Seriously, have you watched this show? Like, it’s that weird, progressive boy transphobia, all kinds of awkward shock and “”“respectful”“” preference shown toward assigned genders. That kind of transphobia that denies its existence the moment a light shines on it, and in that denial, multiplies rapidly.
Made rebloggable by request:
Do you still like some of the Hawkeye initiative posts that illustrate how ridiculous some of the anatomy in comics is? I feel like it’s rather shocking in many ways, because we’re so used to seeing women in spine defying poses, and I was curious about your thoughts on that after reading both of your articles.
As I said in the first article, women have been drawing attention to this issue for years while keeping the focus on women. I use Escher Girls as an example because Ami’s a friend and she’s been doing good work for a long time now, both there and at previous blogs she’s owned. But the work’s been going on even longer than that; the women at Scans Daily, for example, have been talking about this for as long as I’ve been active in comics fandom.
I dislike the idea that the only way we can see what’s problematic with something is to recenter privileged people in the problem. Especially since, in doing so, we open ourselves up to recreating so much of the harm those privileged groups deal out on a daily basis. These attempts have a way of confirming the insecurities of privileged people rather than challenging them. A book where the racial dynamics between White people and Black people have been reversed (WARNING: A video at the linked website features a White actor in Blackface) might be written with the intent of commentary, but ends up repeating the very real and very bigoted ideas many White people carry with them (How many “Obama will institute White slavery” screeds were we subjected to in 2008? How often has the media addressed, with fear, “The Changing Face of America?”).
Similarly, the idea that men are being emasculated, that men’s roles are being subverted, that men are becoming “the new women” have proliferated at least as far back as the 1970s in response to second wave feminism. Men (mostly White men) have written in fear and anger about this perceived phenomenon for decades, and scare articles on the subject have featured prominently in men’s magazines throughout this year.
The project’s defenders point to the number of men who acknowledge that this makes them uncomfortable as a way of saying it’s meeting its goals, that the issues some people (like myself) are seeing in the project are worth it if they’ve reached those men. But I’d take a more critical look at exactly what’s making these men uncomfortable, since men have been uncomfortable with being seen as feminine for a very long time now, and it has done little to improve the way they treat women.
Some More Thoughts On “The Hawkeye Initiative”
"I think the point is…"
There are a whole mess of comments on that article that begin with this refrain. And I would be able to take them much more seriously if they didn’t betray the fact that the people making them didn’t actually read the article.
In fact, the second point on the article (y’know, after “I hate everything”) is a very generous estimation of what I thought the point of The Hawkeye Initiative was. Unfortunately, I have to make an estimation of it, because the management at The Hawkeye Initiative have never really made their intent clear.
I would also be able to take these comments much more seriously if they didn’t betray the fact that the people making them don’t actually read The Hawkeye Initiative.
"The point of The Hawkeye Initiative is to make fun of the ridiculousness of female anatomy in comics."
"The point of The Hawkeye Initiative is to point out the ridiculousness of female costumes in comics."
"The point of the Hawkeye Initiative is to point out the over-sexualization of female characters in comics."
Help me out here, please.
Here we have Spider-Woman, adopting a classic Spider-Man pose. The pose isn’t sexualized, her costume is one of the most conservative in comics, and her anatomy, while exaggerated, all fits together the way a human body should.
Here we have Hawkeye. Whose ass has been made into a focal point of the piece in ways not present in the original. Whose back is arched in a way not present in the original. Whose face is contorted into a coy smile with old-school Disney cartoon eyelashes, all features not present in the original.
Tell me where the satire is here, please. Tell me where the commentary is. Tell me where the humor comes from, if it doesn’t come from the fact that Hawkeye looks feminine.
This is Batgirl. Like Spider-Woman, Batgirl has one of the most conservative costumes in comics. It doesn’t just cover her head to toe, but it’s clearly got some built-in body armor going on. Her anatomy is well done, everything fits together the way it’s supposed to. And her pose isn’t overtly sexualized. Barbara Gordon’s athleticism has its origins in dance. She trained as a ballerina as a child, and that story element is communicated through this pose.
