Some Thoughts on the Pose-Off Between Jim C. Hines and Me

You know. This one

1. The pose-off, while for charity, has its genesis in Jim taking pictures of himself in the poses that science fiction and fantasy book covers often put women in to call attention to the point that these positions are absurd (whereas the positions men are put in on covers are generally substantially less so). In the coverage of the pose-off, this point is getting a little lost, however, so Jim restates it here. Go take a look.

2. On the same subject, Think Progress’ Alyssa Rosenberg also has some thoughts. Also worth a look.

3. It’s fair to ask why I chose to do my picture in a dress and with a wig on; the answer is the woman in the picture is wearing a dress and has long hair, and I thought it was worth it to get as close to the original picture environment as possible. This also explains the crossbow, the bracelet and the heels.

4. Mind you, I was also aware of the humor possibilities inherent in me also having all those things and also being unshaven, which was another reason I chose to look as I did. Juxtapositions are fun!

5. That said, one of the side effects of that is some people wondering whether I was intentionally making a negative statement on transfolk. The answer: No. I am generally trans-positive because I believe people should be who they are, and they deserve love and support in becoming and then being that. I wouldn’t go out of my way to intentionally mock transfolk, because, among many other reasons, why be an asshole like that? We give transfolk enough burdens on a daily basis without me adding to their load. So if you’re a trans person (or love someone who is) and were wondering about intent, sorry if I made you wonder about that.

6. It was also not to make any statements about the other transfolk, i.e., transvestites, either. However, having briefly spent time in women’s clothing, I have newfound respect for the men who can rock that sort of kit, not to mention, of course, the women who wear it on a daily basis. That shit’s hard.

7. On the subject of whether the particular pose is ridiculous, my short answer is: Are you kidding? I just about popped my leg out of my hip socket holding that pose for roughly fifteen seconds. Some of that is down to me being a flabby, middle-aged dude trying to hold a gymnastic pose, but some of it is down to it being an entirely ridiculous position to put one’s self into.

8. Also, here’s a little bit of secret history for you: I did a little bit of gymnastics when I was a kid and could do a forward handspring without any real effort into my late 30s; I also took dance and can still cut a rug when it suits me. I’m flabby and middle-aged, but I’m not especially inflexible. That pose just about killed me getting into. Getting out of it was easy: I just fell forward. Anyone who wants to tell me that the pose isn’t really that ridiculous is invited to get into the position and hold it long enough to fire off a dozen photos or so.

9. I am happy my hip joint pain has been able to help contribute to the (so far) $6,700 Jim has raised for the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation, and pleased that so many of you have been generous in your giving. Thank you. There’s still time to give, incidentally.

10. There’s still one more pose-off between me and Jim to go. That’s not counting the mass pose with me, Jim, Pat Rothfuss, Charlie Stross and Mary Robinette Kowal. Consider both of these, why don’t you.

117 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Pose-Off Between Jim C. Hines and Me

  1. I am not especially flexible, and it hurts just thinking about trying to assume that pose. The best parts to me were the look on your face and Jim’s captions. Looking forward to the next pose off.

  2. I’ve never worn heels so that part of this kit I don’t know about. But as to wearing a dress I have mutant thick legs. I’m hoping our society goes back to kilts, togas, or tunics very soon. But not heels. No one should have to suffer those.

  3. I read most of Alyssa Rosenberg’s post on the subject, and while I understand and appreciate the cautionary note, the fact is enlightenment comes from within. All of this is just starter fluid. If someone’s ready to recognize equality, they’ll see it soon enough. If they’re not, moving a mountain will only get them to wonder why you didn’t part the sea instead.

    Besides that, I have to say, John, I did NOT click on the link “This one”. Hell no. I saw it once (twice?) already and I don’t need to see that again. Ever.

    I’m really not looking forward to the next pose-off. Really. Maybe you could shave? Or, how about leotards? At least cover that up, dude.

  4. 10. There’s still one more pose-off between me and Jim to go. That’s not counting the mass pose with me, Jim, Pat Rothfuss, Charlie Stross and Mary Robinette Kowal. Consider both of these, why don’t you.

    Is the intent to duplicate a particular cover? So would we need to find one with four women and a man?

  5. Very much looking forward to the mass pose-off! Great way to raise awareness of two issues at once (I had never heard of Aicardi Syndrome before). Also, wigs need to be combed into place, John, fyi.

  6. From Alyssa’s post: I wonder if the solution is less to pose men like women, than to demonstrate what superheroes would look like in sexual situations

    That’s what I was trying to say here:

    You could find the most “legitimate” cover image of a woman in a dress, put Scalzi in that same pose and same dress, and the body hair would trigger pretty much the same reaction. That, and the fact that it would be a man-in-drag image, would account for almost all the cognitive dissonance of people looking at it. … a more interesting cover would have a man in armor and a woman in a bikini, both of them with weapons. Then switch the roles, put a woman in the same armor, and then get an androgynous, hairless, buff male to put on a speedo, assume whatever hip-thrusting pose the woman on the cover was using, and let the sexualization begin.

    I said use an androgynous, hairless, buff, male, but substitute Alyssa’s “superheroes” if you’d rather.

    The point is that these covers show women essentially as soft porn. To trigger the same reaction with a male in the pose, you want a sexy male body in scantily clad male clothing. Buff, but not bulky. Lean and mean, like a runner or swimmer would be good. Probably hairless. The point is the covers show women as soft porn for men. To switch the gender, but keep everything else the same, it would be men as soft porn for men. i.e. If it could pass as gay soft-porn, then you’ve probably hit the jackpot.

    Hairy, not buff, balding, men isn’t going to hit the gay-porn jackpot. Men in drag isn’t porn-ish. Rule 34 porn doesn’t apply here. The point of porn is the subject is trying to invite and seduce the person watching it. So, the flip side version of these covers would basically be gay soft porn.

  7. I just had a mental image of Pat Rothfuss trying to do that particular pose.

    I’m not sure how it made me feel, but simply describing it as a combination of sad, horrified, and obscenely mirthful doesn’t quite cut it.

  8. Please don’t break Charlie Stross – I don’t think he has a background in gymnastics. Beer drinking yes, flexibility no.

  9. Not to go all hagiographic here but if people are parsing public postings for signs that the poster discriminates in word, thought, or deed towards anyone not hewing to the “normal” schematic John’s postings on Whatever are the last place they should go.

  10. With practice … nah, Youtube is easier. Cute teacher demonstrates (the fourth basic stance) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reyrSeHlkgM Here’s a different class doing Shaolin Long Fist Fu Hu Bo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io7eAaw8q6w&list=UUuGa5X3TWdDe_f80jOlNlzQ&index=33 The book character does a different martial art, Krav Maga, where it’s called a drop stance. Most martial arts have this, perhaps most commonly as the end point of a kick, or to dodge a kick, or to recover from a roll. That you don’t know of such a basic martial arts stance is entirely possible, no one can know everything. To refuse to accept it as such, :facepalm:, I suppose.

    That women are hyper-sexualized to sell almost everything is almost a truism. There are better examples. The fourth book in the series being one.

  11. Actually, and not to denigrate any of the female-to-male posing or the pose-off (both of which do call attention to the issues and are fun besides), for my money the most telling series of poses were the ones where Jim Hines contrasted typical male poses to the typical female ones. He still had fun, especially with the more extreme ones, but you could see that he didn’t have to contort himself so drastically to assume the position (as it were)–and he said himself that the biggest difference between the male and female poses were that the male ones didn’t hurt.

  12. I can understand there are gender issues that are sensitive and close to a lot of people in the world but seriously folks, calm down. This is a bit of fun, it’s raising money for charity and, and, well I’ve not got a third just now. The internet is such a strange place these days. It doesn’t all have to make sense you know. Just be.

  13. htom @ 6:01: Actually, and again for what it’s worth, it really was never the pose itself that looked so ridiculous to me personally (though I admit to a moment’s concern for the possibility of one of the two competitors dislocating a hip trying to get into it, neither one being a trained martial artist as I assumed the character was supposed to be). The figure seemed competently drawn (unlike the one in the cover you refer to, #4 of the series), but what was she doing in that position in a dress and high heels? And firing a crossbow from that position without putting herself on her backside? That seemed a trifle unlikely to me, and perhaps something that an experienced fighter would attempt to avoid . . .

  14. htom:

    It’s true that it’s very similar to a perfectly standard martial arts stance. But the fact that the model is in high heels, and that subtle-but-bizarre torso torsion she has going on, transform it from a low balanced stance into something precarious and weird.

    Disclaimer here: I don’t do kung fu or krav maga or any other martial art with that kind of stance in it, so maybe more practice would indeed fix this. But I used to do tae kwon do and I’ve always been flexible bordering on hypermobility; I just tried to mimic the cover model’s stance (in sneakers), and my hip and ankle were fine with it. Then I went up on my toes, and all of a sudden that left hand on the ground was doing serious work in keeping me upright; I wasn’t balanced any more, I was teetering forward. Yeah, in actual high heeled shoes I’d’ve been able to rest some weight back on my heels and balance it out a little better, but I still don’t think it would have felt like a natural stance to take — especially to point a crossbow at a target, which is presumably something you want a stable base to do. I didn’t even try to do the abdominal twist thing she’s doing to have that kind of curve to her torso with her hips and shoulders facing the way they are. (I didn’t have a convenient mirror to check my success with, and my hand was already getting tired from holding that much weight on my fingertips.)

    There are definitely more torturous cover poses out there, and ones that are a lot further from any kind of practical pose. But I do think the differences between that picture and a low/drop/whatever stance are significant.

  15. In the mass pose-off, I hope MRK gets to be the action-figure male from an appropriate cover. If you’re going to do gender-swapping as an undertext, that fits…

    Of, of course, she could just be so graceful that she really shows up the males. And I say that having met all of the posers (poseurs?) at one time or another…

  16. Yeah, there is a similar low stance in some martial arts, but besides the fact that it’s absurd to be doing that in high heels and a dress (seriously? not happening) nobody is going to drop into such an unstable stance to fire a crossbow. Those stances are almost always used to recover from an attack or evasion, in melee. Honestly, I don’t believe for one second the artist thought about the position as anything other than a way to show off her leg. And a nice leg it is, but I’ll be completely honest here, even as a completely heterosexual male, when you show me an absurd cover like that, you have seriously reduced the chance I will actually pick up the book and look at it long enough to figure out whether or not I like the writing. That cover says to me, here’s another oversexualized Badass Chick the Monster Killer/Lover and most of that genre is below dreadfully bad. I buy a fair bit of fantasy and SF, I like quite a bit of the better urban fantasy of recent years, I should be at least on the fringe of this book’s target audience, but the cover tells me I want nothing to do with it and not because of my opinion about using sex to sell books, but because I associate it with low quality, in my experience, usually with justification. Put a woman that actually looks badass o the cover instead of sexy model failing to look badass and I might give it another look.

  17. Mary Frances — I have not read all of the book, only skimmed it. There is a scene where she’s going out to a fancy dress mate-swapping party and talks to herself about wearing the slit skirt so she’ll be able to kick if she has to (and ends up in a battle, being thrown about and rolling on the floor) … but she wears knee-high boots with wedge heels. The background doesn’t seem to fit that party, either, so maybe she wears the skirt another time. Or it could be artistic license or management photoshopping — “It’s a book cover, what do you expect!” as so many I’ve asked about it over the last two days have said.

