Fantasy Slut League, and Cherry Picking Results

Liz Crocker’s article at The Daily Beast decries Piedmont High’s Fantasy Slut League as “the newest callous form of misogyny.” The one sentence excerpted from the article and set aside in huge print reads, “The sexual braggadocio inherent in the league is more common than the media are reporting.”

All true, and all good and well. But the real news in the article comes in its last paragraph, hidden away from all but the most determined readers:

– Many students on the “fantasy slut league” list, while not necessarily approving of the name, did not mind being placed on a list of sexually desirable dates.  (See this articulate and nuanced letter by a female PHS senior on why the “moral panic” response is not constructive.) This doesn’t make things okay for those who were not okay with it, but it does mean the league was far from a unilateral imposition on a populace that uniformly resented it. In short, FSL was not tyranny; it was fashion.

– Gossip, while it can be used to destroy people via perceived social value, is hardly the exclusive purview of men. Considering the FSL a gossip aggregator (as the female student urges) rather than a command-and-control center greatly alters the paradigm in which all this sex is happening. (One might argue the real problem here is the obsession with what other people think about your own life, sexual or otherwise, but that is a topic for another post.)

– Karen Owen’s “thesis” equally treated men like disposable sex objects. It, too, got a tremendous amount of attention, both negative and positive. Some argued that if this was how she discovered and explored her own sexuality, who were we to judge her for it? By and large, the media have not given similarly balanced coverage of the boys who attempted to “gamify” human sexuality in order to better make sense of it.  If the spirit in which she made the document matters, then so too should the spirit in which the boys made their document, and recognition of that that is precisely why the PHS senior goes into such an explanation of the intended use of Fantasy Slut League. I would not be surprised if, from their perspective, it was a clumsy attempt to combine two things they love (gaming and sex.) While that does not make it a great thing, it also does not make it a twisted conspiracy to sexually enslave women.

– Modern women typically have a high degree of control over their own sexuality (at least, modern women with the status of PHS students or Duke students – the story is different for women in a place like rural India) and attempts to paint them all as the hapless victims of male lust are arguably as divorced from reality as the idea of a male-run Fantasy Sex League itself. Insisting that a woman is a victim despite her knowing otherwise is incredibly disenfranchising.

I take issue with the way the email attempts to speak for girls just like me. I know that my name has been mentioned on the FSL page. It makes me uncomfortable, but it does not make me a “victim,” as the email labels me. I am not a victim because I know what FSL truly is. It is not a rape group, as the email, perhaps inadvertently, implies; it is a gossip page where Varsity Footballers talk about what happened last weekend and “who got with who.” I do not appreciate being labeled a “victim” by an administration that is not in possession or understanding of the facts.

All this, and reporters everywhere still took it upon themselves to speak for girls just like her.

To me, the takeaway is that the situation for women continues to improve.  Fifty years ago, while gaming culture did not exist, men bragging about their sexual exploits was so common and accepted that it did not occasion comment.  Five hundred years ago, men taking sexual advantage of the women associated with defeated armies was similarly common and accepted (rape was, literally, part of the spoils of war.) Now, in 2012-2013, women are able to calmly make decisions about their sexual future and intelligently use their status to their advantage. It would be unmistakably a step backwards to say the only legitimate response they can have to boys making lists is moral outrage, and it is heartening to see that the women of PHS, if one is any indication, know better.


Oppai Taisen: The War Continues

After a break in the fighting, the Breast Wars have seen another fight recently: Myst1ord and Omonomono clashed over their differing opinions on form-fitting clothing for women in anime.


Omonomono’s points:

– Art is unrealistic; this does not make it unenjoyable

– This is a trend that continues across multiple genres, from ancient Egyptian art to modern superflat

Myst1ord’s points:

– Verisimilitude is important to creating enjoyable art

– Purple hair, nekomimi etc. do not break suspension of disbelief and therefore there is no inconsistency in railing against excessively unrealistic or caricaturized art, but not railing against these things.

Drmchsr0’s point:

– Anime girls are often dressed to evoke the virgin/whore dichotomy – and not in a constructive, edifying manner.

