Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stop Telling Me to Make Female-Driven Things If I Want Them

I was having a conversation with someone about sexualized images of women, i.e. posters of half naked women in office environments. I pointed out that the problem is not with partial nudity in itself but the context behind having a sexualized image of a woman hanging in an office in a field that is dominated by men. I said it would have been another matter if there was a poster of sexualized, half-naked man on the wall, and proceeded to point out that the female gaze is usually ignored if not considered nonexistent by advertisers.

He essentially responded, "If you want your own images of half-naked men, make them."

His argument was that I should become a photographer and take pictures of half-naked men (or draw them) for a living if I wanted those images out there for public consumption.

If I were making my living as a photographer, it would be great idea. It would be an even better idea if I were a known photographer who had connections to decent galleries or worked for an advertising company that was receptive to this idea. However, it's an argument that men happy with the status quo generally throw out whenever women complain that an industry doesn't serve them. And it's a very weak one.

"If you think video games don't feature enough female characters, become a game designer and make your own video game!"

"If you think easily accessible mainstream pornography treats women like dirt, make your own pornography!"

Those statements try to oversimplify complicated problems and put the onus on women instead of men for failing to acknowledge women's humanity, as if it's assumed that men never will and never should have empathy for women and want to write our stories, or shoot our advertisements or direct our porn. The trouble with that statement is not that it asks women to be activist. Women should be activist. The trouble with that statement is that it totally abandons the idea of men being part of the solution and more specifically, a part of the feminist movement.

It also fails to acknowledge the fact that most movements do need help from the people who have financial, social and political power over them in order to work. A lot of women are doing these things, but it's hard to bring them to fruition when the people who hold the purse strings are still predominantly male. The people who run the businesses that decide how to market a product are mostly men, and the people who decide whether or not your porn gets distributed or marketed well are men.

Women should not have to quit their jobs as nurses to make porn because there isn't any porn out there that suits them. That's nonsensical. If a woman who majored in film as an "aha" moment and this presents itself as a creative and smart business opportunity, that's great! But that nurse shouldn't have to leave her career to find things that exist for her. It should be out there because the need exists and someone in the industry recognized it.

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