    I seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that image as sexy (I do think the 4th cover is, even with the wide-angle viewpoint distortion that lengthens her legs even more than they are in the second.) All of the men thought the author’s photo on the back cover is sexy as well (and I agree), several suggested she should pose for her own covers; the women say “glamor shot.”

    Crossbows have recoil but it’s different than that of a firearm. Won’t probably knock you back over, it will displace your aim and pull you forward. (The crossbows seem to be magical, magazine-fed semi-automatic, self-loading and self-drawing.) I would never intentionally choose to use such a pose as a good one to fire any weapon, but if I’ve rolled across the floor to grab it and am coming to my feet with it in one hand, I can see being in that posture as I transitioned to a better stance.

    Beth B. — They are not easy postures to hold, especially without practice. You have to hold your head and chest up while pushing your bottom back (all of which pull your center of gravity back.) You can do the torso rotation, you’re just not used to it. Hold your hips straight ahead and turn your shoulders, twisting your waist. You can probably do more than seventy five degrees to left and right.

  18. Leon — we practice in the dojo, we live in the world. Leaving your skills in the dojo is a waste of your practice. If you can’t fight in high heels, don’t wear them?

  19. htom @ 7:53–eh, I suspect we’re more in agreement than not, here, under the surface at least. But anyway, just to clarify, I deliberately didn’t try to respond to the pose’s inherent stability or instability (as Beth B. did) because I have no expertise at all in the area, as you and she obviously do. However, I have fired a bow, though not in years (and not a crossbow, so maybe I’m talking through my hat but this is what I was thinking of), and I’m aware of the contradictory sort of push-pull you get from most of them–and I think you are kind of underestimating just how unstable a crouching woman in high heels really is. (Nor does it surprise me, incidentally, that the outfit described in the book is more practical than the cover shot; that’s also indicative of the problem, in a way.) From what you say, it sounds as though it’s more likely that she’d face-plant than go over backwards, but I’m pretty sure she’s going to hit the ground in some way. In the first video you linked to, the instructor made a big point of describing the pose as flat-footed, didn’t she? And it’s kind of impossible to be flat-footed in heels . . .

    More importantly, perhaps, it isn’t really this particular pose that’s the problem, in my opinion–it’s that no male martial-artist-heroes are depicted in similar cover poses. Why not? The second video you linked to showed a group of male pre-teens assuming the pose, so I gather that men know how to use this position, too. That’s what I meant in my post at 6:10: trying to copy this pose hurts an average, untrained man, while trying to copy a corresponding male cover pose does not hurt. We assume that it’s natural, or attractive (though I’m not sure just who this cover is supposed to be aimed at, to tell you the truth), for a woman to be in this crouching, difficult pose, while a man tends looks silly–because we don’t expect to contort himself in that fashion, I believe. Even if–as a trained martial artist–he undoubtedly could, and would, if necessary . . .

  20. htom: we practice in the dojo, we live in the world. Leaving your skills in the dojo is a waste of your practice. If you can’t fight in high heels, don’t wear them?

    I agree. So why put the cover model in heels? Well . . . to sexualize her in a very specific way, I imagine. And isn’t that kind of the point of this whole discussion?

  21. “I can understand there are gender issues that are sensitive and close to a lot of people in the world but seriously folks, calm down.”

    You’re telling people who are trying to have a discussion about the implications of gender swapping/transphobia, a hugely marginalized group of society, to calm down? That’s going to go down well…

    “The internet is such a strange place these days.”

    By that you mean “people not within my comfort zone of gender binary thinking are strange”? Hmm, yes, this is going to go exceedingly well…

  22. htom: I seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that image as sexy

    I don’t see it as sexy. The artist may have been trying to objectify her leg, but it seems to be drawn at the wrong angle to connect with her hip, so it just looks a bit silly to me.

    Even if you count the leg, the skin exposure is pretty tame. a leg, 2 arms, shoulders, head. No bare midriff, no plunging cleavage, no thong or butt revealing getup. If you look out your window in the summertime, you’ll probably see more skin.

    And her posture, may or may not be contorted, but it isn’t sexy. It is either merely awkward, or perhaps martial. If you want a sexy pose, then it would be ass facing the camera with a torso twist so her boobs are also facing the camera. Or a chest heaved upward. Or an ass pushed out and up. Or maybe she’s standing up with her head tilted back to reveal her neck. Or show an hour-glass curve. Or her body draped over a chair, a’la “Flash Dance”.

    This? there is nothing that says come hither here. There is nothing that says look at me here. Her body is not positioned so as to be on display. It’s not like she’s thrusting double-D breasts towards the reader. Her breasts aren’t even visible. Her hips are indistinguishable. Her waist is only slightly smaller then her hips. Her neck is blocked by the position of her head. Her midriff is indistinguishable and covered up. We can’t see her ass. We can’t see her back.

    All it is, is an awkward looking pose because her leg doesn’t line up with her hip socket.

    If this occurs as sexy or sexual in any significant way, I’d say you need to get out more.

    Contrast with “touch of twilight”, which has a woman in short-shorts, bare midriff, skin tight tank top. ass thrust back, chest thrust forward, breasts clearly visible through the fabric, neck visible. Or “Cheat the Grave”, skin tight halter top, bare midriff, cleavage, head to the side and tilted back completely exposing her neck, hips thrust to the left highlighting her waist. Or Vampire Romance. exposed back showing her ass but enough of a turn of the torso to also show her boobs, chest thrust forward, ass thrust back, lots of skin.

    Those are all sexualizing the women on the cover.

  23. I must say, John looks like he can actually take that pose without falling on his ass and is, um, ready for action. In that respect, Jim’s is the better pose.
    Second thought – neither the original nor Jim looks particularly sexy.

  24. My comment is …… John, every time I read one of your books, this is how I’m going to imagine your author photo to be. ;)~

  25. Biscuit @8:44 in the (open) trans spaces where I’ve already seen this discussed (which, granted, isn’t all of them), the response has been less “Scalzi and Hines are transphobic! How dare they?” and more “Who are these white knights rushing in to defend us?”

    (…and the second response is “This isn’t the kind of defense we need!”)

  26. htom:

    The torso issue I was talking about isn’t the hips and shoulders. I had no trouble keeping my hips and shoulders facing forward. And I could certainly have rotated my shoulders and upper body while keeping my hips stable. It’s that as far as I can see from that curve of her left torso, either she’s missing a few ribs or she’s got her rib cage turned a little to the left (for better display of an hourglass figure, I guess) while still keeping her hips and her shoulders squarely parallel to her outstretched leg. That’s talent!

    I’m willing to allow that as a weird angle or something, though, especially since I haven’t seen myself in a good mirror to check the torso curve. It’s the fact that she’s in high heels that’s really the trouble. As I said, I found it a nice stable stance that was reasonably comfortable… until I went up on the balls of my feet, and then nothing was stable about it at all.

    Anyway, I think we’re mostly agreeing — drop stance is absolutely a valid martial arts stance in some arts, albeit one that takes a lot of practice and/or innate flexibility to comfortably achieve. If they’d had the cover model in sensible shoes and resisted the urge to make her waist curve in, I wouldn’t have much to complain about. (As you say, it’s not a great stance for firing from, but I’d grant it as a transitional one chosen for showiness on the cover.) And from the outfit you describe, the character keeps practicality in mind when choosing clothes she might have to fight in. What I’m quibbling about is that a couple of minor changes shifted the cover from a dramatically showy but IC pose, in dramatic but IC clothing, to being something ridiculous and unstable. And why? Because, I can only assume, wearing strappy heels and having a carefully defined curve of stomach and hip is what a lady on a book cover is supposed to do so she’s sexy.

    It does a disservice to the book, I think. And more, the wider trend of it (which is, of course, the root of this entire genderswapped cover pose meme) does a disservice to the books, because it means that this cover doesn’t look to me like a woman who does Krav Maga and chooses her party clothes so that they’ll look snazzy but allow her to beat up bad guys. It looks like Scantily Clad Heroine Showing Leg: Action Contortion #13. And that’s a pity, because it means that it’s really hard to pick out which covers are a slightly distorted but fairly representative version of a canonical scene, and which are just shorthand for This Is An Urban Fantasy, Look, A Hot Chick. If she were a man, she might be shirtless but she’d be getting to stand flat on her feet; I wouldn’t have to find a mirror to figure out if the shape of his torso was physically possible to achieve.

  27. Seriously, can’t people READ? If any trans-whatever got upset I’d advise them to enroll in a g.d. reading comprehension class, right after they pull that stick out.

  28. Beth B. — It looks to me like her left shoulder is closer to the camera than her left hip, and her right shoulder is above or a touch behind her right hip. She’s curving her spine to her left, lengthening her left arm reach. I think her right foot should be further to her right, this really looks like she’s balancing on her right foot, with no weight on either her left foot or left hand, and that’s precarious.

    I wonder if the model and artist are following this conversation, and what they’re saying?

    What really bugs me is the triangular scrap of black on her right side, below the bow and above her waist. Above the bow, the black hugs her torso, then it suddenly jumps out and flows down to her waist, as if she had a right-pointing B-cup breast in her right armpit.

  29. Why is it that gender issues get so much attention on SFF author blogs these days? It’s not the posing that got to me, THAT actually has a point and is amusing to boot. Props to Mr. Hines and Mr. Scalzi.

    It’s the constant comments and whining that amaze me. I didn’t even know trans-phobic was a thing. Get over yourselves, people.

  30. Ah, dismissals and condensation because of a polite non-non-apology. I wish I were surprised.

    I also wish more people were privileged enough not to be aware of systemic discrimination of all forms, but not to the point where they tell those that may experience it to get over themselves.

    If wishes were fishes…

  31. Eric RoM & John V.:

    Perhaps you can go away and do a little research on harassment, physical abuse, rape, assault and murder of transpeople. Or how transpeople are routinely denied access to healthcare, social services, employment, education and housing.

    Or, you know, take a leaf out of the books of our host and Jim Hines about taking criticism from feminist women and transpeople without being a total cis-male dick about it. It’s only rocket science if you insist on making it so.

  32. @John V: I will be pleasantly surprised if you show the ability of being nice.

    And yes, it should have been condescension instead of condensation. Congrats for noticing!

    @cranapia:
    I agree. It’s like, how to do this: exhibits Scalzi and Hines. How not to do this: …..

  33. This little firestorm aside, I’m glad that we have things like the Hawkeye Initiative and the pose-off. It’s an amusing and attention-getting way of making a serious point. I don’t think there’s harm in using comedy to make these gestures, because otherwise, you’re really only left with lecturing and people tend to tune out.

  34. Your pose is clearly funny, the wig makes it even funnier and it serves the original purpose of drawing attention on the ridiculous and impractical pose many female characters do for book covers (as Jim and you mention multiple times). It has nothing whatsoever to do with mocking transvestites.

  35. @Eric RoM: If you’re going to provide crude, unsolicited and condescending advice: please spell out your god damn curse words. It isn’t more polite to abbreviate them when everyone knows what you’re saying. Or, do you think you’re talking to five year olds?

