The social mosaic and how we change it

Another comment nugget of awesome found in YATOD, this one in the Penny Arcade forums, on a thread discussing sexism/misogyny in the wake of the hatefest directed against Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter on Tropes vs Women in gaming.

Blackheart posted the original question about his confusion on mostly the concept of the sexual objectification of women in art (I don’t understand how an image or representation of a person can be turned into an object, when it is in fact an object and not a person); the discussion went in many interesting directions regarding media reinforcement of toxic *isms generally, this response from LadyM came six pages in to the thread:

[ If everyone was influenced by and took material from all entertainment as legitimate courses of action for real life, our society couldn’t function for obvious reasons. If no one was influenced by anything in entertainment at all, I think we would be at just as much of a loss.

Well, here’s the thing. It’s not so much about any one piece of literature/art having a direct effect (although that DOES happen on occasion). Like, I feel like you’re conceptualizing this as “the idea is if a guy watches one sexist movie he will go home and slap his girlfriend”, and that’s not really it.

Imagine there is a mosaic made up of one small piece of tile. Except by definition that’s not really a mosaic, is it? A mosaic has to make up a bigger picture, made from smaller things.

But let’s say five more tiny tiles are added to the mosaic. Then twenty more. A hundred. A thousand. Ten thousand. Now you have enough tiles to make a mosaic. Any one of those tiles is nothing more than a little bit of colored ceramic, and yet when you put them together you can form a definitive picture.

That’s what our society is like. That’s what our ideas of “normality” and gender relations and race relations and heteronormativity are like. They are built out of a million tiny things. So maybe ONE video game featuring Syldanian Six-Boobed Slut Warriors or whatever will not have much effect on society. The thing is, there isn’t just one video game like that, and that isn’t the only place the idea that women are objectified. When people criticize Hillary Clinton’s appearance (because male politicians are such hotties, right? Not bloated, liver-spotted, fat old men) . . . that is a little piece of tile. When a comic artist draws kidnapped male Justice League characters in tied up but non-sexy poses, while the kidnapped female Justice League characters are tied up like they’re getting geared up for a video session of “Bondage Sluts III” . . . that is a little piece of tile. When someone tells a sexist joke . . . that’s a little piece of tile. Look in the comments section of any online news story about a woman being raped and you will find more little bits of tile.

And the defense is always “Well, MY piece of tile isn’t at fault! It’s Society!” It is indeed society that predefines the mosaic, based on the piece of tile that were placed by previous generations; but it’s the individual pieces of gossip, art, expectations that fill in that mosaic. Unlike a real mosaic, old bits fall off quite frequently, forgotten by a new generation. Sometimes they are replaced by a new piece that is about the same as the old one; sometimes they are replaced by a new one. Sometimes there’s a lot of new pieces at once, like in the 1960s when a bunch of activists took hammers, beat the crap out of that mosaic, and stuck a bunch of new pieces on to radically alter the picture. The point is, if no one starts changing those tiles, small as they may be, the overarching image will never change.

h/t to commentor Fata Morgana in the discussion of the widely linked Shortpacked Equal Time comic.

Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, media, social justice

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Props to you TT for getting six pages into that. I imagine not all of the comments were that good. The mosaic idea is awesome.

  2. If you listened to Pink Floyd a lot during your adolescence, it’s awesome and would be more so if you could sing to it.

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