Author Archives: Courtney S.

The girlfriend from the video, dressed as slave Leia

Cosplay is fine, girl, as long as you cosplay for me.

This post addresses the trend I discussed in my post on geek girls and the problem of self-objectification.

This post is cross-posted at The Cosplay Feminist.

My friend Lola showed me this video from CollegeHumor (lyrics are available at the website, just scroll down and click the “LYRICS†tab), a parody called “Cosplay with my Heartâ€:

In the first part of the video, the male white singer revels in his girlfriend’s cosplay, because she dresses as Leia from Star Wars, presumably something he’s a fan of. Having a real life Leia is a fantasy for him:

Oh her dress, her dress
It’s so true to film I can’t believe it
Her buns, her buns
How’d she get them both so even?
She’s so accurate
Though I prefer when she does slave

Yeah
I’ll go as Solo
When we walk the con floor
People don’t believe it
And I know these photos
When you search for her
Will be the first ones you see

The line “I prefer when she does slave [Leia]†makes it clear that the singer prefers his girlfriend in the “sexy†versions of cosplay, and he enjoys her cosplaying because it puts his girlfriend’s conventionally beautiful, thin, white, abled body on display for his consumption. The “her buns, her buns†line also contributes to this interpretation; the video shows first her butt, then her hair done in Princess Leia buns. The implication of this little entendre is that, while the singer is supposedly talking about the technical aspects of her costume (her hair and its evenness), he is actually just staring at her ass, and enjoying her body. And, there’s nothing wrong with a man enjoying his partner’s body. But this particular man is enjoying only her body. He parrots talk about authenticity and craftmanship because that’s what he thinks she wants to hear (after all, she really likes cosplaying!) but every time he does that, he follows it up with some reference to her sex-object status, like “She’s so accurate/Though I prefer when she does slave.”

What the singer finds exciting about his girlfriend cosplaying is not that she has fun, or that they share a geeky passion, but that she dresses in sexy costumes from geeky franchises he likes. While he pretends to care about authenticity, he is seems more concerned with the fact that her photos will show up on the internet and that people will envy him when they walk the convention floor. He’s enthusiastic about her hobby because of the benefits he gets: a sexy object-girlfriend and envy from other geek men for obtaining said object-girlfriend.

In the video, as her cosplaying moves further and further from this ideal—she dresses as a fantasy for him—he gets more and more freaked out by it. The first unambiguous “she’s a little crazy†reaction from him comes during the lines

Oh you know, you know, you know
I’m really into the scene
But she is REALLY into it
You know what I mean
But hey don’t get me wrong you know I really can’t complain
She likes anime

His discomfort escalates from here. Her next costume is Viking-esque (I don’t recognize the character), with a gold breastplate covering her breasts and torso, and a big-ass axe. He grimaces when she comes out, and again when she playfully and slowly swings the axe toward him. The next costume she puts on is a full-body mouse suit, and while he never says “furry,†it’s implied:

Whoa
Okay you’ve crossed the line
This may be your thing but it’s not mine
Cause girl you are crazy
You’ve taken it too far
Thought there was no such thing
As a girl who’s too nerdy
But now I’ve met her
And she cosplays and LARPs

The jokes about LARPing and furries are, I think, shorthand here. This video is only partly about a geek finding out that his girlfriend is more geeky than him, and more about how gross it is when your girlfriend starts acting like an actual, fully-developed geek, a person who decides what she likes without referencing your desires first, and explores those interests because she’s a person and that’s what people do.

