Feminism is having a wardrobe malfunction.
Does your brand of feminism remove barriers for women, or simply move them around? Does is expand options for women, or does it just shift them? You don’t liberate women by forcing them to choose option B instead of option A. What is comfortable for you might not be comfortable for someone else, and it’s entirely possible that what you see as oppressive, other women find comfortable or even downright liberating.
Before you think the girl in the middle is a strawman, let me tell you I used to be her, back in my misguided youth. I considered myself the standard to which other people should adhere. But that was stupid. It’s not up to me to tell people how to dress, and it’s much nicer to let everyone choose for themselves.
Some women would feel naked without a veil. Some women would find it restrictive. Some women would feel restricted by a bra. Some women would feel naked without one. Some women would feel restricted by a tight corset. Others love them. Some wear lots of clothes with a corset. Some only wear the corset and nothing else. What makes any article of clothing oppressive is someone forcing you to wear it. And it’s just as oppressive to force someone not to wear something that they want to wear.
As a kid, I had lots of questions. For most of them, my mom had a pretty simple answer: None of your business.
“But Mom, how come she gets to go outside and I have to stay in?”
“None of your business.”
“Why is that old lady’s hair blue?”
“None of your business.”
“How come you don’t like the neighbors?”
“None of your business.”
By the time I was eight, I had a pretty clear idea of exactly what was my business. The mess in my room? My business. The grades on my report card? My business. My behavior in church? My business. Turned out most of it was her business too.
Back then, it irritated the hell out of me. I was a pretty independent kid and I absolutely hated the idea that I had to swallow all my nosey questions and ideas, but put up with hers. I was sure that “None of your business” was a cop out. A way to avoid hard answers and put me in my place at the same time. I longed to reach the age of maturity, that magic moment when I could answer impertinent questions with impunity and a simple “None of your business.”
Years passed, and by my teens, “None of your business” began to feel rude. Saying it caused a reaction nearly as strong as the F word. By the time I was in my 20s, I’d nearly forgotten about the power that phrase had once held. Even though it occasionally crossed my mind (awkward job interviews, I’m talking about you), I never said it.
But now I want to bring it back. In this age of instant opinions and constant sharing, we need it more than ever before. We need the strength of it, the put-you-in-your-place reminder of the boundary between Your Business and Mine.
Think of the power of it. The weird man asking why you don’t have kids yet. “None of your business.” The snoopy old lady glaring at your luggage in the airport and asking why you’re flying to San Diego. “None of your business.” Your boss, asking what you plan to do on your vacation. “None of your business.” Your mom, wondering if you will ever settle down like your brother…
Ok, maybe not.
But think about the bigger societal picture if more people heard “None of your business” a bit more often. Legislators mucking about in women’s reproductive health choices. “None of your business.” Companies worried about exactly how their employee’s insurance programs were going to be used. “None of your business.” Conservatives concerning themselves with what happens in someone else’s bedroom. “None of your business.” The NSA, picking through your emails and cell phone…
Mom was on to something with this one. We need to reinforce the boundaries between My Business and Your Life, remember the difference between Your Beliefs and My Problem, and increase the distance between My Decisions and Your Consequences.
Let’s decide right now that this phrase isn’t always rude, but sometimes a needed and helpful reminder. We can bring it back to polite society. After all, said confidently and often, “None of your business” might just make the world a better place to live in.
This woman believes that hitting a child hard enough to leave a mark or a bruise isn’t anything serious. She shouldn’t be allowed to be around any children, ever.
Finney apparently doesn’t know that parenting through spanking is control through fear and it only works for a short time. Eventually, the kid does what my step sister did and hits the parent back. We all learned a lesson that day, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the lesson my mom intended…
Tilda Swinton risked arrest waving a rainbow flag in front of the Kremlin in violation of Russia’s new homosexual propaganda bill. And she wants everyone who can to reblog it in solidarity.
