I Am Not Doing This Twice.

Apparently, we need some ground rules.
Perceive this.
If you think that there is no such thing as sexism, you are either stupid or ignorant. If you are aware that there is, and it is a-okay with you, then I hope you die in a ditch. You are a pus-filled sore on the ass of humanity.
If you are aware that sexism exists and that it is also, like, kinda bad, but assert that there is no sexism in comics, then stick around. You are wrong, and I intend to demonstrate how, but I reserve judgement on your inherent value as a human being.
Note that this is not a column about hating skimpy costumes in comics, but a column about the varied and sickeningly common instances of misogynistic tropes in superhero comics, superhero comics fandom, and the industry of superhero comics. The initial post on the blog was meant as manifesto/introduction instead of the thing and the whole of the thing, and thus did not go into great detail about specific injustices. I randomly selected five examples of misogyny in comics as illustration:
1) Stephanie Brown’s sexualised torture.
2) Her lack of a memorial case.
3) That the default costume for women is to show as much tits and ass as possible.
4) That Greg Land uses porn stills to depict a teenage superheroine.
5) That Land’s female faces are well-nigh identical
Oh, and I called Frank Miller a weasel-fucker*, but didn’t get specific as to why. Don’t worry, I will.
This didn’t prevent people from assuming that a) my only problem is the costumes and b) assuring me that men are just as objectified as women, costumes-wise, to which I respond with A. Hunt’s excellent article, Talking Points. (I disagree with the article’s conclusions, since I believe that in this nutbag cultural paradigm objectification of women is automatically easier to read than objectifying men, and thus “equal” objectification will still be biased in favour of the male gaze.)
The costumes, while frequently painful, are not the everything. Rest assured, misogyny-haters! Actual detailed and specific rage is a-coming. I have plenty to work with.
But before that, the following:
I am profusely irritated that such clarification is necessary, but I shall point out that this isn’t Feminism 101. Nor is it a place to whine about how feminists want to take over the world / they’ve already taken over the world / men are raped TOO! / you can’t get a date.
This is a place for pointing out sexism in comics with white-hot rage and acid-tongued venom. I am not required to explain feminist principles, theory, or aims to you, much less endeavour to wearily soothe your ego while I explain that I don’t hate men. I am not obliged to do your homework for you.
But for you, noble detester of sexism-but-not-in-comics-because-comics-aren’t-sexist, I have some pointers for where that homework might begin! You don’t have to do it. There will be no pop quiz. However, going up against feminist academics with the intent of proving how wrong they are without some basic groundwork in feminist theory is much like a hacker battle with Oracle when you are armed with an abacus and your hazy recollection of tenth-grade mathematics. You are destined to fail.
For men, especially, I recommend that you look into and think seriously about the concept of male privilege.
The patriarchy (or patriarchies) is not a conspiracy. It doesn’t have to be. It is an insidious creator of and creation of culture and the ideal of male domination is so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of humanity that it is occasionally difficult to recognise its slimy appendages.
And for men, this recognition is substantially more difficult, because of male privilege.
Please read this article.
Okay, now take a look at the Male Privilege Checklist. Here are later amendments to and discussion of that Checklist by the author.
If you are a guy, you have male privilege. If you are white, you have white privilege. If you are straight, you have straight privilege. The same goes for being able-bodied, able-minded, and non-elderly. It’s not your fault. However, as a presumably decent person, it is up to you to acknowledge that it exists, and mitigate, insofar as is possible, the effects such privilege has on both your view of the world and your discourse.
Feminists of every stripe have encountered many arguments which are centred not in logic, but in male privilege (women can and do also endorse male privilege). Many female feminists are sadly familiar with even well-intentioned men patronisingly telling them how best to advance their cause from their privileged position.
In particular, regardless of your gender, you are advised to avoid the following arguments:
1) Don’t be so angry!
Don’t be an idiot. Rage is an entirely appropriate reaction to injustice. Being angry about something doesn’t invalidate one’s argument.
2) You should be doing something more important for feminism than criticising comics.
a) Criticising a manifestation of sexism in any media is a contribution to feminism.
b) Why assume I’m not?
3) You feminists-
Feminism is not the Borg. There are, in fact, feminisms, and a great number of feminists with whom I strongly disagree on many points. I do not speak for all women, all feminists, or all feminist superhero comics fans. It says that down at the bottom of the blog and always has, but it apparently bears repeating.
The following links offer illumination on these topics, and are mostly also damn good reads. Much thanks to Ragnell for her assistance in link-gathering:
Heo Cwaeth In Defense of Bitterness
Mickle Masquerade
Andrea Rubenstein Think Women Have Achieved Equality? Think Again.
earlbecke Political Correctness and Privilege
Defining Feminism(s):
Ilyka Damen Help Me Out What About Actual Feminists?
The Happy Feminist Feminism 101 What Is Feminism?
Andrea Rubenstein Feminism Is About Choice
Misogyny in Language:
earlbecke On The Use of Language
earlbecke But Don’t You Like To Be Objectified Sometimes?
Mickle Monday Rant
This Is Important:
Andrea Rubenstein De-Bunking the Myth of Frivolity
Comics Specific:
Ragnell I’m Not Cleaning That Out (Discussion of Women In Refrigerators)
Ragnell Where’s My Adolescent Power Fantasy?
Kalinara Not All Female Comic Readers Like Sandman
Kalinara Women, Comics, Biases and Ramblings (Rebuttal of the “You should be doing something more important!” argument.)
Kalinara Men *Never* Sacrifice the Sluts: The Virgin/Whore Dichotomy in Comics
Dan Jacobson Refrigerator Culture and Privilege (Most male comic book fans aren’t assholes, but that’s not the point.)
heykidzcomix They Said It Could Not Be Done(Parody of those ridiculous and demeaning “How to Get Your Girlfriend To Read Comics” articles.)
Aaaaand we’re officially done with the feminist primer. From now on, ignorance is not an excuse.

