Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not One, but TWO Three-Way Ties for the Price of ONE!

Good day to you, dear Internet. It's been quite a week for me and when I say quite a week, I really mean quite a twenty minutes. You see, it all started when I was about to write this very post. I normally wait until midnightish to start writing to allow for last minute voting and also because I am a terrible procrastinator. What did mine eyes see when I checked the poll? A three-way tie! Gasp! The internet had spoken and told me that it wanted equal parts  Grammarians, sexualization, and Christian school. I briefly considered complying to the illogical concoction and posting a piece about sexualization of grammar in Christian schools before deciding that the idea made about as much sense as the Google image results for "sexy Christ grammar"

Which is something I generally advise against

So what did I do in the face of such adversity? What any self-respecting blogger would do; SCIENCE.

And by SCIENCE I mean I started asking random people on Facebook. By the time I'd asked six, I realized I'd accidentally re-created my three-way tie. Oh noes! As fortune would have it, there was a seventh person who broke this tie just in the nick of time. So everyone, be sure to thank Jaymes Surnamewithheld for making sure you get your weekly prescribed dose of blog on time!

Sexualization in Comics, Games, and Movies, and Why Everyone Gets so Upset About it.

Before we dive into this topic, I want to make one distinction; that being the difference between sexualization and sexuality. This is a thing that most of you should know, but can get lost in the middle of a heated discussion. Sexuality is the aspect of something being inherently sexual. Wrestling, for instance. Institutionalized by the Greeks, the most out and about people in the history of men who wear dresses.
Look at that bulge and tell me he's not turned on, just a little.

As opposed to sexualization; artificially inflating the sexual nature of something (i.e. Professional Wrestling) or, in some cases, just outright inventing sexuality where before there was none (i.e. Ke$ha). Places where this is especially bad; Movies, Comics, and Video games. 

Sexuality is natural; many things and most people have inherent sexuality. Sexualization is where a lot of people tend to get upset. Now why is that? If you're a girl, you probably know exactly where this is going, in which case; enjoy the ride! If you're a guy...Well, I probably have some bad news. You've almost certainly come across this situation before, if not in person, then over the internet; someone somewhere brings up something with boobs in it.

Then someone gets all uptight and offended. They start using words like "sexist," "objectifying," and "pig," and next thing you know, you feel like you need to feel guilty for the set(s) of cans on your screen. Having seen more than one of these conversations go down; one of three things will generally happen from there; either A) the group will nod in agreement without really saying much, except for maybe a polite "You know, you're right!" B) The group will halfheartedly defend the subject matter because they know it's probably wrong, but damn; they like them some boobies or C) My personal favorite; the group will launch into a frothing rage at the original offendee, and will turn them (I won't lie; usually a she) into the sexist by some crazy backwards wizard logic.

Pictured: Wizard Logic

The arguments you see in this third category are interetsting. They range from disputing-your-own-point levels of irony like "You're just being too sensitive. Probably because you're a girl." to more head-scratchy ones like "Nuh uh! It's not sexist because guys are oversexualized, too!" which doesn't dispute the original point as much as confirm it with an added layer of complacency. What a lot of the controversy stems from is the fact that, historically; most entertainment mediums were originally designed to appeal to men or, at the very least, started out being primarily designed by men. In the case of films, it was both a business and an art, both of which were things that women were assumed to be less capable of at the time. In the case of comics, well, there were girl comics at their first great rise, but they didn't sell nearly as well as the action comics for boys. Finally, for games, the gamer culture still, to this day, suffers from the image of a lone, teenage, probably unhappily virgin boy sitting alone in his room playing the latest mario on his nintendo or, as it were, today, his Call of Duty. 

Fun Fact, Parents; every game ever is either Pokeymans, Nintendo, or Call of Duty.

So already we have this precedent; most of this stuff is made for guys. As a guy, I'll admit this and as a guy, I'll admit to being kinda used to it. We all are. We're used to 90% of the material we digest being aimed towards straight, white males and, to paraphrase a friend of mine "I don't like change unless I'm the one changing things."

So we resist; we come up with bullshit counterarguments or, most effectively, no argument at all because we like the way things are and don't want them to change, even if that change is good. Let me take a moment to address two of the more common arguments I see. That should be fun. 

"She's not Sexist; She can blow up a small moon with her mind. She's just tough and sexy! That's some strong, empowered womanship if I ever saw it!"
The problem with this one is, primarily, that men and women have some starkly different definitions of where exactly the line between "sexy" and "whore" are drawn. Again; it has to do with drawing the line between sexuality and sexualization. Let's take an example from comics because that's the best place to find "tough" and "sexy" women. Exhibit A) Starfire. 

Not Technically Nudity, brought to you by the power of SPAAAAAACE!