I love the exuberance of this picture, let’s be clear. It’s really cute, and I like Hawkeye’s smile (we don’t get to see superheroes smile enough). But I’m still not seeing the commentary or the satire that the site’s defenders (not necessarily the site itself) claim is there.
This one does have some issues. Poison Ivy’s pose is silly. Thrusting your chest out isn’t a necessary component of backhanding someone. Neither is wearing a thong/bustier combo. Catwoman’s costume, however, is fairly conservative. There’s no boob pouches or butt pouches. Her anatomy’s a bit wonky, but not in a manner that’s egregiously sexual.
You’d think Ivy would be the focus of the following commentary.
Yeah, no. Hawkeye’s given a thong (which, again, Catwoman is NOT wearing in the original piece). His anatomy is more exaggerated than in the original piece. And in the place of Poison Ivy we have Black Widow. With bigger breasts, an even tinier waist, and a painful looking thong.
I can’t find the commentary in making the piece MORE anti-woman.
This isn’t even comic book art. It’s pin-up art. It’s overt intention is to be sexy. And even still, the anatomy is really good, the craftsmanship in the painting is gorgeous, her body type is one we would NEVER see in a mainstream comic book (isn’t that sad that SHE is too big to be considered a superhero?).
Is this supposed to be funny? Biting commentary? Witty satire? What’s being said about the previous piece with this one? Honestly, I don’t even know at this point.
Um, she’s missing her right arm. That’s literally the only thing wrong with this piece, and when you’re drawing at least a page a day as a professional artist, some things are gonna slip through. Every single woman reading this has put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt in her life. And where’s this “Mr. New Booty” coming from? The girl in the original piece HAS no booty, nor is she shaking it, nor is she wearing a thong or engaging in sex work or any of the other things that song is about. It’s just kinda thrown in there.
Last one, I promise.
If that’s supposed to be satire… Well, that’s just some straight-up homophobia right there.
A lot of the posts are okay-to-good. But there are a LOT of examples like this. And examples like these send the message loud and clear: Femininity is something to be mocked.
I am NOT mad at the Initiative. I’m NOT mad at the artists, either. Misogyny and homophobia and transphobia are SO prevalent in our world that it’s an extremely easy trap to fall into. But when the trap has been pointed out to you, and you insist on telling me that I just don’t understand the intent behind the people who fell into it, I’m gonna have to say something.
But I don’t expect you’ll read this. Cuz you didn’t really read the first one. You wouldn’t talk to me and my friends like we don’t know what we’re talking about. You wouldn’t talk about how this project is supposed to “benefit women” as if me and my friends were not ourselves women. Cuz, y’know, we covered this already, and you’d know that if you’d respected us enough to read what we wrote.
"You don’t ask someone to apologize for defending you."
Okay, you know what?
You don’t ask someone to apologize for defending you.
Unless I see something particularly egregious, this is the last one I’m responding to. Cuz seriously, there’s no beef between me and Ms. Simone. I promise. Really.
This is not what I asked for, though. And even if it was, “You shouldn’t read my books, you bigoted little creep” isn’t really much of a defense. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to something upsetting. An understandable one, even. But it’s not someone defending me.
You seem to be coming from the point of view that I owe non-trans people my gratitude when they afford me my basic human dignity. I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I do not owe non-trans people my gratitude, even when they stand up to support causes personal to me. “In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, ‘We servants deserve no special praise. We have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17: 10, CEB) Showing basic respect to our fellow human beings and defending them when others do not is the barest minimum of our duty to each other. It is not owed my gratitude, nor am I owed any for doing the same.
And despite this, Ms. Simone has my appreciation, which I acknowledged in the very post you’re quoting.
So please, friends, stop trying to stir up drama where there is none.
Okay, I’m a transwoman, and I couldn’t agree less with the person previous to you Gail. I’m GLAD you are bringing this to light, because I hear all the time how I”m overreacting to the hatred of trans* people out there, how no one is REALLY like that, usually from those same people who are the worst bigots in the world. I’m told that being nervous at a dark busstop while I’m alone is not something I should be concerned about, or that certain women refuse to come into the bathroom while I’m in there….
