Feminism and Comics

Before I get into the topic itself let me tell you a few things about me.  I am, in fact, female.  I never thought I’d have to prove this.  My mother tried to raise me in a way where I was not allowed to play with anything she deemed to be “for boys”.  I had to play with dolls, take dance lessons, etc.  Despite this I’ve never felt excluded from anything be it video games, comics, or any other “boy” hobby until new-wave “feminism” came along and started trying to force my exclusion for not being “the right kind of female”.  I feel excluded by women, and the “white knight” men that cater to them and no one else.  

I also want to make clear that my articles on Geeks With Wives never reflect the views and opinions of the entire staff.  They are mine and mine alone.  I mean, have you seen me bicker with them?  Huge thank you to Geeks With Wives for giving me a place to say this stuff.

 

As many of you may know, today (Thurs, Mar. 5th 2015) Gail Simone (Red Sonja, Birds of Prey etc) got tons of well deserved attention on Twitter for showing us what the arguments about females in comics would look like if genders were reversed. It was a lot like The Hawkeye Initiative, only covering more than just the physical representation of women. Being a follower, once I realized what was going on I got a kick out of most of the tweets, and those added by some of her other followers. It was her commentary in-between that made me want to speak up.

Gail Simone's Confusing Statement

Gail Simone’s Confusing Statement

See, unless I’m mistaken, if she were still swapping genders to make a point she’d be saying “male” here, not “female”.  So I replied that I (and plenty of female friends) do feel that way these days. Insanity ensued as she and her followers claimed I and my friends were “sockpuppets” and not real living, breathing females with such an opinion. While we cleared up the debacle with a truce of sorts, she assured me that she’s just being silly and didn’t mean any harm. I’m still getting Tweets from angry feminists and comic writers alike about my opinions on females in comics right now. I’d like to point out that for all the whining they’re doing on Twitter, majority are not being proactive in actually solving their perceived “problem”.  At least I’M doing something with my Poison Ivy petition. More on that soon, but first let me explain my opinion on the modern state of comic books.

 

First of all, let’s get real for a second. If you are complaining about a lack of diversity or over sexualization of women in comics you’re obviously not counting indie comics as comics.  Most people I see whining are only referencing the “big 2” – Marvel and DC, but they still want to claim that “all comics” have the problem.  Hey, I agree, those publishers DID lack diversity and were in fact very racist and sexist, back when that was the social norm.  Now, according to all the tweets I constantly see, there’s only like “two” female characters.  Dunno if they’re implying that’s one character per publisher or they both have two but either way even for an obvious exaggeration that’s insane!

Marvel Female Character Database

Marvel Female Character Database

Huh. 9,000 sure is a lot more than two.

DC Female Character Database

DC Female Character Database

Well golly, so is 4,000!  Though dang DC step up your game!

Note that I did these searches specifically avoiding mere fleeting love interests (DC Database made that easier) and only including characters that do something worthwhile.  Also note that these pages were each a different character name (or different version with same character name).  So already I’ve debunked the “not any” females complaint yet feminist have decided fairly recently that it’s just not enough, resulting in Marvel now swapping genders of many major male characters to appease them.  This is where I catch the most flak, right here.  “You’re not a REAL fan of so-and-so if you don’t like the swap.” “You have some conspiracy about pandering and quotas!” “You just hate feminism so you’ll hate anything that is borne of it.” Blah, blah, blah.  First off, grow up.  Second, what are you going to do, kick me out of your comics clubhouse of supposed inclusivity?  Third, I’m pro-equality, I don’t hate feminism I hate so-called “feminists” crying about a comic book or video game while ignoring the actual plight of women.  Human trafficking, child brides, female babies being killed because they’re seen as more of a burden than males! I never see any of these things mentioned on these pseudo-feminists feeds.  All they do is whine and moan about how much cleavage fictional characters are showing.  I really hope they never go to an art museum, they’d faint.

READ THIS
Chatting 'Year of The Villain,' The Batman Who Laughs, and Buzz Lightyear with Scott Snyder (Interview)

So, why do I see these recent gender-swaps and the announcement of the A-Force comic as pandering?  Well, for one, if you weren’t simply pandering you wouldn’t use The View to announce your comic books.  I don’t think those women know or care what comics are.  With “new Thor” specifically, you wouldn’t tell the world “for the FIRST TIME EVER a female is worthy” knowing full well you just erased a massive history of females wielding Mjölnir.  “But they were named ‘she-Thor’ etc etc and that’s sexist etc etc”.  See my “grow up” note above.  If it’s not pandering, why didn’t this start happening so loudly until now?  Feminists have existed for a long time.  Jason Aaron is a wonderful writer.  He’s the reason I gave Thor comics a second chance after deciding they were too, well… goofy.  Another reason I feel this is pandering is because, let’s face it… female Thor is a terribly written character.  She’s a dull, flat character with no personality.  She does not read like a character inspired by passion but a tool inspired by a paycheck.

