On “Hot Chicks Of Occupy Wall Street” and DC’s Relaunch of Starfire

So, this dude decided to go to Occupy Wall Street and make a video of some of the women there, which he released under the title “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.” There’s no hint that he got consent from any of the women he photographed.

1) The main thing that bothers me about this is that it could change the experience of being at Occupy Wall Street for women. Women who have heard about this video (and its associated tumbler blog) and go to Occupy Wall Street are now more likely to wonder if the people taking pictures are going to post them as “hot chick” pics.

Of course, some women don’t mind that. But some do. To post this video with total indifference for the feelings of the women who do mind, is simply an asshole thing to do.

2) A lot of the problem is the title “hot chicks.” That sets a context that’s frankly icky, and wrong for the occasion. It trivializes the women’s activism.

3) And of course, it’s not a coincidence that someone chose to do “hot chicks” rather than “hot studs.” This is treatment that women (by and large) are singled out for.

4) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with lust, or with appreciating how gorgeous and sexy people are. But that it’s okay to appreciate sexiness isn’t a magic wand making everything okay. Admiring sexy people is fine; but posting your admiration online, apparently without consent, in a way that trivializes why these women are attending OWS, is sexist and stupid and potentially harmful.

5) I’m actually reminded of the rewriting of Starfire in the revamped DC Comics universe. (Sue me, I’m nerdy.) Michele Lee interviewed her seven-year-old daughter, a fan of Starfire, about the “new” Starfire.

“What about this Starfire? What do you think about her?” (Referring to an image from DC’s reboot Red Hood and the Outsiders)

“I can see almost all of her boobs.”

“And?”

“Well she is on the beach in her bikini. But…”

“But?”

“But, she’s not relaxing or swimming. She’s just posing a lot.” *my daughter appears uncomfortable*

“Anything else?”

“Well, she’s not fighting anyone. And not talking to anyone really. She’s just almost naked and posing. [...] I want her to be a hero, fighting things and be strong and helping people.”

Lee’s daughter put her finger on exactly what was wrong with how DC “rebooted” Starfire. The character originally existed to fight evil and save the world (and yes, she often did this wearing incredibly revealing outfits). To reimagine the character as someone who primarily stands around and poses is Getting It Wrong. That’s not what the character is there for.

Of course, the women in “Hot Chicks” are real people, not drawings on paper. But the screw-up is the same; in both cases, women are treated primarily as eye candy for men’s consumption, and only incidentally as people who are there to fight evil and save the world.

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More blogging about “Hot Chicks Of Occupy Wall Street”:

 

This entry posted in crossposted on TADA, Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

12 Responses to On “Hot Chicks Of Occupy Wall Street” and DC’s Relaunch of Starfire

  1. 1
    Asher Abrams says:

    Barry, great analysis.

  2. I just found this tumblr called Women Occupy. I have no idea if it was done in response to “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street”–and I actually hope it wasn’t, since it’s something that is worth doing in its own right–but it is a fitting response nonetheless.

  3. 3
    kat says:

    “There’s no hint that he got consent from any of the women he photographed.”

    This really needs to be touched upon – when you enter the public sphere, you have already given consent to be photographed. You lose all right to privacy on public property (and in some cases places that can be SEEN from public property) when it comes to photos. The photographer automatically owns copyright, the subject in public has no rights to the photos. I’m not going to say that doesn’t suck. I’m not going to say the “hot chicks of OWS” isn’t skeezy, but they don’t need explicit written or verbal consent from these women because it’s implied consent and it’s automatically given in public, by everyone, as soon as we step outside basically. It bugs me that the word consent is being thrown around with this issue because it implies something illegal is being done there which isn’t the case. That same law is the reason we can photograph and record cops doing fucked up shit in public because they lose their right to protections as well.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Kat, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that “something illegal is being done.” I very strongly agree with you that anyone in public can be legally photographed, and that’s the way it should be, legally.

    But as I’m sure you’ll agree, something can be unethical without being illegal.

  5. 5
    Maia says:

    I’ve been thinking about this in perhaps an overly involved kind of way, after reading the xojane post several times and Holly’s response. I really like your Starfire comparison – although not a comics geek I’m not sure who Starfire is.

    Obviously the Hot Chicks of OWS project is reactionary and sexist. I was once photographed on a demo and the photo was used to illustrate a picture of the demo. Underneath men posted about my body as if it was an object for their amusement, and threatened to rape me.