Published in: on December 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM  Comments (3)  
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On Women, Wonder and Being Super

“If you want to date a queen, you have to be a king.” – Conventional wisdom

Superman’s long-standing relationship with Lois Lane was recently dissolved in the annals of DC Comics.  Instead, his new designated partner is someone who is more like him: also a superhero, also able to defy conventional physical limitations.  They chose to explore Wonder Woman as a partner for the Man of Steel.

On the surface, that doesn’t seem so bad.  While yes, they are messing with a classic pairing, perhaps it’s time to examine the flawed assumptions that the classic supports: that women are weaker than men, that the man always saving the woman is a normal or even rejoiceable item, that Wonder Woman must be single as a feminist icon, even that a female reporter could date Superman and fail to suspect his real identity.  A number of those things limit feminism, and women.

However, that’s not how the masses have it.  Over at Ineffable Aether, the comments are piling up:

The “new” they chose disrespected and degraded two powerful women. It legitimized the idea that Diana exists not to have her own story but to be part of a man and pushed aside the most powerful civilian woman in the genre.
It confuses mr that you, of all people, don’t think that is condemnable. – Elle

Greg Rucka is quick to distance himself from the specific details of DC’s implementation of a new continuity – and I myself have to raise my eyebrows hearing about some of them – but the idea that Superman is with someone who is more like him, a partner in fighting the good fight, is not automatically objectionable to me.  I don’t see it as degrading or disrespectful to tell a different story here.  I understand that new Lois Lane is shown as a sexual creature, whereas the original 1930s characters were created in an earlier era, and not really sexual at all.  But the fact that this is automatically lamentable wins no points for consistency; whence cometh SlutWalk? Are we not pushing the idea that women are free to have as few or as many sexual partners as they choose?  How can we push that idea and simultaneously be squeamish about showing a sexually active woman in a work where men are shown to be equally sexually active?

Only if you define those two characters solely by their relationships. Wonder Woman is not disrespected or degraded by putting her into a relationship with Superman, just as she wouldn’t be is she was linked romantically with anyone.
However, if you’re worried that, by linking her romantically with Superman she will, by dint of Superman’s overwhelming status as “the” super-hero, come to be seen as an attachment to him rather than an important figure in her own right (“Superman’s Girl-Friend Wonder Woman,” as it were) you may have point, but only time will tell. – Gray

1.) Supporting the idea that Wonder Woman is a sex object and “sidekick” “girlfriend’ figure as opposed to a protagonist in her own story is a huge mistake that is going to be detrimental long term to the character in the WAY men perceive her going forward. There is a subset of male fans who have always viewed Wonder Woman as a sex object and attempted to re-purpose her for their own vision and use as opposed to honoring who she truly is and what she stands for. DC used to refuse to cater to those people because it was essential that DC upheld the line that Diana did not exist to belong to men because she wasn’t here for men or their gross sex fantasies about how hard she could “take it” during sex (gross btw)—she was here for women. DC has now given them permission to view her this way. – M.

So a subset of people with an irrational viewpoint (which sounds borderline fetishistic) is more important to you than all the people who have more reasonable takes on the story.  I mean, that appears to be what you’re saying – you’re not arguing about how most people take it, you’re saying “because these extremists believe X, and we’d only be encouraging them by doing Y, Y is verboten even if it wouldn’t send that message to most people.”

You can find anything on the Internet, so I would hardly take the fact that some extremist thinks something as proof that that thing is the new normal.  Now, if a year from now, the work has increased the number of people who think of Wonder Woman in a way that you find objectionable and harmful, then this argument may really be right. Until then – do you propose we let the extremists decide everything? That would be handing them power.

2.) A Superman story where Superman is not struggling in some form with his passion/lust/sexuality/love for the very flawed and mortal Lois Lane—whether she be his wife, his girlfriend, or simply the friend who sits next to him at his desk that he loves from afar— is not a story about Superman.
– M.

Really? I seem to recall similar situations in Twilight being condemned as “abstinence porn.”

