Tag Archives: girls

Girls can be their own superheroes!


A great TED talk by John Marcotte, the founder of Heroic Girls, in which he challenges the audience to look beyond what is labeled as “girly” or “feminine” to explore how such labels limit the potential of future generations.  Marcotte talks about his daughters, superheroes and how gender stereotypes limit both girls and boys.

Hollywood, sexism and positive body imaging


Jennifer-Lawrence-is-Katniss_gallery_primary                                               jen lawrence body imagecatching-fire-katniss-fanlalacom

Jennifer Lawrence, one of Hollywood’s big name young actors, while being acknowledged as a talented actor has also gained a reputation for being  funny, foul mouthed, irreverent and straight talking, in particular about women, girls and body imaging. Like fellow actor, Kate Winslet, Lawrence has been outspoken in her promotion of healthy bodies and positive body image among women and girls.

In the wake of the success of the movie rendition of Suzanne Collin’s dystopic teen novel, The Hunger Games, Lawrence who plays the lead role of Katniss Everdeen spoke about the pressure put on her to lose weight in Hollywood.  Responding to a review in the New York Times in May 2012 about the movie which said she was too “womanly” to play the role of Katniss, Lawerence responded by saying:  “This is hilarious. First, people say how so many actresses in Hollywood look anorexic, and now they are criticizing me for looking normal'”.

Several months later in August 2012 during an interview with Elle Magazine, Lawrence talked further about body image saying: “In Hollywood, I’m obese”. She went on to say, “I eat like a caveman, I’ll be the only actress who doesn’t have anorexia rumours …I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner”.

In a November 2013 interview  with BBC Newsnight, Lawrence spoke about the portrayal of Katniss in the movie saying:

It’s called ‘The HUNGER Games’. She is from district 12, she is obviously underfed. She would be incredibly thin. But I kept saying .. we have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing [in The Hunger Games]… girls see enough of this body that we can’t imitate, that we will never be able to obtain. This unrealistic expectation. This is going to be their hero, we have control over that. It’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry”.


Research on body image has shown that negative body image can seriously impact on the health and well-being of young people, affecting their self-esteem and health, including resulting in depression, social isolation and extreme dieting. A person’s body image of themselves may in fact have no bearing on their actual appearance, with studies showing that nearly half of “normal” weight women over estimating their body shape and size.  A range of studies have shown that body image can be the single largest influence on the self-esteem of young women.  American studies have also found that approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape.  However, only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed in the media.

Studies in the USA have shown that 95% of people with eating disorders are overwhelmingly young, aged between 12 and 25 years.  They have also shown that students, especially women, who consume more mainstream media, place a greater importance on “sexiness” and overall body appearance than those who do not consume as much.

A 2009 study found 50 per cent of girls aged between 3 and 6 think that they are too fat.  Researchers found that 86% of the children in the study expressed an aversion to chubby figures in photographs, with most of the girls choosing the photo of the “fat figure” as the “girl they would not like to look like at all”

In 2007, a report by the American Psychological Association found that the culture of wide-spread sexualisation of girls and women contributed to increasing anxiety amongst girls and women about their body image.  A 2010 study in the Journal of Strategic Marketing by Brett and Robina found that consumers felt more pressure from society to be thin after view advertisements with thin models but that this pressure decreased after viewing adverts with larger sized models.  The study also found that people had a distorted view of their own body size after viewing advertisements with thin models.

The role of the media was highlighted recently by Lawrence during her promotional tour for Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie.  In early November, responding to an audience member asking for advice about body image and how to deal with people disparaging others about their body size, Lawrence responded:

“Well, screw those people. “It’s something that everybody experiences. I experienced it in school. The world has a certain idea — we see this airbrushed perfect model image. … You just have to look past it. You look how you look. And be comfortable. What are you gonna do, be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb.”

“And there’s shows like the ‘Fashion Police’ and things like that are just showing these generations of young people to judge people based on things… that they put values in all the things that are wrong and that it’s OK to point at people and call them ugly and call them fat and they call it ‘fun’ and ‘welcome to the real world.’ And it’s like, that shouldn’t be the real world. That’s going to keep being the real world if you keep it that way. It’s not until we stop treating each other like that and just stop calling each other fat … with these unrealistic expectations for women. It’s disappointing that the media keeps it alive and fuels that fire.”


