Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Think We're Stuck...

Reading the news this morning, the Captain wondered if we are not stuck on a theme. Here are some of today’s headlines:

--“Victoria’s Secret Model Sunbathes Topless”

--“Paris Hilton Rocks Swimsuit in Racy New Commercial”

--“How Kate Upton Feels About Her Boobs”

I kid you not.

Of course, they tried to balance all of this overt sexism with a pictorial of “Olympic Beach Volleyball Photos That Focus On Athleticism”. Not surprising, of the 18 photos shared, only one was of a men’s beach volleyball team.

Keep in mind, this is the year 2014. Haven’t we moved beyond the idea of women as simply “arm candy” and “playmates”, whose primary function is to be ogled and appreciated only for their sexual charms?

Apparently not.   

And from what I can tell, this is not just a problem in America. From Kazakhstan we hear, “Sabina Altynbekova Is Too Beautiful To Play Volleyball, Critics Say”. According to this news article, the 17-year-old Sabina is so beautiful that her coach says she is drawing too much attention away from the rest of the team; people are flocking to volleyball matches just to get a glimpse of her.

What has prompted this blog post, however, is another headline coming out of this past weekend’s “Comic-Con International”. Begun in 1970 as simply a comic book convention, “Comic-Con” has grown into an international gathering of geeks nerds comic book aficionados and sci-fi fans, now numbering well over 130,000 attendees for the four-day affair in San Diego.

After strategizing for months on how to get one of the coveted tickets (which are not cheap), these lucky fans then get to stand for hours in lines often stretching to more than a mile long with the hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite actors, directors, etc. An autograph or even a “selfie” with said actor makes it all worthwhile.

But the long wait is not always boring. As it turns out, many of the fans at Comic-Con dress up as their favorite comic book /sci-fi characters. “Cos-play”, they call it. And some go to extremes to fit into their costumes look the part.

Unfortunately, apparently not all attendees at Comic-Con are well-behaved. The headline that grabbed my eye read: “Sexual Harassment At Comic-Con Leads To Call For New Convention Policy”.

A group of women from Philadelphia – “Geeks for CONsent” – launched an online campaign seeking formal anti-harassment policies at Comic-Con. They say female attendees frequently complain of being groped, followed, and unwillingly photographed.

Now, before going there, let me point out that the Captain has been very clear in the past: No means no. Even if a woman is standing completely naked in front of you, you have no right to touch her without her permission.

However, if you’re going to dress like that, the Captain IS going to look!

Here’s the problem, as I see it. In our hyper-sexualized culture, girls have embraced their freedom to dress more provocatively, and boys are becoming exponentially more frustrated. Transfer all that hormonal energy into an atmosphere like Comic-Con and you are just asking for trouble.

I mean, think about it. You’ve got a convention center full of “fan-boys” who have been reading these graphic novels about “larger than life” female superheroes since before they reached puberty.

I have written about this problem before. I used to read comic books. I quit buying them when they became too expensive – at 75 cents! But even as a pre-teen I recognized that the male figures were drawn with an unrealistically exaggerated musculature, and the female heroes were titillating extremely buxom.

…and always wearing high heels!

In the horror genre, which I especially enjoyed, I found it curious that “Dracula” almost always dressed like he was going to the opera, while “Vampirella” pranced around in a sling-shot bikini and high-heeled, knee-length boots! I used to think this must have been because Vampirella was a stripper before she was turned into a vampire. But according to the official storyline, she is just a creature from another planet.

Apparently a warm planet.

Yes, sexism lives unapologetically in the pages of graphic novels.

So there you are at Comic-Con when, suddenly, there is a reasonable likeness of Vampirella standing right in front of you… literally “in the flesh”.

That noise you hear throughout the San Diego Convention Center is the sound of the jaws of a thousand “fan-boys” hitting the floor as “Puss in Boots” walks by.

Wait… What? When did “Puss in Boots” become a hot chick?

I saw signs of hope recently when a photo of the “new” Wonder Woman was released. The current rendering has moved away from the star-spangled double-D leotard (a la Linda Carter) to a more muted version of what an actual “Amazon Princess” might wear.

Unfortunately, they still put a 3” heel on her knee-length boots!

Hear me when I say, women need superheroes too. In 1943, William Moulton Marston wrote an article for “The American Scholar” explaining his concept for Wonder Woman:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetypes lack force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving, as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weaknesses. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

But what women don’t need is men designing their costumes!

But I digress…

The group “Geeks for CONsent” is simply asking for a code of conduct to be placed in the convention guide which all attendees receive.

No groping. No cat-calls. No photos without the subject’s permission.

Sadly, yes, we still need someone to tell us how to behave in public.

But a larger issue remains. As long as female superheroes are drawn as merely a pair of super-human boobs encased in spandex, “fan-boys” are going to have trouble controlling their very-human urges.

You see, it’s not just a Comic-Con problem, it’s a comic-book / sci-fi culture problem.

I blame Stan Lee.

[Captain’s Note: Even as I write this, I am reminded of another headline from just a year ago: “American Bra Size Average Increases From 34B To 34DD In Just 20 Years, Survey Says”.]

But I can’t leave it there.

My geek friends would be mad at me.

What I’m talking about here is a problem in the larger American culture as well. Despite advances women have made in the past few decades – climbing the corporate ladder, moving into higher government offices – they are still largely viewed through a distorted sexual lens. The “ideal” female body is being used more and more to sell everything from perfume and clothing to beer and chicken wings to magazines and newspapers… and yes, even blogs!

Yes, the Captain knows why you read this.

Will we ever get to the point where we can respect one another as human beings, created equal – and equally beautiful – in the eyes of a loving God? Will we ever get to the point where we can appreciate the human body in all its glory without feeling the need to grope it or “use it” or “possess it”? Will we ever get to the point where we can have a sane discussion about human sexuality?

Frankly, this ol’ Captain would just once like to say “booty” without someone snickering!

Until then, we just get more rules.

No groping. No cat-calls. No photos without the subject’s permission.