Is a Superman story all about how a totally awesome guy has to content himself with a flawed woman?  Maybe in the past, that has occurred with some regularity.  But maybe, just maybe, switching Superman’s partner means that new stories can be written, stories in which the man doesn’t always happen to be the competent one and the woman doesn’t happen to be in need of rescuing all the time.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 3:36 PM  Comments (1)  
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Of Otherkin, Furries, Etc.

Comments and insults are still coming in about my disagreement with requireshate. It’s become apparent that I should clarify a few things.

I have not equated the suffering that anime otaku go through with the suffering that women or gays go through. I did bring them up in discussion, and perhaps I was not clear enough about that (though I tried, on twitter, to explicitly note that bringing them up was not a matter of equating them.) I apologize for any confusion or distress that might have caused.

I really wish this train wreck of misinterpretation had not occurred.  I was only trying to get a clarification about her feminist reading of Claymore when this thing blew up.  I was certainly not trying to make anything about me.

I do feel that “weaboo” (“fucking weaboo” as used repeatedly by requireshate) is a dismissive insult towards anime otaku and should not be used.  If “nobody gives a shit about weeaboos other than weeaboos,” as she asserted, then to my mind, that is all the more reason to treat them with compassion.

I am not agreeing with anyone who personally insulted requireshate about this, nor have I personally insulted her or directed any offensive language towards her.  I specifically took pains to note in the comments here that I did not agree with insults towards her.  She has not shown similar restraint, but then, that’s what started this.  I RTed everyone who responded to the ongoing twitter discussion, just as she did, but retweet does not imply agreement.

My ideal of respecting people and their right to self-determination means that I generally believe otherkin, furries, and other self-identifying groups ought to be taken at face value. When I said I bristled over requireshate’s callous dismissal of them she mocked me for it, but I was not joking. It is the only ethically consistent approach that I have found.  I in no way assert they have endured anything like what the LGBT community or others have faced (and I bring up this example specifically because it is one they often bring up) but they do repeatedly self-identify as nonhuman despite it being adverse for them to do so. I don’t think any group should have to go through suffering, bashing, etc. just for their identity to be accepted, and this is the logical consequence of that.  I also don’t feel it’s productive to draw a line and say “this group is legitimate; that group is not.”  Acceptance of others as they are is the whole point of this.

I noted previously on this site that I only claim to be a classical feminist.  Given the number of second-wave feminists now expressing their disbelief that I would call myself feminist, this is a distinction that probably bears repeating.  I have argued, as many feminists have, that gender roles are socially constructed, in accordance with the sociological understanding of gender.

Finally, though it only makes sense to me that feminism include men at some point in the process (because its goal is to affect society, and men are roughly half of society) I have never said someone is a “bad feminist” or anything like that for disagreeing with this.  My opinion on the best mode of progress remains my opinion.

Published in: on May 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM  Comments (6)  
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The ‘Unfortunate’ Sort of Feminism

It seems requireshate is not happy to have just anyone benefit from her feminist reading of Claymore.

requireshate: writing the Claymore post I was hoping to reach other female fans of the thing. how unfortunate it is I reached male nerds instead.

Not “how unfortunate that I didn’t reach other female fans,” but “how unfortunate it is that I reached male nerds.”  That’s a breathtaking bit of generalization and assumption, and we shall return to it later.

requireshate: I’m going to be extremely unhappy if my posts on #claymore wind up getting cited by those fucking weeaboos as evidence of GREAT FEMINISM

So, it’s totally cool to dismiss all anime fans who are trying to grok the intersection of feminism and manga as “fucking weaboos,” due to their stereotypically inarticulate outsider status in polite society.  Use that outsider status against them.  No irony there.  For what it’s worth, the very first blogger who commented on my post pointing to it mentioned imperfections in the feminism of the work, which I then expanded upon.  I don’t think anyone’s under the impression that it’s a perfect example.

and holy shit, do people think me saying that it’s more feminist than Whedon/et al is high praise? hahahaha oh clueless people.

I feel I should clarify: it’s NOT a feminist work. it succeeds only because the bars are so fucking low.

