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My point: female protagonists are almost always the least invested in feminine presentation compared to other female characters in the story.
I'm not saying there's no such thing as major sympathetic female characters who care more about feminine presentation than other female characters in the story. There's lots of those. I am strictly talking about protagonists.
In most cases the main character is the best at looking pretty, but that's not the same as being the most invested. A common trope is the protagonist being forced to dress up prettily and looking fabulous with no effort on her part. Another common trope, especially on tv, is her looking fabulous and fairly girly despite explicitely "not caring". As many butch women have pointed out, mainstream fiction actually portrays women as being, overall, much more invested in feminine presentation than they are in reality. You almost never see genuinely butch women, instead many female protagonists SAY they don't care about feminine presentation but clearly LOOK like someone who cares a great deal.
I'm not saying that these stories are neccesarily sexist, especially not something like Fun Home which explores the generally ignored experiences of butch women. I just think it's notable that female protagonists are so limited, and want to poke at it.
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I'm conflating "trying to look good" with "traditionally feminine" a bit here, I realise they're not the same thing and if people have examples which poke at that I'd be interested too.
EDIT: I'm looking for PROTAGONISTS, not secondary characters/non-main parts of an ensemble, and they have to be EXPLICITELY MORE into dressing up etc than other female characters in the same story.
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EDIT: some examples from further thinking/other people:
- Buffy from Buffy
- Elle from Legally Blonde
- Aisha from Aisha and Cher from Clueless, both modern retellings of Emma that turn Emma's advice to Harriet on being more upper class into fashion advice
EDIT: Followup post.
So! I like to put wheelchair users in my games, because nobody else is going to. I feel reasonably confident writing/drawing people in my position: in a powerchair due to relatively recently acquired fatigue. Thanks to online research I also feel moderately confident with the Default Wheelchair User Character: a young, otherwise healthy paraplegic or amputee in a manual chair. The protagonist of SOON is this kind of character.
But I'm having trouble researching wheelchair using characters of other sorts, especially older people.
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One of the narratives we're fed is that there is a single path of Good Womanhood. This path is inconsistent and impossible for any real woman to follow, and because it's so inconsistent parts of it show up in all sorts of attempted subversions.
One of the other narratives we're fed is that women should sacrifice our own enjoyment for The Greater Good. Thus letting ourselves enjoy the narratives we enjoy, no matter how "problematic", is itself in some ways subversive. (This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to avoid being actively sexist. Or for that matter racist etc)
Saying that there is a single Feminist Narrative all female characters should fit into supports this idea that there is a single Good Way To Be A Woman. Also, chances are there is some way this "feminist" narrative ends up supporting part of the typical Sexist Narrative, or is just not to everyone's tastes. Telling women that they are unfeminist if they don't like The One Feminist Narrative buys into the idea that women should sacrifice their own enjoyment for the greater good.
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You do not need a reason to include disabled characters in your story. Able bodied people are not the default. Saying you need a reason to make a character disabled is like saying you need a reason to make them a woman, or a POC, or mogai. Or, conversely, that you need a reason to make them able bodied, a man, white, or straight. In fact I’ve started trying to make all my characters disabled queer WOC by default and only making them able bodied etc when the plot requires it and I can see no way this is not just as valid a storytelling approach.
Now, able bodied people are the majority, but disabled people are still 10% of the population. So they should be at least 10% of your cast. If they are not without good reason you are perpetuating ableism. Making your cast 100% ablebodied is a choice, and an unrealistic one at that. (Making your cast 100% disabled is also kind of unrealistic, and is one reason I don’t do it. But I don’t see that it’s any worse) EDIT: This depends very much on the context of your story. If it's set in a nursing home the number of disabled characters should probably be higher than if it's set in a unit of Navy Seals.
And yes, when you write those disabled characters, you have to write them as disabled, you can’t just gloss over their impairments and write them as able bodied. And it will be a challenge. Suck it up. Use it as inspiration to write a more interesting story. Or, if your story really doesn’t work with that disability, give them a different one or make them able bodied. But don’t give up before you’ve even tried by default.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out with the intention to write more disabled characters, and it is not pandering. Pandering to who, disabled people? OH NO.
You know what I find insulting? When a character in fiction shows up with a disability and I KNOW it will be plot relevant (and probably faked as part of them being the villain) because god forbid disabled characters just exist without it being a big deal. Like we do in real life.
Note: This is largely about cis female characters being read as cis male characters in fictional settings where everyone is assumed to be both cis and binary gendered. I think a lot of the ways this issue is discussed erase or belittle trans people (eg I am not a fan of the phrase "man in a dress"), and I hope I haven't done that, I have used "genderswap" a few times because in these settings there are only two genders.
