One of the ways that my life has changed in the last year is that my exposure to comics has increased (from zero to some). So I get to see images like this:
Which is a nice addition to my life. *sigh*
I also get to see tweet rants about such images, by Jeph Jacques (you have to read them in reverse order, sorry):
He got a replies, generally along the lines of, “Totally man, those images are so stupid and awful,” or “I love the stories but I really struggle with the art,” or “I don’t buy them.”
But clearly people DO buy them – specifically men between the ages of 18-45 buy them. They can’t stop themselves. Really. Or they COULD if the immediate cost were higher or the long-term cost more saliently negative, but it’s just not.
So, JJ, “the kind of person who would buy a comic book based on that cover” is essentially any male comics reader who hasn’t had his consciousness raised to such an extent that an image like that becomes actively repulsive. And lots of otherwise perfectly nice men, essentially women-respecting, non-violent men, who just have never been required to think it through, will pick it up because it has boobs on it.
And not being actively repulsed by those images doesn’t make them bad people or misogynists. It just makes them American men – which truly is not the same thing.
It reminds me of this “On the Media” story about Youtube’s\ “Reply Girls,” women who post replies to popular videos on Youtube, and the videos primarily feature their abundant cleavage. One 11 year old boy posted a reply about the reply girls, saying:
So these new boob girl videos, that make replies, absolutely annoy me… All these men can’t help it, clicking on the video, I mean I fell for it…
And he’s right.
Because we’re MONKEYS.
Impulse control is evolutionarily novel – it’s a key factor in our success as a species, our ability to postpone short-term gratification to prevent long-term harm; but when the cost of not controlling an impulse is low (like, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you click on a related video featuring boobs?), the inhibitory strategy just will not kick in. Boobs. Click. Boobs click. Boobsclick. B-click. And some poor 11 year old is left befuddled and enraged that he’s being played like a round of golf, not realizing that he’s just a monkey with consciousness – or as Jonathan Haidt puts it, a person riding an elephant.
An elephant that LOVES BOOBS.
I’ve written before about how sad I find it that adolescent boys and men are being exposed to such a limited, unhelpful representation of women’s bodies. But it’s bigger than that, isn’t it? When guys’ brains tolerate those images and blindly consume them the way a pre-schooler stuffs Skittles into his mouth, that creates an environment where the larger-scale consequences of objectification are invisible.
I want to make sure this is very clear: I do NOT think that guys who click on the reply girl videos or buy the bullshit comics are potential rapists. Mostly I think men are pretty nice guys, with a small number of VERY BIG EXCEPTIONS, right? A quote from my blog where I say as much, has been making the rounds on Tumblr. I said:
Not being assaulted is not a privilege to be earned through the judicious application of personal safety strategies. A woman should be able to walk down the street at 4 in the morning in nothing but her socks, blind drunk, without being assaulted, and I, for one, am not going to do anything to imply that she is in any way responsible for her own assault if she fails to Adequately Protect Herself. Men aren’t helpless dick-driven maniacs who can’t help raping a vulnerable woman. It disrespects EVERYONE.
Men are NOT helpless, gormless children. Guys who click the reply girls and buy the comics do so because the cost of objectification is borne almost entirely by WOMEN. When men begin to bear a portion of that cost – by being taught by guys who are not just NICE, but actively ENLIGHTENED about this stuff (JJ, the romantic euphemism, et al) – then the images will become actively repulsive, the inhibitory mechanism will kick in, and peace will reign in the kingdom.
It’s a gigantic project. It will take time. And it has to start when kids are really, really young.
Okay, ready? Go.