Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm too serious about race and gender. But especially gender.

A couple of months ago, I posted about my new dog, Ollie, who is a female but who is named after Oliver Queen. I also posted about the Lady!Ollie picture I found on the internets, and some brief thoughts on gender-swapping characters.
Actually, I enjoy the idea of gender swapping characters (or degendering, which is pretty much never done, since heaven forfend we not be either Man or Woman). When done right, it's really really interesting. It's not done right very often. The trick is to maintain the essence of the character while adapting him or her to a different gender, which of course affects the way he or she will interact with society, the kinds of experience s/he has had in his/her life, et cetera et cetera. It's not just about swapping around some parts of anatomy.
There's been this chromatic casting meme floating around. The idea is that you take established comic characters and insert people of color into the roles. But it's not just insertion, of course, because being a person of color changes your experiences and interactions. Just like your gender does. Anyway, it started, I think, on Livejournal and has gone viral. Got picked up, distributed and, as is the way with anything ever, offended some people. Then one of the creators wrote an excellent response.

Last night during the State of the Union Address, President Obama promised to push through an Equal Pay bill so that women earn 100% of what men earn. Not more. Not the same for less. But equal pay for equal work.

This is the year 2010.

My mom, who was one of two women in her medical school class in the late 70s, used to tell me about burning bras in college and marching down 5th Avenue for Women's Rights and having men spit on her. My mom, who used to add epilogues to fairy tales and Disney stories telling myself and my sister that it was okay if after we went off to the castle and lived happily ever after, we wanted to get a job and not just be a stay-at-home parent, as long as we made our own choices, is the first person that comes to mind when I think of a feminist.

I remarked to her via IM that it's sad that it's 2010 and there's not equal pay for equal work.

"I know," she said.

After the State of the Union, Chris Matthew said he forgot that the President was black, sparking off an uproar (and rightly so) about the remark. After all, why can't an intelligent man be black? That's not what Chris Matthews was saying, I think, but he said it stupidly.

But what no one else seems to remember is that he ended his train wreck by saying that men talk about The Godfather. "It's what we do."


During the Presidential primaries and election in 2008, a discussion of race and racism was at the forefront of nearly every mention of Barrack Obama. But a discussion of gender was limited to comments on Sarah Palin's clothing or Hilary Clinton crying. In the recent election here in Massachusetts, the female candidate was portrayed as cold by the good ol' boy driving around in his truck. She lost (though that's not the only reason). Men who are portrayed as cold are strong. Women are frigid.

Here's my point: sexism still exists, but we are so convinced in this post-third-wave-feminist era that things are okay that we refuse to admit it. It's even okay to be sexist. Ever watched a commercial for Axe body spray? How about a commercial for Progressive insurance where they mock a man carrying a bag, who insists his wife bought it? How about that, again, it's 2010 and this is arguably the worst TV pilot season for women. Teen girls fawn over strong Edward and Jacob while aspiring to be Bella, who's off wilting in the shadows of her immense love for her stalker vampire.

Everything I'm saying doesn't mean racism doesn't exist. Not at all. And overt racism is definitely worse than overt sexism. But the subversive sexism that permeates our culture is still there, and it seems like something only a handful of people are willing to talk about. And those people are often called oversensitive (at best). Really, read some of the comments in this discussion about Marvel's Deadpool cover trade-in promotion (the one where you rip up DC comics to get a reference to a show that was popular 7 years ago with half-naked women that has nothing to do with the title, Siege).

Have some highlights:
"What I'm trying to get at is that sexism in comics isn't going untreated, and there seems to be a better balance nowadays. So to get all up in arms about this seems alittle [sic] futile and tiring."
So because it's being worked on (the author gives three examples of the umpteen comic creators out there), we shouldn't discuss it. Check.