    To take photos of a woman living her life without her permission and posting it up as an image under the phrase ‘hot chicks’ is objectifying in quite a literal sense. To do so at a protest is to reinforce the many ways women within protest movements have been (and have struggled against being) treated as auxiliaries.

    The woman who was personally OK with it was endorsing both the use of other women’s pictures without their consent, and the reduction of women’s role at protests.

    However, I think it’s also politically problematic to put yourself on a list of ‘hot chicks’ that shows such a narrow range of people. I think that is accepting a very limited range of people as desirable, and universalising desirability.

    This is mostly agreeing with your post. But adding that I think even a ‘Hot people of OWS’ would be problematic to me, unless it was committed to showing a range of bodies and not essentialising ‘hot’.

  6. 6
    Radfem says:

    After observing the Occupy movement in my city, I’m beginning to learn all over while feminism needs to be revisited in progressive movements. The way the women are treated by the men and how women of color especially are marginalized. Nothing new there.

    I hope it’s not like that everywhere else.

  7. 7
    Simple Truth says:

    If anyone is interested, Comics Alliance did a couple of good posts about the Starfire/Women in DC controversy:

    A 7-Year-Old Girl Who Loves ‘Teen Titans’ Reacts Sadly to the New Starfire

    The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’

  8. 8
    kat says:

    @ampersand I get that you didn’t mean to imply illegality but the word “consent” has so many legal implications with so many horrendous crimes (usually sexual) that using it lends an aspect to the act that isn’t there. I think it’s skeezy to surreptitiously photo people. Hell, I’m a photographer and I avoid doing that unless it’s part of an event or whatever where I’m doing candids and told to. Ethics matter because they allow for personal discretion, I agree this is pretty unethical. However, I don’t think there’s a way to clear up the vagueness of implied consent here without damaging other important things like filming actual rights violations.

  9. 9
    Urban Sasquatch says:

    ALL of what you’ve written here is well-spoken and highly considerate; but this portion:

    “4) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with lust, or with appreciating how gorgeous and sexy people are. But that it’s okay to appreciate sexiness isn’t a magic wand making everything okay. Admiring sexy people is fine; but posting your admiration online, apparently without consent, in a way that trivializes why these women are attending OWS, is sexist and stupid and potentially harmful.”

    …really says a mouthful.

    There are a million ways people will nit-pick because they might have stated something differently, some nuance to appease their own sensibilities or issues more appropriately according to their view, but I think you’ve rather hit the nail on the head with this entire post.

  10. 10
    Jay Generally says:

    Day late and a dollar short, but thanks for posting this. I’m a very, er, ‘Yay hotness!’ sort of person, but I have a lot of ‘buts’ about the HC of OWS. I’m conflicted about the secret photography. People can be very beautiful when they’re just being themselves, but if some sort of artful grab for beauty or sincerity was the goal, then I think it would have been easy to choose a less guttural word like ‘Beauty’ over ‘Hot’ and to have avoided the tactless ‘Chicks’ altogether. What was wrong with ‘Women?’ If gynosexuality is your monster and that’s the cookie you want to bake, then fine, but with a title so obviously puerile then I think full disclosure, and the resultant stiff-shouldered, awkward smiles and cocked-hip with duckface poses would have probably fit the tawdry venue. Trying to get a natural subject is understandable, maybe even admirable; secretly collecting ‘Hot Chick’ pics is definitely nowhere near admirable.

    New Starfire went off with a dull thud for me too. I’m not going to complain much about the comic book being more fan-service oriented than the very, very awesome but child oriented cartoon. I will complain about the fact that lying around doing nothing is not what I pick up a comic book to see people doing. I will also complain that if you wanted an indolent and rather nihilistic character who uses empty sex to keep herself amused, then maybe you could have chosen a character that would have needed less derailing. Also, in this instance, the title is Teen Titans so, the venue should be directed at teens and “I don’t mind people seeing my body, so I fight almost naked” may already be a message that might be too risqué. “I use casual sex as a panacea,” is just freakin’ horrible. Honestly, I want to be all proud of my T&A and it’s not easy to dismiss everyone treating such things a warning for bad writing, inappropriate behavior, and terrible character development when they’re almost always right.

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