are a certain way, which promotes a subconscious message that it's all right to treat people in an unfair and unequal way. It's all right to treat women like sluts or shallow, image-obsessed mental deficients. It's all right to treat minorities like they're somehow less than white people. It's all right to treat gay people like they're conscienceless, perverted, sex-obsessed freaks! p. Kotetsu, in You keep using that term, "fannish entitlement." I do not think it means what you think it means: bq. It does make you feel like less of a human being when you open up your favorite comic book to find that a character of your gender, race, religion, orientation, or disability only exists as the butt of a joke, or as cannon fodder, or as a grotesque, outdated stereotype. p. And in case you still don't understand why it matters, we give you Princess Leia Made Me A Feminist on the blog Building an army of misplaced lovers? (emphasis ours): bq. Growing up in the deepest darkest back waters of west wales I had no feminist role models apart from my grandmother and the kick ass feminist attitude of ones then 60 year old grandma is rarely apparent to 10 year olds. I lived in a household where women waited on and took care of men. Where men could and did use physical violence and the threat of physical violence to silence women and 10 year old girls. I lived in a society where intelligence, especially and particularly female intelligence, was a bad thing. And where male and female relationships were based on the physical attractiveness of women, not their fesitiness or abilities. In that context Star Wars didn't just give me hope, it showed me what to hope for. p.. Princess Leia with gun Princess Leia Organa, by Alison Sommer, from her collection Strong Women of Sci-Fi. There are several others in her collection, you should go see them immediately. Thanks, Alison!
Creators Speak The summary of East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, Pt. 3: "Having Our Say: Black Women Discuss Imagery" on Boiling Point Blog is extremely valuable. Mikhaela has our thanks for doing the work so we could benefit from the thoughts of panelists Rashida Lewis, L.A. Banks, Cheryl Lynn Eaton and moderator Stephanie Brandford. It touches on both movies and comics, so check it out.  Don't miss Karen Ellis's two-part series on the objectification of women in art. First, part 1, then part 2. That's a small teaser preview for part 1 over there. As she suggested to us, you may also want to check out the background comics on Octobriana (Octobriana Part 1, Octobriana Part 2).
Community and Conflict Lake Desire was not quite satisfied with how her post was included in the recent Carnival of the Gamers. From On Being the Token Girl Gamer: bq. It took me this long to speak up. I'd rather be included than not, and don't want to upset that and be locked out from participating in future Carnival of Gamer posts. And I don't want to attract flames from any men who might read this post and want to berate me for being uppity and unpleasant. p. Celia Pearce posts about her experience asking why there were no female game developers invited to participate in An Excellent Panel with a Serious Flaw at the Game Developers Conference. Her description of what happened after the conference: bq. When I got up this morning, knowing I wanted to blog about this, I did a quick search on Google to see if anyone else had beat me to it. Anticipating some kind of horrendous backlash, and that I would be a pariah, with perhaps a smattering of positive comments. It's funny how we always make a bigger deal of things than anyone else. There were about a dozen posts I found on the panel. Only on of them mentioned my question within a list of other questions asked; I could not find a single critique by anyone else of this issue. In other words, nobody seemed to care. Which makes me feel both worse and better at the same time. p.. (Even if you aren't a gamer or game developer, this post and the extensive comments are a fascinating read for anyone interested in the topic of gender in tech conference programming.) Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women's Gaming Magazine on Molten Boron has a good summary of events up until now between Kotaku and the folks involved with Cerise, then looks at what happened on Kotaku when the first edition of Cerise was published: bq.. Kotaku's commenting environment is utterly toxic, as demonstrated in part by this very thread. Feminists and others who don't believe that Women Need to Shut Up are quickly shouted down when they voice an opinion not in line with that of the average Kotaku commenter. Thus, Kotaku has become a place where everyone is free to comment, provided they don't think that women need their own space to discuss video games. The dissonance is delightful. [...] p. Speaking of community, shout-out to the SFBookswap, which has this to say about itself: bq. We're a group of readers and writers who love science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We're frustrated at the lack of female authors represented on some award ballots. We want to bring greater attention to wonderful books and short fiction written by women. And, in doing so, read a lot of great fiction ourselves. We're dedicated to the idea that women should be able to participate in our genre's awards process despite lack of resources or funding. We believe in the power of community to affect change. p. And what about the fanfiction written by women? If, like us, you don't know much about this phenomenon and this month's goings-on, check out these posts: * Slash fandom and male privilege/hetero privilege by Yonmei on Feminist SF (Editorial note: by choosing this link, we are not saying that all fanfiction is slash. However, it seemed like a good primer on some of the gender aspects and it links to another good essay.) * Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib on Confessions of an Aca/Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins * The all-male board of directors at Fanlib, and why it is relevant. by paradox_dragon p.. It's not just entertainment, it's practical too! Clarus turned the Mary Jane statue situation to particularly good use, developing a list of Things to watch out for when going to a guy's house for the first time. One can never be too careful. The Totally Wicked Return of Misfit, Reading Your Mail! helps us tell the difference between right and wrong: bq. You were SO not wrong! If there's anything I learned from after-school specials, it's that domestic violence is bad! And that you should say no to drugs. So defending yourself against a creepy stalker who hit you and tried to control you is totally okay. p. With Great Boyfriends Come Great Responsibilities lets the ladies know the score when you're dating a superhero: bq. Yes, he's super. Yes, he can rescue you. But when he's got to choose between you and a bus full of big-eyed homeless Malaysian orphans with severe Projectile Pity Disorder because you couldn't fend off Ulterior Motive Man's latest lame-brained kidnapping scheme, boy are you going to feel like a heel. p.. (Editorial note: Mary Jane in Spider Man 3, ARE YOU LISTENING? One cinder block and some screaming? WhatEVER. The evil net wasn't even STICKY!) In Conclusion If you missed it, please head over to The Angry Black Woman's blog and enjoy the May 2007 Erase Racism Carnival. It has a good collection of links on race in speculative fiction, writing, pop culture, and current events. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the first People of Colour SF Carnival. The first edition is due out in June. For both of those carnivals, as well as for this one, we'd like to ask you to do a few things. If you read a post that's linked, and you like it, read at least one other post on that blog. Comment on one of the posts you like, letting the author know you liked it. Or if you have a blog of your own, link directly to one or two of your faves from the Carnival. Support the blogs you love! The location of the next Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans is as yet unknown, but we do know that it will be full of WisCon reports. So if you want to live vicariously, that will be the way to do it. Look for announcements soon!