    @John V: “I didn’t know it was a thing, therefore shut up about it.” I think your problem is self evident.
    “I don’t understand what’s being discussed, therefore I will intrepret everything said about this as whiney, needy, annoying and totally unnecessary.” Again, your problem is self evident.

    @minaria: John V did self admit to being completely ignorant. So, there may be a lack of awareness that one should do one’s best to avoid being a condescending douchecanoe.

    @cranapia: Thirded. It isn’t difficult to self correct ignorance. And using that as a prelude to a dismissal of a segment of the population from one’s world view is…well. As you say.

  36. Scalzi and Hines were not acting dismissively toward transsexuals and, for the record, neither am I. I do, however, dismiss this seemingly enforced hypersensitivity to what was clearly meant to draw attention •toward• gender bias.

    I suppose I’m standing on a bit of a soapbox here, but it seems as if a lot of people are out to feign offense where none was intended, and treat offense as some kind of privilege. “I have been offended, and now I demand apology”, which everyone else falls over themselves to provide.

    I didn’t mean to sidetrack the conversation and incur the wrath of the internet, but seriously. I’ll say it again – get over yourselves. What Scalzi and Hines did was very useful, and amusing as well.

    I’m curious if anyone’s made an attempt to reach out to the cover’s artist with this for their response.

  37. htom: I couldn’t tell if that black triangle was meant to be part of the dress or part of the background, so I charitably assumed the latter — the perils of painting a black dress at night! In any case, I’ve just tried it in high heels, and it’s actually more stable than I thought when you have real heels to sit back into — but it’s murder on that side-bent ankle, and it still doesn’t feel like a solid base the way the flat-footed version does. And I agree about the right foot; either her foot or her knee or both should be further to the right, I think.

    Anyway, I think the more we descend into the minutiae of this, the more we’re really agreeing about the fact that with a couple of minor tweaks, the cover could be a valid strong martial arts stance (and a very dramatic-looking one), and the fact that it’s difficult for most people to achieve that stance easily could, in an ideal world, be something that demonstrated that this heroine had a lot of training in her martial discipline(s) of choice. Which I gather from your skimming that in the book she does! Unfortunately, the wider context of book cover trends mean it doesn’t come across that way. For evidence, see all the “Oh my god, what a ridiculous impossible pose! Just to show a lot of leg!” reactions.

    I don’t think the fact that this is (close to) a real stance in some disciplines invalidates those reactions at all. In part because, well, they’re kneejerk reactions, and that’s what you’re going to get for a book cover, so you want the reaction to be “Ooh, that looks cool, I’m curious to know more!” regardless of whether the person has a background of martial arts knowledge or not. But also because the fact is that she is in a dramatic pose that shows a lot of leg, and there are an unfortunately plentiful number of books where that says more about genre cover trends and the sexualization of women in media than it does about the protagonist of that particular novel. I’m pleased to learn that the character’s meant to be doing a stance from the martial art she actually studies, and that the high-slit skirt comes from a scene where it was a deliberate character decision instead of being something that protagonist would never wear — but still, why couldn’t she have had a pose that didn’t involve high heels and a bare leg and precarious balance, if the goal was to show off her badassery?

    I agree that I’m very curious about whether the artist and/or model are following this at all, and if so if they’d have any thoughts on it. (And I’ll happily eat my words if, say, the angle of her right leg is a faithful rendering of how that model’s individual balance worked in those shoes. But I’ll stand by my ones about cover trends.)

  38. @John V: You qualified your comments by implicitly declaring yourself the arbiter of legitimacy (“THAT actually has a point “). That isn’t side tracking a conversation, that’s an attempt to void a conversation by declaring it useless. That this was married to the self admission that you are unaware of these issues emphsaizes the subjective nature of your dismissal, as arbiter of legitimacy.

    Offense does not have to be intended for it to be realized. Also: “and treat offense as some kind of privilege” That’s, like, perverse.

  39. I completely agree with Cheryl Morgan’s post about this, which can basically be summed up by Andrew Trembley’s comments, above.

    John and Jim were using a little bit of dressing in drag to highlight a gender issue, and yes, there was humor involved. All people who dress in drag are not transvestites nor transsexuals, though a tremendous amount of the world seems to think those groups are all equivalent rather than overlapping. Further reinforcing that ignorant picture of the world does no one any good.

    This kind of reminds me of how the white anti-racists participating in RaceFail often contributed to the fail. Fighting for Feminist ideals is all well and good, but if you are “defending” a group that you think is being discriminated against you might want to check with that group first to see how they actually feel about the situation.

  40. offense does not have to be intended for someone to be offended. But that doesnt mean the person offended is the objective reality, and all who disagree with them are merely expressing their subjective opinion which is entirely wrong. neener. neener.

    dressing in drag is not like performing blackface. jeebus.

  41. Anyone who wants to tell me that the pose isn’t really that ridiculous is invited to get into the position and hold it long enough to fire off a dozen photos or so.

    Well, Jim C. Hines actually got closer to the cover model’s pose than you did (though I feel you made up for it with the added wardrobe efforts*). But you actually (at least for the take you used) got pretty close to a stretch used by many martial artists and hurdlers (at least, and maybe other sports I’ve never done, such as, say, gymnastics). So I agree that the pose on the book cover was less practical, but yours is almost one I do daily for a count to 30 on one then the other leg. Also, it’s a ridiculous position to shoot from in any event. I’m kind of the opinion that these pictures make sexism clearer in the same way drawing a circle around the sun makes it easier to locate at high noon. Not that I want you to stop doing them. Of all the poses of women that Jim has aped to date, the one used for the pose-off was the closest to an actual fighting stance (though usually the people who fall into it are wearing a baggy gi, not a side-slit dress, and even I cringe at the angle of her ankle.

    * which I’ll go ahead a point out are amusing not because a guy dressed as a girl in inherently funny (to me, anyway), but because you, John Scalzi, look pretty damn good as a blond (really, that’s not a joke).

    @ John V.

    It’s the constant comments and whining that amaze me.

    Then stop whining.

    I suppose I’m standing on a bit of a soapbox here, but it seems as if a lot of people are out to feign offense where none was intended, and treat offense as some kind of privilege.

    Then you’re missing the point. If the whole gist of a joke is “he’s gay” or “she’s trans”, then the joke isn’t really funny, but it does attempt to turn people’s sexual or gender orientation into a punchline. In other words, if you think someone being gay or trans is automatically funny, then all you’re doing is ridiculing someone for who and what they are, and that’s straight-up bigotry. Now if you think John looks funny in that outfit, that’s a different story. It’s not whining to ask him to clarify which was his intent. Whining would be asking him to not cross-dress since he’s not trans.

    Also, as Anne Gray alluded, the clothes do not make the orientation.

  42. @Greg:

    “But that doesnt mean the person offended is the objective reality, and all who disagree with them are merely expressing their subjective opinion which is entirely wrong. neener. neener.”

    I don’t particularly disagree (even if I dislike the phrase objective reality). But, I don’t think I said anything contradictory.

    Still, that doesn’t diminish the assholery of an opinion, accompanied by an admission of ignorance, that is intended to regulate others. And instructing people not to whine? Might as well advise them to take their societal concerns about their personal experience with the world back to pre-school to fingerpaint their feelers.

    Whether or not you agree with the concern, I think the discourse here is a notch above that sort of rhetorical pot shot.

  43. Yes, it’s John, in particular, which his particular combination of body and facial hair and his particular brand of soft-butch-nerdiness (which I file under “charm”) combined with the femme-fatale dress and the absurdly unmatched-in-any-way wig that makes his picture laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who thinks John was making fun of transvestites with that picture is just being silly.

    The point that men are not posed in these absurd poses is accentuated by the costuming, but there’s a more general point to what I was taught to call “genderfuck,” which is to juxtapose strong markers for gender, masculine and feminine, with the aim of highlighting how arbitrary and ultimately absurd those categories are. The fact that slinky LBDs are not usually paired with hairy legs and beards is social, not natural.

    And Greg, you have clearly taken only the most cursory and narrow look at gay porn. I don’t blame you for that; I do blame you for talking as if you knew something about the topic. There are plenty of guys who go for body hair and bulk. Keyword ‘bear’ for more on that. Every possible male body type has its fans.

  44. Beth — Anyway, I think the more we descend into the minutiae of this, the more we’re really agreeing about the fact that with a couple of minor tweaks, the cover could be a valid strong martial arts stance (and a very dramatic-looking one), and the fact that it’s difficult for most people to achieve that stance easily could, in an ideal world, be something that demonstrated that this heroine had a lot of training in her martial discipline(s) of choice. Which I gather from your skimming that in the book she does! Unfortunately, the wider context of book cover trends mean it doesn’t come across that way. For evidence, see all the “Oh my god, what a ridiculous impossible pose! Just to show a lot of leg!” reactions.

    Too true and very well said. I can get down like that again now, but don’t have the strength in my legs to get out of it like I should (it was easy in the 60’s as a Marine). Gimme a couple of more years and maybe I’ll be able to again. You can get it back (the flexibility and strength.) Chairs are evil. Sitting in chairs ruins your hips and legs.

    Part of what annoys me about this is what I perceived as disrespect of the model and artist, with the claim that the pose was impossible. It’s hard work, true, and most cannot do it. But with what’s available on the internet, once it had been pointed out (and I wasn’t the only one) point at the possible photo manipulations and leave the impossible claim behind. (Part of me wonders, too, if it’s not from a frame of video.)

    Not that the whole thing of selling things with images of women (and to a small extent of men) isn’t just … silly at best. Disgusting at worst. I think the peak (or was it the bottom) of it was the Rolling Stone cover of Sarah Michelle Gellar in red leather (link for those who were too young ); after that, it seemed … not to get better, it didn’t, but it began to really be pointed at in a negative way.. Which it should be.

  45. Here’s a cover image fairly close to a man in a female pose. Hip to one side. One shoulder much lower than the other (as opposed to the “male” pose of a “square” chest). head turned away slightly to expose the neck. shirt falling off shoulders. Skin tight speedo to show his package.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lust-potion-9-sabine-winters/1109654647?ean=2940014275439

    simultaneous front and back, ass and chest:

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/locker-room-rendezvous-eric-mcgovern/1109405049?ean=2940013937932

    male figure contorted solely to be put on display:

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gay-fantasy-randy-sherman/1113648549?ean=2940014277211

    They’re cover images for gay erotica for sale on barnes and noble. This is what it looks like when you have a male body sexualized the way some mainstream book covers sexualize women.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with erotica. Just, you know, call it what it is.

  46. As a certified transsexual lesbian wiccan veteran of the military, I do not find your actions offensive. You have a great sense of humor, and a higher degree of respect than a lost of commentors on this blog.

  47. Mary Frances: “More importantly, perhaps, it isn’t really this particular pose that’s the problem, in my opinion–it’s that no male martial-artist-heroes are depicted in similar cover poses.” She is one of several people to make the same claim.

