Typically narcissistic blogging.

[Guest Post] Not Every Woman Gets Empowered: A Response To “In Defense of Slave Leia”

Here’s the blog entry that started this brain a’churnin. Check it out, I’ll go get a beer.

“In Defense of Slave Leia” 


It is cool to think that even a fraction of Slave Leias out there are striving for more than cheesecake photo ops and geek-gawk-points, even if the majority are probably sans that nobly-intended kickassery. I dig that at least some of those women think more than just “Look at me, look at me, LOOK AT MEEEE!”

However, even if some of them are going for “fierce bikini warrior” rather than “desirable chattel”, they have a responsibility for the whole message they send with that costume, not just the part they like. Along with the “Grrr, don’t mess with me or I’ll choke your blubbery ass” is “I am a lap dog.” Along with “I am a sexy object, covet me” is “the smaller my outfit, the better I look, the more I am worth.”

The reason the Slave Leia outfit is not merely a skimpy costume (according to this blog) is because while she is dressed like a compliant pleasure-slave, she’ll actually fuck you up. Don’t judge by what you see. But inherent in that statement is that what you see is a degrading costume.

I mean, c’mon. They didn’t throw her in jail like they did her male counterparts, she was dressed in a bikini and a leashed collar while Chewie and Han were in the clink. She was forced to sit there, humiliated, in that giant, pudding-y lap as decoration while a giant turd-shaped alien yanked her around by the neck and stuck his slimy, slimy tongue out at her. Dang, son. That shit is embarrassing.

OMG he’s touching me AGAIN.

Now, ultimately Leia did kick major ass. She was there on a daring attempt to rescue her boyfriend in the first place. She killed that bastard Jabba with the very leash he put around her neck. Go, girl. But her triumph wouldn’t have been as epic if she hadn’t done it from such a place of obvious subjugation, which is what the outfit symbolizes. You don’t get to cherry-pick the “I’m a badass” out of it and leave the rest.

Also, despite Leia’s many heroic actions during the trilogy, we just don’t see the brave and imperious white-gowned (fully-clothed) leader of the Rebel Alliance at cons very often.  Or the fearless soldier in the camouflage poncho screaming through the woods at breakneck speed, intent on fucking some storm-trooper shit up.  No, nearly all of the Leia incarnations we see have chosen to dress like an objectified slave.

Fuck with me, I dare you.

The second part of this has to do with that choice. The choice to don skimpy bikini wear instead of countless other amazingly hot nerdy women’s costumes in the first place. It’s a choice that size privilege affords to some, and one that slaps an automatic penalty on those not wearing Nerdtoria’s Secret or those who try less successfully. (I’m not on a slut-shaming rant here, btw, bear with me.)

Truthfully, I wouldn’t wear SL in any case (not a fan of the outfit, donchaknow), but even if I wanted to, I am a fat girl and don’t have that choice. I would never be seen the same way as a “normal” woman in SL. I would be the Fantasia hippo version of a ballerina, pictures of me would end up on lol-loser websites, I would become another cautionary tale for all the ladies out there who aren’t the correct size to play dress-up.

I’m not complaining about my size, mind you. Or anyone else’s. I’m pissed about the structure in which SL has become the standard, and I am naturally sub-par because I refuse to bare my midriff to the unavoidable mockery and shaming that would result.

Waite says:

“When geek culture says, Don’t be Slave Leia, what I hear is: Don’t unsettle us. Don’t make us think about the consequences of our misogyny, or our entitlement, or our privilege. Don’t remind us that female sexuality can be a power as well as a commodity.”


“I find it troubling when there’s a whole category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate. Because that line is a really arbitrary thing, and it’s really easy to imagine that, some day, I’ll end up on the wrong side of it.”

Would at least one of you think about choking that corpulent bastard?

Fighting  back against misogyny: hell yes. Doing it by wearing identical slave girl outfits? C’mon. There’s plenty of ways to claim the “power” without the “commodity”. As a fat, nerdy- type woman, I am plenty aware of privilege and entitlement, and who has it. I am already in a “category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate.” Perhaps a little more effort to smudge and remove those arbitrary lines, and a little less jostling competition to be on the right side of them would help.

Beyond SL outfit in specific, there’s this whole Booth Babe/Cylon Funtime Barbie/Nearly-Naked (insert any recognizable geek- icon here) thing going on too. It’s about the teeny-tiny-con-bikini, so standard now that women not wearing one might as well be invisible. It’s about how those of us who aren’t the appropriate shape might as well just stay home because we don’t count. At this point, most cons should just be called “wizard-boob-a-palooza, no fat chicks.”

