OK. Cute gimmick-y name out of the way.
So I feel a bit guilty saying this but I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction when the feminist blogosphere critiques what’s going on with comics, as many of them have never picked up a comic in their lives. As a feminist and a consumer of comics/wannabe editor, it irks me when the great questions like “Should Feminists Give Up On Comics” arise. This is because NO, WE SHOULDN’T, ARE YOU INSANE?
Just because some of you guys see comics as a boys-only He Man Woman Hater Club doesn’t mean that the few of us who really care and are hangin’ in here should give up on sequential art! Words and pictures! The sweet eloquence of panels and open space! Because a good deal of the general population doesn’t get what we like. When the otherwise amazing Shelby Knox started critiquing Wonder Woman’s change in pants because it removed a great symbol of powerful women in comics, I was pretty PO’ed about the resounding agreement she was surrounded by. Who are these people? I thought to myself. Do they even know that Wonder Woman was Ms. Submissive BDSM Subtext for a good deal of her creation? It seemed to me that Wonder Woman didn’t become a feminist icon until after the TV show, considering that her superpowers could be thwarted if a man tied her up–and considering when this was written and who it was written by, this wasn’t an insightful look at the patriarchy.
I agree that you don’t need to be the target consumer of a medium to critique it. Non-comics-reading-women have pretty good reason to be intimidated by the eerie oversexualization of women in comics. If comics hadn’t got to me early, I’d probably avoid them altogether because I wouldn’t had such wonderful gateway way drugs that made the rest of the BS tolerable. My problem is how are you complaining about established symbolism like a group of the hardcorest neckbeards (which I mean in the most affectionate, non-gendered way)? This isn’t a dig at feminists, over the internet or otherwise. I just hate when the mainstream media has strong yet ignorant opinions about comics.
So I feel a bit guilty even commenting on the New 52. I’ve never consumed a lot of DC titles. I like the company a lot for what it does and they seem a lot less afraid to stir things up (thank you for Vertigo, Minx, and for actually making TV commercials about comics, DC! That is really fricken cool by the way!). However, I’ve always been partial to Spiderman and the X-Men, and the glorious majestic imagery of DC’s heroes kind of throws me off. They’re a strange combination of Americana and Roman Mythology and I can’t relate to it.
The problem is that DC’s New 52 seems pretty devoted to keeping me away from it. It’s like they’re actively telling lady comics readers to fuck off at this point. Everywhere you look, you see comments about Harley Quinn, Jugalette, or Starfire’s new career as a walking, talking Real Doll.
There’s also My First Erotic Fanfiction Catwoman and the slenderization of Amanda Waller.
I can’t say much about these characters. If this reboot happened to Rogue (Edit: Not Rouge. AM I AN EDITOR OR WHAT?!) or Mary Jane I’d be pretty teed off and yelling about it to anybody who would listen. And as a female comics fan, I’m still pretty mad, but I’m going to back away from the implications these changes will have on the characters in question because I haven’t read a lot of their stories. I just felt like I had to say something about this New 52 business because I’m loud about what I care about and comics are what I care about.
On the other side of the fence, there are the opinions of girls who DO read comics, but I keep noticing one theme over and over again in their responses: the need to distance themselves from girly things. Girly things are frivolous and without value. WE don’t like girly manga! Don’t condescend to us! But in this defense, you’re also devaluing “girl” things and taking their power away.
But that’s another blog post! My fingers hurt now! More about Girl Hate later. The only real conclusion I have to all of this is that it finally seems like a substantial number of people are talking about sexism and the comics industry in earnest, and that’s amazing. Maybe DC had different intentions with the New 52 but at least something productive has come out of all of this.
FINALLY: my roommate wrote this very insightful piece and you should check it out if you’re still looking for something to read.