Two new officially licensed t-shirts from DC have just drawn a bit of heat. Each is clearly sexist in ideology.
Each shirt clearly devalues women. In one Wonder Woman is merely a price to be won. Why isn’t it ‘Score! Wonder Woman does it again?’ In theory making out with Superman is pretty damn impressive, dude is cut and incredibly nice, I wonder if he cooks. The reason though is simple, it is Superman’s story not Wonder Woman’s. Can you imagine a shirt that reads ‘Training to be Catwoman’s Husband?’ I mean I am sure you can imagine it, but realistically would you ever expect to see it for sale at Kohls? You wouldn’t and this is why these shirts are sexist. The double standard of gender roles.
Roughly a year ago Marvel was in this same position selling variations on the same shirt for boys and girls. To boys Marvel makes the statement “Be a hero.”
To the ladies Marvel recommends that they search for someone to rescue them. These are examples that make me feel like the new Thor emerged from an attempt to pander, not genuinely interest in story telling. Hell, the new Ms. Marvel was planned on being scrapped after seven issues. Marvel was astounded by the response to her and are now she has a true ongoing series.
While it is difficult to get set figures on comic readership today, I have seen a trend in varying figures from different sources. This trend is best expressed in a comixology survey. Comixology finds that 27-36 year old males are their largest demographic. Yet the largest growing demographic is Women 17-26. If this continues male readers of comics may become the minority, but before this occurs I worry sexist attitudes may drive some of these women away, and thusly damning this medium of story telling. While this next example applies more specifically to video games I am still disgusted by the treatment of Anita Sarkeesian and her site and video series Feminist Frequency. For suggesting video games can do better in the future in their representations of women, Ms. Sarkeesian was threatened en mass with rape and murder. While I only agree with roughly 95% of her work, I wouldn’t consider threats of rape and murder as a response. Emma Watson spoke at the UN about the global treatment of women, and hackers responded by threatening to hack her and make private nude photos public. What I didn’t see from the fanboy community was a rally to get Hermione’s back. And we are a community known to pay 60 dollars with the actor who portrayed a fictional character at conventions.
While these examples may not tie directly to comics, they are examples of fanboy culture, something that needs to be willing to submit to deep exploration, especially if I want to argue with my friends (Hi Stacy) that comics and other non traditional mediums are an art form, on par with any other. So maybe we can loose the boob window, rampant thongs and take a serious look at female costumes (and boob size) in general. On the most watched cable news channel this year their morning team complained about Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume. Highlights include the hosts stating, “they’ve taken her from that beautiful, you know the short shorts, and they’ve stuck her in a pantsuit like she’s on her way to an accountant’s office.” As well as, ” Some people would say that this is an important thing that we’re not sexualizing these women so much.” “If you’ve got the body, flaunt it. That’s what I always say.” And finally, “I want to see Wonder Woman in the original short-shorts, and the halter top.” If you believe I’ve pulled these quotes out of context, look it up. Either way comics culture is being viewed as a way to sexualize women by a major news outlet.
In the New 52 Batman and Superman both lost their trunks without huge fan outcry, so there is not a true problem in updating costumes. Yet if you change the male costume to emphasize the sexuality of the male character people will loose their minds. For all the elements that Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies got wrong, there was way too much attention paid to the Bat Nipples.
We can do better. Some of the strongest and best developed female characters have emerged from Fanboy culture. Ellen Ripley, Sara Connor, Hermione Granger, Buffy Summers, the list can go on. It’s because I know we can do better that I want us to and am frustrated when we don’t. Female readers are the largest growing demographic, let’s not drive them away with pompous vitriol behavior. I want to see these stories in related mediums continue to flourish, and welcome new readers to the fold. In order to do this though we need to call out sexist crap when it occurs, thus the point of this column which did turn into a bit of rant.
What do you think, drop me a comment below.