Twitter exploded this Wednesday when a seeming innocuous comment by Simon Pegg, saw the former Doctor Who guest star wander into a mass free for all/debate on sexism and sexual identity in Geek culture.
Recapping events Courtney Stoker aka @cnstoker, a Doctor Who blogger and feminist took offence to Pegg’s declaration that he had a thing for female cosplayers after he posted a picture of a dozen girls dressed in Leia’s slave-girl outfit from Return of the Jedi along with this misjudged comment:
*makes noise like Homer Simpson thinking of donuts*
Anyway, Stoker called Pegg out on his apparent ‘gross’ behaviour arguing that declaring your sexual attraction in such a way for a woman robs that woman of her identity albeit using the most flimsy and hypocritical material available – not to mention using Pegg’s comments subjectively, rather than in the context they were made.
Leia’s costume has been culturally acknowledged – in Friends and indeed in Pegg’s own film Paul – as powering many a geek fantasy. Rounding on someone who finds something acknowledged as being a fantasy outfit for having a Leia fantasy isn’t the basis for a strong argument.
There is an interesting debate to be had on the issues raised but there are problems with her recap (which includes all the tweets between her and Pegg) and, indeed, in Pegg’s responses and not just that Homer Simpson quote above.
In the first paragraph of her recap Stoker casually lumps Pegg in with US comedian Daniel Tosh whose attempt to defend rape jokes at a comedy gig ended pretty much how you’d expect it to end.
It’s reductive to link offensive, pointed jokes about rape and a misguided comment about attraction as both being generally about “being douchey about women.”
What’s interesting about both the Tosh and Pegg incidents is the context for debate; Tosh, thought the audience would go for his jokes – call it hubris, call it ignorance; what can’t be questioned is that Tosh was taken aback by a negative heckler and cracked a rebuttal which was as funny as it was insightful – it was as if he was expecting the crowd to just side with him because they had ponied up the money to see him.
Conversely, because the recipient of the rape insult had paid to see him she felt entitled to tell the entertainer when he crossed a line.
Maybe its money but Tosh’s victim voted with her feet, it was later that her friend then took to the internet to blog about his indecent behaviour – this made the story national news in the US. Stoker took to twitter, demand Pegg apologise directly, forced herself into a debate that quickly got muddied and wouldn’t relent.
There’s scope for some Twitter debate but to directly accost someone’s page chances are when a succinct comment drops that you don’t agree with and you don’t seek clarity beyond those limited characters and you substitute any clarity with your own subjective opinion of what you thought they meant; chances are the converted crowd of followers will crush you with glee.
Stoker, who apparently still thinks that the internet is used for enlightening and progressive debates rather than a handy place to upload hilarious cat videos and to vent hate via the anonymity of a username – was aggressively rounded on by Pegg’s followers (despite him telling them not to) after she, with equal aggression demanded he apologise (which he did eventually do.)
The result is that she now has her page set to private.
The downside of both sides aggression – with or without Pegg or Stoker’s request is that it further alienates women from being welcomed fully into the cosplay world – for fans who simply want to show of their geek pride it hardly paints the most rational picture of the world they wish to enter.