Fetch Me An Ax, That I May Kill A Man.

Scipio of Absorbacon has written a wonderful article arguing against the realism of female superheroes or supervillains in comic books. He claims that women wouldn't realistically become costumed crimefighters or costumed criminals, because, dangit, they're just too nice. Women, he declares, are not nearly as boneheaded as those silly boys, and are much less likely to engage in the jackassery that he believes drives the urge to superheroics.

Or, in other words, "Women are inherently better than men; therefore they wouldn't become heroes!"

He calls it "Evil Woman!". I might have gone with "Hey, Ladies! Let Me Tell You What You're Thinking, You Sensible, Non-Violent Flowers of Socialised Femininity."

It's hard to know where to begin with this essentialist crap, but as far as comics go, my favourite quote is this:

I will believe a man can fly. It is substantially more difficult for me to believe that women are as likely as men to put on a costume and fight crime. That's the kind of self-aggrandizing theatrics driven by a savior complex that I associate with the typical flaws of men, not of women.

So, defying physics and biology, check. Girls also becoming vigilantes – outside the realms of possibility! Good to know. Heaven forfend that women ever be stupid, or impulsive, or act out of a sincere desire to do good, or because they want power for the sake of power, or because they just really want to kill someone. Or, you know, be actual human beings with complex motivations that are not always smart or sane.

Oh, how fascinatingly illogical. Scipio can suspend his disbelief enough to accept a fantasy world where superpowered people run around in costumes, but not enough to comprehend that, within the context of that world, women might want to get in on the action for a variety of reasons.

Scipio backs up his assertions with: " observation"; a study by UPenn which finds "evidence women may have a better brain capacity than men (neatly critiqued from a skeptical viewpoint by Andrea Rubenstein at Shrub.com); crime stats that show fewer women are convicted of violent crimes than men; and… a picture of a woman in fetish wear. Yeah, okay.

One rebuttal to Scipio's nonsense by Liz Henry resulted in him declaring that there are "inherent behaviorial differences between men and women" and that "choosing to believe otherwise" could only be "for political reasons". Equality doesn't mean "denying our uniqueness" as women, he claims. This is evidently the special meaning of unique where all women are alike in their non-aggression, forward-planning and placid, sensical approach to invading alien hordes.

Since this isn't Feminism 101, I probably don't have to point out that science isn't gender-neutral. Nor do I need to explain that women are socialised to sit down, shut up and be nice from birth, whereas men are encouraged to step up, take charge, and beat the shit out of the opposition. There's nothing "inherent" about the way either gender approaches violence.

As justifications for why you don't find the existence of female costumes in comics realistic go, "women are better than that!" isn't so obviously terrible an excuse. But:

In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupidity is every bit as great as men's!"

In every context, since anything less is a rejection of a woman's capacity to be human. Women aren't ministering angels of sense and sensibility; they're people.

If this wasn't enough, Scipio then patronisingly assures us that women, unlike men, wouldn't become supervillains because they wouldn't be able to convincingly deliver the ridiculous rhetoric:

Come now. "I intend to rule the world!", "I shall destroy you all!", "Mine, mine — it's all mine!", and even "Hahahahahaha! Die at the hands of Dr. Virus — and Kryptococcus, the Omn i-Germ!" really do sound more natural coming out of man's mouth than a woman's. Most women couldn't say stuff like that without laughing; men say stuff like that to themselves while shaving.

Unlike Scipio, I don't presume to represent what's going on in the heads of "most women", but I can speak for myself and what I say is "Bullshit!"

I am a geek. I have rehearsed world domination monologues while shaving my legs. I have finely tuned plans for what I will do if I fall into a vat of radioactive waste and emerge with superstrength. And I am just as entitled to my self-indulgent adolescent power fantasies as any male comic book nerd.

You are not entitled to speak for my imagination, Scipio. Step the fuck off.

And finally: I hereby declare this blog officially devoted to "self-aggrandizing theatrics driven by a savior complex" in the service of the good fight against the evil forces of patriarchy. For lo: I am trying to save the world.

See you guys later; I've got a massively powerful cultural paradigm to crush beneath my booted heel.

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