Guys please reblog this, it won’t ruin your blog, this is importantThank you Tilda
I’ve been to the forums. I’ve interacted with the people. I’ve tried to give the men’s rights movement a chance. Unfortunately the people involved are much more concerned about derailing and dismantling feminism than actually solving any of those issues. As if they can’t make any progress until feminism is destroyed.
"Family court is unfair and biased towards women. Those darn feminists!" Except that the majority of lawmakers are old white men. From federal to state legislature… they created all the rules, regulations, and laws that govern the courts. They think they are doing men a favor. "Raising children is a woman’s job. Just send a check every month and let them take care of the ankle biters." And the whole family court system is pretty dysfunctional. It isn’t a utopia for mothers that grants their every wish. Mothers and fathers both have the same enemy. They have to influence the same lawmakers to improve the system.
Male rape victims don’t get taken seriously. Again, most detectives are men. Most of the police leadership are men. The lawmakers are mostly men. So let’s blame feminism for not getting justice.
You really don’t think women care about male victims of abuse? Many feminists are mothers of sons. Sons who they love to no end. Of course they care. Of course they want the justice system to care about their sons. Which is why feminists want to dismantle the system that says that men are strong and women are weak. The system that says men cannot really be raped.
The problem lies in how MRAs react to feminism. They see people talking about women’s issues and their reaction is not one of empathy. It is always, “What about us? Bad stuff happens to us too.” Just like that fellow who saw women trying to talk about their hardships in a work environment. He pipes in and complains about not being able to wear shorts. And worse, he equates his issue with theirs even though they aren’t even close in magnitude. Yes, it was a ridiculous example, but it perfectly demonstrated this common reaction men seem to have. When someone is talking about their problems, the proper response is not to reply with a list of your problems. No one is saying that your problems don’t matter, just that this isn’t the proper time to talk about them.
If the MRAs continue to derail every conversation by making it about them, they are not going to be taken seriously. There is plenty of space to talk about men’s issues. They don’t need to invade the space of feminism to be heard. And if they keep thinking women are the enemy, even though women are actually trying to make progress with some of the very issues you mentioned, they aren’t going to have much luck actually solving anything they care about.
BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY
ba ba BOOM
I don’t know enough about you or your situation to be very specific.
But I will say that almost every successful creative person I know thought they were a useless fuck-up at some point. Seriously.
I know two extremely successful and brilliant writers who can’t spell or use punctuation at all. Robert Kirkman had several titles fail before creating the defining independent comic of our age. Mark Millar, whose had several movies and has invented his own sub-genre of comics based on his name was actually sales poison for a long time, it was thought. My friend Nicola Scott, now one of the most successful artists in comics, actually was reduced to sleeping in her car when her previous career stalled. I know creators who were flipping burgers when they broke through, I know creators who were fired from crappy minimum wage jobs before they got their shot.
I myself, I have been ridiculously poor and at the end of my rope several times. When I got the call asking me to write my first comic, I was a hairdresser, and was so terrified, I was afraid to take the phone call, and kept putting it off and making excuses.
I don’t know your circumstances. But I know you can’t mold steel without flames. I don’t know anyone worth a damn who hasn’t struggled in their life. Struggle can forge you, struggle is your danger room. No one succeeds at anything important without it, not and has anything meaningful to say.
When you say you have no ‘redeeming qualities’ or talents, what you might mean is…
1) You don’t have any of those things that you can RECOGNIZE, or
2) You don’t have those things RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
Our past is not a binding contract. We don’t have to live with the lot in life we have at this moment. We can make a change. I went to beauty college and built my hairdressing business painfully slowly, piling up debt and doubt, and then, when I finally got it working, and filled with terror, I gave it all up to try this bizarre new thing called comics.
I am sure that you have something you want to do. I am sure you have skills, everyone does, even if they lack the capacity to see them for themselves.
My advice is, start small. Do something that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be writing or art, it could be martial arts, it could be crafts, it could be singing, whatever. Find something you like to do and work on it, with the goal of sharing it with others. There is encouragement in community.
Don’t think of the end goal, if that’s too far away. Think of tomorrow.
