EDIT: site traffic is through the roof. Welcome all visitors, whether you come with an olive branch, or a revolver.
SECOND EDIT: for those interested, I have an additional essay up on this topic, discussing female body imagery, marketing, etc, in greater detail. Please read and comment.
THIRD EDIT: a third (and hopefully) final installment, in the ongoing epic drama that is ROF CoverFail. Specifically, I tackle the Omarosa aspect, which seems to have assumed a life all its own.
FOURTH EDIT: a tangential installment, dealing with Boobism and Beefcakism in the SF and F genres. Cheap exploitation? Adolescent sexual fantasy? Or a manifestation of a larger, deeper human need for characters and story to transcend the ordinary?
So I came off my InterToob fast to find another genre controversy in full swing.
No shocker that a certain hyperactive genre/web personality is at the center of it. I’ve had disagreements with that individual before, and am not surprised to find that individual involved in this (latest) web imbroglio. IMHO this person is the Omarosa of SF and the less attention given to that individual, the better.
For those not in the know, the controversy can be best summed up like this: progressive females who are into SF and F are sick and tired of the boobs-and-butts treatment so often given women in SF and F; especially where art is concerned. The re-launch issue of Realms of Fantasy — under former Absolute Magnitude editor and publisher Warren Lapine, huzzah huzzah! — has a cover that features a (gasp) lady with boobs. This, after an (apparently) long history of ROF featuring other covers with other ladies who had — yes, gentle reader, horror of horrors — tits. And not just any tits. Big tits. Nice tits. Bare tits. The kind that make guys turn their heads from across the street!
Oh, the madness.
Someone phone Andrea Dworkin’s ghost. Clearly we’ve entered a new Dark Age for the portrayal of the feminine in the fantastical arts.
Seriously. I’m not saying that women aren’t perpetually objectified — as fuck objects — in our modern media. They are. Constantly. And if I were a progressive female — especially one with no hope whatsoever of having the kind of face or body that is so often portrayed on television, in movies, and in print — I’d probably be pissed off too. Being forever held to an unreachable standard while at the same time being reduced to a sex toy would probably irk me to no end.
Or maybe not. Most guys’ brains just run differently from womens’ brains. Remember the scene in American Pie where the kid celebrates the fact that the flute girl fucked him and ran? Like it was a victory for his manliness? That scene right there, more than anything else I’ve ever encountered in the last 20 years, perfectly illustrates my point. The majority of guys simply don’t approach the world in 100% the same manner as women. Nor is it reasonable to expect us to.
Consider the movie 300: fantastically cut and shaped men — mostly naked — engaging in fantastically glorious battle with spears, swords, and so forth. These guys were ripped to the sinew. They were an awesome sight — they were also the product of a local Utah gym and its trainer, but I’ll toot that horn another day. The point is, women everywhere went ga-ga for these guys. As in, turning to their husbands and boyfriends in the theaters and saying, “Why can’t you have abs and guns like that??”
The response of men everywhere? Did we stage protests and loudly denounce the objectification of our bodies? Did we bemoan the hopeless predicament of having our soft, flabby, beer-gut bodies being held to the unrealistic standard of King Leonidas and his Spartans?
Hell no. We got on the internet and surfed every body-building and fitness site we could find, wanting to know — from anyone who would tell us — how the cast of 300 had done it. How had they gotten so lean, so gorgeous, so impressively manly?
And while I won’t belabor the issue of fitness in a society that thinks walking down to the 7-Eleven to buy a pack of donuts is a strenuous workout — that’s a whole other Oprah, for my other blog — I will simply point out again that many of the women harping on the Realms Of Fantasy cover are simply never going to “get it” when it comes to men: how we think and perceive the world, how we look at everything, how we react, etc.
That’s not a bad or a good thing. It just is. And half the battle here is realizing that men and women are just always going to be alien in some respects. And that expecting all men to transform their brains into female brains, or expecting all women to transform their brains into male brains, is not only impossible, it’s counterproductive.
Returning to the cover controversy at hand….
It’s got (an apparently) naked lady with boobs. Mermaid boobs, if the starfish near her collarbone is any indicator. Boobs without nipples. Average sized. Not even Dolly Parton big. Just average. And pleasantly round. On a pleasantly fit body.
Now, it almost goes without saying that some women simply can’t handle the fact that anyone would actually be attracted to a pleasantly-fit woman with pleasantly-round breasts. I mean, that’s just the epitomy of awful. Men being attracted to pleasantly-fit women with pleasantly-round breasts? My God! What about all the dumpy fat women, shaped like pears and with cottage cheese down their thighs? What about them?! Who is making them feel beautiful and appreciated??
Clearly, the mermaid on the cover of ROF is an assault on the sensibilities of fat, homely, or otherwise visually-not-so-hot women everywhere. Clearly, something must be done.
And we’re off to the races.
You know what? I used to subscribe to ROF back in the day. I don’t remember too much about the covers. I will say I think the cover cited during this controversy is both a) tame and b) remarkably beautiful. Not only is the woman drawn tastefully and with zero sexualization that I can discern — yes, I know, for some progressive females it’s back to the 19th century; when any skin at all was an automatic act of exploitation — but this is the kind of cover that would make me stop at the Barnes & Noble and pick up a damned copy.
Which is — in my inexpert opinion — about the only gottdamned thing cover art on a glossy mag is supposed to frakking do: grab the attention of the customer and make them pick up the frakking magazine and maybe go buy the frakking thing.
Perhaps some people would be happier seeing a K.D. Lang clone on the ROF cover, replete with baggy coveralls and rubber farmhand boots. With spotted cows. Everyone loves spotted cows, right? Nice boobs, ugh. Who wants to see those?
Now before you go screaming off into a hissy fit, I’d be perfectly fine seeing ROF do covers with hunky naked mermen, too. I’ve got zero problem with that, would be happy seeing a 1-for-1 cover art ratio along these lines, and wouldn’t consider such cover art to in any way detract from the magazine. Or dissuade me from buying same. Hunky naked fantasy dudes on covers would in no way threaten my manhood, nor be perceived as an attack on my person. (See: 300)
Objectification? Again, the male mind. Most dudes would be thrilled to have women — all kinds of women — objectifying them.
And no, men have not had to deal with rape and abuse the way women have. And yes, I am aware that rape and abuse are tangential and critical to any argument of female objectification. But again, another Oprah.
My point is: what do people effing want on the effing ROF cover? More dragons?? Personally I’d take naked dudes with huge schlongs hanging out before I’d recommend that any fantasy magazine put another gottdamned dragon on the gottdamned cover. But dragons sell. People like dragons. Just like people like nicely-fit women with nicely-round boobs. These things move merchandise. And moving merchandise is the whole gottdamned point behind having a glossy full-color cover.
Otherwise, let’s just print the fucker on brown paper — with a brown paper cover — and hope the mag survives down with the obscure literary shit. So as not to offend anybody, right?
Come on. Ladies. Men. Really. Is this the best we can do? As with the — do I even dare say it? — RaceFail clusterfrak, the entire debate seems pointless and self-serving. People frothing themselves into a manufactured fury. Much ado about nothing. Of all the places to draw a line in the sand, and take a position about women — about sexualization, fuck objectification, abuse, whatever your crusade may be — doing it with ROF and a stinking piece of cover art.
Dumb does not describe it!