Once we move past the HAHA FURRIES AND LARPERS ARE WEIRD aspect of this video, it’s disturbing. Because he could have stopped at LARPing, and it would have kept its humor, but the writers of this song thought it necessary to include a fursuit. And what’s important about that, I think, is that furry fandom is often portrayed as a sexual subculture, as about sexual desires. The video begins with the singer talking about his sexual desires, fulfilled by his sexy cosplaying girlfriend. And it ends with her supposed sexual desires, which are framed as “crazy†and “tak[ing] too far.†When he says “this may be your thing but it’s not mine,†it wouldn’t make any sense if he was just talking about LARPing (unless he’s a total asshole who thinks his girlfriend should only do things he enjoys), but it makes more sense if he’s talking about being furry in a culture that assumes monogamy and also often believes male sexual desires should determine a couple’s sexual activity.

Think about what this video is saying. Cosplaying is fun and cool if you dress as a “sexy†character of a geek franchise I like. Yay slave Leia! All the other boys will be jealous! But as soon as the girlfriend makes it clear that this is her thing, not his, and a passion she has, maybe even a kinky one, and one that she would like to share with him, she’s crazy. She’s too nerdy, and taking it too far. The line of excess here isn’t even drawn at getting sexual pleasure from cosplay, because he does that very thing in the beginning of the song. The line of excess (too nerdy) is drawn where the woman cosplaying gets any pleasure from cosplaying (and role-playing) that is outside of what he likes. And her getting sexual pleasure from it is, well, “crazy.â€

This is pretty damn offensive to geek women, even if they aren’t cosplayers or “really into the scene.†The humor of this song relies on the assumption that geek women should express their geekiness by positioning themselves as sexy objects for male geek consumption. And that assumption is a big fucking problem, and not at all funny.

(Do not go down in the comments to tell me how LARPers or furries are weird or gross or whatever. It will not get published because I don’t care. People should do what makes them happy, and feminists should not make it their job to police other people’s kink.)

Slave Leias

“Geek girls” and the problem of self-objectification

UPDATE: I have written a better and more developed version of this article as a presentation for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in 2012. You can read the updated version of this article here. (Also, hello WisCon 36 attendees! I wish I was there!)

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

There is a difficult conversation to be had about self-objectifying geeks. (I’m looking at you, slave Leias.) And while feminist geeks have been addressing this issue for a while now, it seems that more mainstream geek culture has caught up with us. Comic-Con actually had a panel this year called “Oh, You Sexy Geek!,” in which they were to discuss the implications of sexy women in geek culture. From the online program:

Does displaying the sexiness of fangirls benefit or demean them? When geek girls show off, are they liberating themselves or pandering to men? Do some “fake fangirls” blend sex appeal with nerdiness just to appeal to the growing geek/nerd market, or is that question itself unfair? And what’s up with all the Slave Leias?

I’ve been researching and thinking about cosplay for a while now, and one of the most distressing trends I’ve been grappling with is how women will choose characters, costumes, or costume constructions based on how “sexy” the costume will appear on them. This is not just a cosplay problem, but a geek problem. And until we start having an intelligent conversation about it (preferably a conversation that starts with the assumption that it is a problem), it’s not one that geek communities will ever be rid of. (A little unsurprisingly, the Comic-Con panel was apparently sort of terrible. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

As I’ve argued before, the sexisms that persist in geek communities are not special. They are not separable and inherently different from sexist thoughts and behaviors in the”real world.” They are part and parcel of regular ole sexism, not a special geek dude brand invented outside of patriarchy. So with that in mind, it’s important to remember that the sexualization of women is something that women and men consume and internalize all over the place. Though it does seem to be particularly bad in geek media. Video games, comics, science fiction, fantasy: these media forms are often at fault for promoting unrealistic (and, pretty regularly, physically impossible) standards of beauty. They fashion their female heroines and villains as sexy objects to be consumed, unlike their male counterparts.

As I said to Amanda Hess last year, being the sexy object is one of the places where geek women can find acceptance in their communities. From the interview:

Too often, women in geek cultures are only welcomed if they are decoration, sexy versions of the things geek men love, not equal participants or fellow fans. Forever Geek […], for example, has, in just the past two months, posted with glee about female models naked except for high heels and stormtrooper helmets gracing skateboards, a car wash in which women dressed in sexy Princess Leia costumes washed cars, and Star Wars corsets. Geek communities love women, as long as their members don’t have to think of those women as people.

