Man of the Moment


Sean William Scott


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Monday, July 31, 2006

Not Getting It 

You ever seen something so mind-numbingly stupid you know you shouldn't watch? And yet, you can't tear yourself away? That's sort of how I feel about the spectacle of the latest person who just. Doesn't. Get. It. over at Ragnell's blog. He's a big fan of straw man and "slippery slope" arguments and reductio ad absurdum fallacies. My particular favorite quote of his is:
"Yes, I understand that no male characters are ever shafted in comics. I understand that only female characters are treated as disposable. I understand that having male leads makes female readers feel uncomfortable. I understand it'’s wrong to tell a story from a male perspective and that no such story could ever be considered '“good.'”"

Which, you know, isn't an argument anyone is making regarding the treatment of female characters in comics, or the seeming deafness coming from major comics publishers when legitimate critiques of their content or marketing are brought up. He also has a frankly baffling counter argument to the critique of sexism and misogyny in the comics industry, which is to say that people making the critique are hypocrites because they aren't also complaining abut the fact that the publishers of romance novels aren't doing enough to attract male readers.

Yeah, I know. And people wonder why feminists sound so angry all the time. Maybe, just maybe, it's because people keep putting words in their mouths. That is, when they bother to listen to women at all.

To be perfectly honest, I usually try to stay out of commenting at length on these topics. I'm tremendously reluctant to appear to be "speaking for" women, a trap I've seen too many men who consider themselves "feminists" fall into unconsciously. Their hearts are in the right place, but they can't help speaking from a position of privilege. And, to be perfectly honest, gay men have a complicated position in the feminist/masculinist gender discourse. You would expect the natural position to be on the "feminist" side of the debate, but gay men ultimately are, in fact, men, and always have that pesky male privilege angle to fall back on. And that's not even getting into the fact that coming out is a matter of personal choice, a choice to be discriminated against in a manner of speaking, while women don't really have the option of choosing whether or not to live their lives openly as women. Not to mention the fact that the "masculinist" side of the equation is almost always homophobic because gay men are perceived as a challenge to the notion of "correct" gender roles and behaviors.

To make matters worse, of course, is the fact that just because a woman considers herself a feminist, that doesn't necessarily mean she's antihomophobic as well. Luce Irigaray described the patriarchal system as a "homosexual monopoly," and Eve Sedgwick has criticized other feminist theorists for "fashionable homophobia" in their writing. Sedgwick also identified what should be the key point of mutual shared interest between feminists and gay men when she wrote that "homophobia directed against men by men misogynistic" because it oppressive of the presumption femininity in men as well as the assumption that femininity is inherently inferior to masculinity. What is key in this argument, of course, is the reminder that homophobia is not just directed at gay men, but at straight men as well. A point that many straight men, and women, often don't seem to think about.

Which, is a rather long and complicated way of saying that I'm strongly sympathetic and supportive of feminist concerns, especially as it pertains to the comics industry, despite my reluctance to adopt the "feminist" label for myself. But certain men and their willful and deliberate ignorance sure do make me irrationally annoyed at the fact that we share a gender.

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