This kind of hatred is NOT good, should NOT be normal, and needs to be called out EVERY TIME IT OCCURS, by anyone who hears it. People wouldn’t stand by and accept someone calling a black person n——- just because “well, they are and it’s common”, they would call them on it. Being blatantly sexist would also be called out. Time to start doing it with LGBTIQ folk too.
The above quote has been edited to remove a racist slur.
First of all, it’s really not okay to casually throw a racist slur in there while trying to prove your point. Especially since you’re wrong. I know that sounds really blunt and mean, but please believe me when I say, that’s the softest way I can think to put it. People DO stand by and accept people saying racist slurs all the time. People DO stand by and accept people saying sexist slurs all the time. The fact that your use of that word has been up all night and I’m the first person to say anything about it kinda proves my point.
I’m not asking for people to sit by and say nothing when they see these things happening. However, when people who have privilege over another group of people try to act as a support to them, I’m asking that they please consider the ramifications of the way they voice that support.
Repeating oppressive slurs, such as quoting a hateful message in its entirety, can be really harmful. And responding to them in anger when your privilege protects you from the consequences of that anger can also be really harmful. These situations have a way of escalating quickly, and it’s usually the most disenfranchised among us who are caught in the crossfire.
I’ll use myself as an example from here out, since Ms. Simone and I have already come to an understanding here.
I also make comics. Mostly little four-page stories told on pieces of folded over printer paper, drawn on demand for the kids at work. Most of the characters in these stories are Black since most of the kids I work with are Black and they CRAVE heroes that look like themselves.
Those stories will never be published (they’re personal gifts). But if I am ever in a position where one of my stories is, I will continue to write and draw stories about characters of color. It means too much to my kids not to.
But, I will have to consider the fact that the color of my skin will be a contributing factor in why I am in that position, as opposed to the many just-as-if-not-much-more-talented artists and writers of color who have not gotten that opportunity. There’s a reason why Black Panther and Black Lightning (the first Black characters at Marvel and DC respectively to receive their own books) were created by White men, and it’s not because there were no working Black artists and writers at the time. Even today, there’s a reason why Quentin Tarantino can make Django Unchained, while Spike Lee struggles to even get films with White leads produced.
I will have to accept the fact that I will get racist hate mail (cuz comics fandom is notoriously racist) for featuring those characters in my stories. But their racism is not targeted at me, CANNOT be targeted at me because of my privilege. And even though it sucks to see it, I’m not the one being harmed by it. And if I respond in anger, if I respond without thinking, if I respond in a way that escalates the situation, I will not be the one harmed by that escalation.
That’s all I’m asking for. The mitigation of harm, even as we go forward trying to support each other. I don’t think I’m asking for too much in that.
Trigger Warning: Transphobia
I just got this in my inbox.
“If you getting fired means we don’t have to see some disgusting tranny in Batgirl, I’m on board. I like a lot of what you’ve done, but once you started talking about trannies, I wanted you gone. You don’t have to support everybody who’s a “minority”, just so you know.”
Just so YOU know, you shouldn’t read my books, you bigoted little creep.
Walk away, you won’t be missed. The world will evolve just fine without you.
Was it necessary to make this public? The attack is only tangentially about you. Trans women (the population most often harmed by that word) already know people are like this, and I just wonder the reason for risking further harm to trans women (in making this unedited attack on us public) for the edification of the largely non-trans audience on your blog.
I do appreciate your efforts to champion this cause. But please don’t forget that there’s a reason why you’re in a position to champion it. To be clear, I am still interested in seeing what you’ve developed. But. There’s a reason why you are able to make the promise to add a trans character to the mainstream comics tapestry. There’s a reason why it won’t be a trans person writing that important story, and I just… At the end of the day it’s not about you.
A Trans Woman’s Perspective
I think it’s mostly because Hawkeye is a popular comic book character on tumblr and people are taking the oppertunity to draw him in “sexy” poses. “anti trans women” seems a bit of a stretch but i’d like to hear a trans woman’s perspective.
Um, you already have. Next time I’ll make sure to label my writing with “AS A TRANS WOMAN” in big bold letters. Because it’s not possible for trans women to just speak as women, and find issue with something as women. Gotta put all those labels out there. Hell, it’s not really possible for women to just speak as women. Gotta put your life out there first, THEN we can judge whether or not you’re worth listening to.
