Comic Talk and General Discussion *

How do you deal with sexism in your own work?
ozoneocean at 10:23PM, Dec. 29, 2015
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You know though, PROMOTION and sex appeal is the big elephant in the room here.
SELLING your work and promotion to people is almost as important as creating it…
  
Sex sells, just the impression of it. And the very essence of sex is the female form. Sexist as that notion is- the thing is that anything female tends to get a higher click and view count, escpecially if the ad or cover or whatever has cleavidge, of lipstick lips, sultry eyes…
   
How do you feel about the neccesity to distil your work to that for promotional purposes?
I have to say that I never had too many qualms with Pinky TA because “sex sells” was part of the message, and it doesn't fit oddly with my work, but I've seen many instances with other people's work where it IS an odd fit! Their otherwise unassuming, modest female character or characters are especially tarted up for the ads and cover image… and it's awkward because it's very out of character.
   
I'm trying a “sex sells” approach with the Quackcast Project Wonderful ads, just because.
Related: We have the simply stunning, gorgeous Pitface and Tantz Aerine doing the Quackcast fairly regularly now. If this was a comercial thing we'd be making promo material that featured them heavily, that's just how things are done and as someone who works somewhat in the advertising industry myself it's what I would recommend if I was advising the creators of the Quackcast.
But those two are really good firends so the idea of exploitation is repellant. Having them in Promo material is fine, but not exploitatively.
Anyway, I'm an arist, I can invent my own exploitative material. :D
  
FINALLY: Selling yourself to sell your work.
This is tricky because it can backfire badly. Men and women who sell thier image and sexuality in order to promote their work can be enormously successful but they can also face some pretty awful backlash. Women suffer this double standard worse than men: It's FINE if someone ELSE exploits your image, but if you do it yourself then you're evil.
So many of us, me included, have this gut reaction to pretty faces/bodies selling their work. The beter the artist looks in their promo material the worse we think of the art. We have to GET over that and appreciate it for what it is.
 
Somewhat of an example would be the great artist Bittertea (Ashley M Witter) of Scroch http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Scorch/
She's a phenominal artist, godly in skill. Early on there were promo shots of her and she looked amazing too. When you (I mean myself) saw those you had to overcome jelousy in order to still appreciate the work. And unfortuatly that's a pretty universal reaction because she doesn't have any self images up generally anymore.
 
So using yourself to sell your work is really, really tricky unless you're a popstar -not because there's anything at all wrong with it, but because the audience you're selling to can be douchebags.
 
Genejoke at 10:49PM, Dec. 29, 2015
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Nope.
Seriously, nope.
I don't sexualise my stuff for selling, in fact selling doesn't even enter the equation for me. I make what I want to make, there is no other consideration.
As for selling myself,  well per pound would be best. There's a lot to sell. 
usedbooks at 11:48PM, Dec. 29, 2015
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Same as Genejoke, I don't really promote my work. I don't make it for an audience. I make it because the stories in my head want out, and it's a relaxing hobby.


I can't fathom using myself to promote anything. I tried going to cons, and it was traumatic being around so many people even if no one was talking to me. I'm much better at being invisible than sexy anyway (and glad for that talent). I don't really notice when an artist is beautiful or plain or whatever, but I have apprehensions about talking to men I don't know (not sure why, minor phobia?). So if I connect a face to a work, I might be less likely to interact with the creator. I'm 95% sure that's a personal hang-up and not at all universal.
bravo1102 at 12:52AM, Dec. 30, 2015
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binaryfaye wrote:
KimLuster wrote:
 
binaryfaye wrote:
 