  • This is a metaphor, wherein I liken weasel-fucking (an unpleasant activity) to Frank Miller (an unpleasant person). I know nothing of Miller’s sex life, and would rather eat my own eyelids than learn.

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Sapphires Are A Collector’s Best Friend

To continue Dolls and So Forth week at GRC, I ask you to inspect the following selection of DC Direct action figures, Series 3 of the Green Lantern sets:

Sing along, folks!
One of these figures is not like the others
At one of these figures I look askance
One of these figures is a female villain
One of these figures is anti-pants o/~
I have previously remarked on Star Sapphire’s Nakedest Costume Ever and how inappropriate it is in view of her history as the metaphorical representative of a female-only alien race deeply concerned with injustices against women and who occasionally enter outright misandrism. Yes, she hates men so much that she dresses like the stereotypical Western pop culture representation of the most debased feminine object of masculine sexual desire and colour-codes herself as immature/babyish/feminine/soft*! Wow, what a bitch.
Anyway, it’s always icky when female characters are constructed to pander to the male gaze, and particularly so when they also represent an entire race of pseudo-feminist women, but tonight I’d like to draw your attention to the main source of my BOO. The above, as mentioned, is Series 3.
Here is Series 1 (Ganthet & Guardian, Black Hand, Kilowog, Hal Jordan, Parallax: better views of each figure here.):

And here is Series 2 (Manhunter Robot, Guy Gardner, Sinestro, Salaak, Shark):

I find it curious that all the other action figures are male, of varying body types and species (though no John Stewart, BAH), all bar one of them fully-clothed. The sole female figure is conventionally Western-style sexy and wearing a showgirl outfit.
How representative.
BOO, DC Direct, BOO!

The Girl The ESRB Warned You About.