Not that you really listened to what I was saying anyway. I mean, this is exactly what I’ve been talking about today. It’s not good enough that a woman’s talking about it. Those parts you completely dismissed out of hand. The trans part, well that you felt a little less qualified in dismissing, though you totally did it anyway.
Sorry, friends, but demands that I self-disclose REALLY rub me the wrong way. It’s not like I’ve exactly been secretive about it. That’s my real name in the sidebar, I’ve had a career as a “professional trans person” (and hated it). As creepy as it would be for you to Google my credentials, you totally could, it’s all out there for you to see.
May I go back to talking about ladies in comics now?
Thoughts On “The Hawkeye Initiative”
Disclaimers may be in order.
First, I hate everything. It’s seriously the first thing out of my friends’ mouths when I’m done speaking to them. “Ceridwen, why do you hate everything?” Let’s just get that out of the way so I don’t have an inbox full of similar notes when I’m done with this. (What am I saying, people don’t read this blog.)
Second, I understand the intent behind The Hawkeye Initiative. The work that the management is busy with, drawing attention to the sexism inherent in mainstream comics art, is good work. It’s important that more people do this work, and on that level, I wish them success.
The Hawkeye Initiative has been live for about a week now, and the response has been incredible. Quite literally, in fact: It strains credibility to think how quickly this project has taken off. In seven days, the blog has been featured on io9, ONTD, Bleeding Cool, and Know Your Meme.
By comparison, Escher Girls, which has been doing the work of highlighting the sheer amount of sexist art in comics for over a year now, still doesn’t have the following that The Hawkeye Initiative has built in the last seven days. In the interests of full disclosure, the woman behind Esher Girls is a personal friend, but I want to be clear this isn’t a case of envy-by-proxy. I’m more interested in exploring why this discrepancy exists.
My take? People care more about issues of sexual exploitation if that exploitation directly effects men. We see this time and time again in our day-to-day lives. The sexual abuse of young men and boys makes national news, and the narrative surrounding them explores the psychological damage caused by their abuse. “What he might have gone on to achieve” is a common refrain in these stories. Meanwhile, the narrative surrounding the sexual abuse of young women ignores all of this in favor of finding some way in which her rape and abuse was her fault. Even in cases that avoid this trope, such as (most, though not all cases of) the abuse of underage girls, “what she might have gone on to achieve” is never even considered.
While objectification is not as “serious” as rape, it remains a contributing factor in rape culture. So when that culture sees an instance of a man being objectified, even if that objectification is meant to draw attention to similar treatment of women, it reacts in ways it does not when the subject is female. As I said before, Escher Girls has been highlighting this issue for over a year now, but the focus has remained solely on how this issue effects women. Ami provides smart commentary, her readers have contributed redraws showing ways in which the art can not only be less objectifying but objectively better, and the focus remains on women. The Hawkeye Initiative, meanwhile, shifts the focus to a male character, and in so doing, draws the attention of our male-dominated culture.
And that’s assuming the best intentions of the management and their contributors. Go through the archives and count how many times a variation of “This is hilarious, I had to contribute” is used. Be careful here, friends. There’s some intense ugliness hidden behind why you find this so hilarious, and it’s steeped in misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia.
On tumblr, polerin elaborates:
There’s some really nasty shit lurking not too far under the surface of some of the drawings. In some cases, like the ones where they switch clothes, it’s not even too deep.
Making choices of clothing based in femininity/femme-ness on a dood isn’t a context free choice. Doubly so when you are mocking something. It relies on the deep history of cissexism and oppositional sexism in our culture. Even if that’s not the intent of the artist, it is impossible to look at these drawings and not have all the jokes about guys wearing women’s clothing or “acting like a girl” come up. That’s the POINT of these drawings.
And that point pins trans women to the wall as a side effect of (rightly) critiquing the sexism in comics.
Despite the best of intentions, the vibe comes across as really anti-femme, anti-trans women, and ultimately, anti-women. After all, if we’re unable to talk about the mistreatment of women without bringing men into the picture, what does that really say about us? If we’re unable to talk about the mistreatment of women without considering how it effects all women, what does that really say about us?