bravo1102 wrote:
I must apologize.  I get so cranky when I am not regularly updating a comic. 
 No problem. I was about to apologize. I must really be bad at getting my point across. Probably why I usually stay away from the forums. I was only trying to clarify my point and not trying to imply you were wrong. 
 Ha don't listen to Bravo - he's cranky all the time, not just when regularly updating comics!!  *Cackle Snort* Hahaha :D 
Heh! So I should be taking his comments with industrial-sized grains of salt?  
Tongue in cheek. My avatar says it all.  I should have said MORE cranky when not updating a comic.
KimLuster at 9:19AM, Dec. 30, 2015
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Sex sells and it always will!  Our cultural morays won't overcome in a few generations what a few gazillions years of Evolution, in which reproduction, in which the desire to reproduce, which is sexual desire, has ingrained into us.   Our minds have figured out how to control it to some extent (choosing abstinence, birth control…) but those visual triggers in our minds get flicked on when we see human sex.  Yep, yep, they sure do!
.
So, should we artists feel guilty for exploiting such a thing, knowing there's little the audience can do to avoid the pull they feel when viewing our exploitive stuff…?!!
.
I dunno… :D
.
Like Ozone said, some stories just feel out of place when including Sex Appeal.  I feel that's the case with my story the Godstrain, most of the time (but not all the time… ;)).  But, when that story is done, I'm strongly considering a more light-hearted, sorta-serialized thing that would include more blantant sex appeal.  And I know that will likely get me a few more readers, even if my art isn't any better!
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Is it wrong of me to do it, knowing that?!
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And using self to promote stuff…?  I couldn't ever do it - way too private!!  And I agree that my attitude does change about people that blantantly do it.  I like a touch of humility, even for the super-beautiful people…!
binaryfaye at 9:46AM, Dec. 30, 2015
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Honest question, but is there a difference between using yourself to promote and doing fan-meets/conventions and stuff like that?

KimLuster at 1:30PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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binaryfaye wrote:
Honest question, but is there a difference between using yourself to promote and doing fan-meets/conventions and stuff like that?
Yes, I should've avoided a blanket statement…  There's exceptions to everything!  I think if you're just having fun with it, as Ozone does with his costumes…  but people that…  Gaaahhh… ya know, it's another one of those things you just can't define!  But people are smart - they almost always know when someone is just having fun vs someone who knows they have sex-appeal and are purposefully exploiting it to sell their own stuff or to get something.
.
Which is funny because, like it's been said, most of us are sorta fine with using OTHER people (models) to accomplish the same thing!  I guess we just intuitively know that the model is just using a gift to do a job, not to further an agenda…   Weird we humans be!
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There's absolutely nothing wrong with beauty and sex-appeal - I love looking at beautiful people, of all genders!  But I hate if I sense they're using it to exploit me directly!   I mean if they're talking to me directly…  It's like it becomes personal when they're right there in my face.  But pretty models, or cosplayers that are just there to be looked at, or people on advertizments (TV, billboards…), those all feel okay!
bravo1102 at 1:58AM, Dec. 31, 2015
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I am selling the story,  not the storyteller.  There may be sexually appeal in the story and that may sell it but not my ugly face. Fine, come and meet the author, ogle some cosplay, but the creator is just some scribbler sitting at a table. Feed him and he can be most talkative but he is no more sexy than any other bald middle aged man.

I did cosplay back in the day and it was fun but now an aloha shirts and jeans is enough dressing up for a convention. Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.
ozoneocean at 8:57AM, Dec. 31, 2015
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  There's absolutely nothing wrong with beauty and sex-appeal - I love
looking at beautiful people, of all genders!  But I hate if I sense
they're using it to exploit me directly!
  
That too…
Of topic from selling comics- I don't like being aproached by promo models unless it's in a situation like a convention when you go IN there with the understanding you're being sold to. Having those sorts of people approach you in other situations, using their sex appeal to charm you as part of their job is REALLY very off. Your guards are down then. Not cool.
 
 I remember this one time in a pub with a couple of good friends I was approached by this stunning blonde woman with gigantic boobs, wearing a tight white T-shirt with the name of some brand of bear on it… She had a male equivilent with her (big muslced blond guy with sculpted hair), but I didn't even notice him till after. I was just agog “Um.. blarg gag umble blarg.”
I can't even remember what she was trying to promote or what she said. All I can recall is that after I realised I felt pretty crap.
 
El Cid at 11:31AM, Jan. 1, 2016
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It would be unfair for me to use myself to sell comics, because no one could possibly resist!
 
The only time I would have an issue with a comic using sex appeal to draw attention to itself is if it's done disengenuously. Like, you have your attractive female protagonist wearing next-to-nothing in a sexy pinup pose on your thumbnail or cover, but then the comic itself has nothing even vaguely resembling that inside. That's just false advertisement, dammit!
 
