Internet Encounters: Someone Actually Said ‘Feminazis’

This is probably something that is encountered my female feminists more often than by male feminists. It’s not the only thing—it’s not entirely uncommon for angry men to tell female feminists over the internet that they should be raped. Awful. And it’s all part of Lewis’ Law (referring to the journalist, Helen Lewis): “the comments on any article abut feminism justify feminism.”

Very true.

So, today, I saw a lovely post on Tumblr about one of my favorite superheroes, Wonder Woman.

Tumblr users superblys posted the following, in bullet points:

By the time that this post reached my dashboard, others who had reblogged it had added images of Wonder Woman being awesome.

I reblogged the post, because it was very much to my taste. And I happened to glance down at the other notes. Somewhere along the way, though not in the direct path of the version of the post that reached me, Tumblr user mariahellbunny reblogged with this comment:

And actually used the word feminazi. Or, you know, the plural form.

I do not understand.

And I would like to know exactly what this Tumblr-user (possibly a female?) means by the term.

So, here was my response:

To clarify, I’m not suggesting that it is reasonable that people be uncomfortable with Wonder Woman for this. Fictional characters, including superheroes, do not have to fit into a tidy little box. The idea that people would feel uncomfortable because Wonder Woman uses brute force and a warrior’s skill instead of improbably artful ninja skills is upsetting to me.

Please do not make the mistake of believing that most of the responses were negative. From what I can tell, most of the responses have been quite positive. Lots of reblogs and comments and clarifications and messages of support for superblys.

Miscommunications happen online all of the time. Maybe mariahellbunny thought that people were cheering, specifically, for Wonder Woman to go around killing men because they are men. I don’t know.

I do know that using the word ‘feminazis’ turns the credibility of any argument that you might make to 0. You might as well use the word ‘chemtrails.’



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Ridiculing The Ridiculous: Chainmail Bikinis

Disclaimer: I am all kinds of fine with sexualized characters in fiction. I’ve heard friends describe themselves by saying: “My sexual orientation is the cast of Teen Wolf.” That’s awesome. I love beautiful characters in books, in comics, in film, on television. Fanfic, even. It’s not just that sex sells and adds a few bonus points to the media that I am consuming—it can add another layer to a character and to character relationships.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me just say that, sometimes, sexualizing a character really sucks. Sometimes, it’s a bad move purely from a storytelling standpoint. Case in point: the “chainmail bikini.”

This has a lot of forms, but basically the idea is a female warrior of some sort (whether she’s a futuristic super-soldier or a warrior princess in the sword and sorcery type of fantasy storytelling) whose armor seems designed to titillate consumers (readers, viewers, etc) rather than to actually protect the female character’s body from harm.

Now, sometimes, clothing is revealing. Emma Frost from X-Men is a great example.

But, as you may have noticed, her clothing is not even attempting to be armor. Emma Frost is a telepath—she does not fight you hand-to-hand, she destroys your mind from the inside out. And if she can’t and she needs to protect herself from some sort of physical danger, well, she can shift her body into an organic diamond form. Not a lot of armor out there that can beat that, you know? And, like every person, she is welcome to dress however the hell she damn well pleases. Female characters in comics are too often sexualized for no apparent reason, but sexuality is very much a part of Emma Frost’s character.

When I say armor, I mean some sort of protective attire that is supposed to physically protect characters against harm. If you aren’t the sort of fighter who wears armor, that’s fine. But the idea of putting a character in minimal armor and then arguing that it “serves as a distraction” is, well, absurd.

How about nope.

In battle, you kill your enemies. You don’t pause, do a Squidward voice, and exclaim: “Oh, no! She’s hot!”

But, this isn’t a post to argue with people who want to shut their eyes and make-believe that “distraction” is a good enough reason for a character to leave herself unprotected. Actually, I really started thinking about this post because this post showed up on Tumblr (here you can see where I’ve reblogged it and added my own comments; the original poster then reblogged it from me which is always really flattering).

If you are totally dead-set on having a character be drawn provocatively, you can give it a more plausible explanation. Let’s say that you have a female warrior character who is, personally, almost invulnerable to physical harm (like Superman, but maybe she’ll get a decent film made about her). So, why would she wear armor? It would be an expensive extra weight that is much more fragile than her own body. She would wear, I assume, clothes that allowed her to move freely. Probably not a bikini, but reasonably attractive clothes.