"Our past is not a binding contract. We don’t have to live with the lot in life we have at this moment. We can make a change."
YES! This. A hundred times THIS!
Oof. This is a complicated one.
First of all: E, you’re asking good and important questions, but I’m going to pick at your language a little, because I think it brings up some important issues:
Based on the way you phrased this, I am guessing that when you say “rape,” you mean “rape of a female victim.” I want you to take a minute and think about that—and what it may indicate about your own assumptions, biases, and understanding of the issue you’re bringing up.
Because, while it’s true that the majority of rape victims are female and the majority of perpetrators, male, that’s not the whole landscape, and it’s really, really important to recognize that. Male rape victims get treated unbelievably cruelly in media—and often erased altogether. Don’t be part of that. Don’t.
So, here’s a question to ask yourself: Would you still write that rape story with a male victim? Why, or why not? What would that change? And how would it change your relationship to the subject matter as a male author? What about as a reader?
(For that matter, when you think of female rape victims, are you mostly thinking of young, conventionally attractive, cisgender women? Why? What does that say about you as a writer, and the biases and assumptions you bring to this story?)
E, I’m not trying to pick on you here. This is a process I’ve worked through, too. Many writers do; all should. Willingness to really, really delve into the filters and lenses through which you interact with your subject matter is, I think, a prerequisite to responsible writing in general, and responsible writing about rape in particular.
Again, based on your question, I’m guessing that what you’re really asking about is a) fiction about b) rape of a woman or women, so that’s what I’m going to address in my answers. Bear in mind that those answers—or at least the details and implications of the answers—would change pretty significantly if you were asking the same questions about nonfiction, if you mashed up gender, or both.
The answer to your first question is—at least in theory—totally. There are male authors who can write and have written emotionally complex, authentic, believable comics about rape.
In theory, a lot of the advice you’ll see for men writing women also applies to men writing women who are also rape survivors. Start with this advice from Junot Diaz, and apply it doubly if you’re writing about rape.
The answer to the second question, however, is usually—not always, but usually—“no.”
Rape sits on a singularly tangled intersection of offensively overused trope and real trauma, compounded by craft issues that particularly tend to go hand-in-hand with portrayal of women in fiction.
A lot of lazy and/or confused writers have used rape as catch-all motivation for a heroine; or as a way to code a villain as extra evil; or to amp up the dark’n’gritty factor of a story. Rape—really, graphic violence against women in general—is a SUPER common shortcut for a lot of male writers to prove how DARING and TRANSGRESSIVE and GOSH-DARN LITERARY they are.
This is really, really, really common. Maybe less now, at least in comics, than it was eight or ten years ago, but still common enough to taint even more mindful portrayals by association. Right now, if you write a comic about rape, or with rape as a significant story element, regardless your intent, those other stories—their content, their (lack of) quality, and their prevalence—will inform the way readers perceive and interact with your comic. Even sensitive and thoughtful depictions of rape will be met with a deserved “Oh, hell, no, not again.” That’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility to understand the foundation you’re building on: your text does not exist in a vacuum.
So, there’s that.
You also need to remember that rape is also a horrible and very real thing that happens to real people, and some of those people will read your comic. Brandon Seifert, an excellent dude who writes excellent comics, explores this at some length in a really terrific essay about why he does not write rape, which I recommend reading and thinking about. The conclusion Brandon reaches isn’t the sole right one—this isn’t really a question where there is a sole right answer—but the process by which he reaches it is, I think, a great illustration of the stuff you should be thinking about as you consider whether to write a rape story.
Because here’s the thing: if you write a rape story, you will be taking some of your readers straight back to a shitty, violent, awful, sometimes life-changing thing that they have gone through. And those readers? They get reminded of that a lot. As I wrote above, rape is a very popular trope in fiction. And advertising. And cultural imagery. And humor. It is a nonstop gauntlet. And if you are going to contribute to that, you should be really fucking sure that it’s worth it.
