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17 June 2010 @ 02:03 pm
this just in: Amy Pond has legs.  
So, thanks to the infinite patience of my flist, I discovered through a process of writing post and comments that I wasn't actually that interested in the question of Moffat vs. RTD in terms of sexism. I still think the discussion is weighted in some odd ways, but this post is not about that, because that's not what really bothers me about the discussion.

No, this post is about Amy's short skirts. Probably I would do better to direct you all to bewarethespork's post here, which many of you have probably read already because it was recced in a couple of places:
http://bewarethespork.livejournal.com/130601.html

But I'm still frustrated by this whole line of discussion, and when I'm frustrated, I write it out, so you get this.

If you want to have a discussion about whether Moffat is a sexist writer, that's absolutely your right. If you dislike Amy or don't "get" her as a character, go right ahead. But then you should probably not make Amy's clothing and appearance ("Karen only got the part because of her looks, because she can't act") your evidence, or at least not be surprised when people respond with "are you serious?!?" Because by saying "Moffat is a sexist writer because Amy Pond wears short skirts," or "Amy Pond is a sexist character because she wears short skirts," what you're saying is that there are clothes that are "feminist" and clothes that aren't, clothing that's "good" for women to wear and clothing that isn't, and that being feminist and acceptable is ultimately about dressing a certain way. This is the logic that allows the flip side of that, trashing the "bad" clothing of "bad" women who are "degrading" themselves by what they wear--comments like "she looks like a slut" or "she dresses like a whore" (which I heard on a sitcom just last night. Somehow, hilarity did not ensue for me). (And people are making those comments about Amy, by the way. "Why did they let Doctor Who get all slutty?") "Amy is a sexist character because she wears short skirts" is the same logic. It might try to make itself sound like it's more about empowering and less about shaming, but it's the same thing--because what it's saying is that it's possible to dress in a way that isn't feminist. And that is Not Okay, no matter who's writing the character. Amy's skirt does not become sexist because she's a character written by Moffat any more than Rose's miniskirt in "Boom Town" is sexist because she's written by RTD, regardless of what my opinions on his writing are (and trust me, I have some).

And this is part and parcel of the same culture that tells women that they are to blame for unwanted male attention, because "they knew what they were doing when they left the house like that." 'Well, if the Doctor Who producers didn't want people talking about Amy's legs, they should have covered them up.' 'Karen Gillan knew what she was doing when she chose to wear that skirt, so she can't complain.' 'Why are her legs such an issue on the show?' I call BS.

Oh, but the problem isn't Amy's skirts in and of themselves, you say! It's that she's being objectified! I imagine that the logic runs something like this: "Amy's short skirts mean that she's being offered up as a sexual object." But again, what you are saying is that a woman's clothing dictates the treatment she should or will receive. At a certain point, it doesn't even matter how or why Amy Pond wears miniskirts, how many stupid things Moffat has said about her appearance or will say in the future, because we are reducing the character to an object more effectively than Moffat ever could. By arguing that her skirts are sexist, we are enforcing the idea that there is clothing that presents a woman as sexually available. We are doing that. We say that Amy can't wear miniskirts and still be feminist, because by wearing a miniskirt, she is offering herself up for male attention and desire. Amy's skirts are sexist because they turn her into a sexual object. So because men might look at Amy (or the real girls who dress like her) in a desiring way, Amy (or those girls) has to change. Because otherwise, she's putting herself out there, and we can't have that.

Amy's clothes aren't anti-feminist or feminist. Wearing a miniskirt is not empowering (unless it makes you feel good about yourself personally) or demeaning. Clothing isn't even behavior. It's a choice that every woman is within her rights to make, without people jumping all over her for letting down the side somehow. Okay? Okay.
 
 
 
Jay the Nerd Kid - Elitist Internet Royalty: bewarethespork - feminismbewarethespork on June 17th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
Because by saying "Moffat is a sexist writer because Amy Pond wears short skirts," or "Amy Pond is a sexist character because she wears short skirts," what you're saying is that there are clothes that are "feminist" and clothes that aren't, clothing that's "good" for women to wear and clothing that isn't, and that being feminist and acceptable is ultimately about dressing a certain way.

THIS, so much. ♥
tempestsarekind: a sort of fairytaletempestsarekind on June 17th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! (Also, excellent icon!)
Jay the Nerd Kid - Elitist Internet Royalty: bewarethespork - gay for riverbewarethespork on June 17th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
I made the icon shortly after I wrote that post, and it's free to take and use if you like it. :)
tempestsarekind: amelia pond (ready for adventure)tempestsarekind on June 17th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
I may need to save it for later use--thanks.
La Reine Noire: Wimminz!lareinenoire on June 17th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
WORD.