If you really wanted, you could have her buy some very expensive undergarments, made of diamondmail or dragon scales or whatever you like. Then, if you’re totally dead-set on your female warrior going around in various stages of undress, you can have that be her contingency plan. If her clothes are torn off by a pack of wolves or incinerated in a fire, she’ll still have her ultra-durable underwear that is from a material that is too darn expensive or heavy for the rest of her body.

It’s a crowbar move, but it’s an option.

I hate crowbar plot moves. Sometimes, when a writer really wants to do something, he or she will go out of his or her way to rearrange everyone and everything in a story to make that one thing plausible. Ever see a show suddenly change dramatically in a single episode, with a character getting a massive wardrobe/design change and another character leaving abruptly? That happened on Andromeda when they switched lead writers (and it was a tragic twist). Sometimes we see it from one season to another on all sorts of television shows, when a killed-off character suddenly ceases to be dead “because of reasons” or someone’s personality changes.

That’s annoying enough without having the clear purpose of getting your character’s clothes off.

If you want sexy characters, whether it’s a TV show or a novel, there are plenty of ways to do that. With the exception of a certain nevernude from Arrested Development, people are naked in real life all of the time. In fantasy, this can happen even more. Shape-shifters, especially those who take other-than-human forms, can very plausibly end up in little to no clothing as a fact of life.

As it happens, my Super-Best-Friend and I are writing a book right now that involves a few shape-shifters. In our case, we weren’t really sitting around plotting to write a book about a bunch of characters who sometimes don’t wear clothes (it’s actually an occasional obstacle in writing, because dramatic scenes don’t need to be interrupted by people reacting to each other’s nudity). But it comes up.

It comes up when comic writers write Incredible Hulk stories. Or Superman (or Superboy, on Young Justice – unlike Superman, Superboy’s clothes were normal human attire, not Kryptonian material, so if someone shot him in the chest with an energy weapon or clawed at him, his clothes were torn. No one complained).

There are so many ways to write characters, especially female characters, who can be strong and sexual without perpetually putting themselves on display for other characters—and for the reader. Writers need to be conscious of this. Readers need to be conscious of this.

Sexual characters are great—so long as they make sense. And, ideally, so long as the sexualization is evenly distributed.

And we all need to call out people on their nonsense.

 



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Butawhiteboy Cantbekhan

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek films. These films have a good budget, great actors, and are action-packed and endearing in many ways.

They also have their problems. The most recent and notable of which was the casting of Khan. Khan, who originally appeared on The Original Series and later in Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan, was the product of eugenics (less the genocidal type and more the selective breeding and genetic augmentation type) from the Eugenics War. He was a POC, which was a bold move (among many bold moves) for Star Trek (suggesting that a perfect human would be something other than white). And it was not just progress for the sake of seeming progressive—it makes sense that any “perfect specimen” of humanity would not be monoracial.

But I don’t really want to talk about multiracial people or eugenics at the moment—I want to talk about casting. Because (I hope that this is not a spoiler for anyone), JJ Abrams chose to whitewash the character of Khan, as he is played in the film by Banananut Cheerios (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Now, Boomerang Contradict (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an actor on BBC’s Sherlock series, and is therefore entirely unavoidable if you are on Tumblr. He has a lot of fans who would be delighted to watch him play anything. While I bear him no personal ill will (though I am fatigued by how much he shows up on Tumblr), I am definitely in the “seriously this was a terrible choice for Khan” crowd.

The following image was the original post of Butawhiteboy Cantbekhan. And it’s perfect. Because, well, whitewashing a POC into a white dude is a step backwards.

More recently, someone posted on Tumblr that no one should hate Blenderman Crumbucket (Benedict Cumberbatch) “for being white,” on the grounds that that is racist. The following was my response:

It’s not hating on him for being white. It is, in fact, a very justified moral outrage at Khan being whitewashed. Which makes no sense for a number of reasons.

It’s really JJ Abrams who is responsible — actors are, I think, expected to take major roles that they are offered (under most circumstances). But it’s not a lack of diversity on its own, and it’s not just normal whitewashing (like if they had cast a white woman to play Storm in X-Men, which would still be awful).

