October 20, 2011
Really good thoughts on the Lobdell interview

Really good thoughts by Ragnell¬†on Lobdell’s interview with Newsarama. Because I feel like he really didn’t get it and was basically saying in this interview that *we* the readers got it wrong, and our issues with Starfire’s portrayal were wrong because we were basing some of that on the wrong interpretation! You see, if you had concerns about how you interpreted the scene where Starfire asks Jason what *he* needs her to do, that’s because you didn’t have all the information in the writer’s head!

Most people would call that a Strawman (or Strawfeminist) argument, but what they did here was much more specific. They positioned themselves not as the defenders of their own artistic visions, but as the True Defenders of Womanhood. In their new narrative, they are knights in shining armor defending attractive women from jealous, judgmental catty witches.

But really, they are doing exactly the opposite. They’re defending themselves. They’re pulling the subject of their work in between them and their critic and using them like a shield.

Now, I won’t deny that there are some critics who go into slutshaming. Ridiculous judgments about real-life women who get their photos taken, who sign on for racy videos, or who dress a certain way that come out when criticizing a fictional portrayal of a woman or when discussing the appropriateness of a piece of art. (A protest video, for example, or a racy poster hung up in a place of work.) This does happen.

Thing is this defense gets pulled out when there’s legitimate complaints going around to address. (But oddly, never does this defense get pulled out when straight men are gathered and making “hurr hurr” comments about the subject of the work.) It’s pulled out to ignore those complaints, and position the creator/artist as the truly enlightened lover of women, and anyone made uncomfortable by this as a shrill fairy tale villain. We see it again and again, and you know what? It works.

It freaking works, because it puts the critic on the defensive. If the critic has a legitimate complaint, it’s usually because they recognize that women are people and that real women are hurt by terms like “Slut” or “whore” and by encouraging a culture that judges based on clothing and appearance even if the work in question is entirely fictional.

There’s just something weasely about the whole tactic, and we see it ALL the time, from comics to commercials, to what sort of images are displayed at work, to just calling out a guy for leering at a stranger on the street. (“What’s your problem with showing a little boob?” Nothing, my problem is with showing your eyes so far out of their sockets.) The default for some men seems to be to remove yourself from the equation and point all the complaints at the woman, rather than answer for your own behavior.

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