Nerds, banded together through common interests and a mutual understanding of how cruel the non-nerd world can be, are surprisingly closed down to us who score fewer points on the Slave Leia Value Scale™.  That scale seems to rank based on how closely we resemble Boris Vallejo paintings, which is funny considering how few of them bear any passing resemblance. But I digress.

‘Sup, ladies?

I’m not saying no one should ever wear the ole purple and gold; at this point it’s as classic as plastic pointy ears. The Bikini and Leash has stopped looking like a costume, and started looking like a cheerleader uniform. But fuck it, it’s Sci-fi, it’s Fantasy, it’s a party, it makes you feel sexy and fierce, so be it. Let your freak flag fly. All gazillion of you.

Just please, be aware that wearing it sends multiple messages, and they are not all as awesome as If you fuck with me, I will end you.” You are also perpetuating some pretty harsh “isms” along the way. If you feel good, then strut your stuff. Wear it proudly, just know everything you’ve got on.

Tanya Regan is not actually a blogger, but she does paint neat things on occasion.
Gallery:  www.tanyaregan.com  Shop:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Tanyaregan

[Whiskeypants note: I posted “In Defense of Slave Leia” to my wall on Facebook, and Tanya responded with a comment that I was not above begging her to turn into a blog post. Fortunately she didn’t make me actually beg for it. That never looks good on Facebook.]

19 responses

  1. Elusis

    Word to all of this. Don’t tell me you’ve chosen this character for her “toughness” when you’re posing like cheesecake with a cutesy smile and head tilt while making sure to show plenty of leg. You’re gonna play your character, play your character. Anyway, as soon as she turned the tables on Jabba, she put some damn clothes on – she didn’t run around going “well I feel so empowered now that this is my new revolution-leading outfit!”

    May 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

  2. Devon

    The funniest part about the actual “in defense of slave leia” post, is that it cited a faux PSA video as its inspiration. That particular video did not present any points critiquing the moral, ethical, or societal consequences of dressing as slave leia. The author of the original “in defense of” article bravely fought against a whole host of invented staw-women. The PSA video was a rant against the tedium of how prevalent the slave leia look was at nerd cons. The “in defense of ” article ignores all of that and waged a brave battle against a whole bunch of topics never presented in that video and bravely claims victory.

    Initial argument: Slave Leia is to nerd cons as Dead Stars is to goth clubs.
    Retort: a lyrical analysis of Covenant’s past 3 albums, and how profoundly deep they are.

    May 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    • Elusis

      Oh, she straw-Leia’ed all over the original Geek Feminism post too, which went way out of its way to say “NOT SAYING THAT WOMEN WHO DRESS IN SMALL OUTFITS ARE SLUTS OR BAD PEOPLE OR RUINING FEMINISM OK???” which is exactly what she turned around and accused them of.

      Projecty McProjecterson, reporting for duty!

      May 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm

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  4. Ruth Jewett-Warner

    I hate to be the turd in the punch bowl, but I really am at a loss as to what to do with this as a woman. Is slave Leia bad or ok? Let’s assume that these women weren’t going for “empowerment” and were going for “I want to look hot”, is that what we’re criticizing? (Also, I have a feeling that most or at least some of those women, being entitled American citizens, probably would have tried to kill Jabba or harm him in some way were they really in the situation, and not taking a picture with a fiberglass statue).

    Here’s where the difficulty comes in– I’m not black or gay, but I try to be an ally to black and gay folks by paying attention to and talking about issues that effect them and voting for public officials who I think are more likely to be their allies as well. In Tanya’s case, this is much more difficult; it’s not clear how to be an ally without having to change myself, which is not the case for being an ally of gay people or black people. As I said on the facebook post, I don’t attend comic fests, but I’d probably go for something sexy if I did (which would be so very easy as sex has been embedded in Sci-Fi/Comics for the last 60 years at least). Short of wearing a sign saying “I recognize the privilege I gain from more or less fitting society’s standards for beauty, and respect your right to be known and loved even if you don’t” it’s not clear how to signify that except by choosing to wear something unsexy. I could do that, is that what’s being called for? Would I be a bad person in saying that I would have less fun dressing up as Boba Fett than I would wearing a swinging 60s Star Trek mini-dress purely because I get a kick out of being checked out by guys? I definitely do not want to hurt others’ feelings, but I feel like I’ve been given a Hobson’s choice. What’s supposed to be fun for everyone involved has become a feminist battle. Someone has to walk away feeling bad about herself, it seems.

