This, Right Here, Is The Problem

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Political Wrangling
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Penny Arcade strip for 14 October 2013.

This, right here, is what the male gaze looks like; and this, right here, is also why it’s a fucking problem.

Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original show about women in prison. Though not without problematic elements, as pretty much everything spawned by our culture is, it nonetheless stands head and shoulders above so much else on offer in its portrayal of a wide variety of complex, interesting women – women of colour, trans women, poor women, criminal women, disabled women, mentally ill women, queer women, immigrant women, religious women, atheist women – with a depth, compassion and, above all, narrative primacy that exists almost nowhere else on television.  It’s a clever, well-written, engaging show, and it’s doing something important.

So, naturally, its value is immediately reduced to being a source of hot topless chicks for straight dudes to gawk at.


I have, as I’ve previously had occasion to mention, been reading Penny Arcade since I was about fifteen; which is to say, for twelve damn years. Sometimes, as has been well-documented by this point, they fuck up; increasingly, they also try to make reparations for fucking up, too, but that doesn’t give them a free pass when they do it again. Part of loving something as an adult is thinking critically about it, and I’m going to say it now and loudly: if you feel tempted to drop me a comment telling me I’m a humourless feminazi who doesn’t understand jokes or men or comedy, or to point out, in overly patronising tones, how Gabe first describes the show in panel two and why this makes it all better, as though I’m incapable of reading and understanding words without your guidance, prepare to be blocked, mocked and quite possibly banned, because I am not here for your bullshit.  Because when I started reading this strip and saw that Orange was mentioned, I felt a surge of hope that Penny Arcade was actually going to do something fucking decent, like respectfully spruiking the kind of show we desperately need more of as a culture, only to find that the whole thing ends up infantilised and sexualised and awful.

Here is the joke: that guys like looking at boobies more than they like empathising with women.

Here is the joke: that female nudity is a trump card, more important to men than the lives and personalities of women themselves.

Here is the joke: that without female nudity, the show wouldn’t be worth watching for either of them, because ultimately, all its other positive attributes are secondary to, suborned by, the overwhelming prerogative of the male gaze.

Shit like this is why, when female cosplayers spend hundreds of hours painstakingly hand-crafting costumes to dress up as the characters they love, the first response of so many douchebag asshats is to photograph their tits, ask them about their sex lives and otherwise act like bodyshaming, racist trolls – because why else are these women there, if not for male gratification?

Shit like this is why Disney apparently thinks that animating individual female faces is so hard that they can only have one or two ladies per film, because “they go through these range of emotions” and “you have to keep them pretty”, because god forbid a female character look anything other than 100% flawless all the fucking time.

Shit like this is why the character modeller for Lightning, the lead character in FFXIII, went out of his way to describe how Lightning’s tits are going to go up to a D cup in the sequel game so that she’ll fucking jiggle on camera.

Shit like this is why Seth MacFarlane thinks it’s fucking hilarious to include a song called We Saw Your Boobs at the Oscars, reducing rape scenes and nuanced performances to nothing but male titillation because BOOBIES, amiright fellas?, so that when someone like Scarlett Johansson says, “You work hard making independent films for fourteen years and you get voted best breasts,” it gets lost beneath a metric fucktonne of skeezy reporters asking questions that are by turns inanely sexist and sexually invasive.

Shit like this is why J. J. Abrams thinks its OK to include a wholly gratutious scene of Carol Marcus in her underwear in Star Trek: Into Darkness, because if Kirk is a womaniser, then OBVIOUSLY it makes sense that a female character would randomly undress in front of him.

Shit like this is why, when Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to prevent contracting a ferocious type of breast cancer which not only killed her mother, but to which she has an extremely high genetic susceptibility, creepers and misogynists crawled out of the woodwork to talk about how ugly and unfuckable a life-saving operation that was none of their fucking business had made her.

Shit like this is why women are routinely shut down by sexist, sizeist fucks who think that telling us we’re fat or ugly must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making, because if a woman isn’t conventionally pretty, then she has no right to take up space by speaking.

Shit like this is why women are routinely mocked by sexist, skeezy shits who think that finding us attractive must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making, because if a woman is conventionally pretty, then she must also be stupid, and can take up space only so long as she stays silent; unless, of course, she’s an evil manipulator out to trick men with her beauty, in which case, she’s probably a whore and a user and a fake geek girl, and oh my god, I cannot even keep writing this stuff, because I already did this, and can we even go a fucking WEEK AND A HALF without some new bullshit example of geek misogyny cropping up to remind me that my eloquence is less relevant than my cup size? Christ on a fucking BICYCLE.

Here is a fucking exercise for you, geeky straight men of the internet: STOP MAKING YOUR JUVENILE OBSESSION WITH BOOBIES THE PUNCHLINE TO EVERY FUCKING JOKE YOU TELL. STOP REDUCING US TO BODIES AND OVERSEXUALISED BITS BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO FUCKING COWARDLY TO TRY SEEING US AS PEOPLE WHILE YOUR FRIENDS ARE LAUGHING. Because I, and other women everywhere, are fucking TIRED of your bullshit. Feminism holds that you’re better than this; that you’re 100% capable of treating us respectfully, and not just slaves to some hopeless caveman impulse beyond intelligence or reasoning. WE KNOW YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

So step the fuck up, and PROVE IT.

ETA the first, 15.10.13: Given the number and variety of abusive/sexist/troll comments currently incoming, I’ve currently opted to let them through rather than trash them outright, not to give a platform to such people – I’m still blocking the actual commenters from returning – but to demonstrate what the issue is. As the old saying goes, the comments on any post about feminism invariably justify feminism, and this is turning out to be no exception.

ETA the second, 15.10.13: aaaaand we’re back to screening comments again. GODDAMIT, INTERNET.

ETA the third, 16.10.13: As more than one commenter has suggested that the correct – nay, obvious – interpretation of the strip is a mockery of objectification, rather than a reinforcement of it, I decided to head over to the Penny Arcade Facebook page and see what the faithful readership there was saying about it. Behold my complete and utter lack of shock at the responses to the strip:

Penny Arcade Facebook page reactions to OITNB comic


ETA the Fourth, 28.10.13: Have changed “transwomen” to “trans women” in the first para, as it was pointed out that the former usage was Othering.

  1. Laura Lam says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Foz Meadows speaking sense as usual. Orange is the New Black is such a good show, but “hurr boobs” *mouth breathing* is the punchline of the joke. Yet again.

    • I think the real problem here is how the show and its producers are caving to societies well documented desire for nudity. Yes, if people didn`t like it, then we wouldn`t have to see it.

      However, at the risk of your wrath I will point out in Penny Arcade`s defense that what they are doing is called satire:
      the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

      The comic isnt saying `YEAH BOOBIES` its pointing out how an unfortunate number of geek and non-geek people think. It did exactly what it was supposed to and got you riled up about this issue. And yes I`m certain the creators also did enjoy the female form in this show.

      But come on, Penny Arcade, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show – satire people. Chill.

      • fozmeadows says:

        As detailed elsewhere in my replies, I disagree that what they’ve done is satire so much as outright replication of a problem that can potentially be interpreted as satire, which isn’t the same thing; and certainly, if your intention is to decry the problem, it’s a much less useful an approach than if you explicitly subvert it.

      • Satire that doesn’t challenge a problem by pointing out the follies associated isn’t satire — it’s repetition. In no way does this strip even begin to suggest that “boobs” is not a valid reason for watching Orange is the New Black, which it would need to do in order for this to be considered satire. Instead, after highlighting some major points of why you SHOULD watch this show, it devolves into an argument of “also boobs.” Furthermore, even if this could ever be considered satire, it loses any value due to its percieved reinforcement of the issue it is supposedly trying to challenge. What is the point of challenging social issues if your satire is so subtle that it appears to just be more of the same?

      • Adam says:

        PA isn’t satire. I’m not sure why you’d even say so. It’s a comic strip, yes, but it is no more satire than Family Circus or Cathy.

    • Somebody says:

      You know, some people breathe through their mouths because they suffer from rhinitis or a deviated septum. It doesn’t mean that someone is creepy nor should it be used as a descriptor to accentuate someone’s creepiness.

      • FeyChild says:

        I’d really like to give this comment an applause and thumbs up and raise it to the ceiling. I hate seeing all the hate that’s out there for mouth breathers, calling it creepy, implying anyone who done is creepy. It’s much like fat shaming to me.

        Because for the first 15 years of my life, I could not breathe through my nose. No matter how much un-creepy I am, how cool, or awesome, or pretty, or intelligent, smart, skilled, or anything, no matter how much I am that, I always will be degraded for this one thing that was so beyond my control as a kid. That now is so hard to do, because for over half my life I have breathed through my mouth, and my sinuses are still so bad that I spend many days unable to breathe through my nose, despite having my mouth *reshaped*. Re. Effing. Shaped.

        So yeah, these comments, they suck. And while they may target a minority of us that have these issues, well, isn’t that what the fat shaming movement says? The anti-racism movements? Every damn movement against the discrimination of a minority?

        So yeah, this, this hard core. Some of us have medical issues. Some of us laughed when we were in the hospital and they stuck those oxygen tubes in our noses because at that point, we didn’t breathe through our noses. And some of us cry at night because we know there’s a whole lot of people out there who judge us, who label us all creepers, irredeemable, without ever getting to know us any more than when they see us take a breath and decide to leave.

      • splashy says:

        I would agree with you. We need a different descriptive word to describe those that have these attitudes.

  2. I want to stand up at my desk in work and cheer for this post.

    I was just at Octocon, the Irish sci-fi and fantasy convention, and was speaking on a panel about the so-called rise of female fandom. We came to the conclusion that there has been no rise at all, technology is just allowing all people, men or women, to voice their passions more easily.

    One point I raised that that the problem lies in the entertainment industry being dominated by men in powerful positions. There’s this horrible attitude that there are only certain things women should like, and these are then lazily peppered through shows and movies, almost to “shut them up” so the creators can get on with fulfilling male fantasies.

    Many men ARE better than this, but for whatever reason, it seems like the ones who AREN’T are the ones making most of the creative decisions, and people who cheer on this awful sexist crap are validating those choices.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Amen to all of that. One of the blogpost ideas I have mentally queued, in fact, is about the female response to the Avengers, female-oriented harem fantasies (that is, male-oriented stories told for the female gaze, including one or multiple female identification characters), how the former film unintentionally ended up fitting the latter description, the use of said device in anime, and the irony of male-oriented harem fantasies about multiple female characters STILL being uncommon in Western canons, though common in anime, and how this relates to female consumption of anime in the West, with a bonus! sidenote about why fanservice is so doubly disappointing in those instances: because even though male harem fantasies are geared towards male consumption and titillation, they still end up providing more and better female characters than much that’s produced elsewhere (in the West, anyway).

      • I’m not sure whether to be sickened or just feel sad that some of the best opportunities for diverse, engaging female characters are in media dressed-up as blatant male sexual wish-fulfilment, while the examples where female characters should be driving the plot and standing as equals to the men reduce them to eye-candy.

      • Heather A. says:

        One of the few examples of a series with several female characters and NO fanservice would be Attack on Titan. None of them are sexualized. Ever. It’s rather impressive and, imo, makes the show better as a whole. It can actually be taken seriously.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I’ve heard good things about Attack on Titan from a few people now – will have to check it out!

        • Reliably Disappointed says:

          But then it goes and does stuff like this:

          • Julia Baritz says:

            No, that’s fanart, not official art from the show. (I just wanted to point it out cause I don’t want people to be discouraged from watching for the wrong reasons). The show itself never sexualizes anyone and treats the female characters with completee equality to the men, which is quite refreshing.

            The REAL problem with Attack on Titan is that it will rip your heart out, put it through a meat grinder, make it into a hamburger and then make you eat it, but that’s another matter.

  3. Falafel says:

    If you were trying to miss the point completely and not grasp the fact that they’re MOCKING this kind of attitude, then you succeeded. Also, your link about Lightning is filled with factual inaccuracies, but it’s not like you’ll let reality get in the way of branding everything that you don’t approve of as “SEXISM!”

    Foz’s note: This comment has been approved only because it cheerfully demonstrates the poster’s complete and utter lack of reading comprehension, given that they’ve basically hit a trifecta of everything I said wouldn’t be tolerated RIGHT THERE IN MY SECOND GODDAMN PARAGRAPH. The poster, as a reward for their inability to make a meaningful contribution – or, apparently, to read the actual article – has now been blocked.

  4. Harbinger of Your Waffles says:


    • fozmeadows says:

      Isn’t it wonderful when the only counterargument oblivious sexists can muster is to yell about how feminism is bad without addressing any of the issues raised? BLOCKED.

    • Fed-Up says:

      Isn’t it wonderful that losers have to lie in order to bolster their own hatred?

  5. swenson says:

    It’s such a shame when feminism gets hijacked by pompous women who think that their gender means that no one is allowed to disagree with them. So feel free to have your echo chamber where you can be pretend that everyone shares your hatred of Teh Evul Evul Men.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I love how you haven’t addressed any of the issues I’ve raised, preferring instead to attack feminism and call me a man-hater, as though that voids any of my arguments. This isn’t an echo-chamber; it’s a space reserved for rational discussion. Just saying NO, YOU’RE WRONG doesn’t actually constitute an argument, regardless of what you learned as a child. BLOCKED.

  6. Phlebotinum says:

    Poor Foz. She wants to believe that people are “trolling” her because she’s a feminist, instead of because she thinks her feminism entitles her to be the sole and ultimate authority on what is and isn’t sexism and tell anyone who dares to argue that someone she thinks is sexist might not be sexist to screw off.

    By the way – woman here. A woman who thinks that saying that anyone who disagrees with you must be a man is awfully sexist and gives feminism a bad name.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Show me where I’ve described myself as “the sole and ultimate authority on what is and isn’t sexist” or GTFO.
      Show me where I’ve said that “anyone who disagrees with me must be a man” or GTFO.

      What I’ve ACTUALLY SAID, if you bothered to read the article, is that the ubiquity of a sexualising male gaze is a problem. What the fuck do you think feminism is FOR, if not for calling out things that are problematic for women?

      Regardless of your gender, you’ve done nothing here but what your fellow trolls have done – and you know why I’m calling you all trolls? Because NOT A SINGLE FUCKING ONE OF YOU HAS ADDRESSED ANY OF THE POINTS I’VE MADE. NOT. A. SINGLE. ONE. OF. YOU. All you’ve done is attack me and cite my use – or in your view, misuse – of feminism as a “reason” (I’m using the word generously) why I’m wrong.


      • benjhamilton says:

        It doesn’t really look like you’ve made an argument. You didn’t address the nature of the text, or specifically what about the exchange you had a problem with. You said a lot of real things about how society sexualizes women, but you didn’t directly tie it back to the comic in a way that other people can engage you on. Was your problem with the comic that the character (Tycho) seemed interested in the show because there was a topless person in the show, or even that it was that specific character? Your “here’s the joke” lines are not supported in the text you’ve shared, and you haven’t supported your interpretation of them. To me – here’s the joke: Men sometimes are more interested in things if they incorporate female nudity. To me – its making fun of the aspect of some men’s psyche that makes them drawn to the nude female form. The character [Gabe] starts out by trying to interest his friend in a show that he genuinely likes by discussing the aspects of the show that are exactly what you saw should be drawing people into the show. When that fails, he resorts to the crudest reason to garner his friends interest, and succeeds.
        Art imitates life. Conversations like this are probably happening. The fact that they are happening is a shame, that quality media experiences are only able to reach a large audience by appealing to the baser instincts of men. Should we pretend that these types of things do not exist? I don’t see that the comic glorifies this behavior, but is specifically lampooning it. When you say, in your “Shit like this” section, that this comic is the reason for other appalling behavior, I believe you are abjectly wrong. The nudity in the program itself is why we have this behavior. It’s because the media itself produces that effect in the viewers. If it wasn’t there, this argument couldn’t be made.
        The sexualization of Donna’s character getting nude in Orange is the New Black has obviously already happened, and the Penny Arcade comic is commenting on it. Their commentary is done in character through the context of a conversation. Much like the character Banky in Kevin Smith’s movie Chasing Amy makes offensive and invalid comments about lesbians as a way to show the audience what the incorrect view is (and Holden too, but to a less obvious effect) by way of example, the character of Tycho in this contest is showing inappropriate behavior to Gabe.
        This is just one person’s interpretation, however I believe that it is better reflected by the text. When a work of art depicts a behavior, it does not imply that the behavior is good. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” wasn’t written because she thought that was a great idea. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” wasn’t something that he literally thought was a great idea. As is obvious in the first two panels of the comic, Gabe does not think that Tycho should want to watch Orange is the New Black purely because of the nudity. If he did, as Tycho pointed out, he should have led with that reason.
        The worst thing you could say about this comic is that Tycho (the character) is sexist if his only interest in the show is the prospect of seeing an attractive actress nude. But I believe that, as much as can be done in a 3 panel comic, he is shown to be ridiculous in this reasoning for his interest.

        • fozmeadows says:

          “Should we pretend that these types of things do not exist? I don’t see that the comic glorifies this behavior, but is specifically lampooning it. When you say, in your “Shit like this” section, that this comic is the reason for other appalling behavior, I believe you are abjectly wrong. The nudity in the program itself is why we have this behavior. It’s because the media itself produces that effect in the viewers. If it wasn’t there, this argument couldn’t be made.”

          I take your point about my not having gone into detail about my thoughts on the comic, but to me, simply replicating the problem (the daily existence of such conversations) without actively commenting on why they’re problematic is, by and large, just another way of perpetuating the problem. At its worst, it’s a type of laziness that ends up contributing to what’s commonly called hipster sexism/racism, as per much of Seth MacFarlane’s work – there’s such a fine line between “laughing with” and “laughing at” in these instances that it may as well not exist. By which I mean: if it’s equally possible to interpret the comic as saying “woohoo! gratuitous female nudity is awesome!” – which you can certainly do, and I don’t doubt that many who read it will see nothing wrong with this interpretation, precisely because, as you say, the scenario it depicts isn’t an uncommon or unrealistic one – as to view it as mocking that same group of people, then is it really mocking them at all?

          When I say that “shit like this is the reason” for other horrible stuff, I mean that the same blase attitude towards the sexualisaion of women is what leads to that sexualisation being ubiquitous in the first place. Yes, it’s possible to interpret Tycho’s strip as being critical of objectification, but that’s something you have to read into it, rather than being an explicit part of the comic. If you think objectification is funny, or if you don’t understand why objectification is an issue, you can also laugh at it unironically, and judging by the hostility of some of the earlier commenters here to the very idea that this might be a problem, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that this is already happening.

          As for the nudity in OITNB, while I agree that its inclusion is itself a fact of the problem, I feel deeply disconcerted by the idea that female nudity has now become synonymous with sexualisation, such that it feels like you’re arguing here that the nudity in OITNB was *necessarily* sexual simply because it was nudity. Can we only ever look at female bodies as objects, and not just as bodies belonging to people? Must we always start giggling and making boob jokes, even in contexts that aren’t about objectification? To take an example from a different area of life: breasts have now become so sexualised that breastfeeding mothers are frequently stigmatised for feeding their children in public, because people think it’s lewd. Yet at the same time, you can buy softcore porn over the counter at pretty much any newsagency.

          tl;dr – Even if PA’s intention with this strip was to mock sexualisation rather than tacitly endorse it, given their recent track record and, more importantly, the fact that nothing in the strip explicitly criticises the joke of the final panel, for me, it’s representative of the problem rather than critical of it.

          • benjhamilton says:

            Just to respond to a couple of points.

            ” I feel deeply disconcerted by the idea that female nudity has now become synonymous with sexualisation, such that it feels like you’re arguing here that the nudity in OITNB was *necessarily* sexual simply because it was nudity.”
            I agree, and also feel that it is disconcerting. I very specifically chose my words when I said “The sexualization of Donna’s character getting nude in Orange is the New Black has obviously already happened” Because I did not want to imply that the nudity itself was sexualized within the context of the original work, but that it had become so ex post facto (having not seen the scene in question, I can’t posit whether this is the case). The nudity itself should not be considered sexualization, but it can become sexualized out of context.

            I disagree that it is equally possible to have the “yay boobs” interpretation of the comic, and I detailed why in the previous post. If the punch line was changed to “Well, Hitler get’s his throat ripped out by a pack of wolves…” Tycho, theoretically, could have the same response and the comic would still stand. This means its Tycho’s reaction to the comment made by Gabe which is the crux of the joke, not the comment Gabe made. Tycho being unwilling to watch a show based on the story and impact is has on its viewers, and instead being swayed by sensationalism, is the point I see being made. To me, you are obviously supposed to laugh at Tycho. What Gabe says is the commentary on the piece, and how Tycho reacts is the absurdity.

            The laugh with me, laugh at me point with regards to Seth McFarlane (while appropriate within its own context) I don’t see as applying here. There isn’t anyone making fun of Laura Prepon for getting nude, or saying that her only role on the show is getting nude – which to me would be inappropriate sexualization and objectification, just the matter of fact statement that she does get nude. It doesn’t say “she’s hot” or “it totally gives you a boner”, in fact, the statement is a last resort by Gabe (within the context of the conversation). This is another reason why you are supposed to laugh AT Tycho for being inappropriate. It’s not inclusionary (laugh with me) to either Laura Prepon or Tycho.

            I see what you mean about people who might read the comic and think “Woah Donna gets topless in this? I totally want to watch it now…. on fast forward… for the boobs.” However, I don’t think that its okay to damn a piece of work because of how people who don’t understand it view it though. As per my previous example – if you watch Chasing Amy and see someone agreeing with the 100$ in the middle of the road argument made by Banky, it doesn’t mean that Kevin Smith is anti-lesbian, or that he’s contributing to that culture. How else can you get someone to see how dumb their argument is, unless you exhibit it. Some people only get it when they see what they look like.

            As far as the format, we are talking about a comic that is supposed to be funny, so there are going to be some jokes. Penny Arcade don’t really do the whole “lets stop for a moment and talk about a serious problem” in their comics. But their characters, historically, are not good people. They do awful things. Saying that the creators are supporting the activities of their characters, or that they thing they are valid modes of expression for a normal person to take is a stretch. And when you read the news post about the comic, it says: “Gabriel tells me that “Orange is the New Black” is very good, but he doesn’t know exactly why. The reason he gives each time is a little different. Like happens so often with shows, hearing about it mostly makes me want to read the book.” Which doesn’t have anything to say about nudity in the show but actually links people to the original novel on amazon.

            While I disagree with your interpretation of the comic, I agree that the sexualization of the nude female form has gotten out of hand, and contributes negatively to the objectification of women.

            • I am writing in support of this conversation. I’m so used to “liking” things on Facebook that I feel a need. In particular, I’d like to, um upvote… (man, social media has a lot of ways to like things) this part: “I don’t think that its okay to damn a piece of work because of how people who don’t understand it view it though.”

              I had a very right-wing acquaintance who loved South Park and didn’t seem to understand that the creators were making fun of what they were representing. I don’t think that means there was a fine line or another way to interpret their jokes. I think it just meant she didn’t get it because she was laughing, and because she was happy, she couldn’t believe her belief system was the target of their ridicule.

              Some people just won’t get the joke. They have a blind eye to criticism of their behavior. And the fact that the screenshot comment thread you posted has many examples of similar behavior to Tycho’s just means to me there are a lot of people like that.

          • Russ says:

            I bet you are also against any “sexualization” of women in anything.

            but I bet you like those Old Spice commercials with that good looking man with the sexy voice.
            i bet you even sometimes share pics on your facebook of men with no shirts on, or cowboys with big muscles.

            My point being, IT GOES BOTH WAYS! In fact, i know WAY more girls that post that type of stuff than men. Also, I know probably more than 5x’s the amount of women that cheat on their lover than I do men… yet it’s MEN who are considered cheating dogs.

            Another thing… we just got a new worker at the restaurant I work at. She’s 45 and was talking about this 15 year old boy who she’s trying to bang. “I may be old but I aint dead, lol” then she joked about being a pedophile.. and ALL THE WAITRESSES LAUGHED.

            if i had said that, I could have been arrested. that is NOT FAIR, it’s NOT EQUAL, and it sure as hell ain’t RIGHT.
            So until you want to address these problems..

            • Ohayou says:

              So, Russ, you’re upset because she’s not addressing your completely random, irrelevant ANECDOTES? Um… what?

              “I bet you are also against sexualization of women in anything.” You can bet all you want. Even if she is, you’re neither making an argument why she shouldn’t be nor making any argument at all. You’re just speculating.

              “But I bet… Old Spice…” Also speculation and irrelevant. I think they’re humorous, and stupid. Other than that, don’t care for them any more than any other commercial. Even if I did like those Old Spice commercials in particular, IT WOULD MEAN NOTHING for this pseudo-argument that you’re trying and marvelously failing to make.

              Really, sexualization goes both ways? I bet she and every other feminist out there never would have realized this without you point it it out.

              Oh an anecdote about how you’ve personally noticed women cheating. Completely irrelevant to her article and anything else out there. I’ve mostly known male cheaters. But I’m still not dumb enough to use that in an argument because I’m well aware that women cheat, too. Men and women both cheat, what a revelation! *eye roll*

              You know a pedophile, fantastic! Maybe YOU should report her, then.

              Come to think of it, if all the women you know are cheaters, pedophiles, man-haters, and the women who support them, then maybe you need to associate yourself with better human beings.

              So now you’re in a self pity because IF you were a pedophile you’d get arrested? Are you out of your mind? Quit pitying yourself and making yourself a victim.

              How about you “STFU” until you actually address any of her points, idiot.

  7. Brucemccomiskie says:

    Perceived privilege erosion. Nothing freaks them out more….

  8. filkertom says:

    Superb rant, and entirely correct. Hugs, songs, strength.

  9. My take on Carol Marcus? If she’d been treated with a casual indifference, as was done in the shower scene in Starship Troopers, about changing into overalls or whatever she was supposed to be doing, it would have been fine. In fact, it would show the kind of maturity about nudity that I’d like to see happening now.

    It was the smutty attitude, the peeking through the fingers, that made the difference, and made the audience complicit in Kirk’s leering.

    I don’t know the cartoon, but I do think that it was sneering at the guy in blue. That there is such a dog whistle effect that the guy in yellow could play him with it.