When I was on the “Geek Girls in Popular Culture” panel at ApolloCon, we talked about this nonsense for quite a while, because, as a couple of the panelists pointed out, it seems like a geek woman can only get attention if she’s conventionally beautiful and willing to objectify herself. When geek women choose to self-objectify at geek events, they are not doing so in a vacuum. So while I think it’s possible that some of them are trying to feel empowered in their sexuality, and reclaim their femininity, they cannot escape the fact that this is a culture that embraces female fans almost exclusively as sexy objects. In other words, a feminist can wear high heels, but she shouldn’t lie to herself about what that means.

The problem then, isn’t that women are objectifying themselves. That’s like holding a panel asking if women are liberating themselves or pandering to men for wearing mascara/high heels/Spanx/bras, curling or straightening their hair, or shaving their legs and underarms. Because it’s easy to blame women, right? It’s easy to say that if women don’t want to be objectified, they shouldn’t dress sexy or do the beauty work asked of them.

And it’s easy to get angry at Team Unicorn for so obviously pandering to the male gaze and framing themselves as sex objects for male geeks. It’s easy to hate Olivia Munn and point to her as everything that is wrong with geek women or geek culture. It’s easy to roll your eyes at the ubiquitous sexy cosplayers, and blame them for the objectification of women in geek cultures.

But the actions of women are not the cause of their objectification. Women have a lot of good reasons to perform beauty work and to dress sexy, especially in the sexist cultures represented at your average con. Women aren’t the problem, whether they crossplay and eschew femininity altogether or they pull out the sexy Leia costume. The problem is that women who dress sexy, who frame themselves as sex objects, are rewarded by geek culture for doing so. They get attention, approval, and recognition from the culture when they dress as sexy Leia (or any sexy geek thing). They have pictures taken of them at cons, and they get posted and reposted on the internet. They are recognized as geeks (and generally as somewhat authentic geeks, even if they aren’t talked about that way) and welcomed into the community (maybe not as full members, but at least as desirable). There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention and approval in one’s community. What cosplayer and geek wouldn’t want those things? What female geek doesn’t want to be welcomed into the community with enthusiasm and excitement (instead of derided as a harpy feminist or annoying squeeing fangirl)? The problem, then, isn’t what women do, but a culture in which the only way that women can be recognized as a desirable part of the culture is when they participate by making themselves consumable sexy objects for geek men.

Slave Leias

A group of slave Leia cosplayers gather at Comic-Con.

The panel at Comic-Con was framed poorly, and perhaps that’s why it turned into a goddamn mess, with panelists suggesting the women criticizing sexy cosplayers were “just jealous,” one panelist arguing the women are all a bunch of bitches, another claiming”I can’t help it that some of the characters I like to cosplay are scantily clad,” and the only male panelist showing up 5 minutes before the panel ended and making an inappropriate sexual joke (synopsis from Feminist Fatale). Well, one of the reasons. Another reason is probably that geek cultures tend to think we’re beyond feminism, and Suzanne Scott claims that the panel

devolved into a postfeminist panel, in which feminism was invoked and then discarded as no longer necessary (or too “old fashioned,” or some form of buzzkillery we need to”get over”).

This is unsurprising, if disappointing. Because geek cultures often think of themselves as countercultural, they dont usually believe they are tainted by the sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, ad naseum that infect popular culture. And there are entire blogs that prove that nonsense untrue.

This whole conversation needs to change focus. Individual geeks and cosplayers have their own reasons for dressing as they do or presenting themselves as they do. Those reasons can indeed involve their thinking that dressing as sexy Leia is empowering, for whatever reason. And we shouldnt be dismissing those reasons. But the trend of sexy geek cosplaying, the trend of geek women objectifying and sexualizing themselves, that a whole ‘nother ballgame. We need to be talking about this as a problem of our culture, not a problem that women bring upon themselves.