    That isn’t true. Here are some counter-examples:
    http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070316121943/marveldatabase/images/e/ea/Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_49.jpg
    http://heroictimes.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/master_of_kung_fu_24.jpg
    http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070328171336/marveldatabase/images/5/53/Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_90.jpg
    http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061222213242/marveldatabase/images/2/2a/Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_39.jpg
    http://heroictimes.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/391px-master_of_kung_fu_21.jpg
    http://jacketupload.macmillanusa.com/jackets/high_res/jpgs/9780812590623.jpg
    http://www.waynesbooks.com/images/graphics/whitedwarf107.jpg
    http://img.newkadia.com/Covers/L/C/Conan%20the%20Barbarian%201970%20series/conanthebarbarian1970series39.jpg
    http://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/669143.jpg
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-NbiK1GHPt0k/T9-DfKcatVI/AAAAAAAACMI/yJUhK0wTeLE/s1600/conan+35+loin+cloth.jpg

    I also posted some in the last thread. For the record, while searching for this I found two females in a similar pose (I can’t find the other again, but here’s one: http://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/669359.jpg). The women I saw tended to be swooning or simpering.
    http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/Stromboli/SSOc3-New.jpg
    http://images.darkhorse.com/covers/15/15545.jpg
    http://cdn100.iofferphoto.com/img/item/279/015/2/o_twOTZqojfNxsD7r.jpg
    So I would say that the reason they don’t show up in this pose as much is because it is an action pose and the women are usually limited to sexytime poses. Since the context of the contest implies that John and Jim thought this woman was sexualized because of her pose, I think they chose a poor example. The woman on the cover they chose is sexualized, but it’s because of her dress and shoes, not the pose. Other women on other covers are in sexual poses, so they should have chosen one of them.

    Unrelated note: Conan seems to be fond of getting into this pose to fight monsters that are behind him. I wonder why that is.

  48. htom,

    You’re right that the pose is technically possible, but difficult – in fact, I actually thought John got pretty close. It’s all about the reason, though – the pose is awfully impractical, so are you showing it to draw attention to a character’s martial arts skill… or their skin?

  49. John V. — My own suspicion is that they used that image in an attempt to draw attention to the book and create a sale. It has, at the very least, created one sale; I suspect the crowd in the discussion isn’t large enough to even make a blip in sales, but maybe it is. I’m not sure that it worked the way they thought it would, though, because I’d seen the cover before the fuss and not looked further, as I’d read it as “plucky modern damsel in distress with crossbow and dagger in her garter” –> on-going fantasy of some sort, no thanks. Recently my mood has not been in that direction for fiction, I doubt I would have remembered it.

    In real life combat situations the stance is very practical. One of the half-dozen basic stances (different arts have slight variations and counts.) You can be pardoned for not understanding that, as, like most people, you don’t study martial arts. We live in a world where such study is not the necessity it is (or was) for some. Which is why I thought of her as plucky — in trouble, she was doing things right, monster was not having a “happy meal with legs”. I didn’t think to criticize her stance, she’s not in a dojo where she’s practicing and doing — or trying to do — it perfectly; she’s in the world, attacked, kept or gotten her feet under her, which is the root goal of the stance, and is going to do her best.

    That’s how the world becomes better.

  50. Cory @ 5:53: True. I should know better than to talk in absolutes on the internet. On the other hand, most of the images you link to sort of support my point, too: they are a lot more active than the ToN cover, usually involving the presence of an enemy to fight as well as the figure of the hero. In other words, the men in those covers are a lot less formally “posed” and a lot more “in the midst of action,” if you see what I mean. In some of them, the action is so thick that I’m not sure the position actually is the pose we are talking about, either intentionally or not–it could just as easily be a wide-leg “power stance” of a more generic sort. If you hadn’t pointed out the similarity, I don’t think that I, as a casual observer, would have made the connection at all (I repeat, to some of the comic covers, not all–and I’m sure you’ve got more examples! see above, re: my error in talking absolutes on the internet) and certainly not to the formal “hold that shot” contortion of the ToN cover. Does it matter than these are all comic book covers rather than book covers? I’m thinking of some of female comic book heroes I’ve seen in positions that–well, let’s just say a real human body couldn’t possibly get into those. So maybe comics are by convention more extreme?

    On the other hand, maybe not. You do have a point, and I’m not trying to argue, really. I think that what matters is that we agree she’s sexualized–and to me, the Hines/Scalzi pose-off got that across quite clearly. (And, um, just in case someone reading this misses the point–it’s a pose-off because we, the readers, picked that particular cover out of three possiblies . . . which at least implies that the pose in this context looks both absurd and “for the purposes of sexy” to the non-expert viewer, at least.)

  51. It irks me that a satirical, light touch way of exposing something that’s kinda shady gets turned on its head and people start acting like it’s worse than the problem it’s trying to lampoon/bring attention to.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that people just want to clutch their pearls, and will make up any reason they can to do so.

    Pose on, Scalzi. Pose on.

  52. htom: (different arts have slight variations and counts.)

    my experience with martial arts is aikido, and in aikido, at least how I was taught, this sort of stance would be a huge failure. much of aikido is keeping your center of gravity…. centered, keeping your limbs… limber. Even when you roll head over heels, there’s a feeling to it of being balanced.

    But then, aikido is not what I would call a “standard” martial art. It’s mostly defensive. We never practiced attacks or punchs or kicks. We never learned anything resembling the movie stereotype that is the “karate chop” or breaking a stack of bricks.

    Most of the positions wouldn’t be very interesting to look at, as far as cover art is concerned. There was a sequence of maneuvars we practiced with the wooden sword and the staff that you could snapshot and turn into an interesting cover.

    That’s part of the thing here, I think, trying to make an interesting cover. artists put characters into weird positions just to make them doing something other than “just standing there”. There’s ways it could be done without sexualizing the character, but covers with people “just standing there” can be harder to make interesting. You have to make the characters have personality in a snapshot. being in motion is a way to add interest to the image without really adding much artistically or from the point of story telling through the image.

  53. What concerns me a little, is how this debate is being misunderstood completely, like almost sort of an excuse to once again rant against political correctness or the very least trans-whatever’s. Especially Eric RoM and John V. seem to miss the entire point. I would like to point out two things:

    1) No one in is offended by the two photographs of Jim Hines and John Scalzi posing like the cover girl. It is neither read as intentionally offensive or unintentionally offensive. No one thinks that this great charity is transphobic, heteronormative, homophobic or even misogynic, quite the opposite actually. Not even Alyssa Rosenberg from Thinkprogress.com is condemning it (which is self evident if one reads her entry), but goes into esoteric territory and a discussion of whether or not it is the right tactics to use when doing such a thing (which I by the way do think it is; the two gents are doing what they can with their particular resources, gender/sexuality ect.). Transpeople, gays and women are more than okay with Scalzi and Hines, perhaps even somewhat jolly that the two dared to take the discussion at all.

    It’s a great charity. Simple idea that fits both Jim Hines and John Scalzi (because, you know, they’re writers, they have covers on their books). The pictures are outrageous enough to grab attention, thus promoting the charity. It sells the two authors as fun guys with brains and a cause, and in the end it results in guys like me who ends up buying Libriomancer on Amazon on a whim, cuz’ hey! Jim Hines seemed like a nice guy and therefore I’m sure his book won’t be full of all sorts of -ism’s and phobias.
    They raise awareness about how we see women, in this instance specifically how we see and sell women on the covers of fantasy books. When we change the gender of the girl on the cover and in Scalzi’s case are left with all the “symbols” or “coded tropes” of a sexually available woman like the hair, the bracelet, the impractical (for a warrior) dress and heels, we can suddenly see with raw clarity just how gruesomely absurd the poses on these covers are. It’s a way to force us to see the gender roles we’re blind to normally.

    2) HOWEVER, the issue that Jim Hines himself raised (not the trannies, not the homos nor the women) was that some folks seems to laugh at the pictures for all the wrong reasons. And that part is true.

    If people are laughing at the pictures because “Eeew gross, hahaha, disgusting transfagg*ts… pffft Scalzi and Hines really illustrates how icky those sorts of people are”, then as Jim Hines pointed out people really HAVE missed the entire point of the project, and it is the laughing people who are being offensive. Those people are the people gay people, women and trans-people are offended by, because when they laugh, they’re laughing at them and showing them who’s boss around here: Straight men.

    So if you’re laughing because John Scalzi and Jim Hines, two straight guys, lowered themselves to the pit where women, trans-people and gays belong, then the offense is being done by you.
    *Full excuses for the excessive commas and spelling errors. I’m doing the best I can as a foreigner.

  54. @ htom,
    In your examples, the centre of mass of the martial artists seems to remain between the feet. And the same seems to be true of most of the male examples cory posted. Something that seems not to be the case in the cover picture, which probably is one of the reasons neither Jim or John managed it.
    I don’t know anything about the martial arts, but that seems to be one important detail that differentiates this cover from a practical stable stance.

  55. Henrik,

    But that’s not the reason that I’m laughing. Men have dressed in drag for the sake of comedy for a very long time. The assumption that it’s about mocking trans-people is a bit of a leap, as it’s most commonly funny in its own right, absurdist humor. If anything, it’s often men poking fun at women. And many women do the reverse toward men. Case in point, six months or so ago when the “Shit women say” YouTube videos were being passed around.

    Let’s not be so hypersensitive. It was clear from the beginning, not just this post, why Jim & John were doing it and what their motives are. I understand that you think complaints about political correctness are grating, but as long as people insist on continually raising that bar and enforcing it on the rest of us, you’ll continue to hear said complaints.

  56. John V. – Thanks for the reply. Well, I should perhaps have made it clearer, that the “you” I’m addressing isn’t you, as such, more like a those people”.

    But it still seems there’s a general disconnection in what people are guessing other people are offended by. I think I made it clear, that it was in no way what Jim Hines and John Scalzi contributed. I’m not claiming you laugh at the photo’s for this and that reason, but Jim Hines politely reminded that laughing at them for the wrong reasons (which I mentioned) is counterproductive to what he’s actually aiming at with the pictures.

    But as a general life-sort of rule, that other calls “political correctness” sometimes, I kinda live by this: Straight white men don’t get to say to black, gay women how much racism, homophobia or sexism they should tolerate from them, because changing is, like, an annoying.
    Anyway, enough of that. There’s no big issue here, other than one could say that the way people respond to these pictures isn’t exactly wholesome everywhere. And it’s fair enough if Scalzi and Hines don’t want to be mistook for something they’re not because a few people have comprehension difficulties and the ability to repost the images everywhere, reattaching it to a sentiment of phobia.

  57. While the ridiculous nature of overly sexuality body contortions of women in an effort to sell a book are being lampooned to humor.
    At least Mr. Scalzi is a conscious type for 2012. The reenactment of the pose humorously illustrates how ridiculous it is. Bravo Mr. Scalzi! <3

    Its 2012, almost 2013. We don't have "separate but equal" segregation among African Americans. We don't equate Jewish, Irish, Italian with non-white.
    "Trans-whatever" & "hyper-sensitive" is hardly a way to marginalize someone you just happen not to believe in, just like many will argue that The Holocaust never happened..But it did

    Surely fans of Science Fiction/Fantasy would have a more fluid perception of gender than the typical person? I mean you believe a man in tights can fly?

    For updating ones terminology: "gay" is not equal to "trans."