I wish I had something more coherent to say aside from the fact that I agree with everything you've said here. I am so sick and tired of women being accused of being bad feminists or giving in to the patriarchy because they enjoy feeling good about their physical appearance.
tempestsarekind: corset pouttempestsarekind on June 17th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
It makes no sense to me--unless being a "feminist" means doing everything to make sure that you're not taken for one of those girls. It's the "I'm not like them" defense, which I find massively frustrating. I remember reading a post about men and reading, for example, and how publishing/book sales catered to women, with their chick lit and their romances and whatever. And instead of going, "really? A couple of sections and now the whole bookstore is catering to women?" there were all these commenters who self-identified as women specifically to say "I'm a woman, and I don't like that stuff." Which is not really the point...
La Reine Noire: Wimminz!lareinenoire on June 17th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
No, that is manifestly not the point!

It makes no sense to me--unless being a "feminist" means doing everything to make sure that you're not taken for one of those girls.

Yeah, the inevitable finger-pointing defence. It frustrates me to no end. And I'm certainly not arguing that either RTD or Moffat isn't in some ways objectifying women. Because both of them very clearly are. But, honestly, if it comes down to the wire, I rather prefer Moffat's brand of objectification, because at least his women aren't left dangling after the Doctor and feeling as if their lives are worthless as soon as he leaves them behind.

(This is, of course, not quite what happens to Martha, but you know what I mean.)
tempestsarekind: martha jones is a startempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's sort of where I am, too. One could definitely argue that Moffat valorizes a lack of attachment or "commitment" in women--but on a show like Doctor Who, where the eponymous character is the poster boy for never settling down and never visiting twice, I can't see that as a problem, because expecting commitment from the Doctor seems like a recipe for disaster. Being in a relationship with him means that you'd *have* to be able to be capable of going, "Yeah, see you around" and then getting on with your own life in the meantime.
Constant Reader: doctor who - rainbow tardisskirmish_of_wit on June 17th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
By arguing that her skirts are sexist, we are enforcing the idea that there is clothing that presents a woman as sexually available. We are doing that. We say that Amy can't wear miniskirts and still be feminist, because by wearing a miniskirt, she is offering herself up for male attention and desire. Amy's skirts are sexist because they turn her into a sexual object. So because men might look at Amy (or the real girls who dress like her) in a desiring way, Amy (or those girls) has to change. Because otherwise, she's putting herself out there, and we can't have that.

Amy's clothes aren't anti-feminist or feminist. Wearing a miniskirt is not empowering (unless it makes you feel good about yourself personally) or demeaning. Clothing isn't even behavior. It's a choice that every woman is within her rights to make, without people jumping all over her for letting down the side somehow. Okay? Okay.


Yes, yes, yes. OMG YES. I know I'm starting to sound like Molly Bloom (a day late, too), but seriously.
tempestsarekind: never really just a passengertempestsarekind on June 17th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
Hee!

Hey, I am always up for praise and agreement. :)
litlover12: AH1litlover12 on June 17th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
If I liked to be political on LJ, I would make a remark here about what it's like to be a fan of certain female politicians whom people -- including many self-described feminists -- think it's okay to call slutty because they like to wear pretty things and they don't believe what the prevailing orthodoxy tells them that all true women must believe.

But I don't like to be political on LJ (except on pages specifically devoted to politics), so I won't.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on June 17th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Fair enough! Disagreement about someone's political opinions is one thing; attacking her clothes or appearance is another, and it's unacceptable.
litlover12: AH1litlover12 on June 17th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I'm not even a fan of short skirts myself, but I would never call a woman names or disrespect her for wearing them.

I also remember the flak that Sharona on "Monk" used to catch over them!! Ugh. See, I wouldn't wear those clothes myself, but they happened to fit her character -- and she was a good character. Rough around the edges, but strong and loyal and smart.
tempestsarekind: ten and marthatempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
There are probably not many people who are less comfortable in skirts--short or not--than I am, but I love it when other people can rock a cute skirt and be at ease in it.
katesutton on June 17th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
By arguing that her skirts are sexist, we are enforcing the idea that there is clothing that presents a woman as sexually available. We are doing that. We say that Amy can't wear miniskirts and still be feminist, because by wearing a miniskirt, she is offering herself up for male attention and desire.