10 Comments

Great round-up!

Thank you for all those lovely links and your hard work. I especially appreciate the way you emphasised digitalfemme's thought-provoking post.

You know, I have to admit ... why the hell read this stuff? I am SO out of this crap anymore -- the whole roundup is like, "Nope. Nope. Nope, nope. Not there, either. Still no. Nothing there. Crap, crap, crap. More crap. Oh look, crap."

*whacks head on desk repeatedly*

Janis, I had a similar feeling when I saw how it was stacking up. I don't know if I just overlooked more of the positive posts because there was so much hubbub this month.

I wonder how the Carnival would turn out if the host encouraged people to write and submit posts about what they love - because surely it's out there, or we would have all quit reading the genre! :)

Honestly, Skye -- I have. I just can't tolerate it anymore. It's like being in a smoke-free environment and then going back into a pool hall. You just gag nonstop and can't imagine how the hell you possibly stood it for as long as you did before.

Also, I'm not entirely certain how many people are "still" reading it. It may be the case that the genre keeps a low level of female participation because there's always a supply of optimistic 20-something who think it will improve, but by the tim e they hit 40, they've all left ... and the next crop of 20-something is in place.

Are there any (or many) women who have stayed with the genre long enough to get as old and crusty and still participate and read as many old-school male comic fans or creators? I'd wager not. I'd wager genre entertainment has a much harder time holding onto female fans than male ones. Unless the women are part of an almost exclusively female fandom space, like slash.

Well, if anyone wants to host an all-positive carnival, all they need to do is ask to host.

A fantastic carnival. The section about communities was really interesting. Oh, and thanks so much for the link!

I also thought this made for a great round up, and thank you for posting some very interesting and entertaining links.

I wonder if some of the negativity is, in part, because it is easier to find something worthwhile to say about the things one dislikes/hates than it is to find a new and novel way of saying, "Hey, I loved this! It was great, and you should all go and read it now."

Finally, thank you for the link! :-)

If you are looking for well rounded female heroines who kick ass and are well defined and strong without any sexist undertones, read Simon R. Green's DeathStalker series, Nighside, Hawk and Fisher/Blue Moon Rising. Garth Nix writes a good series for teenage girls that adults can enjoy. Sabriel.

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