    At the same time, you are dead on in all of what you say about our society. I’m a product of it, and I feel the response to dog whistles too, but I gawddamn well know better than to believe it is okay. It is a sickness that is a couple thousand years in the making and it isn’t going to go away, but it’s about damned time to get started on it. I suspect that sexting and other social media is ultimately going to erode our Puritanical prurience because by the time a lot of our youngest kids now grow up nudity is going to be everywhere and a huge part of the population will have engaged in some form of public exposure.

    I very much think it will take that before most men will stop with the boob-slobbering and get on with the people-relating. Pretty sad.

  10. SLyer says:

    Ok, so this boob obsession, it’s not about loving boobs as much it is about making us feel like objects, amiright?

  11. Stephen Kenneally says:

    While I completely agree with your more general points about the male gaze and female cultural objectification, I disagree with you on what this specific PA strip is actually doing.

    Thing is, my actual reading of the strip is that it’s satirising what people tend to flag/value in various media. I can see a stand-up doing exactly the same material:

    So I said to my friend…

    – ‘You should watch Orange is the New Black!’
    — ‘Eh.’
    – ‘It’s this great character study set in a prison.’
    — ‘Meh.’
    – ‘It’s a powerful piece of female empowerment and trans representation.’
    — ‘Whatever.’
    – *sigh* ‘Donna from That 70s Show gets topless.’
    — ‘Wait whatwhatwhat!!!’ *salivates like a dog*

    I don’t think you could read that – at least, I don’t – as contributing to the objectification of women. Acknowledging it, yeah, maybe mining a joke from it. But the underlying approach is still not in sympathy with the Pavlovian male-gaze friend.

    (Full disclosure: I was originally scared to reply due to the notes about mocking and banning. I get why you feel that way, but my reaction to it was to worry that engaging in a discourse on this topic wouldn’t be possible here. Don’t intend to do a tone derail, which is why this is an aside, but wanted to mention my first reaction.)

    • fozmeadows says:

      Stephen, I’ve written a longer response to another commenter above that covers my response to this argument, but basically, the strip doesn’t explicitly criticise sexualisation; it rather relies on the fact that the readers will both recognise sexualisation as a thing that happens and be moved to laugh at it, as though it’s not a serious problem. It trivialises something that’s incredibly toxic, and while the strip itself is a more benign example, the attitude behind it – that the objectification of women is funny, or can be used as a basis for humour without actively saying why it’s a=n issue – is something that actively contributes to the problem. It’s like those t-shirts that say SHOW US YOUR TITS in caps – yeah, it’s meant to be funny, and some might think it’s ironic on account of being inappropriate, but overwhelmingly, the people you see wearing those shirts just want to see tits, and won’t hesitate to make a ‘get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich’ joke.

      As for being scared to comment: I can see why you had that reaction – this was a rageblog, and my language reflects that – but I’m glad you commented. As might be evident from the tone of some of the other comments here, I get a lot of abuse from strangers; I’ve had rape threats in the past, and some other really nasty stuff, much of it gendered. I have a comment policy in place (it’s accessible at the top of this blog), but in short: I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me, provided they’re not being actively abusive in such a way as to make this a hostile space – both for me and for other commenters – and are actually contributing something to the discussion, rather than simply going NUH UH, UR WRONG U FEMINIST MANHATING BITCH! For instance: no matter how politely worded, if someone posts a comment that begins from an incredibly racist premise (and there have been a few on other posts), that shit gets deleted and never sees the light of day, because the only thing letting it through would achieve is giving a platform to racists while making POC commenters feel like speaking up might leave them open to racist abuse. I used to just let all comments through, back when my readership was small, but now I have a big enough following at times that when a post gets momentum, as this one has, I can attract a lot of trolls.

      • Stephen Kenneally says:

        Thanks for your informative and kind reply.

        I was trying to figure out how to feel around the idea that, I suspect, male attraction for women almost can’t be separated from cultural power relations at this point. As a gay man, I’ve something of an outside perspective on gender power relations. I mean, if someone was trying to push a new TV show to me, then said “By the way, the guys who played Ryan and Seth from the OC make out in it”, I would be on that like a slavering Pavlovian puppy! And I wouldn’t feel particularly bad about it either. Because that’s mostly outside the male/female power relation, and I don’t think it degrades anyone (albeit perhaps mildly annoying two actors who would like their acting ability to be also considered, and contributing to a body-fetishistic culture for gay men, and … hmmm …).

        But, and I’m NOT NOT NOT defending straight male privilege here, what I suspect can happen is that fairly naive (in terms of cultural sexualisation and male privilege) straight guys might have a very similar reaction and then get told that it is wrong to place sexual attraction to an actor over her ability, and to do so degrades women. And I don’t get told that what I do degrades men (I don’t feel it does, but I acknowledge that there is a *massive* cultural difference here). I think I may be groping for the phrase “multiple standards” while acknowledging and understanding why those standards differ. But I can certainly see in my mind’s eye a fictional straight guy doing the same thing, and (in his perception ONLY) being “told” that he’s Doing it Wrong, that he’s supporting a degradation of women, and moving defensively into the “why can’t I be honestly attracted to women?” mindset. Or, worse, the “FEMINAZI!!!” mindset.

        I hope I’m not coming across as an apologist: sometimes having authentic discourse, for me, means articulating things that make me feel uncomfortable.

        I think what squares the circle for me is this: the Penny Arcade guys, due to being such prominent public figures, *aren’t* “normal guys”. So when they portray such “normal guy” tropes as this, even ironically or with intent to subvert or satirise, it can still end up supporting the dominant paradigm and perpetuating these tropes.

        In short, I mostly agree with you. I do think the PA guys are coming from a primarily well-meaning perspective (and this is from someone who has also read them for years, and is familiar with their previous gaffes), but they are wielding a lot of cultural authority, and baggage, and sometimes those things have inertia you need to compensate for.

        Side note: I totally understand regarding the rageblog, and I can absolutely see while you need to screen comments. I just felt it important to mention that I was nearly put off contributing, because I thought you might find that useful. I’m a researcher into sexuality and gender, and even so getting involved in these discussions online (they’re discussions on this blog, but often “discussions” elsewhere) can feel like deliberately stepping into a bear trap!

        • fozmeadows says:

          “I think what squares the circle for me is this: the Penny Arcade guys, due to being such prominent public figures, *aren’t* “normal guys”. So when they portray such “normal guy” tropes as this, even ironically or with intent to subvert or satirise, it can still end up supporting the dominant paradigm and perpetuating these tropes.

          In short, I mostly agree with you. I do think the PA guys are coming from a primarily well-meaning perspective (and this is from someone who has also read them for years, and is familiar with their previous gaffes), but they are wielding a lot of cultural authority, and baggage, and sometimes those things have inertia you need to compensate for.”

          I agree with this 1000%. As mentioned above, I’ve been reading PA since I was about fifteen, and most of the time, I love it; I mean, so many of my favourite high school memories are all tangled up with reading and quoting and sharing it with friends, it’s kind of hard not to. But that just makes the dissonance worse when they do something like this, and the fact that it’s done unthinkingly is hardly a point in their favour. I’m a reader, I’m a fan, I’ve bought their merch and spruiked their work back before they were anywhere near as successful as they are now, and I’m not naive enough to think that means they owe me in some twisted sense, but it still feels like a slap to the face; like they’re saying, hey, you know all that love and emotional energy you’ve outlaid on our behalf? you shouldn’t really have bothered, because we’re not FOR you.

          And then, if I want to talk about it online, like you, I have to wade into a fucking bear pit. I can talk a big game, and sometimes I’m even strong enough to carry it off without faltering, but most of the time, when the “you’re just a dumb bitch feminist POOR STUPID YOU” comments start rolling in, I start getting physically distressed every time a new email lands in my inbox, because I’m already braced and flinching for it to be a hate-notification. And I know I’m the one who spoke up first; but really, that doesn’t excuse it, and eventually, I still have to deal with the same attitudes in the real world that I battle here online, so why give up?

          • Stephen Kenneally says:

            I admire your courage for speaking out and weathering all the shitstorms. I couldn’t do it, and I don’t do it. I also feel the physical distress you mentioned, even posting comments like my first one, and I choose not to handle it. I like to think I make some difference talking to people in person, and maybe in the future through my work, but I’m massively impressed by you, seriously. So thanks.

            And I’m sorry everything sucks sometimes. The world should be better. :/ Let’s make it so. 🙂

          • This is off-topic, but because I’ve read it several times, I wanted to say: I’m really glad these conversations about being nervous to post / your response explanations are here.

            Also, as a writer of comedy, I try to be aware and progressive about my pieces. But there’s no good forum to talk about this stuff in unpublished work, so sometimes, as aware and progressive as I try to be, I might have fallen into a lazy unaware joke-making moment. Do you know of any places I can discuss my scripts with people who are conscientious?

            • fozmeadows says:

              I’d love to be able to point you in the right direction, but I’m honestly not sure; if you have a look around for feminist comedy blogs and forums, though, that might be a good starting place. Otherwise, I’d say just keep doing what you’re doing – thinking about it, reading into the issues, and asking people.

    • Archane Nightspirit says:

      I can see a stand-up doing exactly the same material:

      So I said to my friend…

      – ‘You should watch Orange is the New Black!’
      – ‘Eh.’
      – ‘It’s this great character study set in a prison.’
      – ‘Meh.’
      – ‘It’s a powerful piece of female empowerment and trans representation.’
      – ‘Whatever.’
      – *sigh* ‘Donna from That 70s Show gets topless.’
      – ‘Wait whatwhatwhat!!!’ *salivates like a dog*

      The problem is, I don’t see this as “exactly the same material.” What I see happening in the comic strip goes like this, instead:

      – ‘It’s a powerful piece of female empowerment and trans representation.’
      – ‘Whatever.’
      *grin* ‘Donna from That 70s Show gets topless.’
      – ‘Wait whatwhatwhat!!!’ *salivates like a dog*

      It’s a subtle difference, but at the same time it changes the entire punchline. Gabe doesn’t sigh and look exasperated in a manner that might suggest that the appeal to Tycho’s libido is childish and worthy of being mocked. Gabe grins and light shines, because even if he can’t appeal to Tycho via content, at least they’ll always be able to bond over boobie enjoyment amiright?

      The objectification of women isn’t treated as a satirical punchline, it’s treated as an inside joke, where the comic invites [straight male] readers to be in on the joke.

      The end result for me (and I suspect for many other women) is that instead of feeling like a welcome part of the audience laughing along as we critique culture together, it feels like the dudebros have once again circled up, and are pointing, making boob gestures and laughing with each other, all the while wondering why I’m not flattered.

      (I freely acknowledge that this may seem like a disproportionate reaction. See also: Microaggressions.)

      • fozmeadows says:

        The objectification of women isn’t treated as a satirical punchline, it’s treated as an inside joke, where the comic invites [straight male] readers to be in on the joke.

        The end result for me (and I suspect for many other women) is that instead of feeling like a welcome part of the audience laughing along as we critique culture together, it feels like the dudebros have once again circled up, and are pointing, making boob gestures and laughing with each other, all the while wondering why I’m not flattered.

        This was pretty much my exact reaction.

        • Brigid Keely says:

          Yeah, they could have gone one of two roads here: Continuing to objectify women OR making commentary on the people who “hilariously” objectify women. In other words, they could have chosen to punch up (and address negative male gaze behavior) or punch down (emphasis that the most important thing in a show is tits for men to look at). Once again, they’ve chosen to punch down and reinforce the status quo.

  12. Heather A. says:

    By the way, this was a fantastic article. I could not agree more. Quite frankly, I find it rather bothersome the amount of gratuitous sex and mass amount of (female) nudity there is…. on television shows that aren’t meant to be porn (but certainly feel that way.)

    GoT, anyone? I cannot even begin to express how awkward it feels sometimes to watch that show with my dad. I love the story, but the producers and writers believe to make it a success as a show that they need to have “boobies” and orgasms everywhere. Because apparently the story doesn’t matter, or character and plot development. Of course, nobody gives a shit about any of that. Yeaaaahhh….

    How about I beat you guys with a 2×4 until you fucking get it already? IT DOESN’T IMPROVE ANY SHOW OR MOVIE! Jfc! I have plenty of guy friends who are either indifferent towards all of this shit or are just as annoyed as I am, so I know men are better than this. Grow the fuck up. Unless you are 12 or a teenage boy overflowing with hormones, move on.

    If you love breasts and sex that much, go rent a fucking porno. Stop putting it in our television series. And if you do, why not put in some male nudity? Then maybe at least the perversion would be “equal.” Ugh.

  13. Bruce Feist says:

    Newcomer here. Foz, like Stephen Kenneally I read the Penny Arcade as ridiculing the two men for exactly the reasons you describe.

  14. Fed-Up says:

    While I see the strip as saying it’s mocking the two (please note specific phrasing), this is merely just a double-blind: “See? We’re mocking them, so it’s totally okay that we objectified women, too, because it was all in a good cause.” EXACTLY like that schmuck McFarland’s “I Saw Your Boobs.”

    • fozmeadows says:

      YES THIS. If your way of mocking objectification is to USE objectification, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

    • jennygadget says:

      And let’s not forget that women being “outraged” is part of the “joke.”

      For McFarland’s song they specifically taped fake reactions from actresses looking ashamed of having done what they were paid to do. Because the “joke” wasn’t complete without showing women being humiliated.

      One could argue that Penny Arcade was, in part, hoping to annoy feminists women with this particular strip, and that the reactions themselves are meant to be part of the “joke.” It’s not as if they can claim to be unaware of feminist critiques of their work at this point, although they clearly are having trouble understanding the substance of them.

      Which is NOT AT ALL to say that awesome posts like this shouldn’t be made. I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t make much sense to argue (as many have) that the boob song was meant to be satire of objectification. That doesn’t fit with humiliation of women being seen as essential to the punchline. The same dynamic could be argued of this particular strip as well, especially considering Penny Arcade’s recent history.

  15. SLyer, I think you’re only about half right. A lot of jerks attempt to focus on the parts and ignore the person, but there are a fair number of men who love breasts and the people attached thereto. So yes, they slobber over boobs, but those are not the ones that want to treat every woman as nothing but boobs and ass. Those don’t *ever* look you in the eye. I’ve watched those with my wife enough to see the difference.

    But there are others who have moved on somewhat and may notice the attributes but aren’t all that interested unless there’s a nice person running the show.

    • And by and large, women know the difference. When we can’t tell the difference, it’s because the people doing the staring are doing it wrong, and are making us feel objectified and uncomfortable.

  16. Suppose the author/creator/what-have-you makes it clear that whichever character is making the “boobie joke” is a loutish oaf who is in no way meant to be sympathetic or admirable?

    • fozmeadows says:

      I have no objection to that.

      • See, what I thought was happening was the yellow shirted guy knows his friend is an oaf, and pitched the show at the lowest common denomiato level as the only way he could get him to watch what he (yellow shirt) knows to be a far superior show than the ‘topless’ remark would indicate.

        I don’t read PA, and I don’t know these characters, but I did think it was a sardonic take on the kind of people – men – that show makers and advertisers routinely pitch to. Not a particularly nuanced or clever take, mind, but not sympathetic to the blue shirted character’s world view. I think the same point has been made much more often and better by female comic strip creators.

        I confess that even squinting, I find it hard to agree with your take on this particular strip, Foz, although I give you major high fives and ‘yeah!’ to all your other points, and on your posts on this subject generally. However, I can see *why* you’re taking this stance, and it’s certainly not for want of perception or humour (or god forbid, being a *feminist* as if that’s some kind of mental disorder, jfc).

        I put it down to a lack on my part more than anything.

        • The two characters are intentional and well-known avatars of the creators, to the point that Jerry Holcokins and Mike Krahulik commonly go by the names Gabe and Tycho. Yes, they often depict their author-inserts as boors and fools, but you have to acknowledge that they’re author avatars in this kind of discussion.

  17. narwhal says:

    Given that Gabe and Tycho are fictitious characters that in a way embody the nerd community, I don’t see this as a representation of how they actually think. If you actually read the blog post by Jerry, he says hearing about the show makes him want to read the book (and novels don’t generally have topless pictures to go with it). By having their characters behave this way, they’re bringing attention to the fact that you have to say “boobs” before men will pay attention, and therein is the joke. They are making fun of the male reaction to the show, putting it out in the open where people can see how ridiculous it is that males behave this way. This isn’t an attack on women, they’re degrading their own sex.

    • fozmeadows says:

      If so, they’re degrading their own sex by making a joke that degrades women; and while that might add more complexity to their motive, not only are women still being degraded, but their degradation is hidden, passed off as acceptable because men are being mocked, too. Men are better than that, and women deserve better than that; so yes, the sexism of it cuts both ways in terms of stereotyping, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a culturally sanctioned power dynamic still in play whereby women are turned into objects. You don’t fight oppression by replicating it wholesale and calling it irony. That’s the point.

      • narwhal says:

        Believe me, I am a fighter for feminism. The real issue here is that television shows know that boobs get attention, and I’d love to be living in a world where no one would care if they saw my boobs, but I don’t. America especially is a country where guys make a big deal out of boobs because it is culturally acceptable for them to do so- all the other guys act that way so they do too. Of course though they shouldn’t. So what better way to draw attention to the fact that this is still okay for men to do this than make it a joke out of it? By having fictitious characters act this way, they’re not setting an example, they’re showing how ridiculous it is that men behave in this manner. At least that’s what I get out of it.

        • I wonder if we would dismiss it as mocking if it were racism instead of sexism it were mocking. For instance, if the final panel had been:
          “That black guy from [other show] gets the shit beat out of him.”
          *Grabs* “Why is that not the title of the show?!”
          … would we dismiss that as mocking and not really racist of the comic, but just of the character?

          • bintalshamsa says:

            Please don’t do that. Racism is not the equivalent of sexism. They are entirely different and work in entirely different ways. See, women can ALSO participate in racism, so WOC aren’t just dealing with sexism. We’re dealing with sexism AND racism. Putting a “black guy from…” is not comparable, because that wouldn’t eliminate anything. It would only add to the problematic elements. And, being a woman of color, let me answer your question: Yes, “we” would dismiss it as mocking and not really racist. I’ve seen it time and time again from white men AND from white women. Also, perhaps you should give some thought to why you, as a white woman, would instantly go to creating a scenario of a black man getting the “shit beat out of him”. What do you think that says about YOU? Everything has a context. Four hundred years of folks like you ACTUALLY “beating the shit out of” black men should make you a little more reticent to use examples like this.

            tl;dr: Black people have been used enough by white people like you. Do us a solid and stop using the racism we experience in order to make your points about sexism. We do not exist and suffer for the benefit of white women who want to make examples for their own benefit.

            • fozmeadows says:


            • I do apologise. It was not my intent to imply the situations were either equivalent or exclusive. I realise I am privileged as to my race. I chose the situation because violence and aggression toward people of color is part of the toxic background radiation of our culture, but growing awareness has made it less (overtly) acceptable. In my mind, it made logical sense at the time.

          • SexyFemminist says:

            Because it is acceptable for a man to want to see a pretty woman’s breasts, a man wanted to see a guy get the shit beaten out of him because he is black is not socially acceptable. However I would not complain about it either.

  18. You are right. But, OTOH women are just as bad. They whine, bitch, oan about how they want to be “respected, have important events/dates remembered/etc.,” and ten look at who they choose to want. They want “bad boys” that they can feel good about “reforming,” instead of the ones with morals, maturity, and treat them well. They make it abundantly clear to us guys, what’s really important. It, in no particular order: Money to spend, _Sexiness_, James bond_ style charm, Looks, and ninth and tenth on the list (of _5_ desires) are a caring person and a nice person. 90+ out of 100 act that way.
    Women, you want Guys to “grow up,” and treat you with respect? Here’s the secret. If you’re dating, s–tcan the “guys with attitude.” Make it clear that if they want to date you, they have to act like *Gentlemen.” The first time they disrespect you, they’re gone. If you’re a mother/grandmother, _don’t_ let them behave like uncivilized a–holes. My Mother would have *NEVER* let me behave the way so many “guys” do/did.
    I was raised with the following phrase. “Every lady is a woman, but not every woman is a lady.” I treat women as Ladies, until they establish that they don’t deserve it. The same goes for Men. If a Guy’s behavior, in old fashioned terms, is “Lewd, Crude, and socially unacceptable,” let them know. Some will not/cannot change, but the rest can, and will. I’ll pass on a comment that I herd when I was about 20. A really attractive blonde fellow employee, said (to a teenage s–t for brains). “You don’t have anything I WANT, above or below the belt.” I’m sure she’d like having other women use it, for the same reason that she said it.

  19. I’ll take “YOU JUST CAME TO THE WRONG DAMN BLOG, SON” for 1000, Alex.

  20. Lurkertype says:

    Well, there’s always “Oz”, which was had the male prison nudity, but had a lot of horrific violence too, and not so much with the empowerment of anyone, just brutalization.

    I would like to say that the phrase “Jesus Christ on a bicycle” never fails to bring to my mind the typical Blond Jesus in the long white robe, robe all rucked up out of the pedals and chain, peddling slowly around the rocky slopes and dirt roads of ancient Israel. Please keep using it.

    There’s a YouTube video of which the punchline is “It’s not porn, it’s HBO”, which deals with this idea as well.

  21. AK says:

    I agree with you. However, there is free speech so people can express and think what they want, you and the people you are ranting about. Your article comes off as childish and it is about fucking penny arcade of all things. If I had nickel for every small instance someone has to nitpick and whine about in some blog in order to relate it to an actual problem… I understand now why my old sociology professor said she was so disappointed in this generation of feminists. Go focus on something productive and present it in a way with your fellow feminist so the average person actually understands and takes you seriously. Whining and crying about every little thing(to mostly people who already sympathize with you) accomplishes nothing for a social movement. If anything it takes away it’s legitimacy.

  22. Simon says:

    FYI, Foz continues to interpret any criticism of her opinion as an attack on feminism as a whole and hence just sexist sexists being sexist. She cannot separate valid disagreements with her own views from genuine misogyny. She is simply using ‘feminism’ as a shield to deflect any objections of her stance and vilify anyone who dares to disagree with her.

    • fozmeadows says:

      *eyeroll* Yeah, damn me for having lengthy conversations with posters who disagree respectfully and in detail rather than just telling me I’m a feminist manhater! It’s almost like I don’t think ad hominem attacks are worth my time, or something.


    • Russ says:

      Notice how she just BANS/BLOCKS anyone who doesn’t agree with her. That’s the best way to get a 100% agreement rating.. don’t count the votes of anyone who doesn’t vote as you.

      • fozmeadows says:

        Yeah, you’re banned – but I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that it’s not because you’re a guy, or because you disagree with me.

        It’s because you’re a sexist asshat who understands so very, very little about the topic that you don’t even realise how ragingly sexist and misinformed you really are. There’s no point debating you, because the scope of your ignorance is so vast that trying to respond would be a waste of my time; I could spend an hour or more rebutting you point by point, but you’d still cling to your shitty beliefs, because you lack any knowledge whatsoever of the context in which to situate them.

        That, and you’re apparently incapable of glancing through this thread and seeing that yes, I HAVE allowed through a great many commenters who disagree with me, and gone to some length to engage with them – and yet here you are, accusing me of being incapable of exactly that. And if you’re going to be obliviously blinkered about something so simple as what’s actually in front of your face, then why I should I expend time and effort trying to educate you about something you’ve already decided doesn’t exist?

  23. AnOld Woman Feminist says:

    So, I’m here not only to chime in with agreement, but also to confess guilt: I *just this very day* tried selling OITNB to a guy whose wife is a colleague of mine (feminist, academic, etc., etc.), with the wife and another female colleague present. When my description of the great characters and the storyline failed to peak his interest, I resorted to … ugh … I can’t even type it. To his credit, he joked that I should have said that in the first place, but I could tell he was just humoring me.

    Last week, my students took an exam in which they had to analyze and rewrite an article about “the fake geek girl trope.” They also had to analyze a graphic of the front cover of a “Women of Marvel” calendar in which the three “superheroes” were divided into 9 squares comprising heads, boobs, and groins, and mixed up as though they were nothing more than a hot cartoon Rubik’s cube. In all fairness, it’s a tech writing class, so they weren’t prepared for the feminist angle; however, I’m sad to say that at least three males stated unequivocally that the image was directed at girls, to let them know that women can be powerful, too. OMFG. Excuse me while I go jump off the professor cliff.

    Frankly, if you’re in your 20s, you don’t (in my experience) represent “your generation of feminists” at all. I think you’re doing a great job. We *should* be pissed off–for crying out loud, we can’t even watch a (French’s, in case you’re wondering) mustard commercial without being shown exactly where we belong: in the kitchen, while father and son wait at the table to be served. Feminists of my generation (I’m nearly 50) are still in the fight, but we’re growing tired and maybe a little jaded. We’ve seen some progress, but we’ve also seen a shit ton of backlash against it. Unfortunately, sometimes the best response I can come up with to the male gaze is just to laugh at it–how pathetic that these simple creatures are so ruled by their dicks that they’re missing out on most of the human experience. In my heart of hearts, I suspect that many (maybe even most) men in my generation have moved beyond that existence by now, and if they still give off the impression that boobs are the center of their existence, it’s all for show. Suspecting this does little to make me feel any better when the male gaze (real or put on) rears its ugly little … eyeballs. So, I just keep on researching and calling out sexism where I see it, no matter the backlash. And all in all, I lead a pretty happy life. The man-bear-pigs would like to believe I’m just an angry feminist, sitting around thinking up ways to make men regret ever being born, but the truth is, I have a wonderful husband and two great kids and a great job, and I don’t let the sexism in our culture get me down on a day-to-day basis. But I hope to be alive when the era begins in which girls can take engineering classes or physics or calculus without males making *ANY* sort of reference to the fact that these creatures are girls. I also hope to be alive when men come home from work and instinctively know that the laundry needs to be started and meat thawed for dinner, and gee, that bathroom floor is looking kind of scuzzy–maybe they ought to clean it. Not *for her,* but just because it needs to be done. Hey, an old woman can dream.

    • Russ says:

      And did you fail those boys? I bet you did… even though it’s a technical writing class, i bet you failed them in that assignment because they didn’t give you want you wanted, when what you wanted had NOTHING to do with the aspects of the class.
      If that is the case… you ARE an angry feminist.