I am not doing either of those things. I say the writer is viewing Amy that way. I have read statements by Steven Moffat that make me conclude that, yes, he is a person who holds dated, stereotypical views about women and men and how they relate to each other. I think those views are demonstrated in how he has written Amy, a character who has no reality other than what he gives her. Is showing off your legs in a short skirt anti-feminist? No. Is Steven Moffat demonstrating his sexist views by putting Amy in a short skirt? Yes, in my opinion. I am not validating the idea that your clothing demonstrates your availability by merely acknowledging that some people still believe that it does. If a writer has made sexist statements in the past about how women are and behave and how men are and behave, then yes, I will take him up on that by criticizing his works. I make no claims about whether Amy as a character is feminist or not. My conclusion about her would be that she wears short skirts because she likes to and I don't judge her for that because she can wear what she wants without making statements about her sexual availability or worth as a person.
Constant Readerskirmish_of_wit on June 18th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
I think those views are demonstrated in how he has written Amy, a character who has no reality other than what he gives her.

I don't really understand this. What character has reality besides what his/her creator gives him/her? I mean, I'm all for the death of the author in the poststructuralist sense, but what reality does Prospero or Miranda have besides what Shakespeare gives them?

This is a genuine question; I keep seeing people make this complaint about Amy and I honestly don't understand it. Does it mean Amy doesn't have an internal logic or coherency? Because to me she does, as tempestsarekind has explained maybe elsewhere (I'm responding on my phone so it's difficult for me to check).
katesutton on June 18th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
Sorry, if I wasn't clear; that's exactly my point. Criticizing Amy is not the same as walking up to some actual person and saying, hey, I think you wear skirts because you want men to stare at you. Amy ought to do things within the story because she makes sense as a character, but AS a character in a story, her behavior can be reflective of the writer's attitudes towards various things. Like women, men, and the relationships between them.
tempestsarekind: amy pondtempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Right, yes. But as I said in the post, clothing isn't behavior. I just can't see the argument that implies that you could take two identically dressed characters, put them next to each other, and say that because the one on the right is written by someone with problematic views about women, her clothing is evidence of those problematic views. It's of course possible to objectify someone wearing a short skirt--or jeans and a T-shirt, or a burlap sack down to her ankles. But the skirt alone won't do it. You wrote, "Is Steven Moffat demonstrating his sexist views by putting Amy in a short skirt? Yes, in my opinion." And I just can't see that. I think that's where we disagree.

Just to be clear, though--in your comment above, you're making distinctions that I've seen quite a few people fail to make. I've seen people say that Amy is wearing short skirts to gain male attention and flaunt her sexuality, that characters like Rose and Martha and Donna didn't need to do that sort of thing, etc. And maybe they'll say that Amy does these things because she's written by a sexist writer, but they're still saying that the mere fact that she's wearing the skirt means she's throwing herself at men and using her looks to get what she wants. That's what this post was about.
artemisiabrisol: Tea and comfortartemisiabrisol on June 17th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
Word. Just word.

This is a ridiculous, embarrassing, painful to read line of argument and I think you have responded to it admirably.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading!
Valancy: DoctorGeekvalancy_s on June 17th, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC)
To preface: I haven't seen the current season of Who, and I think it's kind of silly for fans to blame a character for costume choices... slightly less silly to blame a writer/director for costume choices, but frankly, it isn't his department either!

Anyway, I just had to comment on this:

what you are saying is that a woman's clothing dictates the treatment she should or will receive.