  58. Henrick: No one in is offended by the two photographs of Jim Hines and John Scalzi posing

    No one at all? I don’t think such an absolute statement holds water. There are white people who get offended at silly things. There are people of color who get offended at silly things. I would not be surprised if there were some trans people who were offended by the picture. It’s not like straight, white, males are the only imperfect people on the planet, and everyone else is completely reasonable, logical, rational, and wise.

    I kinda live by this: Straight white men don’t get to say to black, gay women how much racism, homophobia or sexism they should tolerate from them

    See, this is where things break down.

    Trans person (looking at photo of Scalzi in a dress): I’m offended by these trans-phobic images

    Bob: It’s not trans-phobic. Lighten up.

    Henrick: Don’t tell people how much bigotry they have to tolerate from you.

    Bob: I’m not telling them to tolerate bigotry, because it isn’t bigotry in the first place.

    What you did was take any individual complaining about bigotry and make that the objective reality, and no one can disagree with them, and if they do, you turn it into them telling someone how much bigotry they should tolerate..

    This was that “objective reality” I was talking about at 2:02. The person who got offended doesn’t have the “objective reality” and everyone else has to bend to their reality. No. It’s a bunch of individuals with subjetive opinions, and you have to work it out from there.

    It’s not always straight white males telling black, gay women how much bigotry they have to put up with. Sometimes the issue is that it isn’t even bigotry in the first place. I say these pictures of Scalzi aren’t trans-phobic. At all. If you say they are bigotry, then me telling you they’re not isn’t me telling you to tolerate bigotry.

  59. John, you had your right leg pointed the wrong way, which for an out-of-shape guy is the difference between falling over with a sore hip and falling over faster with a really sore hip. (Ow, I just tried it :-) But the wig and little black dress rocked!

    Other than martial artists, I’ve also seen break-dancers in roughly that stance, except without the crossbow, but it’s usually a fast-moving bounce between several different positions, not a static pose that you hold for a while while aiming a crossbow and getting your picture taken. Maybe she’s shooting from the hip with the crossbow the way cartoon-physics gunfighters do, but you’d think that while she was loading the crossbow she could have also kicked her shoes off…

  60. htom: 1) Again, we don’t know that there was a model for this image. The female crouch with one leg, usually bare, outstretched is common on SFF book covers. Quite often, it is not biologically correct, but instead is created by the manipulation of painted and photographic computer models of combined body parts, and this is one that seems to have that problem which is why it’s not exactly replicable although similar poses can be done by real people. By focusing on the pose and not on what the pose emphasizes of the woman’s body and in contrast how men’s bodies are displayed on the covers, you’re trying to do a massive deflection of the actual subject matter, twice now. If you want to make the argument that women are not portrayed in hyper-sexualized ways and contorted positions to display the traditional portions of their anatomy attractive to straight males in hundreds of covers, (as well as comics and games,) make it already.

    2) The fact that you find martial arts like poses not sexy is irrelevant. We’re talking about hundreds of book covers featuring women in scanty clothing in contorted poses that features their legs, crotch, butt and breasts, many of which are not at all martial arts ones such as the two other choices for the pose off and other cover poses Hines has been doing for the charity as well as the pose off, and in contrast hundreds of book covers featuring men not in those poses and only occasionally bare chested, mostly for paranormal romances; that this is a deliberate choice of book publishing art departments, marketing and booksellers to portray women in these ways — crotch spread, bare legs, butt upturned and body twisted to show breasts at the same time, as much cleavage as possible, etc. — in various poses, and that they’re doing so is silly (if at the same time a form of art,) and also really doesn’t sell books to men or women. (Hey after all, you didn’t even find that one cover sexy.)

    That you are more concerned that we don’t disrespect the cover artist and model in the unlikely event that there was one than the disrespect shown towards women in the prevalence of this style of art in SFF book covers decades still down the line is exactly an example of why female figures are still put into these poses in massive numbers on the book covers and men aren’t, despite their unlikely sales usage. Because having the women on these covers is apparently fine while satirizing the constant art decisions to use these extreme and sexualized positions is disrespectful, according to what you’ve been arguing. I believe we can call that the shut up dearie and spread them legs articulation.

    Cory: Women and men in comics have traditionally been hyper-sexualized as an art style. The males don’t get the contorted poses to show off their butts most of the time, but they have exaggerated sex characteristics. That style has been extended over into games which borrow heavily from comics art, as do the old pulp covers for Conan stories, which were drawn from the pulp comics art of the 1930’s-1970’s. So all your examples from comics and Asian manga make perfect sense, plus your old Conan cover and the novel put out by a games company, which also looks rather old. But the poses the guys are doing are about satirizing SFF book covers. And that women are displayed in the hundreds of covers in sexy manners and also actually frequently in contorted fighting poses that are contorted not to show off martial art stances but to show off their body parts. And the men are not, making thousands of examples of both. And you haven’t been able to come up with relatively current covers that are for actual SFF novels that have men with their spines going in ways that spines usually don’t go or positioned to show off their butts. Whereas we can come up with tons of the women on these covers where that’s going on without even breaking a sweat. It’s true that the women on the book covers are not usually as contorted and exaggerated physically as women are in comics — seldom are they at Red Sonja levels — but nonetheless, they are consistently portrayed in these styles and men are not on the book covers. So they are making fun of it for charity. I’m sorry that you have a problem with that. But again, hundreds and hundreds of covers, fighting women covers even. And you’re still zero on the guys so far when really you should have been able to come up with at least a dozen book covers already if your point had any validity. So far, you have not really made a convincing argument except to say that pulp and comics styles in comics and gaming and old pulp exaggerate men’s muscles, which no one was actually disputing. Try more books.

  61. Kat — I think you need to re-read what I’ve posted on this topic. I also think you need to think about projecting intent onto people. And you needn’t reply.

  62. Kat: By focusing on the pose and not on what the pose emphasizes of the woman’s body and in contrast how men’s bodies are displayed on the covers, you’re trying to do a massive deflection of the actual subject matter, twice now.

    This is hogwash.

    htom said this particular pose isn’t sexy. I happen to agree, this isn’t a sexualized cover image. You can see more skin at a formal dinner party. You can’t see her boobs, you can’t see her ass, you can’t see her neck, you can’t see her midriff, you can barely make out her waist. her hips are vaguely defined. Her body isn’t on display in a “take me” signal.

    That doesn’t mean either htom or I am arguing that other covers don’t overtly sexualize women. Just not this one.

    You don’t get to turn a specific disagreement about this specific cover into a “massive deflection” of women being sexualized systemically on other covers. You don’t get to take a specific disagreement about this specific cover and turn it into a disagreement about the “actual subject matter”, a different subject entirely.

    I provided links to cover images of books by the same author in the same series of novels that have overtly sexualized women on the covers. I provided links to cover images of books that have men in similarly sexualized positions.

    This is not one of those covers. If you insist on taking a disagreement about this specific novel not being overtly sexualized imagery and making a hasty generalization to all novels, then you’re going to be angry at a lot of people, a lot of the time, for things they never actually said.

  63. It is interesting that there is such a mismatch between the expectations of the people creating the cover art and the responses of the people who are being asked to buy the object on sale.

    It isn’t just books; ‘Serenity’ died at the box office. I didn’t see it, even though I really would have been up for a Josh Whedon movie, because all I saw was a generic poster of yet another women brandishing weapons in yet another contorted pose, and that got very dull a very long time ago.

    I never got close enough to the poster to notice that it was a Josh Whedon movie; I suspect that a lot of other people probably thought the same thing and passed on by…

  64. Did they have more than one Serenity poster? The one I’m familiar with is just Summer Glau standing straight with Nathan Fillion’s face super imposed over her left shoulder.

  65. Sorry to follow up on my own post. I did the google search I should have done first. Yes, there is another poster with Summer Glau in a simliar post to the one we’ve been discussing and holding a sword and an axe. So there you go.

  66. So, because this is turning into such a ridulousness, and I like ridiculous things, I tried the pose. I never could get my butt out as far over my leg as the original image did. Barefoot, it was not a big deal. Like I said, limber. And female, slightly different hip socket structure.

    Then I put heels on. Popped both hips and my ankle. No. Just no.

  67. Ok, first of all, I think that’s not supposed to be a “pose” so much as an action shot. Like, she’s not doing that for more than 1/10th of a second, on her way to (hopefully) a more stable position. Like cats shot mid-leap — they’re not posing in the middle of the air, right? Now, I hope she wasn’t about to just fall forward like John did; that would really ruin her shot. Unless she’s being attacked by trolls coming out of the ground. (By the way, I’d love to see a video of both contestants getting in and out of those positions.) Secondly, although I’ve worn my share of short dresses (got my first serious office job in the early 70’s, when all you could buy were minishirts — really), at least I never had to go to work wearing a little cloth noose around my neck. Thirdly, I’m greatly anticipating the group shot. You guys are all batshit crazy, you know that, don’t you?

  68. Stevie @3:58: The Serenity poster pose of River Tam is straight from an action scene in the movie. Summer Glau (yes, Glau, not a stunt or dance double) did this whole martial arts ballet in the climactic scene that juxtaposed grace with almost inhuman destruction. It’s very Whedon.

  69. htom: “I think you need to re-read what I’ve posted on this topic. I also think you need to think about projecting intent onto people. And you needn’t reply.”

    I went from what you said and what you said several times in two threads, which caused me to respond to your posts when I had not earlier. I’m not trying to horn in on your conversation with Mary Frances, but I am talking about things from your posts, such as a major concern being not disrespecting the cover artist and model, and that you don’t find that particular cover sexy and therefore don’t see it as really sexualized of the woman, that bothered me. You can say that I should not be bothered by these things, or that I’m misinterpreting you and perhaps in some things I am, but the reality is that there are hundreds of these types of covers. It’s a form of art and angry at it I’m not. It in fact makes a sort of logical sense that the style has become prevalent, since hypersexualized imagery has become very prevalent in comics over the last thirty years and the success of comics in multimedia has interested publishers in replicating the style, at least for women. And the other trend over the last forty years — of women warrior characters — has meant that those images are likely to involve fighting and weaponry, while still involving contortions and pose choices meant to emphasis female cultural sexual characteristics.

    I am surprised, though, at how much some people don’t want to talk about the actual subject of the satire — the prevalence of the covers relative to the male figures. And at the problems that seem to be occurring with understanding that this particular cover involved awkward Photoshopping rather than martial arts exercises. Essentially, we voted for the cover that Hines and Scalzi, even if they were still in their twenties, couldn’t succeed in replicating, even if they were female. Other covers may use actual models and actual martial arts stances. But they’re still chosen for the book covers to show off female body parts, not because they are interesting martial arts stances, or we’d see more men in those stances on the covers too. As has been pointed out by many people several times in these discussions and each time pretty much ignored. In a very real sense, as Cory has sort of pointed out, the comics are slightly more equalitarian when it comes to exaggeration of body muscles and stretchiness, if not spine contortions — the hypersexualiztion is not as one sided as it is on SFF book covers now.

  70. Kat: I am surprised, though, at how much some people don’t want to talk about the actual subject of the satire — the prevalence of the covers relative to the male figures

    Pfffft. The “actual subject” includes (1) this specific individual cover and (2) the systemic problem of sexualized women on book covers in general. htom said (2) exists as a problem. He just expressed his opinion that he didn’t think this specific cover (1) is an example of sexy women covers in general (2).

