There's a lot of talk going around the intarwebs this week about the "Oh, You Sexy Geek" panel at San Diego Comic Con. Basically, this was supposed to address the implications of the 'sexy women' in nerd culture. Unsurprisingly, the chicks who make money by prancing around wearing teensy skimpy costumes felt that prancing around wearing teensy skimpy costumes had no negative connotations whatsoever. (I am Jack's total lack of surprise.) Here's an especially mind-boggling recap of how things went down.
You know what gets me, though? This line, "Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry mused that women who were critical of sexy geek culture in any way were just jealous, had no confidence, and were projecting their issues with self-esteem onto the women who felt empowered by walking the Comic-Con floor in a Slave Leia costume."
Empowerment. Really? Let's take a look at the origins of that costume, shall we?
Princess Leia is the adoptive daughter of a very powerful man. Bail Organa is the head of the royal family of Alderaan and one of the founding members of the Rebellion against the Empire. Leia is a senator in her own right, and is a willing spy for the Rebellion despite the terrible personal risk. When she is captured by Darth Vader, she has the grit to stand up to him when many lesser people would have melted into a puddle of quivering jello. Vader has her tortured and she didn't crack. The destruction of her entire world only pisses her off and makes her that much more determined to bring down the Empire.
I think it's fair to say that Leia is a tough, capable, brave, kickass woman.
When Jabba the Hut captures her on Tatooine, he decides to make her one of his scantily clad slave girls. He puts her in a revealing outfit and chains her to his couch. He does this to humiliate her, to show that he's brought the great Princess Leia low by reducing her from all her status and accomplishments to little more than a sex toy on a chain. This is the disempowerment of a strong woman. That's the entire point of this costume - shame, humiliation, ownership, control. He wants to make her less. Do you know what Leia's reaction was to this treatment? At the first opportunity, she took the chain that bound her and strangled Jabba with it.
Let me reiterate that point: Leia murdered the person who forced her into that outfit.
All that bullshit about wearing this costume for the purpose of some bizarre kind of empowerment is just that - bullshit. I'm not saying don't wear the costume, mind you. By all means, do your thing. Wear it because you love how it looks on you. Wear it because you feel good doing it. Wear it because it's fun or you love Star Wars or for the irony or for any reason or for no particular reason at all. But don't ever let anyone tell you that it's about empowerment or that you're striking some blow for women's rights. When people (men or women) see you in that costume, they aren't thinking, "Wow, she looks like a strong, capable individual. I really respect her!"
To those panelists who think it's jealousy or poor self-esteem or women being 'bitchy' when they are unhappy about this and other scanty little costumes, I say this: Attention is not empowerment. Never confuse the two. And maybe try to refrain from being snarky to the women who can tell the difference, even if you can't.