Lawrence’s outspoken views on body image should be welcomed.  Far too often the role models for young women and young girls, promoted in pop culture, in films, the media and advertising are ones which promote negative imaging and sexist stereotypes which are detrimental to young girls and women.   The main message which is presented is that women’s bodies are merely decorative ornaments and that women and girls bodies are simply there to titillate and to sell products.   This is because sexism is embedded in the capitalist system, with gender stereotypes portraying women as nothing more than decorations and sexual objects and/or squeezing them into particular roles (such as mother and wife) being enforced from a young age.

Under capitalism, sexism is not just an individual personal experience, instead it is as result of deeply embedded structural inequalities embedded in the capitalist system which marginalise and oppress women.   The sexism we see on our television and movie screens, on advertising billboards are just but one manifestation of sexism that exist within our society under capitalism.

Sexism and the oppression of women under capitalism is also evident, for example, in the disparity amongst the wages that are paid to men and women.  In Australia, for example, on average women make approximately 83% of the male wage.   Female dominated industries, particularly those in “caring jobs” such as nursing and teaching are the most undervalued economically, socially and politically. Sexism can also be found in the home and family.  Studies have shown that women still do three times as much childcare and housework as men, with women being disproportionately responsible for childcare, cooking, cleaning and looking after the elderly.  The unpaid labour of women in the home, across Australia, amounts to approximately 50% of the GDP.

The marginalisation and oppression of women in the home and in employment works to benefit those profiting from capitalism. Under capitalism, not only is the second class status of women reinforced and maintained through the structural inequality within the system but also by capitalist industries such as the beauty and diet industries which make billions of dollars off women by appealing to and cultivating their insecurities.  These insecurities are reinforced ideologically through the mediums of film, television, advertising and other media.

Lawrence’s refusal, like Kate Winselt, to bow to unreasonable expectations of weight loss and her outspokenness in relation to positive body image is a breath of fresh air and should be applauded.

Nothing to Prove


Despite being well into the second decade of the Twenty-First century, women and girls are still subject to sexist behaviour and discrimination. As many woman geeks will tell you, sexism is – unfortunately – alive in well in geekdom and the pop culture world.  Here are two of my favourite commentaries about sexism within geekdom and which highlight the push back against it.   First up is a great video produced in mid 2013 by women geeks, highlighting the fact that they have nothing to prove.  The makers of the video have also set up a Tumblr page, where – if you want too – can submit your own photos – click here: NOTHING TO PROVE

Second up is the terrific article by science fiction author, John Scalzi, which he published by him in 2012 on his blog, WHATEVER: Leave your message after the beep (which I have linked too). Scalzi also appears in the Double Clicks video!

Video by Double Clicks


Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be

The other day CNN let some dude named Joe Peacock vomit up an embarrassing piece on its Web site, about how how awful it is that geekdom is in the process of being overrun by attractive women dressing up in costumes (“cosplaying,” for the uninitiated) when they haven’t displayed their geek cred to Mr. Peacock’s personal satisfaction. They weren’t real geeks, Mr. Peacock maintains — he makes a great show of supporting real geek women, the definition of which, presumably, are those who have passed his stringent entrance requirements, which I am sure he’s posted some place other than the inside of his skull — and because they’re not real geeks, they offend people like him, who are real geeks:

They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting… You’re just gross.

For the moment, let’s leave aside the problem of a mentality that assumes that the primary reason some woman might find it fun and worthwhile to cosplay as one of her favorite science fiction and fantasy characters is to get the attention of some dudes, to focus on another interesting aspect of this piece: Namely, that Joe Peacock has arrogated to himself the role of Speaker for the Geeks, with the ability to determine whether any particular group of people is worthy of True Geekdom. This on the basis, one presumes, of his resume and his longtime affiliation as a geek.

Well, fine. Hey, Joe: Hi, I’m John Scalzi. I am also a longtime geek. My resume includes three New York Times bestselling science fiction books, three books nominated for the Best Novel Hugo, six other Hugo nominations (as well as Nebula, Locus, Sidewise and other award nominations), one novel optioned for a science fiction film, a stint consulting for the Stargate: Universe television show, a long history in video games as a player (Atari, yo) and as a writer, including writing for the Official US Playstation Magazine for six years and currently writing a game for Industrial Toys. I wrote a column on science fiction film for four years and have two books on the subject. I’ve been writing this blog for fourteen years and was one of the early adopters of self-publishing one’s books online; additionally three books of mine (including one Hugo winner) have been of work originally published online. I was a special guest at this year’s ComicCon. I am the toastmaster of this year’s Worldcon. I am the sitting president of this. Here’s a picture of my peer group. Here’s another.