It’s Dolls and So Forth week at GRC, folks, because the DC February solicits are out and I spent half an hour this morning going ‘YAY! BOO! YAY! BOO!’ at the action figures and busts.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like running around World of Warcraft and hitting bears with an axe, although lately I’ve been ignoring the whole axe thing and just punching the bears in the face. It is a rush! No wonder the Punisher likes it so much. (WARNING: silhouetted ultra-violence).
To my general delight, Wildstorm is releasing a World of Warcraft comic. At first glance it is all terribly exciting: story and script by Walter Simonson; art by Ludo Lullabi and Sandra Hope; covers by Jim Lee. That’s a definite ‘YAY!’, right?
Oh, so close! It would have been, but unfortunately, there are two things that make me go ‘BOO!’
One: There are five Horde (bad guy, more or less) races. Four of them are ugly or downright repulsive by conventional Western beauty standards. One of them is very, very pretty. Guess which race is represented by the sole female character named in the solicits?
Two: The main characters have DC Direct action figures. This is hers:
Oh look! She isn’t wearing pants!
Valeera Sanguinar is apparently a rogue, a class of sneaky bastards who stab bears in the back. Their talents lie in being invisible until they shiv the bear, but after that point the bear is usually displeased. Rogues aren’t hardcore healthwise, so they really need the additional armour bonuses that come from wearing as many pieces of clothing as possible to protect them from their target’s ursine fury. Like, say, pants.
The lack of wisdom inherent in a pantless policy is borne out by the statue itself, which lovingly displays what appears to be a scar on her bare ass:
Of course, the practicality of pants-as-protection is totally outweighed by the aesthetic imperative for Valeera to be sexy, sexy danger. I am delighted by the raised weapon and the determined expression; I am driven into despair by the low bodice and thong; and I am wearily furious about, once again, the disproportionate sexual objectification of female vs. male characters*.
See what I mean? YAY. BOO.

More Rights For Men of the Sea

In a recent Newsarama interview, Brian Michael Bendis nobly stood up for his right to denigrate fish-men in the face of heavy protest:
By the way, I’d like to point out to people who follow Newsarama in the fight scene with the Skrull, Namor begins it fully clothed, and, by the time it’s over, his shirt is ripped open, and more of his naked body can be seen. I know that this will cause a letter-writing campaign of my obvious disdain for fish-men, and my desire to see fish-men injured and demeaned even though my dad was a fish-man and I know many fish-men still.
Well, damn straight! I myself am distraught about the abuse constantly meted out to fish-men.
Think about it! Fish-men do more labour for less pay than any other section of salt-water society; they are frequently scorned for attempting to enter public life rather than staying confined to the domestic sphere of their watery homes; and a category of film emphasizing their sexual submission and objectification is a multi-billion dollar industry. Fish-men are heavily underrepresented in provincial, national or world governing bodies despite the fact that they make up 52% of the population. In certain deep-sea trenches, fish-men are forbidden to vote, drive, wear certain clothes, take birth control, or leave the house without a dolphin-man relative. Perhaps most gruesomely, according to best estimates, a truly horrifying one in three fish-men in the most technologically advanced parts of the ocean have been physically or sexually assaulted by their own partners.
Oh, wait!
That would be women. Fish-men, despite being totally imaginary, are doing a lot better.
Bendis, of course, is really referring to the much-discussed Tigra scene in New Avengers #35, where a thug comes into Tigra’s house, beats the crap out of her while she shrieks helplessly and her blouse opens to expose her bra-covered breasts, threatens to kill her mother and tapes the whole thing to show his criminal henchmen, which they greet with truly heinous joy.
Bendis got quite some flak over this from people who objected to the violence against another female comics character and to the disturbing doubled view of the beaten female body functioning as a source of visual pleasure, explicitly for the fictional criminals watching on tape, implicitly for the comic’s reader. Some objected to the perceived sexualisation of her open blouse and the capture on film, which evokes the spectre of snuff films.
Bendis, in another interview with Newsarama dedicated to this issue, said:
But to the larger point there’s a lot of misogyny in comics, and a lot of misogyny in all media. Even female empowerment is sexualized in this country, and that’s not good. I completely agree with all of that. You’ve got to be careful in how you show it, but I just don’t think this scene fell under any of that. Most people seem to get it.
And that’s okay. It’s good that he acknowledges misogyny exists, in comics, and in reality. But you can’t claim One True Non-Sexist Reading for your own text, Bendis. That’s not how reading works.
I personally found Tigra’s screams, figured as presumably high-pitched ‘Aieees!’, to be demeaning to warrior women and I’m disgusted she didn’t fight back. I can’t recall Bendis ever writing a male superhero who shrieked when beaten and never got a single blow in. But while the taping disturbed the fuck out of me, I can accept that it was meant to horrify, not titilate. I didn’t read the comic as endorsing or celebrating (sexualized) violence against women, in comics or in reality.
But a lot of people did, and their readings of the text, backed by a surrounding culture of real-world violence against women, are also valid.
I’m disgusted by Bendis’ later reaction to criticism, partly because it’s offensive to mock and dismiss people with genuine concerns, but mostly because it’s really stupid. Given the reference to the Tigra scene, what he was actually saying with his snarky fish-man diatribe was:
[I]n the fight scene with the Hood, Tigra begins it fully clothed, and, by the time it’s over, her shirt is ripped open, and more of her naked body can be seen. I know that this will cause a letter-writing campaign of my obvious disdain for women, and my desire to see women injured and demeaned even though my mother was a woman and I know many women still.
For fuck’s sake, having a mother who is a woman is not your get-out-of-misogyny-free card. Astonishingly, the category of ‘people whose mothers were women’ is incredibly wide. It includes philanthropists, soldiers, pre-schoolers, bus-drivers, homemakers, serial murderers, novelists, and misogynistic assholes.
Whether you know and love women is totally irrelevant. What we’re talking about is a comic which many people read as sexist. The people objecting to the work are genuinely offended. Mocking them, rather than responding to the criticism (or, hey, crazy thought shutting the fuck up and listening), compounds the offence. And the ‘But I have a mother!’ gambit is ridiculous.
But all that pales in comparison to the real problem. Dear readers, WHEN will someone finally think of the fish-men?

