Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:55 on 29-08-2011, Jamie Johnston
That said, I'm still a little bit annoyed by your apology. To me, it reads as though as you are saying: "I'm sorry I upset you by the way I chose to dismiss your arguments; I should have chosen to dismiss them a different way." Implying that I need you to link me to trans people writing about cis-sexism is no better than believing I need you to explain trans issues to me in the first place.

Yes, sorry, I now see that it reads like that. What I meant was simply that it would have been better to show the sources that I'd derived my understanding of cissexism from, rather than trying to explain it myself. You (and others) may well already be familiar with them, or with the ideas expressed, in which case it would have enabled you to say 'Yes I know that but I disagree with it' or 'Yes I know that but I think you're misinterpreting / misapplying it'. If they weren't already familiar, they might or might not have changed your view. In any event there wasn't really anything I could add, and if I hadn't tried to do so I wouldn't have fallen into mansplaining, dismissiveness, and so on. I should also have said that I'm sorry for the way I phrased my comment in the original post that started the discussion, which I am.
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at 17:30 on 29-08-2011, valse de la lune
Where did you even come from?
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at 16:56 on 29-08-2011, Gamer_2k4
Well, if things were heated, I'm going to turn up the heat again. I only caught this argument on the tail end, so, you know, my bad.

The whole "cissexism" thing with regards to ART is a complete non-issue. It's looking for problems where they don't exist. Realistically, there is not and cannot be a difference between "fighters with breasts" and "women fighters" in the context of drawings.

"Oh but what if this feminine-looking person in the drawing identifies itself as a man?" someone whines. Yeah, what if? What if the rock on the ground over there thinks it's a woman and we're doing it a great disservice by assuming it's just a rock?

At the end of the day, these characters have breasts, so they're women. End of story. It's the sort of thing that's safe to assume because it's the norm and there's no reason to believe otherwise. It's like looking at a coworker and deciding he PROBABLY doesn't take a zeppelin to work. Do I know that? Of course not. But it's a safe assumption.
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at 14:35 on 28-08-2011, Wardog
Sorry things got a bit heated. I get that it's a borderline case.

And I do, actually, understand that issues that affect women can also affect people who are not women but code as female. And so I can understand that the site might have been able to be more inclusive had the title been something like "female-coded warriors in sensible armour." Except I would be worried that this is a kind of false inclusivity in that if you were a trans person looking for images of trans people (in sensible armour) I have no idea if you'd find what you were looking for on that site. Obviously I don't want to speak for trans people but if I, as a cis-woman, were to compile images that I identified with, I would not want to make any assumptions about whether a trans person of either gender would identify with those images as well. In that context, I would probably choose "women" as the label which struck the best balance between inclusivity and appropriation.

That said, I'm still a little bit annoyed by your apology. To me, it reads as though as you are saying: "I'm sorry I upset you by the way I chose to dismiss your arguments; I should have chosen to dismiss them a different way." Implying that I need you to link me to trans people writing about cis-sexism is no better than believing I need you to explain trans issues to me in the first place.
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at 14:24 on 28-08-2011, Andy G
Not exactly a spoiler for last night's Doctor Who but
did anyone else think it showcased all of Moffat's potential weaknesses (self-indulgence, overcomplexity, hipsterness, emotional shallowness, a tendency towards sexism) all at once?
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at 13:29 on 28-08-2011, Wardog
I think I love GoG even more than I used to, now!
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at 10:44 on 28-08-2011, Jamie Johnston
I apologize. The way I pursued that discussion was hurtful and oppressive. I should just have posted some links to work by actual trans* people and left it at that. If anyone's interested in that or in talking more about it they can contact me directly.
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at 07:08 on 28-08-2011, valse de la lune
!

So they didn't have scantily clad young women at their booth at all?
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at 00:44 on 28-08-2011, Guy
GOG's booth babes giving out milk and cookies.
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at 16:40 on 27-08-2011, valse de la lune
I'm hugely in love with you right now, Kyra. <3
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at 16:11 on 27-08-2011, Wardog
I'm sorry for spelling all this out because obviously those of you who are women know it far better than I do and don't need to hear it from me


But you nevertheless felt the need to do so.

I don't have a problem with you personally considering it cis-sexist; I do, however, have a problem with you posting a link to something which is relevant to me personally with an aside that felt not only like you were waving your social justice cock at me but also implicitly insulting me for having the temerity to assign a gender to an image.