    You’re accusing htom of committing some kind of “massive deflection” when in reality, he’s talking exactly on topic, he’s just expressing a subjective opinion you don’t like.

  71. Opinions have not been presented as such a lot in this thread.

    “Let’s not be so hypersensitive.”

    “You don’t get to turn a specific disagreement about this specific cover into a “massive deflection” of women being sexualized systemically on other covers.”

    “This is not one of those covers.”

    “It’s a bunch of individuals with subjetive opinions, and you have to work it out from there.”

    “I understand that you think complaints about political correctness are grating, but as long as people insist on continually raising that bar and enforcing it on the rest of us, you’ll continue to hear said complaints.”

    “That’s how the world becomes better.”

    “Get over yourselves, people.”

    “Seriously, can’t people READ?”

    “If this occurs as sexy or sexual in any significant way, I’d say you need to get out more.”

    “Men in drag isn’t porn-ish.”

    “It’s a book cover, what do you expect!”

    Delicious judgmenty judgment. Delectably reduced in implorement to respect their right to disapprove and overrule questions and concerns. With the right hint of indifference.

    What dish next from the COMMITTEE ON IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE?

    CONCERN REJECTED

    APPEAL REJECTED

    Resubmit with a different world view for consideration.

    TABLED INDEFINITELY

    Somebody better get the fucking fainting couch ready, before my hypersensitivity turns into hyperventilation when confronted by the immutable truth of sexuality and gender issues AS IT HAS BEEN SO DECREED.

  72. Other Bill: Opinions have not been presented as such a lot in this thread.

    Greg: “This is not one of those covers.”

    Oh, really? You think the issue here is that I tried to pass off my opinion as if it were immutable truths of the universe? I suppose if we dance around my comments and ignore the markers that I’m expressing an opinion, then sure, your selective quoting “proves” it.

    htom: I seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that image as sexy

    Gee, Bill, I’m pretty confused here. htom is talking about how HE SEES the image, but you’re saying we’re spouting immutable truths. Weird, eh? How it looks in his eyes is completely indistinguishable from an immutable truth for you, eh?

    Greg: I don’t see it as sexy.

    This was the first line in my comment. Kind of weird how it starts off explicitly saying how I SEE the cover, “SEE” as in “from my point of view”, “SEE” as in “my perspective”, and yet, you are unable to discern that this is an opinion presented as such. Instead, you complain about how I’ve appointed myself to the COMMITTEE OF IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE, and I’m handing out DECREES.

    You know what? I’m going to go out on a limb here. I think, in my personal opinion, that you actually realized that I was reporting my personal opinion about the cover, that it was clear to you that I wasn’t handing down decrees from the COMMITTEE OF IMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE, but that I was expression my personal, subjective opinion/view of the cover.

    But you couldn’t handle someone having a different opinion than your own. So you manufactured a strawman and attacked that. Just like Kat. htom said he didn’t SEE the image as sexy. Kat attacks him for “trying to do a massive deflection of the actual subject”. No. What htom said was on topic. The only problem was Kat didn’t agree with it.

    Me, I’ve been pretty clear that my opinion of the cover is my opinion. And I don’t care if you have a different opinion about the cover. You can think its’ the most sexist piece of trash in the world. Fine. Knock yourselves out. But your inability to recognize an expression of an opinion, specifically an opinion you disagee with, as anything other than the COMMITTEE OF IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE handing down DECREES, kind of brings it back to that thing I was saying earlier about “objective reality” and “moral absolutes”.

  73. @Greg:

    It isn’t abstract. It’s a combination of personal opinion and dismissal of concerns that appears not infrequently in this thread. It’s the elevation of a personal opinion as proof that concerns are not relevant.

    “Let’s not be so hypersensitive.”

    “This is not one of those covers.”

    I don’t understand context? That’s part of the issue: the majority of the opinions that are used to dismiss concerns are self admitted as such. This doesn’t make the excerpted text less dismissive. It’s offering an opinion that brooks no dissent.

    “You don’t get to turn a specific disagreement about this specific cover into a “massive deflection” of women being sexualized systemically on other covers.”

    What pissed me off were the crude, bullying comments that trivialized trans folks concerns and, necessarily, anyone that might share them. I’m not “knocking myself out” (that’s another trivializing comment) over anything. I don’t care for anybody taking their personal opinion and using it to trivialize someone else’s thoughts/opinions/concerns. Or infantilize them. Or render them invisibile. I certainly don’t care for that to be directed at me.

    “I understand that you think complaints about political correctness are grating, but as long as people insist on continually raising that bar and enforcing it on the rest of us, you’ll continue to hear said complaints.”

    Reread the quotes I excerpted. None of those are particularly polite/engaging/non-dismissive expressions, in any context. I openly and unabashedly mock these quotes. One would get farther choosing different presentation than braying about contextual strawmen.

    “Get over yourselves, people.”

    “Seriously, can’t people READ?”

  74. Andrew

    I’ve seen the DVD; if you try watching it again you will see that the vast majority of Summer Glau’s ‘fight’ took place off screen, unsurprisingly since her attackers were more than two feet tall and her pose would have been a ludicrous choice if she was actually being attacked by people more than two feet tall. Her skills as a ballet dancer are undisputed but that’s as far as it goes.

    Compare and contrast with Mal’s fight with the big bad, all of which did take place on screen, and the shoot out at the end of Mr and Mrs Smith which genuinely can be described as a beautifully choreographed dance.

    Of course all of this is entirely irrelevant to the central point which is that I took one look at the poster and dismissed it because it was same old, same old, and Serenity died at the box office…

  75. There’s been a lot of conversation since I was last here, but I want to go back a bit and reply to an earlier comment to me.

    Henrik,

    Thank you for your polite reply, as well. I agree with some of what you’ve said, but let me say that as tired as I’m sure you are of hearing complaints of political correctness, that’s about how tired I am of the “straight white male” cliche. A bit ironic in a debate about identity, and what needs to be done in order to respect it, we can so easily churn out that phrase about the evils of straight white men as if we were atop our dark throne in Mordor.

    The people who complain of political correctness, who are not all “straight white men”, usually do it because they feel it requires them to fall over themselves to get the approval of whoever’s enforcing it. And in some cases, such as now apparently dressing in drag for humor, places new societal taboos on actions that weren’t even about the people in question.

  76. Other Bill: It isn’t abstract. It’s a combination of personal opinion and dismissal

    Well, the thing is that someone expressing their PERSONAL OPINION isn’t a fucking problem, unless you try to make it one. You say “I like chocolate”. I say “I like vanilla”. Is a perfectiy fine, respectful-of-opinion, conversation. If someone comes along and says “only hypersensitive twits like chocolate”, then that’s a problem. But you just glommed opinions in with name calling as if they were the same fucking thing.

    So, no. expressing a personal opinion isn’t evidence of a dismissal of others’ opinions.

    “Let’s not be so hypersensitive.”

    “This is not one of those covers.”

    the first one may be dismissing someone else’s opinion/feeling. But it wasn’t my post. The second one was from one of my posts, and it was part of me expressing my personal opinion about the cover. I started by framing my opinion about the cover as an opinion. I started by saying “***I*** don’t ***SEE*** this cover as sexy”. I communicated thta I was expressing an opinion, so I’m not going to prefix every individual sentence with “It is my personal and humble opinion that….”

    On the other hand, when Kat attacked htom for expresing his opinion that he didn’t SEE the cover as sexy, Kat didn’t start her post with “this is how I see the cover”, she started it with You’re doing it all wrong. i.e. “By focusing on the pose and not on what the pose emphasizes of the woman’s body and in contrast how men’s bodies are displayed on the covers, you’re trying to do a massive deflection of the actual subject matter, twice now.”

    htom focusing on the pose, is htom doing it wrong. That was Kat’s post. At no point in that post does Kat say anything about her own personal opinion about the cover. The entire comment speaks in absolutes about the cover. She doesn’t express an opinion about the cover because she doesn’t relate to it as if its just a matter of opinion. She’s relating to it as if there is one right way to view the cover and anyone who thinks differently is doing it WRONG.

    Bill: It’s the elevation of a personal opinion as proof that concerns are not relevant.

    Oh really, officer?

    Kat (to htom): 2) The fact that you find martial arts like poses not sexy is irrelevant.

    So, here you are, Bill, trying to portray yourself as a policeman for the thread, handing out citations for people who are trying to elevate their personal opinion as proof other people’s opinions are not relevant. But it’s pretty fucking hard not to notice that you’re ONLY giving citations to people whose opinion you disagree with, and ignoring blatant violations of your own rule from people you DO agree with.

    It seems to me, in my humble opinion, that neither htom nor I have a problem with other people expressing an opinion about the cover that is different than our own. We both used language to say this is our opinion, which then leaves room for others to say ‘this is my opinion, different from yours’. If anyone has an issue with opinions they don’t agree with, it seems to me, in my personal opinion, that it would be you and Kat. Kat explicitly told htom his opinion was irrelevant. And neither you nor Kat seem prone to using language that says “this is my opinion” or “this is what I think” or “this is how I see it” or anything else that would signal that you’re aware you’re expressing a personal opinion and that other, different, opinions might exist.

    So, color me unimpressed, Officer Bill.

  77. I am surprised to hear that someone thought you were in some way making fun of transfolk by wearing a wig & heels. I thought that was just part of the effort, in what way would it be parody of trans instead of the ridiculousness of the cover?

    The bigger issue is one you have wrestled with here a lot. SciFi is sexist. “We” like large breasted (to the point of absurdity) women twisted into positions no human would chose voluntarily (to the point of absurdity). I think you guys are doing great work in highlighting that and hope you can make SciFi safe for my daughter.

  78. This has been said, I am sure.

    But, Boss, you look good with hair! You should grow some of that!

    *Watches broken glass panels crashing to the ground* Oops…

    In a more serious vein (not hard)… I don’t think recreating the pose in question completely is physically possible. From where the lady’s right hip is, there is no way that sticking-out leg is actually hers.

  79. Greg:

    Calling me a police man because I pulled exact quotes and pointed out how they were rude and dismissive? I indicated that I would expect better in general discourse, sure. That’s implicit. But, policing? Rich, sir. As you initially interjected to mollify a response that had nothing to do with you.

  80. htom had an opinion that the particular cover was not sexy and therefore not part of the hypersexualization of females on book covers, while acknowledging that the entire series the book was from has hypersexualized covers. His argument was essentially that the cover artist decided to make this one cover in the series a non-sexy outlier by putting the woman in a position that is similar to martial arts (but not actually physically possible because it has been awkwardly photoshopped,) and that therefore this particular cover which was voted on was a poor choice. I disagree. I disagree that this one cover in this series is not sexy while all the others are just because it’s similar to a martial arts pose. I feel it is entirely in keeping with the hypersexualized covers of the series and emphasizes the woman’s crotch, leg and breasts specifically by using that stance over numerous other positions that could have been chosen (and photoshopped.)

