Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Male + clothes = female?

This is a point I made in the comments of the last post, but I thought it warranted its own discussion.

What's the difference between Bugs Bunny and Bugs Bunny in drag?


Shoes, clothing, eyelashes, feminine accessories. In other words, the physical markings of femininity.

So, to stand without shoes or clothing or feminine accessories inherently makes Bugs Bunny male. It implies that the only way you can tell if someone is female is by the physical additions to their appearance and that the default sex is male. To be female means that first you have to start out as male, and then add the dress. There's a whole lot of psychoanalysis and penis envy theories that circle around this idea, but without Bugs Bunny.

I'm not endorsing psychoanalysis by any means, but just pointing out the similarities between this and the whore/man-whore language a commenter used.

Props to outcrazyophelia and Amelia for jumping on the whore/man-whore dichotomy language issue right away.


Look! A ponytail and a t-shirt! That one's a girl!

Props to my film professor for pointing this out.

28 comments:

dutch said...

i'm a little confused... crossdressers are really women?

judgesnineteen said...

dutch, don't bother to actually read all that stuff under the title, it doesn't explain what she meant or anything like that.

Lindsay, you're so right. Look at the drawings on xkcd (which is actually kinda feminist). Or Ms. Pac-Man (according to a video on youtube, also feminist). Or the stick figure person on bathroom signs and street signs. The one without a skirt can be a person in general or a man; the one with a skirt is a woman. You never see one with a skirt on a street sign that applies to everyone, and you never see one without a skirt on a women's restroom - women wear pants all the time, but we have to differentiate them from the men, and we do that by changing/adding to the woman, taking the male as the starting point who doesn't need any defining characteristics. I think it's because we see the default or prototypical human as male, like you said. It's like in language, where he and man can be general or specific, but not she and woman. I hate that.

dutch said...

J19 - i did read it thank you very much, and i found it to be extremely confusing and not really make a point...

femmie said...

And of course you can't forget how they still use terms such as "mankind" "all men" and others such as that to refer to everyone...

Lindsay said...

And of course you can't forget how they still use terms such as "mankind" "all men" and others such as that to refer to everyone...

There's been a movement in the church (all denominations in general) to move away from language in worship or hymns that makes the God inherently male (such as Father) and towards all-inclusive language. I'm a big fan of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Along with the all-inclusive gendered language, people are moving away from using dark imagery to imply bad (black as sin). It just doesn't create the right atmosphere. Plus, if someone was abused by their father/father figure, going to church and singing and praying to their Father isn't going to have redemptive qualities.

If you're interested in all-inclusive language issues in the church, some good books are She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson and Sexism and God-talk by Rosemary Radford Ruether.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

It's actually really interesting to take a look at what our society takes to be the default. There's something similar when it comes to race on the internet. Without any blatant cues, you're presumed to be a White American. The cues are all just markers, like the eyelashes and the clothes that are supposed to mean something but are usually stereotypes about the non defaults.

Tyler said...

Lindsey, lets not argue religion, that will get nowhere. I am traditionalist, as is my church. It is nothing against women, It is just the way i choose to worship. We allow the ordination of women.

Nothing good will come out of any religion argument we engage in.

That said, putting a skirt on a stick figure is simply a way of easy identification. It is not an insult. Reasonable people do not look at the women's restroom door and say "oh look.... she is wearing a skirt so she does not matter." Those symbols are what has become accepted, it does not matter if the majority of women are wearing skirts or not.

My advice to all of you feminists- agitating little stuff like this makes people less likely to be resposive/cooperative on issues that really matter. And yes, I consider this insignificant in comparison

Amelia said...

Tyler, maybe you don't realize that a lot of these "little things" are so important because of their commonality. Yes, a sign on a bathroom door probably does not bring sexist thoughts into the minds of most people. But the fact that it does entail a gendered message is problematic because a lot of the gendered messages present in our society cast women as weaker, etc. etc. etc.

So I think you are wrong when you say that we are merely agitating little things. We are bringing up issues that may seem little when viewed through a narrow lens, but are rather important in the large scheme of things.

leslie said...