Apparently it was stupid and irrational of me to be annoyed by the cover of Fable 3 which depicts a bearded, broad-shouldered individual reaching for a crown because I was entirely at liberty to interpret this image as representing and including me. Apparently, the problem, which this site seeks to address, does not exist. When I see an illustration of two warriors, one of whom has tits and a g-string and the other a beard and full-plate it is only my own cis-sexism which causes me to assume that the under-dressed fucktoy is the one with whom I am being invited to identify myself. I should, in fact, be rejoicing at the many Strong Female Characters portrayed in such games as Gears of War, Call of Duty, the Mortal Kombat Series and Red Dead Redemption.

Also it strikes me as arrant hypocrisy that you click your tongue at people for using casual or thoughtless language to describe issues of gender, then do exactly the same yourself, for example your self-confessedly casual use of "breasts" to refer to the much more complex concept of having a body which codes female or, for that matter, you blithe reference to a painting of a young black man. By your own argument "painting of a young black man" is a meaningless description because we cannot, without making cis-sexist, and presumably also racist, assumptions, imagine what a young black man looks like.

Also, did you actually stop and look at the pictures before you started wanking about how totally not cis-sexist you are? Lack of facial hair aside, there are no gender markers common to all of those images. As Arthur points out most of them are wearing full armour which obscures their body shape almost entirely.

I realise this comment is perhaps a little harsh, and I may regret it later, but I'm actually very angry with you right now. These are actually issues that affect me. And I'm sick of them being treated as an intellectual exercise through which straight white men can score points off other straight white men.
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at 10:55 on 27-08-2011, Rami
Fixed it for you :-)
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at 10:41 on 27-08-2011, Wardog
Whoops. ignore last comment. error and cannot be deleted.
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at 03:01 on 27-08-2011, Melissa G.
My two cents on this FWIW.

Since the site in question deals specifically with artwork, I'm not sure the cis label really applies. These are pictures of feminine-looking people who may be biological women or who could (we don't know as it's a picture) be MtoF transgender people. And neither of these groups would object to being called women, as far as I understand. I always thought MtoFs wanted to be referred to as women since that's the gender they view themselves as. I wouldn't assume any of the "women" pictured are FtoM as they would (based on my limited understanding) have dressed more masculinely since they wish to be viewed as male rather than female. For example, binding one's breasts or not wearing skirts.

In short, I feel like it's safe to say that all the women pictured on the site would not object to being referred to as women (based on the outward appearance they are portraying) so I don't think you can claim it's cis-gendered. But again, I am no authority on this, and I might be wrong.

I also just realized I gave drawings the sentience to object which is rather ludicrous, but hopefully I was clear with my ramblings?
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at 01:47 on 27-08-2011, Arthur B
Jamie, I honestly don't know what you're going on about there.

First off, the pictures shown on the site show far more range in body shape than a hell of a lot of fantasy art depicts women as having. (And, indeed, a lot of the armour types shown would tend to obscure body shape, either through being padded and bulky in the case of the non-metal armours or, well, being made of metal in the case of the metal ones.) They're not just going after the ridiculous costumes provided to women in fantasy art; it seems clear to me from their selections that they're also criticising the narrow range of body shapes permitted to women in fantasy art. So it would seem to be crucial, and even necessary, for the project to say "This body shape can be considered to belong to a woman", not least because unfortunately if they just said "Look at this body shape in this armour" a good many viewers would come away assuming that at least some of the illustrations are of men. (This is particularly true of the manga-influenced art, the "bishonen" archetype often seeming "feminine" to culturally European eyes.)

Secondly, the thrust of your argument seems to be that if women want to complain about the depiction of women in a particular strand of visual art, it is imperative that they not use the term "women" to do so, because this might prompt those they address their criticisms to to assume that the people being depicted in the visual works in question are women, when in fact they might not be women, and the negative consequences for women that arise from this particular movement in art also has a negative impact on people who are not women.

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I don't think as a cis-man I'm in a position to tell women that they can't use the term "women" when dealing with an issue which affects women - even if that issue does affect people who aren't women. That road leads down the path of renaming feminism on the basis that patriarchy has a negative impact on a whole bunch of folk who are not women but who are perceived as being feminine.
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at 01:00 on 27-08-2011, Jamie Johnston
Do they say that they're trying to be cissexist somewhere?

Sorry JK, you posted while I was typing. No they don't, but of course people being knowingly oppressive is only ever a small part of any oppression. Actually very few people knowingly and deliberately do cissexist things because most people who know what cissexism is try not to do it and most people who do it do it because they simply don't know there's any difference between gender and genitals, if you see what I mean.
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at 00:53 on 27-08-2011, Jamie Johnston
Indeed, breasts are not crucial: I referred to them slightly flippantly because, as you say, Kyra, there isn't a term that's both convenient and accurate.