Well, yes. Doesn't it? I don't think it should, but I think it absolutely does, and when you create something in a visual media you can't not take that into account. You may think a girl dressing a certain way is simply a reflection of how she feels about herself and nothing to do with what other people perceive. But everything in a TV show is designed for other people's perceptions, to please the eye or convey certain information about the character. I'm not saying a TV character can't wear a miniskirt without it being objectification - that depends mostly on the filming. But I think it's idealistic to say that because women shouldn't be perceived as sex objects for what they wear, no one can criticize a TV show if they believe it's intentionally objectifying female characters through costuming.
tempestsarekind: a sort of fairytaletempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
But how exactly do you objectify female characters through costuming? Where is the line? Who gets to say that this character's clothes objectify her, and this character's clothes don't--and how do we make that decision without policing the clothing that it's "okay" for a woman to wear? In order to say that a character is being intentionally objectified by her clothing, don't you have to accept that there's something about the clothing itself that objectifies her? I can't see how one can separate the two--how you can say "I don't see the clothing as objectifying this character, but the producers clearly do, so it's sexist." Because what's the response, then? What do we do--say that his female characters shouldn't wear short skirts? I don't think it's being idealistic to say that for me, the only correct response is to say that there is no clothing that can objectify a woman, and to keep saying it until we get to the point that it's accepted as fact. Not everyone agrees, but I can't see how to draw a line there. I could say--and I have said--"okay, that woman climbing out of the swimming pool in her bikini is clearly being presented to us as a sex object." But then, what I've just done in my own head is to accept that it's possible to objectify a woman by putting her in certain types of clothing. And someone else's "objectifying" clothing might be a T-shirt that's a little "too" low-cut, or a skirt that's a little "too" short. I'm not willing to say that a woman's V-neck objectifies her; can I then, in good conscience, say that the bikini does? You wrote that a woman's clothing shouldn't dictate her treatment, but that it does. I think the only thing *I* know how to do to get around that is to say that actually, it's not possible to objectify a woman just by putting her in one outfit or another. Not even if the writers believe that to be true--because if they believe it to be true about their characters, what's to stop them from believing it about that woman on the street? I think the only way to stop it is to say that it's not true in either case. But that's my choice.

More specifically to this post, a lot of the Amy Pond discussion suggests that Amy is being objectified simply because she's wearing a miniskirt that you could buy off the rack. Of course clothing tells us something about the characters. But there is a big difference between "this character likes to wear expensive things" or "this character is trendy," and "this character wears short skirts to flaunt her sexuality." There's a strain of criticism of Amy that runs perilously close to saying the latter, or says it outright. For example, this comment that says Amy "lounge[s] around in hot pants and short shorts in the attempt to curry favor from the males."
http://community.livejournal.com/doctorwho/6175716.html?thread=91554020#t91554020

In the interest of full disclosure, Amy is also a "kissogram." (No one quite seems to be able to agree on what this means, exactly.) The problem with this, for this discussion, is that you can't conflate her occupation and her daily outfits. Even if you think her job objectifies her (and I'm not saying I do, but it's an argument), that doesn't mean her clothes do.
Constant Readerskirmish_of_wit on June 19th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
I have said--"okay, that woman climbing out of the swimming pool in her bikini is clearly being presented to us as a sex object." But then, what I've just done in my own head is to accept that it's possible to objectify a woman by putting her in certain types of clothing

I've done this too, alas. But I do think it matters how the show treats a woman: by which I mean here, specifically, how she's filmed. I'm thinking of the Bond girl type shots, in which there is slow motion and perfectly-lit water droplets, and the actress has clearly been directed to do something to look sexy, like lift her arms to squeeze water out of her hair. In shots like that (in which women don't even have to be bikini-clad; I'm thinking of "sexy librarian" type shots with the character fully and modestly clothed, but bent over or something), the character is presented as an object in that if she IS doing any actions, they're mostly service for the male gaze.

But I can't think of a time when the camera lingers on Amy in any similar sort of way. Even that shot we were discussing in a different post (when the Doctor wakes up and the camera pans up Amy's body) doesn't do that, because Amy IS doing something (calling for backup, however fake), and she's doing something that tells us about her character (i.e., she's the type to fake a call to fake backup after clubbing a stranger with a cricket bat and handcuffing him to the radiator: brave, resourceful, can take care of herself, and imaginative with props).

Also, Eleven isn't really fazed by Amy's legs, ever. And that shot is clearly from his perspective. As you pointed out elsewhere.
tempestsarekind: keep calm and rock ontempestsarekind on June 19th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
Yes--something else is necessary. For what it's worth, I was watching a car commercial this morning, in which a woman in a bikini climbed out of a swimming pool (along with a bunch of other people abruptly stopping their activities to see some cars), and it was basically "whatever, woman in a bikini."

I think it's interesting that, for all the outside attention on Amy's skirts, I think the show has only made reference to them once: the whole "dressed for Rio" bit, where the context is not "hey sexy lady," but "lol, girl, don't you know you're in a chilly Welsh mining village?" Sometimes Amy's legs wind up in the shot because, you know, they're attached to her and all, but the only time I can recall the camera specifically *focusing* on them is that shot in "The Eleventh Hour." I could be wrong, but I can't think of any such shots either.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on June 18th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
Read this!
tempestsarekind: martha at the globetempestsarekind on June 18th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Read this!
I have no words. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, but--I'm just completely stunned.