    The claim that a cover is using a fighting pose for the woman and therefore it’s not a hypersexualized pose has been used often. That men don’t get put into these fighting poses on the book covers is a counter argument that is usually ignored, but it is a major component of the situation and the satire that is going on here. That the particular fighting poses that are chosen conveniently highlight female sexual characteristics is often acknowledged but sloughed off on the grounds that it’s a fighting position as if that dramatically changes everything. Comics know this well and have, over the last thirty years, gotten very good at putting women in fighting poses — and trying to deflect criticism thereby — that also spread their legs, show off the legs, raise the butt, twist the body to show both butt and breasts at the same time, etc., and resemble martial soft porn, instead of more straightforward moves of them simply punching someone like the males. And book covers likewise, as females have more often become protagonists or major characters of SFF and are usually therefore in an action role in those stories, have also cottoned to putting a woman in a twisted display pose that is also martial on the covers, or simply having a sexy spine bent stance with weapons.

    The idea that showing the women fighting somehow negates the careful choice of body positions to display the women sexually and often hyper-sexually is, in my opinion, first a reflection of how common these sexual images are that many don’t even process them as such unless they are very extreme; and second, a deflection away from the subject that hundreds of these depictions are occurring on these book covers with female figures in positions that we don’t see the men in on book covers — a subject that Hines, with Scalzi’s help in one instance, is encouraging discussion of through the use of satire. In my opinion, focusing on the feasibility of the martial arts stance isn’t very relevant to that topic, and one person finding one cover “not sexy” doesn’t mean a lot in the discussion of hundreds of book covers where this style pops up over and over, and the argument that htom presented over it I did not find very strong and said so.

    I find the hyper-sexualized styles more interesting and less upsetting than a lot of people do, but then I’m a big admirer of comics art. But there’s no question that this is not only a prevalent style on book covers with regards to females and not with males, but quite often becoming more and more comics like and extreme, including the use of comics style fighting poses, and that it is a cultural bias of displaying women with hyper sexuality, in martial poses or stances. And as such, this bias can be satirized by these intrepid authors (who have also tried to be considerate of others’ different life situations and perspectives,) and discussed without everybody in the conversation being called hypersensitive, angry, etc. every five seconds when they raise a cultural issue. But if Scalzi has a problem with how anyone here has expressed themselves, I’m sure he’ll let us know.

  81. Ms. Goodwin. I said that only one of the covers of the series struck me as “sexy” (number four), and said it had a distorted perspective. I don’t think I made any claim about that series’ covers and hyper-sexuality or lack thereof. I said that the image we’re supposedly talking about, that Jim and John so well caricatured, showed her in a marital arts pose, and it does. That you insist the image is a photoshop — it may well have been so treated — because no real person could be in such a posture shows how little you know of what the human body can do without photoshop. I said I did not think it was sexy, and I don’t, and I still don’t. I don’t understand why so many — not all — do. I don’t find fearing people — which is how I read the image’s face — sexy at all. Tastes vary.

    The more you write about that image, I wonder if we’re looking at the same image. Her breasts are not exposed, her crotch is covered by her right knee, and OMG her leg is sticking out of the slit in her dress. Scroll down this page and see a male illustrating Pu Bu variations. Around page 194-200 in the book he shows how to used this as an entry and exit from kicks and jumps.

    For the rest, you’ve got a drum and you’re going to pound on it. I understand. I’m just calling you on how you’re lying about what I’ve actually said.

  82. OtherBill: policing? Rich, sir. As you initially interjected to mollify a response that had nothing to do with you.

    Did you just make the “I know you are, but what am I?” argument? Cool. THis should be fun.

    OK, so you invented a rule to police on this thread ( It’s the elevation of a personal opinion as proof that concerns are not relevant.), so I pointed out that you’re blatantly enforcing it only against people whose opinions you disagree with.

    You also attempt to make opinions themselves part of the crime (It isn’t abstract. It’s a combination of personal opinion and dismissal of concerns). Making it clear that you can’t even let someone have a different opinion than you.

    You’re acting like a bad cop, arbitrary enforcing rules against people you don’t like while ignoring the fact that your friend is breaking that same rule, and you’re trying to fabricate opinion to be part of a major crime: COMMITTEE ON IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE … AS IT HAS BEEN SO DECREED.

    Oh, and speaking of fabricated charges: a response that had nothing to do with you

    htom and I were having a bit of a conversation:
    htom(7:53): I seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that image as sexy…
    greg(8:59): I don’t see it as sexy…
    htom(9:19): (different arts have slight variations and counts.) …
    greg(10:25): my experience with martial arts is aikido…

    and then Kat(2:34) made her first comment on this thread, attacking htom for having the wrong opinion about this particular cover (By focusing on the pose … you’re trying to do a massive deflection of the actual subject matter)

    Well, I was “focusing on the pose” as well, and htom and I sometimes disagree on things, but I have a lot of respect for him, and I thought that attack was completely unfair and unjustified. htom has the right to his opinion about this cover. So do I.

    The act of htom and I having an opinion about this cover that Kat disagrees with does not justify Kat’s attempts to dismiss htom’s opinion as “not relevant”, nor does it justify Kat’s attempts to dismiss htom’s opinion as some sort of magical “massive deflection”.

    Having an opinion about this cover that you, Bill, do not like does not justify you, Bill, coming on the thread and trying to criminalize opinions as being part of the larger crime of dismissal of someone else’s opinions, or as being part of a larger crime of COMMITTEE ON IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE … AS IT HAS BEEN SO DECREED whatever that is.

    You, Bill, and Kat too, can’t handle someone having an opinion different than your own. So you invent crimes that those opinions must violate, and then you try to police those imaginary crimes.

    htom: I may be the only one who doesn’t like cherry pie.

    greg: I dont care for cherry pie either.

    kat: you’re trying to do a massive deflection. The fact that you find cherry pie untasty is irrelevant

    bill: apparently some cherry pie haters have appointed themselves to the COMMITTEE ON IMMUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE and are handing down DECREES about which pies should be rejected.

    yeah, uhm, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that both you and Kat need to work on being in conversations about subjective topics and letting people have opinions different from your own.

    Cause, seriously, the only “crime” htom or I did was express our opinion that we didn’t find this particular cover sexy.

    And what you and Kat are mostly demonstrating is your inability to allow someone to have an opinion different than their own without “criminalizing” it in some way.

  83. htom: My disagreeing with you is not the same thing as lying. I am trying to understand what you are saying and all I have to go on is your words and the larger cultural system in which we live. I realize a great many people have been coming at you in conversation, but that’s because we feel you’re missing the point of the whole satiric enterprise and making a critique of one cover that to many of us seems to perfectly fit these choices of cover styles that Hines is tackling to generate discussion and funds for charity.

    “I said that only one of the covers of the series struck me as “sexy” (number four), and said it had a distorted perspective.”

    Large numbers of people disagree with you on that. The series is set in Vegas and the cover styles for the series have been to put the protagonist in traditional female body poses for covers in skimpy clothing that emphasizes her sexuality, some of them hyper-sexualized, others a straighter stance. The cover for number 4 is, except for the positioning of the legs a bit, the least sexualized of the covers in that series, although the emphasis on youth in that one with the wild loose hair and the torn jeans is a bit disturbing maybe. (#3 is maybe the most sexualized of the covers. Ms. Pettersson herself, who is a really good sport, has donated to Hines’ fundraiser.) No one is really objecting to you not finding an image sexy. As we’ve discussed, these covers don’t really attract men to buy anymore than they do women. But nonetheless the choice of depiction of females for this series and hundreds of others are to place images long used in comics and also erotica in order to have a sexualized image. The same is not done for male images, except rarely or for paranormal romance and even in paranormal romance, the hyper-sexualized and spine twisty poses are not used. (Games, comics, traditional pulp, and manga as previously noted do a bit more male hypersexualization than SFF book covers.) This is a basic depiction of women as sexual objects, in skimpy clothing, for everything from book covers to cars, as you know and have acknowledged.

    “I don’t think I made any claim about that series’ covers and hyper-sexuality or lack thereof.”

    Then we misunderstood you because again the only reason I responded to your posts is that you kept making statements that seemed to indicate that was your position.

    “I said that the image we’re supposedly talking about, that Jim and John so well caricatured, showed her in a marital arts pose, and it does. That you insist the image is a photoshop — it may well have been so treated — because no real person could be in such a posture shows how little you know of what the human body can do without photoshop.”

    I did not say that people can’t get into twisty martial arts poses (though I would probably argue about the actual efficiency in real fights of many of those poses.) What several people involved in art here and on Hines blog have explained, repeatedly, is that in this particular image, the outstretched leg has been awkwardly photoshopped to the body at an angle that is not really possible — a melding of two body models. So unless she has a bionic hip, as a human she would not be in that pose in real life, though actual martial arts poses similar to that pose are certainly possible. There are many, many martial arts poses. The choice of this pose is a common one for fantasy book covers for women because it shows them in a spread leg position. Likewise the cocked hip stance, the head back bent spine stance of another choice for the pose off, the twisted body seen from the back to show both butt and breasts at the same time, the woman leaning back against the wall poses, the head back and down on both knees stance of another choice for the pose off, the sword spiral martial arts pose with spinal twist, and the cat crouch martial arts pose in which the butt is raised and the head is raised back to show the chest while the woman is crouched on bent knees and hands. These are all common positions used to show off the female in a sexual and sometimes hyper-sexualized way. It’s not whether or not the woman is in a martial arts pose that’s relevant. It’s what pose is chosen, what clothes she’s wearing or not wearing, and what’s being emphasized in the image from that pose.

    “I said I did not think it was sexy, and I don’t, and I still don’t. I don’t understand why so many — not all — do. I don’t find fearing people — which is how I read the image’s face — sexy at all. Tastes vary.”

    You are used to people doing martial arts. You are not used to thinking of those poses as usable for sexiness. But they’ve been using them for a long time to display women sexually. I also do think it’s in part because we are so used to women being displayed in this way in art and advertising that it often doesn’t register unless it’s right in the wheelhouse of what a particular person thinks sexy or very extreme. There’s the personal and the cultural, and in the cultural tradition, it’s a sexualized image with a long tradition in art. The expression on the woman’s face is debatable about whether it’s fear, fierceness or both, but culturally, the image of the fierce, sexy warrior woman has been with us for millenia, from back to the myth of the Amazons. That’s why she has a knife strapped very visibly to her bare thigh.

    “The more you write about that image, I wonder if we’re looking at the same image. Her breasts are not exposed, her crotch is covered by her right knee, and OMG her leg is sticking out of the slit in her dress.”

    Her crotch is covered but also emphasized because her legs are spread. That’s why so many of the women in these covers are posed crouching, crouching with leg outstretched, kneeling with legs open, half-kneeling with legs open, etc. — to spread their legs. (An alternative that is also popular is to have the woman kneel or half kneel with legs closed but from a side perspective so that her butt and breasts are seen in a classic female S body curve with the bent legs.) And yes, her bare long leg is sticking out from the skimpy dress, complete with high heel. Why do you think that is, as several people have repeatedly asked you? Why was that such an important focus for the image that they photoshopped it on to the body at that angle? To spread the legs and emphasize the leg. In this particular cover, that was so important that they put the leg at a weird attachment to the body to get a full angle and then highlighted it with a lighting effect to show the bare thigh with knife strapped to it. Why is the image of the woman for this series always shown in skimpy clothing and leather clothing, and put in poses of leaning on walls, cocked hip, half-kneel, etc.? To show off the body. Martial arts poses can be really useful for doing that since they stretch out the body, which is why you are much more likely to see a woman crouched in a martial arts pose or simulation of one on these book covers than you are a man. Marketing people are happy to explain how the eye is effected by line and sexual display. How effective it is in actual selling is up for debate, but it is a cultural artistic and marketing tradition.