RELATED UPDATE: I just discovered the Fashionably Geek blog, and what. the. fuck:

Lady Chewbacca costume

Billed as a female Chewbacca costume, but it just looks like another sexy Halloween costume. A conventionally pretty white lady sports a furry bra, mini skirt, and cuffs on her wrists and lower legs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I’m not too comfortable with how much my post (and now the comments) are hyper-focusing on slave Leia cosplayers. This is about sexy cosplayers of all stripes, including ones like the above, which alter a costume to make it sexy. Please keep in mind that we are talking about a large group of cosplayers, not just the slave Leias.

Oh-The-Humanities_onshirt

Geekery and the humanities

Cross posted at From Austin to A&M.

I was at ApolloCon in Houston this year, and am really glad I went. I was on a couple of panels, met some really nice people, and got to pontificate about geek culture and science fiction for a few days. A couple of things really got under my skin (I think this may be my fate at every con I go to), but the one that made me the saddest happened at the Geek Girls in Popular Culture panel, which I was a part of. During our closing remarks, I noted that we seem to only be including women in the science/tech/math fields when we talked about “geek girls” and this is, I think, a real problem. As a humanities-based geek myself, it made me feel like I was being left out, but also it seems to include the assumption that the STEM fields are simply better than the humanities, and everyone would be better off if all geeks were in those fields. I worded it carefully, because I didn’t want it to sound like an accusation, and so it came out much more “Dude, I’m a geek too, and it hurts my feelings when everyone acts like I should be a computer nerd to count as one.” The answer I got shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. One of the panelists, and at least two audience members chimed in with, “Well, the only reason you’re in the humanities is because you’ve been discouraged from being in STEM.”

I was kind of stunned by that answer, in part because I had just told this group of people that I am making the humanities my career, and their response was to basically argue that it’s worthless, or at least worth less. So I didn’t say anything for a second, trying to come up with an answer that wasn’t, “Fuck you. The majority of my work lately has been determining the values of this motherfucking subculture right here, and you are the subjects of that work. It doesn’t make any sense for you to tell me that that isn’t worthwhile.” I had told these people that I do fan studies, and as fans, their response is tell me that I only chose my field because I had been discouraged from doing more important work? Seriously.

Someone on the panel did backtrack a little, saying “well, we should be encouraging everyone to be in the fields they enjoy and are good at, whatever that may be,” but there’s still this…niggling. Because this is not the first place in geek culture I have seen a strong preference for STEM over the humanities, and it’s not the first place I’ve seen it outright said that the former is better than the latter, especially for women. And that’s precisely what that argument is; by saying that I’m only in the humanities because everyone knows girls are bad at STEM, they are arguing that all things being equal, every girl (or at least geek girl) would choose STEM. Because, you know, it’s better. Maybe the reason we like to think this is that geeks tend to buy hook, line, and sinker the idea that logic is better than emotion and objectivity is better than subjectivity. And we associate humanities with the latter and the sciences/math with the former. But subjectivity and emotion are not poison and they are not invalid. If you think an argument without emotion is the best kind of argument, go preach eating babies to the poor. If you think that subjective experiences don’t matter, then I guess we can all stop listening to the marginalized people of the world talking about discrimination in their lives. Because “objective” more often than not just means the words of white, hetero, cis men, whose experiences are figured as neutral and who we seem to think are unaffected by their sex, race, class, sexuality, etc.