Nothing wrong with sex appeal in comics in general, though. From Gilgamesh to King Arthur to James Bond, sex has always been a staple in entertainment and literature. It's a big part of our lives, and works which don't acknowledge that facet of the human experience can come off feeling a bit empty and sterile IMO. There are places where sex appeal and sexism can overlap, but they're two very different and separate subjects.
 
I really don't pay much attention to whether anything in my own comics could be construed as sexist (partially because just about *anything* can be construed as sexist depending on how you look at it). I focus on trying to be as true to my characters and vision as I can be. I didn't create sexism, so it's not my job as an author to filter it out if elements of it creep into the narrative organically. I give my readers credit and assume they're mature enough that they don't need any hand-holding by me, and I'm certainly not going to handcuff my own creativity trying to conform to someone else's idea of how the world “should be” but isn't. Nothing to gain there… and it only costs me my soul.
ozoneocean at 7:27PM, Jan. 1, 2016
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Things are a product of the time in a which they're created, so something very sexist now would seem a lot more out of place than if it were created 50 years ago. Our society isn't the same as it was anymore and our art reflects that. Mostly.
 
El Cid at 8:07PM, Jan. 1, 2016
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For Christmas, I got the complete James Bond 007 box set. My dad was always a big Bond fan, and though I loved the character from the newer movies and parodies and clips, I'd never actually sat down and watched the earlier Sean Connery films.
 
Uhhh… yeah… Sean Connery really liked to slap the ladies around, didn't he!
KimLuster at 6:40AM, Jan. 2, 2016
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El Cid wrote:
For Christmas, I got the complete James Bond 007 box set. My dad was always a big Bond fan, and though I loved the character from the newer movies and parodies and clips, I'd never actually sat down and watched the earlier Sean Connery films.
 
Uhhh… yeah… Sean Connery really liked to slap the ladies around, didn't he!
Cuz women secretly love it -  we're just obligated to act like we don't!  *rolls eyes*
Genejoke at 3:44PM, Jan. 2, 2016
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it's funny how many women do love it, but in the right circumstances. Although I've had my fair share of situations like this…
Harder, harder!
I don't want to hurt you.
I'm not fragile, harder.
ok (goes harder, rougher)
harder, pull my hair, slap me.
i guess…
not like that, harder.
ok
HARDER, I CAN TAKE IT, I'M NOT A CHINA DOLL.
ok
OOOW! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR?
ozoneocean at 11:20PM, Jan. 2, 2016
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Genejoke- A fascinating insight into your life as a hairdesser!
 
bravo1102 at 4:37AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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I have 1098 pages split among 8
different comics on Drunkduck. Human sexuality is a recurring theme
in my work so I have dealt with sexism trying to use irony and
satire. For example it is ironic that every one of my comics passes
the Bechdel test yet features loads of gratuitous female nudity.
Another irony is that my characters are usually modestly clothed but
end up losing that clothing. As one character remarked in Attack
of the Robofemoids
“I’m undressed in this thing more than I’m
dressed.” At first it was only women but as a sexual equalitarian I
later gave equal time to shirtless men. Even picked up a couple of
female readers with that.  


Ever since I read about the Bechdel
test I have followed it in every story. There are usually equal
gender ratios of male to female mainly for my own sexist reasons of
course. All the more females to undress. They get hurt as much as the
male characters. I actually lost a reader since he disapproved of the
depiction of a female character getting killed. That’s another side
of sexism. The chivalrous idea that males have to protect females as
girls just aren’t capable of taking care of themselves. The most
painful human experience is said to be child birth and so far in
human experience that has been a solely female enterprise. Can’t
take care of themselves? Breasts are for feeding infants. Infants are
helpless and truly incapable of caring for themselves. Women come
equipped to care for them so it follows they should be able to take
care of themselves. Males in many cultures are often mere sperm
donors when it comes to parenting. The woman may be wholly owned
property of the male but the children are all hers to raise.


