Posts Tagged ‘Patriarchy!’

Violence, Misogyny, And Why All Men Must Be Better

May 26, 2014

This weekend, a young man in California went on a killing spree. The media has been covering the story extensively, but are highlighting his father’s connection to The Hunger Games movies and speculating about his mental health rather than addressing the vitriolic misogyny at the core of a Youtube screed and a 140 page manifesto the perpetrator left behind. The man was a virgin, and was furious with women for not giving him the attention he felt he was entitled to. He frequented sites run by pick-up artists and men’s rights activists that degrade and dehumanize women, internalized their hateful messages, and then bought a gun and meticulously planned out his vengeful attack.

The whole situation is appalling, and I have nothing to say about the media’s lack of focus on the shooter’s obvious misogyny that hasn’t been said better elsewhere; I suggest Jessica Valenti’s excellent piece in The Guardian. But watching the public reaction to the shootings on Twitter and elsewhere this weekend has been depressing. Those who pointed out the misogyny at the heart of the violence, many of them women, were met with choruses of “not all men.” It seems that certain men, faced with women talking about their own experiences with misogyny, feel compelled to make the conversation all about themselves, essentially proving the original point.

None of this is surprising. “Not all men” is such a common refrain that it’s become a meme. But this weekend, the “not all men” chorus was answered with the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, because while “not all men” threaten women, all women have felt threatened by men. Women related their experiences with sexism and misogyny, highlighting the daily issues they face just by being a woman in a patriarchal society.

It is indisputable that we live in a society that undervalues and dehumanizes women. Rates of sexual violence against women are massive, while the number of prosecutions of rapists and perpetrators of assault is miniscule, much less convictions. In my own field, I regularly write about sexism in the comic book industry and have yet to be threatened in any way, while every woman I know who writes about the same topics has been met with rape and/or death threats. Again, this is not surprising information. Such things have been going on for quite a while; millennia, in fact.

Now, you may be a man who has never threatened a woman, has never committed an act of sexual violence, and has certainly never brought a gun to a sorority house. Congratulations, you’ve reached the lowest bar of human decency by not doing something terrible. But here’s the thing: All of the misogyny that’s out there, this culture of entitlement and disregard for women’s agency that breeds contempt and violence, that’s on us. We are the primary beneficiaries of the patriarchal society that spawned it, and it’s our job to stop it. All men must be better.

Being men, we have it much easier in our society, on account of the fact that the world was designed for us. Men have been in charge for a long, long time, so by and large everything has been created in our best interest. We make more money. We hold more positions of power. Even in the most mundane, everyday experiences, things are better for us; we can ride the subway without being groped, we can talk and people will listen to us, we don’t have to watch our drinks at parties, we don’t have to carry pepper spray or tasers or rape whistles or arrange our keys like a weapon when we walk home alone. And it’s easy not to notice these advantages, because it’s our only experience of the world.

This is exacerbated by a general lack of understanding of anyone else’s experiences. Again, patriarchy. The majority of what we see, hear, read, and experience is through the lens of men. For example, when you go to the movies, on average 75% of the characters are men, 13% of the films are written by women, and only 7% are directed by them, despite the fact that women are half of the population. Our cultural experience is a male experience, and thus male issues and perspectives get amplified. The result is an echo chamber that shapes our view of the world, further entrenching us in the system of male-centrism at the core of our society.

We need to aggressively counter this.

Because if we don’t, we get swallowed up by dominant cultural messages just by going about our day, and thus reinforce the patriarchal system. Women’s voices are marginalized, so we need to seek them out. We need to go out of our way to read, listen to, see, and talk to women so that we can understand their experience of the world. Fiction, non-fiction, music, television, comics, everything; we need to engage. We have to understand their perspectives as best we can, and realize that there are perspectives, plural, because women are not monolithic. We need to value their experiences of the world as much as we value our own.

Not being a sexist jerk isn’t enough, because our society is inherently rigged against women and we’re benefitting from it. We need to counterbalance our own personal experience of the world, and then go out and be better. And show other men how to be better. And most definitely teach boys how to be better. We need to take apart the patriarchy that we’ve built brick by brick, and to do this we have to see it. And hopefully, eventually, things will start to shift.