I am literally a stand-in with boobs.

They wanted me to have boobs, so they wrote me boobs. They forgot to add a personality or literally anything else to make me a person.

Nothing in the world says “look at us, we’re like, all progressive and stuff” like this comic.  This is pandering plain and simple.  So why is that a problem exactly?  Yes I think it’s wonderful that even more female characters are happening and that publishers are becoming more aware of how their audience has grown, even if they’re showing it in the most shameless ways possible.  What I have an issue with is, why are we changing existing male characters to appease these women when there are already plenty of existing female characters in dire need of their own books!?  Now I’ve been trying to get this to happen for Poison Ivy, but that’s for DC.  Marvel has plenty as well!  Clean them up, maybe make their costumes make more sense, and give them writer who love these characters!  We all know they’d be better written than these gender swapped or token minority characters that are being shoehorned in.  Yes I said token minority characters!  Characters of different races already exist and although I agree in mainstream comics we need to see that broadened but again instead of changing out an existing character use the ones you’ve left in the background! If you make new ones, stop making their race/religion/gender/sexual preference the only thing about that character or their personality.  It either comes off even more offensive than if they didn’t exist, or they read like a terrible PSA trying to pass as a comic character.  If your character is gay, that’s wonderful!  If you have to constantly remind us of this in every issue, that’s terrible!  You’ve reduced the person down to his/her sexual orientation in the name of  “progressiveness” (read: sales).  Do I think there’s some “quota”?  No. Does it feel like there is these days? Yes.  Do the people who attack me for these views love to reduce them all down to me just think there’s some mysterious quota?  Damn straight because it’s the only way they can feel like they “won” some non-existent war.

READ THIS
Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. #1 (REVIEW)

I am fully aware this industry is still a business first and foremost, as is the video game industry.  They’re never going to please everyone and of course the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  The thing I don’t understand is that these people seem to be oblivious to the fact that it’s a creative industry.  This goes for the fans as well as the creators – critique happens.  It’s supposed to happen.  It needs to happen if you’re going to keep up.  This “well, Chad over here likes my work the way it is so you must just be a terrible person” response coming from people is ridiculous.  My instructors in art and design alone would have a field day with this.  As a consumer, yes I am paying for your specific talents and your stories but just because I bought it doesn’t mean I liked it once I did.  When it comes to criticism, if your response is only that you met your sales quota you’re a hack.  If ten people over here are saying they love your stuff, find out exactly why, and if five other people elsewhere are saying they don’t, also find out exactly why!  Put these responses together and make something even better.  That’s how it works and it blows my mind that there’s industry professionals that can’t comprehend this.  “I made money so I’m amazing and always right” – the voice of someone in a creative industry for the wrong reasons.

Imagine with me, if you will, that you’re at a burger joint that’s been boasting an updated version of one of their popular burgers. This place only sells burgers nothing else but you ended up with a burnt one.  Sure it’s edible, but it taste like, well, burnt burger.  How would you feel if, upon bringing the issue up to the manager, they respond with “Well everyone else here likes their burger so you must just be scum.” “I sell tons of burgers so your complaint is invalid.” “No burger consumer has problems with burgers so you’re not an actual burger consumer or person for that matter.” Or if the cook pops out of the back hollering “Kid I’ve been flipping burgers for 30 years so you don’t know what you’re talking about!” “You must be part of some burger hate group!”  What if a bunch of the patrons mobbed you for bringing it up and tried to throw you out?

Kinda sounds like a shitty place to get burgers even if they are usually good, right?

Exactly.

YOU'LL EAT IT AND FREAKING LOVE IT OR CEASE TO EXIST!

YOU’LL EAT IT AND FREAKING LOVE IT OR CEASE TO EXIST!

I’m saving another response I see for it’s own paragraph here, but it’d boil down to those burger joint patrons saying “If you don’t like burnt burger just keep it to yourself!”  I don’t see it quite as often, probably because it takes an extra special kind of stupid to even say it, but it still happens at least once every time people jump on others for differing opinions.  Verbally it’s the equivalent of a group of people chatting comics, one of them disagreeing with the others, and another asking them why they even bothered to be in the conversation in the first place if they weren’t going to smile and nod accordingly.  Today (well yesterday now) while I was explaining my thoughts to Gail one of her followers literally said something to the effect of “why do you complain about it on the internet” only much more rude.  That’s right, in response to me responding to Gail’s complaints I was reprimanded for complaining.  On the internet.  As I said, special kind of stupid.

Golly jee whiz, if only there was a place where geeks the world over could communicate and share their opinions and ideas about the things they’re passionate about…

Oh wait!