"That cover is funny. Clearly, some people just don't appreciate humor. I hate living in a PC world, where people can't take a joke. Anyone who would call that cover sexist or racist probably has some personal problems that they need to work through."
No words necessary.
"Sorry I just find it funny people think this is sexist. I mean if you feel like that then go for it, but to say this is sexist considering a lot of comics from the 1940's to now have have naked women on the cover....that means the entire industry has been sexist since day one. "
Uh. Yes. I love the argument that because things were more sexist in the past (or racist), to think they're sexist now is ridiculous. Hey, look, in 1860 black people were slaves. So in 1954 when they were working on the Civil Rights bill to allow black people access to voting, they should have just let it go. And since women used to be the property of their husbands a hundred years ago, we shouldn't worry about equal pay because, hey. We're not property.


And let's end with how we started:
Well the only thing I can say that, [sic] your [sic] taking this way to seriously.

So to wrap this all up, I wonder if the people up in arms over "Chromatic Casting" would have similar issues with Genderswap Casting. Maybe they would. I don't know. I think it's a lot easier to be offended by racism, because racism is still considered a Big Problem, whereas sexism is something that got fixed in the 70s so we should get over it.

2010 - Equal pay for equal work. Keep an eye out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Real" Men Can Wear Indigo (AND Violet!)

I'm sitting in Logan Airport, which has no outlets in its international terminal, waiting to board my Virgin Atlantic flight, which has no outlets in its economy cabin, so I thought it'd be a good time for a long-needed blog update. When without the ability to recharge your laptop prior to a 7 1/2 hour flight, clearly you need to write about comics.


So you know what was cool this week? The Deputy Lanterns over in Blackest Night #6. This almost made up for the Black Lanternization of Bart, Ollie, and Kon. And, yeah, Superman. My friend pointed out that Ollie has to come back to suffer the post-Roy-becomes-Dark Knight-Ollie storyline from Cry for Justice, so he's going to be okay. And Superman is Superman. But I worry about my former Young Justice people.

Anyway, BN #6 was accompanied by Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2, which was yet another ridiculously awesome Greg Rucka book. This was a slam bang issue, man. I loved the overlap of Diana's thoughts with those of the Black Ring. And it was a totally emotional ride through her life. I had no idea it was fake until her mom showed up. Then I was a bit suspicious. Then Batman (can someone tell me why Bruce is Diana's symbol of love?), then Aphrodite.

Let me say, as an aside, that every time I think of Aphrodite I picture her like so:

Yeah, I'm a Xenite. I don't apologize. (Please enjoy Gabrielle's expression in that picture. For serious.)

Right, so the Deputy Lanterns. I'm not mega familiar with GL mythology. Has this happened before? I know the rings choose the right people, but I dig the emergency, planet-specific deputization. And I like the people they chose. One of the things I do like about the GL stuff is that there are good guys and bad guys in the good corps and bad corps. I mean, Mera's in red, right? Cool.

I guess there's been some kerfluffle about Diana's uniform. Yeah. It's a bit showy. So is her normal uniform. Now it's showier. Yeah. How about the blood running down Mera's face? Not an issue?


I'll let other people go into that. Personally, I don't get why men can't be loving enough to be part of the Star Sapphires. If women can be angry enough to be part of the Red Lantern Corps, against the stereotype of meek and non-angry women, I don't get why a man couldn't have been chosen by the violet ring. I'm going to be honest, I'd probably have given the ring to Kal-El. But okay, give it to Diana. It's not like I'm a writer at DC or a Violet Ring. You know. And I did like how over in Action Comics he was a blend of all the colors. Or good colors, I guess. Green, blue, whatever.

Something I like about Doctor Who is that it makes Earth out to be this really special place. There's a reason the Doctor likes it so much. The people here are terrible and wonderful and they change the course of time itself. I sort of wish that attitude could be found in other genres. Maybe Earth could be the place of the first male Star Sapphire. What about planets with no genders or more-than-two genders? What do Star Sapphires do there? Just skip over that sector?

I liked this issue. Now let's fix Bart (I have a sad sad feeling that now that Irey is Impulse, Bart's not as necessary to the DCU) and finish up this Black Lantern stuff (I know, I know, April). It's been interesting, but there's only so much of the undead I can take.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to London. Cheers!