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Here I Am.

All my stories about attending Auckland’s Armageddon convention seem to begin with ‘So THERE I WAS…’
So THERE I WAS, utterly delighted that Gail Simone was signing my Misfit T-shirt. So THERE I WAS, purchasing the original art of this page from Nicola Scott*.
So THERE I WAS, discussing shoe acquisition with Amanda Conner.
So THERE I WAS, eating Japanese food with the comics guests.
Proof! Jimmy Palmiotti, myself, and Bruce Timm, who is doing something odd with edamame.
I suspect that dinner and conversation with the guests (and their significant others and wonderful handler) is not something that usually happens at a con; at least not without prior arrangement and the outlay of considerable expense. Somehow, I got lucky. However, to your possible dismay, I have decided that those conversations were off the record. Besides, I had drink taken some of it down the front of my dress and couldn’t swear to the accuracy of any report.
On the record, however, I can report the following from the panels:

  • Jimmy Palmiotti is perfectly au fait with your downloading Painkiller Jane and is horrified by the price of pamphlets in the Antipodes. So are we, Jimmy. So are we.
  • Much of the background in the big fight of the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special was Amanda Conner’s idea, including my favourite part of the whole issue Lois Lane and her brass knuckles.
  • The Terra miniseries will be out in the spring for northern hemisphere folks and autumn for southern hemisphere dwellers. We can look forward to some interaction with other DCU teen heroes.
  • Nicola Scott is aware that people were upset about Barda’s missing chest-piece. She pointed out that the rest of the Birds on that mission were covered up, and that Barda’s Apokaliptian heritage means that she doesn’t really have to sweat bullets. She did listen to fan criticism, however, and restored the chest piece for the Siberian mission. After all, it gets cold out there.
  • Gail Simone doesn’t want to remove the sexy from comics (and nor does she sweat skin-exposing costumes). Sexuality, she says, is part of humanity. What she does want is a wider variety of female characters, diverse and realistic, and different expressions of what ‘sexy’ is on the page.
  • Onyx won’t be appearing in Wonder Woman in the near future. However, Nicola revealed that she has drawn her in one hitherto-unseen Birds of Prey panel ‘One panel. That’s all I’m saying right now.’
    I had intended to take notes during, but my laptop was occupied copying Painkiller Jane from the CD kindly lent me. I did scribble some notes after the panels, but my apologies to anyone I may have misrepresented.
    I returned from Armageddon and dived headfirst into writing a dissertation chapter, which has the effect of turning my mind into finest grade mush when attempting to consider anything else. But never fear! I’m back, well-rested and with plenty to rage about.
    So! Here I am!
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    Comment on this column here.
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  • Made by the thoroughly crafty Rachel Edidin, who is probably capable of anything she puts her hand to.
    ** It is perfectly all right if you hate me for this. I would hate me too.

Girls read boys’ comics, and they’re oblivious.

