ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote,
ZERO :: the Fool
annwyd

once more with cursing.

I have hives. Maybe I'm allergic to the chart?¹

I am not attacking anyone who has had a laugh or two at the chart. God knows I've been amused by things in pretty poor taste myself from time to time. I am attacking specific defenses that have been offered to justify the chart's fail.

1. It's parody. Clearly, the female characters on it represent their creators. It's satirizing the male-dominated media and how it fails its female characters.

Isn't it funny how "it's parody" gets trotted out every time someone feels the need to defend offensive shit? Because if the intent was to laugh at the bigoted attitudes displayed, then it's okay! It's satire. Anything can be satire! It doesn't have to be aimed properly or depicted with clarity. It just has to, you know, be there. Somewhere. See also: this post on "hipster -ism."

Here's the thing. There is already plenty of humor in media and society that predicates upon mockery and belittlement of women, or the use of women as symbols for negative things. There doesn't need to be more even if it was made for the admirable feminist cause of encouraging better treatment and development of female characters in fiction. As it happens, the chart lists Meg Griffin. In Family Guy, it's a running joke that she is continually emotionally abused and insulted. Could this be interpreted as a feminist commentary on how quick society is to judge and demean women and girls? If you really stretch, I guess. But that doesn't make it any more pleasant to watch. Nor does it truly accomplish the effect of encouraging us to reexamine our attitudes--it simply puts the attitudes out there as a source of amusement.

Now, since the chart comes from a feminist source, in its original context, some of the commentary mitigates it². But then again, some of the commentary makes it worse again. Why is Kima from The Wire a "strong female character," but not Sarah Connor? Kima could just as easily be considered the stereotypical "guy with tits" character by the arbitrary standards of the chart. And yes, with that statement about Kima, the creator of the chart explicitly says that all the characters she put on the chart should not be considered "strong female characters." Which just makes it stupid and inconsistent.

2. They're just fictional characters. By criticizing them, you are obviously criticizing their creators.

First of all, in regards to the chart this argument is null and void because the chart stupidly includes real women (but wait, it's actually satirizing the media depiction of them! Why didn't I come to such an obvious conclusion?). But it's also a poor argument in the first place.

Here's the thing. Our brains are actually pretty faulty things. We frame everything in terms of a narrative. Sane people consciously know the difference between a character and a real person, of course. But subconsciously, the woman we read about in a sci-fi novel is as real to us as the woman we read about in the news. We wouldn't engage with fiction in the first place if, on some level, there wasn't a part of our brain that processed it as real. It is, of course, not actually real. When you toss insults at female characters, no one is actually getting hurt. But it subconsciously primes the brain to use the same excuses to dismiss, demean, and belittle real women. It reinforces the prevalent social practice of blaming the victim. Because yes, you may consciously perceive this use of the characters as a clear example of fictional constructs representing the creators who have dictated their actions. But somewhere in your brain, a grain is being added to Mount Blame Women For The Things Men Do To Them, which was created when the tectonic plate of Institutionalized Sexism smashed into the tectonic plate of Your Psyche.

I am not saying you should never criticize female characters for the way they are written. More on that next.

3. If we accept the badly-written female characters we have, how will we ever change things for the better?

You are under no obligation to accept any given female character. But expressing your dissatisfaction with them and the way male writers treat them by reducing them to stereotypes and declaring that they fail as "strong female characters" is not an effective way of changing things. Instead, as said above, it reinforces negative social memes. I'm not even just talking about blaming the victim like before, by the way. I also mean one of the issues at the root of sexism, which is the tendency to set impossible, arbitrary goals for women and women only and use that imaginary figure on a pedestal to find existing women lacking. Again, with fictional characters this doesn't actually hurt anybody directly, but it reinforces the meme, and as a feminist that's not something I'd want to do.

So train your brain to put the blame on the creator--and not just by insulting his characters. Point out specific mistakes he or she made in their characterization and development. Offer suggestions for how to avoid those pitfalls to those interested in creating their own characters.

This is why I have a "fuck you tomino" tag and not a "sayla mass is a useless bitch" tag. Both would technically address the same issue, but one of them does it by insulting a (fictional) woman, while the other does it by expressing anger at the man who wrote her into sexist situations.

And now I devoutly hope I am done talking about that fucking chart.

¹ Do not come in here and tell me that I am taking things too seriously because the chart is giving me hives. They're probably a result of either my recent fluctuating fever or hypothyroidism.

² It's all about context. My icon is an example. If I keyworded it "oversensitive" and used it whenever I got upset, it would be obnoxiously sexist. So I keyworded it "sexism" and take care to only use it in posts and comments about sexism, where it's clearly sarcastic. However, even the original context of the chart is muddy on whether it's meant sarcastically or whether all the female characters pictured are being dismissed in favor of some elusive, ever-shifting, arbitrary standard of the Acceptable Woman.
Tags: fandom, feminism, ranting
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