If the point is that the pictures are intended to be of women, I don't know whose intention you're saying is relevant. Obviously imaginary characters have no ability to determine their own gender, and I don't imagine any of us would say the intention of the painter is determinative because of the ol' death of the author: almost all of the images on that site, each taken as a complete text in itself, can support an interpretation in which the person depicted is a woman or an interpretation in which the person depicted is not a woman. In some cases the pictures seem to be of characters who exist in other texts and can therefore be taken as part of a larger canon that may effectively exclude one or other of those interpretations. If that's the case for each and every one of those images — they are all of identifiable characters who are textually women — then the site is exactly what it says it is and my comment was wrong. If not, then of course the viewer is perfectly entitled to interpret them all as women, and so is the person who selects the pictures to post on the site. If the viewer treats body-shape as determinative of gender then I struggle to see how that isn't an interpretation based on cissexism. It looks to me like body-shape is probably a major factor influencing whoever chooses the pictures to put on the site. They may prove me wrong at any moment by posting a picture of a huge muscular character with a beard and a big crotch-bulge! But so far it seems like they're applying a cissexist criterion. Of course visitors to the site can still interpret the pictures however they like, but their interpretation is pre-empted by the title of the site, which invites them to interpret all the images as pictures of women and thus reinforces the idea of a link between womanhood and a certain body-shape.

We obviously can't ignore the context the site exists in, and specifically the issue the site is clearly seeking to address. We all know there's a tendency for sci-fi and fantasy artists, when depicting warrior characters with body-shapes that are usually read as female, to clothe them in ways that are plainly more about emphasizing their sexual attractiveness than protecting them in combat or making it easy for them to fight. It's a women's issue because that sort of objectification affects women of all shapes in different ways — it affects women whose bodies look like that by reinforcing the idea that their bodies are there to be desired and not to be effective practical machines, it affects women whose bodies don't look like that by reinforcing the idea that they ought to look like that, and it affects women in general by playing into various harmful ideas about women's capabilities, roles, and characteristics. I'm sorry for spelling all this out because obviously those of you who are women know it far better than I do and don't need to hear it from me, but I want to make clear that that's the context I'm talking about. It isn't just a women's issue, though, because a lot of those effects equally apply to people who aren't women but are assumed to be women based on their appearance or who are perceived as being similar to women even if they aren't thought to be women. The oppression that this artistic tendency forms part of is sexism, but sexism affects some people who aren't women in very similar ways to the ways it affects women. And the example of the Asari is very much an illustration of why the artistic tendency in question is sexist regardless of the actual gender of the characters depicted. The fact that Asari are canonically not women doesn't mean that the way they're depicted isn't sexist. The problem is not women being depicted in unreasonable armour, it's people with female-perceived bodies (and other female-coded characteristics and behaviours, but in purely visual depictions those have much less weight) being depicted in unreasonable armour. The central issue in these depictions is the bodies of the characters and how viewers relate to those bodies, whether principally as objects of sexual desire or as subjects of combat. The bodies are crucial. The genders of the characters are often highly relevant but not crucial. So the whole context in which this site exists means that we come to the site already focused on a certain type of body because we know that that type of body is central to the problem the site is responding to. And that type of body is indeed, by and large, what we see there. And the site tells us that every body depicted there should be interpreted by us as the body of a woman. That isn't necessary for the purpose of the site. The site would serve its purpose just as well without making any particular comment on how we should gender the characters depicted. The assertion that they're all women is a gloss imposed by the site itself that implicitly invites the visitor to identify a particular type of body with a particular gender.

Sorry for length but, as my earlier references to breasts demonstrate, I seem to be incapable of being both brief and clear, and at this point it seems more important to be clear. But if people are sick of this conversation I shall shut up.
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at 00:27 on 27-08-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
It was nice to see a comic from oglaf.com on the site, though, which I think is an amusing webcomic. As to the point of the site, it seems it is the less ambitious version of 'not every fantasy female has to be in chainmail bikinis' rather than stronger views on gender neutrality. Do they say that they're trying to be cissexist somewhere?
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at 22:14 on 26-08-2011, Wardog
I don't think it's so much about assuming that breasts equal woman, it's more about that the pictures on the site are explicitely intended to be pictures of women.

As art points out breasts are not actually a prominent feature on many of the pictures.
So its not so much equivalent to looking at a picture of a black man and assuming its a picture of a good dancer as looking at picture of a black man and assuming it's a picture of a black man. Race like gender has elements of self and cultural identity and is complicated. But it is depicted in visual media through physical markers.