You made your feelings quite clear.  But permit me to make something clear, in return: if “it succeeds” in being better than the norm, then for practical purposes it is a feminist work.  You may not believe it’s gone far enough, and you may be frustrated that it still gets things wrong, but imperfection doesn’t make it categorically not a feminist work.

Consider history:  Female suffrage was setting the bar low, but it was feminist in its time, and a necessary step for further advances.  The idea that women are not property and rape is not a valid part of war booty was setting the bar low, but it was a necessary step for further advances, and feminist for its time.  Getting over the idea that rocks and buildings were considered to have souls, but women weren’t considered to have souls was setting the bar low, but feminist in its time.  Each step of the way was built on advances we would now deem trivial, just as we think the idea of gravity is obvious, but it was revolutionary when Newton formulated a theory of it.

For what it’s worth, I agree with you that the bar could still be said to be low, where media is concerned. But because of that, I don’t understand your actions.  Spurn progress, and, well, it’s likely you won’t get where you want to be.  I don’t really see why you feel a process of changing societal norms that took thousands of years to get to this point will suddenly leap to the finish just so you can reap the benefits.  It would be nice, but it’s not very likely to happen.

Now, I’ll address the implication that men don’t have anything to do with feminism and should just shut up.  Feminism, as a reaction to patriarchal attitudes, doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  The considered purpose of feminism is to change society; roughly half of society is men, so telling men that they can’t play and shouldn’t take any interest in the subject is . . . not just strange, but self-defeating.

I’d like to quote to you something from Stokely Carmichael.  He was a man, yes, but as a black civil rights leader, I think it’s fair to say he thought deeply on the problem of outsiders in Western (specifically American) society.

I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being. Therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people don’t know that. Every time I tried to go into a public place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, “He’s a human being; don’t stop him.” That bill was for the white man, not for me. I knew I could vote all the time and that it wasn’t a privilege but my right. Every time I tried I was shot, killed or jailed, beaten or economically deprived. So somebody had to write a bill to tell white people, “When a black man comes to vote, don’t bother him.” That bill was for white people. I know I can live anyplace I want to live. It is white people across this country who are incapable of allowing me to live where I want. You need a civil rights bill, not me.

Now tell me: how much of this is applicable to the feminist struggle for equality?  Yes, there’s also the feminist problem of women thinking themselves incapable, which he doesn’t address above (he mentions it elsewhere in the speech) but that minority group identity issue existed in the struggle for POC civil rights too.

Feminism in the absence of society is devoid of purpose.  Do women not get how hard it is to be a woman, and how people unthinkingly do things to marginalize them?  That seems kind of preposterous; they live with the experience daily.  More than the women, it’s men that don’t get how hard it is, and therefore at some point feminism ought to interact with men.

This aggressive redefinition of standards until you can’t have a conversation with someone more familiar with mainstream POV, making it difficult for them to converse with you – is it productive?  Does it get you what you want?  If you’re going to say “the world should be like this” and emphatically deny any concessions to practicality and results, then you have a perfect right to do so.  But if so, practically, do you then differ from the Otherkin (who view themselves as essentially inhuman, and mostly just want to be left alone)?  You yourself have demonstrated a decided lack of empathy for them, precisely for being out of touch with reality, precisely because what they are doing leads nowhere, so it seems only fair to ask if these standards apply to you as well.

moritheil If it’s “more feminist than Wheadon,” we can at least say that it isn’t worse than mainstream media, then, can’t we?

requireshate trust me, if you weeaboo at someone going “this thing I like is, like, more feminist than Whedon!” no feminist will be impressed

moritheil So… you think I’m doing this to impress feminists instead of being legitimately concerned with media?

requireshate see I actually suspect you don’t know much about feminism, is the thing.

moritheil I suspect you don’t know a lot about weaboo as a denigrating term. Why the “you don’t know enough to hang with us” attitude?

requireshate haha what. explain the nuances of it to me please, by all means.

moritheil Well, you know that it is a mocking term. But you continue to apply it. Why would you do that?

requireshate why not?

When you get in a conversation with someone and are asked to please refrain from the use of judgmental or insulting terms, as common sense, and your reaction is that you have the right to insult them but they don’t have the right to talk back or take offense – is that equality?