Starfire is a character from the Teen Titans, in case you didn't know, who walks around in basically nothing. In fact, the only reason she's not naked is some clever coloring. Now let's say for a moment that you saw a woman dressed like Starfire somewhere that wasn't either A) a comic convention or B) a strip club. "Sexy" might be one of the words that enter your mind. Other words would be "Exhibitionist" "Attention whore" "unstable" and "probably a hooker" She's got big boobs, a hot body, hardly any clothing, and a convenient naivete about Earth. Koriand'r is the epitome of a teenage wet dream, even though she could kick just about anyone's ass. Hell, depending on what you're into that's a part of it. Superpowers don't always equal a strong character. Many of the "Strong" female characters you see are subverted in some other way; they're more emotionally weak, they're still not as strong as their male counterparts, or worse; they've just got no character at all. Strong characters, regardless of gender, aren't made by adding muscles or even attitude; they're made like strong people; someone who will always stand up for themselves, no matter what. We don't champion Superman because he can lift cars over his head, we love him because he stands for what's good and right. Which brings me to the next argument:

"You're not being fair; men get sexualized just as much as women! Have you SEEN Wolverine without his shirt? How am I supposed to measure up to that?"
This is another example of failure to understand how different the genders are. When making this argument, I see a lot of guys hold up the super buff and burly examples of what they feel are oversexualized men in the interest of women. Like these:

And we never get upset about them! I mean come on! Their necks are as big as their biceps which are as big as tree trunks! How am I supposed to ever compete with that?

Except here's the thing; by and large, those aren't characters women go for. I'm sure some do, and that's fine, that's their thing, but you wanna know who the ladies more consistently swoon over?

All of the above men meet one or more of the following criteria; distinctly exotic; rougish, mysterious past; and secretly sensitive and/or caring. Moreover, look at the bodies; yes, they're all very in shape, but they're also all fairly lean, athletic and/or acrobatic They're all well within what many (admittedly white) men could accomplish with excercise and probably no plastic surgery whatsoever. They're not the muscle-bound atlas men up there. Those men represent our own fantasy. Not people we wanna bone (usually), but people we wanna BE. Yes, you'll never live up to Superman's quality, but the difference is you're not fighting with them for a girl's attention, they're people you fantasize yourself as. They're all the total badasses we want to be; Superman can punch through walls. Marcus Fenix fights entire wars by himself. Van Damme is...well, Fucking Van Damme!

Do not, under any circumstances, google "Van Damme is Fucking Van Damme" Unless you're into that sort of thing. Then...whatever, I guess.

Now, in the interest of fairness, I do have to throw in there that there are many cases that the offendee is, in fact, just nucking futs, as was the case several months back with the game Skull Girls, where gamers got all upset because girls be all bouncy and shit (Yet inexplicably didn't cause the same outcry at Bayonetta, which will confuse me till the day I die). Turns out that the lead artist was not only a girl, but a girl who had designed the character that way purposely because "There are elements in the [game] world that are just here because it's cool and was fun to make." I don't intend for this to be man hate; like most of the things I do, I intend it to be stupid hate. In the true spirit of equality; women can, and often are, just as stupid as men about these types of things, and no one ever really handles it maturely. The honest fact is; this whole conflict is hardwired into us. Men are designed to seek out the most sexually pleasing mate, even if that mate doesn't exist, and sex the hell out of it. Women are designed to compete with each other for men and, once the competition has been dealt with, sex the hell out of the men and as a byproduct feel that they have to compete with the fake ones too, which often leaves them feeling invalid. This is, evolutionarily speaking, just kinda how we work. Does it makes it right? No, but lizard brains are notoriously hard to negotiate with.

It's been too long since I've done something funny; here's a hilarious internet picture.

Now, is there hope for change? Yes and no. If you take these three mediums from youngest to oldest, you see a pretty clear pattern of positive change. Videogames are generally pretty ridiculous, Comics are still pretty ridiculous, but are certainly branching out, and movies are the best of the three, with a relatively large number of films that are either geared towards women or are gender neutral, even if I do think they're all horrendous piles of crap.

Under Review Fun Fact: Tom Hates Romantic Comedies.

Things get even better the further you look back; in the case of literature, women read quite a bit more than men, and the market has shifted to reflect that. Go to a bookstore. How big is the romance section? How big is the "Manly Man Stuff for Men" section? What? You don't have one? Surprising! Not to say that romance novels are only for the ladies, but you don't see too many single, heterosexual men browsing that section.

 Of course, the caveat to this upside is that so long as men take on new hobbies that prove profitable, people will keep putting unrealistic amounts of boob in them. Why? Because generally, even despite the amount of men that actually partake, horny guys are profitable. It's actually been documented that guys throw away money more readily when they're hot and bothered. I still see chance for real, permanent change; just look at how far the issue has come in the last thirty years alone; but I get the feeling it'll always naggle. 

Well, that's all I've got to say this week was a lot guys, but hey; reading's good for you! I found this week to be a real challenge to stride the right lines without being too one-sided, and it was fun. As always, if you enjoyed this or other posts, share them with your friends, family, frenemies, and relatives you like shocking with dirty words. Thank you, Internet, Goodnight.