Hey, kids, it’s me, Betty, your friendly neighbourhood forum moderator and web-mistress. Karen’s still on vacation, so this week I am your guest columnist! Due to circumstances that may or may not have involved the dog eating my homework, this column is a little late: please forgive me.
I can’t remember the first comic I read. I don’t think I noticed that comic books were any different than the picture books I picked up when I first learnt to read. It may have been a free Spider-man comic handed out by the police at the mall with a message about staying drug-free. It may have been a collection of rebound Prince Valiant that the library kept on an accessible lower shelf. But odds are very good it was actually either (a translation of) Asterix, or Tintin.
I won’t claim these were my favourite books to read; I’d certainly read any and all available, but that was my approach to any kind of written literature from the moment I learnt to read. But I did read and enjoy them, so I was somewhat surprised when some forum users pointed out that there are no female characters in Tintin who are of Tintin’s age.
In fact, upon reading this, I was seized by a sudden fear that there were no female characters. I wasn’t sure I could remember any. So I went to the library* and took out their entire selection of Tintin books: all two of them.
As a result of this randomized selection process, I borrowed ‘The Red Sea Sharks’ and ‘The Black Island,’ both of which I dimly remember reading in my youth. (What I did not remember was the racist caricatures on display in ‘The Red Sea Sharks.’ I don’t feel equal to going into it in the depth it deserves, but for now let me say that Herge seems to have a very clear melanin based hierarchy of character, where more melanin means less courage, wits, and dignity. I read this as a child?)
Regarding appearances by women, however, which had been my purpose in this project, I am happy to report there are several! In ‘The Red Sea Sharks’ there are possibly as many as twelve distinct women appearing in twenty-five panels, and in ‘The Black Island’ there are eight women, nine if I count a hat as a woman, in fifteen panels. Out of a total 122 pages.
And if I demand speaking roles,** my numbers go down. I haven’t counted Tintin’s concussions, but I’m confident in claiming that Tintin receives more comical blows to the head in The Black Island than there are women in appearing in both volumes together. Need I mention that Bechdel’s law is not a pass?
I begin to feel something other than nausea at the prospect of the romantic subplot that will almost inevitably be shoehorned into the Tintin movie (since apparently viewers need a comfortably formulaic plot, and there’s always a side-romance.) Either we’ll get a queer romance or an additional woman, and either way it’s a win.
As it is, I can’t think of a female character in Tintin that isn’t there for comic relief, or in a crowd scene, barely visible. When I was a child, I read myself into this story, but always as Tintin, never as any of the women. There were no women for me to be. I don’t know if quantum-Betty in the universe next-door, the one who read the version of Tintin that had plenty of well rounded female characters, is happier or better off, but I’m jealous of her all the same.
Discuss this column in the forum, here.

  • For some reason, my library had all Tintin books filed under ‘Juvenile non-fiction.’ I imagine this may confuse some young readers, not to mention causing them some difficulties in geography.
    ** And if I’m counting speaking roles, is this a speaking role or not? Can anyone tell me if that’s actual written Arabic or a parody? I’m very embarrassed to confess, I can’t tell.