Seeing women as people and respecting them isn’t even the least we can do. It’s not even step one. It’s step zero; it’s the landing we start on. It’s basic human decency. Step one is engaging, and understanding and actively countering the biased system we are steeped in every day. All men must do this, or we are tacitly enabling its continued existence. All men must be better.


On Female Customers In Unwelcoming Comic Shops OR These Shops Will Slowly But Surely Die

February 11, 2014


Yesterday, Noelle Stevenson posted a comic about her experiences in comic shops that were unfriendly towards female customers.  Noelle is a comic book creator herself, the writer and artist of the fantastic and award winning webcomic Nimona and the co-writer of the upcoming Lumberjanes, and yet she often finds comic book shops uncomfortable and offputting, to such a degree that she doesn’t go to them anymore.  The staff can be condescending and dismissive to women, and this obviously creates a rather unpleasant environment for female customers.

Some might suggest that Noelle’s experiences are her own and not necessarily indicative of comic shops more broadly, but here’s the thing: Her comic has been up less than a day and it’s already got over 60,000 notes.  There are A LOT of people identifying with her frustrations, and this highlights a huge problem within the comic book industry.  It’s not a new problem, certainly, but one that’s existence is ridiculous in 2014.

Now, there are a lot of fantastic, welcoming comic shops out there.  The site Hate Free Wednesdays lists tons of great stores, including my own local comic shop, Strange Adventures.  But for every awesome store, there’s a shop that conforms to The Simpsons Comic Book Guy stereotype and treats female customers poorly.  They assume that because she’s a woman she doesn’t know anything about comics, or that she’s there just to buy stereotypically “girly” items.  They see themselves as the gatekeepers of a vast mythology that the uninitiated are unworthy to access, and see all women as automatically on the outs based solely on their gender.  They believe that the objectification and sexualization of female characters is fine – nay, required – because comics are meant for them and must cater to their prurient desires.  They are a sad, contemptuous bunch who have long forgotten the joy and awe these caped adventurers inspired in them when they first discovered comics.

Which brings us to the comic book industry itself, and superhero publishers in particular.  In many ways, these unwelcoming shops are a reflection of these publishers.  They assume that women don’t want to buy their products, they rarely hire women and when they do they often put them on books starring female characters, they’re terrible at making their characters accessible to new readers, and they continually pump out T&A to appease what they see as their core audience.  Their books are dark and gritty, joyless tales of death and destruction.  For quite some time now, unfriendly comic book shops and unfriendly publishers have been working in tandem to repel women away from comic books.

Things have been getting better on the publishing side, albeit slowly.  Marvel in particular has realized that a female audience exists AND that they enjoy more than just female characters, though the recent increase in female-led books is nice too.  The New 52 and Marvel NOW! have created a somewhat better level of accessibility.  The T&A is still pretty ridiculous, though, and there is often an entrenched antagonism towards anyone who brings up sexism or problematic choices.  They don’t seem to realize that making a few good moves doesn’t mean that people won’t continue to criticize their many bad ones.

Nonetheless, the industry is slowly improving, however glacially, and ideally comic book shops will follow suit.  The growth in popularity of publishers like Image and Boom!, particularly among female fans, is shifting audience demographics, and the stores that continue to see female customers as some sort of affront to their purity will miss out on a lot of business.  In this day and age, when it’s so easy to get comics, both physical and digital, online, all comic book shops are going to have to offer excellent service to survive, and those who actively exclude half the population will probably be among the first to die.

Noelle’s comic perfectly captures the plight of many female fans in today’s comic book marketplace, but hopefully the tide is turning.  It’s ludicrous that women still face such neanderthalic treatment in comic shops in 2014, and the responses to the comic from mansplainers online has just been foolish.  Patriarchy; it’s the worst.   But in the end, some women will find good shops and these stores will thrive, while others will find alternative ways of getting comics.  Some might ditch the medium, which is unfortunate, but overall the recent growth of female readers has been very encouraging.  I mean, disgruntled female customers are MAKING COMICS about their experiences.  Comics will be fine; this is the new vanguard of what the medium is becoming.  In the end, the real losers are the actual losers who fail to recognize that women are people and instead lock themselves in their He-Man women haters nerd dungeons; their shops will stagnate or die.  And good riddance to them.

