Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Geeks are sexist too.
On the top line, we have Snooki, Bella Swann from Twilight (or depending on how you look at it, Kristin Stewart, who plays Bella), I-can't-be-bothered-to-figure-out-which-Kardashian-it-is, Kat von D, and Lady Gaga. All of them (with perhaps the exception of the Stewart and Snooki images) are depicted in revealing clothing. I honestly never thought I would observe that Snooki looked classier than someone, but there you have it. Because these women are dressed scantily (for larger or smaller values of scantily), the image presumes they have no inherent value.
Never mind that Kristin Stewart herself is outspoken, intelligent, actually HATES Twilight, and calls people out in interviews for using the word bitch. Never mind that Kat von D is famous not because she occasionally chooses to show off her gorgeous body, but because she is incredibly talented in a field that is traditionally considered to be male-dominated (she is a tattoo artist, best known for her work on the series LA Ink). While nobody is arguing that Gaga has interesting ideas about fashion, she has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community and of condom usage among sexually active people. You will notice that I have not listed a single thing in this paragraph that makes ANY of the women in this image a bad role model.
I have to grant you that in the cases of Snooki and whichever-Kardashian-that-is, I wouldn't consider either of them a role model. But you have to give them some credit, since they got famous by doing less work than your average technical support manager and have managed to make rather a lot of money doing so. Regardless, the image implies that these women are less worthy because they choose to dress in a sexy and/or revealing manner, something I take issue with.
Furthermore, you can look at the very same series as are portrayed in the middle row and come up with some terrible examples of progressive female character portrayal. Princess Leia, leader of the Rebel movement, queen of an entire planet, and twin of JESUS H. SKYWALKER, is presented here in her iconic slave costume. Because, you know, even a Queen is still a sex object first.
Now, I'm not going to bother addressing that bottom row of pictures up there individually, but we can see that in the geek cultural world there is still plenty of encouragement to objectify women. And that's the point, really, that I've been trying to get at with this entire rant. This image portrays geek culture as being superior because of the presence of non-scantily-clad female role models, but to me this says that women who choose to perform their gender and appearance in ways that people consider "sexy" are worthless. This image isn't about geeks being progressive, it's about slut shaming real women just because they choose to be sexy.
I've already ranted plenty of times about the sexualization of women in fiction, particularly comics, so I'll leave that thought be, but there is an important distinction to make as to why it's okay for real women to choose to be sexualized and why it's not okay for men to sexualize and objectify women the way they do in fiction, particularly geek fiction. The women on the top line of the image at the top of this post are celebrating their sexual agency and expressing themselves freely and not at all inappropriately (seeing as all of the fun parts are covered, and Stewart and Snooki are both wearing clothes I wouldn't be ashamed to wear to work). The women on the other two lines are depictions of (largely) men's ideas on how women should perform their sexuality.
I would be proud to list Gaga and Kat von D among my role models. I may not like Bella Swann, but neither does Kristin Stewart. And if anyone would like to pay me tens of thousands of dollars an episode to binge drink and tan myself leathery, I am so there. Call me. In the meantime, I propose that instead we celebrate people for having the confidence and bravery to dress however the fuck they like, even if that means bringing an entire new definition to the phrase "skirt steak."