So. I would never describe a female identified person as "effectively male". There are very limited circumstances in which I might describe a female fictional character that way, and none come to mind. And I have seen way too many examples of fans of all genders dismissing female characters for either being "too much like men" or "too much the kind of character men like" (feminine, sexy etc), and in a way which implicitely erases the existence of real life women with similar traits, or at the very least is hurtful to female fans who identify with that female character. For this reason, the phrase "effectively male" or statements like it rub me the wrong way.
But there are many times when I would say about a female character that "they are equivalent to a male character in X respect" or "I felt about them the way I would feel about a male character doing those things", and I know that's all a lot of other people mean when they say a female character is "effectively male".
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On political and value neutral Everything with any message at all has a political subtext.
Why I don't like the dragon argument Points out that "if you can have dragons why can't you have POC" has some unfortunate implications that work against it.
words against communication and Also you get things like... The way worrying about appropriation/stepping on disabled people's toes can stop some people from realising they are disabled themselves. (Not that able bodied people shouldn't worry, just that it's complicated!)
Refusing to have the “What You Did” conversation "1 The ‘what you did’ conversation implies the ‘what you are’ conversation. 2 The ’what you are’ conversation is uncivil and silencing. 3 Therefore, it’s uncivil and silencing to discuss ‘what you did.’"
Frustrations of being a black gamer playing BIOSHOCK INFINITE
Sweatshops still make your clothes
Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement
Vilification and 'just having a laugh' About the racist jokes in my old Uni's satirical newspaper
Righteous Wroth Rarely Is OMG a criticism of excessive social justice where the group making the criticisms (in this case, women) are the victims of the oppression ostensibly being attacked with too much zeal (eg sexism) I have Thoughts about the very complicated way mental illness (which often creates an inability to behave in the way society demands) interacts with the somewhat narrow sets of behaviours expected of a Good Ally/Activist but am not quite up to articulating them.
$300 for Julia Gillard's NDIS scheme? Please, my wheelchair costs $22,000 Apparently some Australians are ok paying taxes and levies for roads and schools but draw the line at helping disabled people.
And from the hahaha what department...
( Worse than global warming??? #followateen )
Imagine yourself pondering playing a free steampunk vampire f/f dating sim/visual novel. Which title sounds more appealing?
Which title is more alluring?
Other (explain in comments)
In other news my visual novel project is coming along pretty well :) I keep being paranoid that we've wandered into unfortunate implications with various plot points despite all of us trying very hard not to, I will definitely be asking if any of you guys want to be in on the alpha once we get to that stage.
Objecting to Objectification A post that really annoyed me. It basically says that queer women shouldn't, say, check out another women's breasts without stopping and thinking seriously about her ~thoughts~ and ~feelings~. Personally I am totally fine with random strangers (regardless of gender!) thinking I'm hot without wondering about my inner life, as long as they treat me like a person should we actually interact.
I really dislike the way ALL sexualisation of women is demonised within certain progressive spaces (while other "sex positive" progressive spaces are more likely to celebrate the sexualisation of women by men), meaning that there is pretty much nowhere it is accepted and normalised for women to sexualise other women. I realise that some women want safe spaces where they don't feel sexualised, but there's a difference between "Please don't sexualise women in this space" and "sexualising women is bad".
A criticism of yarn bombing
Identity should always be part of the gameplay N K Jemisin talking about how oppression and privilege are dealt with in the Dragon Age world. I know some people prefer fantasy worlds with no sexism/racism etc, but personally I tend to enjoy ones which DO have some bigotry as long as it's handled well and in a way that allows for happy endings.
The Naked and the TED A criticism of various books to come out of TED and TED in general.
The missing stair, My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?, “I am the Lorax, and I speak for the creeps!” Posts on dealing with creepiness (and worse) in other people
Fallacy Watch: No True Klansman Redefining terms like "racism" to refer to attitudes so heinous that nobody actually believes them, thus allowing the speaker to avoid being labelled with the term.
self-care: a buncha links, or something Not all self care can be ~enlightened~ acts like doing activism or eating organic free trade vegetables, but it's still necessary.
Lincoln Against the Radicals "Lincoln is not a movie about Reconstruction, of course; it’s a movie about old white men in beards and wigs heroically working together to save grateful black people."
I did a meme on tumblr offering to do a video post on any requested subject (the other one is on maths so got posted to alias_sqbr) and was given the topic "being a queer, disabled, feminist writer". I didn't talk much about feminism in the end! I'm wearing a Kate Beaton "Brontes" shirt and key earrings (and pants. You can't see them, just letting you know they're there)
It's interesting seeing what assumptions and stuff show up when I can't go back and edit the first thing that pops out of my head eg the idea that queer fandom = femslash fanfic which is all written by women, which...no :) Also, as a kid I actually did like the idea of a husband/boyfriend being like a best friend but better. But I knew not all relationships were like that.