No Female Characters In McDonald’s Beware The Batman Happy Meal Toys

September 4, 2013

happymealThis is just getting ridiculous.  Since starting this blog a couple years back, I’ve done four different posts about the complete lack of female characters in McDonald’s Happy Meal toy lines based on DC characters.  This will be the fifth, with their new Beware the Batman line.

Before we get to that, let’s do a quick recap.  First, a series of Young Justice toys in March 2011 only included male characters, despite the team prominently featuring several female members:


Their multitudinous Batman: The Brave and the Bold toy line didn’t fare any better in May 2011:


Almost a year later, the Green Lantern: The Animated Series toy collection had no ladies at all:


And then in November 2012 we got a second Young Justice line that again ignored the show’s many female character’s:


Now McDonald’s is set to launch a Beware the Batman toy line, based on the new Cartoon Network show.  Not surprisingly, there are no gals whatsoever.  In fact, there’s only one guy, over and over:


We all love Batman, of course, but that’s a lot of Batman.  Who does a toy line with only one character?  How are you supposed to play with those?  You need sidekicks and villains so you can make your own awesome stories.

Speaking of sidekicks, Batman’s main sidekick in the show is Katana, a female character.  She’s on all the posters and everything, and she’s really cool.  She’s got a sword even!  But no, it’s just Batman, and McDonald’s already has a second line of toys for girls anyway, based on The Wizard of Oz:


Which oddly enough actually features some male characters.  Half of the “girl” line are males, while none of the “boy” line is.

That McDonald’s regularly features two different lines based on some rather stereotypical and reductive concepts of gender is annoying enough, but the complete lack of female representation in their superhero-based toys is just dumb.  Notice how the Wizard of Oz toys include the male characters that feature prominently in the story, while ALL of their superhero lines exclude the many female characters who are key parts of each program.  You’ve got to go out of your way to not include a single female character over five different lines of superhero toys. They’re really hard to miss, but it seems that DC and McDonald’s have learned how to expertly turn a blind eye.  It shouldn’t be so hard to get a female superhero with your chicken nuggets.

McDonald’s Superhero Toys Again Exclude Women Entirely OR The Problem With Green Lantern

April 3, 2012

In the past I’ve written a couple posts about the Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s and how their superhero lines never have female characters.  My first post was a rundown of several different toy lines, including Young Justice, “Marvel Heroes”, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Lego Batman video game, and the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon.  The second was a follow-up piece with even more Batman: The Brave and the Bold figures.  NONE of these lines had any women characters at all.

Plus, all of these lines had a more girl-oriented toy counterpart, because McDonald’s LOVES stereotypical gender roles.  There’s always a boy toy and a girl toy, and superheroes are for boys while cutesy pastel coloured animals and dolls are for girls.  While McDonald’s swears up and down that they never refer to the toys as boy or girl toys, they do it ALL the time.  Or just give the kid the toy that matches their gender without asking.  My niece Lois regularly gets indignant with the cashiers when they try to foist a girl toy on her… she’s only 5, but she’s kind of a bad ass.  It’s pretty awesome.

Of course, all of this is terribly insidious.  Infecting children’s minds with dichotomous gender roles limits their choices, first with toys and games and then down the road with work and real life, and you get things like income disparity and few women in positions of power and the patriarchy keeps rolling on because they’re goddamn superheroes and ladies are for making babies.  Thus are all their toys so infantilized.

So now McDonald’s is continuing this ridiculous trend with toys based on Green Lantern: The Animated Series.  Here are the toys:

We’ve got:

  • Three different Hal Jordans.
  • Kilowog (a dude).
  • Razer (also a dude).
  • A power ring.
  • Cool mask glasses that I kind of want but they probably wouldn’t fit my face.
  • The Interceptor (a ship).