Khan is a genetically enhanced product of eugenics. He’s a perfect physical specimen (which can have many interpretations, certainly), is absolutely brilliant, and absolutely no augments should, realistically, be monoracial. It makes no sense.

Combine something that upsets me as a nerd (that he just doesn’t fit the idea of Khan) with the great-step-backwards whitewashing of an intellectual mastermind (who was a groundbreakingly progressive choice in TOS), and we all have every right to be angry about Into Darkness.

No one hates Benadryl Copperpot (Benedict Cumberbatch) for being white. I don’t think that anyone hates him for accepting that particular role. But I do think that many of us hate the idea of him portraying that role.

PS: I was pretty fond of Fringe but it seems like it’s JJ Abrams’ mission in life to make me want to set him on fire. He might succeed.

PPS: If you think that I’m getting all worked up over nothing, think about Disney’s Lone Ranger film. In which they could not bring themselves to cast a Native American as a Native American.



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Stand With Wendy

If you get your news from, well, major news outlets, chances are that you have no idea who Wendy Davis is. She is a state senator from Texas who, on Tuesday, spent thirteen hours filibustering a piece of anti-choice legislation. SB5 aims to not only ban abortion after twenty weeks of gestation, but to raise the requirements for clinics where abortions can be performed to such a level that the law would effectively shut down all but a handful of the state’s clinics.

Texas has over twenty-six million residents. This is a big deal for millions of American women. With a Republican majority in the Texas senate and Governor Yosemite Sam Rick Perry unlikely to veto any anti-choice measures, the only way to stop SB5 from being passed was with a filibuster.

Each state has its own specific regulations for its state legislature. On a federal level, filibusters can go wildly off-topic (we have all heard stories of entries from a phone book being read) and can even be performed without anyone actually standing and speaking. In Texas, filibustering means speaking on-topic without sitting, leaning against your podium, or taking a break.

So that is what Wendy Davis did. For thirteen hours. She received three “warnings,” being accused of going off-topic (in once case by discussing Roe v. Wade, because, you know, that’s so unrelated to a bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose?).

She was then prevented from filibustering further, but her allies in the senate then began asking questions on procedure and arguing against Wendy being silenced (to stall for time). When the questions failed, crowds of onlookers began chanting so loudly that the senate was unable to call a vote until after midnight (the deadline).

Now, just to clarify, this was not followed by major news outlets. But this was livestreamed. It was all over Twitter. If you don’t take Twitter news seriously, you should know that it’s not just for gossip or Arab Springs or hearing about earthquakes before everyone else. #StandWithWendy was trending, worldwide, above almost everything else.

While there are millions of wonderful, pro-equality, and tech-savvy baby-boomers in the world, this image best represents my thoughts on the livestream:

This is really, truly important. My dashboard on Tumblr is usually full of fandom images, funny images, and occasionally beautiful people in various stages of undress. Tonight, it was all about Wendy Davis, Texas, and the filibuster—from images or a few words of support to my friend’s wonderful thoughts on the filibuster and how people view Southern politics. Twitter was no different. It was beautiful.

We followed the filibuster, we followed the debate on procedures, we followed the protest as the senate Republicans desperately raced against time.

To the collective outrage of hundreds of thousands of people who were viewing this live (I listened to the livestream for hours, like a radio show, while doing other things), the senate “passed” SB5, though it was after midnight. Which is illegal. And they stamped the official time as 11:59. As some people phrased it, they “mansplained time to a clock.”

As if no one would notice.

It was only while I was already writing this post that the closed-door session announced that, despite their best efforts, they could not get away with “passing” SB5. Because, officially, they were determining if it had been passed, but they were actually determining whether or not they could get away with their time-altering shenanigans (time-travel irritates me in science fiction, so you can imagine that I was not delighted to see it used by politicians to break their own rules—rules that had been so important to them when a female senator was breaking them).

But SB5 failed. Thanks, in large part, to Wendy Davis.

The reaction of the crowd of Texans who had gathered was thunderous applause.

Guys, this was a great example. We’re all excited and nervous about today, when we’ll find out how the SCOTUS has ruled on issues of marriage equality. But it is important that we also remember that tonight was a victory for Texas women. Which means that it was a victory for people.

Finally, this post would not be complete without me adapting a Star Wars quote to this situation:

PS: It is 4AM and “Wendy” and “Texas” are both still trending. Worldwide.



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