How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by eselle28 on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:08 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Then she has never freaking read the books.

I guess she has.

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo18232225.html

reboundstudent wrote:the other 75% is ruminations and endless "communication" about the relationship, the "damage" behind the kink , and just waffling back and forth.

That's what she feels is so critizised maybe not *in* the book, but *by* the book (50SoG). "Hard Core Romance" is actually very interesting because it really gets down to a lot of the consent discussions on a philosophical level: There *is* an inherent conflict between what she identifies as major social narratives in the West - romantic love (since about 1800) and personal autonomy (post WW2) - love is *defined* by giving up autonomy, autonomy is defined by not allowing love. "Consent" is entirely about autonomy, and it requires constant renegotiations, and that creates complexity, and certainly often confusion that was not present before - to be sure, usually at the expense of women who did not consent. But now books like 50SoG and all the others indicate that the communication requirements seem to be too much for many people, including women. And we don't really know how to rebalance the will to autonomy with the desire for succumbing to being desired (going back to the article now: also because the male performance of absolute imperative desire is even more impeded by constant communicative requirements.) The appeal of BDSM/50SoG is thus the creation of a pre-defined zone of acceptance in which consent is considered to be given until actually revoked (by safeword).

I strongly, strongly disagree with her reading of the books. As RBS said, the couple featured in this book spend almost all of their time negotiating and renegotiating the terms of their relationship.

I also do not believe the books feature a pre-defined zone of acceptance in which consent is given until revoked. In fact, I'd argue that there's not a single example of sex in the series that proceeds under those terms. The first book features a number of encounters which don't proceed along those lines specifically at Ana's request and that use the same rules of consent as those in non-BDSM relationships, one encounter I would consider to be a rape, and one encounter where Ana fails to use a safe word and is blamed afterwards for not having done so. The following two books feature an instance of Ana using a safe word and then having to argue with her partner afterwards because her use of it hurts his feelings and some encounters that I think proceed mostly along the lines or ordinary expectations of consent. The series resolves with Christian moving away from his interest in BDSM because Ana's love has cured his emotional issues and, by the book's logic, also changed his sexual tastes.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:16 pm

eselle28 wrote:I strongly, strongly disagree with her reading of the books. As RBS said, the couple featured in this book spend almost all of their time negotiating and renegotiating the terms of their relationship.

I believe you, but I really can't argue on that level, I've only read the meta analysis, I've only read three random pages of SoG and decided it's not worth reading. I consider it a social phenomenon, and thus am interested in the reasons for its success - hence reading Illouz - but not the book itself. I may still have to read it, apparently.

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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by eselle28 on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:24 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
eselle28 wrote:I strongly, strongly disagree with her reading of the books. As RBS said, the couple featured in this book spend almost all of their time negotiating and renegotiating the terms of their relationship.

I believe you, but I really can't argue on that level, I've only read the meta analysis, I've only read three random pages of SoG and decided it's not worth reading. I consider it a social phenomenon, and thus am interested in the reasons for its success - hence reading Illouz - but not the book itself. I may still have to read it, apparently.

If you think it's worth discussing on a level that goes beyond the occasional aside, I would say it's best to read it. It's difficult to examine the social phenomenon around a work without firsthand knowledge of the work itself. For whatever it's worth, I read it for those reasons and not because it particularly appealed to me.

If you want my take on why it became a social phenomenon, it's because it uses a bunch of extremely old romance tropes (naive young girl tames dangerous, handsome, wealthy man with nothing but the power of her love), because its author played the fan fiction tie in angle by building on an existing popular series without bothering to license it, and because it's one of the first widely marketed books of erotica some of its readers have been exposed to.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Jan 30, 2015 3:18 pm

eselle28 wrote:
If you want my take on why it became a social phenomenon, it's because it uses a bunch of extremely old romance tropes (naive young girl tames dangerous, handsome, wealthy man with nothing but the power of her love), because its author played the fan fiction tie in angle by building on an existing popular series without bothering to license it, and because it's one of the first widely marketed books of erotica some of its readers have been exposed to.

You mean a book that was marketed really well, specifically catered to a popular fandom of a previous series with the exact same themes, and could be read much more discreetly than most erotica was extremely widely read?



Edited to note: I find it disturbing that there is so much attention paid to Twilight/50 Shades. There are many, many examples of romance or erotica out there that appealed to large amounts of women, and yet only these are the one that get any attention or recognition. It just so happens that these are also the ones that have examples of abusive and stereotypical misogynistic attitudes. I can't help but think there is something very deliberate in the decision to focus on such a narrow slice of "what sexy media women enjoy."
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by Mel on Fri Jan 30, 2015 3:55 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Edited to note: I find it disturbing that there is so much attention paid to Twilight/50 Shades. There are many, many examples of romance or erotica out there that appealed to large amounts of women, and yet only these are the one that get any attention or recognition. It just so happens that these are also the ones that have examples of abusive and stereotypical misogynistic attitudes. I can't help but think there is something very deliberate in the decision to focus on such a narrow slice of "what sexy media women enjoy."