No ladies at all.  Now, there aren’t many ladies in the show from what I’ve seen thus far (I’ve only seen a few episodes because the shows airs on a delay in Canada and certain other means of procurement have been slow to show up on the internets).  Hal, Kilowog, and Razer are trapped in some far edge of the galaxy and it’s just the three of them.  However, at the end of the fourth episode, their ship’s sentient computer system, Aya, turns into a sort of android thing who looks like this:

Plus Carol Ferris is set to turn into Star Sapphire in the ninth episode.  There ARE ladies, with cool superpowers and everything, and they could have maybe stuck one in instead of THREE Hal Jordans.  But they didn’t.

Here are the girl toys, in case you were wondering… they’re something called Squinkies that promise, and I quote, a “surprize inside”:

So little baby animals for little girls to love and care for (in preparation for their future children!!).  To be fair, a couple of them are sort of cool sounding.  There’s a dragon and a unicorn and a pegasus.  Still, you really can’t get more stereotypical than pastel baby animals.

But back to Green Lantern.  As terrible as McDonald’s is, and they’re pretty terrible, this does continue a trend of few to no women in DC’s Green Lantern properties.  Next to the Batman family, Green Lantern is their biggest brand right now, and the ladies are rare at best.

In terms of female creators, the Green Lantern comics are terrible.  I’ve been doing women in comics stats for over a year now, and there are rarely any women involved.  Of the four Green Lantern books published now, only one features a female creator, Nei Ruffino colouring Green Lantern: New Guardians.  There are no women on Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, or Red Lanterns.  For March 2012, there were 40 credited creators over those 4 books, and only one was a woman. 

Inside the comics, the Green Lantern book has a few female characters, but it’s the guys who are the stars.  Soranik Natu is the only decent, regularly appearing female character.  There are a few more, but they look like this:

Or this:

Which is just super classy.

McDonald’s systematically excludes women from their superhero toy lines, but in this case women are hardly well served in Green Lantern products anyway.  Girls can be superheroes too.  Girls can LIKE superheroes too.  But not at McDonald’s, or in Green Lantern comics.

Maybe McDonald’s would go for some cutesy Green Lantern babies.  Baby Kilowog would be adorable.

McDonald’s Toys LOVE To Reinforce Stereotypical Gender Roles

March 23, 2011

A lot of comic book sites have been commenting lately on McDonald’s line of Young Justice toys.  Currently, when you go to McDonald’s you get one of eight fun Young Justice figures.  Take a look:

They are, in order, Robin, Batman, Superboy, Superman, Aqualad, Black Manta, Kid Flash, and Captain Cold.  They look very cool, but there’s a problem.  They’re all boys.  The TV show features several female characters… Miss Martian and Artemis are regulars, while Black Canary is the team’s official trainer.  Furthermore, there are female villains, such as Cheshire.  There’s no lack of women in Young Justice, but they’ve been excluded here.  And in favour of some odd choices too… Superman’s barely ever in the show, Black Manta was only on once, and Captain Cold hasn’t even shown up yet.  Yet they got picked over female characters who are in EVERY episode. 

However, this is perfectly okay to the folks at McDonald’s… if you’re looking for a female toy, Young Justice is only half of the current line-up.  They also offer a delightful selection of Littlest Pet Shops toys, tiny little animals with stands you can decorate with flower stickers.  They look like this:

McDonald’s does this all the time.  They put out two lines of toys, one aimed at boys and one aimed at girls, that only serve to reinforce stereotypical concepts of gender.  The boy’s toys are always cars or trucks or superheroes, something actiony with moving parts and usually somehow associated with violence, while the girl’s toys are always dolls or cute animals, something they can cuddle or comb and generally nurture.  Plus, these toys are explicitly referred to in gendered terms.  The question is rarely “Do you want Young Justice or Littlest Pet Shop?”, but rather “Do you want the boy or the girl toy?”  And that’s just in the drive-thru… if they can see your kid, you’re getting the toy that matches their gender.

This is a problem.  Instead of getting to pick the toy they like the most, kids are bombarded with the idea that their gender must determine their preference.  When boys are constantly given toys referred to as “boys” toys, they start to think that a) this is what boys are supposed to like, b) boys aren’t allowed to like “girl” toys, and c) girls aren’t allowed to like “boy” toys (this all works vice versa with girls too, of course).  This sets up a paradigm where anyone acting outside of their proscribed gender roles becomes an object of scorn and ridicule.  As this seeps into their little brains, kids start to see everything through a gendered binary.  What starts out as toys, games, and activities, over time affects educational choices, careers, and household responsibilities.

