Saturday, May 10, 2014

Necromisogyny: A Thing That Exists

Have your friends and family grown jaded to your feminist terminology? Do they make like the comment section and just gloss over terms like "rape threats" and "systemic oppression" and "kyriarchy" because yawn, over it? Sure they do.

I suggest a new word be added to the feminist lexicon, courtesy of Tauriq Moosa:

Well, I say "new", but it really isn't. That tweet was a comment on the cover of the February 15, 2013 cover of the tabloid The Sun.

(Content note: discussion of objectification of female victims of deadly violence, links to the same, screenshots from TV shows to illustrate)

You remember her. Or rather, you remember the man who murdered her, Olympian Oscar Pistorius. This isn't about them (him). But when introducing new words into the lexicon it's good to cite sources. Because The Sun's blatant objectification of a woman who was brutally murdered just hours before this monstrosity rolled off the presses is just an example of something that's a goddamn trend, and necromisogyny is just the right word for it.

You can trace it back a lot further, all the way to 2007, when the creators of America's Next Top Model thought it'd be totes fierce to have the contestants do photoshoots as totally fetch corpses:

Last week, the US viewing public was treated to the spectacle of the show's contestants posing as mangled, mutilated corpses, and then being judged on just how good they looked "dead". Women were shown stabbed, drowned, strangled, poisoned, shot, decapitated. One was pictured lying in a grimy corridor, holes apparently gored out of her torso, as if her organs had been stolen.

And judging by the backlash, it was old in 2007 too.

It's not just scattered and unique media incidents. Where the pattern really emerges in is fiction. You see it a lot in police procedurals and shows other that rely on there being a dead body in the room, or otherwise portray a lot of violence as a rule. The female victim (white, pretty, thin, a dime a dozen) is discovered in a pose that wouldn't be out of place in a glossy magazine, bleeding prettily into a dainty little puddle, her hair fanned out and wrist slightly crooked, so that we know she's broken, but still pretty! You know the one:

I've got a flippin' million of these. (Content note within a content note, because I really freaking mean it: that link goes to a forum where people get together and post pictures of the latest female tv and movie murder victims and discuss how pretty women are when they're dead. It is super triggery and I do not advise you to look too deeply into it. But I want to make a point here. There are a lot of forums and sites just like it, dedicated exclusively to fetishizing female murder victims in fiction. This is just the first one I found, not the only one I found, and I swear you can almost hear the fapping.)

Obviously I'm not the first to have noticed this:
[...] your dime-store crime drama that has to send out for MOAR SEXY CORPSES. There's none of that "let's lingeringly gaze at the beautiful dead white woman while we opine that she had so much to live for and it's such a tragedy." 
- Ana and Liss watch Elementary 

Because depending on the show, that's usually what happens later: cut to the morgue where the ME comments on how sad it is that another (pretty, white, young, thin, middle class, able-bodied) women is dead, and what monster could have done this? All while we are treated to shots of the body lovingly covered in strategically placed white cloth. That's more of a thing from older shows, now that fiction has gone all grim-dark they're not afraid of a freezer and a body bag, but it still happens. I've seen enough cop shows to know the drill.

Music videos are also noticeably on board with this. Anita Sarkeesian comments:

Throughout the video we are presented with a series of lifeless, nearly naked, mutilated women’s bodies. We see women, or parts of women, all white, draped across sofas, propped up in beds, hanging from nooses, and all with perfectly applied make up and high heels. In addition to the sexualized, dismembered body parts, we’re also treated to Kanye holding up a freshly severed head.

There's also of course the fashion industry, which is awful, always.

I could go on pretty much forever, and you can find some scattered commentary on the phenomenon, but you get my point: even though in reality only a very small percentage of murder victims are white women, we just love ourselves some dead white women. There is a clear and demonstrable urge in this culture to objectify dead women that manifests blatantly in our fiction and art.

I'm no sociologist. I'm probably the least qualified person in the world to comment on the why and how of this. So I won't, and just present this stuff and let you draw your own conclusions. But for what it's worth, I can't say I'm all that surprised. Objectification has a core of dehumanization, and what's less human, yet still worth sexually objectifying, than a woman's dead body?

And yes, I do think it needs a separate term to describe it. It is prevalent and distinct enough to warrant it. Necromisogyny in fiction exists on the Venn diagram of sexism where sexual objectification, death, fetishism and male gaze meet, and the same can't be said of anything else.

It's different from it's closest peer, sexualization of violence against women. Because what we're being presented with, what is being sexualized, is not the act of perpetuating violence against women. It's the aftermath, the pretty corpse, that is the focus. Lumping the two of them together seems to be an oversight, because the implications seem vastly different in both cases.

It also strikes me as being related to but very much separate from Women in Refrigerators, because again, the focus is not on the male hero and how a woman's death sends him on his journey. Again, the focus is on the woman-as-a-corpse being pretty, without much context.

But again, I'm not qualified to comment, and this is just my two cents, as it were.

Because at the same time, necromisogyny is just regular misogyny taken to the absolute extreme. The female murder victim is a misogynist's dream woman: a collection of pretty body parts devoid of personality, character, and voice, the sole purpose for her existence being to look beautiful in the ultimate state of subjugation.

And that sounds hella familiar to me.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...