Sporadic Sequential
Friday, December 07, 2007
A Letter to Scott That Everyone Else Should Respond To Via Letters On Their Own Blogs.

So saying a comic is misogynistic is equivalent to claiming it's sentient? And people laughed when I tried to warn them about the dangers of Grant Morrison's mad experiments!

OK, seriously, yes, all the dictionaries I checked define 'misogynistic' along the lines of "of or characterized by a hatred of women." But I still don't think this supports your suggestion that calling a work misogynistic is really always a veiled attack on the creator's character. Consider similar statements people make about comics being "stupid" or "dumb." When people say those things, I doubt they're trying to imply something about those comics' ability to score well on the SAT. Nor do I think they're necessarily saying something about the creators' intellect. (Yes, there will always be those cranks who will blur or outright cross the line when criticizing a comic, using the work under fire to attack the creator personally, but I'm going to ignore such behavior as an unfortunate extreme.) People are simply extending a term beyond its primary meaning because it's useful and convenient. When I see people arguing that a comic is misogynistic, I don't interpret them as saying the comic itself (or the creator through the comic) hates women; rather, I read them as applying 'misogynistic' as a term to convey just how ugly the depictions of women are in that work. Yes, people could clarify long-hand what they mean by the term — "This comic is misogynistic, and by 'misogynistic' I mean that there are scenes in the comic involving demeaning depictions of female characters that are so beyond the pale that simply calling them creepy or offensive wouldn't effectively communicate my disgust" — but doing so repeatedly would quickly grow cumbersome.

Even if we stick with the strict dictionary definition, insisting that hatred is an essential element of something's being misogynistic, it's indeterminate just whose hatred is at issue. Critics may simply be arguing that the work reflects misogynistic attitudes towards women found in society at large, not that the creator him- or herself necessarily holds those views.

And I notice that you're still arguing that Karen Healey is an evil hypocrite because you believe that when she criticizes Bendis' work she's really attacking him (even though she repeatedly clarifies that she's only addressing his work). A couple points on this (I'll try not to repeat points I made already, even though you seem to be returning to the very same arguments I thought we'd covered three weeks ago):
  1. Why does your belief make something so when you criticize bad feminists for assering their beliefs without proof or evidence? Just because you believe you know why Karen wrote that post doesn't make it so, especially when you can't produce direct evidence of your claims.

  2. On a related note, why is OK for you to engage in long-distance armchair pop-psychology given that it's something that so rankles you about bad feminists? You accuse Karen of "trying to make [Bendis] look like an asshole for saying that he’s not a misogynist" but how do you know that that's her motivation? Again, I read the same piece and all I came away with was that she's calling his argument asinine.

  3. You seem awfully fond of the fallacy of the false dilemma. I know it makes your argument neater if you can reduce everything to two tidy options, but that doesn't mean that you've captured the reality of the situation. Specifially, saying that it must be the case that Karen is either defending charges of misogyny or engaging in unethical debate tactics hardly exhausts all the possible interpretations of her argument's ultimate strategy. Even if she is conflating two distinct arguments, she could be doing so based on possibly flawed assumptions rather than doing so with purposeful malicious intent.

  4. Also, arguing that a work is misogynistic doesn't necessarily impy anything about the origins of such offensive content. The work could have been crafted the way it is out of ignorance, laziness, a desire to shock, a desire to generate controversy, a desire to make the work apear "edgy" and "mature," or any other number of less spiteful motivations. But the result could still end up coming across as misogynistic to a large number of readers, even with non-misogynistic intentions behind the work.

  5. In general, your arguments against Karen seems as though they would benefit greatly from application of the principle of charity. Just as you want others to believe that your arguments are motivated by a desire to strengthen feminism, why can't you grant Karen and others the benefit of the doubt when they say they're simply trying to expose issues that exist within the comic industry regarding the depiction of women, not personally attack individual creators or fans?
And just to be fair: I think Ami is totally being an obnoxious troll regarding the issues between the two of you at this point. And, yes, Tim Liebe seems like a jerk engaging in childish taunts that would embarrass third-graders. But neither of those negative opinions means that I think you're being fair in your assessment of other's arguments.

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