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01 August 2012 @ 11:58 am
Lone Feminist  

The following is about feminism, slave Leias, and Simon Pegg, so you have been warned.

There was a recent furor on Twitter over Simon Pegg expressing (in a base manner) admiration for a group of women at a fandom convention, all dressed up as slave Leias.  I don't know the gritty details, nor do I want to... I saw the original tweet, winced a little, passed it by.  I tend to react very negatively to internet shitstorms in general, and I ALWAYS hate internet mobs, regardless of the topic of discussion.  I also still refuse to equate "lecturing a celebrity" with "speaking the truth to Power".  Then again, celebrities are pretty much as powerful as you allow them to be.  Simon Pegg?  Good grief.  No.

That's debatable.  I'll leave that alone for now.

What struck me that day was something about the way this all seems so new, certainly to men (who remark upon it frequently) and probably to women as well:  the idea that there was a furor at all.  The idea still seems kind of surprising, that it's not "safe" to express lust for women dressed in a demeaning costume.

As far as "demeaning" goes:  you can argue that there's nothing demeaning about wearing revealing clothing to a 'Con.  But you can't deny that the slave Leia outfit, canonically speaking, is a costume deliberately intended to demean and humiliate a politically powerful female by sexualizing her.  The costume has culturally developed in 'Cons to become something more flirtatious and fun, almost a female rite of passage for attractiveness ("You know what would look good on you?  This!"), and I have certainly never interpreted a man's taste for the outfit as an attack.

An insult, maybe, but not a deliberate one.

What interests me here is not the argument over the costume itself, but the reason that the uproar is such a surprise.  And to me, the reason for the surprise was this:

I really, honestly, thought it was just me.

I know I'm not "girly".  I know I don't like femininity in general.  I haven't worn a bikini since I was six, I think.  I know that I grew up wanting to be tough, that I wanted to be respected among men, and furthermore, to be respected for being a certain sort of woman:  almost gender-neutral.  And I know that not all women are this way, nor should they be, nor should they receive any less respect for being more or less feminine.

So when I see a slave Leia and wince, I usually think that I'm just being me.  Obviously plenty of women are fine with it, or why would they dress that way?  Obviously almost everybody else is okay with it, or why would the costume still be so popular?  Obviously we, as a culture, are perfectly okay with men finding that costume appealing.  Obviously it's just me.  Maybe a few other somewhat quirky women, who are like me.  But only a fringe of us.

I see a negative reaction to a positive male response and I think, "What's the big deal?"  Because I dismissed that tweet without so much as a pause.  Yes, it hurt a little; I admire Pegg and I like him, and I don't want to associate him with something that makes me a little sick to my stomach.  I don't want to think that I could meet him and have him envision me briefly in a Leia costume -- I don't want to think about the fact that it would be, in his mind, a compliment to do so.  I don't want to think about the fact that if I were thinner or had firmer tits, I might have considered wearing one at some point, back before I could put my aversion into words, back when I thought it was just me being weird.

It's not just me.  I'm not the only one who reads or sees or hears something like that and feels sick and embarrassed.  I'm not the only one who hunches her shoulders a little and wishes she were somewhere else.  I'm not the only one who looks at a slave Leia costume and thinks, "I really wish that weren't the standard for attractiveness in geek culture."

Because, let's face it:  it is.  Either slave Leia or Catwoman, pick your poison.  Dragon*con has Dawn, and boy is SHE an improvement.

All other female characters do not compare to the Holy Duo.

I'm not the only one who looks at that choice and winces.

I always thought that I was.

Hey, male heterosexual persons?  I know it sucks to be mob-piled, and I disapprove of it, but do please be aware:  more women than just the weird ones (like me) are disgusted by things like this.  I don't know how many women, but quite a few, it seems.  All we saw in this instance were the vocal ones.  As a long-standing non-vocalizer, I promise you there's a silent majority, wincing and looking away.  It's a significant number of people.

I don't know what to tell you to do.  Women are free to wear whatever they want, and frankly, men are free to say whatever they like about it (if not on twitter).

All I know is, I feel a little bit less weird, now, and it's more comforting than I thought it would be.
 
 
 
Theo Fenraventheofenraven on August 1st, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
*thumbs up*
A. Askewanivad on August 1st, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
...I am vaguely envious of how this is new to you. :(

but I think I've gone a whole 360 back to a point where I'm just jaded and a little sad by those kinds of things. It took too much out of me to join in the angry, disgusted mobs, and stuff related to gender relations and female sexuality in particular has always been a trigger-heavy area for me, so I've been trying to pull away. I didn't realise that there were parts of the internet in which this stuff still came as a surprise, because I've spent too much time in the opposite kind of space.
Wiseacreewin on August 1st, 2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
I've certainly been exposed to it, plenty of times and in plenty of places (my first pairing for Trek was Spock/Uhura and WHOA the fear of that place), but I think this is the first time it really struck me, because it was the first time the uproarees were saying things that I was feeling without saying.

Most of the time in these sorts of situations, all I hear is "human is being human, vs. internet is being crazy".