Ladies -
I stumbled upon your blog recently, and I have to say - I'm disappointed. You're worrying about something so simplistic as putting a skirt on a stick figure, and yet there are much larger issues out there. Any building over 3 stories tall is phallic - why are there no round building such as that? It just shows that men are valued higher than women in today's society. Take for example (and yes I'm aware this was in Legally Blonde - a topic I do not feel like discussing at the moment) the word "semester" - yet another subtle way of showing male domination in society. Words such as this prevail even today - they aren't going anywhere. Something needs to be done... and you're worried about stick figures?!

Amelia said...

Thanks for your comment, Leslie, but please refer to my comment before yours.

chuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amelia said...

Thanks, Chuck. Your comment will be deleted shortly.

leslie said...

Amelia -
In the past few years I have found that the reason feminists get a bad name is because they focus on the smaller issues... you may need to step back and examine the situation - you need to chose your battles. Otherwise you will constantly be shot down. Make sure you can back everything up and that you are not making claims about little things that aren't going to get changed no matter how much you try.

chuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amelia said...

Leslie, I disagree with your attitude that there are certain things that just won't change. It disappoints me when people decide that my ideas and my goals are not worthwhile because they "just won't change." I don't believe that, and maybe because of that, I WILL make change happen.

Also, on this blog, we get shot down pretty much all the time, so I am used to it.

But if you have any suggestions for this blog, as to what we could discuss, please let me know. I'd be glad to hear any of your ideas.

Amelia said...

Chuck, I DO run the whole damn world of this blog. I created it, and I can delete comments when they are overtly sexist. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080415/METRO/804150446/1361

leslie said...

Amelia-
I believe you would do a lot greater good for our cause if you were to discuss more important issues than this one. Changing the restroom signs will just confuse people, so it's unlikely that that will ever occur.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"Feminists look for stuff to get mad about"
http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/02/feminism-101-feminists-look-for-stuff.html

"Why are you concentrating on X when Y is so much more important"
http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/04/12/faq-why-are-you-concentrating-on-x-when-y-is-so-much-more-important/
"Arguing that Special Interest X should make way for Important Issue™ Y because “it’s so much more important”, especially when this is done in another person’s space, is disruptive. It is a very common trolling tactic, as well as a long acknowledged as a cheap rhetorical trick: just another red herring."

Trying to shame someone and ridicule them into speaking about what you think is important is rude and futile. I haven't even seen a suggestion of the something else they're supposed to be discussing, only an attempt to disrupt the conversation happening now.

I don't see this post as agitating anything but conversation and awareness. You're conflating discussion with a rallying cry to change all the women's bathroom signs when really its "have you ever noticed" coupled with "what does it mean". I'm not sure I'd want to be a feminist if I could never explore my lived experience within feminist theory.

Kate said...

Thanks for your support Ophelia! We post on a variety of issues on this blog, from forced marriages in Afghanistan to the (seemingly) less important issues such as this post. However, all contribute to sexism, and in order to eradicate the patriarchy, all of these must be addressed and changed or eliminated.

But, again, please email Amelia or me with any ideas for blog posts.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

Well after running my blog for less than a month, I realize that every post is a judgment call. Everyone can't cover everything but what's presented is often worth discussing, even if it isn't "the most important". Although everyone has different values, so who can say what really is the most important or what will change the most.

Lindsay said...

Lindsey, lets not argue religion, that will get nowhere. I am traditionalist, as is my church. It is nothing against women, It is just the way i choose to worship. We allow the ordination of women.

Nothing good will come out of any religion argument we engage in.


I wasn't arguing religion; I was merely stating that there's a movement towards inclusive language in worship services in an attempt to recognize the personhood of everyone - not just people who happen to be the same gender, color, sexual orientation, or physically abled-ness as the people who held the pens millenniums ago.

And I agree - we won't get anywhere with a religion argument... But much has been gained from religion debates.

As for the critique that these are little issues - a beach is lots of little grains of sand added together. Get enough beaches, and you've got a whole coast.