      And what about all the sexualization of MEN in commercials???
      I bet you can’t even think of any cases right now because you don’t even look for it.
      but if you did.. it’s EVERYWHERE.

    • treesshrubs says:

      As another elder womyn I sooo agree with you both…..and I do dream and I do struggle . : )) sisters doing it!! Thanks Trees

  24. Monica says:

    And shit like this is one result of trivializing sexism:

    From the article:

    “Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with Coleman’s 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.
    Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.”

    The people in the town shunned the girls, said they had it coming.

    In the US, we hear this kind of story everyday. It always starts with a boy who objectifies girls, reducing their humanity to their body parts.

  25. Angus says:

    Perhaps the joke here is also that men are generally shallow creatures and that is what is funny rather than the viewpoint of the laugh relies on the objectivization of women?
    Or perhaps there are multiple ways of viewing this?

    I do understand your point though, so tell me, as a fan of Penny Arcade, how would you write a humorous 3 or 4 panel strip about this?
    Or would you avoid all gender issues entirely?

    • fozmeadows says:

      It’s kind of a hard question to answer, as I’m not a comics writer. Certainly, though, I don’t think that avoiding gender is the answer – I just think the issue deserves more care than to be made a punchline this way.

      • Angus says:

        Thanks for the response. I honestly wasn’t expecting a comic strip idea from you, but I am glad that you don’t feel the solution is to avoid gender issues.

        The big problem with short strips like this is they rely heavily on social stereotyping. This puts everyone on the same page and helps easy reference for the reader in an ‘omg I know someone exactly like that’.
        And the problem with stereotypes is simple – they work because they’re kind of true.
        It’s very hard when you’re fighting for a cause not to be frustrated by these too, also because they change very slowly over time.

        As mentioned above, people get frustrated by adverts portraying what some may consider out of date images (woman in the kitchen, men waiting for dinner) but for whatever reason (another conversation perhaps?) Women do the majority of all grocery shopping still (around 70%) so advertisers look to speak to that majority, and to do so, they use an image of what a lot of households look like if you’re over forty(ish).

        As each generation grows up and raises their own children, the ideas and images in their heads that form the stereotypes change and that assists in the ideas shift.
        Part of what you seem to be doing is raging against this glacial movement – not that I’m saying it won’t work, anything that makes people momentarily pause is sure to engender some affect – I just think you may win more people over to your cause, or at least get them thinking about it now and willing to engage in a discussion/debate if you came across more like you do here in the comments. But maybe that’s just what I want as I’m not very confrontational.

        • fozmeadows says:

          You’re right to say I’m raging at a glacial process, but I also think you’re missing a key element that helps keep it slow: that each new generation learns what’s normative from the things our culture takes for granted, but that it’s possible to speed things up by subverting and changing the dominant stories. This is why representation in narrative is so important, for instance; if all you ever see growing up are stories and ads where mum shops and dad is useless domestically, then where and how do you learn that men can be competent cooks and stay at home parents? These small stories matter a lot, and by changing them, we can and do change the society their default settings purport to reflect. That’s why I take such issue with throwaway gags like this; however much they pretend to be subversive, at the end of the day, they’re still just keeping the status quo in place rather than helping to critique or change it.

          • Angus says:

            I’m sorry to have you think I missed the point. Social norms are certainly changing, think on the ages people leave home, have children, get married (any order). In the developed world many are living single lives much later in life evolving many traditional gender roles such as the traditional cooking, cleaning, bread winning.
            Advertisers are not stupid (unethical potentially) and as soon as they identify a market they can target they will adapt their messages to suit.

            Where it gets tricky is in cultural groups – e.g. LGBT, gamers, gangs – these tend to be a lot slower to change their cultural norms as they are very protective of what they see as their distinct cultural differences. They will also heavily rail at anyone who attempts to force change upon them.

            • fozmeadows says:

              I haven’t missed the point at all; what you’re failing to realise is that marketing is often circular, in the sense of being used to enforce cultural norms even in the face of, and oftentimes to actively counteract, cultural change. For instance, nearly half all of gamers are women; this is a fact. If your hypothesis were correct, then the existence of such a market should be sufficient, all by itself, to cause advertisers and marketers to change their tactics, leading to a similar proportion of games being marketed to women and a rise in games with female lead characters. Instead, the exact opposite has happened: very few games are made for or marketed to women, and the ones that are are demonstrably given much smaller promotional budgets than their male-oriented counterparts, which sets such games up for failure in the marketplace, which in turn reinforces the stereotype that such games don’t sell.

              That’s just one example; I could name dozens of others, but this one seems applicable for now. The point being, marketers and advertisers don’t exist outside of culture and society; they are influenced by it, too, and because negative stereotypes persist even in the face of actual social change, there’s an enormous reticence to acknowledge that change. And worse, because the old ways are seen as a sure thing, whereas change and innovation are seen to represent a risk, there’s a perceived monetary incentive to stick with what’s familiar, even when that means reinforcing bigotry. It’s the same reason why there’s an ongoing problem with the whitewashing of YA book covers: marketing departments assume white readers won’t buy books with POC on the covers despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; white faces replace POC characters on the covers; and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy despite the mass protests that invariably follow, because if there are no or few books being released with POC characters on the front, then it drastically decreases the opportunity for ANYONE to buy them.

              In the UK, one dad in seven is the primary childcarer in the family; if your logic were correct, then you could reasonably expect one in seven adds about child-related services to be aimed at fathers. Instead, they’re all aimed at mothers, because we still have the cultural perception that mothers do all the work. Do you see the problem? Just the fact of change existing doesn’t mean it automatically translates into advertising; and because of that failure to translate, people continue to think that ads must be reflective of reality, meaning that yet more people and new generations absorb the old stereotypes, even when they increasingly fail to apply.

              • Angus says:

                Firstly, I didn’t suggest you had missed the point, I apologized that you thought I had missed the point and got lambasted for it. Your reaction is interesting.

                Secondly, for my sins, I work in advertising so may need to dispel a few ideas you have about this.
                Change and innovation are the lifeblood of the industry – old media is dying, there is more clutter (distraction) than ever before, and so the industry needs to find new ways to do things.
                Advertising will always seek to appeal to the largest financial portion of the market – note not always the largest percentage – as that is where the money is.
                Whilst in the UK one in seven men are the primary caregivers, that means one in six are women – so that’s where the money goes to appeal to.
                Only if I have a niche product that would appeal directly (and mainly) to the men would advertising target them – it would be wasted dollars to put one seventh into the men as I could use it to persuade more women in the six sevenths to buy my product.
                This is not bigotry, it is common business sense, these companies are after all not charities, but need to survive financially so they can continue to sell groceries, clothes, phones, etc.

                Whilst the ESA figures support a 45% share in video gaming, it unfortunately doesn’t provide a breakdown of the types of games being played split by gender and I would be interested to see if they gathered that data and are willing to share it. (as it stands it is next to useless for an advertiser working in gaming due to the lack of usable detail).
                The video gaming noted here includes all platforms, console and mobile, and all types of games, casual, social, etc.
                For Facebook and mobile gaming, figures vary, however women represent more than half this market, even up to 70 & 80% in games such as Candy Crush and Farmville, hence why these games are more targeted in that direction and achieve big spend from women. (Various sources available including sponsorpay).

                In console gaming, the figures are very different and men are still the majority spend in the market – therefore, where the money is, the marketing goes.

                This is where it gets interesting. Note that I said majority.
                Ten years ago women were barely present in gaming. It was undoubtedly the province of men.
                Ten years. A very short time ago.
                Ten years ago the image of a gamer was a nerdy, unwashed teenage geek sitting in a basement. It was not exactly an appealing image and acted as a significant barrier for many (not surprising really) and therefore the attraction of gaming was not as readily apparent either.

                Now I’m not saying that there weren’t female video gamers, what I am saying is they were a definite and significant minority.

                The introduction of the Wii, Facebook games (Zynga etc) and the App store made gaming far more accessible, made the appeal of gaming more evident, and has created this recent upswell in females in gaming which is sure to continue to grow.

                Marketers have changed their tactics to appeal to female gamers in social and mobile gaming.
                I would also say they have been testing the waters with games using female avatars, such as the AC Liberation and Tomb Raider to name a couple of example which feature strong female protagonists.
                They also heavily target games such as The Sims at the core demographic, which is female gamers.

                If your argument is female gamers are like male gamers in what they want from the types of games they play, then little needs to change apart from the inclusion of male or female avatar choices (e.g. Mass Effect).

                If however the argument is that female gamers want different things than male gamers in the types of games they play on consoles, then it needs to be clear if what they want is different to the existing offerings.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  “Ten years ago women were barely present in gaming. It was undoubtedly the province of men.”

                  Uh, yeah. NO. Ten years ago, it was just even harder for women to get recognised as gamers as than it is now. I’ve been gaming for over a decade; so have a very large number of my female friends, to say nothing of other women elsewhere. WE WEREN’T A “DEFINITE AND SIGNIFICANT MINORITY”; GUYS AND THE INDUSTRY JUST DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT US. There is a difference! And where the hell is your evidence for the assertion that women didn’t game en masse ten years ago, beyond the culturally perpetuated stereotype that this was the case?

                  “This is not bigotry, it is common business sense, these companies are after all not charities.”

                  I’m sorry; you appear to be operating under the misapprehension that bigoted thinking is somehow incompatible with “common business sense”. If, as you say, these companies aren’t charities, then why should they give a shit about who they hurt in the process of making money? You can’t have it both ways.

                  And frankly, the rest of what you’ve said here is bullshit. I’ve worked in advertising, too – as a copywriter, in fact. Next you’ll be telling me sex sells and that really, advertisers are FORCED BY THE MARKETPLACE to use boobies to sell shit. But the thing is – and I feel I’ve been more than patient up until this point – I don’t have TIME for that.


          • Russ says:

            }}}then where and how do you learn that men can be competent cooks and stay at home parents?

            Umm.. the top 50 cheifs in America are 90% men.. so your argument is invalid.

            And actually, statistically, more male bachelors cook for themselves than female bachelors.

            So again… what’s your evidence? Oh yeah.. your opinion..

    • Periwinkle says:

      “… as a fan of Penny Arcade, how would you write a humorous 3 or 4 panel strip about this?”

      I am not Foz, but I’ll attempt to answer this question.

      I’ve seen a lot of media criticised lately because it references famous moments without being creative enough to be parody.

      For instance, if you have someone looking like Leonardo DiCaprio stand at the prow of an ocean liner, stretch his arms and declare “I’m the king of the world!”, that’s a reference, and not inherently funny. If you have him stand at the front of a Venetian gondola, do the same thing, and maybe fall in, that’s parody. Fairly clumsy parody, but there’s some original content there.

      The Penny Arcade strip in the OP strip is just a reference to objectification. We know what it looks like. It’s not inherently funny.

      So, how could you mess with objectification to make it funny?
      (1) Reveal the Tycho objectifies something weirdly specific, and preferably inanimate. (“Why do you have 20 gigabytes of screen captures of umbrellas from ‘Downton Abbey’ in an encrypted folder?”)

      (2) Reverse the objectification. (“The fancy embroidery on Game of Thrones gets me all hot and bothered. Why do they keep undressing?”)

      (3) Have a character be misogynistic, but as the introduction of the joke – not where the punchline is “hey, this character is misogynistic”. Here’s a somewhat clunky implementation of that. It could be better; the woman in the strip doens’t have any speaking parts or agency of her own.

      Also, here are some other comic strips containing objectification jokes with some creativity. I observe that all are pages from long-form narrative works. This may be because of my reading preferences, but I also suspect that a “good” objectification joke has to involve an established character with some depth. I agree with your other comment below where you say “The big problem with short strips like [Penny Arcade] is they rely heavily on social stereotyping. ”

      Here, we see the classic “two characters meet, the male is immediately smitten, and starts hearing romantic music” – except the woman is a blaxploitation-themed supervillain, so the music is 70s funk. This is unique to the woman; if every black character in this strip had “natural rhythm”, that would be racist.

      Two men in the strip decide they need to fight a classic duel, in the form of topless mud-wrestling. This is the start of a sequence where every woman in the building finds a need to go down to the river bank. Yes, if we lived in a culture where men were heavily objectified, and viewed as only suitable for topless mud-wrestling, this would be problematic.

      This is part of a short retelling of “Cinderella” by the comic’s cast. They maintain their personalities – which includes being easily distracted by every shiny piece of clockwork that goes past.

      Insane monologues are common in this comic. Here a monologue by one of the bloodthirstiest… male… things… in the comic gets the attention of the bloodthirstiest woman. It would be sweet if they didn’t have such a high body count.

      I linked to a few other examples in a reply to another comment on this page:

      • fozmeadows says:

        Thank you for this!

      • Angus says:

        Thanks for the interesting response Periwinkle.

        Also, the male mud wrestling idea reminded me of an actual Diet Coke window cleaner advert.

        • fozmeadows says:

          It’s just occurred to me that the evolution of Sinfest as a comic is a perfect example of how to write subversion well. In the beginning, Sinfest basically replicated problematic stuff outright under the guise of irony and had an enormous following; but in recent years, the creator, Tatsuya Ishida, has become very feminist, and has actively changed the way he writes, completely abandoning early gags, introducing a more diverse cast of characters and outright admitting that his previous approach was flawed – and so of course, you now find lengthy tracts online written by former fans who loved his early work and think the new stuff is circling a drain. By contrast, readers like me, who’ve grown in critical awareness along a similar trajectory to Ishida, far prefer the new stuff. It’s worth checking out!

      • cairea hobbit says:

        (1) Reveal the Tycho objectifies something weirdly specific, and preferably inanimate. (“Why do you have 20 gigabytes of screen captures of umbrellas from ‘Downton Abbey’ in an encrypted folder?”)

        (2) Reverse the objectification. (“The fancy embroidery on Game of Thrones gets me all hot and bothered. Why do they keep undressing?”)

        This. They’ve done this exact thing often enough that I’m not really sure why they didn’t do something like it here. Jerry loves to make jokes at his own expense like this.

        Another huge problem (in addition to all the excellent reasons listed in Foz’s original post and the comments) with the execution of ‘Tycho’s reaction is the joke’ here is that they’re heavily banking on people knowing that Jerry Holkins is not a person for whom ‘Boobs!’ is a convincing reason to consume any kind of media. Clearly a ton of their regular readers don’t understand that.

  26. Jonnan says:

    How about the “Oh for God’s Sake” defense.

    I mean, seriously, looking at the comment threads here, sexualization is something that never happens in real life, your parents were certainly never sexually attracted to one another and certainly never had sex themselves, any woman that disagrees with this is undoubtedly not a feminist, and probably brainwashed by the patriarchy . . .

    A joke of this form is a joke because it mocks some portion of commonly accepted wisdom by pointing out logical discrepancies in it – when well done, as this is, we are both laughing and more self-aware than we were before we encountered the joke.

    Penny Arcade didn’t ‘screw up’. You just have no sense of self-reflection and think everyone else is so much dumber than you are that they had to have the joke dissected to see what was wrong with the underlying assumptions, when actually everyone else got it immediately.

    To wit – “Oh for God’s Sake”

    • fozmeadows says:

      Yeah, see, that’s not really a defence so much as a cop-out. As for the rest of it… *eyerolls heavily, bans*

    • Adam says:

      self aware … or self assured? you’re giving retrospective credit to all those obviously balanced, clever and self-reflective readers because you can, because it sounds plausible. it’s a defendable point of view, but to me that’s all it is. you say it’s the case because you can defend it, because you can argue it. suddenly you’re painting these imaginary self-aware straw men (pun vaguely intended) as the victims, as if they’re being labelled as ignorant jerks quite unfairly and it really honestly does sound like it could be true. except it just isn’t. i think deep down you probably know that. geeks are shamelessly thrilled by the idea of seeing donna naked and that’s so much MORE true that the created self-reflection that you’ve inserted, quite presumptuously, into their minds. that reflection is certainly there for some, stronger in others and I don’t doubt that in an absolute sense, but for most I think you know damn well that it’s a faint niggling thought in the deepest parts of their brain that gets dismissed in a millisecond as the image of donna naked re-surfaces to uncontrollable giggles. that you would insist otherwise says, to me, more about your bent towards a good argument than any form of actual truth. kind of the same reason I’m posting this, you know, devils advocate and all that. maybe you really believe what you wrote, I certainly do, but I would guess you’re doing it because you don’t like to be pigeon holed and it’s an argument that simply can be made.

  27. megpie71 says:

    I got about three comments into this thread, and decided “Right, I’ll just drop $2 into the ‘people are being stupid on the internet’ fund I’m planning to use to buy alcohol with”. Normally, that kind of money comes in from a really bad decision from our political lords and masters, at 5c per comment that raises my blood pressure and makes me wish it was possible to implement “slap upside the head” over TCP/IP. Congratulations to the trolls for increasing my cider budget.

    As part of the objectified gender (and one who lives and studies and hopes to work once more inside the geek culture), can I just point out that it’s incredibly isolating to be forever treated as “other” among a group of people who self-consciously pride themselves on their “welcoming” tendencies and demean the “exclusionary” behaviour of other social groups. Hipsters I can ignore – hipsters *want* to be exclusionary, and doing the stuff that everyone else does is never part of their shtick. But geeks and fans are supposed to be MY PEOPLE, damn it, and yet there’s a strong undercurrent of the culture all the way along telling me I’m not fucking welcome unless I’m willing to be just another toy for them to play with.

    If I wanted to be a toy, I’d’ve stuck with mainstream culture. But my fandom isn’t sports or shoes. My fandoms are video games, and novels, and manga, and movies, and all the various forms of science fiction and all the alternative worlds people have imagined out there.

  28. Onichan says:

    I’m not a regular reader, but I find the argument interesting. Unfortunately a lot of guys (like Mr Stereotype above) and women too, are oblivious to a lot of it. The challenge I find is that humour can serve a very useful function in society. Some things we find too difficult or uncomfortable to confront directly, so we wrap it in humour to make a point without having everyone groan, roll their eyes and go look at something less stressful, like internet cat memes.

    Penny Arcade are probably trying to make the point of how dumb it is, but also succeed in reinforcing a stereotype and “acceptable” or “anticipated” nerd behaviour. It’s a bit of a minefield out there, which makes it hard to take the right steps.

    All that said, I see your point and it does highlight some of our key issues. I guess the challenge for all of us in media creation is to find and create humour in situations without making them worse, and without overthinking things to the point that everything is so PC that we are all bored out of our brains. Don’t quite know what the solution is yet, but thanks for the blog regardless.

  29. j says:

    in response to the arguments that the comic is lampooning this kind of objectification: i believe if that was the case the character in yellow would look appalled instead of supremely proud.

  30. Adam says:

    fair ’nuff. nothing more to be said really.

  31. Lyon says:

    “in response to the arguments that the comic is lampooning this kind of objectification: i believe if that was the case the character in yellow would look appalled instead of supremely proud.”

    Uhhhh. . .no. That makes absolutely no sense. That’s the same kind of look that someone would have if when trying to convince their introverted friend to come to a party by noting, “They have caaaake. . .”

    • fozmeadows says:

      It’s more accurate to say it’s like someone trying to convince their introverted friend to come to a party by saying, “There’ll be passed-out hot chicks you can meddle wiiiiith…” – because even said jokingly, the idea of USING it as a joke in the first place is still a big fucking problem.

  32. When I read the cartoon strip above, I see it as a slam or a critique on how shallow the average man is. I don’t see it as a slam on women. I guess it’s open to interpretation.

    • konekon1nj4 says:

      But see it critiques men (at least in your and several other commentors opinions) by using women as sexual props, as things, something to be consumed. That’s the part you seem to be missing entirely and really isn’t based on an interpretation. As a woman I am so often reduced to just my boobs, or my ass, or my whatever and let me tell ya, it’s not fucking funny when it happens. Nor is it funny to see men reacting like he does in the strip, it’s pretty damn gross.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I’ve just added a screenshot of reactions to the strip taken from the PA Facebook page to the bottom of the piece. I suggest you give it a look-see.

    • I read it as such too. It might have helped reinforce this interpretation if the wife of one of the characters had been present to give a mighty eyeroll.

      Just demonstrating that the characters are the object of ridicule might be sufficient to ensure it.

  33. Jack Graham says:

    Thank you Foz, yet again. Brilliant stuff.

    I knew, as soon as I saw the ‘punchline’ panel, that the sophisticated defence (sophisticated in comparison to “you just hate men” and “you want to put anyone who isn’t a feminist into a gulag” and probably rape threats too) would be “but the comic is *mocking* that sexist attitude!”

    Yes, the joke ostensibly mocks sexism/boob-obsessed men. But the constant, never-ending ‘joke’ about men who are all obsessed with letching at female bodies serves – very effectively – to joshingly normalise and extenuate the very attitudes it claims to satirise. It universalises them, makes them a charming and whimsical ‘fact of life’. Tsch, men! And its an alibi. Men are just like that. Boys will be boys. They’re pathetic, always thinking about boobs. Whaddayagunnado? Har-de-harr-harr. Etc, etc.

    Meanwhile, having degraded men by pushing the idea that they all behave that pathetically and cynically all the time, it extends a full alibi to the ones that *do*. Men being in the privileged position, the alibi leads to instant, implicit acquittal. Don’t bother trying not to be a sexist. You can’t help reducing all women to their body parts. You’re a man. Tee hee, it’s funny really, isn’t it? (No.)

    Meanwhile (again), the woman is (again) reduced to her mammaries. The reduction simply takes the form of a glib punchline.

    None of this is difficult to grasp, surely?

  34. Ben says:

    I didn’t like the punchline. I was excited that the strip was talking about Orange is the New Black, but the ending didn’t hit me like I expected it would. I think the joke was kind of flubbed. The argument that is missing from this thread though, is the reference to that 70’s show.

    How old were you when it was on tv? (1998-2006) I didn’t watch show, so it didn’t mean anything to me, and I agree 100% with your statements about it.

    But, teenage boys watched that show and objectified the women, specifically Laura Prepon I think the joke was an inside one, which leans on the nostalgia for the males that did watch the show, who were there, and but of course I have to watch orange is the new black to remember my ultimate childhood/teenage fantasies, etc. Teenage boys do objectify women, and in this instance, the grown males return to their base teenage selves. I didn’t think it was funny, but I get it, and if it was a character that I watched when I was a teenage boy and had a crush on, I probably would have laughed at the joke. Strangely, I didn’t, so I get this rare opportunity to see how objectification can appear to be endorsed or used as a punchline. However, I also believe that I’m not the same person I was when I was a teenager. This probably sounds like an apology, and I suppose it should be. My naiveté about the world, my wants and desires have changed over time (they should right?).

    I just thought the nostalgic angle of the joke should be included for discussion.

  35. really? because thats TOTALLY not how i read the comic. i do not read penny arcade often, but in isolation at least (as in “just this comic” i read it as
    are you watching this great show?
    “its great and here is teh real reason why (depth, character, etc)”
    omg, now i am gonna watch it… WHY didnt they sell it on that point???

    in other words, it just made your point.
    its a great character drama, with depth, and a good one sentance summary…. about the perils and dangers of doing the right thing.
    but some people only will watch it because of sex

    incidentally. i never watched orange is the new black…. but based on the second panel? “the perils of doing the right thing” and your description? maybe i will.

  36. Most of my friends are geeky guys, and several have told me that Orange is the New Black is a must-watch show. They’ve told me that it’s smart and well-written. They’ve told me that the characters are interesting and the acting is good. They’ve told me it’s great for conversation. Not one of them mentioned topless women. In fact, until this post, I didn’t know that was part of it (I stopped following Penny Arcade a while ago). I just put this out there to say, not all straight, geeky men are sexist. But the ones who are tend to be the loudest. le sigh

  37. Reblogged this on Read At Your Peril and commented:
    You go, girl!

  38. krellen says:

    I liked what you had to say, up to the point where you yelled at me for doing something I didn’t do. Yes, yes, I know “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you”, but I get yelled at a lot for things I don’t do, because I belong to the categories “male”, “geek”, and “straight”. After a while, it’s really fucking hard to see how it’s not about me.

    Feminism does a lot of work to push away guys like me (a male rape survivor, for the record), and when I stop reacting to it emotionally and taking it personally – which isn’t always easy – it just makes me sad how many allies your anger ends up costing you.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Anyone who thinks that the legitimate anger of the oppressed towards the privileged should remain unexpressed in order to make the privileged feel more comfortable during conversations about oppression has missed the point of being an ally entirely. If you saw someone lying on the ground, struggling to get up and screaming about their plight while various bystanders continued to walk right over them, sometimes even going to far as to tell them they deserved to be trodden on and stamping down all the harder, you wouldn’t go over and say, “Hey, I sympathise with you, but none of these people are going to stop and help unless you stop yelling about how they’ve hurt you. Try being nicer to them!” – would you?

      I’m sorry you feel excluded from feminism; and I’m extremely sorry you have to deal with being a rape survivor. But if it were possible to make sexists change their ways simply by being polite about it, then feminism would never have been needed in the first place.

      • krellen says:

        This isn’t yelling at the passersby ignoring you. This is yelling at the people trying to help you up. Maybe next time, you could try yelling at the sexists, and NOT yelling at ALL MEN, assuming every single one of us is a sexist by simple virtue of our genes.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I WAS yelling at sexists. You’re the one who decided I was yelling at you, too.

          • krellen says:

            You called out “geeky straight men of the internet”, implicating everyone in that category as a sexist. Perhaps the worst aspect of feminism is those that hide behind that whole “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you” thing. You asked geeky straight men of the internet to stop objectifying women, as if every last person in that category did so.

            You wouldn’t like it very much if I used language implicating ALL feminists as doing one thing or another, and I’m just asking for the same consideration.

            • fozmeadows says:

              I never said all geeky straight men of the internet were sexists; I asked that they stop making boobies a punchline. These two things are not synonymous.

              And if you have such an issue with the “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you” doctrine, then why are you simultaneously making blanket statements about feminism pushing men like you away?

