superman.nuMary Immaculate of Lourdes NewtonStrange Visitor!Holliston School Committeefacebook    
  •   forum   •   THIS WEEK'S CHAPTER: "THE TRACTOR!" •   fortress   •  
Superman Through the Ages! Forum
News: Superman Through the Ages! now located at theAges.superman.nu
 
*
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
June 21, 2024, 12:21:06 PM


Login with username, password and session length


Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Violence against women in comics is misunderstood  (Read 13023 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
JulianPerez
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1168



« on: January 21, 2007, 12:03:30 PM »

I'm not saying writers aren't doing anything wrong, but I am saying this is a vastly overrated and misunderstood problem.

When I first visited the famous "Women in Refrigerators" site I thought it was eye-opening, though I've since changed my mind, as it simplifies a complicated situation and assumes male and female psychology and definition of heroism are interchangeable.

It's not hard to understand why it would be shocking: superheroes and adventure characters are to men what romance novels are to women, and the idea female characters in comics are being mistreated by mostly male writers for mostly male readers is a scary one. It arouses the male-gender equivalent of "white guilt."

I don't think the nature of the "problem" WIR talks about is that lots of writers are sick mysoginists.

Here's why: having sexual violence happen against strong female characters is done because men and women express strength in fundamentally different ways. Want to show Tarzan is strong and competent? Have him kill a bear with a stone knife or something. Female characters express strength in an inner, emotional level. Rape and sexual violence is the single most horrific thing a woman can possibly experience. Thus experiencing and surviving it shows a strength of character. It shows a woman is "tough" in a way defeating a bear singlehanded may not.

It's significant to note that female writers have their heroines be survivors or victims of sexual abuse and crime more often than male writers do - Jean M. Auel's heroine Ayla comes to mind immediately.

Writers can't be faulted for using an event like sexual violence at least in and of itself. They can be faulted in the execution, they can be faulted for appropriateness, for many other things. But the very fact an event of sexual violence takes place does not automatically make the writer a misogynist.

I also have no problem with sexualized depictions of female characters. Saying there is something "wrong" with it is profound hypocrisy. It's not a misogynist attitude to acknowledge the reality that superhero comics are for teenaged boys and men. What annoys me, and what IS misogynist, are sanctimonious people talking about a specific character's costume as if it makes them look like a "slut" or "slutty.' This nasty charge is levied often against Supergirl and her belly shirt for instance, and it bothers me because the very use of the term makes it out that a woman's sexuality is wrong or threatening.

This isn't to say I think comics can't improve in the way they show women, but where the problem is different from where others believe it resides.

Female characters are often not as developed as male characters. They're perceived as being extensions of male characters, and lack inner lives and desires of their own apart from their hero. They often don't have friendships with other female characters.

Female characters are often just not true to life and three-dimensional. The only time Black Canary has even felt like a vaguely real, three-dimensional person to me was in Alan Brennert's SECRET ORIGIN, and in Gail Simone's BIRDS OF PREY.

Female characters are often portrayed as being unreasonable, irrational, avaricious, and unpleasant - an attitude that is a caricature of "women in general." Daisy Duck comes to mind right away. However, Lois Lane and her occasionally moronic out of character behaviors, and her desire to be Mrs. Superman for the fame, certainly qualifies.

Here's my point, in a nutshell: the problem isn't women die in crossovers or wear belly shirts. The problem is that women aren't three-dimensional, and many writers lack the ability to make ANY character three-dimensional, much less those of a different race or gender from themselves.

(Having female characters be "real as possible" may contradict my own statement that there's nothing necessarily wrong with "cheesecake" and women being sexualized. But I don't see a contradiction. If a female character is three-dimensional sex appeal takes care of itself.)
Logged

"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2007, 08:41:30 AM »

Julian, are you saying that a revealing, stripper-style costume, sexually exagerated anatomy, and porographic poses are not "slutty" or in some way misogynist representations of femininity/women?

Some contradictions re: inner life.  You say the inner life of men is not important, exteriorized violent action is more important.  Then you say men have richer interior lives in superhero comics.  And so "rape  and sexual violence" is not "the single most horrific thing" a man "can possibly experience"?  What is?  Being punched by a supervillain?  Failing to stab a bear?

Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
Gangbuster
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 589



« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2007, 01:06:20 PM »

I happen to have that issue of Green Lantern whereby a woman is placed in a refrigerator. Let the bidding begin!
Logged

"Trying to capture my wife, eh? That makes me SUPER-MAD!"

-"Superman", 1960

Michel Weisnor
Action Ace
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 426



« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2007, 04:40:29 PM »

To be fair, sexism has always existed in comics and it's pre-cursor pulp magazines. Readership is male dominated and probably always will. It's up to publisher's to present women in a stronger independent tone but it's easier to stoop low...

Sue Dibney, once presented as a loving companion and witty/confident friend, was subjected to the most unacceptable form of comicbook depravity. By rewriting past events, Dr Light raped her and in present day, Sue was killed by a sudden psychologically unbalanced Jean Palmer. Now, sexual brutality (to women) is a gimmick worse than any variant cover or mass market crossover. It's published to make a quick buck.   
Logged

"Truth, Tolerance, and Justice"
Great Rao
Administrator
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1897



WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2007, 05:34:29 PM »

I happen to have that issue of Green Lantern whereby a woman is placed in a refrigerator. Let the bidding begin!

I'll give you fifty bucks to burn it.
Logged

"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
nightwing
Defender of Kandor
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1627


Semper Vigilans


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2007, 06:39:15 PM »

Michael Weisnor writes:

Quote
To be fair, sexism has always existed in comics and it's pre-cursor pulp magazines.