I believe you would do a lot greater good for our cause if you were to discuss more important issues than this one.

As for this, we take on the big and the little. Gotta start somewhere.

Any building over 3 stories tall is phallic - why are there no round building such as that?

Although that is a good point.

judgesnineteen said...

"There's been a movement in the church (all denominations in general) to move away from language in worship or hymns that makes the God inherently male (such as Father) and towards all-inclusive language."

Whoa there. Not all denominations. Try explaining that that language is offensive to some of my Christian friends. At the retreat I went to just before officially becoming a feminist, I cried every night during the praise songs. Everyone thought it was my personal problem that I felt excluded. I imagine you wouldn't have much luck with Southern Baptists, for instance, either.

Tyler, this is not little stuff. It's an EXAMPLE of a very big trend that has many many effects. One way to show the trend is to find one manifestation of it. And people too often make the mistake of thinking that pop culture is insignificant, which is ridiculous, because we're all steeped in it. Of course it's going to affect how we think to some extent, and of course it reflects how we already do think, so of course it's a good place to go to look for evidence of sexism and try to show people that sexism exists and how it works.

Lindsay said...

Good point - I should have qualified that statement. Most progressive churches are moving towards all-inclusive language.

judgesnineteen said...

Yeah, I understand, and I'm sorry if I came off harsh or anything. I had an idea of what you meant, I'm just still bitter with the particular Christians I was dealing with.

dirtyrottenfeminist said...

I actually read this really interesting piece on Bugs Bunny and Gender for my animation class last semester... It basically said of the lot of the same things you just said, only pointing out that the creators (whether sexist, heteronormative, whatever) saw Bugs as without gender, but that translates to male... However, what about when Bugs dresses up as a cowboy, or such. He is posturing masculinity as well. I thinks it pretty confusing, but worht looking at.

judgesnineteen said...

But that's dressing up as *cowboy*. Not just a male. Although I did just realize, maybe in the pictures here he was dressing up as a female human, as opposed to a rabbit.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying reading this blog. This is an interesting post. Another indicator of how female is 'marked' and male is 'normal' in portrayal of animals to children is how frequently animals in children's films, books and advertising are male.

I read a book about animals to a preschool girl (who has a sister and no brothers) the other day while I was babysitting. All the animals were male and I bet this wasn't intentional. The author was male and just used the 'default' or 'normal' gender of society throughout his book without thinking. I realized this part-way through the book and read the rest of the book by making the animals 'female' so that the little girl could identify with them.

This has got me thinking about how the lead animals in children's books and film are usually male.

These are all the lead male animal characters I can think of now: Franklin, Blue's Clues, Barney, Winnie the Pooh and most of his friends, Spot, the Cat in the Hat, Barbar the elephant, Donkey and Shrek, almost all the characters on Sesame Street and Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny, the main 2 characters on Madagascar, all the animals on the Wizard of Oz, Grommit, Tom and Jerry, the Grinch, Babe, Bambi, Dumbo, the Lion King, Nemo (Finding Nemo), Fantastic Mr Fox.

These are all the lead female animal characters in TV/film/books that I can recall: Angelina the Ballerina,Maisy Mouse, Olivia (a pig), Chicken Licken. There are a couple of other books with female hen lead animals (naturally, as hens cannot be male). I can't remember the names of these hens. In both books the hens were being very stereotypically 'female'. In one, she baked a loaf of bread and none of the other animals would help her so she didn't let them eat it with her. In the other the a (male) fox keeps tricking a ditsy hen into laying her eggs in certain place and he eats them up when she goes away (I think she is portrayed as typically female and "scatterbrained", forgetting where she left her eggs).

Co-leading male and female characters in movies are: Wilbur and the spider (Charlotte's Web) and Lady and the Tramp (in these films there is no clear 'leading' character).

I haven't mentioned any Beatrix Potter characters above because although her most well-known character is male (Peter Rabbit) she did create many female characters as well (eg. Gemima the Puddle Duck).