Want to actually do something positive for female comic book characters? Sign and share this petition! https://www.change.org/p/dc-comics-give-poison-ivy-her-own-comic-series

Join today for discounts on comics, video games, and collectibles

7 Comments

  1. Great article. You have a good head on your shoulders.

    And now I want a cheeseburger.

  2. Piper, this is a fantastic article. You have such a good perspective. Very balanced. Keep it up!

  3. Really well written article. Thanks for your perspective!

  4. Very well written article. This is something I have been thinking about a ton, mostly because of the whole #gamergate thing and Anita Sarkeesian and the different veiws on everything in video games/comics.

    • I think the media attention people like Anita are getting is one of the things fueling people to act they way they are now about these issues. It seems like it should be a positive thing, but she and those following her lead have made it a negative topic by attacking those who dare disagree.

  5. Well, THIS article has been brewing for a while. I love your opinions and that you put them out here and in other public spaces. My own perspective is a bit askew from yours, while I do not see it as a total disagreement. Maybe it is just a matter of the timeline I am viewing it with, or the perspective of a different minority other than women.

    Yes, I agree that the current regime has some warts. In the world, I worked at a company that had an (unspoken but definitely tangible) policy to ensure that Caucasian women were promoted to management and leadership positions to a certain percentage. As such, I got passed over for a few jobs while those positions went to Caucasian women at an alarming percentage. Maybe they were better qualified; not sure. I just know that the statistics did not match up with the reality. When I departed the company, the local HR Director confirmed this policy and corroborated that some of the positions that I had put in for had been impacted. That’s my anecdote to support the perspective that quotas/pandering can have negative impacts when taken too far.

    Still, having been a minority who has served in the military and government, and been around lots of policies regarding placement and meant to manipulate the demographics, I know that change takes a LONG time. And maybe sometimes the effort to lead society to change has to have an unsavory odor in order to get to a generation of people for whom that increased diversity is the norm.

    While I know that indie comics are perhaps doing a better job of putting minorities in the forefront, my belief is that the big two do drive the perception of what comics is. Are. Whatever. I read plenty of indie comics, but lots of comics readers don’t. And especially new readers. I think it is fairly common for a new reader to initially engage with Marvel/DC, and it takes them a while to wind themselves up to dig deep into the other labels. And I’d include the tier two pubs in that, such as Dark Horse, Boom!, Dynamite, Zenescope, and Oni, as well as the true independents. Some readers NEVER get around to reading truly independently published comics.

    I have not read Thor, so I am not sure about its quality. I can say that I REALLY like what they are doing with Sam Wilson as Captain America (thank God they did not change the title to Black Captain America; I’m looking at you, DC). And I like Black Widow having her own book now (although I am not a fan of the art-style). What I think is the reality of the numbers is that most content-driven businesses have to grow their customer-base by expanding their customer demographics. I do not view this as meaning you have to get female characters in books to increase female readership. I think you have to do this to drive readership 360 degrees. I don’t want to read comics that are only about straight male Caucasian characters because that is not the real world and it leaves a gap in my ability to immerse in the world. These changes increase readership numbers (they hope) overall, not just for women and other minorities (again, they hope). If that means the number of those titles has to be contrived and forced in order to get to a state of the industry where it is the norm, I accept that as a necessary evil. Maybe some eggshells have to be broken and some milk spilled to right the ship in this regard. Maybe that is a reality that has to be acknowledged.

    How long should that last? How long should it endure. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a cop-out for me to say “as long as it takes.” I know African-Americans on ships were not going to be accepted without a policy being put in place to mandate it. Decades later it is the norm. Women in combat won’t be accepted without a policy mandating it. Kirk kissing Uhura was not going to be an accepted norm until someone decided to force the issue. Now, I would contend, the majority or society does not bat an eye at an interracial kiss, or full-blown intercourse for that matter, being rendered on TV or the big screen (although this social space still has warts, too).

    I’m not saying that the quotas and pandering should be accepted without opposing commentary, either. It’s necessary, and healthy, and I appreciate you voicing it. I’m just positing my own perspective that, for a certain amount of time, I am willing to let certain aspects of it go. Hopefully it will not take decades for the sea-change to become the norm as it has in some of the other examples I cited.

    Signed,
    – “Still love ya'”
    Agasicles..>>

    • Actually I really wish I had mentioned my opinion on Falcon taking over for Captain America, as I see that as a better way to “swap” a hero out for a minority. Sam was already his own character and a good candidate for the position to begin with. They did it respectfully and didn’t push the “look, a minority!” angle or go running to a TV-show targeted just at African-Americans to promote it.
      He’s an example of the “right way” to do it if you ask me. 😀

Submit a Comment