              • krellen says:

                This comment has been deleted at the request of the poster.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  I’m sorry you’ve been made to feel that way and had so many bad experiences with feminism. For the record, the idea that rape is inherently a women’s issue is something many feminists, myself included, reject as being inherently and poisonously sexist. My last day job, I worked for a charity that provided free counselling to victims of rape – men, women and children – and if I hadn’t already been aware of the fact that anyone can end up in that position, that would’ve brought it home to me. I’ve left your comment here so I can respond, but if you still want me to delete it after reading this, then let me know, and I will.

        • fozmeadows says:

          Take a look at some of the more blatantly sexist comments on this post. You’re telling me I SHOULDN’T be angry at those people?

  39. Owen says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I have high hopes that someday it won’t be necessary to point out why things like this are wrong.

    I am not saying that I am perfect. In fact, by reading this post I feel the need to re-examine my own actions and attitudes. But I also believe that improvement is not only possible, but probable.

  40. Owen says:

    Reblogged this on UnCool Before UnCool Was Cool and commented:
    The battle for respect and understanding continues.

  41. hawkwinglb says:

    Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.

    This crap is pervasive. And it’s tiresome. And it’s freaking tiresome. So thank you for wading once more unto the breach and addressing it.

    (I neither read PA nor watch OITNB, so in this particular case I’m not qualified to have an opinion other than if that’s supposed to be a joke, it’s a fucking skeevy one.)

  42. MargieR says:

    My generation of women (I’m in my 50’s) thought we could actually be seen as equal and equally valuable people. This has not happened and I now doubt that it ever will in the US. Other countries are so far ahead of us in equality on so many points that it makes me terribly sad that we have to keep fighting, just to be seen as sentient human beings.

  43. budwaffler says:

    Only a ‘feminist’ could complain about the creators of a comic having a certain attitude based on a comic strip which is blatantly mocking the very attitude that the creators are claimed to have.

    • fozmeadows says:

      If the mockery is so blatant, then why are all the Penny Arcade readers whose screenshotted comments I’ve included at the bottom of the article lining up say how the comic represents their discovery of the show, how hot Donna’s tits are and to talk about all the other things they ended up watching because a certain actress was topless in it? Only an oblivious sexist could ignore such obvious evidence in favour of attacking feminism.

    • Might want to rethink your obvious lie here, bud. Take a look at the screenshot and then come back to apologize for being so incredibly wrong and dishonest.

  44. KRVeale says:

    I think the article is fantastic, and the discussion – where, in the comments, discussion has been possible – had been profoundly informative.

    The other comments? I’m sure I don’t need to specify.

    They have hurt my soul. I’m staring at my monitor like this:

    Because I am left wordless and horrified. WHAT THE SHITTING FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE.

    As ever, this is a post where instead of telling my students not to read the comments, I say they *should* read the comments because even the DudeBroiest amongst them will be unable to walk away without feeling uncomfortable, and that often starts them asking questions.

  45. Ryan says:

    You know..
    I agree with everything you noted in your comic.
    I personally believe they were making a joke, no more and no less.

    I also believe; the problem many men have with feminism is the fact that the men who aren’t inherently misogynistic, and will call others on it are treated to a whole different level of “RESPECT ME AND EVERYONE OR FUCK OFF”.

    Which is unfair. You need to accept the good for what it is and focus on the bad.

    The fact that most men are not inherently misogynistic is quite a while to have come, considering that less than two generations ago, we had advertisements depicting a man spanking his wife for getting a blend of coffee other than folgers.

    Just my two cents

    • TK says:

      “Better than it was” does not automatically equal “good”. Not all men are overtly misogynistic, but we live in a culture that still is inherently misogynistic, so it takes work for men to become aware of unintended misogyny.

      “Making a joke” isn’t a free pass. If the effect of a joke is negative (not in a “that’s not funny” way but a “that, whether you meant it or not, is active participation in harmful behavior” kind of way) then it deserves criticism, and a responsible humorist would accept accountability for it, even if they did not intend for the joke to be hurtful. A responsible person who laughed at the joke should, when confronted with “this is not only not-funny, but actively harmful because X” should first listen, and then think about what was said.

      A woman asking a man to treat her with respect is not unfair. That is the exact opposite of unfair. You might say it was asking to be treated fairly. And, for the record, “not being a rampant misogynist” isn’t something to be applauded for. It’s ascribing to a pretty low bar for decent human behavior.

  46. Sing it, sister. You are dead on. Consider yourself shared.

    I also find it funny how so many jerks are spewing their idiocy all over the comments section making your point for you. Truly, irony is wasted on the trolls.

  47. Oh hey look, a tv show pandering to men. Reality strikes again! And yet someone complains. Meh whatever. Deal with it, don’t watch it. If there is no market then there is no show. But guess what, there is a market.

    • fozmeadows says:

      It’s not a TV show pandering to men; that’s the point. It’s a show about women, but because it involves some female nudity, it’s ASSUMED to be for men.

  48. Nemo says:

    Reblogged this on The Moonlight Library and commented:
    I don’t normally reblog anything (at all!) that’s not book related, but this. THIS. This is why I love Foz Meadows and this is why I continue to read her. Male gaze is everywhere and most people aren’t even aware of it. It’s misogynistic bullshit that we really should have moved on from by now.

  49. Keep it up. Shitstorms happen, but truths are worth telling.

  50. Not watching Sons of Anarchy cause Charlie Hunnam is so damn dreamy looking and films a lot of scenes without a shirt on.

    See, I can make the same joke they did except it’s about female viewers!

    This fishing for views thing is pretty swell.

  51. Gleip says:

    Solid post, and fantastic discussion..

    It’s quite unfortunate the current state of popular female depiction in entertainment. I’m very curious as to the cause behind this ill scenario. Perhaps the way women are shown in entertainment is just an effect of something like the Fashion and Cosmetic industries? Or it could be the other way around, something to research later….

    What effect, if any, do you think our internet generation will have on this skewed portrayal of women? Today many social interactions are done without any physical representation, and emotional connections can be made freely.

  52. Schedim says:

    Reblogged this on Schedim's Blog and commented:
    As I lack the time to produce anything coherent to publish right now (rewiring the electricity and tending my garden is a full time work) I instead re blog this.

  53. Writer says:

    Thank you for writing this. The male gaze is something that has been debated in literature for a very long time and I am glad to see it applied to and called out with real-life examples of its negativity and the culture that is perpetuated with it. I also like how you are letting the negative comments through. It really just continues to prove your point!

  54. This. 1000 times this. I’m so tired of geek culture being so damn sexist. It makes it uncomfortable to be a woman and a geek at the same time. Yet all I hear from my male geek friends is “Why aren’t there more geek girls?” Let me tell you, fellas, there’s a LOT of us out there but most of us don’t want to be around geek guys because of everything listed in this article. How about you stop defending your stupid “jokes” and start defending your fellow geeks instead?

  55. waltsamp says:

    I envy your ability to push people’s buttons. However, I think there are words like friendship, forgiveness, freedom, forbearance, and many others that start with “f” that might be better to use than the one you write so frequently. You do, though, sound like an interesting person.

  56. As a Person of Boobs who has seen it all, spanning multiple decades, allow me to offer a quick scientific observation:

    1. The male human is triggered by the visual of boobies.
    2. There are men and there are balls of lint.
    3. The balls of lint tend to aggregate in certain areas.
    4. Stay away from those areas.

    To recap, you can’t change a person’s sexual triggers but you can hang out with a better class of person. Do that, sleep sounder.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Firstly, not all men are interested in boobies; just the straight ones. And even then, not all of them have a particular interest in breasts.
      Secondly, I love mangoes, but that doesn’t mean I start openly salivating and talking about how ripe and round and delicious they are and how that makes me wanna shove them in my mouth RIGHT NOW every time I see one.
      Thirdly, yes, I can hang out with a better class of person. But that doesn’t obviate the need to sit down and say, “Hey. Maybe constantly objectifying women is a bad idea.”

      • Enjoy your anger. You seem to be.

      • TechChucker says:

        Are you saying men should stop liking breasts? Are you saying men should stop showing an interest in the female body? Is there something wrong about a man being attracted to a woman’s body? For finding it desirable? Am I a misogynist for being attracted to women? Am I a misogynist for looking at a woman? Am I going to get banned from your comments for my comment? Are you going to roll your eyes at this comment rather than answer the questions? Have I wasted my time trying to understand your point by reading all of this stuff? How can anyone that doesn’t feel the same rage you feel about the mistreatment of women still be on your side?

        • fozmeadows says:

          Do you understand that it’s possible for men to like breasts without objectifying women by talking about ONLY their breasts? Do you understand that men can show an interest in the female body without disrespecting women? Do you understand that male appreciation of female bodies doesn’t have to mean treating women as ONLY their bodies, as though their tits are the most important thing about them? Do you understand that there’s a HUGE FUCKING DIFFERENCE between saying “I like women” and “this show is only worthwhile because a hot chick gets her boobs out”? Do you even understand what misogyny and sexism ARE?

          • TechChucker says:

            The point of the questions, was because you don’t come across in your writings as though you understand fully what misogyny and sexism are. You generalize too much.

            The point was lost on you out of your seemingly more important need for anger. Anger and rage can be a very useful tool for change. You’re not using it very effectively and that is why you’re being attacked by both idiots and people who want to support you, but cannot because of your anger.

            I took the cartoon as a slight against morons that only watch something because of nudity. The comments you see on the facebook page from idiots are from morons that didn’t get the joke. Is that their fault or the fault of the people who created the cartoon? Was that part of the point of the cartoon? To make it subtle enough that it draws out the sexists for further ridicule? Not sure. Ask the creators. Get the direct answer.

            I don’t follow the cartoons and have never heard of them, but perhaps even you have missed the full point of the cartoon. I’m not sure.

            Thanks for not banning my comment. You “banned” several other commenters that I felt you were overly harsh on. Granted, maybe you have a history with those commenters.

            I don’t agree with all of your article or your comments, but I still felt it was a great piece and has sparked a potential for a great conversation. In the end, that’s a success that has to lead back to the creators of the cartoon. Had the joke been entirely obvious to all, would we be talking about it right now?

            • fozmeadows says:

              No, the point was not “lost” on me. As far as I can tell, the only basis on which you and others are asserting that the strip was intended as satire is that you WANT it to be satire. As I’ve already said to another commenter, I am yet to see a single person reblogging, reposting or otherwise talking about that strip as satire, but even on tumblr, there’s a large number who’ve simply taken it at face value; the only time satire comes into it is when people are reacting DEFENSIVELY to assertions that there might be something wrong with it. So tell me: even if the strip WAS intended as satire, isn’t it fair to say that it’s failed at that objective if so many people are taking it to mean “yay boobs”?

              You’ve said yourself you don’t follow PA; I’ve been reading it for over a decade. And yet you’re saying that, of the two of us, I might be the one who’s missed the point due to lack of familiarity with the creators?

              I banned those other commenters because they weren’t contributing anything to the conversation but a smug sense of their own superiority, blatantly false information and accusations that I’m wrong because I’m a feminist. I find it amazing that so many people have conflated my fairly simple rules – don’t call me a feminazi, which is an abusive, useless term; don’t condescendingly tell me I’ve misread the second panel; don’t tell me I don’t understand men or comedy, both of which are ad hominem attacks on ME – to mean that all criticism will be silenced. But then, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised; because if these are the only tools with which someone is capable of rebutting my points, then clearly, they don’t understand how an actual argument works. As the length of this thread can attest, I’ve gone out of my way to engage with people with different perspectives, yourself included, and for my pains I’m STILL getting new commenters telling me I’m just banning all criticism. Do you understand how frustrating that is after the third time, let alone the fifteenth?

              Believe me: I understand what sexism and misogyny are. And as far as I can tell, the only real reason a lot of the commenters here are uncomfortable with my pointing it out in this instance is that they don’t want to believe that, by laughing at the strip, they’ve been complicit in either. That’s the real reason behind the satire defence – people liked the strip, they don’t want to think critically about it (even though it’s entirely possible to like a thing while acknowledging its flaws, which is why I’m still a PA reader after all this time), and so their first assumption is that only a rabid feminist would EVER interpret the strip as ANYTHING other than satire. Funnily enough, these are the same people who tend to fall conspicuously silent when I point out that the PA readership seems largely to have taken the strip at face value, or who then assert that this is just evidence of yet more people misunderstanding the REAL point of the strip. To which I say, if that’s so, then show me the responses of people who thought it was satire from the outset. Show me the people who reblogged it as social commentary, who said “wow, what a great indictment of sexism!” on seeing it. Because believe me: I’ve been looking, and so far, the only time I’ve seen satire brought into it is DEFENSIVELY, in response to assertions of sexism; but there’s a whole heap of people circulating the strip unironically.

              • TechChucker says:

                I suggested perhaps you’ve missed the point strictly because you don’t come across as the type that allows yourself much room to step out of yourself to try to see how/why others might interpret something differently from you.

                Having admitted that I don’t read or follow PA I took my interpretation solely based on the cartoon itself. My interpretation was a slight against shallow guys. It was subtle and in my opinion, not intended to become the spark in the feminist movement. In my opinion it was a passive aggressive jab at the non-intellectual, which will likely always miss the point and show their true colors. I would have assigned more relevance to your point of view regarding the cartoon had you.

                a. Spoken with creators and gotten first hand interpretation of what they meant by the cartoon prior to publishing your work.
                b. If others opinions weren’t shot down so harshly that are against your own.

                It saddens me when anyone equates any amount of commentary on the web as any type of consensus or majority. The internet is wrought with unintelligent, unrefined personalities that only want to spout hate, anger, fear, racism, sexism, and the like. So to put any credence on any comment board is a dark hole you can easily get caught up in. The validity of most blogs, yours or mine included doesn’t typically represent the norm or the majority. The majority choose to not comment for any number of valid and invalid reasons. This is why generalizations are typically discarded.

                I believe and believed before I even commented that you understand what misogyny and sexism are. The point I made, was that your words don’t reflect that.

                Any movement has to have a clear and sound strategy for success. The feminist movement is no different. If you want to truly affect change, real success is found more often in getting those you want to change, to see your point, not by forcing your point. Anger and violence have certain had superficial success in that yes, through force, you can get the masses to do as you say/want, but over time, if you don’t actually get the masses to believe as you do, then they will revolt against you and the cause you hold dear. This is why I criticize your methods more so than your views even. In the end, your strategy is more important to success than your message. Strategy is what actually gets the change to happen no matter if the view is good or bad.

                Everyone that believes something strongly understands the frustrations of having huge numbers of dolts that just cannot and will not see your point. Part of being a human is accepting that and figuring out how to get them to understand. I wish you luck, but I hope you work on your strategy. Rageblogs as you identified your own blog will only beget more rage.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  Do you have any idea how patronising you’re being, telling an established feminist blogger that she doesn’t know what sexism and misogyny are?

                  Do you have any idea how bizarre it is to say that online responses aren’t relevant to a discussion of online culture simply because you don’t feel those examples suit your purpose?

                  Do you have any idea of the irony inherent in telling feminists to be less angry about sexism so that sexists will feel more inclined to help them?

                  I have no doubt you won’t listen to a single word I’ve said, let alone reconsider your privileged perspective. Why do I even bother?

                  • TechChucker says:

                    I didn’t actually say you don’t know what misogyny or sexism are. I indicated your writing doesn’t portray that you do. You don’t come across as though you differentiate between natural human behavior and truly bad behavior. You responded with a great differentiation, not the typical generalizations which was great. Sometimes we all need to be patronized. Sometimes we all need our own pride questioned. If you felt patronized, that is your interpretation of my intent and I can’t take that from you or say you were wrong. That’s how I came across. My intent was not to patronize, but to open a dialog in a different direction and perspective.

                    What I am saying about online commenting is that it does not equate to a majority of the human population. Perhaps it equates to a majority of the online population, possibly, but feminism is a real world issue, not just an Internet issue. The majority of people keep quiet. That is not saying that is ok, My intent is to point out that you cannot interpret that the majority of men are sexist or misogynists simply because there are a lot of Facebook comments that reflect that and I doubt you truly do. It needs to be put into perspective, though. It doesn’t mean that none of it is relevant, but it does mean that it doesn’t have as much weight behind it.

                    I’ve never said not be angry about sexism. Be as angry as you want about sexism. I have two daughters and I fear everyday that they will not be treated as I expect or more importantly that they will not be treated as they expect in this world. What I am saying, is if the majority of men truly are sexist, misogynistic pigs, what is the best strategy to make them not be the majority?

                    I’ve got a diverse group of guy friends, some who would be considered more sexist than others. You cannot affect any change in them. That is the reality. You know who can? Me. The privileged man that I am, have more power to change the minds of the men I associate with than you, a stranger to my friends. Why? because I mean something to them. I am important to them, and you know what, they are important to me and they know that. So when they make a comment that is inappropriate and I call them on it. I just made a true difference. Though it may be small in that specific moment, over time as you add all of that up, you can affect permanent change in how a person acts. Or I lose a friend and then I’m OK with that.

                    So I don’t even care if you think I’m patronizing, because I know that I am just as much a part of the feminist movement as you are because I’m working on people through my relationships and they may not even know that they are being de-mysogynized.

                    I can be an ally and an asset to your beliefs and cause if you could just see it. You are disregarding a large number of people who can affect change.

                    • I hope you’re right: I hope you can affect change. Maybe you would consider beginning with yourself. But because you fail to see why you may be wrong, my hope is not great.

  57. I haven’t seen the show, but I agree with you that watching a show because a woman flashes her boobs in it is really terrible. It sounds like a very complex show that explores the human character from a variety of angles and from the viewpoints of more than just your average middle-class or upper-class white man and woman. Yet it gets views for breasts. Honestly, what’s wrong with Hollywood. I wrote a blog post not too long ago where I had a similar problem with American Horror Story: Coven’s choice to make its main character Zoe’s witch power a vagina that kills anyone she has sex with. I thought it was horrible and sexist and I’m still having trouble believing they did that. I hope the rest of the season is better than this!

  58. franhunne4u says:

    Ok, I understood the strip different than the fans – I thought it rather mocked the males and their one-sidedness – but from the fan-reaction I have to admit, I was wrong and you were right, they do not mock the male view – they just show it …

  59. I haven’t watched OITNB and I probably won’t. Despite the revelation that Laura Prepon’s breasts are shown, it still doesn’t appeal to me, because quite frankly I don’t believe it’s an accurate portrayal of what a women’s prison (or prison in general) is like. To be honest I don’t watch many shows to begin with and I gave up my Netflix account years ago. The only reason I still have a TV is for the occasional RedBox movie.

    I have read Penny Arcade and will probably continue to do so. Sure a joke like this is tasteless. But the reality is, this is to be expected by the writers. They have always done this and always will. It is the core of their fan base and they will not betray that base. You should not expect more from them. To do so would be folly and a waste of your time. You ultimately only have one choice, either read it and accept it, or stop reading it.

  60. I never like when people say “but it’s only a joke”.. I usually think to myself – so are you. Great article and lots of good anger that needs to retranslate into – oops, I’m a guy and sometimes I do stupid things and my mouth hangs open cause I just let it. Hopefully the next generation of young people can see that behaviour today is bullshit and maybe they can redevelop what it means to express sexy, or horny for that matter.

  61. It was a good post, but it was a little difficult to read because of the large amount of profanity (sorry). But you really did well with the main point. I’d like to think that I’m more than boobs and lipstick.

  62. TK says:

    Comics are primarily a visual medium. What the images show is as, if not more, important to the interpretation of a scene than what the words say. The images provide context for, and add meaning to, the dialogue. In the third panel, Gabe does not look dejected, annoyed, or otherwise exasperated with Tycho, as if he feels at all negatively about needing to resort to a lowest common denominator “there are breasts in this” to get his friend’s attention about a show that he likes. He is instead smiling pretty smugly. Now that can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but given the drawing and the character I think “smug” is a pretty good descriptor. Now, you could read that as him being smug about getting a win over on his friend, and that’s sort of a joke about how Tycho is more interested in breasts than any of the show’s other qualities. But that doesn’t automatically make it a joke that relies on subverting sexism and the male gaze. I think you have to work a lot harder to make that argument than you do to read it at face value. And at face value it says “This show is great and there are lots of good things in it, but the first and most important thing you need to know is that it has a specific topless woman in it, amiright fellas?” And I believe the fact that most of the intended audience (or at least the audience dedicated enough to comment) read it that way more than suggests that they did so because it was an easier interpretation of that comic.

    So IF the comic’s intention was to subvert the male gaze (which I personally find somewhat doubtful, given my interpretation of the comic as well as the creators’ history), then it failed in its intention, and is at the very least not a very done comic. Poorly done satire can very easily become just another example of the thing meant to be satirized. If the comic’s intention was NOT to subvert the male gaze, then it is at the very least not a responsible comic.

    And the thing about that, is that you can still like Penny Arcade in general while holding that view. It is possible to criticize aspects of a thing you like, and doing so is a much more mature kind of fandom that I believe ultimately leads to the creation of better content.

  63. SoCalSimian says:

    You rock. And you roll. And you go, woman. Not girl. Woman.

  64. sammtbh says:

    Reblogged this on Hyndsyght and commented:
    Ah- Just what I needed before I finished my speech on sexism!

  65. Lee says:

    Not even gonna TRY reading the comments cause I’m sure they will be 99% sexist drivel. But I am stopping in to say this shit is why my brother, a game programmer, boycotts PAX and PAX East despite previously really enjoying the conventions. I wish that more people were like him and this actually WOULD hurt their bottom line, cause let’s be honest, that’s the only thing that matters to them. I have 0% respect for the makers of Penny Arcade because of the near constant dribble of sexism and transphobia. Oh, AND the half-assed not-pologies… gotta love those.

  66. D says:

    Haha wow you are an idiot. Fuck off.

  67. Anonna says:

    You know, with the animation, a large part of it is the hair and clothing style. Women tend to have longer hair, especially in a Disney flick, and tend to have softer hair that moves with them (as oppose to a crew cut that sticks to the head or spiky hair that doesn’t move an inch). They also tend to have outfits that move with them rather than something that is essentially skin tight. (Look at Flynn Rider vs. Rapunzel – Flynn’s outfit just moves with him instantly, like it’s super glued to him, Rapunzel’s flows and moves. I heard they had a full time mathematician just for her dress.) Those hair and clothing elements have to be animated separately.

    With regards to the facial expression, when you’re dealing with a princess appeal always has to be part of the equation. Broad action lends itself to more distortion: the main character tends to be the least broad character in the film. Exaggerated character design tends to lend itself to more expression, the main character tends to be the least exaggerated. All of these are why main characters are harder to animate regardless of gender. There’s also something called appeal. You want your main characters to be appealing and relatable, and this often includes in their expressions. Look at Princess and the Frog. This is Tiana sad: This is Charlotte sad: Notice that Tiana is not nearly as pushed as Charlotte, even though they’re both female characters. Tiana is sad and makes us feel sad with her because she is appealing to us. Charlotte is not nearly as appealing so we are more inclined to chuckle. (Now she does have a lot of appeal as a comic drawing, but we don’t feel any empathy for her.)

    So basically, there’s a lot going on with the character animation that I don’t think you’re aware of. It’s nice that you want to point out sexism, but it is pretty obvious why a character like Anna would be difficult to animate.

    Oh, and PS – Disney has also had trouble with the boys too. They had a nightmare getting the early prince charmings to look right which is why they only appear for a few minutes in Snow White and Cinderella. It wasn’t until Philip that they were able to get male features that worked right. In the same way, the 3D technology is going to give you trouble when it comes to the ladies and their lovely hair, dresses, and anything that requires follow through.

    • fozmeadows says:

      WOW. Condescending much?

      None of what you’ve said here addresses the issue of female characters apparently needing to look pretty ALL THE TIME, which was supposedly the problem. I don’t care that Anna is a princess; that doesn’t mean she needs to be pretty in every single frame. Neither is it mandatory for female characters to have long hair and flowing clothes – those are just traditional beauty conventions being upheld for the sake of it. You’re talking as though this “problem” of women being difficult to animate is a universal one – so how, then, do you explain the ability of other films and studios to get past it? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has two female characters, both wearing form-fitting clothes and neither one doe-eyed; one even has a buzz cut. Jesse in the Toy Story franchise doesn’t suffer these restrictions; neither do the female gnomes in Gnomeo and Juliet, Princess Fiona in Shrek, the female Vikings in How to Train Your Dragon, Helen and Violett Parr in The Incredibles – you want me to keep going? Hell, Laika studios boasts an amazing range of different female characters all done in claymation, which is PAINSTAKING – and yes, it’s not digital animation, but it’s still fucking DIFFICULT and time-consuming, so presumably the same difficulties of long hair, pretty faces and flowing clothes would apply.

      And meanwhile, there is seemingly no end to the variety of male faces and body-types on offer. Just look at the men we get in the same movies listed above, plus titles like Brave and Tangled. It’s a DOUBLE-FUCKING-STANDARD that has nothing to do with the backend of animation and everything to with a specific social construction of what women ought to look like in order to be deemed pretty, and therefore acceptable.

      • Lurkertype says:

        Interesting that all the movies you mention positively are not Disney. There’s Pixar before Disney bought them, and then Dreamworks and some others. Princess Fiona and Mrs. and Miss Parr managed to still be conventionally pretty, even! Gasp!

        Apparently this “huge difficulty” is only with main-line Disney. You’d think, with all their years of experience, they’d be able to surmount this. (as the Laika link points out)

        • Anonna says:

          You’re supposing that just because these people have succeeded that the task was easy.

          Disney had trouble with the princes and they didn’t learn how to handle them until the late 50’s in Sleeping Beauty. It doesn’t happen over night.

          • fozmeadows says:

            No, I’m asserting that it’s precedented, possible and worthwhile. Frankly, I don’t care about the difficulties, never mind my deep skepticism about whether or not they really exist in this instance – all of animation is hard. Just show me women on screen who don’t all look identical and whose value isn’t determined solely by their beauty.

            • Anonna says:

              >No, I’m asserting that it’s precedented, possible and worthwhile.

              Possible and worthwhile, definitely! Precedented is a harder hurdle. If you look, they came up with new programs for the ladies’ hair and clothing. These programs *are* unprecedented.

              >I don’t care about the difficulties, never mind my deep skepticism about whether or not they really exist in this instance – all of animation is hard

              What experience do you have in animation to form your opinion? I’m saying this after studying it and knowing the principles of follow through.