This is becoming a bit of a tangent, but you know, that's a really good point. You look at two of the other super-popular YA book/movie franchises right now, The Hunger Games and Divergent, which at least in the former case have just as many fans invested as Twilight, and what do you see? In one, a male love interest who's weaker, kinder, and less aggressive than the female main character, and in the other, a male love interest who's explicitly stated and shown to be as romantically and sexually inexperienced and nervous as the female main character. Millions of women seem to find those pairings plenty appealing. But yes, let's act as if Twilight and its derivatives are the only widely read series out there. Razz
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How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:48 pm

And another aspect of Hunger Games' romance subplot... I got the impression through most of the book that the "love triangle" was not actually one at all, since the entirety of the romantic intentions were coming from the male leads towards Katniss, with Katniss being mostly frustrated and uncertain about how to deal with that when she's busy trying to keep her family safe and alive.

(Give me a sec and I'll port some of these posts off into a new thread in case anyone wants to talk about the way womens' media is picked apart more, especially the focus that tends to be put on ones that meet certain stereotypes).

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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:51 pm

Mel wrote:
This is becoming a bit of a tangent, but you know, that's a really good point. You look at two of the other super-popular YA book/movie franchises right now, The Hunger Games and Divergent, which at least in the former case have just as many fans invested as Twilight, and what do you see? In one, a male love interest who's weaker, kinder, and less aggressive than the female main character, and in the other, a male love interest who's explicitly stated and shown to be as romantically and sexually inexperienced and nervous as the female main character. Millions of women seem to find those pairings plenty appealing. But yes, let's act as if Twilight and its derivatives are the only widely read series out there. Razz

And to compare apples with apples, 50 Shades isn't even all that remarkable. Romance/erotica novels are a huge industry, and have been for at least a decade. Just to put it in perspective, Starz felt that the fanbase/story was sufficient enough to take a chance on "Outlander," a romance novel that premiered over 13 years ago.

I feel like the only reason there's suddenly a spotlight on women-enjoyed erotica is because the media decided it should focus on it. 50 Shades wasn't a sudden, inexplicable phenomenon, but just the first thing that seemed to gain any significant media attention (which, in turn, increased its readership.) What's also interesting to me is that Twilight/50 Shades supposedly revealed this underbelly of female-pleasure-aimed books and stories, and yet there was absolutely no follow-up on what other popular, main stream romance novels women might be enjoying. To again bring up the Outlander parallel... aside from a few articles mentioning the premiere, there's been almost no attention paid to it. Despite the fact that it's a sexy story based on a romance novel.


*Cough*

All of this kind of makes me side-eye the idea that this is all just "facts" reporting, and that there isn't some heavy selection bias going on. And if there is bias, why it's bias that favors stories that just reinforced stereotypes that women are passive, fragile creatures who have to be controlled and abused for their own good okay now I see it.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:20 pm

I'm not a big fantasy reader, but thing I'm remembering in the context of initiating women is - Californication. Hank Moody, who's quite the dysfunctional person, gets laid all the time and it's *always* women who want him because he's allegedly yummy and witty and erudite. Kind of bad boy, but definitely not performing the classic male "ravish me" performance. He's not taking anything at all. He's enjoying the opportunity as it falls into his laps, but he doesn't really initiate anything. It's all the women.

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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by kleenestar on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:22 pm

I'm not interested in hearing a dude's take on 50 Shades if he couldn't be bothered to read more than three pages of it, or for that matter even if he read the whole thing and couldn't be bothered to attempt an act of imaginative empathy with a woman who might have liked it. I'm not willing to commit to reading the whole series, which is why I don't talk about the books, but maybe at some point I will have to do so - and when I do, I'll be trying to read them with openness instead of contempt.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily trust Sam's interpretation of Illouz - we all know how much he reads his own issues into everything. I really like her work, so I'll read it at some point and report back.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:39 pm

kleenestar wrote:I'm not interested in hearing a dude's take on 50 Shades if he couldn't be bothered to read more than three pages of it, or for that matter even if he read the whole thing and couldn't be bothered to attempt an act of imaginative empathy with a woman who might have liked it. I'm not willing to commit to reading the whole series, which is why I don't talk about the books, but maybe at some point I will have to do so - and when I do, I'll be trying to read them with openness instead of contempt.