The mass effect asari are a good eg of this. People insist they are not sexist because they are supposed to be non gendered but everything about them is designed to code female.

There is a difference between making assumptions about people and depictions of people.
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at 21:30 on 26-08-2011, Arthur B
I'm not an authority, so I may be using the word wrongly! But my understanding is that in social-justice type usage one would say that it's cissexist to assume someone with breasts is a woman in the same sort of way that it's sexist to assume a woman enjoys cooking or racist to assume that a young black man is a good dancer.

Uh, but not all of the women depicted on that site have prominent or noticeable breasts, or indeed a stereotypically "feminine" body type. There's examples here, here, here, here, here, and here, who are all presented as being more or less flat chested and show a fair range of features from the elfin to the orky. And that's not even half the ones I considered for this post.

Though, hey, posting from a position of cis privilege here, if I'm talking out of my arse please call me on it.
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at 21:20 on 26-08-2011, Jamie Johnston
I am not sure 'does not explicitly engage with trans issues' and cis-sexist are necessararily the same. Also we are talking about art here and I'm not sure images have a gender identity. Things with the word women in the title are not inherently cis-sexist. I suppose it could be called female coded representations of warriors in reasonable armour but that is ridiculously unwieldy. Also this was posted from a phone so apologies for terse.

I'm not an authority, so I may be using the word wrongly! But my understanding is that in social-justice type usage one would say that it's cissexist to assume someone with breasts is a woman in the same sort of way that it's sexist to assume a woman enjoys cooking or racist to assume that a young black man is a good dancer.

Agreed that with pictures of imaginary people (except fictional characters who have established genders) it'd be meaningless to say that the assumption is right or wrong, but the assumption itself is harmful in the diffuse sense that it reinforces the general cissexism in society (like assuming a painting of a young black man is a painting of a good dancer would reinforce racial stereotypes &c.). No? Like I say, I have no expertise or personal experience on this so I defer to contrary authority.

Completely agreed that there doesn't seem to be a convenient unproblematic term for people who look like they probably have at least one Y chromosome or have had relevant surgery. Which is of course part of the problem.

My disclaimer wasn't intended to invite moral condemnation of the site, just to flag up that there's a minor aspect of it that's problematic. It may not have been necessary in this venue: different bits of the internet have different cultures about flagging of issues and trigger warnings (because of course some trans* people get dysphoria triggered by seeing others equate body-types with gender), and sometimes when I switch from one bit of internet to another I don't fully adjust, especially when I'm also thinking about what to have for lunch.
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at 21:14 on 26-08-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
Breathtaking new perspective= write out the obvious subtext of repressed victorian sexuality. I suppose there are harder ways of making a living. Actually, were it done deliberately over the top, it might even be amusing. But that PR blurp does sound so very serious about the book.
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at 20:02 on 26-08-2011, Robinson L
Syrie James approaches Bram Stoker's classic Dracula with a breathtaking new perspective--as, for the first time, Mina Harker records the shocking story of her scandalous seduction and sexual rebirth.

Okay, you've got your Dracula in Leather Pants and what reads suspiciously like an abusive romance (a violent and dangerous man, but a man who is deeply in love, and who may not be evil after all). I concur: Please no.

But my question is: where the feck does the "breathtaking new perspective" come in? Isn't Dracula often portrayed as a romantic anti-hero. Isn't that like the first change people make when they want to put a twist on the Dracula story?

And as for "shocking story of her scandalous seduction and sexual rebirth," please, somebody who's actually read the book, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what the original Dracula was all about, only with metaphors instead of explicit language? Come to that, aren't vampires nearly always sexual metaphors of some kind or another in Western media?
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at 18:50 on 26-08-2011, valse de la lune
So, since we're talking about older horror/gothic fiction: today I learned that this book exists.

Syrie James approaches Bram Stoker's classic Dracula with a breathtaking new perspective--as, for the first time, Mina Harker records the shocking story of her scandalous seduction and sexual rebirth.
[...]
Mina Harker is torn between two men. Struggling to hang on to the deep, pure love she's found within her marriage to her husband, Jonathan, she is inexorably drawn into a secret, passionate affair with a charismatic but dangerous lover. This haunted and haunting creature has awakened feelings and desires within her that she has never before known, which remake her as a woman.

Although everyone she knows fears him and is pledged to destroy him, Mina sees a side to him that the others cannot: a tender, romantic side; a man who's taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents; a man who is deeply in love, and who may not be evil after all. Soon, they are connected in a way she never thought humanly possible.


I am not pleased. I AM NOT PLEASED AT ALL.
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