              >Just show me women on screen who don’t all look identical and whose value isn’t determined solely by their beauty.

              I have in my (currently unposted) comment. Watch Wreck-it-Ralph or Treasure Planet. As for Frozen, we have a unique situation where we have two female leads who are also sisters.

              • fozmeadows says:


                It’s 3am where I am, but apparently this has now become The Thread That Will Not Die, such that I can’t shut my brain off and go to sleep until I’ve answered this properly.


                No, I am not a professional animator, nor am I trained in animation. What I’m struggling with, here, is the idea that, even though animators use the exact same tools – pen, paper, computer software, code – to create ALL characters, regardless of age, gender or species, it’s somehow ESPECIALLY difficult to get women right. I mean, I remember watching the commentary for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron (an amazing film, BTW) and hearing it mentioned that it’s particularly difficult to animate horses fluidly because of the way their bodies work. That makes sense to me; horses have a lot of moving parts, and if you look at early animated horses – the one that most springs to mind is Frou Frou in The Aristocats – there’s a clear difference in execution. Similarly, when Disney made The Lion King, they had actual lions and other animals brought into the studio to model for the animations, which is also something I’ve heard done with regard to other animal-based films. Clearly, then, each animated film will have its own challenges, and some things are clearly harder to make than others. That makes sense to me. I also understand why long hair and flowing clothes would take more time and effort to animate than short hair and smooth clothes.

                But see, all the difficulties that keep getting ascribed to female characters – and which, as a consequence, are used to justify why female characters are inherently hard to animate – are ARBITRARY. Female characters don’t need long hair and flowing clothes. They don’t need to have wide-eyed, small-mouthed, heart-shaped faces. They don’t need to fit a certain body type. Do you see what I’m getting at, here? When people say “female characters are hard to animate” and then cite these reasons in defence of making restrictive animation choices that, as per Frozen and Tangled, result in the creation of a handful of female characters who all fit a very specific mould, what they’re really saying is “THIS PARTICULAR KIND OF FEMALE CHARACTER, which I have decided is the only worthwhile type of female character, is hard to animate”. And then, because we already have a cultural tendency to downplay the role of women in narrative, this sort of thing gets used as an excuse for limiting the role of female characters or removing them completely. I struggle to imagine a male character having his role fundamentally altered or dropped entirely because men are too hard to animate, even if, as you say, that particular character design posed difficulties; for a parallel example in a different field, consider the fact that a Wonder Woman movie was postponed, again, because apparently her backstory is “too complicated” – but putting Rocket Raccoon in a movie? No problem!

                And then there’s the extent to which male is considered the default, so that even when people are animating animals or inhuman creatures, you’ll have the “normal” one, which is male, and then some bizarre, long-eyelashed, weirdly-proportioned and probably pink-coloured version that’s meant to be female – or if they DO look the same, the animators will whack a bow on the girl-version’s head, because God forbid anyone not be immediately able to identify a female body, even if it belongs to a flying dragon-monster!

                So when, to get back to the Frozen link, Lino Disalvo comes out and says, “Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression” – meaning, basically, that it was HARD to create two lead female characters whose faces were different enough that you could tell them apart when they were both exhibiting the same emotion – then yeah, I get pissed off. Because this problem that he’s describing? This problem WOULDN’T EXIST if the overriding prerogative for character design in this instance WASN’T so focussed on a narrow idea of conventional female beauty that, once all the boxes were ticked, they basically had two women with identical faces – faces which, in turn, are basically identical to Rapunzel’s.

                tl;dr: My gripe is not with the technical difficulties of animation; it’s with the CULTURAL PRESSURES that determine character design IN THE FIRST PLACE.

                Does that make sense?

                • Anonna says:

                  >What I’m struggling with, here, is the idea that, even though animators use the exact same tools – pen, paper, computer software, code – to create ALL characters, regardless of age, gender or species, it’s somehow ESPECIALLY difficult to get women right.

                  Women are difficult to handle in computers because of the massive amount of follow through. Men are hard to draw as you don’t want to emphasize features in an odd manner. Horses are just hard period. You’re misrepresenting the statement. Women are difficult in computer animation. Hair and clothing is also difficult in claymation (haven’t you seen the stuff on Coraline?), but not nearly as difficult as water. When talking to a computer animator, he’s going to find women difficult.

                  >But see, all the difficulties that keep getting ascribed to female characters – and which, as a consequence, are used to justify why female characters are inherently hard to animate – are ARBITRARY. Female characters don’t need long hair and flowing clothes. They don’t need to have wide-eyed, small-mouthed, heart-shaped faces. They don’t need to fit a certain body type. Do you see what I’m getting at, here?

                  Main characters are hard to animate. Most of what you’re listing (body type, cute face, restrained emotions, etc.) are main character traits, with the exception of long hair and clothing. You’re right, you don’t need long hair and clothing for a female character, and they have female characters without long hair and dresses. However, a greater number of real women have long hair and flowing clothing, so of course more animated women will have long hair and flowing clothing. Art reflects life and certainly women in the middle ages are going to have those difficult elements.

                  >I struggle to imagine a male character having his role fundamentally altered or dropped entirely because men are too hard to animate, even if, as you say, that particular character design posed difficulties; for a parallel example in a different field, consider the fact that a Wonder Woman movie was postponed, again, because apparently her backstory is “too complicated” – but putting Rocket Raccoon in a movie? No problem!

                  Prince Charming, yet again. His screentime was slashed because they couldn’t draw him right. Everyone was complaining that Aladdin was really hard to draw because he couldn’t be too beefy, too young, or too skinny. Just because you don’t know about these problems doesn’t mean they weren’t there. The ladies’ roles haven’t been altered, there was only discussion of how the animation is challenging. As for Wonder Woman, I can’t say. I’d love to see her story. I don’t know, I’m an animation person.

                  >And then there’s the extent to which male is considered the default, so that even when people are animating animals or inhuman creatures, you’ll have the “normal” one, which is male, and then some bizarre, long-eyelashed, weirdly-proportioned and probably pink-coloured version that’s meant to be female – or if they DO look the same, the animators will whack a bow on the girl-version’s head, because God forbid anyone not be immediately able to identify a female body, even if it belongs to a flying dragon-monster!

                  To a degree yes. Male is the default which really isn’t surprising for a medium that began in the 30’s, but Disney is actually much better than most in this regards. Take a look at the Lion King – Nala’s femininity is very subtle. As for a flying dragon monster, I’m pretty sure Maleficent was just badass and only might have some inkling in shape language.

                  >So when, to get back to the Frozen link, Lino Disalvo comes out and says, “Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression” – meaning, basically, that it was HARD to create two lead female characters whose faces were different enough that you could tell them apart when they were both exhibiting the same emotion – then yeah, I get pissed off. Because this problem that he’s describing? This problem WOULDN’T EXIST if the overriding prerogative for character design in this instance WASN’T so focussed on a narrow idea of conventional female beauty that, once all the boxes were ticked, they basically had two women with identical faces – faces which, in turn, are basically identical to Rapunzel’s.

                  Let’s see… a lot of Disney leads have been women! Funny that, that the main character would go through a lot more emotions than the side characters and must be someone you can empathize with.

                  Do you know what model is? It means that they have to still looks like they have the same shape, volume, and proportions.

                  It’s always part of determining a character to figure out how they look when they’re angry, sad, happy, etc.

                  You’re still looking at two main characters/protagonists. The closest I can think of is Emperor’s New Groove, where it’s more of a buddy cop. Now add in that the two are going to be siblings and yes, you’re going to get a lot of similarity!

                  With regards to Rapunzel, I’m torn. I can certainly see similarities, but I need to see more in action. You can find odd angle and say “Look they’re the same!” but I need more footage to compare that that simply doesn’t exist yet. My impression is that Anna’s face is substantially rounder, but again, I need to see.

                  I also believe that Disney needs to learn how far they can push in a Princess movie. They have an idea in 2D, but there’s only been one 3D one.

                  • fozmeadows says:

                    What I don’t understand is why you keep trying to extrapolate what I originally said in the blog to cover all animation, ever. Pretty clearly, I’m critiquing the specific words of a specific animator with regard to a specific film – and yes, I’m inferring there’s a wider social problem in terms of how women are perceived which is ultimately responsible for his attitude. But you keep using that social-wide perception as a defence of animating practice, when I’m saying it’s the actual issue in question. Telling me “oh, it’s a princess movie” doesn’t help if PRINCESS CULTURE IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

                    Happily, another animator has chimed in on this thread to say that your arguments are flawed. Will you bother engaging with him, I wonder?

                    Also, for the record: what was condescending in your original reply wasn’t that you explained how animation worked; it was where you said “It’s nice that you want to point out sexism, but”, which is SUPER PATRONISING.

                    • Anonna says:

                      Because you’re critiquing a technical point of animation with little to no understanding of it.

                      >Telling me “oh, it’s a princess movie” doesn’t help if PRINCESS CULTURE IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

                      Yes it does matter because you’re complaining that there no women of different face types, body types, etc. in Disney movies when there are.

                      >Happily, another animator has chimed in on this thread to say that your arguments are flawed. Will you bother engaging with him, I wonder?

                      Definitely! I love talking to other animators to discuss thing!

                      >Also, for the record: what was condescending in your original reply wasn’t that you explained how animation worked; it was where you said “It’s nice that you want to point out sexism, but”, which is SUPER PATRONISING.

                      Criticism is now patronizing? I wasn’t attacking you, I wasn’t even demeaning you.

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      “Yes it does matter because you’re complaining that there no women of different face types, body types, etc. in Disney movies when there are.”

                      Oh, for fuck’s SAKE. I NEVER SAID THIS. I EVEN GAVE EXAMPLES OF SUCH WOMEN. What I SAID, if you actually read my arguments, is that original remarks betray a preoccupation with making women pretty IN THAT PARTICULAR FILM that is both problematic and representative of wider social problems with regard to the treatment and perception of women.

                      Criticism isn’t patronising; the tone of saying “oh, it’s nice that you want to point out sexism”, as though I’m a fucking CHILD, IS. If you can’t tell the difference, that’s not my problem.

                    • Sean Hood says:

                      I have to agree with Anonna here that his/her comments are not at all patronizing or demeaning. S/he may be right or wrong about animation of female characters, but if his/her tone isn’t an example of neutral and respectful, how can there be any rational discussion in a thread?

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      As I’ve already said, I didn’t find Annona’s explanations patronising; it was the “it’s nice you’re trying to do feminism” line. That, specifically, I found condescending and unnecessary.

                    • Anonna says:

                      >Oh, for fuck’s SAKE. I NEVER SAID THIS. I EVEN GAVE EXAMPLES OF SUCH WOMEN. What I SAID, if you actually read my arguments, is that original remarks betray a preoccupation with making women pretty IN THAT PARTICULAR FILM that is both problematic and representative of wider social problems with regard to the treatment and perception of women.

                      If that was your point, you didn’t make it very well. Movies are allowed to have conventionally beautiful women. That’s not a problem.

                      >Criticism isn’t patronising; the tone of saying “oh, it’s nice that you want to point out sexism”, as though I’m a fucking CHILD, IS. If you can’t tell the difference, that’s not my problem.

                      I think you are reading way too much into one comment that is delivered without any tone. You’re being far more aggressive and antagonistic than I am.

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      You know what? I am thoroughly sick of talking to you. You’re missing the point at every turn, and the effort of trying to explain the relevance of sexism to you with regard to the portrayal of women in media is physically exhausting me. I won’t go so far as to block you, but I’d appreciate it mightily if you just left.

                    • Anonna says:

                      fozmeadows, I don’t know why you’re becoming so hostile towards me. I have only been speaking in terms of facts and have been happy to discuss everything with you. I just am going to respond to people who are going to take comments with a technical side out of context. Discussing whether all main character women in animated films should be conventionally beautiful is very different from discussing whether said women are difficult to animate.

                      Almost every main character you see in a Disney film is going to be conventionally attractive because they’re going to be average. (We do see average as attractive, source available upon request.) That’s not sexist because it’s done to every main character across the board.

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      I have seriously been racking my brains for the past few hours for a clear, succinct way to explain to you what the problem is, why you keep missing it, and why your repeated insistence on framing the problem in terms of the technical limitations of animation is ultimately irrelevant.

                      OK. Here goes:

                      *deep breath*

                      Our culture – all of our culture – is rife with extremely toxic attitudes about female beauty and attractiveness. The conventional ideal for women – thin but not bony, blonde, blue-eyed, full-breasted, white – is not only a very narrow one, but something that gets enforced almost constantly by various forms of media. From the time girls are children, we’re bombarded with princess culture, told that looking and dressing a certain way will make us pretty (and therefore valuable), and punished harshly whenever we stray outside the acceptable norm. This has been the way for quite some time, and the phenomenon shows no signs of abating. But that doesn’t make it acceptable; quite the opposite, in fact. There’s nothing benign about the ubiquity of conventionally attractive women being foregrounded in TV and movies, because every time it happens, it helps to normalise those same toxic ideals of what women ought to look like. And while that doesn’t mean we should NEVER tell stories that feature such women, it sure as hell DOES mean that we should be actively striving to include more variety in our portrayals of women – especially when the real-world consequences of this homogeneity and pressure can be devastating for teenage girls.

                      All of which is a way of saying that yes, IT IS AN ACTUAL PROBLEM that conventional attractiveness is the cinematic default; the fact that it happens often doesn’t excuse it. So when you have a Disney animator come out and say how hard it is to distinguish two very similar-looking princess characters WHEN THEIR SIMILARITY, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION, IS AS A DIRECT RESULT OF THIS PRESSURE FOR WOMEN ON SCREEN TO FIT A NARROW MODEL OF BEAUTY, then that is a massive problem, and also disgusting, because it lays bare the extent of the problem without doing anything to critique it. And yes, that’s sexist, because even though we do still tend to see attractive men in lead roles, not only do we get to see a wider range of men generally, but the problem of pervasive male attractiveness on screen ISN’T TIED INTO A PERNICIOUS, OPPRESSIVE, PERVASIVE SOCIAL SYSTEM THAT PRESSURES MEN FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE TO FIT A SPECIFIC PHYSICAL TYPE OR BE DEEMED UGLY AND UNWORTHY. Do you see the difference? Women are pressured socially about their looks in ways that men are not; therefore, the portrayal of women on screen both contributes to and reflects that pressure in ways that the portrayal of men does not. Young men might hit the gym to try and look like Flynn Rider – they might even feel inferior compared to him – but I guarantee you that some young women WILL develop anorexia trying to starve themselves down to Rapunzel’s size, not because they’re obsessed with the character, but because they’ve been told, over and over, that they’re MEANT to look that thin.

                      Given all this context, then, the question of how difficult is to animate hair or dresses or whatever else DOESN’T ACTUALLY MATTER, because that’s not the real problem. The issue isn’t how hard it is to animate the characters in Frozen; it’s the social pressures that dictate WHY THE FEMALE CHARACTERS WERE DESIGNED THAT WAY IN THE FIRST PLACE, and how it ties in to wider, toxic problems about women’s bodies.

                    • Anonna says:

                      Thank you, that reply is much more helpful.

                      If anything I’d say Disney is pretty good with getting away from white, blonde, and blue-eyed. Historically they did have more white princesses, but there is a princess of pretty much every race now and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Also, I know Mulan at least was designed to embody the Chinese ideal of beauty: willow brows, phoenix eyes, cherry blossom lips, and a teardrop-shaped head. That’s not just a Western phenomenon.

                      I still disagree on your criticism of the animator. The hair and clothing is going to be appropriate for the time period and your modern ideals don’t really fit that. I do also want to point out that the last two CG women created by Disney, did reject the Princess culture and I think it’s doing a disservice to ignore them. I respect that you have a problem with the princess culture, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that because you don’t like it that it should be dismantled. I would agree if Disney were putting out NOTHING but princesses, but that’s simply not the case.

                      I think your critique of culture is valid, but I disagree with your supposition that therefore Disney is wrong. I also think that Flynn Rider is a particularly bad character to point at because he was an unconventional male body type until he was slimmed down and prettified. (Seriously they had a “hot guy meeting” to figure out exactly how to make Flynn more attractive. That never happened with the Disney ladies.) I also think you’re underestimating the effect media has on men. They’re less likely to starve themselves, but they’re far more like to use steroids and such. I’m not an expert, but there are still forces that I don’t think you and I know too much about.

                      The question of how to animate hair and dresses doesn’t matter to you, and that’s fine, but it really important to an animator! That probably was a lot of the concern the quoted animator had. Just because you don’t care about it doesn’t suddenly free the quote from said context. Just because we see larger societal problems doesn’t mean that this movie isn’t about two particular characters. Again, look at past Disney flicks where the leads are supposed to be taken seriously. They’re all pretty (except Hunchback, for obvious reasons).

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      Disney has a few princesses of colour, sure; but you’ll note that these women tend to be more heavily sexualised than their white counterparts in terms of costume, appear on FAR fewer items of merchandise (check the Disney princess store), pushed to the back in group shots, and that, during their recent redesign, almost all of them were given new facial features that made them look more white.

                      As for historical realism re the hair and clothes, I don’t really find that defence appealing. This is a film with magic and a talking snow man – if Disney wanted to mix up the clothing, they could. I mean, they’ve got Japanese geisha-style clothes in Mulan when it’s set in China, and the studio actively ignored requests from First Nations representatives to tell a more historically accurate version of Pocahontas, to say nothing of all the other anachronisms cheerfully present in their various films.

                      I agree that the media has a negative effect on men, but the idea that guys would take steroids to look like the men they see on TV just doesn’t work for me if you’re calling it a social phenomenon on par with eating disorders in women – at the very least, the rates would be much, MUCH lower than anorexia and bulemia are for teenage girls, and would likely apply to an older segment of the population, given the difficulties in acquiring steroids when you’re fifteen.

                    • Anonna says:

                      >Disney has a few princesses of colour, sure; but you’ll note that these women tend to be more heavily sexualised than their white counterparts in terms of costume, appear on FAR fewer items of merchandise (check the Disney princess store), pushed to the back in group shots, and that, during their recent redesign, almost all of them were given new facial features that made them look more white.

                      Whut? I can see Pocahontas maybe being a little bit more sexualized than average, but Ariel swims around in only a seashell bikini top… you can’t get more sexualized than that. Mulan and Tiana certainly aren’t. Some of them are pushed to the back more, but that seems to be done on a basis of dress more than skin tone. The redesign is something where I don’t think we’ll come to a consensus, so I’ll let it go. However, merchandising is a completely different department.

                      >As for historical realism re the hair and clothes, I don’t really find that defence appealing. This is a film with magic and a talking snow man – if Disney wanted to mix up the clothing, they could. I mean, they’ve got Japanese geisha-style clothes in Mulan when it’s set in China, and the studio actively ignored requests from First Nations representatives to tell a more historically accurate version of Pocahontas, to say nothing of all the other anachronisms cheerfully present in their various films.

                      Okay, so let’s say you’re putting them in medieval (or similar time period) Denmark, what do you dress them in and why? Be prepared to justify your response only using character details.

                      The magical snowman doesn’t counteract the basic setting any more than the ice powers. There’s a difference between pushing artistic license a little and ignoring your inspiration. Could the ladies have been in pants for a little bit? Maybe, depending on their temperament and social position, but you can also get a disconnect there. It’s fine if you have someone like Merida wearing pants (although she didn’t) because she was a rebel who liked to be outdoors and ride horses. We’ll have to see a little more before we can judge her character.

                      For Mulan, as far as I can tell, her dress is closer to a hanfu than a kimono. People may refer to it as a kimono, but that doesn’t mean it is. If you have more evidence, I’m willing to listen.

                      With regards to Pocahontas, you’re right, it’s not realistic. I’ve done a little research and from what I can tell the core of the story was always the romance. It may have been too late. I really don’t know and it’s an interesting discussion.

                      >I agree that the media has a negative effect on men, but the idea that guys would take steroids to look like the men they see on TV just doesn’t work for me if you’re calling it a social phenomenon on par with eating disorders in women – at the very least, the rates would be much, MUCH lower than anorexia and bulemia are for teenage girls, and would likely apply to an older segment of the population, given the difficulties in acquiring steroids when you’re fifteen.

                      Lower, less, but there are anorexic and bulimic men too. I think in both cases *animated* characters are probably not even on the radar.

                      I thought you might be interested in this video:

                      The animator working on Merida talks about the same problem – how do you have her emote while remaining beautiful.

                • This thread reminds me of this article:

                  In that the cultural norms defined the technology which in turn leads to an excuse to hide behind, rather than challenging the norms of the technology.

      • Anonna says:

        Well considering I’m studying animation, yeah, I do know something and I’m going to say it. I’m kind of annoyed at people quoting things without knowing the context. What you’re taking as condescension is actually me explaining the principles behind the decisions which are pretty important.

        >None of what you’ve said here addresses the issue of female characters apparently needing to look pretty ALL THE TIME, which was supposedly the problem.

        Except Charlotte DOESN’T look pretty all the time and she’s female. The appeal is consistent across all genders. Take a look at Mulan and look at how more expressive Yao, Ping, and Chein Po are compared to Shang. Shang has to look appealing as he needs to carry emotional weight.

        >I don’t care that Anna is a princess; that doesn’t mean she needs to be pretty in every single frame.

        She’s probably not. Rapunzel wasn’t –

        However, in animation, part of the importance is controlling every single frame. You do want to make it better than life and having an unappealing frame is a problem.

        >Neither is it mandatory for female characters to have long hair and flowing clothes – those are just traditional beauty conventions being upheld for the sake of it.

        This is a separate conversation. The fact of the matter is that both Anna and Elsa have parts of their hair and clothes that move making them difficult to animate. Also, in a historical context, they would have clothing and hair that moved.

        >You’re talking as though this “problem” of women being difficult to animate is a universal one – so how, then, do you explain the ability of other films and studios to get past it? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has two female characters, both wearing form-fitting clothes and neither one doe-eyed; one even has a buzz cut.

        Do you really want to use a movie that sunk its studio as an example? Do you want to use a movie that is all about the uncanny valley as your example? It also looks like they only have a “sheet” of hair.

        >Jesse in the Toy Story franchise doesn’t suffer these restrictions; neither do the female gnomes in Gnomeo and Juliet, Princess Fiona in Shrek, the female Vikings in How to Train Your Dragon, Helen and Violett Parr in The Incredibles – you want me to keep going?

        Jessie actually has a comparatively simple rig (essentially one piece of hair) which was a deliberate decision. Pixar didn’t have the technology to do full humans very well even at the start of Toy Story 2, hence why they worked with toys. Violet had a special program for her hair which was state of the art at time of release whereas Helen had stiff hair that didn’t move much, exactly because it was extremely difficult. Violet, Helen, and Jessie all wore literally skin tight clothing, really furthering my point. The vikings and Fiona do have again, simple hair. I think that most of them have one braid that moves as a group, and maybe a few little bang hairs. You can tell, all of those braids move like ropes rather than it being made up of hair. Gnomeo and Juilet I haven’t seen, but can’t comment on it.

        >Hell, Laika studios boasts an amazing range of different female characters all done in claymation, which is PAINSTAKING – and yes, it’s not digital animation, but it’s still fucking DIFFICULT and time-consuming, so presumably the same difficulties of long hair, pretty faces and flowing clothes would apply.

        Yes, you’re right! However, you’re acting like I said there shouldn’t be female characters. There should be female characters, but that doesn’t have any bearing on how difficult they are to animate. If you look at horses there’s Khan, Maximus, Felippe, Sampson, and the entire movie Spirit, but that doesn’t suddenly make horses easy to animate.

        >And meanwhile, there is seemingly no end to the variety of male faces and body-types on offer. Just look at the men we get in the same movies listed above, plus titles like Brave and Tangled. It’s a DOUBLE-FUCKING-STANDARD that has nothing to do with the backend of animation and everything to with a specific social construction of what women ought to look like in order to be deemed pretty, and therefore acceptable.

        You’re right, to a degree. Still doesn’t make women easy to animate. Animation started during the 30’s-50’s, and you’re right that women had a limited role. However, that being said, there have been much more variety in animated women in the last 20 years. Funny that I think you’re only looking at protagonists. Take a look at Ursula, Charlotte, Capt. Amelia, Pocahontas, Mulan (both of these ladies are protagonists, but wildly different shapes), Lilo, Nani, all the little hula girls, Vanellope, and Sergeant Calhoun.

        Sorry, you can’t look at a single character type and then complain about what a narrow range of bodies and faces you have. Just look at the Disney Princes and you’ll have the same thing.

        • Kelly McNutt says:

          I am a practicing, professional animator (one never stops studying animation). The whole “women are hard to animate” nonsense is pure BS. It’s a systemic failure of imagination that is brought on by what a marketing executive’s idea of an animated woman should be. By the way; all the hair things you’re talking about are a TD’s headache to solve, and it’s an animator’s job to make a character live, which is independent of these secondary considerations. Saying “having an unappealing frame is a problem” is just plain silly. Define ‘unappealing’ please?

          • Anonna says:

            Okay, if you say that women aren’t harder to animate, what do you do with the hair and flowing clothing? There’s a ton of follow through that has to be animated there, many collisions that you have to account for, and even if you were to make a program to generally handle the basic shapes, you have to have imperfections and variations (especially on the hair!)

            >By the way; all the hair things you’re talking about are a TD’s headache to solve, and it’s an animator’s job to make a character live, which is independent of these secondary considerations.

            Isn’t it still your job to make the large shapes with the hair? Does that still have to be budgeted for? Isn’t it still something your director has to worry about?

            > Saying “having an unappealing frame is a problem” is just plain silly. Define ‘unappealing’ please?

            Same way Frank and Ollie define it, albeit vaguely – it has to engage the audience or add life to an action. Obviously you’re going to have some “ugly” squash and stretch poses where the character is distorted like crazy to add feeling to the motion. However, on most movements you want to create strong poses, silhouettes, and facial expressions.

  68. Rosie says:

    Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

  69. Oh my God, the comments.

    First off, I want to applaud you. This is a wonderfully insightful and well-articulated address of the ever-present problems of sexism not only in “geekdom,” but the geek meta, and popular culture as a whole. I have been reading PA for years, but I do so less and less these days as they continue to squander their talent and influence on perpetuating these kinds of social issues. I applaud your article, as well as your courage to face these titans of media along with the horde of mouth-breathers who would defend them.

