The Beauty Myth

Today, boys and girls, we’re going to talk about Misty Lee’s body. She’s been talking about other people’s, so it seems only fair.
Misty Lee’s body has nothing to do with her credibility as a person and a commentator. The color of her eyes does not influence what they perceive. Her weight-height ratio has very little to do with her ability to interpret data. The degree to which she does or does not adhere to our society’s beauty standards does not determine her qualifications to accurately gauge the propriety or quality of a piece of media. And the number of men interested in seeing pictures of her naked has nothing to do with her ability to judge the validity of other people’s reactions to the Heroes for Hire #13 cover.
Misty Lee’s body is no more the issue than were the bodies of the women she insulted on her show, the women who, Lee claimed, objected to the blatant objectification and victimization of female characters in comics because they themselves were ‘fat and ugly.’ Unsurprisingly, many of these women reacted angrily to Lee’s comment; unsurprisingly, several of the reactions involved refutations of her claims, backed with physical descriptions and even photographs.
I think they missed the point: it doesn’t matter how fat and ugly I, or Misty Lee, or any other blogger or critic happens to be. When guys got up in arms about Citizen Steel’s package, the first accusations were not that they must be hung like infants. When men object to the content or subject of comics, it is not assumed that they are doing so to compensate for their own inadequacies, physical (fat, ugly), social (unable to get a date, no sense of humor), or mental (just don’t get it).
But if it’s a woman, appearance trumps. She doesn’t like this drawing of Power Girl? Must be because she’s insecure about her flat chest. Thinks women in comic books are objectified? Obviously, she’s jealous of the reactions they elicit from real-life men. When a male creator does something fans disagree with, they cast aspersions on his capabilities. When a female creator pisses off fanssometimes just by having the temerity to play in the boys’ leaguethey immediately attack her appearance. This is social control at its purest, kids: reducing over half the population to little more than fashion plates, whose thoughts are always secondary to their looks; making women creatures to be seen and judged, but never really heard.
In ‘Just Past the Horizon: On Reflection,’ Lisa Fortuner wrote about the importance of finding our reflections in the ‘paper mirror’ of comics, and the hurt and betrayal we feel when we see those reflections warped beyond recognition; when the books we read tell us that those female heroesand, by extension, the readers who identify with themexist only to fulfill someone else’s fantasies and dismiss our ardent need for heroes of our own. The same, I suspect, holds true for all of the groups relegated to the mirror’s edges or cut out altogether: people of color, queers, disabled persons, and others who do not fit the narrow mold of ‘normalcy.’
I am amazed that Misty Lee, of all people, failed to make that connectionto see that there’s more to women’s interest in comics than imagined comparisons with female superheroes.
And I wonder how she would have reacted if one of the women on the Heroes for Hire #13 cover had been Zatanna.
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