With roughly equal numbers of male to
female characters it is unavoidable two females will talk to each
other about plot points. So that solves the Bechdel problem. And in
many of my created worlds females take care of themselves. In one of
my created universes they are in charge since there is a lack of
males. They are not defined by the man in their life, even the
characters in relationships. I’ve done a lot of world building
asking “what if?’ and have designed cultures to reflect various
patterns of behavior, ones that are completely at variance with our
own. One is Aordian culture. It is a non-monogamous society without
marriage only temporary partnerships to produce children. The
Aordians reject our culture’s need to categorize people by their
sexuality. They say “We are not homo, hetero or bi sexual, just
sexual”


I’ve also put together hermaphrodite
and non-sexual humanoid species. Many are subtle digs at our sexual
hang-ups. Satire. In my universe Earthers are seen as being oppressed
by our sexual hang-ups. That’s why Earth has so many problems and a
reason it is so backwards. This is based on research into theories
regarding human sexual selection and sex among other species. Why did
evolution choose for specific genders rather than hermaphrodites? Why
is sexual selection so important that adaptations for it outweigh
other things among many species? And sex like eyes evolved more than
once. I keep an open mind and just ask “what if?” Characters are
reflections of their culture but have their own beliefs whether
closed or open minded. 
bravo1102 at 4:40AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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But wait there's more to bravo's wall of text! Now he tackles his characters! This resulted in a few sprains. a concussion and a dislocated shoulder. 
You know a topic like this can cause me
to get very introspective. Usually I do characters to represent
differing points of view. I like creating foils to play off one
another often for comical effect as opposed to debates and arguments.
So usually if there is a sexist character there is another more open
minded one for contrast.


My first comic was the epic fantasy Go
a Viking! There are a couple of runaway princesses in it. One is a
warrior but no one bats an eye at that only that she’s a bit too
impetuous and impulsive. That was to break the whole women can’t be
warriors thing. However another is disowned by her family for b
becoming a sorceress. Her late father is painted as very conservative
and one popular view of sorceresses is as little better than whores.
The sorceress cult does figure in the background of most of my
stories.


Annahdeism or the Cult of the Golden
Goddess is based on my research into the evidence of a goddess cult
in Europe and elsewhere in ancient times. Annah therefore has
attributes of Inanna, Isis, Astarte, Diana, Athena, Kwannon,
Morrigan, Klai and so on. In her true original form she is a magic
using warrior goddess who also is a patron of science and learning
and righteous vengeance. In fact an outlined series of novels based
on her was entitled Goddess of Vengeance. In my most recent
comic Tales of SIG there was an allusion to her cult when a
character uses one of its techniques to awaken someone in a coma.


Then came the lovable Grey Guys who
first appeared in Attack of the Robofemoids. I had ventured
into science fiction so now I could just world build cultures with
alternate views on sexuality in addition to characters. Bill, Hank
and Bob were first conceived as a two frat boy pranksters and their
older boss who is annoyed by their antics. All with very sexist
attitudes of women as mere objects for their experiments that they
love undressing. Hence Bob’s tag line “Strip them for
conversion!” There is also a human named Ostrowski who takes that
one step further being obsessed with porn and big tits.


The breast obsession continues in Mask
of the Aryans
with its tag line of “Topless gladiators in
desperate combat.” It was silly nonsensical adventure. Pride in
your unadorned torso was the excuse for both genders running around
shirtless in classic fantasy “barbarian” manner. It took place in
an alternate 1960 so the reaction to bare breasted female gladiators
was typical sexist silliness. It remains my longest comic and the
only one without an ending written or even an actual script being
improvised scene by scene, but always trying to maintain the
exploitation move tongue in cheek.


The sequel Battle of the Robofemoids
expanded the universe they inhabited past the silly boob loving
exploitation science fiction movie of the first comic. A good
discussion of this comic can be found in the review on Lite Bites.
Battle of turned the tables on the Grey Guys with the
introduction of who is really in charge of their culture; the Grey
Gals. Grey Guys come from a female dominated society and are envious
of Earthers because “They’re one the few planets where men are in
charge” It also introduced the Aordians and the fact that there was
a shortage of males across humanity in the galaxy because of past
errors in genetic engineering. That way I could have more female
characters so there could be more boobs. But keeping to equal time
the comic also introduced the Robohomoid the male equivalent of the
robofemoid. You see in my universe females are the dominant sex.
That follows nature and other species where the life-giving female is
the default gender.