Fantasy Land

This week’s guest columnist is Ami Angelwings, the blogger behind Heavenly Comic Reviews and Super Cute Rants of DOOM. Ami is a 25 year old Asian girl in Toronto and she likes really likes Supergirl.
Hi 🙂
I’m really tired. I just… had absolutely no idea what to write for this guest column. 🙁
I have some things I want to say but I just fear I won’t be able to express them properly. :\
I’ll try tho!
Kk. This is something I think most of us feel or at least get the feeling of, whether consciously or subconsciously, and I kinda wanted to talk about it.
It’s the sexual fetishization of female superheroes. I’m not talking about ‘omgsheshotohnoezcalloutthefeminists’! I’m talking about how superheroines as a concept appears to be a common male sexual fantasy, like the sexy nurse, or the french maid.
Specifically, I notice that female superheroes in bondage, being depowered, or submitting to evil, is a genre in itself.
In many comic blogs, authors tend to note that they get a lot of weird google searches that lead people to their site, especially ones about supergirl being raped, or tied up, or something. I know I do. In fact that appears to be a good chunk of my search engine traffic! XD It seems like every day somebody runs into my blog looking for pictures of Supergirl in bondage or naked or in torn clothing or something.
In fact there are whole sites devoted to this genre. There are videos and stories and of course pictures (which I dun feel I need to link to, b/c they’d immediately be NSFW without a warning).
You’d think that a site called ‘hero-girl’ or ‘superheroinecentral’ would be something like girl-wonder wouldn’t you XD
My point isn’t that men shouldn’t have sexual fantasies or that this stuff is bad or whatever. My point is that it EXISTS and that superheroine outfits have become a sexual fetish costume for many men like the french maid outfit or the sexy nurse outfit. :\
My point is that something that should exemplify POWER and STRENGTH for women is instead just another kinky fetish costume for men. 🙁 And the worst part of it is that while a male stripper version of Batman or Superman would prolly have to modify the costume greatly (cape but not tights for instance or mebbe just the briefs). Not much actually has to be done (or even IS done) for female costumes. Which says a lot about the ‘original’ costumes to begin with. :\
In fact, it could be argued that very often the female costumes (of Supergirl and the female Green Lanterns for instance) are just hyper sexualized versions of the male costume. Something that you’d see a stripper using the Superman or Green Lantern motif use for instance. Which is again depressing. 🙁
But that’s not what I really wanted to focus on. What I wanted to talk about is that not only is there apparently a demand for sexy women in superhero costumes but that there’s a demand for them to be humiliated, defeated, de-powered and often raped.
Just look at the common theme in many of the sites there. Many aren’t even trademarked characters. So it’s not just about fantasizing about Supergirl. It’s the IDEA OF SUPERHEROINES BEING DEFEATED that is a turn on for some men. In fact it seems like the idea of a woman in power being brought down is a common fantasy for many men. Their bosses, or teachers, or feminists, or policewomen, etc… It does seem to manifest itself in many erotic fantasies.
Which isn’t necessarily bad. We all have sexual fantasies right? XD And opposite concepts often make for delicious fantasies. The good school girl being a bad, bad girl, the sexy nun, etc etc…
But isn’t it odd that these things, depowering, humiliating defeat, rape, captivity, torn costumes, stripper versions of superhero costumes, etc happen in MAINSTREAM REGULAR comics?
THIS isn’t porn. THIS isn’t some fetish website for superheroines in bondage enthusiasts. This is DC and Marvel.
This is stuff people complain about a lot and we all wonder where it comes from, whether it’s deliberate, and whether it’s different between men and women.
Well… it definitely is different. And it’s very creepy how close legitimate comic book scenes of female superheroes in peril mimic what’s on those sites.
Which leads me to a thought; male superheroes are for men. Female superheroes are also for men, apparently. And not only are they often treated as just there for male consumption, but also it seems that the idea of depowering and defeating and humiliating them is a turn on for some men or at the very least some sort of ‘balancing of the scales’ in their mind.
Why IS the idea of superheroines being defeated or brought down so erotic? Is it the idea that powerful women are an abnormality and should be fixed? Or is it the thrill of ‘defeating’ somebody who fights back, somebody who resists and must be broken? If this is so then superheroines definitely beat policewomen and teachers and bosses in that category.
Who is more powerful than a Wonder Woman or a Supergirl? And who is more unattainable than they are?
Is it an extension of wishing to rescue or humiliate or bring down the popular girl in school that you want but who ignores you?
Are artists and writers and fans seeing female superheroes not as avatars for the strong brave woman inside every girl but more as a way for them to live out their own fantasies where they can save the strong superwoman, or watch as she lays defeated?
Is it comforting for men to feel that no matter how powerful a woman is she can be brought down, or that deep inside they are the same as any other woman? Or that there’s an inner slut inside all of us?
Is that a reason that when a superheroine turns evil she dresses in black and starts wearing less and often is very hyper sexualized?
I dunno :O
I’m not a guy. I’m certainly not the guys who visit those sites XD And honestly I can’t say how mainstream they are, but certainly there are parallels which makes me ask questions.
But I think it’s important to ask those questions and not dismiss things out of hand. I think it’s important to look at the sexualization of women in comics and realize that it’s not the same as how men are and aren’t sexualized in comics. I think it’s important just to examine these topics and discuss them. 🙂
This is why I’m often suspicious of new superheroines, because sometimes, especially with the old bad girl comics of the 90s, it seems that while women are the ‘main characters’, they aren’t there to empower anybody and they’re not even there because the creators like women as their heroes, but because the writers and artists just prefer looking at hot girls in skimpy outfits as their work. And it’s just so much more fun. Like guys who make women characters wearing NOTHING in City of Heroes because it’s just way more fun for them to see a wiggling thonged backside when they adventure.
That’s not empowerment and let’s not pretend it is.
Remember when all of the Wildstorm universe got the gender switch and all the men turned into women? I’m sure the artists weren’t complaining one iota about having to draw even more balloon topped, wasp waisted women.
Why is it that almost every adult superheroine costume comes with gogo boots and often some sort of edit that makes them even more revealing than usual?
The cape is a sign of power for men, it’s a french maid’s skirt for women.
The S is a symbol of truth, justice and the American way for men, but it seems if you put it on a woman it just makes her ‘hotter’ for men, like ‘OMG SHE’S A SUPERHERO, SO HAWTTTT’.
And what’s worse than that is that this sexualization of superheroines doesn’t seem to revolve around them as some sort of goddesses to be worshipped (though that would also be annoying) but as obstacles to be brought down.
There are people paying for videos and pictures of women in superhero costumes being raped and tortured and depowered and stripped and having their clothing ripped apart. And it’s hard to not see the similarities between that and covers and panels of superheroines in the same situations, hurt and having the costume around their hips and waist and chest torn apart, wearing heels to fight, being captured and tied up in sexually provocative positions, being knocked unconscious in ways that accentuate their curves.
So maybe there IS a market for this stuff after all. Maybe some of the people buying these comics really do enjoy watching heroines get raped and beaten and humilating and tied up and bloody and dying.
I have no idea.
But superheroes mean a lot to me. A LOT. Supergirl means to me as much as Superman means to the guys at Superman Homepage.
She’s a symbol and an inspiration.
Female superheroes, their costumes, their insignia, their capes and tights and strengths and weaknesses, should be iconic, powerful images that bring us hope and spur on our imaginations, not just for what feats they might be able to accomplish, but for what feats WE can as well.
To have them reduced to a sexual fetish for men is demeaning. To have female halloween costumes be on par with the sexy nurse and sexy witch (srsly why is every costume a sexy [insert profession here]?) and have gogo boots be apparently mandatory is insulting.
And to have to wonder if our heroes are being treated so badly in their stories because some men are taking pleasure out of breaking our symbols down?
That’s unfair.
I’m not claiming to have all the answers. :\ But I wanted to write about this because it’s been on my mind and it is a feeling I get from comics and from some comic fans (especially some male fans I’ve hung around in school).
I’m hoping to spur on discussion about this though or at least just some thinking in general. 🙂 I think questions are never a bad thing 😀
I think writers and artists, critics and editors, everybody thinking about this and other issues about comics and women in comics cannot be a bad thing, whether they agree or disagree or find another way of looking at it altogether. 🙂 With more awareness will hopefully come change. Change in the way characters are written, change in how they’re drawn, and maybe an understanding that women read comics as well and that we see ourselves in our heroines, and they are not just sexual objects to be posed and degraded for male pleasure.
But ultimately I just wanted to say what was on my mind. 😀
And now I must sleep. XD
I’m a girl. I read comics too.
I’m not pissed, but I am worried. 😮
But also hopeful 🙂
Good night. :3