    “For the rest, you’ve got a drum and you’re going to pound on it.”

    Again, I responded eventually to the posts you’d been doing to give my opinion because you seemed to be pounding a drum. But I don’t think you’re being hypersensitive and I’m going to ignore you calling me hypersensitive because again, you’ve been having to argue with a lot of people. I am certainly not arguing with you that you have to be turned on as a straight male by this image. (I personally also don’t find it sexy as the awkward leg makes the emphasis on it misspent, it seems to me.) But I am arguing that the woman has been posed that way not to show her as a fighter but as a sexual display and in the larger context of both the series the book is part of and the hundreds of covers that show female in these poses with these things emphasized and not men, which is what Hines is satirizing. Maybe you will find others he’s done more successful. I personally would like to see some book covers with men stretched out in martial arts poses, but they are rare in the book cover realm.

  84. When you say that someone has said something they did not say, you lie. Culture has nothing to do with it, and I won’t read the rest.

  85. Kat: No one is really objecting to you not finding an image sexy.

    Kat: The fact that you find martial arts like poses not sexy is irrelevant.

    Will you please make up your mind….

  86. htom: “When you say that someone has said something they did not say, you lie. Culture has nothing to do with it, and I won’t read the rest.”

    Or you misunderstand part of what they say, especially when they said it several times. It’s an Internet discussion, htom. It’s about trying to understand each other to discuss it. You’re not obliged to converse with me, or indeed read my post clarifying what I meant. You’re certainly not obliged to agree with my views. And if you’ve decided that I’m deliberately lying and trying to make you a bad man, then I can see why you would not want to continue the conversation. It happens a lot in discussions on these sorts of topics. For me, culture has everything to do with a conversation about satirizing culture, but I will refrain from directly addressing your posts in future as you feel I’m a liar and don’t want to converse with me.

  87. Greg:

    “Did you just make the “I know you are, but what am I?” argument?”

    Some people made some stupid, ignorant jokes about trans peoples concerns that I found incredibly offensive. I engaged and expressed my distaste for that sort of humor.

    At which point you simultaneously picked a philosophical nit and mocked my offense. Then I read some more of that same kind of “you’re being hypersensitive ,you don’t get to say this or that” sort of arguing. It’s a condescending, bullying argument. I mocked what people seem to think the response to that sort of talk should be. I demonstrated several examples of this boorish behavior in the thread. Borderline for some, not for me. To see it as such is my prerogative.

    “yeah, uhm, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that both you and Kat need to work on being in conversations about subjective topics and letting people have opinions different from your own.”

    I don’t care that you want to turn this into a lecture about my ability to “let other people have different opinions”. I don’t know what that means and I don’t even begin to understand how I could possibly prosecute that. It’s an absurd accusation to make.

    I can’t imagine anything more condscending to say to a person that takes issue with the language being used to make a point. But, do feel free to keep telling me about myself and how that self is childishly inadequate.

  88. Bill: Some people made some stupid, ignorant jokes about trans peoples concerns that I found incredibly offensive. I engaged and expressed my distaste for that sort of humor. At which point you simultaneously picked a philosophical nit and mocked my offense.

    I said But that doesnt mean the person offended is the objective reality, and all who disagree with them are merely expressing their subjective opinion which is entirely wrong.

    Apparently, some people were offended by Scalzi’s pose, thinking he was making fun of trans people. I don’t think Scalzi was making fun of trans people. At all. It is not a philosophical nit to say that someone thinking Scalzi was mocking trans people, that those people might actually be wrong, or that, at the very least, a different subjective interpretation might be possible.

    ANd it’s not mocking your offense to point out that someone’s opinion about Scalzi’s intention, someone’s offense at Scalzi’s pose, is an opinion no different than an opinion that found no offense in it. You seem to think that an offended opinion somehow trumps all other opinions. I don’t believe that.

    It is neither a philosophical nit nor mocking to say that I don’t think Scalzi was making fun of trans people. It is my opinion.

    Then I read some more of that same kind of “you’re being hypersensitive ,you don’t get to say this or that”

    First of all, I never said anyone was “hypersensitive”, that was someone else. Second of all, I assume the bit you’re refering to was when I said: “You don’t get to turn a specific disagreement about this specific cover into a “massive deflection” of women being sexualized systemically on other covers.”

    Kat attacked htom for saying he didn’t see the cover as sexy. She said he was doing a “massive deflection” and that his opinion was “not relevant”. And, no, she doesn’t get to do that. htom and I can think the cover is not sexy, and no one has the right to attack us for having a different opinoin than them.

    Kat can think whatever she wants to think about the cover. I’m not going to say she’s hypersensitive is she thinks its “sexy”. But at the same time, she doesn’t get to attack people just because they DON”T think its sexy.

    Just because someone disagrees with her about whether this specific cover is sexy or not, she doesn’t get to turn that disagreement of opinion about the cover into the person disagreeing with her committing a “massive deflection”, she doesn’t get to say the opinion of the person disagreeing with her is “not relevant”.

    I don’t care that you want to turn this into a lecture about my ability to “let other people have different opinions”. I don’t know what that means

    Yeah. I get that.

    But in summary, some people were of the opinion that Scalzi was making fun of trans people. I was of the opinion that he had no intention towards doing that at all. Those who saw it as mocking trans people dont’ get the “absolute” opinion. And me saying people can have different opinions about Scalzi’s intentions is not mocking the people who were offended.

    And htom and I both didn’t see the cover as “sexy”. Just because we didn’t see it as sexy, doesn’t mean Kat gets to dismiss that opinion as a “massive deflection” or as “not relevant”.

    feel free to keep telling me about myself and how that self is childishly inadequate.

    OK, so the word “child” doesn’t appear anywhere on this thread, so I don’t even know what supposed insult you’re talking about.

  89. Greg:

    “OK, so the word “child” doesn’t appear anywhere on this thread so I don’t even know what supposed insult you’re talking about.”

    Adults teach children about how other people have opinions and thoughts and experiences that are different than theirs. It’s implicit.

    “neener. neener. dressing in drag is not like performing blackface. jeebus.”

    Was your conclusion to my response about this language:

    “It’s the constant comments and whining that amaze me. I didn’t even know trans-phobic was a thing. Get over yourselves, people.”

    and:

    “Seriously, can’t people READ? If any trans-whatever got upset I’d advise them to enroll in a g.d. reading comprehension class, right after they pull that stick out.”

    These are the context of my remarks and your philosophical objections.

    “I don’t think Scalzi was making fun of trans people. At all. It is not a philosophical nit to say that someone thinking Scalzi was mocking trans people, that those people might actually be wrong, or that, at the very least, a different subjective interpretation might be possible.”

    If you reread my comments, they are about language and opinions used and the implications of that sort of language. I don’t apologize for that. I don’t like that language. You’ve got a beef, fine. But, your comments in response have been entirely predicated on my personal failings. On what I can handle emotionally and intellectually. When you say things like that, you’re talking like a condscending prick. It’s irrelevant whether you’re right or wrong.

    FWIW, I don’t think the pose off was making fun of trans people. I don’t think it was the punch line of the joke. But, I absolutely understand why some people unfamiliar with Hines or Scalzi would want to know, exactly, what all this was about it. Because without any background, that’s totally an impression it gives. And, even with background, I accept some people still might not care for it.

    I think Scalzi’s piece was perfectly appropriate. I think Hines’s response was remarkably classy and appropriate. I think, as adults, we can hear news of people not necessarily being satisfied with this without using the initial language I didn’t care for. Which, on the face of it, is language not functionally different than you telling people what they get to say and not say.

  90. Other Bill: It’s implicit.

    Dude. No. Just no. Quotes or it didn’t happen.

    “neener. neener. dressing in drag is not like performing blackface. jeebus.” Was your conclusion to my response

    Jesus fucking christ, The full quote was this:

    that doesnt mean the person offended is the objective reality, and all who disagree with them are merely expressing their subjective opinion which is entirely wrong. neener. neene. dressing in drag is not like performing blackface. jeebusr

    I was talking about whoever was attacking Scalzi acusing Scalzi was making fun of trans people. => dressing in drag in not like performing blackface means that while blackface can’t escape the historical context of being racist, dressing in drag doesn’t have that context, and doesn’t have to be taken only to be trans-phobic. ==> those poeple who think that dressing in drag can only mean trans-phobia at play aren’t the objective reality. It’s their opinion, not a universal, absolute, objective reality. ==> so whoever is attacking scalzi for trans-phobia doesn’t get to be the objective reality and go neener neener to peopel who do NOT think Scalzi is transphobic.

    Oh, to be blunt about it, the stuff you’re complaing about? Wasn’t about you.

  91. Greg:

    “Dude. No. Just no. Quotes or it didn’t happen…Oh, to be blunt about it, the stuff you’re complaing about? Wasn’t about you.”

    Let’s call that the last word.

  92. That’d be fine except something tells me that you’re still pissed about something that didn’t actually happen. You think I “mocked” your “offense”. And it seems everything spiraled out of control from there. That I wasn’t mocking your offense, is, apparently, an impossibility for you. And attempts to tell you I wasn’t mocking your offense only infuriate you more. So, I don’t even know what to tell you, man.

    How about this: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

    Maybe we can agree on that.

  93. Greg: I’ve said my piece. For additional insight, the best I can do is refer you back to what I’ve already written.

    In response to your question, truthfully, if I was okay with your last response as the last word, why on earth would I not be okay with Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas?

    Pissed – as you say – or not, of course I can still wish you a Merry Christmas.

  94. Gotta interject here: Bill, he never implied you would have a problem with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. He was just trying to part amicably.

  95. Odd observation – Jim’s closer to the cover than John. John’s right knee is pointed to the right, the cover and Jim both have their knees pointed slightly left. John had more complaints about his hips. I tried both poses, and it’s actually a bit painful to do it John’s way, whereas the cover and Jim’s way most of the discomfort can be written off to me carrying around 60 pounds or so of adipose tissue.

    Also, I didn’t have a dress OR a crossbow, so I had to make do with a nerf gun and a kilt.

  96. I am generally trans-positive because I believe people should be who they are, and they deserve love and support in becoming and then being that. I wouldn’t go out of my way to intentionally mock transfolk, because, among many other reasons, why be an asshole like that? We give transfolk enough burdens on a daily basis without me adding to their load.

    I discovered this blog a few weeks ago. I read Old Man’s War about a week ago, the first thing of yours I’ve ever read. In short, I barely know you Mr Scalzi.

    But thank you. This hit me hard, harder than I could’ve expected, to have somebody say that. Probably because it’s not something I hear very often, being trans and living in Ohio.

    So from one stranger living in Ohio to another, thanks for saying that. It’s amazing how something as simple as somebody not being an asshole can choke a person up. I hope I’ve remained coherent enough that this makes sense.

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