Tales of SIG expands the
universe to include a variation of the original series of Star Trek.
That way I can interaction between various groups like the once
sexless Falasnorians who have interbred with humans to reintroduce
gender, the Grey Guys and the humanoids of Star Trek including
boyishly charming rakes who are star ship captains, emotional doctors
and just for the heck of it both the Nimoy and Quinto Mr. Spock.  
ozoneocean at 9:08AM, Jan. 4, 2016
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So we're doing this for the next Quackcast- as Bravo knows ‘cos he’s going to join us…
So Bravo, were you angling to get a massive ad for all your comics in here? :D
That will be WAY too long to read out straight man. Waaaaaaaay!
 
—————–
 
I just had a thought- most of us, pretty much ALL of us are saying why our stuff isn't sexist or even if it is we don't care.
That's all very well but how WOULD we define sexisim in our comics?
This is my take:
 
1. The Bechdel test is a very poor guide. It's basically a minor indicator because context is more important.
- Most female character heavy comics will easily pass the test, whether it's a harem comic, or anything else.
 
2. Chraracter outfits, relative showing of skin based on gender, and he amount of “sexy” poses is another poor guide, because once again context is the most important factor.
- If in a superhero comic the males are all heroic and fighty while the females just perform sex-pose after sex-pose on every panel they're in then you have a problem! If the male characters are in poses that traditionally accentuate THEIR sexual traits though, then something else is going on
- The Hawkeye project was moronic. Male figures and female figures have very different poses to best show their assets because each gender's assests are in completely different places and theur bodies are different so gender swapping sexy poses doesn't point out the innaproprateness of the pose, rather it will always look automatically dumb because it's being done by the wrong body shape.
 
3. Gender roles ARE an important factor. If all the women characters are mothers, nurses, secretaries, maids, cooks, strippers, prosititues etc, then you're either drawing a historical period work or you're a little bit behind the times and should take a bit of a look at yourself.
 
4. Gender balance- You don't have to make everything 50-50 with men and women in your comic, maybe it's a WW2 comic or it's set on a monestory or a girl's school or something… Context is a big thing here. But if it's a modern setting and it's not a specialised situation then you should consider balancing things out a little. Think about the fact that the comic reading audience is split about 50/50 these days- do you really want to alienate half of them by giving them no representation…
 
5. Bad sterotypes - This goes on from the last one. If their IS a woman in the gang that's great… but is she a token? Is she a sterotype? Is she there to be eyecandy? If  the answer is yes to any of those points then it's a sexist work.
 
bravo1102 at 9:19AM, Jan. 4, 2016
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I wrote that up before I was invited to the sexism Quackcast.  
ozoneocean at 9:35AM, Jan. 4, 2016
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But it's dated Sunday and the Quackcast was on Saturday XD
Fair enough you may have written it up on a doc and then posted it later.
 
Anyway, you made some good points. Good on you for haning a close look at your work like that.
 
bravo1102 at 9:42AM, Jan. 4, 2016
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Since sexuality and sexism are two of my primary themes I tend to get introspective about how I have treated them in my work. Admittedly Attack of the Robofemoids was very,very sexist which is why I have gone for equal gender representation and all since. Interstellar Blood Beasts had equal male female cast in what would traditionally would have been  male with a couple of female tokens. 
El Cid at 1:12PM, Jan. 4, 2016
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Dictionary.com wrote:
Sexism
 
(sek - siz - uh m)
 
noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles.
 
2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.
 
3. ingrained and institutionalized prejudice against or hatred of women; misogyny.
 
Origin: 1965-1970
 
 
Identifying sexism in our comics… you can go either micro or macro with that. For an individual comic, just look for any of the above. Be as loose as you want in applying the terms, depending on how witch hunty you want to be about it.
 
It gets more interesting when you look at the macro picture. Let's say I do a comic with a prototypical strong male superhero protagonist. Nothing necessarily sexist about that. But now let's say hundreds of other artists do the same thing… and only a sparse handful of creators do comics with kick-ass female main characters. No one individually has done anything overtly sexist… but taken as a whole, it creates the impression that the community undervalues women. That's what makes sexism such a tricky subject; it's not that it's victimless, but it can seem to be almost offenderless at times. And trying to single out individual comics which are “off message” is not only toxic behavior, but it's generally going to be extraneous to the bigger picture anyway.
 