Whatever it is, it’s unfortunate.

Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM  Comments (71)  
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Requireshate on Claymore

Requires Only That You Hate has a nice article about the feminism of Claymore, noting that it’s “more feminist than [works by] Joss Wheadon, Neil Gaiman, Saladin Ahmed, etc.”

Most notably, writer acrackedmoon singles out the use of inhumanity in the feminist space:

…Normal humans are naturally quite outclassed even by the weakest warrior. Their attitude toward powerful male monsters is identical to their attitude toward powerful female ones. The male, in another word, asserts no power over the women of Claymore. There’s no romantic pull, no sexual pull, no anything. The male is incidental. It’s there. But nobody gives a fuck.


Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 7:52 PM  Comments (2)  
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The Feminism of Legends

I consider myself a feminist.  In the proper company, I would not hesitate to characterize myself as a “radical feminist.”

But I must admit that there are times when the feminist paradigm is questionably applied.   Go Make Me a Sandwich is a blog that strives to critique gaming products from the feminist perspective, which is surely a sorely needed bit of feedback.  Some of its more recent assertions, however, have left me scratching my head.


Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 2:41 AM  Comments (8)  
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Just a shirt?

J-list’s “Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend” shirt has spawned quite a bit of controversy, including at least one angry blog post and manga critic Deb Aoki’s nomination for inclusion on a list of things to never wear.  Asked if in her opinion men could never wear it ironically and explain it as such, Aoki responded:

@moritheil I’m just saying you can tell yourself you’re wearing it “ironically” all you want. It’ll still look douche-y.

I think this response is worth examining.  The meaning of art generally hinges on the interpretation of the viewer.  However, if you’re trying to assess why someone wore a specific clothing article, it’s their intent that really matters.  On the one hand, a literal wearing of the shirt means that the man is indeed a fetishist for Japanese women. It’s not hard to see why some women might consider that problematic.  (Not all women, of course – women being perfectly capable of being only interested in sex.)


Published in: on December 5, 2011 at 12:01 PM  Comments (12)  
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Mulan, Disney, and Feminism

Feminism doesn’t sell because, like all attempts to change the world, it doesn’t pander to peoples’ preconceptions. (Telling people they are wrong about something tends to make them angry on some level – all the more so if it’s something they haven’t taken the time to examine, and thus cannot easily defend. This does not usually improve sales.) So what does Disney do to make a feminist story sell? It guts out the feminism.

Disney is unlikely to show this kind of heroine.

Disney is unlikely to show this kind of heroine.

Lightspeedsound reaches essentially the same conclusions, but does so via a mountain of evidence rather than reduction. Personally, I would have liked to see a little more about Orientalism and its implications a la Edward Said – the idea that the reimagining of “Orientals” (and shoehorning of Asian women like Mulan into stereotypes) serves a specific purpose.

For example, the paper asserts that Disney’s Mulan “manages to confirm both the stereotypes of exotified Asian women:  Mulan, the blushing lotus blossom, and the matchmaker, the domineering dragon lady.”  I think it would be most interesting to get into why these stereotypes persist, and specifically how they are damaging to feminism, and, if we accept Said’s assessment, what benefit is derived from Westerners “buying in” to these stereotypes.  Ego stroking in the face of the supposed Asian economic threat?  Assuaging any left-over guilt from Vietnam?  Downplaying the need to treat Asians as human beings?

This is not a criticism of Lightspeedsound as a writer – this was a paper for a class, and it was doubtless bound by artificial constraints.  I just really want to see an examination of root causes.  At any rate, there is plenty of interesting stuff in there.

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 7:16 PM  Comments (4)  
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This is not a woman

In his rant of November 2010, Poster of Oduza Okasa argues in no uncertain terms that NyaaTorrents is pushing pornography. The reason?

The figurines of women with exposed breasts is porn; the figurines of characters touching themselves in obviously sexual manners is porn. This isn’t artistic stuff and there’s no way to take it any other way. So Nyaa is purposefully pushing porn.

Thus, he writes, NyaaTorrents exploits women.