And it’s all McDonald’s fault.

Well, not quite, but they do this ALL the damn time.  Observe:

These are the Marvel Heroes toys from 2010.  Not a female in the bunch, but there was an earlier line of Littlest Pet Shop toys available for the gals.  There are quite a few female Marvel heroes (Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, any number of X-women), but none of them made the cut here.

Also from 2010 is this selection of Batman: The Brave and the Bold toys.  They could have gone with Wonder Woman or Black Canary or Catwoman or Vixen or Batgirl, to name a few, but not so much.  There were, however, a lovely selection of My Little Pony figurines.

In 2009, McDonald’s had toys from the Spectacular Spider-Man TV show.  Gwen Stacey, Mary Jane Watson, and Black Cat were all options (I can understand them not doing an Aunt Mae… that’s a dull figure), but they went for Hello Kitty instead.

The Lego Batman game was all the rage in 2008, and so McDonald’s had this line of toys.  If you’ve played the game you know that not only are Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman heavily featured, they’re also SUPER handy because of their awesome double jump feature.  But McDonald’s had girls covered with some weird looking Wizard of Oz dolls.

Finally, in 2007 there was a series of Legion of Super Heroes figures.  The show featured Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Emerald Empress, and several other female characters, but McDonald’s went with all boys.  Plus, of course, a cute Build-A-Bear doll.

Lest you think I’m picking on McDonald’s, lets take a quick gander at a few superhero related toys from other restaurants:

Burger King put out some figures for Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007, and lo and behold they included Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. 

Previously, Burger King’s X-Men: The Last Stand toys had featured Storm AND Jean Grey (who dies five minutes into the damn movie!!).

Wendy’s 2005 Teen Titans Go! toys included a wristband, a Frisbee, and this cool clock, all of which included Raven and Starfire alongside their male teammates.

Finally, we are back to Burger King for their 2003 Justice League figures that featured Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl.

So, what the hell, McDonald’s??  Why do they love relegating kids’ preferences into tiny, stereotypical little boxes?  Are they patriarchal fiends trying to perpetuate the stereotypical concepts of gender that have subjugated women and kept men ruling the world for millennia?  Or, perhaps they’ve stumbled upon the most brilliant business model of all time.  Forcing children to deny their own desires and conform to a rigid concept of gender likely builds up feelings of loss and resentment.  And what does the Western world do with these unpleasant feelings?  We try to eat them away.  And where do we eat them away?  AT MCDONALD’S!!  They’re just raising the next generation of McDonald’s customers.

Whether they’re patriarchal jackasses or brilliant, malevolent businessmen, I am most definitely NOT loving this toy situation.

UPDATE: For more examples of McDonald’s ridiculousness, check out this post.

Disproportionate Representation

November 10, 2010

Many news outlets today are reporting that, for the first time in over thirty years, the total number of women in the Unites States Congress will likely drop when the 112th Congress convenes this January.  This would be the first time since 1979 that the number of women in Congress has fallen.  After the 2009 election, there were 74 women elected to the House and a total of 17 women in the Senate, for a grand total of 91.  If the current projections hold, 73 women will go to the House, and the Senate will maintain at 17 women, for a new grand total of 90.  This is, of course, not cool at all, but even worse is the percentage of Congress these numbers represent:

  • House: 73 women in 435 seats = 16.8%
  • Senate: 17 women in 100 seats = 17%
  • America: 155,600,000 women of 310,673,000 people = 50.1%

Things seem a little bit off. 

CNN has a fascinating table that shows the percentage of women in government around the world.  In first place is Rwanda, with 56.3% women in their lower house of government.  Would you have ever guessed Rwanda was in first?  I sure wouldn’t have.  The United States currently sits tied with Turkmenistan in 73rd place.  That’s pretty astoundingly awful.  My own home and native land, Canada, is at 51st place with 22.1%, which isn’t a whole lot better.

When Iraq is beating you (at 39th place… seriously!), you’ve gotta wonder what you’re doing wrong.

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