January 19, 2013 by ehempstead
My friend Charlotte linked me a troubling article yesterday. Admittedly, I’m very biased when it comes to feminism, as I am a feminist. I am also a fantasy author, and have designed book covers, so of course I was far and away interested in this article.
The title “The battle against ‘sexist’ sci-fi and fantasy covers” actually caught my eye for the wrong reasons. Why is the word sexist in parenthesis? Have you ever seen one of these covers? Of course they are sexist! Scantily clad women posing between the legs of a strongly-posed white man, with her face pouty or scared–this is the norm, especially in comics.
The article is a feature about Jim Hines, who recreates covers that feature these posed, skin-showing females, written by Lynsea Garrison. And here’s where AP style really gets my goat: He ‘says’ that the covers objective women. He only says so, which means he only thinks so, when obviously they do. You don’t see men in poses like this. That is what makes Hines such an anomaly.
Hines, author of such titles as Libriomancer, The Mermaid’s Madness and Goblin Quest, says many in the science fiction and fantasy community have not had to think about harmful messaging or sexism.
I feel this quote highlights my struggle about what to do if I wrote this article. I understand that I am definitely going to have trouble with being objective. I don’t want to say that these covers are viewed as sexist by SOME, when the construction of gender roles, and discrimination as a whole, are things that literally get people killed. In fact, I have devoted my entire life to ending these constructions, by featuring art and prose that presents women and people of color in heavily important roles. Is this simply a failing to be objective, and giving in to bias? Or is it part of my duty, as a journalist, to say that these covers ARE absolutely wrong for all genders, and that the fight against gender roles can distinctly help us all? Hines says that people don’t have to think about it, and I am in a place to get them to think about it. Can I be so totally objective in that way?
It’s nice to see some more mainstream awareness of the ‘put men in female poses to highlight the ridiculous’ movement. There was quite a lot of coverage after the Hawkeye Initiative began, in which the comic character Hawkeye is drawn in the same poses that female heroes were placed in, to see how ridiculous most of these spine contorting images became. There was also the Men Ups! series by Rion Sabean, which highlighted pin up poses.
I simply don’t know if I can remove my feminism from my language. Clearly this class is going to be troublesome for me! After all, I am more of a Jim Hines than a Lynsea Garrison. Still, I wonder what Garrison thought about this? Did they also have trouble with the wording, perhaps also going through the same thoughts? I only know that I am nervous about what I will have to write.