Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] Watching the World Turn Upside Down

As most of you know, I don't tend to get passionate about a whole lot. I try pretty hard to be even-natured and talk about things in a fairly rational way. I don't let too much rile me up, and I avoid the shenanigans you can count on from my co-author, SinSynn.

I'm going to play by some different rules for this series, which I had planned and sketched out well before last week's web explosion on gender, bias and sexism.

Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at access and control some more, along with the gaming community and how women are viewed and treated. I'll probably discuss how we got to where we are today, and ask a lot of questions. 

Last time, I talked about control and access in regards to women's sexuality. This time, - let's talk about women's rights. I'm specifically looking at the way the world is changing and how control and access is being challenged, especially via religion and politics (at least in the US).

Roe V. Wade was decided less than a month before I was born. I have lived my entire life with an understanding and knowledge that I have the ability and right to chose what happens to my body. It's been an absolute; something that was just woven into the background of daily life. That knowledge was also deeply ingrained in the atmosphere around choices for women and their career paths. It was practically a mantra for the girls in my class that "you can be whatever you want to be". I'm a Title IX baby- equal access to sports was just the way things were for me in my youth. In short; I have been spoiled by the idea that I am in control of my person and I alone have the ability to give or deny access to it.

That doesn't mean there weren't obstacles and hindrances to women as I was growing up; it just means that by the time I was in my teens, Ms. Magazine had way less influence and feminism was practically a dirty word. The world had changed, and women were publicly being given the access to sports, careers, advancement and sexual freedom that they had been demanding.

Publicly means that a lot of this was lip service and talking points. The one thing that wasn't hot air was in the forum of reproductive rights. Women made it a cultural touchstone that CHOICE was a revered and untouchable issue; candidates for Supreme Court were tossed out of public opinion for their stance on a woman's right to choose. Founders of major corporations were demonized for their tacit approval of extremist pro-life organizations' actions and methodologies, if not outright donations to those groups. It was more dangerous to be pro-life than to be a racist for many years.

The landscape shifted in recent memory. Slowly but surely, the bedrock of women's access to privacy, assurance of advice from doctors, and ability to control their reproductive options was eroded away.

This happened in small steps, under many various "safety" oriented guises. Almost all of the provisions, changes and alterations to women's ability to control what happens inside their persons were directed by evangelicals, who used huge "mega churches", religious radio and immense donations to push through legislations that completely denied women any semblance of control over their wombs.

It's gone from more hoops to jump through to access reproductive services to an all out assault on the nations' largest low fee clinic for sexual health services, Planned Parenthood. It's no longer enough to make women seeking terminations endure a waiting period; there were strong attempts to force them to endure trans-vaginal ultrasounds for undisclosed and unscientific reasons.

[Folks, I've had 2 kids. During the delivery of one of those kids, I had to have that lovely wand inside my lady bits. As much as I enjoy a great toy, and it all seems fun and games (oh, she let a prick up there before, what's the damage to poke her again? seems the unspoken rationale for the wand); those suckers are painful and weird. ]

Simply wanting the option to have birth control covered by health insurance (something that is not a given here in the US) becomes an invitation to being insulted and degraded on national media. Wanting to discuss access and control of reproductive services as a legislator invites censure from your peers.

I'm watching the world I know turn upside down, and it's beyond bizarre. The concept that it is more ok in society for my kids to be gay than for a woman to have control over her body is a stunning and unreal concept for me.

All of that is happening in the "real world". The way women are viewed and treated in other communities, particularly geek/gaming culture is of interest to me, as well.

Women, for the most part, are seen as mysterious and alluring as far as I can tell. I find that odd, because I know tons of women. They certainly exist in geekdom; and in video gaming they are a huge portion of the market. It's slowly becoming important to "try" to market to ladies, but Dudes do not apparently have any real idea what "girls want". [Hint: Making something Pink does not work.]

Most of the time, women are given a gentle pat on the head; in an endearing way. It's almost paternalistic, in the same way you'd shoo a child away from the "grown up table". The use of women as a sales tool inside the nerd kind is huge, and it appears that there's a genuine belief that an attractive woman holding a gun reads strong woman and not sex object.

Making a strong nerdy female character, model, or heroine is an interesting task. It's a very rare thing that a woman is just as cool (if not cooler than) as the guys without wearing titillating clothing. It's become a THING that the ladies use their looks to get ahead, and almost never depend on being smart, knowing how to solve problems, or any of that cool shit like the guys do. The idea that Sex as a Superpower  is what has happened to women over the years bothers me a lot.

I know there IS hope- Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley, Buffy Summers and Lisbeth Salander give me some belief that someone out there gets it-While women are DIFFERENT; they have talents and abilities that can and should be used to equally fight off our collective fears rather than look pretty.

Hope is all I can hold onto for now, knowing how afraid the climate is that I might use my control in some way to prevent access to my apparent one true feature. It'll have to do.


  1. I can add some women from other comics to your list, Barbara Gordon, Ms (soon to be Captain) Marvel, Zatanna, Power Girl (don't let the name fool you) and Huntress...and Supergirl. And in sci fi there is Honor Harrington, now in her umpteenth novel by David Weber. All are what i would call strong female characters who stand on their own.


  2. Nice article, and I particularly liked the second article that you linked out to.

  3. damn...just so you know I am posting about this in both Womyn Making Waves and Journey of a kitten. This is seriously good.

  4. It's bothered me for a while that in comics and games there never seem to be plain or ugly women, unless they're old like Malifaux's Zoraida. Most female characters are "hotties" with guns or swords. This is even the case in film adaptation, in which book characters who are average are portrayed by attractive actors. I was glad to see "Game of Thrones" cast an appropriate-looking actor to play Brienne of Tarth. I would add her and Catelyn Stark to the list of strong women characters, and I hope the show continues to do the characters justice.

    1. I keep telling Lo' to watch it, but she sez 'meh.'

  5. I really enjoyed that article. I regret not noticing this blog sooner I gotta say.