I think the more pressing question is not how we define sexism in our webcomics, but deciding how we actually feel about it and how – or if – it should be addressed. Taking a look at a specific comic might help.
 
The Stick Up Kids by Blackhoodcomics is a gangster comic here on The Duck where pretty much all of the males are either tough street thugs with a vocabulary of colorful four-letter words and itchy trigger fingers, or cops trying to bust them. All of the women seem to be either strippers or prostitutes, and you rarely see a female in the comic who isn't barely dressed. In short, it would probably meet just about any of our definitions of “sexist.”
 
However, it's also a fairly accurate – if unapologetic – depiction of the world these kinds of people live in, from their perspective. It might better fit some people's idea of a “gender friendly” comic if maybe there were some tough female gangsters, and more female cops, and maybe if one of the tough male gangsters is a stay-at-home dad… but all of that would dilute the comic, and make it less true-to-life. Likewise if someone were to write a story about Islamic militants from the militants' perspective, I doubt it would jive very well with our Western valuation of gender roles. Good literature that actually reveals something to us about the human condition needs to take an unflinching look at its subjects as they truly are, warts and all. Bad literature tells us nothing about the real world, and only tells us about the writer's personal ideals and prejudices. It would be immensely small-minded of any of us were we to assume that our own standards were the only ones that matter, and all art should aspire to conform to it. I would say that ‘Stick Up Kids’ is a very sexist comic, but I would also say I don't care all that much. I don't need to agree with the characters or like the world they live in for me to gain something from reading their story.
irrevenant at 2:11PM, Jan. 4, 2016
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My take on the Bechdel Test is that it's useful but a lot of people expect it to be more than it is. Some people seem to think it's some sort of litmus test for whether or not a work is sexist. It isn't, and as far as I can tell, it was never intended to be. It's a test for one particular unfortunate trend.  The word “trend” is important too. The original comic featuring the Bechdel Test wasn't saying that all, or even most, works need to pass the test to be non-sexist: it was lamenting that it was nigh-impossible to find any films that pass. If you produce a work with no homosexuality characters in it, that doesn't make you or the work homophic.  If noone were producing works with homosexual characters? Probably a warning sign.

Similar thing with character outfits and sexy poses. Doesn't necessarily indicate a problem with a specific work, but if you're seeing a lot of it, that's a problem 'cos it reinforces the "men are there to take action, women are there to look pretty first and foremost". If superheroes aren't incidentally sexy, you're doing something wrong.  Think of how sexy athletes in action are - they don't have to strike useless poses in the middle of the action to pull that off.

The Hawkeye Project is flawed: Like you said, female poses look intrinsically wrong on a man because the sexes are shaped and move differently.  But it does do a very good job of taking the art outside of its regular context so it can be viewed outside of those normal expectations. IMO, it's main use isn't to “disprove” specific poses, it's to make people more aware of these sorts of poses rather than them just being part of the background noise of comics. 
usedbooks at 2:25PM, Jan. 4, 2016
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I think you hit another nail to point out how quickly some people will yell sexism (or racism or whatever else) at a work whose entire point is to highlight those issues and that world. Going color-blind (or gender-blind) pretends such things don't exist. But some works' entire point is to highlight those issues or to spoof them or otherwise make a point.


Hence how my sister sees a misogynistic character in my story and calls it sexist. He's not a good character. He's bad. Other male characters are chivalrous (another form of sexism really). They are less bad, but sometimes get called on it. And while my own work is gender-balanced, if I wrote a satire about hyper macho heroes saving helpless women, that work, in a certain tone, would not be sexist but anti-sexist. (Yes, many people don't understand satire or irony, but you don't need to defend your work to the dim-witted, let alone change it.)
Hawk at 4:17PM, Jan. 11, 2016
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That “What is sexism” question is really tricky…  because this is the kind of topic that has a lot of opinions and a fair amount of moving goalposts.  I feel like I agree with several of the ones Ozone brought up, but I vary a bit in some ways.
 