I admit, that was very hard to do for me. I think I might have had less contempt for it if it didn't seem to have contempt for me. It was very strange reading a book in which it felt like the protagonist themselves hated me, the reader. For example, if you're a kink woman who picked up this book because hey, finally, a somewhat-mainstream romance novel exploring your love of BDSM, you'd be told over and over (and over) by the author that your sexual interest is gross, and the result of a messed up personality. If you were brand new to the kink and sort of curious to see what it's like, you'd get a face full of "Do Not Do It This Way" without ever realizing it, because the book portrays incredibly unhealthy boundaries and behavior as just how kink works.

Then there's the really weird women bashing that seems to happen more or less nonstop. I mean, I can now at least give credit to Bella from Twilight because she seemed to hate everyone who wasn't a vampire. Ana seems to have nothing but snarky, hateful contempt for anything female, even if the character is her mother or her own best friend. It was bizarre reading through a book that felt like it was angry with me for daring to be a woman and kinky.

Eselle mentioned that she's been running into these themes quite a bit in YA novels, and I agree. If there's anything I'd love to see explored about media aimed at women, it's why so many current books seem to love female protagonists who are hateful, judgmental misogynists (I can't say misandrists, because of course the female protagonist always just loves the hunky, attractive, sensitive guys forming the love triangle around her.)
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by Werel on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:50 pm

reboundstudent wrote:If there's anything I'd love to see explored about media aimed at women, it's why so many current books seem to love female protagonists who are hateful, judgmental misogynists (I can't say misandrists, because of course the female protagonist always just loves the hunky, attractive, sensitive guys forming the love triangle around her.)

Well... I am embarrassed to say it, but I know that when I was younger, it was gratifying to see female misogynists portrayed because it made me feel less alone. It validated my feelings of contempt and shame towards womanhood, and portrayed women who shared that self-rejecting stance as admirable. I have to imagine there are many, many women who have been (or still are) in those shoes, and so woman-aimed media might be onto something really marketable by having female protagonists struggle with internalized misogyny.

I just wish more media also portrayed ways to get the fuck past that mindset, instead of essentially patting girls on the back for hating themselves and each other. Neutral
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by eselle28 on Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:55 pm

kleenestar wrote:I'm not interested in hearing a dude's take on 50 Shades if he couldn't be bothered to read more than three pages of it, or for that matter even if he read the whole thing and couldn't be bothered to attempt an act of imaginative empathy with a woman who might have liked it. I'm not willing to commit to reading the whole series, which is why I don't talk about the books, but maybe at some point I will have to do so - and when I do, I'll be trying to read them with openness instead of contempt.

Like RBS, this was a struggle for me. I found the heroine to be contemptuous of all women who were unlike her, and I am unlike her in so many ways. It probably didn't help that there's a lot of what strike me as being unintentionally included and unprocessed feelings about food and weight and body type in the book, which tended to interact in nasty ways with my ED. Because of that, I wasn't able to read the books in an entirely generous fashion and needed to supplement them with snarky blogger recaps to make it through.

That being said, I think there's a difference between having contempt for a work and having contempt for people who enjoyed the work. It takes some effort for me to put myself in the place of the women I know who read and enjoyed it, but it's something I think I can do and that I've tried to do.

reboundstudent wrote:
Eselle mentioned that she's been running into these themes quite a bit in YA novels, and I agree. If there's anything I'd love to see explored about media aimed at women, it's why so many current books seem to love female protagonists who are hateful, judgmental misogynists (I can't say misandrists, because of course the female protagonist always just loves the hunky, attractive, sensitive guys forming the love triangle around her.)    

I've definitely been seeing a lot of that protagonist lately. I'll clarify that I don't think it's a YA-specific trope, though! I've seen it in a variety of works marketed to adults as well, both in romance and urban fantasy settings.

But...veering things back to the stated topic, I do think that particularly troublesome but popular works tend to be the ones most highlighted, and also that they tend to be the ones most likely to be labeled as being womancentric. It seems like works that men enjoy, and especially that adult men enjoy, tend to be given other labels. (I had a very odd conversation with my ex-boyfriend awhile back where he was puzzled that I was talking about works like Twilight and Hunger Games at the same time, since he considered them to be in completely different genres. He thinks Twilight is boring and love the Hunger Games movies, so it's hard for him to see Hunger Games as either being YA or as being a work about a teenage girl who has love interests. He thinks of the movies as being purely as dystopian sci fi action flicks.)
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by Enail on Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:50 pm

Werel wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:If there's anything I'd love to see explored about media aimed at women, it's why so many current books seem to love female protagonists who are hateful, judgmental misogynists (I can't say misandrists, because of course the female protagonist always just loves the hunky, attractive, sensitive guys forming the love triangle around her.)