    And to anyone who wants to reply to me suggesting this is somehow satire, or a mockery of this type of behavior, you are wrong. Satire uses humor and exaggerated mockery to demonstrate wrong-doing. Since this strip never suggests that it’s wrong to reduce this show to a vehicle for the sexual reduction of women, it only reinforces the idea — the exact opposite goal of satire.

  70. HomerRules74 says:

    Why do you swear so much in this? Do you have some sort of mental problem?

    • fozmeadows says:

      Why are you being ableist? Do you just not know that’s offensive, or are you really just so unfamiliar with the concept of impassioned swearing – not to say internet culture – that you think my language is indicative of a different brain chemistry to yours?

  71. Frisky says:

    People, stop wasting your time by saying that this comic is satirical. She hasn’t taken a second to consider the viewpoints of people who disagree with her; rather, she has declared from the very beginning that anyone who dares to disagree with her will be blocked. Opposing opinions are dismissed automatically out of the mindset that they are “sexist ignorance”.

    And as for people who claim that this isn’t satire because it doesn’t explicitly condemn the mindset portrayed in the strip: first off, have you ever heard the phrase “don’t explain the joke”? Secondly, let’s look at the definition of satire, taken from Wikipedia:

    “Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.
    A common feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm—’in satire, irony is militant’—but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing.”

    Just look at Tycho in the last panel. He is not meant to be seen as a rational person that you should agree with here. His reaction to the mention of a topless scene is exaggerated in order to make him look silly; to ridicule the kind of person who only has interest in a show out of the prospect of sexualized characters. You could make the same kind of satire using two female characters, where one would only have interest in a show because of a hot guy.

    And I can’t help but to wonder if there would be a completely different reaction with a comic where one girl was only interested in a show over the prospect of a shirtless guy.

    • fozmeadows says:

      …You DO see the screenshot at the top of the page demonstrating pretty definitively the existence of PA fans who AREN’T treating it as satire, right?

      • Frisky says:

        I see PA fans making comments in the veins of the joke being told. I can’t say for certain how they’re treating the comic because things like sarcasm (and apparently satire) are hard to convey over the internet.

        • fozmeadows says:

          Seriously? You’ve got multiple guys discussing their masturbatory fantasies of Donna, several making comments about her boobs, one saying “This is exactly how I described the show to my friends,” another one saying they similarly pitched Homeland to friends on the basis of Morena Baccarin’s nudity, which leads to a sidetrack about HER hotness and more masturbation jokes, and all with plenty of LOLs thrown in. These are not sarcastic, satirical comments; these are people who’ve taken the comic literally, at face value, because they see nothing wrong with that.

  72. Okay, so just wanting to throw in my two cents, first off as someone who is on the internet quite often and uses Netflix in a replacement for cable and basic tv, this Penny Arcade comic strip is the first I personally have heard of this show. Now am I going to watch it because Penny Arcade said it has Laura Prepon topless, no. However I also would have had no interest in watching it from the description of a prison drama because lets face it, cop and prison dramas are way to overdone anymore. However to say that Penny Arcade is being horrible for making a joke (and yes that’s what it is I understand that a lot of you people think its not a joke because it doesn’t stop and explain that they are making a joke, but for it to do so would completely defeat the purpose making said joke in the first place), is a little over the top. Now I understand it probably wasn’t the most tasteful joke, but lets stop for a moment to look at the lyrics of most rap and hip hop songs nowadays. The majority of them are purely about women being for sex, it being cool to do drugs and kill people and fuck ‘da police. Now while we can all have differing opinions on if the joke that Penny Arcade made here was funny or not, to argue that they did not make a joke is like trying to argue that Penny Arcade isn’t a comic strip. The most important thing to do is not to rant about Penny Arcade making a joke in poor taste (because the popular comedians today NEVER do something like that), but to instead educate the future generation about equality amongst races and genders, so that when our children grow up and come across a joke like this, their immediate reaction isn’t “Whoa attractive chick topless, clearly that’s all this show is about.” or “Damn Penny Arcade for making a sexist-ish joke!”, but so it can be “Seriously? Not another cop/prison drama.”

  73. Siren Alunai says:

    It’s things like that comic strip and the comments on said strip that make me very nearly loathe being human, and also want to drop kick every perverted man out there who thinks that way. I cannot say that I hate being female, but I certainly do hate how people react to fellow females simply for the crime of being female.

  74. Another great post. You are on fire lately! I just wish the world did not have to be on fire too.

  75. “the comments on any post about feminism invariably justify feminism, and this is turning out to be no exception.” ABSOLUTELY.

  76. lizt84 says:

    Great post! Love it, keep doing what you’re doing!

  77. […] This, Right Here, Is The Problem – Not surprisingly, Penny Arcade did something sexist. Foz Meadows turns it into a post on the male gaze and objectification. […]

  78. Adam says:

    To be entirely fair to the FF guys, her breasts are only going to a C-cup, not a D-cup. I know this because the article to which you linked included this VERY IMPORTANT NOTE!

    “It’s worth noting, in case you’re wondering why Lightning’s breasts look rather small for a D cup, that a Japanese D cup is pretty much equivalent to a North American C, while a Japanese C is pretty much like an American B.”


  79. ChgoGrl says:

    I want to frame your post and put it on every wall in my house! Yes!! THIS, THIS, THIS… Thank you for expressing it so well. I hope you now have the strength to withstand the pushback coming your way; thank you for that too.

  80. Sean Hood says:

    I’m a big fan of “Orange Is The New Black,” and I also support the use of nudity on the show. On no other program on TV have we seen such a variety of real, unidealized, female bodies (and a variety of intriguing female characters.) If some of those bodies are presented in an erotic way, it seems (to me) to be motivated by the emotions, desires, and experience of the characters themselves – the Female Gaze.

    I like both male and female nudity in film, TV and art. I wonder if progress in attitudes about the human body may be indicated by MORE nudity on screen – more fully nude, non-idealized men and more non-idealized (i.e. normal) nude women (Lena Dunham.)

    Shallowness in culture is not going away, and at a point, for storytellers, it becomes less of a political issue, and more of a fact of the life. I wouldn’t want frustration with Trolls and Frat Boys, to lead to serious artists and storytellers (especially women) to balk from scenes of nudity and sexuality, because some idiot is going to yell, “Look! Boobies!”

    Maybe the solution is MORE boobies. Old boobies, saggy boobies, pert boobies, real boobies…

    …. and the real women they are attached to.

  81. Ulallala says:

    “Here is the joke: that without female nudity, the show wouldn’t be worth watching for either of them, because ultimately, all its other positive attributes are secondary to, suborned by, the overwhelming prerogative of the male gaze.”

    Haha, no it isn’t. The joke is that Tycho loves the show and is failing to sell it to Gabe despite it’s amazing qualities, but Donna from the 70s show is incredibly hot and he’s a shallow bastard.

    Talk about missing the point.

    • fozmeadows says:

      OK, firstly, you’ve got Gabe and Tycho mixed up – GABE is the one trying to sell the show to TYCHO.

      And secondly: HAVE A LOOK AT THE SCREENSHOT AT THE END OF THE POST. Actual PA fans are AGREEING that Donna’s tits are a reason to watch the show.

      • Ulallala says:

        Whoops. Vice versa then.

        Are the het PA fans supposed to not want to see her tits? Does their having normal sexual desires change the meaning of the joke? Nope.

        • fozmeadows says:

          Normal sexual desires =/= gross objectification.

          • Jan says:

            It’s nice of you to tell men what their sexual desire should look like and what’s normal in male sexuality. You know, you being a man and knowing it first hand.

            • fozmeadows says:

              It’s nice of you to tell women that we should have no say in how we’re treated by men. Presumably, we should just be passive and fuckable, voicing no opinions whatsoever on the small matter of being treated respectfully rather than like sex objects.

          • Ulallala says:

            Wanting to see people naked =/= gross objectification

            • fozmeadows says:

              Valuing a show purely because a certain actress goes topless = gross objectification.

              • Ulallala says:

                What makes you think you can read their minds and know that’s the only reason they value the show.

                Also, valuing seeing someone naked even though you aren’t interested in the show also =/= gross objectification.

                I notice you’ve dodged the question on whether their sexual desire changes the meaning of the joke. (Which it doesn’t)

                • fozmeadows says:



  82. Dave says:

    Lttp here, but my 2cp is that both the OP’s criticism of the PA strip and the “but it’s satire!” defenses are missing the point. The joke wasn’t that female nudity is more important to men than the lives and personalities of the women themselves or that the show wouldn’t be worth watching without such nudity. Nor is the joke a satirical take-down of those sexist tropes.

    Rather, the joke is that Tycho’s character gets comically excited at the prospect of seeing a *specific* woman who he fantasized about as a teenager get naked. That’s why the strip refers to her as “Donna”, not “Laura Prepon”, because he fantasized about “Donna” when he was young. And it’s funny to many readers not because of sexism, but because of the “pubescent fantasy fulfilled” aspect of it. It would be just as funny if a female comic character got all excited about seeing, say, “Angel” (rather than David Boreanaz) get naked in a new movie.

    • Sean Hood says:

      Yes, you’ve nailed the point of disagreement. Who is the butt of the joke? Does the joke make fun of shallow, adolescent males? If it does than it is equivalent to jokes made about Twilight or the casting of 50 Shades of Grey. Women after all, can be shallow and adolescent too.

      Or, is the butt of the joke Donna/Laura Preppon herself, who is trying to play a serious, complex character, but is really only intriguing because she exposes her nipples? That would indeed be gross and sexist.

      The problem is that I can see that for some men and women the answer is the former, but that for other men and women the answer is the latter or both. Cue anger, self-righteousness and miscommunication here.

      I do sense that the cartoonist intended only the former, but that many male readers who commented on it read it as the latter.

  83. Sean Hood says:

    But stepping back for a moment… is anybody really watching “Orange Is The New Black” for the nudity? I love the show, and I do not recall any cheesecake shots. Even Laura Prepon, striking as she is as a presence on screen, has an ordinary, mid-thirties body. She’s what a “real” woman looks like. The idea that fans of the show are there just to objectify the female characters’ bodies strikes me as absurdly implausible…and kinda funny. And, if the show does lure a few otherwise unmotivated viewers into watching sophisticated stories about woman of various ethnicities and social classes – and into seeing what nude women actually look in reality – is that entirely a bad thing?

    Come for the boobies… stay for the human drama about women and issues rarely shown on TV.

    Just a thought…

  84. Ben says:

    It’s true that us men talk a lot of shit about women but us decent men usually do it behind closed doors. It would be considered rude and wrong to allow women to hear it so we just do it in men’s circles or anonymously on the Internet. We are capable of showing a woman how amazing we are and how good for her we can be but that good side only comes out when we meet someone we consider worth marrying.

    • Rose says:

      For a start on the internet, you have no idea of the gender of anyone reading your piece.
      Also someone who is actually amazing would not talk shit about anyone behind their back. If you’re only good to someone you would consider marrying then how can you be a good person?

      But I’m guessing your comment was meant to be humourous and I’m just impulsively replying for no reason at all.

  85. xstarbuckx says:

    This post is amazing. Right or wrong (and I believe you are right), your point is incredibly well said. I’m also incredibly happy to see so many well thought out comments among the din. This topic is important and needs to be discussed. Thank you for starting the conversation.

  86. Feminism: the proposition that all women should be permitted to go topless– and to slap any man that looks.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Misogyny: the belief that men have the right to decide what women should wear, and to punish them for it regardless. BLOCKED.

  87. bryteline says:

    I don’t think this is a fair characterization of p-a, but why don’t you go ahead and contact them? Gabe and Tycho have made themselves pretty accessible.

  88. Frog Jones says:

    OK, your blog post has provoked a whole bunch of discussion elsewhere, and I think I need some points of clarification here.

    I am a geeky, straight man of the internet.

    I do like breasts. That is to say, I have a primal, limbic reaction upon viewing breasts, which is basically pleasant for me.

    When I go to a con, and I see a woman who has worn a corset and whose breasts are, basically, on display, I appreciate it. I feel like this woman is showing what she has, and I am looking. I don’t think that gives me the right to make lewd comments at her, or even sit and openly stare. I do think that I get to look–that’s all.

    This doesn’t mean that I think the woman is only the set of breasts. It doesn’t mean that I body-shame women who aren’t particularly attractive to me. It doesn’t mean that I’m a rapist, or that I value women less because of my more sexual reaction to bared flesh. If I see something I like, I look at it. That’s all.

    The point is, I don’t think I’m being sexist by doing that. I think there’s a mutual consent thing going on; she wants to display, and I want to look. That makes me male; as has been said earlier in this comment thread, straight men tend to enjoy looking at women.

    Is that inherently bad?

    Don’t get me wrong; if a man decides that the ONLY value a woman has is sexual, that’s clearly wrong. But can’t a man appreciate the fact that a woman IS being sexual? Can’t sexuality be a virtue, instead of something to be feared? Or is any appreciation of feminine sexuality a part of what you define as the “male gaze?”

    I felt, reading your blog post, like you were simply attacking men for being sexual. That if I am a straight man on the internet, and I experience a sexual reaction to women on display, that I am one of the “douchebag asshats.” By addressing your all-caps rant to “geeky, straight men of the internet,” you really put me on the defensive. Saying something like “the ubiquity of a sexualising male gaze is a problem” in the comments didn’t help.

    It felt a lot like you were lumping my quiet appreciation of sexuality with some asshole who shouts “LOL BOOBS” when he sees that same cosplayer. And as I don’t particularly like that asshole, I took offense at what I was reading.

    So, clarify things for me: is your position that, based on what I have told you, that I am a sexist?

    • fozmeadows says:

      “The point is, I don’t think I’m being sexist by doing that. I think there’s a mutual consent thing going on; she wants to display, and I want to look. That makes me male; as has been said earlier in this comment thread, straight men tend to enjoy looking at women.

      Is that inherently bad?”

      No, there’s nothing wrong with straight men enjoying female bodies; but as I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, that’s not the same thing as objectification. For instance: there’s a difference between casting an appreciative glance at a woman you find attractive, and leering at her openly, just as there’s a difference between paying someone a genuine compliment and making them feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, there can be a very fine line between these things, because not everyone is the same; the type of attention one woman enjoys might make another feel awful, and it’s important to recognise and respect the fact that you don’t get to decide someone else’s comfort level with you.

      I’d also like the point out that enjoying cosplay isn’t the same as wanting to display your body sexually; yes, a lot of female costumes in SFF are revealing (because, funnily enough, they tend to be designed by and for straight men), but many women wear them because they love the character, and not because it affords them an opportunity to show some skin. It takes a lot of courage to cosplay, and while, yes, you’re still allowed to think, wow, that girl is pretty!, don’t assume that just because she’s dressed in a way you find attractive that she WANTS to be sexually appraised. Complement the costume, not her body.

      “Don’t get me wrong; if a man decides that the ONLY value a woman has is sexual, that’s clearly wrong. But can’t a man appreciate the fact that a woman IS being sexual? Can’t sexuality be a virtue, instead of something to be feared? Or is any appreciation of feminine sexuality a part of what you define as the “male gaze?””

      Of course sexuality is a virtue! And of course appreciating female bodies is part of the straight male gaze; that’s kind of what the term means. But I need you to understand that when I and other feminists discuss the male gaze as being problematic, it’s the UBIQUITY of the gaze – that is, the extent to which straight men are considered to be the default audience for everything, such that this fact invariably colours how most narratives are presented – that we’re objecting to, along with the accompanying tendency for a sexualising male gaze to be treated as normative for everyone. To take an example: the male gaze is the logic behind most fanservice in anime and comics – it’s assumed that straight men are the primary and most important audience, and so you end up with lots of spine-breaking T&A shots and gratuitous upskirt moments, and because this happens so often, not only straight men, but ALL readers, are trained to view this as normative, rather than as catering to a specific group. For a rare example of a sexualising female gaze, check out the anime Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, and then imagine that this level of male nudity and fanservice was available in pretty much every form of media, while women were rarely sexualised to anywhere near the same extent. And THEN imagine that when you pointed this dissonance out, you got yelled at for making a fuss over nothing, because that’s just how stories ARE, and sex sells, and why should there be a problem with it?

      “So, clarify things for me: is your position that, based on what I have told you, that I am a sexist?”

      No, I don’t think you’re a sexist at all. But I do think you might be someone who perhaps hasn’t thought about the extent to which the ubiquity of the male gaze can be incredibly demoralising for women, especially when it gets taken for granted. A strip like this might seem like not much of a big deal to you, but for a lot of women, it’s the tip of an enormous iceberg of bullshit we have to deal with more or less constantly. Does that make sense?

  89. Megan says:

    I think you completely missed the punchline, which was absolutely at the expense of the sort of people who would only care about OItNB because of the female nudity. The fact that your only rebuttal was to pull up other responses is pretty hollow, unless you want to argue that no one is ever allowed to make art that could possibly be misinterpreted by idiots. And that’s a boring, stupid world.

    It’s one thing for an artist to decide on their own to walk away when they feel their work is being misinterpreted (we miss you, Dave Chapelle); it’s another entirely for you to declare yourself the arbiter of how other people are allowed to call attention to problems they see in society.

    This wolf-crying, by the way, makes it even harder to get legitimate complaints about stuff that ACTUALLY reinforces sexism, rape culture, etc. taken seriously.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Again, and as I’ve told every other commenter who’s made this point: LOOK AT THE SCREENSHOT OF PA READER RESPONSES TO THE STRIP THAT’S POSTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLOG. Almost universally, it consists of guys going “yay boobs!” and talking in really gross, objectifying terms about female actresses. This isn’t something I’m irrationally reading into the strip; it’s something PA fans – or at least, an extremely visible subset of those fans – are actually saying and doing with no irony whatsoever. That being so, the question of whether the strip was intended as satire or not is kind of moot, because it can CLEARLY be interpreted as being pro-objectification, and it’s that specific ambiguity – and the resulting problematic behaviour – that I’m objecting to.

      • Dave says:

        Agreed on the point that it’s not satire or at least not unambiguously satire. However, I’m curious whether you think the “pubescent fantasy fulfilled” angle changes things. I mean, even among the Facebook comments in that screenshot, fully half of them are actually saying “yay *Donna’s* boobs!” not just “yay boobs!”. I suppose it’s arguably still objectifying, but only in the sense that all sexual fantasizing about fictional characters portrayed by real people is objectifying, which I think is less problematic.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I don’t think it changes things, no. Frankly, all it says to me is “my level of respect for women hasn’t changed since I was thirteen, and I’m proud of that fact”, which from my perspective is hardly something to boast about. Objectification is objectification.

          • Dave says:

            Fair enough. I’ll just have to agree to disagree, but I appreciate the reply. And for the sake of not only being negative: I really liked your response to Frog Jones at 11:09. I’ve never been fully on board with the concept of “objectification”, but I definitely agree that the sheer ubiquity of sexualized depictions of women is problematic in a host of different ways, not least because of the normalizing effect you highlighted. To be honest, I kind of secretly resent all the geek-feminism sites I read for making me aware of it, because that awareness has seriously detracted from my enjoyment of many of the comics and games I used to love! Damn you, social awareness!!! 😉

            • fozmeadows says:

              I’ve often said that learning to see the problematic nature of culture – to be aware of things like white privilege, the Bechdel test and racist tropes – is like suddenly being able to see the Matrix: once you’re aware of just how extensive the problems are, it’s impossible to switch it off again.

      • Megan says:

        Since you didn’t specifically respond to my comment, I’ll ask here, since you reiterated the same point: Are you arguing in favor of banning all art that can possibly be misinterpreted by idiots? Because as far as I can tell, that’s what you’re doing when you pull up reader responses.

        As a side note, internet comments, especially anonymous ones, are pretty much a universal wasteland, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Making them the basis for an argument against anything is at best naive and at worst calculatingly disingenuous. Hell, by that metric, THIS VERY POST of yours supports sexism against women, because, hey, look at all these shitheads showing up.

        • fozmeadows says:

          Wow, you really love your strawman arguments, don’t you? I’ve never once mentioned banning things, yet you’ve decided to phrase your version of my argument in those terms as though I was advocating government censorship instead of, you know, that people act less like asshats.

          As for the idea that the PA comic is satire only being misinterpreted by a few idiots: where’s your evidence for that? What makes you think they even meant it as satire, or that satire is the dominant interpretation? Overwhelmingly on this thread, people who’ve made your initial argument – that the strip is satire – have also said it was OBVIOUSLY satire; that I was forcing an interpretation on it that was completely at odds with reality. The screenshot I’ve included is pretty good evidence to the contrary; but OK, sure, that’s just Facebook. So what happens if you go and search the Penny Arcade and Orange Is The New Black hashtags on tumblr – on TUMBLR, mind, which is famed for being left-wing? You’ll find much of the same thing – one or two criticisms of it as awful, like I’ve made, alongside far more people taking the strip at face value and saying stuff like “Penny Arcade speaks to me on a spiritual level” and “why isn’t the show really called Donna topless?”

          Penny Arcade is a webcomic; comment threads might well be the Mos Eisley of the internet, but that doesn’t dilute their relevance to internet culture, which PA undeniably is. So far, the only time I’ve seen anyone say “it’s satire!” is DEFENSIVELY – as a response to people like me who’ve said, hey, that’s kind of fucked up. But if you look at the reactions of people who’ve commented on, posted or reblogged the strip on their own initiative, because they LIKE it? As far as I can see, those people are taking it at face value. I am yet to see a single person post that strip and say “such great satire!”.

          And funnily enough, yes, the sexists commenting on this post ARE proof that sexists exist, because hey: THEY’VE PROVED THEY EXIST BY COMMENTING. What about that is hard to understand?

  90. Ani J. Sharmin says:

    I really get tired of this punchline, too. It gets used *all the time* and just assumes that it’s normal for boys and men to judge girls and women based only on appearance and not care about any female character for any other reason. And really, if the strip meant to criticize this sexism, it should have actually criticized it—not just replicated it. It just seems to me like yet another example of someone portraying-and-halfheartedly-maybe-but-not-really-criticizing sexism, because they think an actual strong criticism, an actual condemnation of sexism would be “too extreme”. It has sort of a laugh-with-the-people-making-sexist-comments feeling, instead of a condemnation. Thanks for writing.

  91. Nubian Brown says:

    Reblogged this on Nubian Brown – Informer and commented:
    Would love for people to read this and share their thoughts. Boobs are nice to look at but I think it’s more of an issue in the USA because of the lack of education on sex and lack of respect.

  92. Mad Queen Linda says:

    Awesome post. Absolutely awesome. Thanks for saying every last word.

  93. Joe Camel says:

    Guys it’s PENNY ARCADE not BREAKING BAD there’s zero subtext it’s a quick and easy punchline. She’s right that it’s sexist, but really, it’s offensive because it’s lazy.

  94. […] This, Right Here, Is The Problem. “…this is why women are routinely mocked by sexist, skeezy shits who think that finding us attractive must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making…” […]

  95. Captain Internet says:

    The best kinds of internet discussions are one where the author basically says “IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ME I’M BLOCKING YOU!”

    • fozmeadows says:

      I love how the myriad lengthy responses I’ve entered into with people who’ve disagreed with me on this thread are somehow rendered irrelevant before your need to criticise my fairly reasonable policy of blocking those who, rather than debate the issue, want only to patronise or level abuse at me.

  96. Max Baskin says:

    For whatever it’s worth, I see where you ae coming from and you make some very valid points, made more so by the inevitable idiotic comments and the comments on the PA FB page. However, I do feel that the main gist of the strip was more making fun of Tycho being a typical perpetual-adolescent male than it was “hooray, boobies!” Mind you, I know I’m seeing it from a position of priviledge in as much as I’m male. I think the problem is more than the joke was too subtle for the majority of the audience than the joke itself. But that doesn’t invalidate your feelings or interpretation; I am merely adding my own, as well.

    (Also, thank you for posting this /knowing/ that you were running into the proverbial burning building. In order to make things change, people have to be willing to stand up to the slings and arrows. Not everyone is brave enough to do that. And unfortunately, it has to be something that women do for themselves because otherwise, it gets invalidated as a “damsel in distress” situation. So keep up the fight.)

  97. DisappointedFeminist says:

    I actually am surprised by ETA the third. Thank you for including that in this post. I had, seemingly with a totally naive sense of hope and goodwill, interpreted this comic as a satire of the male gaze. My naivety will live on in my hope that satire is what was *meant* by the comic, but I am sorely disappointed to find that this is not how it was received. I had believed that the men on this continent had progressed a little more than this by now 😦

  98. Cap says:

    I don’t want to put this out on Twitter. The backlash is too much for me to put up with. But I can’t go a month without PA folks cropping up in my news for something absolutely toxic happening.

    Between this and Scott Kurtz retweeting a rape joke…

    Where are we that this is considered cool?

  99. marthacapers says:

    This isn’t hollering at the passersby disregarding you. This is shouting at the individuals attempting to help you up. Possibly next time, you could attempt hollering at the sexists, and Not shouting at All Men, expecting each and every one of us is a sexist by straightforward temperance of our genes. i would advise you have a total relaxation.
    A spa body wrap to relieve your stress.

  100. […] so Foz Meadows is frothing at the mouth. And I seriously do not mean that in any put-down way, either. Hell, she’s having a case of […]

  101. OBloodyHell says:

    Here is the joke: that guys like looking at boobies more than they like empathising with women.

    Here is the joke: that female nudity is a trump card, more important to men than the lives and personalities of women themselves.

    Here is the joke: that without female nudity, the show wouldn’t be worth watching for either of them, because ultimately, all its other positive attributes are secondary to, suborned by, the overwhelming prerogative of the male gaze.


    No, here’s the joke: You, being a sexist, think YOUR perceptions of What Matters are more important than a male’s perceptions… I’m not even going to go into the fact that they might watch it at first for that, but then get to appreciate it on “higher minded” merits.

    No, that’s irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if they never saw it as more than tits and ass. There’s nothing to make YOUR vision of what’s important for something to be worth watching ANY BETTER than what some random “neanderthal” (by your lights) thinks.

    Your elitist boobery (pun intended) is exactly both of those things — elitism and sheer unadulterated boobery.