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Less Than Charming

What’s quickfire week without a Fables note or two?
1001 Nights of Snowfall is a rather interesting take on the 1001 nights. Basically, Snow White goes to Baghdad to convince the Sultan to join the European Fables’ resistance to the Adversary’s forces, but some wires are unfortunately crossed. The Sultan, convinced of the inherent perfidy and unfaithfulness of women, is marrying virgin women, bedding them, and then executing them the next day.
Snow’s only hope for survival is to tell him stories so fascinating that he will put off the execution so as to hear another the next night.
You may recognize the format. More on that later.
Snow’s first tale concerns Snow White herself, and the murderous revenge she takes on the seven dwarfs who imprisoned and apparently raped her before her marriage to Prince Charming*.
What irritates me here is that while Snow is nominally telling the story, it’s actually presented from the point of view of her former husband. We see Snow take steps towards her vengeance fencing lessons, long rides in the country but her revenge is discussed in terms of its implications for the prince. The whole affair is characterized as a political nightmare that threatens the peace between the kingdom of the dwarfs and that of men. Charming is put to some trouble to prevent a war, and annoyed that he’s been ‘played for a fool’.
Afterwards, Snow tells the Sultan:
[H]er husband never quite trusted her again. One version of the story has it that their marriage ended when he slept with the princess’s sister. … But wiser listeners might conclude that the marriage really ended on the day she set out to become a destroyer.
On the surface, this is meant to be a caution against revenge such as the one the Sultan intends to take on Snow and thus exactly the sort of thing a clever woman might say to ward off her own death. But because it’s heavily implied that Snow White was raped, an unfortunate side-effect is to provide us with yet another story where it’s all about the effect the rape of a woman and its aftermath have upon a guy.
I find that less than charming.