1. I agree that the Bechdel test isn't very good…  In fact, I think it might be the biggest distraction from good writing since somebody coined the term “strong female character”.  You can pretty much run down a series if checkboxes to pass and it still won't help you all that much.  The good thing about it is that it helps you think about women in your comics, but its criteria are almost arbitrary and have little to do with what makes a good character.  Even Ms. Bechdel herself thinks it's a bad test.
 
2. The Outfits thing is a good point.  Probably the big thing to remember is, “Am I doing anything to a woman that I wouldn't do to a man?”  So I think you can have nearly-naked Conan-the-Barbarian women in your comic similarly nearly-naked men exist, and if you've established that it's the way people dress in the world you made.
Sidenote: I've seen a handful of “Feminist redesigns comic book characters” articles, and I always think the designs are super-ugly.  Part of it is that it's usually a hack artist, but another part is that they decide that even though men are wearing spandex in the comic, women shouldn't be.  It always ends up with overly-practical designs in a world that doesn't require them.
 
3. I agree with the “roles” point, and I think it swings both ways.  It isn't women's job to be rescued by men, but it also isn't men's job to fight and die for women.  It isn't women's job to be the motherly character, but it also isn't men's job to be the stupid idiot manchild.  And I know a person can't avoid all stereotypes and gender roles entirely, so it's really up to the author to just be wary and commit themselves to providing something “fresh” for readers.
 
4. Here's where we differ.  I don't buy the idea of changing the balance of the cast to satisfy a ratio that people consider “fair”.  I think if somebody wants to make something that's just for boys, they're entitled to it, and vice-versa for girls.  And if they want to tell a story with all boys and all girls, they should be able to.  We wouldn't demand the My Little Pony people add boys to show and we shouldn't demand the Avengers add women to the team.  In other words, I think the author's vision should supercede people's ideas of balance and fairness.  I once saw a movie starring 15 grandmas and one man (he was in it for two minutes), and I never once thought “This movie isn't for me.”  And if they had added men or young people it would have changed the intent of movie.
 
(Note: I realize that having a diverse cast is a thing that can make a comic more interesting.  I'm just saying that it should be up to the author's discretion, and if they still end up making something with not enough for you, then tough luck.  Not everything must cater to every person.  In fact, when they do, you can end up with things like the Burger King Kids Club.)
 
irrevenant at 2:44AM, Jan. 12, 2016
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I don't know what Alison Bechdel said about it, but the Bechdel Test isn't a bad test - it's just not a general purpose test for telling if a given work is sexist.  Essentially it's exactly what it appears to be - a test for whether a particular work has dialogue between women that doesn't revolve around a man.  The comic strip in which the Bechdel Test originated was lamenting that there didn't seem to be any movies around that fit that criterion so it also seems intended as a comment on the overall trend in movies rather than a make or break test for individual movies.  Failing (or passing) the Bechdel Test doesn't automatically make a work sexist (or not) - it's too complex a topic for that.  But if some movie makers take note of the Bechdel test and we end up with more movies where female characters get to discuss things other than men, that's hardly a bad thing. :)

Re: diverse cast, balanced ratios etc. my position is basically that stories often default to white and male, and that's so predominent that if you're looking at creating a character that's white and/or male, I think it's worth asking the question whether you're doing so for a particular reason or if you've just fallen back on the default.  If you've just fallen back on the default it's worth considering an alternative.  If you have good reason for making your character white and/or male - it's a particular historical period or a particular setting - or even just that it feels like the character should be.  But ideally it should be a conscious decision, not one you just defaulted to.  And given the prevalence of white and/or male characters, if you're just going with the default for no better reason than it's the default, it's worth considering making the character something else.

That's what happened with my character Chaos.  I thought about it and realised I'd just defaulted to making the character white male and there was nothing intrinsically white or male about the character concept.  That was just how I'd assumed the character should go.  I hadn't launched the comic (still haven't >_>) so I changed it.  And now I get to draw more women and a greater variety of characters! \o/  (And I ended up with that truly epic Secret Santa picture from Fallopian Crusader!)
Hawk wrote:
 
1. I agree that the Bechdel test isn't very good…  In fact, I think it might be the biggest distraction from good writing since somebody coined the term “strong female character”.  You can pretty much run down a series if checkboxes to pass and it still won't help you all that much.  The good thing about it is that it helps you think about women in your comics, but its criteria are almost arbitrary and have little to do with what makes a good character.  Even Ms. Bechdel herself thinks it's a bad test.
 