    I haven’t run across this yet in belly dance, but women of a large variety of sizes do it. I’ve had women in my classes who wear everything from a size 0 to a size 24. Many of the women wear the bra and bedlah, and many of them do not have perfect bodies. I think this is less of an issue in belly dance because it’s always been a woman’s thing in America, and the costume pretty much comes with the territory (although there are more modest caftans worn for Egyptian saidi dancing) so you know what you’re getting into the minute you sign up for the classes. Is that the difference? Is the demographic of Sci-Fi fest changing? The similarity is that like Halloween, both are opportunities to play “pretend” and dress in a way that one wouldn’t dare dress in day-to-day life.

    I wish I could walk away from this conversation with concrete instructions on how to be sensitive about this issue. The only way to really tell what someone’s attitude is is to know them and talk to them, and you just can’t accomplish that with one quick look at a comic fest.

    May 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    • Elusis

      I said this on FB and I’ll say it here:

      Point your camera at women (and men) wearing awesome outfits who are not half-naked. Compliment women who are not half-naked. Compliment plus-sized women and men. Stop and question the agenda of a photographer herding together a bunch of half-naked women for a photo op – why isn’t s/he photographing that awesome women over there who isn’t showing skin? Invite wearers of awesome costumes that aren’t “sexy” to get in the photo. Question why a booth of photography only features nearly naked, thin, conventionally attractive, white (and maybe Asian) women. Question why artists are only drawing those same women – use your privilege to make noise and question the status quo, because when bigger-bodied women ask those questions, we get labeled “bitter” or “jealous.” Suggest models to artists and photographers who are not thin, white/Asian, and conventionally attractive. Refuse to model for artists and photogs who only use thin, white/Asian, conventionally attractive women as models. Ask the clothing vendors why they don’t sell a wider variety of sizes so your friends and acquaintances with different bodies can enjoy their wares. Lobby for a variety of women in the fashion show or costume contest you’re involved in. Don’t body-snark other women (or men). When other people body-snark people around them, tell them “dude, that’s not cool.” Consider what your goal and agenda is in “showing off your body” and what kind of environment that’s creating for other women around you. Don’t steal the spotlight from someone else by using your body or skimpy costume – belly dance has a tradition of wearing cover-ups when you’re not performing for a lot of reasons, one of which is to not take focus from others. Talk to other women as allies not as competitors.

      May 28, 2012 at 1:31 am

    • Elusis

      So I’m interested about how both on FB and here and on other blogs about privilege, people come along and ask “but what should I DO about privilege?” all forlorn, and then it seems like you tell them, and they either disappear, or argue.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:34 am

    • Kristen

      Pretty clear to me. The costume itself is not good or bad. Wearing it is not good or bad. Claiming you are *not* wearing it as a way to get attention or look hot, but rather to show you kick ass, is bullshit.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm

  5. It wasn’t my intention to say that we can’t all wear what we want, or that we should be ashamed of our bodies or our fashion choices, no matter what size we are. It’s just that there are more things that go with an SL costume than “Jabba-choking outfit” that needed to be addressed.

    I like to dress sexy, and so does everyone I know. That means different things to different people, and we don’t all have the same choices in what we can wear without fear of mockery or shaming. I’m not asking anyone to change what they do, only to be aware of *all* of the implications and entitlements of what they are doing, not just the ones they like the sound of.

    Above are some really excellent suggestions about what you can do with size privilege besides letting it make you feel bad.

    May 28, 2012 at 2:18 am

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  7. Fantastic website. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your effort!

    July 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

  8. Well reasoned and brilliantly said. Being “smokin’ hot” feels like power, and it’s certainly fun to play with while you’re young and devoid of stretch-marks, but embracing it perpetuates it in a way that is more complicated than we realize (or care to think about). But then, I’m trying to raise a couple of geek-strong girls, and I would like them to feel that the strength in their bodies is more than making boys walk funny. Still trying to work that one out. Thanks for your take.

    August 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

  9. Yes, every woman who wants to put on a sexy costume should be fully cognizant of all the signals it sends to the politically aware. Or she could just not give a fuck. I vote for the latter. It’s too much trouble to care about your intricately developed socio-political ruminations.

    March 24, 2014 at 6:01 am

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