Book Review: Suicide Girls, Vol. 1, Brea Grant et al. (2011)

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Worth every penny!*

three out of five stars

So I was clicking through Steve Niles’s Amazon page, trying to decide whether I should give his 30 Days of Night series a try, when I happened upon this gem. The summary sucked me in from the first (“Caught in a near-future defined by its rigid conformity and persecution of women, the SuicideGirls are the last hope for freedom. Can they take down the techno-religious cult, Way*of*Life, or will they die trying?”), and with used copies going for as little as one cent, I just couldn’t resist.

Now, I’m not really what you’d call a fan of the Suicide Girls franchise – get rid of the rainbow-colored hair and body mods, and SG adheres to the same stifling beauty standards as any mainstream, male gaze-catering brand of pornography – but outside of my vegan-feminist critiques of PETA’s partnership with SG, I don’t really pay the Suicide Girls much mind. Point is, I wasn’t expecting too much from this particular graphic novel. Three stars is several more than I expected to give Suicide Girls, Vol. 1.

The story is interesting, if not especially well fleshed out. In the near future, a fundamentalist Christian group called Way*of*Life (minor gripe – the asterisks in the group’s name proved distracting at best) has bribed its way into the United States government, criminalizing all that it deems “sinful” and imprisoning lawbreakers in its own private prisons/reform camps (“Rehabilitation in the Lord’s name!”). In addition to gays, atheists, and the like, Way*of*Life targets women – specifically, uppity women who don’t know their God-given place.

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Dear Ms. Newkirk,

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

A “real” feminist wouldn’t employ such a silly argument in defense of PETA’s campaigns, whether sexist or not:

MJ: One question I did have. I really do appreciate the work PETA has done but it has gotten a lot of criticism for using women in some of its ads. A lot of times in bikinis, or scantily clad, I think there was a striptease campaign that came online recently. What do you say to people who criticize PETA and say that it’s not women-friendly, that it denigrates women?

IN: Well, it’s rubbish because the organization is run by a woman, who is me. I marched in the earliest of rallies, I am an adamant feminist, but I’m not a prude and I think you can go to the beach and see people who are in less than you can in a PETA ad.

Let me guess: you also have a Black Friend ™, such that none of PETA’s campaigns could possibly be racist, either?

Seriously, this is such a ridiculous argument that I need only two words to refute it: Ann Coulter. Women are not immune from misogyny, you see. Sometimes, they’re even more vicious in their hatred of other women than are their male peers; because of the common (mis)perception that “women cannot be sexist,” women are oftentimes granted license to act in an even more misogynistic manner than their male counterparts. It’s not often that you hear a man argue that women’s suffrage was a mistake – yet Ann Coulter has posited as much, and she still manages to get speaking gigs.

You go on to say:

Our people are all volunteers, no one has asked a woman to take off her clothes. I’ve done it myself, we’ve all marched naked if we want to, and I think that it’s very restrictive and in fact wrong. I would expect someone in, say, Iran to tell us that we should cover up, but I don’t expect women or men in this country to criticize women who wish to use their bodies in a form of political statement, to tell them, you need to cover yourself up. There’s this idea of ‘naughty bits’ and I just think it’s funny more than anything else. It’s not sexist, it may be sexual, but no. No woman has ever been paid to strip. She has decided to use her body as a political instrument. That’s her prerogative and I think it is anti-feminist to dare to tell her that she needs to put her clothes back on.

Certainly, I agree that it’s “anti-feminist to dare to tell [a woman] that she needs to put her clothes back on”; however, there’s a difference between allowing your supporters to use their naked bodies as “political instrument[s]” and taking advantage of your [female] supporters’ willingness to get naked for the animals by playing into cultural stereotypes regarding gender roles, beauty, sex, class, race, etc. As I noted in my defense of your “Breast is Best” campaign, PETA does have a despicable habit of pornifying women in their photo/print campaigns while simultaneously portraying men as full human beings, complete with agency and personalities.

In PETA’s world, women are more likely to pose in the nude than men; and, if you were to objectively compare the PETA print campaigns which feature nude men and women, you’d see that the portrayals are drastically different. Strip away PETA’s logo and slogans, and the women’s photos look like they were pulled straight out of a recent edition of Playboy. Young, white, thin, feminine, (conventionally) attractive women are displayed on all fours, backs arched, gazes vacant, faces and torsos turned away from the camera, submissive in posture, ready for a good fuckin’. In contrast, the men’s shots are fun, funny, inspiring, humorous, and full of personality.

Yes, you can be sexual without being sexist; just look at these campaigns featuring naked men as proof:

PETA (Steve O 1)

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