I’m not claiming that every individual geek is consciously a logic-worshipping dude who hates gross lady feelings. But this logic worship is something that flutters just under the surface of geek culture, and manifests in seemingly harmless statements like those made at this panel. In this culture, masculinity is logic and science and femininity is emotion and feeling, and one is clearly superior to the other. Look at the show Big Bang Theory as an example. while Leonard is our hero, he is not the star of this show; Sheldon is. And Sheldon, let’s be honest, is kind of a dick. He has no regard for other people and doesn’t think anyone is as important as himself. But he’s smart, and super logical, and thus we like him. We’re supposed to like him, even as we roll our eyes at him, because he may be bad at social situations but at least he is objective! It doesn’t even seem to occur to most geek viewers that, by most measures, Sheldon is a terrible person. Because that doesn’t matter as much as his adherence to an objective, logical worldview. The comparison of him to Spock indicates, I think, another geek hero who represents this worship of logical thinking over emotional intelligence; while Spock’s character development mostly consists of him re-valuing emotion, most fans seem to see him as awesome because he appears to escape the emotion-ridden, subjectively experienced life that we must live through.

I think one of the reasons this logic worship is just under the surface of geek communities, rather than explicit, is because fan communities are actually all about personal experiences (with the text, with each other), even when they pretend not to be. This is a culture in which people dress up as characters, role-play as characters, write stories about characters, and thus relate the text to themselves and their lives. We get emotionally invested in our games, in our TV shows, in our movies, and in our books, because that’s what fans do. So perhaps this obsession with science and logic is more an anxiety than anything else; maybe fans overcompensate for what they know is their own deeply personal emotional engagement with a text.

Now, I’m not anti-logic or anti-science; I do think these things are valuable, but they can only be convincing and powerful when they take into account emotion and the humanities (for lack of a better term). None of these things work best on their own. Which brings me to my real argument: the idea that the humanities are less important than STEM is an idea that geeks need to drop, because the humanities are constitutive to geek culture, just as much as science, technology, and math are.

The idea that the humanities is not important to geek cultures is patently ridiculous; most of the time geek fan cultures are based on books or TV shows (you know, things written by writers and performed by actors, who are by definition in “the arts”); and game designers and writers are likely to have studied literature and the arts to prepare for their jobs, not just programming and computer science. The study of the King Arthur myth, Tolkien, fantasy, and history are not part of physics or chemistry; they are part of the humanities. Obviously, science and math and computers are all important parts of geek culture, but so is literature and history and the arts.

In fact, geek culture is one of those places that the STEM fields and the humanities have blended in a significant and sort of beautiful way; this is the culture in which scientists and philosophers can and do have meaningful conversations, in which literature and science come together in a novel, in which the engineer and the literary critic talk for hours on end at a convention, in which art and cyborgs are not at all at odds. This is the place where these two “opposites” meet and mingle and blend, and for our communities to really shine, we need to get rid of this underlying belief that one is better than the other.

So let’s stop ragging on the arts and humanities, and stop dismissing geeks who do them as limited or stifled. Some of us are drawn to the humanities and arts because of what they do in our culture and can do for our culture, because we recognize that they are important in geek culture and in our world. I am not a literary critic because I couldn’t think of anything more worthy to do. And I don’t think being one makes me less of a geek than anyone else.

steampunk-tardis-cosplay

Steampunk, Tech, and TARDISes: A Cosplay Tale

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

So the idea of my cosplay project (which I have completed a big chunk of, but am putting on the shelf for a bit, so that I can mull it over in my subconscious) was pretty simple. Most people give these very simplistic answers about their motivations for their cosplay: it’s fun, it’s for the pure love of the show, it’s about hanging out with other fans, I like the character, I like the character’s costume, etc. I suspect, like most fan scholars, that something more complicated than those reasons go into cosplayers’ decision-making. So I chose a particular cosplay trend—women cosplaying as the Doctor—and tried to get beyond those reasons, both through interviewing and by “reading” the costumes. Which, of course, has all got me thinking about my own motivations and decisions in the cosplay I wore to Gally. Obviously, the premise of my project is that cosplayers don’t necessarily consciously know all the reasons they make the decisions they make in their cosplay, and I don’t consider myself an exception to that premise. In fact, I knew I wasn’t sure what it was about a steampunk TARDIS dress that held such a fascination with me. I only knew, as I told a friend at the time, that if I could dress as the TARDIS and wear a bustle at the same time, I’d be a happy lady.

