Speaking About Speaking Out

Video Store Girl at Occasional Superheroine is Rethinking Feminism in Comix.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t appear to do a lot of actual thinking.
The column is a beautiful pastiche of all the ‘reasons’ people shouldn’t complain about misogyny in comics. All the classics were there The appeasement strategy! The appeal to the Almighty Market! The implication that all feminist complaints are on the same topics and are of equal worth! and this led to a quick game of what I have formerly dubbed Stupid Argument Bingo.
Stupid Argument the First: The Wimpy Qualifier.
‘Simply put, 1,000 posts griping about Power Girl’s breasts or the “misguided” male comic writer who had the audacity to write about rape has relatively very little power to change this industry.’
Oh, gosh, really? Guess we’d better pack up and go home.
The column is full of delicious little qualifiers and maybe-sos because if she came right out and said ‘You’ve got no chance of changing the industry whatsoever!’ she’d be buried in examples of instances where that wasn’t so. But by sticking in ‘relatively’ and ‘very little’ she can weasel out of those examples by saying ‘Well, the industry still hasn’t changed that much so what’s the point?’
The point is a) misogyny is wrong in any medium and I don’t actually care if pointing that out produces change or not because when I see things that are wrong, I like to speak up about them. It’s just my shrill harpy way.
b) it does, in fact, produce change, and any change is better than none.
Stupid Argument the Second: Biological Essentialism.
To create witchhunts against artists who draw overly buxom women is to work against biological reality.

To censor men for favorably responding to ample bosoms (or drawing them) is like beating a cat for playing with yarn.
(Actually, there are two Stupid Arguments there, but we’ll go with the more overt one.)
To wit, boys will be boys! They like boobs! They will always like boobs! WHY DO YOU HATE ON BOYS FOR LIKING BOOBS?
We are not our bodies. That’s, in fact, the essential argument of feminism that the female body is not the only thing a woman is, that she is also and more importantly an actual person.
I object not to breasts, nor to men who like breasts, but to anyone who objectifies women. Drawing women as permanently hip-tilting, breast-flaunting, sultry-eyed vixens reduces them to sexual objects.
This argument is also misandrist, as it plays the ‘Oh, teehee, those boys, they can’t help that they think only with their dicks’ card. Did you hear that, men? You are also no more than your bodies!
Stupid Argument The Third: The Rape Defence.
Now, we can say that the comics (and pop culture in general) are “teaching” men to make the sexist remarks, to grope, etc. by objectifying women.
Actually, shitty parents, alcohol, and imbalanced brain chemistry have done far more to create and nurture the groper, the rapist, and the “proactive misogynist” than any comic or movie could do.
We can say that! I do. Especially since it’s true.
Oh, but don’t forget, there are worse factors, which are totally divorced from comics and pop culture in general! I love the touch of ‘any comic or movie’, with the subtle implication of ‘any one comic or movie’, versus shitty parents, alcohol and the crazy.
That’s bad, but that’s worse! So complain about the worse one before you complain about the bad one, or better yet, isolate the single cause that contributes the most damage and complain exclusively about that.
And don’t forget, kids, works of art and cultural artefacts have absolutely no effect on you, your parenting skills, your attitude to alcohol, what you will do with your inhibitions weakened, or any of the social conditions that lead to misogynistic acts. This is the most important thing I learned in the course of my liberal arts degrees, and, like Video Store Girl, I’m happy to share my wisdom with you.
Stupid Argument the Fourth: The Strawfeminist.
And anyway, what is the answer? We have editorial restrictions on depictions and portrayals of women? What do we call it? What will be in it? Let’s come up with a theoretical one. We’ll name it the “Cassie Code.”
Awesome. Me and the rest of the strawfeminists will get together and enforce your straw censorship policy in a straw sec- OH WAIT WE DON’T EXIST.
She asks ‘what is the answer?’, answers herself with a censorship code I have seen neither proposed nor endorsed anywhere in the feminist comics world, and then condemns that code.
Oh, well done. That course of action you invented to look draconian and ridiculous is in fact draconian and ridiculous! Have a straw star.
Stupid Argument the Fifth: FREEDOM! OF! SPEECH!
You may have gathered that Video Store Girl is against censorship, which is maybe the only thing in this column with which I whole-heartedly agree. (Oh no, she thinks comics should stop sexualising teenage girls, which also gets a sincere ‘right on!’ from me). Anyone with half a social conscience is against censorship. Freedom of speech is an essential element of a free and equal society.
But that applies to everyone, and thus doesn’t gel at all with the central premise of the post that maybe people should just shut up with the boring clichéd feminism now because it’s not changing anything. This isn’t Animal Farm. It’s not ‘All comics lovers have freedom of speech but comics creators have speech that is more free than others.’
See also ‘Video Store Girl is entitled to voice her opinion that noisy opposition to misogyny in comics is pointless and silly, and I am entitled to voice my opinion that her opinion is based on stupid arguments and poor reasoning and is thus a total crock.’
Stupid Argument the Sixth: Straight Out Lies.
The only thing screaming about perceived misogynistic comix creators does is close off debate and send men on the defensive.
No, that’s two of the things it can do.
Some of the other things it can do are: build community; raise awareness; encourage women to take up comics; encourage men to take up comics; encourage people not to buy misogynistic comics (which incidentally plays into the Almighty Market Stupid Argument you can dissect in your own time); articulate thoughts people haven’t been able to articulate themselves; inspire people to email you rape threats; inspire creators to ask you for tips on how to write female characters; inspire people to write essays on comics; inspire people to make comics; inspire amazing art; inspire incredible T-shirts; inspire debate and disagreement and determination and the demand for more.
But apparently Video Store Girl doesn’t believe this meets the criteria for ‘real’ change, and has decided complaining about misogyny in comics is a lost cause. I suppose this means she’s not going to continue writing her own analyses of misogyny in comics.
It’s a shame.
What was she thinking?