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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Monday, September 22, 2014

VICTIMOLOGY 101, PT. 1

I mentioned here that I don't agree with Dave Sim's assertion that Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND was a precursor to modern feminist "victimology."  I don't know Sim's precise reasons for making that determination, so I can't refute him in detail. But I will validate him on one score: victimology is rampant in most discussions of gender-interaction, often on both sides of the discussion at once.

Victimology, to be sure, is a word that originally means "the study of victims," usually with respect to the victims of criminal offenses. Sim's use of the term, however, is pejorative: it implies what is called a "false victimology," an assigning of blame to a supposed perpetrator that is either disproportionate or inaccurate.  This is the sense that I use the term here.

One comics-fandom argument I've frequently referenced on this blog is one I consider more disproportionate than wholly inaccurate: the "male characters are idealized, female characters are sexualized." I've demonstrated why the argument is an oversimplification, but I've also stated that to the extent that there is a real disparity, that disparity is rooted in real factors. The oversimplification comes about from an over-willingness for those who promote the argument to play the victim card, which amounts to playing a chorus of Linda Ronstadt's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me."  If feminine sexual display was *never* a road to fame, riches, and comparative prosperity, I might tend to join the ultra-feminists in shedding copious crocodile tears for their sufferings.

Other arguments would seem to be more in the vein of bearing false witness.  In my essay STINKING ULTRALIBERALLY PT. 2  I critiqued my reasons why the media stigmatized celebrity-chef Paula Deen after her aggrieved former employee Lisa Jackson brought a suit against her, alleging that Deen promulgated racist speech and behavior at a place of business.  About a month after I wrote my essay, the suit was dismissed by the presiding judge with prejudice, which according to Wikipedia "indicates misconduct on the part of the party who filed the claim and forbids that party from refiling the case." This may well suggest that the judge thought Jackson was full of hot air, but I'm not interested enough to search out his precise stated opinion, if any.

The peccadillos of comics fandom are generally not this serious. Nevertheless, the biggest problem with making false or even oversimple accusations is not only that it victimizes those who may be falsely accused, but that it also distracts the culture's attention from other, real abuses. Practitioners of indiscriminate victimology seem to believe that they can cry wolf indefinitely, and that no one will ever call them on it-- or more likely, that they can throw enough crap at the walls that some of it will stick, and seem to validate them.

In Part 2 I'll address a relatively new book that manages to throw a little too much crap, managing largely to obscure its better facets.



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