Bustle time! Me in my steampunk TARDIS dress at Gally 2010. The dress consists of a white button up shirt, navy blue corset with appliqued windows, navy blue skirt with panels and a screen-printed “POLICE TELEPHONE” sign, navy blue bustle, and black headband with “POLICE PUBLIC PHONE BOX” painted in white.

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A quick post about The Walking Dead

The makeup for this show: phenomenal.
Cross posted at From Austin to A&M.

 Like any good geek, I love me some zombies. So of course I tuned in last night to AMC’s new zombie show, The Walking Dead. And I found myself disappointed. Spoilers ahoy! (NB: I haven’t read the graphic novel. This is just a review of the pilot that aired last night.

The show starts with our hero, Rick, and his misogynistic partner, Shane, talking about how women and men are different. This conversations seems to function solely to tell us that Shane is a bit of a prick, Rick is a genuinely good guy (which I didn’t really buy), and Lori, Rick’s wife, is a bitch. Basically, it took about ten minutes for me to realize I was probably going to blog about this show, and not in a good way.

The dudes, who are police officers, get into a shootout, Rick is shot, and then we see Shane bringing him flowers in the hospital. (He assures us that he didn’t pick them out himself, however. That’s for sissy ladies. And he’s not gay or anything gross.) Rick wakes up, the flowers are dead, and the hospital is full of corpses and ruin. I did like the set up here; Rick has no fucking clue what it going on, and he’s still injured, so he basically cowers home, where he discovers his empty house and runs into Morgan and his young son, Duane. Their family was heading to the refugee camp in Atlanta when Morgan’s wife became infected and got all zombified. She still hangs about, and they can’t leave with her haunting them. Morgan wants to “put her down” and even attempts to in this episode, but he can’t. 

Anyway, Rick and Morgan arm themselves, keep open a line of communication, and Rick sets off for Atlanta, where he thinks his wife Lori and son Carl have headed. We find out that Lori and Carl are with Shane (and Lori is with Shane) outside of the city, because it’s been overrun with zombies. Rick runs into the city on a horse (looking straight out of a zombie videogame), gets his horse eaten by zombies, and takes an incredible amount of time to seal himself up in a tank. (Seriously, this guy must have the lowest amount of adrenaline ever present in a human being. He moves like molasses.)
In case you missed it, he’s a goddamn cowboy.

So far, I liked the story okay, and it seems promising for the character development of the people the show seems to care about. Unfortunately, none of those characters are ladies, who existed in this pilot for the sole purpose of helping to advance dude characters’ development. Morgan’s wife is in the refrigerator, gets absolutely no characterization (not even after the fact), and the only reason we even care about her is that Morgan and Duane are all traumatized by this. She gets a lot of face time in this episode solely because she’s been stuffed in the fridge, and we’re supposed to see her (rather pretty for a zombie) face through Morgan’s eyes. And the only other lady character with a name is Lori, who gets very little screen time, and most of that is devoted to kissing Shane, presumably so we can see how whorey she is, since she got over her husband faster than it took for him to heal from a gunshot wound. And perhaps I’m being too harsh on the writers here; they may not want us to judge her so quickly. But it’s difficult to tell, since that is basically the only thing she does onscreen, and the conversation in the beginning of the episode is intended to make us think she’s a bitch. She doesn’t ever get a side in that conversation, and we don’t get to hear about what happened from another party, because she doesn’t actually matter. She exists solely to develop Rick and Shane for us, and doesn’t exist outside of those relationships.

Get me out of the refrigerator!