Transcript below the cut, there are also closed captions through the magic of Youtube. A few errors but I can't be bothered fixing them right now, sorry!
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You’ll Probably Ignore Me Because I’m An Evil Straight White Dude, But…
10 rules for women blogging about their relationship woes
The E-Racing of The Hunger Games : Race & Cultures in Fiction There's more to writing non-white characters/POC than making them brown.
The Water Keeps Flowing The treatment of indigenous peoples is not "water under the bridge".
Field Guide: How to Recognize a Bad Boy Woobie I remember I had something to say about this, but not what it was.
Russ makes SOME attempt at intersectionality, but there are some glaring omissions. She's also almost entirely focussed on American/British English Literature, apart from one or two examples. But regardless I think the silencing techniques she talks about are pretty universal and this book would be useful to anyone thinking about how marginalised group voices are suppressed.
The cover contains a summary of her argument:
“She didn’t write it. But if it’s clear she did the deed… She wrote it, bit she shouldn’t have. (It’s political, sexual, masculine, feminist.) She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. (The bedroom, the kitchen, her family. Other women!) She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it. (“Jane Eyre. Poor dear. That’s all she ever…”) She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (It’s a thriller, a romance, a children’s book. It’s sci fi!) She wrote it, but she had help. (Robert Browning. Branwell Brontë. Her own “masculine side”.) She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly. (Woolf. With Leonard’s help…) She wrote it BUT…”
( She wrote it BUT… )
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Maybe I've been in Dragon Age fandom too long and am just used to female protagonists being the norm! Anyway, I am curious about other people now, not just about the number of female protagonists they've written but how many stories in general. Thus, a poll, and to make it more inclusive I haven't made it just about fanfic.
This isn't meant as a "Wow you people who find making ten fanworks about women hard are weird and bad" thing, you can't help what you're drawn to do and we're all different. For example, I failed pretty badly at 50books_poc and 12films_poc (though they were instructive and rewarding failures) and I'm sure a lot of people manage both challenges without trying. I just find it interesting.
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RSA Animate - Smile or Die Barbara Ehrenreich on the perils of seeing positive thinking as directly correlated to life success. To a certain extent the animation acts as captions(*) but since I couldn't find an actual transcript here's an article where she says similar things.
What Good Writers Still Get Wrong about Blind People
I am not Your Plot Device about fictional depictions of Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder.
(*)I tried watching it with the sound off and it was actually pretty cool :)
I make fanworks (fic, art, and comics) which (since they're about people) touch on issues like race, class, gender, sexuality, disability etc. There is always the danger with these works that I've inadvertently made something Very Hurtful that I won't notice until someone points it out to me. If I just chuck stuff online based on my own judgement it could do a whole lot of harm before someone points out the Fail, and then I have to figure out how to fix it. (If your response to this is that I shouldn't worry about it, this post is not aimed at you but, for example, Racefail: same shit, different day is. I do not feel like arguing with you)
One common solution offered for this problem is being beta-ed, but this doesn't work for me. (Research and mindfulness etc do a most of the time, and thus I do them, but they're not entirely reliable by themselves)
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That link has lots to look at, note the ones with asterixes in particular.
But two that I think make a nice pair of points:
This Is Not JUST about Writing Characters of Colour about how it's only the VERY racist fanfic that gets this level of criticism so people should stop whining that "writing non-white/POC characters is SCARY because people will yell at me"
Itys (oh the hue and cry) This is about the silencing of POC/non-white people, which isn't my struggle to ramble about, so it informs the rest of this post more obliquely. Still, definitely worth reading.
Rambly thoughts:( Read more... )
Buffy S8, canon Sues, and the impossibility of socialism under Campbell: or Protagonist Privilege
Passive versus Active: DEATH MATCH, or possibly, just a cup of tea
A lot of the time I'll find something angry-makingly Xist etc and when I complain people say "But it's satire". And I'll admit, sometimes I really am being obtuse, but a lot of the time I think this is crap, because it hurts the people it's supposedly helping and is amusing to those it's supposedly challenging. I've been trying to articulate this for ages, there's probably holes in my argument.
I'm going to talk about racism since this seems to be where it comes up the most and I want to cut down on my "etc"s, but it comes up with disability, sexuality etc all the time too.
So. An action is racist or not based on it's effect, not your intention.
If your satire:
-makes POC feel attacked
-makes very racist white people think you agree with them
-makes less racist white people laugh at the more racist white people and thus feel good about themselves
How is it in any way anti-racist? Or even racism neutral? (since not all art needs to have a positive social effect) How is it less racist in effect than a deliberately racist action intended to make POC feel attacked and agree with very racist white people?
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