    And now I’ll get banned, because God (whatever the gender) forbid anyone should call attention to your “female chauvinist pig” (to recall a formerly common phrase into reuse) viewpoint.

    “Essentially, women’s liberation and men’s mid-life crises were the same
    search for personal fulfillment, common values, mutual respect, and love. But
    while women’s liberation was thought of as promoting identity, men’s mid-life
    crises were thought of as identity crises.
    Women’s liberation was called insight, self-discovery, and self-improvement,
    akin to maturity. Men’s mid-life crises were discounted as irresponsibility,
    self-gratification, and selfishness, akin to immaturity. Women’s crises got
    sympathy, men’s crises got a bad rap.”
    – Warren Farrell –

    Sorry, not buying your crap any more. Laughing at your stupid sexist crap.

    Ban away.

  102. GoosBall says:

    Nail on the head. Excellent post.
    But at the same time I would like to say that women working in glamour and film industry are very much responsible for this attitude.
    These women do nude scene in the name of ‘film’s requirement’ – and people actually do a google search for ‘film-name – nude scene’ shame.

  103. Mayri Grace says:

    First, please note that I have not read the comments. TL;DR. Sorry if I repeat anything already said.

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog, and although you’re absolutely right, I do think that the solution to this problem is not to yell about everything that’s wrong and unfeminist about the internet/world (and get immediately written off as a feminazi by people too stupid to see what the problem is), but rather to find stuff – articles, movies, comics, anything – that proves that we are actually making progress.

    You could have written about how great the series is (granted I haven’t read any of your other articles, perhaps you have already) instead of ranting about the inevitable media idiocy surrounding it. The few words you used to describe the series made me want to watch it, but the rest of the article was so enraged that it was depressing to read. It’s the kind of thing that, if you pay too much attention to it, makes you lose faith in humanity and give up. And giving up is out of the question.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention this kind of shit, but rather than posting an entire article to rant about it, maybe as a side note make fun of the idiots who reacted that way to the show, and deplore the fact that they make the rest of male-kind look stupid and obsessed, when we know they’re not really like that, right?

    I’m going to illustrate using what I learned babysitting. If you’re in charge of several pre-teens and they’re watching something sexist and laughing about it, telling them off and preaching at them isn’t going to make them like you, or whatever you’re preaching, no matter how much sense it makes. Joking about the stupidity of people who advocate that kind of thing, however, is a softer, more insidious way of getting the message across, and adding that you’re SO glad they’re not like that will make them want to live up to your expectations.

    Funnily enough, this works with absolutely everyone, on and off-line, adults, kids and teens. Unless, of course, your argument sounds fundamentally wrong to them, in which case their reaction is usually far more gentle and debate-friendly than the defense mechanism that is the usual reaction to a rant.

    (I’m realising this sounds a bit preachy, sorry. It’s honestly just a suggestion.)

    So yeah, femipositivity! Or something.

  104. Sunrie says:

    No, the problem is with women themselves. Don’t want to be seen a certain way? Don’t want to be objectified? Then make some god damn shows yourselves in which the people just happen to be women and don’t focus on the fact they are women.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Ah, the “sexism wouldn’t exist if we stopped talking about gender” defence. Because institutional sexism really is that easy to overcome. Thank you for making such a thoroughly worthless contribution. *bans*

  105. […] Foz Meadows tackles Monday’s Penny Arcade strip: […]

  106. OBloodyHell says:


  107. OBloodyHell says:

    OK, it appears when you ban someone the software doesn’t allow replies but still acts like it does — so if this is a “repost”, my apologies.


    Sunrie says:
    October 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm
    No, the problem is with women themselves. Don’t want to be seen a certain way? Don’t want to be objectified? Then make some god damn shows yourselves in which the people just happen to be women and don’t focus on the fact they are women.
    fozmeadows says:
    October 20, 2013 at 1:10 am
    Ah, the “sexism wouldn’t exist if we stopped talking about gender” defence. Because institutional sexism really is that easy to overcome. Thank you for making such a thoroughly worthless contribution. *bans*

    The notion that institutional sexism is so rampant that you can’t “get anything better” done is laughable.

    If people watch it, Hollywood will make it. This was shown a few years back when they got the hell surprised out of them by the success of both “The Passion of the Christ” as well as “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Hollywood has no grasp of the “religious” market, and was amazed that those films sold as well as they did, to the extent that they actually created business units to go after that market segment.

    If there is/was a market for strongly female-oriented films and TV series, then they would make them. If OITNB has any success at all in terms of real interest from the female segment, which is obviously more than half the population, then it will engender more films and series aimed to go after that market.

    And if you believe that ANY media organization is or should be in existence for any purpose other than to make money for the people paying the bills (aka “investors”) then you fail to grasp the most basic elements of business.

    I’m sure you hate that reality of the universe, but that’s the way it works, and that’s the ONLY way it CAN work. The number of people willing to do anything without getting something in return is minor, and will always be that way. So it has to be worth it to someone to put their money — which is just a “placeholder” for human time — into any project. They have to at least believe they’ll get more back from the project they invest in than from some other alternative project.

    The only alternative is to steal the money at gunpoint via government fiat. And if you do that how are you any better than the worst of your imaginings about corporate America? Your motives don’t change the actions, which is theft, pure and simple.

    Now, as with Sunrie, you’ll shut out anyone who says things you don’t want to actually have to dispute with reason and facts. Typical leftie — whine about censorship even as you practice it freely. Ban away.

    • fozmeadows says:


      You do understand that censorship as you’re using the term is something practised by the government, not individuals? Go look up freedom of speech, and you’ll see it defined as (my emphasis) “the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. You know why that last bit is so important? Because otherwise, stalking, bullying and harassment would be legal! Plus and also, this blog is MY property, not yours, which means you’re not entitled to use it as a platform unless I say you are. If you came over to my house, either with or without an invitation, and started acting like a jerk, I’d have the right to throw you out, and so it is with my blog – which has, you’ll note, a pretty clear comment policy. My right to freedom from speech is not the same as censorship; it’s you being too assinine to understand the meaning of the terms you use.

      As for your laughable arguments: you DO understand the inherent, chicken-and-egg problem in using “if people will watch it, Hollywood will make it” as a rebuttal to the idea that Hollywood is a biased institution? By which I mean: it’s impossible to know what people will watch UNTIL it gets made; but as Hollywood refuses to make certain types of story out of bigotry, fear and general conservatism, the idea that people won’t watch those stories becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Passion of the Christ and Narnia are both well-loved, Christian narratives that – surprise, surprise – did well in the Christian-obsessed realm of America; note also that Passion was only made because Mel Gibson basically financed the thing itself, and not because Hollywood went out on a limb to create it.

      A market exists for female-oriented stories; women are half the population, and unless you’re suggesting that women don’t like watching films about themselves, the idea that we wouldn’t constitute a viable a market for media directed at ourselves simply because nobody in Hollywood is catering to us yet is laughable. You know why? Because NEW MARKETS AREN’T CREATED BY NEW CONTENT – IT JUST TAKES NEW CONTENT TO DISCOVER THAT A MARKET ALREADY EXISTED. But if you’ve convinced yourself that no content means no market, then you’re basically saying that innovation is pointless; that the only things people will ever like are the things they like now, because that’s all you have evidence for.

      As for the idea that need for companies to make money is literally all that matters in business… OK. Do you think sweatshop labour is awesome? Or slavery? Because as far as making money for investors goes, those are both AWESOME THINGS – I mean, it saves money for the company, ensures cheap labour. What’s the problem? The problem, dude, is that it’s morally fucking repugnant. How about dumping toxic waste in the drinking water because it’s cheaper than disposing of it properly? War profiteering? Abuse of workers? Yes, these are way bigger issues than the stories we tell, but the point is that, contrary to your naive assertion, companies don’t – and shouldn’t – have a get out of jail free card when it comes to culture, morality and THE LAW just because it makes them more money.

      Businesses can and do effect positive change in both society and the marketplace by being aware of the very simple fact that their actions have widespread consequences. To take another example, this is why we have advertising standards boards, why you can no longer advertise cigarettes in many countries, and why there are laws about marketing alcohol to kids. Yes, companies would make more money if they could just do what they want, but THAT’S THE POINT: that they SHOULDN’T have that power.

      The idea that the kind of thing I’m talking about – stories that are aimed at basically any market other than the ubiquitous Straight White Dude market – is inherently a bad idea, something destined to lose money and be bad for business – where the fuck are you getting that idea from, other than the fact that such stories are scarce now? Do you know what confirmation bias is? Your argument that their rarity is proof that they’re not viable is like saying that because there’s no such thing as hoverbikes yet, there mustn’t be a market for them.

      And yeah, you’re fucking banned. Because, funnily enough, I have better things to do with my life than give a platform to smug asshats who don’t know what they’re talking about. Go rant on your own damn blog.

      • Mayri Grace says:

        OBloodyHell never said that there was no market for content about women just being women – he only pointed out that if the series was succesful for that reason, they’d make more like it, which will hopefully be the case. He didn’t say that sweatshop labour is awesome, but he’s right in saying that to businessmen – and women – money is all that matters. Luckily we have the power to influence who we give our money to, and we’re managing to persuade more and more businesspeople that consumers care about how our merchandise is made. It’s happening very, very slowly – slow enough to discourage a lot of people – but it is happening, and we must persist in choosing how we consume carefully and ethically. THAT is why there is now a fair trade market that works – a few, minoritary, ethically sound businesspeople started it, and others followed not because they particularly care, but because they saw the opportunity to appeal to a new and growing group of consumers.

        Sunrie was indeed being a machist prick in saying that women are the base of the problem, as if men have no responsibility, but unfortunately he has a point: if Mel Gibson can finance a movie about the christ that’s so succesful that Hollywood then creates marketing teams to target that population, then why can’t one of our powerful women finance something for us? And there is no lack of rich, powerful women. Feminism has had that effect at least. I bet loads of actresses are sick of playing the same objectified, stereotyped role – what’s stopping one of them from becoming a producer, director, writer? Surely we’re not waiting for men to validate the idea? Maybe they are, but I doubt they will for much longer. In civilised countries at least, the first generation for whom feminism is not a revolutionary idea, but plain common sense, has reached adulthood. I think it’s only a matter of time.

        And to be fair, you do seem to have a tendency to ban anyone who says something you don’t like or misunderstand. You’re so angry that it puts people off, even though your message is sound. Of course this blog is your property, but if you don’t want to share it and debate on it, then why put it online in the first place? Why leave the comments on if you don’t accept criticism at all? Please learn to distance yourself from what you’re reading and try to understand the point of view of the person who wrote it before flying off the handle. You have some valid points and it would be a shame if you lost readers just because of your temper.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I am entitled to be angry. I am entitled to ban people who exhaust me. I am entitled to refrain from engaging in pointless arguments. I am not obliged to argue with someone, or to continue an earlier argument, merely because they wish it to continue, and especially not when the act of arguing leaves me feeling wrung-out and depressed. I am not obliged to correct every single misapprehension these people have about sexism, in the face of considerable antagonism, while eighteen different commenters run through the same tired bingo card of poorly-constructed arguments, simply in order to lay the necessary GROUNDWORK for us to engage on the issue without constantly talking past each other. I don’t actually care if I lose readers because of my temper; funnily enough, in fact, my temper has GAINED me readers. It’s impossible, literally impossible, to please everyone, which is one of a host of reasons why I’m neither trying nor obliged to do so.

          In a lengthy comment I have trashed, on account of, you know, ALREADY HAVING BLOCKED THE GUY, OBloodyHell has compared my decision to ban him to the logic of racists enforcing Jim Crow. Let the faily wrongness of that sink in for a moment. Now, if I let that comment through, I would have one of two choices: to let it sit on my blog, unanswered, as though I didn’t have an answer, or at the very least, saw nothing wrong with it being there; or to give my answer in full – something that would take at least an hour of my time, time that could better be spent playing with my son or reading a book or basically doing any one of a hundred other things that are more enjoyable than engaging with someone so utterly oblivious to their own privilege that they think getting kicked off my blog is an evil on par with racial segregation. Neither of these options appeals to me; and so, I ban him. I deny him the use of my blog as a platform, and I deny him the implicit request that I devote yet more of my time and energy to a debate he feels he’s already won, simply by showing up.

          Some other commenter here has asked me, why do I let comments through at all, if I’m just going to ban some people? Why not turn them off completely? Because I do still like to engage; and yes, I like that engagement to be on my terms. Call me crazy, but I kind of like having the option to pull the plug at the point when people start issuing rape threats, calling me a bitch, and otherwise proving that comment threads truly are the Mos Eisley of the internet. I HAVE THE RIGHT TO WALK AWAY, and no power in the ‘verse will convince me that’s the same fucking thing as censorship.

          Of course I’m fucking angry. To survive online, I have to be.

          • Mayri Grace says:

            This is your blog, but feminism is NOT JUST your cause – it’s the cause of every woman on the planet. And whether you like it or not, there HAVE been extreme “feminists” who hated men in the past who gave us a bad reputation, and you getting angry is not helping the rest of us seem like reasonable people. Ok, you can ban whoever you like, but I don’t think online survival is dependent on you being angry – it’s not like anyone’s going to erase your blog just because you didn’t bother answering some fuckwit’s rape threat. Anger blinds you to reason and it demands energy.

            As I said before though, that’s my opinion. You’re entitled to yours, and I won’t bother you further.

            • fozmeadows says:

              You seem to be implying that anger in service of feminism hurts feminism. But how you can reasonably have feminism without anger at the fact that it’s still necessary, I don’t know.

        • I’m all the way down here. I’ve been reading the comments for hours. 2 days, in fact. I had to sleep, but I came back because this is one of the most thorough comment threads I’ve ever seen, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Fozmeadows can see better than I can when someone is just a troll. It is absolutely unfair to say “you do seem to have a tendency to ban anyone who says something you don’t like or misunderstand.” She has engaged countless people who disagree with her. Just read all the comments (like I did) and you’ll see that. The people she has banned were banned because they were using logical fallacies. Logical fallacies, though good at persuading people, are awful at finding solutions to the world’s problems.

          Also, and she has explained this a thousand times, WHY NOT GET ANGRY? You can find a myriad of approaches to telling people about problems. Someone up there (in the thread) was trying to explain how they get preteens to stop making sexist comments was by making fun of sexists. Ok. That’s that person’s approach. Someone might respond to that approach. But goddamit, that’s not Foz’s: not in this rageblog. And that’s good. Because if we all politely mention that we have a problem, the people who profit from our having the problem will pay lip service to our protestation and keep doing what they’ve always done.

          Hey, it’s not wrong to also engage people in tepid conversations about sexism. If that’s your way, go for it. Some people will respond well to it. But you can’t see why getting angry helps? Do you know what revolution is?

          • fozmeadows says:

            Thank you for reading the comments. Just: thank you.

          • Mayri Grace says:

            Revolution is best done pacifistically. Compare India to Northern Ireland: one of them was pacifist and is now independant, the other was not and is not. You don’t need to be angry to encourage people to think differently.

            Secondly, I’d love to have time to read all the comments but I don’t. And I’m jobless. I have no idea how you managed it. If you have a time machine I’m interested.

            • Mayri: People love pointing to Gandhi’s very public non-violence policy as the reason for change in India. Similarly, they love MLK Jr.’s turn-the-other-cheek approach. But both of these were minority elements in violent revolutions. The reason they get so much press is because the status quo would much rather revolutionaries politely asked for change and didn’t make trouble. I’m not suggesting that these men (incidentally, both of them abused women (here’s an article about Gandhi’s abuse: had nothing to do with the struggles against oppression, but I am saying the assertion the non-violent revolution is effective by itself is bull-pucky perpetuated by those who benefit from the status quo.

              Also, 2 hand-picked examples does not a point make. Do you think the American revolution was non-violent? Or do you think it was ineffective? Revolution is best done with educated revolutionaries. One of the reasons N. Ireland’s revolution has been ineffective, is that there’s not a strong plan in place for the government that will replace Britain (other than trading one oppressor for another). That was also the problem with many of the failed French revolutions.

              And in response to your secondly: you can’t find the time to read all the comments, but you think that your point is unique enough that it deserves other people’s time to read? Just skimming the comments would have told you that the “stop being angry, it’s ineffective” point has been made multiple times before and has been refuted. It’s both untrue that it’s ineffective and irrelevant, since being angry isn’t something one gets to just turn off, and asking someone to stop feeling something is condescending and insulting. Do you think it would be effective to simply ask the anti-feminists to stop being offended by the anger? No? Then why do you think it would be effective to ask the feminists to stop being angry?

              Also, take the time. Read the comments. Dare to have your mind changed.

              And here’s another relevant article:

      • And this thread reminds me of this, because you know what? It’s the World Wide WEB (like spiderweb… like everything on the internet is connected.

        But it’s an example of what would happen if companies weren’t held to any moral standards by legal means.

  108. Ryan says:

    Foz, do you have any web comics in mind that do things right? I’d like to nominate XKCD. I haven’t gone through the entire archive looking for exceptions, but Mr. Munroe seems to get it right. I’d point to as just one case.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I’m a big fan of xkcd; I’d also nominate Sinfest (the recent stuff more than the early stuff), Questionable Content, Girls With Slingshots, Templar Arizona, Gunnerkrigg Court, A Softer World and PvP, which in recent years has done a great job of dealing with a bigger, more diverse cast.

      • Lawrence says:

        I’m confused by your inclusion of Questionable Content. While the strip has a number of very interesting and nuanced characters, it still revolves around a single man’s relationship with those women, and includes an AI character who is tolerated despite his over-the-top sexism. I’m not trying to advocate against QC, I’m more confused about how the character of “Pint-Size” is not part of the problem, but the PA strip at the center of this is. Both make fun of the male objectification of women and suggest that if these men could widen their horizons, their own lives would be improved. This is not an attempted “gotcha”, I really do need help seeing the difference.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I think QC is about much more than Marten’s relationship to the ladies these days, all of whom get their own arcs and histories; and yeah, I find Pintsize problematic. I think it’s a bit like Sinfest – it’s grown towards a more positive place. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still fail sometimes, but one of the things I do like about it is that, especially in recent years, it shows a model of being a straight white guy with an eye for the ladies that DOESN’T involve being an objectifying jerk, and that’s got a value all its own.

  109. Per Lichtman says:

    I think that the overall problem being addressed here is very real, even if I disagree slightly with some of the points about this particular example.

    I grew up in a progressive household where my father was very big on nipping sexism in the bud in raising us, even at a very young age (something that I can clearly remember as far back as the age of six or so). At certain points my father was the primary breadwinner at others my mother and there were several high achievers amongst both my brothers and sisters. I am a man with the viewpoints of someone that does not encounter sexism in the way women often do, but I am not ignorant of the problem.

    So when I went to GDC in San Francisco in 2005, I was honestly very uncomfortable with the level of sexism that pervaded a lot of the comments and humor and the under-representation of women in the industry, especially in regards to the awards show. This is something you can usually see in abundance at the Spike video game awards in recent years as well.

    The fact that the developers of Final Fantasy XIII-2 felt the need to discuss (let alone emphasize) anything about the changes to Lightning’s character design is a low-point that had often been a trailblazer in video game stortytelling in the past. Whether or not they felt the need to make the character’s breasts larger in the first place is a secondary concern, and my take on it is that it was not something that needed to happen, but it is their right to do it if they wanted to. However, the choice to highlight “jiggle physics”, to talk about this extensively, does not mesh well with the company’s previously expressed desire to have their stories taken seriously.

    If were directing a large scale team to put thousands upon thousands of hours into making an interactive story, I would find it a point of personal shame if that was the highlight of our work. Heck, even if I were directing erotica, I still would find it rather sad if that was what people were focused on as opposed to the energy and intensity of the people involved.

    The gaming industry has made some positive step forwards, but it really needs to grow up and work to self-correct.

    Getting back to the original comic strip: when I read it, I felt like the original description of the series echoed some of the thoughts the creators of the strip had about it. I felt that the “short pitch” was a satirical indictment not only of using that kind of pitch, but also of a lot of the readers of the strip (as illustrated in the snapshot of the forum). I don’t strips like it are the problem: I think the number of people that un-ironically voice and embody the mindset identified in the last panel are.

    The world’s a complicated place: gender roles, objectification, self-identity and emotional security are things that we are all dealing with, and should have the space to be able to deal with an think about and discuss. But I think there is a time and place for everything.

    In other words, if I’m reading a magazine that is supposed to be focused on gaming, I do not want to be subjected to a section on “booth babes” or the furtherance of reductive stereotypes for women (or men for that matter). When I play a game, I want characters that have depth: that means not having women reduced their bodies and not having man reduced to unthinking robots. If I am in a forum discussing a game, then I want substance to that discussion – not a lot of sexism, racism or other intolerance. Frankly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    I think there’s a large industry and place for the discussion of highly sexualized content, whether it be pornography or other things veering into that area, and I have no issue with either the existence of nor the support of that industry. I just think that it should be it’s own thing – I do not think that I should have to feel like the game industry as a whole leans too far into that direction.

    Are there gray areas? Sure. The character of Madison Paige in Heavy Rain walks a fine line between being over-sexualized and victimized vs. empowered, but when I played the game with several of my friends that were women, all of us really appreciated (and connected) with her as a character and she felt like she was being written and conceived as a human being, taking into account the complexities of her personality and situation.

    I want the video game industry to be a place I could be proud to send my children into, if I end up having them. Reductive sexism is one of the big reasons that I don’t feel it is yet.

    My post may have been a little scattered, but hopefully my thoughts are still of some use.

    • Heimlich says:

      Said extensive talking about ‘jiggle physics’ consisted entirely of the developers saying that there were ‘jiggle physics’ the ONE SINGLE TIME they were ASKED to talk about breasts.

      Because why bother making sure that your argument is halfway based in reality when doing so means you might not be able to bitch as much?

  110. Per Lichtman says:

    I know that it’s difficult to discuss Penny-Arcade these days without referencing the “dickwolves” incident, so I’ll also take a moment to discuss that (but am putting into a separate post from my previous points so that one can be posted without the other if it seems outside the scope of the original topic).

    The “dickwolves” incident is much more complicated than has generally been discussed but let me throw a couple of my own thoughts into the ring.

    1) I could not be more anti-rape and any of my friends that is personally acquainted with the amount of time that I’ve spent helping my friends deal with legal challenges in relation to rape and domestic abuse more generally, or has heard me speak against the prevalence of a “blame the victim” mentality can vouch for that.

    2) Making fun of rape is in poor taste and makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t like it when it happens in Penny-Arcade. At the same time, I have never felt the strip advances a pro-rape or pro-domestic abuse agenda or an attitude of blaming the victim.

    3) The creators of Penny-Arcade have sometimes been progressive advocates and sometimes perpetuators of sexism. Neither label is fully accurate and I find it (in general) reductive to boycott or patronize their brand based on a particular chapter in that area. At the same time, having spent a lot of time in high school volunteering for training by Sheltered Services for Women, I would be exceedingly remiss if I did not say that I can fully understand (and support) anyone that chooses to avoid exposure to humor about a topic that is personally traumatic for them and do not support the people that would say “just have a sense of humor about it”.

    4) The primary issue I have with the perception of Penny-Arcade’s reaction to the issue is that people see it as binary. In other words, they are either for or against rape victims, for or against progressive values, etc. This is a dichotomy that I don’t feel takes into account how they are really thinking about things. Hypothetically speaking, if they created a strip that offended people (including me) and then felt they were being told what they could and could not write or say, then I can understand that they might want to rebel (for instance in the form of their strip in reaction to the backlash). I can understand how they might feel betrayed that after having made explicit efforts to support progressive values at various other points, they were not given “leeway” to cross the boundary of good taste, or a the very least given the benefit of the doubt in regards to their intentions in doing so.

    Nonetheless, I find their reaction in regards to their distribution of and comments about “dickwolves” merchandise to be immature, self-defeating, offensive and (unfortunately) contributing to the problem of making it more difficult to critique the troublingly high number of instances of rape humor in popular media.

    But this one area does not represent everything they are doing, either positive or negative. I don’t think that tuning out from their strips is the most constructive way to affect change – I think engaging them in dialogue is. Both the creators of Penny-Arcade have provided ample evidence of personalities that are capable of engaging in empathy, compassion and constructive dialogue and I think it is important to recognize that the best way to address change with them is through those avenues. They tend to get defensive and polarized and be un-constructive when they feel the communication directed at them is primarily angry and/or didactic. In other words, there is very little positive change that is likely to come out of confronting them that way.

    The thing is, their negative response to angry confrontation (or towards being told what to do) is a rather frequent reaction to trying to regain control or construct an empowered personality in the aftermath of a trauma (be it sexual abuse or bullying or something else) and the difficulty fully outgrowing that is frankly understandable. So I think if we can be patient with the people that created Penny-Arcade, if we can engage them in dialogue, if we can show a way forward for them and demonstrate a willingness to see things through their eyes, then we can affect true change in a way that we could not by simply boycotting them. If we criticize them, let’s emphasize the pain or sadness that they foster, not the anger that their actions inspire.

    Call me an optimist, but I truly believe that they do want to do the right thing: I think they just respond very poorly to feeling like they are being told what to do.

    I think that Penny-Arcade has a lot of strengths and has shown a willingness to change or acknowledge shortcomings in other areas. I believe it’s in everyone’s interest to try and affect a positive change here – and to do so as constructively as possible. Call me an optimist, but I think we can make more good things happen.

  111. T.S. says:

    I often joke that I’m a feminist because “I hate tropes,” I think the saddest part of that statement is how true it is that sexism is a trope.

    I really hate that breasts and asses are advertised to me as selling points. Did you see some of that art for Dragon’s Crown? When I first saw that I first wanted to throw up, and then dismissed the game as 2 bit garbage. Imagine my surprise when the game turned out to be a hit. I guess the gameplay is good, but I wouldn’t know because I can’t bring myself to play it after seeing that disgusting artwork.

    My personal biggest problem with crap like this (and I completely acknowledge that it’s not the biggest problem) is that it reduces the quality of a story. Content creators and marketers are so obsessed with making sure there’s a little “candy” in there for men to enjoy that they don’t seem to care they’re completely disengaging me from what I’m reading/watching/playing and force me to go through this little chain of thought:

    “Why can’t this woman be a CHARACTER instead of a softcore point of arousal. I really don’t feel like being aroused right now, why do they think I want this in there? Oh right, most people are stupid.”

