ActivismFeminismPop Culture

Simon Pegg on Twitter: Geek Girls

At this point, it’s been a couple weeks (or something?) since Simon Pegg got into an argument with a feminist on Twitter. The feminist, Courtney Stoker, posted most of the conversation. I’m sure everyone has basically forgotten about it, as is the nature of the internet.

I see this more as a battle of ideas and a lack of distinct lines drawn in the sand, rather than being about what the individuals actually believe. There is merit on both sides and there are negatives about either as well.

Objectification

Pegg makes a yummy sound at a bunch of slave-Leia cosplayers, and Stoker says he’s objectifying them. How do we know, or who says what is ‘objectification’ and what is ‘acknowledging attractiveness’? Pegg points out the combination of things which make the girls attractive to him–being female and having geeky qualities. Is it fair to fault him for finding this combination of traits attractive? Or are we mad at him for saying it publicly?

Decoration

Stoker extrapolates from Pegg’s statements that he is objectifying the women and implying that they’re decoration to fulfill his sexual fantasies.

The best way I can explain is this: I went to CONvergence about a month ago, and there were a lot of cosplayers there. Some costumes were worth looking at for a second, whether because they were creative, complicated, interesting, unique, or sexy. (Often it was a combination of these that drew my attention.) I un-creepily enjoyed looking at a number of people, and some of them were sexily-dressed women.

Of course those people weren’t there for my enjoyment, or for me to look at. They’re individuals having a good time at a really great convention and having fun getting dressed up. They were probably noticing other people’s costumes as well. I’m not saying that this is how Pegg views cosplayers, but it is a prerogative that is overlooked.

Attraction

Again, Pegg was pointing out attractive qualities. I feel the need to qualify that there are types of attraction that aren’t sexual. Any Ace would probably be able to explain this much better than I can, but I’ll try.

I walk into a coffee shop and happen to see a woman in her early twenties sitting, drinking some delicious-looking coffee-beverage. She’s a bit cute; I notice, but I’m otherwise un-phased. Then I see that she’s reading The God Delusion. She has just become attractive, in the sense that I might strike up a conversation with her. It seems like we might have some things in common.

Then I see that she has a Doctor Who button on her bag. She has just moved up another tier of attraction, which might at this point be bordering on physical/sexual attraction.

 

My point is: Just because someone is pointing out attractiveness doesn’t mean that it’s inherently sexual in nature, nor does it mean that the person whose qualities are being highlighted is being turned into an object in EVERY instance. I do understand that objectification is a rampant problem, and that disrespect occurs far too often in geek culture. However, we don’t need to jump on every comment on attractiveness made by a cis straight guy just because it’s coming from a cis straight guy. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the different sets of language used by people showing appreciation and people who are being oppressive through objectification.

If we’re going to jump on people like Pegg for saying that they’ve got a thing for [insert thing here] because it’s a combination of [other things], then shouldn’t those rules apply in other spaces as well? I think that skeptic women are sexy–a combination of two things I love, as well as appreciating the fact that the person is an individual and not solely defined by being a skeptic and a woman.

It shouldn’t be necessary for someone to say “That slave-Leia cosplayer looks quite attractive. I hope she feels empowered as she thoroughly enjoys this con,” every time they notice a sexy costume. I do thoroughly hope that people feel comfortable and empowered at cons. I would expect the same amount of respect that I give them, and wouldn’t begrudge a single person for non-creepily appreciating my costume or taking my picture.

 

Image from cosplayoverload.com because Cowboy Bebop was awesome, the cosplayers in the picture are awesomely dressed, and they actually have a corgi.

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Lux

Lux

Lux is a female genderqueer weirdo, writing from Kansas. They happily identify as a militant atheist(+), feminist and liberal. Their time is consumed with Doctor Who, reading, and playing WoW with a cat on their lap. If you're lucky, you might catch them smithing jewellery or cleaning something.

7 Comments

  1. August 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm —

    Simon Pegg is just expressing his attraction to geeky beautiful women. If that’s objectification, then every single person, man or woman, is guilty of it. Of course, that’s not an argument in favor of openly expressing your attraction. But then again, I don’t think one needs an argument to justify this kind of behavior.