4. Here's where we differ.  I don't buy the idea of changing the balance of the cast to satisfy a ratio that people consider “fair”.  I think if somebody wants to make something that's just for boys, they're entitled to it, and vice-versa for girls.  And if they want to tell a story with all boys and all girls, they should be able to.  We wouldn't demand the My Little Pony people add boys to show and we shouldn't demand the Avengers add women to the team.  In other words, I think the author's vision should supercede people's ideas of balance and fairness.  I once saw a movie starring 15 grandmas and one man (he was in it for two minutes), and I never once thought “This movie isn't for me.”  And if they had added men or young people it would have changed the intent of movie.
 
(Note: I realize that having a diverse cast is a thing that can make a comic more interesting.  I'm just saying that it should be up to the author's discretion, and if they still end up making something with not enough for you, then tough luck.  Not everything must cater to every person.  In fact, when they do, you can end up with things like the Burger King Kids Club.)
  
last edited on Jan. 12, 2016 2:47AM
ozoneocean at 11:12AM, Jan. 12, 2016
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Good point Irrevenant: just because something is common in prevailing pop-culture doesn't mean it's fair, natural, normal or the default. Gender imbalance, as already pointed out, is a problem when it is NOT about context: if we're NOT talking about a men's prison or My little Pony, why should the default situation be 3 guys to every girl?
 
——
 
One problem from the other side: 
Female secondary sex traits are often talked about as being represented in comic and that's contrasted with the portrayal of male characters where muscles are shown- the idea is that muscles are about a “power” fantasy or something.
I disagree with this. Muscles are the male version of a secondary sex trait. They ARE the big boobs, thin waist and bubble butt on men, of the most exaggerated sort. 
 
There is no male power fantasy involved in looking at massive muscles. Men will appreciate a muscular male figure, not in a direct homoerotic sense, but rather as a representative of the male sexual ideal that they wish they were. The same reason many women appreciate female sexual ideal characters… But by the same token- many men and women are turned OFF by those sorts of character, especially when the exaggeration is taken too far.
  
Muscles are not about power, they're tits for men, tits that you cover your entire body in. :)
And they're about as useful for real world.activities…
Many men will even have silicone implants or saline injections to achieve the ideal look, which is VERY telling.
 
Hawk at 3:55PM, Jan. 12, 2016
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But what is “fair”, “natural,” or “normal”?
Is it normal for a group of friends to look like this?  Or a gang to look like this?
Is it natural for a group of eight-year-olds on a playground to be a 50/50 split of boys and girls?  People often group according to similarities, after all.
 
And “fair”…  first you'll have to convince me that not enough of one gender is “unfair”.  If we step back to My Little Pony you mentioned that it was as exempt from gender ratios as a Men's Prison.  Why is that?  Why must the Avengers balance their gender ratio but My Little Pony must not?
ozoneocean wrote:
Good point Irrevenant: just because something is common in prevailing pop-culture doesn't mean it's fair, natural, normal or the default.
 
ozoneocean at 8:40PM, Jan. 12, 2016
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You're still looking at that too directly Hawk- look at it overall, in the broader context- men and women represent a pretty much 50/50 split of the audience for most things, while stuff that's gender balanced or has more females than males is still the exception. There's something nasty and skewed about that and if we can make the change ourselves, so much the better. 
We talk about that in our latest Quackcast: http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/quackcast/
 
Hawk at 3:28PM, Jan. 13, 2016
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I think something may have gone wrong because I got a whole quackcast about stories starting at the climax.  And since you didn't answer any of my questions I'll have to guess what you're trying to tell me.  And my guess is that you're trying to tell me that the overal pool of characters in fiction are mostly male, so an artist/author has a social responsiblity to adjust their cast to make up for the deficit of female characters that other creators have left them with.
 
Now, please understand, I'm not trying to say that a wide range of characters and a good selection from both genders isn't nice, but I'm really troubled by the current trend of people thinking they can decide the appropriate gender ratio for already-made stories, and then publicly shame the creators for not meeting their standards.  I strongly believe in the idea of having artistic freedom, and I've seen social pressure suck the charm right out a good thing before.
 

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