This episode failed the Bechdel test hard, despite being an hour and a half long, and a fucking zombie movie, not a rom com. It could easily have included two women talking about practically anything, including zombies and survival, if they were feeling uncreative. But it didn’t, because it would have had to have two women talking on screen at the same time. And that, apparently, was too fucking difficult.

I think this show could get better. According to their cast of characters, there are at least some women playing a part in the show later. Significantly less than men, but they’re there. Possibly, then, they will get some personalities and perhaps even plot lines not connected to their dudes and romantic relationships. But I was really disappointed by the premiere, and am not feeling particularly optimistic.

Attention The Walking Dead  writers: women are not plot devices. And we don’t like watching shows that don’t think women matter as characters. Fix it.

Further reading (will be updated): 

Connecting with female characters in geek television

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

s. e. smith wrote this amazing post a while back at Bitch’s Push(back) at the Intersections: “I Just Don’t Like That Many Female Characters.” And I read it and was like, “OMG GEEK CULTURE.” Because, really:

‘I just don’t really like many female characters, you know?’

I see this coming up again and again in discussions about pop culture; this is an attitude I myself once embraced and espoused, like it was a badge of honor to dislike most female characters. I thought I was being oh-so-edgy and critiquing female characters when really I was engaging in an age-old form of misogyny, where people prove how progressive they are by saying they hate women.

I know, it sounds weird. But there is a thing that happens where some feminists declare themselves firmly to be ‘one of the guys.’ I’m not sure if it’s a defensive tactic, designed to flip some attitudes about feminism and feminists, or if there is a genuine belief that being feminist means ‘being one of the guys.’ Once you are ‘one of the guys,’ you of course need to prove it by bashing on women, because this is what ‘guys’ do, yes? So you say that you don’t really ‘connect with’ or ‘like’ female characters you encounter in pop culture.

If feminists feel pressure to be accepted as “one of the guys,” imagine how geek women feel, particularly early in their lives, when they often feel isolated from one another.

This tendency to dislike female character reminds me of another “being one of the guys” strategy: I often meet women who tell me proudly, “I just don’t get along with women.* All of my best friends have been guys.” These women also often think that this fact actually makes them progressive (because nothing’s more radical than failing to create female-centric relationships!). And most of the women I’ve known who say this are geeks. It’s actually one of the reasons it took so long for me to become friends with geeks, because “I don’t get along with women” is dealbreaker for me. Any woman who says this is either a) telling me that I can never expect more than perfunctory friendship with them or b) inviting me to denigrate women as well, as the basis of our friendship. And no thank you.

Which is not, of course, to say that these ladies are horrible people. Women who refuse to connect with other women, fictional or real, are not causing the problem, but perpetuating it, because they’ve bought patriarchal narratives about women hook, line, and sinker. They seek connections with men, because men are the rational, smarter set, and by doing so they feel required to malign their own genders, because, as smith points out, “bashing on women” is just what dudes do. But loving other women, connecting with other women, is one of the most radical feminist act one can perform. And I think that goes for fictional characters, too, especially since I know that my personal path to feminism would have been greatly hindered if it weren’t for Xena and Buffy.

So it hurts my heart when geeks inexplicably “hate” female characters on geek shows. Indeed, the two examples smith uses are actually from geeky/fantasy/SF shows: True Blood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seems like misogynist write-offs of female characters are disturbingly prevalent in allegedly progressive fan cultures (like the overtly feminist Buffy), and the ones that have been pissing me off lately are, of course, Doctor Who-related. A sizeable part of DW and Torchwood fandoms has a lot of ire for female characters from these series. The two I want to focus on, in part because hatred of these characters is well-represented in both fan communitities, are Gwen Cooper (from Torchwood) and River Song (from Doctor Who).

[Spoilers for season 5 of Doctor Who and Torchwood: Children of Earth (season 3) below the fold.]

[Trigger warning for imagined violence against female characters, slut-shaming, and other misogynistic language.]

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