No kidding.  I still remember an old "Spider" pulp where a very hot, but very dead young lady was displayed in a store window, stripped naked and spinning around on a rotisserie! Compared to pulp writers, Ron Marz was a piker!

Julian Perez writes:

Quote
Here's my point, in a nutshell: the problem isn't women die in crossovers or wear belly shirts. The problem is that women aren't three-dimensional, and many writers lack the ability to make ANY character three-dimensional, much less those of a different race or gender from themselves.

Well, it's certainly true that a majority of comics writers aren't especially gifted, but I think the issue goes way deeper than that.

You have to ask yourself WHY stories are written the way they are, and why they sell.  In the Golden and Silver Ages, you could get away with making Lois Lane a conniving, snoopy pain the butt because you were writing for young boys who pretty much saw girls that way.  Girls after all were the ones who always wanted to play "tea party" instead of cowboys and Indians. We may have looked up to Superman and Batman as "adults" who could do things we weren't old enough to do yet, but in a very real sense they remained little boys so we could identify with them.  We expected comics to reinforce our worldview (girls = no fun) and so they did.

That all works when comics are written for 9-year-olds, but today the professed audience is much older and more "mature," so it's troubling to see the mysogeny not only carried over but amped up about a thousandfold.  And I'd argue it's as much about target demographics today as it was in 1955:  writers believe (realize?) that their male readers have some serious issues with females and so they give 'em what they want...dead women, raped women, naked women.  Just last week I saw an Avengers story where the whole team is stripped naked (why?  Was this really necessary?) and the current Marvel solicits tout an upcoming issue of "Ant Man" where the "hero" uses his power to spy on girls in showers.

It seems pretty obvious to me that some writers and publishers see comics readers (which are, as ever, mostly male readers) as so many sexually frustrated perverts who want to see only one kind of woman in their comics; the hot, naked kind.  This theoretical reader is like the "Comic Book Guy" on the Simpsons...his entire sex life consists of fantasy orgies involving himself, Julie Newmar's Catwoman, Mrs Peel and Lt Uhura. 

And you know what?  It sells, so they must be right.  So I think it's entirely proper to look at why; why do these images appear in comics and why do they sell so well?  What does it say about the people who make the comics and more importantly, about the people who read them?  Is the hobby perceived as a hang-out for misfits, weirdos and socially maladjusted trolls and if so, is there in fact some merit to that perception?

Quote
Rape and sexual violence is the single most horrific thing a woman can possibly experience. Thus experiencing and surviving it shows a strength of character. It shows a woman is "tough" in a way defeating a bear singlehanded may not.

So how "tough" was Kyle's girlfriend to get her neck broken and her rump plopped in the salad crisper?  Should I feel admiration for how much that helped her grow as a person?

Personally, I think a by-product of tailoring comics for an increasingly older audience is having it gradually evolve into something very much like porn.  In that old Spider story, the hero could never have had sex with a woman, but the writer could strip and skewer a woman and have it be accepted as part of the fun.  In the slasher films of the 80s, hot, naked babes were forever being done in by power tools weilded by killers who couldn't penetrate them the old fashioned way.  In both cases, there's a sense of getting around impotence through violence, and that same thing at play today in comics.  It's hard to publish a comic full of sex without legal headaches, but its considerably easier to get away with a comic full of violence.  In fact, as Frank Miller said about Batman, sex for these characters often IS violence. 

Anyway, my point is you can't simply dismiss this sort of thing as a case of writers not being up to the challenge of writing believable women characters.  There's a difference between making, say, Vicki Vale a tiresome bore and chopping her into 16 pieces.  It's the difference between negligence and malice.




« Last Edit: January 22, 2007, 06:42:01 PM by nightwing » Logged

This looks like a job for...
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2007, 07:21:31 PM »

Amen. 

Ironically, in this day of increased acceptance of the comics format (serious graphic novels, strip collections and manga in bookstores and newspaper reviews, etc) I am still ashamed to be identified as someone who reads/collects comic books because of "the culture of the comic shop" and modern superhero fandumb --guilt by association.
Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
Super Monkey
Super
League of Supermen
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3435



WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2007, 01:08:15 AM »

One of the reasons why I only buy Graphic Novels and TPBs these days and nearly always from on-line bookstores.

There is a BIG different between She-Hulk or Wonder Woman getting punch by some male villain and some female character with little or no powers getting every unspeakable vile thing happen to her so that the writers and sick fans could get their kicks.

Female heroes tend to die much worst and graphic deaths than male heroes. When was the last time a male character was raped? Well, maybe that's a good thing but you know what I mean. Superheroes have been called nothing more than childish power fantasies by critics, and boy do some people seem to go out of their way to prove them right.

Logged

"I loved Super-Monkey; always wanted to do something with him but it never happened."
- Elliot S! Maggin
Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

CURRENT FORUM

Archives: OLD FORUM  -  DCMB  -  KAL-L
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! Dilber MC Theme by HarzeM
Entrance ·  Origin ·  K-Metal ·  The Living Legend ·  About the Comics ·  Novels ·  Encyclopaedia ·  The Screen ·  Costumes ·  Read Comics Online ·  Trophy Room ·  Creators ·  ES!M ·  Fans ·  Multimedia ·  Community ·  Supply Depot ·  Gift Shop ·  Guest Book ·  Contact & Credits ·  Links ·  Coming Attractions ·  Free E-mail ·  Forum

Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
The LIVING LEGENDS of SUPERMAN! Adventures of Superman Volume 1!
Return to SUPERMAN THROUGH THE AGES!
The Complete Supply Depot for all your Superman needs!