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  • All we see of the ceremony is Snow promising to love, honour and obey which is again anachronistic. At first, given the difficulty I had with those vows in her later wedding to Bigby, I was relieved that at least these words are apparently just a formality. However, later she affirms that she really has sworn to obey Charming all things (save telling him the secrets of her past). On reflection, that makes her later vows even more scary for me, since making such oaths to Prince Charming turned out so very badly. Bigby is, while a former mass-murderer, unquestionably much nicer to Snow than Charming is, but that kind of sworn obedience is a terrible thing to grant any romantic partner.

Proverbially Punished.

Alas, how true it is that one should not judge a comic by its cover.
For example, look at this Illuminati #4 cover:
You might think that the contents would concern the badass adventures of five badass Marvel women: Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire; Susan Storm-Richards of the Fantastic Four; Clea, ruler of the Dark Dimension; Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans and… someone I immediately nicknamed Iron Woman, who actually turns out to be called Madam Masque.
My shocking ignorance aside, the point is, this cover is badass! No sexualized posing involved, just five women, armed and dangerous, staring you down. Only a hint of nipple – through plate armour, no less – diminishes the otherwise non-objectified awesome of this cover.
‘Yay! Clea!’ said I, and bought it without looking inside.
Oh, how foolish am I.
Inside the comic, with the exception of one page for Sue, the women do not actually appear. Instead, the men who love/loved/had sex with them complain about how women don’t understand that they need to work all the time and how you can never give enough of yourself to a woman to satisfy her and that women would rather rule the Dark Dimension than be married to them but that at least if you’re married you get sex on tap.
Amidst all this whining about how women done them wrong by wanting to be autonomous beings with their own needs and desires instead of ever-available helpmeets, the only good advice is given by Namor:
Anyway. As everyone knows, if C = Cover, c = contents and bW = badass women, one can thereby calculate the overall Awesome Index of any given comic. So for this one, we get:
C(bW) + c(-bW) = -AI
Science is on my side: Illuminati #4 is negative awesome.
P.S. Dear Doctor Strange,
You are my imaginary Marvel boyfriend, but I would also rather rule the Dark Dimension than be married to you. Being married to you, however nice it might be, is not an occupation. Moreover, it would be terribly irresponsible to get hitched instead of righteously kicking the crap out of demons.
With love,


Flocks Of Ninja, To The Right.

This has nothing to do with women in comics, but it did irritate the fuck out of me, and it’s quickfire week, so!
The otherwise enjoyable New Avengers #31 has Wolverine shouting at a bunch of ninja: ‘[They’ll follow us] all the way! Ain’t that right, guys? それは右でないか。’
Now, that’s pretty much incomprehensible flavour text unless you can read even a very little Japanese. But if you can, you realize that ‘Sore wa migi denai ka’ is an extremely literal translation of the English ‘isn’t that right?’ where ‘right’ refers to the direction.
Wolverine is asking hordes of ninja if that way is the right! Like he’s somehow confused! With a far too polite form of the question participle! And a missing syllable! Wolverine the fucking samurai who is supposed to speak fluent Japanese! Shutupshutupshutup.
There are a lot of ways to ask if something is correct or whether you agree with the previous statement in Japanese, some of which would also handily mark gender, social class and regional dialect. You know, much like English. But if you want to use them, you actually have to put in the fucking research.
Don’t ask me for the right answer, because I’d say ‘Jarou?’ which is Bingo-ben, and thus more suitable for interrogating yakuza than ninja. However! I’m not writing the damn comic.
In conclusion: Altavista Babelfish is not an actual babelfish. If you want to use languages other than English – and I applaud this in theory! – get it right or {{do this.}}*
*Translated from the Finnish!

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