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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I have no problem with anyone asserting the need for gender equity in these real-world terms. However, imposing gender equity upon fiction-- which I believe [Heidi] McDonald has called for on more than one occasion-- is a different matter.-- me in GENDER, BEND HER.

We may have to accept an ethical cleavage between art and reality, tolerating horrors, rapes, and mutilations in art that we would not tolerate in society. For art is our message from the beyond, telling us what nature is up to.-- Camille Paglia, SEXUAL PERSONAE, p. 39.

 While I don't agree with Camille Paglia on many matters, I believe that an "ethical cleavage" between art and reality is entirely necessary, both in terms of theory about art and the practice of art in all its variations. 

While discursive morality always plays some role in art, moral straightjacketing benefits no one in the long run.  In the essay cited above, I took issue with Heidi McDonald because I found that she had passed 'an unsubstantiated judgment upon all previous incarnations of Bond fiction: said judgment being that, because they were originally fictions designed principally with male buyers in mind, new iterations must and should be corrected to become more “female-friendly.”'  From a pluralist perspective, the oeuvre of Ian Fleming may possess its own "integrity" even though it was directed at male buyers.  The application of the above objection to the Thompson essay seems obvious.

In my Sequart critiques of the Kelly Thompson essay, I will confess to one misstep.  It's possible that I might have justified the perspective of pluralism somewhat more thoroughly. Certainly some of those readers were as the barren ground in the Parable of the Sower, but still I might have made more clear that I was not allied to those fans who defended so-called "sexism" on the basis of "keep the status quo at all costs."  The lack of criticism, which must take in some quantity of unfair criticism, may be just as injurious to art as moral straightjacketing.  Ideally one should seek a middle ground between Paglia, who recognizes few if any moral components in literature, and John Gardner's over-emphasis on "moral fiction."

I've critiqued Thompson for an overzealous political correctness, and I have no faith in her notion of a "trickle down theory" of moral influence, which I sum up by the old formula "monkey see, monkey do."  I admit that I don't have an objective yardstick as to when moral critique is on target, and when it goes over the line and obstructs creative work.  Like most people, I know the difference when I see it.  However, I disagree with any argument that insists that one gender's artistic preferences should trump another's.  Speaking purely in terms of statistical dominance, men and women have different preferences in terms of entertainment, and in the final analysis it doesn't matter whether this difference springs from biological or societal influences.  It's here, it's not particularly queer, and we have to get used to it.

Since I value the distinctions of "gender focus" in both art and entertainment, I don't subscribe to Thompson's endorsement of a hypothetical "great middle" (my term) that would supposedly bring in more male and female readers than the current DM enjoys.  My solution, if I knew how to implement it, would be a strategically gender-divided market, as we see with Japan's divison of boys' *shonen* and girls' *shojo,* to say nothing of all the other relevant divisions in the Japanese manga-market.  I realize that the chances to bring this about in the United States aren't especially good, given the failure of a gender-focused imprint like DC's short-lived MINX line.

For some, of course, this would be the equivalent of keeping the status quo; of having a market where those pervy guys could still enjoy pictures of women wearing thongs and bustiers.  But guess what: there's already a pretty big entertainment-market where guys much pervier than comics-fans can purchase any kind of objectification they may desire.  It's called the Internet.

"Status quo," then, is the wrong way to think about the matter.  It goes without saying that even in a gender-divided market, criticism of hyper-sexualization would go on (though hopefully those critics might prove more thorough than Thompson, and would distinguish extreme sexuality from the "cleaner" kinds).  I don't suppose every Japanese manga-fan approves of the existence of OGENKI CLINIC.

Men like different things than women.  Sometimes the things men like are very good, if only in an aesthetic sense, and sometimes they're very bad.

Women like different things than men.  Sometimes the things women like are very good, at least in an aesthetic sense, and sometimes they're very bad.

However, one cannot sort out the nature of an aesthetic good with appeals to morality, as thinkers ranging from Kant to Oscar Wilde have demonstrated.  When I state pluralism's message in the saying, "Anything that can be done well is worth doing," my idea of being "done well" isn't confined to following some simplistic credo of political correctness, be it ultraliberal or ultraconservative. 

I noted at the end of THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES that I meant to address the question, "What's the difference between "sexism" and "sensationalism?"  I thought of so doing simply it amused me that Chicken Colin appeared to have no earthly idea as to how the two could be connected.  But the more I think about it, his thick-headed incomprehension deserves no answer. 

However, though I have just two more Thompson-related essays to get out of the way, I may have come across another resource that supplies me with more debate-worthy fodder. Stay tuned.

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