Well... I am embarrassed to say it, but I know that when I was younger, it was gratifying to see female misogynists portrayed because it made me feel less alone. It validated my feelings of contempt and shame towards womanhood, and portrayed women who shared that self-rejecting stance as admirable. I have to imagine there are many, many women who have been (or still are) in those shoes, and so woman-aimed media might be onto something really marketable by having female protagonists struggle with internalized misogyny.

I just wish more media also portrayed ways to get the fuck past that mindset, instead of essentially patting girls on the back for hating themselves and each other. Neutral

I think the Hunger Games does, to some degree. In the first book, she has one female friend and cares about girls and women not in her age range, but seems to feel rather alienated by women as a group, and most female characters she doesn't have a familial-feeling relationship with are shown as shallow and/or untrustworthy (for obvious reasons, in many cases), with some of the typical "other girls" characteristics that go with the "not like other girls" mindset. In the later books, some of those characters and her relationships with them are given greater development and nuance.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by readertorider on Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:23 pm

reboundstudent wrote: If there's anything I'd love to see explored about media aimed at women, it's why so many current books seem to love female protagonists who are hateful, judgmental misogynists (I can't say misandrists, because of course the female protagonist always just loves the hunky, attractive, sensitive guys forming the love triangle around her.)

My thought is that it's a reaction to everyone telling girls to "be nice/good" and it's liberating to be a girl that doesn't always think nice things, and goes after what she wants. I think it's also worth noting that this isn't a girls only phenomenon--I was wading through the Rogues anthology a few months ago and there were several stories I just skipped because the protagonists were their gritty, hard-bitten, misogynistic selves. Those male authors, however, usually just claim they're going for realism...

There's also sometimes the dichotomy for girls where there's the character who's everything they are expected to be and it's difficult (for the author, for the character, for the reader) to reject the lifestyle/choices the character espouses without also rejecting the character.

I think it's also worth noting too that usually YA lit. does often have the main character go through a period where their dislike of character X is a defining part of the main character's early book life and then near the end they either understand character X better or find that they don't really matter to the main character anymore. Since young adult books often come in long series now I feel this end point never ends up happening to maintain the tension. For female main characters, especially, it usually turns out that the lady they dismissed is the lady they most need to learn from or want to make friends with.

I would say too that the extent to which the main protagonist is hateful is really a matter of taste--"I don't like/understand the people around me" is something I feel most teenagers feel/think and books that make people feel understood do sell.

Everything being said, though, if you look hard enough there are plenty of books with more compassionate female characters--Robin McKinley has always been one of my favorite authors, Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables are classic series, at the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy Lyra matures and understands compassion. I haven't really read recent YA lately, but surely somewhere there's a modern author or two who's doing a good job?
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by Autumnflame on Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:19 pm

readertorider wrote:I haven't really read recent YA lately, but surely somewhere there's a modern author or two who's doing a good job?

I am a fan of Sarah Rees Brennan's work, generally - she does really great female-female friendships (great friendships, in general); Team Human, which she did with Justine Larbalestier, is a good take on this, from the viewpoint of the best friend of the heroine who falls for the hunky vampire. Diana Peterfreund is also good at portraying a variety of female relationships (her only series out right now, I think, revolves around a band of unicorn hunters, who all have to be female virgins), though one of her books does include a rape (relatively tastefully handled, I thought, and also good at not taking away the agency of the raped character). And Tamora Pierce is always good about that, especially with the Circle books, which tend to revolve around four friends.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by Enail on Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:35 pm

I've seen a fair number of YA urban fantasy-ish books (Sarah Rees Brennan did one, I can't think of the others I've seen offhand) that seem to make a point of having a character who could easily be the "beautiful, catty girl" stereotype be or become a good friend of the main character girl. In some of them I found it a little too heavy-handed an attempt to thwart the trope, but in others it worked quite well, and either way it's still a good sign that even if there is a bit of a troubling trend, there's a counter-trend as well.
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by InkAndComb on Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:31 pm

What does everyone think of the way women are portrayed in Legend of Korra and A:TLA? Sometimes I find them getting things across super well, but there are some moments where the interactions and relationships seem...weird.

I'm thinking Asami and Mako on the weird level, and Asami and Korra on the interesting level. Also how they handled Lin Bei Fong, and Toph/Katara (friendshipwise).
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Re: How Women's Media Gets Portrayed

Post by eselle28 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:25 pm

So, this article (written by a woman) is kind of an interesting perspective on misconceptions about romance novels. She's already acknowledged the criticism, but I think it's interesting that it's possible to think about romance novels enough to write a bunch of good hooks for them without bothering to check out some of the many contemporary books that have plots exactly like that. New Adult has plenty of the tech stuff into it, I've probably read dozens of books set in every era where the heroine loves to read and the hero uses that as an entry to meeting her, and those local farmers and makers fit right into the trope of manly man type guys who are secretly smart and culturally aware (I mean, no women go for that type at all Suspect).
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