I outrank you as Speaker for the Geeks.

You are overruled.

Your entire piece is thrown out as condescending, entitled, oblivious, sexist and obnoxious.

And no, you can’t object (well, you can, but you’ll be summarily overruled). You made the decision based on your life experience as a geek that you could tell other people who is welcome as a geek and who is not. Based on my life experience as a geek, I have made the decision that I am qualified to tell you to suck eggs. You want to slap down people who you don’t feel qualify for geekdom? Then I get to slap you down for being wrong, on the basis of being higher up in the geek hierarchy. You don’t like it? Then you shouldn’t have played this game to begin with. You  played your cards, and I now I’ve played mine. This round goes to me. I have the conch. And now I will speak.

Who gets to be a geek?

Anyone who wants to be, any way they want to be one.

Geekdom is a nation with open borders. There are many affiliations and many doors into it. There are lit geeks, media geeks, comics geeks, anime and manga geeks. There are LARPers, cosplayers, furries, filkers, crafters, gamers and tabletoppers. There are goths and horror geeks and steampunkers and academics. There are nerd rockers and writers and artists and actors and fans. Some people love only one thing. Some people flit between fandoms. Some people are positively poly in their geek enthusiasms. Some people have been in geekdom since before they knew they were geeks. Some people are n00bs, trying out an aspect of geekdom to see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t then at least they tried it.

Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”

Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.

Let’s take these women cosplayers, who Mr. Peacock is so hand-flappingly disgusted with and dismissive of. Let’s leave aside, for now, the idea that for those of this group attending ComicCon, spending literally hundreds and perhaps even thousands of dollars on ComicCon passes, hotels, transportation, food, not to mention the money and time required to put together an excellent costume, is not in itself a signal indication of geek commitment. Let’s say that, in fact, the only reason the women cosplayers are there is to get their cosplay on, in front of what is likely to be an appreciative audience.

So what?

As in, so what if their only geekdom is cosplay? What if it is? Who does it harm? Who is materially injured by the fact? Who, upon seeing a woman cosplaying without an accompanying curriculum vitae posted above her head on a stick, laying out her geek bona fides, says to him or herself “Everything I loved about my geekdom has turned to ashes in my mouth,” and then flees to from the San Diego Convention Center, weeping? If there is such an unfortunate soul, should the fragile pathology of their own geekdom be the concern of the cosplaying woman? It seems highly doubtful that woman spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to show up in San Diego just to ruin some random, overly-sensitive geek’s day. It’s rather more likely she came to enjoy herself in a place where her expression of her own geekiness would be appreciated.

So what if her geekiness is not your own? So what if she isn’t into the geek life as deeply as you believe you are, or that you think she should be? So what if she doesn’t have a geek love of the things you have a geek love for? Is the appropriate response to those facts to call her gross, and a poacher, and maintain that she’s only in it to be slavered over by dudes who (in your unwarranted condescension) you judge to be not nearly as enlightened to the ways of geek women as you? Or would a more appropriate response be to say “great costume,” and maybe welcome her into the parts of geekdom that you love, so that she might possibly grow to love them too? What do you gain from complaining about her fakey fake fakeness, except a momentary and entirely erroneous feeling of geek superiority, coupled with a permanent record of your sexism against women who you don’t see being the right kind of geek?

These are your choices. Although actually there’s a third choice: Just let her be to do her thing. Because here’s a funny fact: Her geekdom is not about you. At all. It’s about her.

Geekdom is personal. Geekdom varies from person to person. There are as many ways to be a geek as there are people who love a thing and love sharing that thing with others. You don’t get to define their geekdom. They don’t get to define yours. What you can do is share your expression of geekdom with others. Maybe they will get you, and maybe they won’t. If they do, great. If they don’t, that’s their problem and not yours.

Be your own geek. Love what you love. Share it with anyone who will listen.

One other thing: There is no Speaker for the Geeks. Not Joe Peacock, not me, not anyone. If anyone tells you that there’s a right way to be a geek, or that someone else is not a geek, or shouldn’t be seen as a geek — or that you are not a geek — you can tell them to fuck right off. They don’t get a vote on your geekdom. Go cosplay, or play filk, or read that Doctor Who novel or whatever it is you want to do. Geekdom is flat. There is no hierarchy. There is no leveling up required, or secret handshake, or entrance examination. There’s just you.

Anyone can be a geek. Any way they want to. That means you too. Whoever you are.

Anyone who tells you different, you send them to me.