    I’m an aspiring writer, and for years I never wrote women into my stories. It wasn’t intentional, I didn’t even realize I was excluding them, but someone finally pointed it out to me. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even give characters mothers saying they “died in childbirth” or some other dismissive nonsense. For a long time I just said “I don’t know how to write women,” and left it at that. After all, my primary examples of women in media were silent motherly types, supportive girlfriends, or loudmouths. Then one day someone said to me, “you know you could just change the gender of some your characters and it wouldn’t take away anything from the story.” And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the truth. There’s such a divide in gender perception that it was hard for me to imagine a woman doing the things I had men doing, but once I made the switch it actually felt more natural in a few instances.

    I’m certainly not saying that picking a gender for characters isn’t important sometimes and that it can’t help define their identity, but I was so used to seeing them shoved in the background I subconsciously decided no women were worthy to be in my stories (NOT INTENTIONAL THINKING!). I also thought I couldn’t get into the head of a woman, as if she was some alien creature rather than another human being with the same thoughts and fears all of us have. Or maybe I just didn’t write them because I knew I didn’t want a bunch of sex in my work and many would have you believe that’s what women are in there for.

    I felt it was better to neglect the problem than actively work to change it.

    I’m happy to say that when I write for women now I take effort to make them worthy icons that will hopefully get some more ignorant members of society to stop expecting a lengthy description of a woman’s chest size.

    I hope I don’t sound full of myself, I fully admit I’m a small person with small impact, but I’d at least like to think I’m not contributing to the problem.

    Your anger is well placed. As a man it bothers me that this is supposed to be a selling point to me, as if I’m some sort of moron who will laugh and high five my bro every time I see some cleavage. I can only imagine its much worse being perceived as a novelty rather than the one expected to be entertained by it. I assure you, I want it to change just as bad as you do.

    That Lightning thing… as if I needed another reason to hate those games.

  112. Thank you for this excellent post and your brilliant responses to the trolls. You are fighting the good fight. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  113. […] remarked that the PAX creators’ continued cycle of making rude and ignorant judgments about women, trans people, and rape culture, then apologizing, then continuing to make those sort of […]

  114. On one level, I see this PA strip as nothing more than a representation. A sort of “This is what the world is like” type of a thing. It no more endorses this behavior than it satirizes it — a comparison I use here only because it is evident from this post and the voluminous comments (admittedly not all of which I have read, I just don’t have that much time!) that this is not considered a satire here. It merely presents it, sans commentary. (That being said, though, I have to disagree — PA satirizes — or “mocks”, if you prefer — pretty much everything. As a long time PA reader, my initial response to this was to immediately see it as a mockery of this kind of reaction. Which, like it or not, does happen. Tycho’s eyes in the final panel actually back up this interpretation, in fact: If you notice, they turn red, exactly as they do when Tycho “goes evil”, such as when he threatened to end the earth if Gabe talked to him of Warhammer Online; the obvious interpretation, then, at least to this long-time PA reader, is that this reaction is being dubbed “evil”.)

    On a somewhat deeper level, this post begs the question: What responsibility does PA have to *fix* the problem, or even to suggest solutions? Why can they not simply portray it? And, in doing so, isn’t it a good thing that their strip has prompted this conversation?

    Would, for example, Blondie [from the newspaper comic strip Blondie] coming home and complaining that her paycheck was smaller than her husband Dagwood’s be sexist? Is that an endorsement of the divide between men’s paychecks, and women’s? Or is that a reflection of it?

    I also have to ask: Do you see your own sexism? It’s on display here, right from the very first sentence. To label this response as “the male gaze” is to denigrate and marginalize men as a whole. Not all men look at women as merely objects with boobs; many of us — most of us, in fact, at least in my experience — do actually see women as — and I know this is shocking — actual people, just like us! That doesn’t mean we don’t *also* enjoy seeing boobs, but such enjoyment is not intrinsically the same as objectification; it’s a bizarre social construct, a strange double standard, that a comment like “You have beautiful eyes” is interpreted as a compliment, but “You have beautiful breasts” — exactly the same sentence, just a different body part — is an offensive objectification. Further, it’s not only men that enjoy looking at boobs; I know quite a few women who get just as much enjoyment from them. To say nothing of the plethora of women (and men) out there who greatly enjoy the clichéd “shirtless firemen calendar”.

    None of this is meant to deny that anti-women sexism exists. That would take a special kind of stupid — it undeniably exists, and there’s a lot of it. But just like all -isms, sexism cuts both ways; just because you’ve almost certainly been the victim of prejudice doesn’t give you the right to parade about stereotypes against “the other side”.

    I’m getting off-track though. I think ultimately this PA strip is being judged unfairly. Whether or not it is a satire of the behavior it portrays, there’s nothing in this strip that endorses it, either. Nothing here justifies or vindicates it. In fact, the only commentary that this strip offers whatsoever is the “evil Tycho” eyes.

    • “To label this response as “the male gaze” is to denigrate and marginalize men as a whole.”

      Oh for fuck’s sake. Do you even understand what that phrase *means*? It doesn’t mean all men see something in a certain way – it means that something is created for a male perspective, from a male perspective. Not *all* male perspectives, but a distillation of what is *presumed* by male creators to appeal to their gender.


      “Do you see your own sexism?”

      Do you see yours? Obviously not.

    • I recommend you read all the comments. Foz addresses everything you have said here multiple times. And they’re a worthwhile read. She and many of the other people following this thread are articulate and insightful.

  115. Ellayne Shaw says:

    I first heard about Penny Arcade through an ex-boyfriend, but never bothered looking up the comic. The next time I heard about Penny Arcade was because of the dick-wolves idiocy. Then I heard that they resurrected the dick-wolves idiocy at PAX because boo-hoo, rape survivors were trying to squash their freedom of speech. And now this? I have yet to hear anything good about these guys, and frankly, I’m really disappointed. Geek guys, I know you’re better than this. Thank you, Foz, for this article. It really is frustrating how often we need to bring these issues up.

  116. realpinky says:

    Men are pigs. I said it, I am a man. There is a point where the average man grows up and out of the ‘tee hee boobies’ stage, and sadly, many don’t make it that far.

    There are a lot of hypotheses for why that happens, is it a failure of the father figure, a failure of the mother figure, a stubborn desire to stay a silly and ridiculous kid. It’s hard to tell, and I’m sure varies with the particular person.

    What drives me nuts is the outward actions of those ‘less evolved’ (for want of a term to describe it).

    Take for example my brother.

    I am adopted, and after a rather long, and bizarre search, I found my birth mother, and two half-creatures and a step-father-ish. My birth-father denied me to the depths of his bones, and probably suffers from a derivative of this unevolvedness that men suffer from. My half-brother is about 12 years younger than me, but he still is in constant contact with all of his school friends, a troubling sign for the under-evolved…

    He has been married twice (another symptom?) and on a recent outing to visit our mom, he got blasted (another symptom?) at the local bar-b-que joint and started harassing the employees about wanting to meet their ‘hot as hell’ manager. I was embarrassed. My other half-sibling was too. He was like the worst of a street harassing construction worker welded to a truck driver and then brazed to a serial rapist. I tried my best to keep him contained, but it was hard. I apologized to the employees and left a rather large tip.

    It got me thinking… Why am I so ‘evolved’, and am I really evolved… I think back to that night at the restaurant. Was the manager ‘hot’? Not really. She looked more tired and ‘get me the hell out of here’ because of her job. She didn’t deserve the indirect harassment from the half-ape.

    But I digress… Why am I so ‘evolved’, or am I delusional. Am I an ‘adult’, and my brother the ‘child’? When I see a beautiful woman, I look. Glance, more like. I never comment to her, unless I know her, and I never compliment on looks. I knew a beautiful woman who said that ‘looking’ is compliment enough, ‘gawking’, ‘drooling’, and commenting was too much. I guess I took that to heart. I would never consider being rude about it. It would be like harassing a rose for being beautiful. What’s the point. It would only destroy the moment.

    But one thing that happened years ago, that did get to me was that a girlfriend and I went to Ann Arbor for a ‘Take Back The Night’ rally, and there were several victims of abuse that became completely unhinged that ‘men pigs were invited to this march’. I was told to ‘go the fuck home PIG’ by one extremely vocal woman. I think nearly everyone was taken aback by that reaction. The other men and I tried to explain that we were there to support the cause and objected to sexual harassment at any level, but it didn’t calm the emotions of those women. I was sorry that ‘men’ had done that to them, but apparently they had painted the entire male gender with the same brush of harasser and criminal. The end was the ‘men pigs’ had to walk separate from the group of women and several couples walked out on the event because of that stipulation.

    That night, I realized that abuse takes many forms and even ‘all in fun’ can be criminal and over the top.

    There was a graphic today that went something like this: ”Boys will be boys’ is more a failure of parenting than anything fun and innocent’.

    Of that, I heartily agree… I pray for the society that continues to enforce that retardation of men into ‘boys’ by ‘Axe’ products, ‘sexy’ Halloween ‘costumes’, and other crap. (The death of ComDex removed one outlet for the dreaded (by me) ‘booth babe’. Another way that regressive ‘man-boys’ are able to objectify women)

    Plus, I once sailed across the Equator on a four masted schooner and partook of the tradition of celebration for that occasion. Those ‘sexy’ nighties like in Victoria’s Secret aren’t very comfortable, or practical…

    I would, if I could, apologize for the male gender, but the crimes are too much for one man to fight. We all must educate the under-evolved, and do our best to make the largest gender on the planet feel comfortable living…

  117. theizzyblock says:

    I do agree to your theory. I personally believe that we are all one being or ‘soul’ and we are all here to experience life differently. So really, when the media advertises that women are sex objects that deserve nothing but to be drooled over by men they are actually humiliating themselves. We are evolving as a species actually, we are moving on from homo sapiens to homo novus. so we need to realise that we are all one and that the old system and the media just aren’t working and we need to change them. I have nothing against guys, but I think they should at least have the decency to respect women….

  118. Anna Harte says:

    First off, bold post. With a year of blogging under my belt, I’ve decided to avoid certain topics because it’s just not worth it. Volume of astonishingly antagonistic and ignorant responses from anonymous a-holes = head explodes. Glad someone is willing to brave the turf, though!

    Also, I feel you on the “Arrrrgh WTF” factor re: how men often regard women. Personally, what kills me the most is the validation through explanations aka excuses. The caveman-related arguments, for example. Cavemen? Really? It all amounts to a convenient excuse for bad behavior, and the fact that many men don’t WANT to change. Not can’t. Won’t. Men are perfectly capable of showing respect and restraint regarding sexual thoughts/urges/etc. (Plus, any time we map bio-excuses onto other types of interactions, e.g. if someone were to say racism is acceptable because there’s a “hard-wired” in-group/out-group distrust of people who look different, no one seems to think it’s a get-out-of-jail free card.)

    Lastly, a lot of commenters seem to be missing (what I assume) is the actual point. It’s not the comic. It’s the comic on top of EVERYTHING else. It’s the comic as a reflection of how we treat this sh*t as a society.

  119. Alex says:

    But why does a show that’s so good need to show boobs in it? The Penny Arcade guys are over-the-top misogynists, but shame on the show for relying on nudity as a draw. If the people making the show actually gave a shit, at some point, someone would’ve stood up and said “We’ve got a great product here! We don’t need to pander.”

    • lrfcowper says:

      1) There are women who appreciate boobs, too. 2) Nudity is not always pandering. Sometimes it’s an artistic choice, a plot choice. 3) There is nothing inherently anti-feminist about naked breasts.

      • Alex says:

        1) so it can pander to them, too.
        2) if not, then no one should complain when dudes are all “high-five, boobs!” in regards to that non-pandering nudity. People can just pretend that they said “high-five, art!”
        3) nope, there’s not.

  120. theodorous says:

    “The medium is the message.” With respect to the Club em’ and love em’ crowd, our societies through out history have often found peace when women were in control. Something went very wrong when we forgot how important the role of the female is to our world.

  121. Good blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours
    these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  122. kiyudesu says:

    Sigh, too much fenisim to like this post, boobs are nice okay? Admit it.

    Other than that, some boys might go overboard with their love for female breasts, most of my friends can be pretty decent guys, it’s just the kind of humour that is appreciated amongst (not only-)geek men. And tbh? When I’m hanging out with my friends I’m the worst.

    Because they are JOKES.
    And if you would get to know these guys better, you would see that they are pretty decent human beings, really :3

    • fozmeadows says:

      Have you seen the recent news story about a group of boys in New Zealand calling themselves the Roast Busters? Massive TW, but they’re essentially a group of guys going around boasting about how they routinely get underage girls drunk, and then gang rape them. They think this is awesome. They think it’s OK. They think it’s hilarious.

      Newsflash: it isn’t.

      There are about a bajillion different things that are wrong and appalling about this story, but one of the worst, for me, is the fact that a bunch of their female friends are sticking up for them in the media, saying how these are really cool guys, they’re great, drunken group sex is just a thing that happens where they live, some girls are just asking for it. They think it’s OK, too, because it’s never happened to them; or if it has, they’ve had to rationalise it in order to cope.

      I mention this in order to illustrate two things: firstly, that finding something funny doesn’t mean it isn’t problematic as all fuck; and secondly, that being female doesn’t mean you can’t also have internalised certain misogynist, sexist attitudes along the way. Believe me: this I know from personal experience. Teenage-me used to tell awful sexist jokes with my male group of friends, and I used to congratulate myself on how post-feminist, how EQUAL it all was, because if I was laughing – if I wasn’t offended – then clearly, there was no problem, right? Only it doesn’t work like that: what I was actually doing was putting all other girls into a different, lesser category – hating on OTHER women, women who weren’t like me – in order to emphasise how special I was, because unlike those other girls who Just Didn’t Get It, *I* could hang out with the boys and talk about sexy boobs and make jokes about domestic violence and laugh about dumb blonde women even though I was blonde, and that made it all OK, because I was a girl, and I wasn’t offended!

      Teenage-me was an idiot.

      • kiyudesu says:

        I understand your point, but I still think those harmless jokes aren’t a problem, which, for me, this comic was too..
        I do agree that some things really go too far, and when they do, I do not hesitate to tell them.
        I often already got really mad for making too many back to the kitchen-jokes, so the domestic violence and rape-jokes would NOT be welcome.

        You know, I think it often starts of pretty harmless, but you know what a group of guys do, they go from bad to worse and all of a sudden we have this serious situation in which girls are either very offended or even seriously harmed.

        They do need to get a slap in the face sometimes, I guess, to let them know they’re really going to far, if you talk about stuff like this with a guy one-on-one they most of the time will understand what’s wrong.

        Posts like this, on the contrary, will often just end up in the ”sigh, another feminist raging”-response, you feel me?

  123. grady says:

    Sorry to resurrect this, but why is transwoman othering but trans woman is not?

    Is this a generally accepted position?

    • fozmeadows says:

      It’s an argument I saw made elsewhere that makes sense to me: trans woman has trans as a descriptor of woman, the same way we might say tall woman or black woman; transwoman makes being trans into a different category of person, separate from other women.

  124. Liqma Kucci says:

    I think the show is great for the writing, the content, the humor, the exploring of deep issues in an intelligent way. This is why I watch it and why I started watching it.

    I also enjoy the topless / lesbian stuff, and thought the comic was very hilarious. The sexy lesbians are just a bonus.

    Does that just effing blow your mind?

    Stop seeing the world as so black and white and shoving people into one group or another, it’s silly and doesn’t reflect the world at all. You folks are sitting here getting your panties in a bunch responding to a perceived threat you have largely invented inside your own heads.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Yeah, because there’s nothing objectifying or problematic about “sexy lesbians” being viewed as a “bonus” for straight dudes to gawk at.

  125. […] This, Right Here, Is The Problem, 14 October […]

  126. archprime says:

    Can’t say I have seen the material that you find so irritating, but is it actually wrong that men who value and judge women they see on TV for their bodies communicate with each other ? Coercion of any sort is unambiguously wrong – but why can we men not otherwise publicly enthuse about our fantasies?

    Yes, men like to see young boobies.
    If we can’t have them, we seem to talk or write about them.
    So what? Most women tend to want other roles in life then sex object, and so men & women mostly negotiate different outcomes.

    Most men find other things to value in women, and most men are polite or sensitive enough (or at least learn) to act otherwise in many contexts, but fascination with young boobies never actually wanes.

    Why, at the end of the day, should we pretend otherwise? Why should men not publicly express their actual preference for a world in which they get to see young boobies more often, and evaluate and select what they see accordingly – so long as women equally maintain the right to pursue and express their own preferences?

    • fozmeadows says:

      If you can’t distinguish between men respectfully stating a preference for boobies and the gross, almost constant sexualisation of women, then I can’t help you. Straight men can revel in their straightness without objectifying women in the process, but that’s not what’s happened here.

      • archprime says:

        I am effectively asking ‘why can’t men objectify women they want to?, so long as the ‘objects’ are equally free to equally choose how they wish to pursue and express their own objectives?

        Whether overtly expressed or not, men to a significant extent inherently sexualise women, particularly women of reproductive age. Yes this sucks for many women (to the extent that they rely on men to pursue their own non reproductive objectives), but whether we blame evolution or culture for this outlook, I don’t see how these priorities can change without changing what it is to be human.

        We men for practical purposes or out of consideration do need to pretend not to think of and evaluate women primarily as bodies in many contexts – but I struggle with the sustainability of any agenda for ‘right living’ that relies on enforcing cognitive dissonance between what 50% of the population say vs what we actually think.

        Why can we not at least express and enjoy our sexist humor in contexts that those who find such expression gross can opt out of – or equally respond to with alternative views? Censoring or ‘educating’ these impulses out of public display will not make them go away.

  127. archprime says:

    Can you point to examples of cultures where men don’t objectify women? (by which I mean assess them primarily for their attractiveness)

    For sure there are cultural overlays that inhibit expression of what men might be thinking, and beyond physical beauty other perceived survival, economic and emotional or status benefits in ‘possessing’ a woman influence attractiveness to men to varying extents but are there any cultures where objectification is genuinely absent and does not even need to be masked?

    I rather suspect it is an innate human cognitive trait that has or had survival value, irrespective of the associated unfairness involved.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Firstly: When you interpret “objectification” to mean “assess women primarily for their attractiveness”, that’s… not the right definition. What you’re describing is misogyny, pure and simple, because it removes the possibility of men assessing women “primarily” for any other more relevant criteria, such as intelligence, competence and personality. As much as I loathe our cultural obsession with hypersexualising and objectifying women at every turn, this still isn’t the same as every man, or the majority of men, assessing female attractiveness AHEAD OF ANYTHING ELSE, all the time, as a default, which is what you seem to be implying. So if this is your understanding of the concept, it makes it pretty hard to answer your question.

      Secondly: You’re still missing the nuanced – but crucial – difference between a culture of sexual objectification and a culture that admires and values female beauty; and, more importantly, between the idea of a culture in which objectification happens (because humans are flawed and can warp any system), and one where it is actively encouraged(which is what I’m asserting our culture is). The former routinely erases personhood, reducing women to body parts and sexual functions as a matter of default practise: their attractiveness is disconnected from who they are as people, an evaluation that diminishes rather than uplifts them, regardless of how free (or not) they are otherwise. The latter is a different kettle of fish altogether. Think of it like the difference between sex with someone you care about, and watching sexist porn: in the former instance, you’re still full-bloodedly appreciating the woman’s body, but not in a way that disrespects her; in the latter, the woman’s individuality is removed, turning her into an anonymous, fuckable object with whom you share no emotional connection. See the difference?

      Thirdly: You seem to be ignoring gay men, asexual men, bisexual men and trans men, when you’re talking about “men” as a group, and similarly ignoring the gay female gaze. This is an important thing to consider when making sweeping judgements about any “inherent” male preferences – as is the question of when, exactly, the gaze itself develops. If boys are brought up to respect women, then even their heterosexual awakening at puberty need not cause them to objectify women in lieu of appreciating their beauty. It depresses me that so many men in our culture have been trained to objectify women that they struggle to comprehend even the relevance of a distinction which is both bitingly obvious and blindingly important to every woman who’s ever had to deal with street harassment.

      The point being: while some men – and women – will always objectify the gender to whom they’re sexually attracted due to whatever combination of selfishness, sociopathy, disconnection and disrespect (or whathaveyou) constitutes their psychological makeup, not every culture will sanction and normalise that objectification as thoroughly as ours does, such that it becomes the unthinking practise of others who have no other inclination towards the behaviour.

      • archprime says:

        Not sure what became of my previous attempt at a response – not even showing as ‘awaiting moderation’. … Will try again:

        Firstly: my understanding of ‘objectification’ I think was not particularly controversial – “treating a person as a thing, without regard to their dignity” Identifying and discussing the ‘value’ of a woman according to her sexual attractiveness ahead of all else would surely qualify as such an example.

        I assert most (straight) men do indeed assess women (particularly of breeding age) quite ruthlessly for attractiveness first and foremost.

        Waiting to know the ‘whole person’ before forming an opinion of everybody we meet is a laudable goal, but is seldom sustainable. The mental resources and time don’t exist in many contexts, and the motivation (perceived benefit) in investing them doesn’t exist in others.

        This is not intrinsically misogyny as you describe – there is no hate involved, merely a narrow focus of interest.

        We have evolved to make snap judgements when we encounter new people, and the need to rapidly identify threats and opportunities in a complex world has not abated.

        The fact that we usually make an initial assessment based on physical characteristics does not mean this is our last assessment – if for some reason we go on to have some sort of direct interaction or other means of engagement with her as a thinking being, the person within the body emerges and assessments are moderated by subsequent impressions accordingly. And hopefully empathy and respect develops.

        If a man comes to know the women as a person, yet continues to publically exhibit objectification behaviour towards or around her, or if he uses this behaviour as a means of coercion, or if it is likely his comments will become known to the women and cause hurt – THEN I think it is fair to assume misogyny – or some other disorder.

        However, if someone wants to crack a joke about boobies being the real star of a movie – I don’t think the distant owner of those boobies is entitled to be treated with any particular dignity by people who don’t know her or that she is never likely to meet, especially if it is really the case that her boobies form the primary interest for those discussing it – then it is how it is. I note the makers of movies seem often not to treat their customers as individuals whose minds need respecting. The men concerned are probably bonding by sharing an experience or interest they have in common rather than deliberately trying to keep the woman down – and most would be surprised that such comments might elicit more than eye rolling from any women present. I get that you think that this is a bad thing for men to be bonding over.

        Secondly, I maintain my assertion that objectification is an undercurrent that cannot be excised by or primarily attributed to culture – yes in some cultures men may be less open about it while engaged in their superficial assessment of women, and our own culture has discovered ways to exploit this undercurrent that others do not use – but that the first interest in women (at least of breeding age) as sexual commodities on some level is pretty universal, and this is formalised in traditions outside our own culture that I would suggest are often far more oppressive.

        Nearly ALL straight men objectify in their own minds whether they let on to others or not, in all cultures – not just some isolated deviants as you seem to imply. Our culture does not lead people who would otherwise refrain into the practice, because it is innate to our species – for better and worse. It merely impacts our level of openness on the subject.

        Absolutely, this cognitive process diminishes rather than uplifting women, and absolutely engaging with and appreciating the whole person is a vastly more rewarding experience.

        Thirdly: – no I am not ignoring gay, asexual, trans men etc – but I am not attempting to offer any particular insight on their behalf beyond the fact that they are human too, and thus very likely subject to the same evolved process of ‘cutting to the chase’ about new people. It is probably reasonable to assume that members of subcultures experiencing higher than average levels of superficial judgement themselves will have a greater than average overlay of sensitivity in the way they choose to handle or express their own superficial judgments of others.

        My point being that we are born with an amoral but nevertheless nearly automatic mechanism for screening people as potential mates first and foremost. Setting a social or ethical benchmark for behaviour based on denial of this as natural process is probably not going to work. Better for us all to recognize that it is reality, motivates responses that have nothing to do with the woman as a person, and to balance the right to share such thoughts with the need to recognise and compensate for the harm objectification can do.

  128. actual retard says:

    Actually fuck you. It’s a show meant to entertain and make money, not unlike a circus.

  129. Gry Ranfelt says:

    I think your point could be said nicer but then, eh, it probably wouldn’t get through. As with everything on the internet, it needs to be screamed. (I did a similar post: )
    I think it’s so hilarious when people call chauvenism “caveman-ish” becuase it’s my theory that we had more equality back when we didn’t have any obligations to a farm or place etc.

    I wish you’d gone more into the thoughts about Orange but, ah well, we probably just agree. It’s a brilliant show that is totally overlooked.
    I don’t mind the nudity but I do mind that it draws focus to something else.
    Oh, what’s really annoying is that there are naked men in the second season and OF COURSE they’re gay. Because God FORBID we show a heterosexual penis on television.

  130. […] for all that I’ve taken issue with Penny Arcade in the past, on this occasion, I don’t think I can muster up a better […]

  131. Patrick says:

    I started watching the show, I’m on to season 2 now. It is a very good show but I find there is maybe a bit too much sex in it? The producers are objectifying women, it’s all about sex. The most recent episode the female Don Juan and Boo make a deal to see how many inmates they can fuck and who ever has the most wins. There are many episodes like this.

  132. E says:

    “Shit like this is why the character modeller for Lightning, the lead character in FFXIII, went out of his way to describe how Lightning’s tits are going to go up to a D cup in the sequel game so that she’ll fucking jiggle on camera.”

    This is totally an aside, but do you know what bothers me about this that I haven’t seen anyone mention? That any woman with D-cup breasts would wear a BRA to prevent jiggling while she runs, because that shit hurts. I’m between a C and a D, and I wince in sympathy whenever I see a character’s breasts bouncing. Obviously, the guys who came up with this design don’t even have enough interaction with women to know this, or they don’t care.

    One more thing: I’ve heard dumb arguments that characters in certain settings wouldn’t have bras because they weren’t invented yet. True, but before then, a woman could just wrap her chest with strips of cloth, as women did in ancient Greece. it wouldn’t be as comfortable a modern sports bra, but it would keep bouncing to a minimum. You don’t need fancy materials to make a bra – the inventor of the bra fashioned her first one from two cloth handkerchiefs and ribbons

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