    This is but one of many reasons why a lot of people are turned off by the contemporary feminist movement.

    • August 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm —

      This is exactly where I’m coming from. By this logic, I objectify people every day, even though I acknowledge that they aren’t meat for me to consume as I please.

  2. August 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm —

    Dressing up as Slave Leia for a nerd convention is the equivalent of dressing up as a cheerleader or a French maid for a Halloween party. Saying you “have a thing” for that, as a straight male nerd, is like saying you have a thing for eating bread. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the bread, but it does mean there’s something wrong with you for trying to present a completely mundane, unoriginal, utterly boring (ironic for Pegg to use that word against someone else) horniness as some kind of cultivated taste. You like generically hot chicks, congratulations, thanks for informing us.

    Stoker’s posts are heavy-handed and it’s hard to imagine someone being faced with them and not reacting badly (especially a celebrity with no idea who she is), but they do pretty much sum up the “Wow, I think less of Simon Pegg now” feeling I have after seeing the initial tweets and photo. Those cosplayers almost certainly were dressed to look sexy on purpose– a lot of cosplayers are– but pointing it out and drooling over it is just….well, rather sad, really.

    Although the “I am against the objectification of women when the intention is malicious” remark made me laugh for its cluelessness. It’s like a sexist saying he isn’t one because he doesn’t hate women. You don’t have to be malicious or hate women to treat them as if the most or only important thing about them is whether they’re fuckable, genius.

    • August 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm —

      I disagree with you on the point of it being mundane and sad. It’s certainly not a cultivated taste to be interested in “hot” women, but I certainly don’t think less of Pegg for being a straight guy, interested in attractive women.

      I do agree that being against objectification when malicious was a stupid thing to say. It’s obviously still harmful even when not intentionally malicious. However, the point I’m trying to make with the article is that there is a difference between pointing out that someone is attractive and objectifying them, and it’s a hard distinction to make. It can be easy to mistake one for the other.

      • August 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm —

        I don’t think less of Simon Pegg for being a straight man, either (good lord, who would?). But being a straight man doesn’t mean you need to openly declare to the world whenever you find some woman attractive enough to drool over, especially when you’re drooling for the plain old boring reasons that every straight man has been attracted to every conventionally attractive woman, ever– having nice bodies, and putting them on display. I don’t expect that from Simon Pegg. I expect that from straight guys who have nothing more interesting to say, which is why I don’t follow those guys on Twitter.

  3. August 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm —

    Reading through the linked story, I noticed that Stoker did have one good point: “A good sign you’re objectifying women: you’re comparing them to food.” Problem is, she never actually made that point to Pegg. Instead, her first three tweets:

    1. Assumed he thought the cosplayers were there to fulfill his sexual fantasies.
    2. Assumed he considered them as simple decoration.
    3. Claimed he was discouraging more women from identifying as geeks.

    1 & 2 might be true, but Pegg’s initial tweets give no evidence of this. There are certainly men out there who do see things this way, but that doesn’t mean any individual man does, even if he says something iffy. No person is pure good or pure evil, and it’s possible for someone who made a misstep to come around to the other side. Accusing them of things not in evidence makes it a lot more likely they’ll get defensive and double down on their position, however.

    I have no idea if Stoker was right about how Pegg saw the women, mind you, but I don’t see this as a good tactical move. It just feeds into the bad reputation of feminists. (Yeah, it’s unfair that they have to be more careful than some other groups about their reputation, but the fact that it’s unfair doesn’t change anything.)

    As for 3, Pegg’s first tweet was: “Also, I’ve got a thing about cosplay girls. They’re like zombie stormtroopers, a glorious combination of beloved things.” That doesn’t strike me as discouraging women from identifying as geeks, but rather the opposite. There is the subtle point though that he identified them as “girls” (would males the same age be called “boys”? Not likely), but that’s another issue entirely.

    • August 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm —

      I agree that there wasn’t sufficient evidence based on what Pegg said for Stoker to have made the inferences she did. It is a problem for feminists–we want to point out wrongful cultural biases, but it’s possible to target the wrong person or extrapolate from the wrong comments.

      Making assumptions can be tricky.

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