So, how do you figure that out? The scary thing is, you can’t, at least not for sure. There is no single right answer, remember? (Someday, I promise, I’ll make a flow chart.) This is subjective as hell. But here are some questions* to help you figure out your own math:
1. Why do you want to write a rape story?
If it’s because you think it’ll raise ratings, make your story more “mature,” or express your admirable sensitivity to women’s issues, walk away now.
Some of the worst stories out there come from genuinely concerned individuals who want to raise readers’ awareness of sexual assault issues. Remember that something that you care passionately about or that has affected you deeply and personally may not be the best subject for a fictional story, since it’ll be very hard to separate yourself from your work enough to get a decent perspective.
2. Is there something that is not rape that would fill the same narrative function?
Great. Do that instead.
3. How much do you think you know about rape, how much do you actually know about rape, and how much footwork are you prepared to do?
How much of your idea of rape and its aftermath comes from fiction, how much from personal experience, and how much from research? How conscious are you of your personal assumptions and biases with regards to demographic details, and relationships of victims and perpetrators? Have you talked with many rape survivors? In what contexts? Have you volunteered at a crisis center, or interviewed people who do? Do you carry any assumptions or baggage about what a “normal” reaction to rape is, or what a “good” victim looks or acts like? Break that shit down, in detail. Do a LOT of research. Listen. Look at individual stories. Look at how issues like gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, dis/ability, social class, and institutional power can mediate people’s experiences and the impact of sexual violence.
4. Does this story include Satanic abuse, repressed memories, or other mostly-myths whose misrepresentation in and reinforcement by popular media continues to do serious fucking damage to real people?
Don’t go there.
5. Seriously, though: Why does this story have to be about rape?
Ask yourself this at every step of the way, and run your answer by everyone you trust to call “bullshit” if it is not good enough.
Best answer I’ve seen to this question.
Ambition is demanded of us because we know mediocrity is not an option. When society tells women that if we are just averagely good-looking, or averagely smart, or reasonably high-achieving, we will never be loved and safe, perfectionism is an adaptive strategy. We learn that if we want love and security, we have to be perfect, and if it doesn’t work out, well, that means we just weren’t good enough. And we know it probably won’t work out well. Girls aren’t fools. They know what is being done to them. They know what means for their futures in terms of money and power.
Girls get it. An under-reported, crucial facet of the study is the extent and cynicism of girls’ concerns about economic equality and unpaid work. A full 65% of girls aged 11-21 are worried about the cost of childcare, and while 58% say they “would like to become a leader in their chosen profession, 46% of them worry that having children will negatively affect their career.
Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have. They are striving to have it all everyway, striving to have everything and be everything like good girls are supposed to, and it hasn’t broken them yet, for good or ill. That’s is one reason young women still do so well in school and at college despite our good grades not translating to real-world success. It’s one reason we’re so good at getting those entry-level service jobs: we are not burdened by the excess of ego, the desire to be treated like a human being first, that prevents many young men from engaging proactively with an economy that just wants self-effacing drones trained to smile till it hurts.
The press just loves to act concerned about half-naked young ladies, preferably with illustrations to facilitate the concern. Somehow nothing changes. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe part of the function of the constant stream of news about young girls hurting and hating themselves isn’t to raise awareness. Maybe part of it is designed to be reassuring.
It must be comforting, if you’re invested in the status quo, to hear that young women are punished and made miserable when they misbehave.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: for all those knuckle-clutching articles about how girls everywhere are about to pirouette into twerking, puking, self-hating whorishness, we do not actually care about young women - not, that is, about female people who happen to be young. Instead, we care about Young Women (TM), fantasy Young Women as a semiotic skip for all our cultural anxieties. We value girls as commodities without paying them the respect that both their youth and their personhood deserves. Being fifteen is fucked up enough already without having the expectations, moral neuroses and guilty lusts of an entire culture projected onto this perfect empty shell you’re somehow supposed to be. Hollow yourself out and starve yourself down until you can swallow the shame of the world.
We care about young women as symbols, not as people.
"perfectionism is an adaptive strategy"
Wow. Thought provoking.