Monday, May 28, 2007

Comic Book Goddess Manifesto (or How Less Sexist Subtext is Like Riding a Bicycle)

Comic Book Goddess Manifesto (or How Less Sexist Subtext is Like Riding a Bicycle - Even if you're NOT a Fish.)

Well, now that some of the furor has died down, I wanted to give the InterWebs my perspective on the Adam Hughes Mary Jane Statue. Quickly - if you've picked a particularly remote rock to hide under, please go there, and just form your own opinion on the statue before coming back here.

Good. All right, now, here's some important basics to understand.

I want to enjoy my comics. I understand that you want to enjoy the same comics.

I want to see some awesome looking, heroic, sexy, males and females. I understand that you probably want to see awesome looking, heroic, sexy, females and males.

I want to identify with some of said awesome looking, heroic, males and females. Presumably, you also would like to identify with some of said awesome looking, heroic, females and males.

I would like to feel that I can find good things in myself that are much like the good things that I see in my paper heroes. I presume that other comic fans feel the same.

And of course, some of us like metaphor, good writing, attractive art, emotional content, all of the things that make life worth wrapping in a package and selling it.

Now that we've gotten all that in order - I am of the School of Unintentional Meaning. We all go through life, saying and doing things that don't mean much to us, or mean something quite different than we intended it to mean.
Cover your eyes for the rest of this article if you've never said (or written, or drawn) one thing and had someone else hear (or read, or see) another.

(Great, now that we've lost all the self-delusional liars (or lost causes), we can get to business.)

What I am trying to do, and what the people that I regularly read without rolling my eyes are trying to do, is take this gender-indoctrination and gender-specification idiocy and take it frour of your subconcious and to your concious mind.
My concern is not objectification in and of itself, but the unconcious objectification that is rampant in the industry. Generally, we all want a bit of excitement in our characters - we want sexy men and women - but we don't want to feel bad about ourselves. And the fact is, women comic book fans get to feel bad about themselves and find a lot less to identify with than men fans do. (Well, ok. The gay guys have it worse in some ways. But not entirely.)
When you don't know how to ride a bike, you might start with training wheels - like the time honored stories and stereotypes comics have been using since the golden age. Maybe you get a little faster, pedaling, turning, but you're still getting help, and you're never going to graduate to any more useful form of riding until you take off the training wheels. When you really start learning to ride your bike, you have a break down and take a look at what you're doing wrong, start to find your balance, figure out to what use the hand brakes are put, stop wobbling the handlebar all over the place.
Once you've really figured it out, the skill becomes unconcious. You balance properly, slow and steer smoothly. You don't unintentionally turn the bike so far that you fall down, or wobble until you fall off (unless you are impaired by something like large quantities of alcohol in your body or large quantities of marmosets covering your body).
Many of our comic book professionals are still in Gender-Relations training wheels. They do not know what they are doing wrong with their balance. They do not really know how to use the brakes effectively.
And sometimes, they don't know how to steer, either.

Ok, they might be drunk or covered in marmosets as well, but we'd have to trust them to admit to it.
Our feminist blogging community is trying to shine a light for them - Here are the Things that make Us feel like Less People. You are doing them. We would prefer that you not do them, because it makes us like you and ourselves less.
If for some reason you must do them, please make it be a good reason. And give us some of our own back - do it purposefully, because a character is doing it, illustrate it as an issue.
Sexualize a male character in a similar way, without making a joke out of it.
Because we love you, we love these characters, and we don't want to see them get cheap like everything else. They deserve better.

We deserve better.

Even you deserve better.

So, c'mon. You can maybe ignore the tone of some of the more strident people that weighed in on these subjects. But please don't ignore their message. It's important.
And usually, the message is - "Yes, there is some sort of a legitimate problem with this."
This legitimate problem may actually be your defense - That you do not intend it to be taken this way, in this unbalanced manner. This legitimate problem may be that you're poking at the very same mythical sore spot where the ACTUAL mysogynistic idiots keep poking. (Let's make this clear - these idiots are not necessarily you - well, ok, who are not necessarily you, YET, but could be if you continue to get defensive). It's akin to mentioning a traditional ethnic food type or stereotypical name or job to someone who's been hurt by that stereotype before. It's poor manners, and bad business.

One woman, maybe 10 women, might be overreacting.

This many?

Don't you think there must be some kind of point in there?

If you don't, well, that's just it. That's the other problem. You're crossing from ignorance into deliberate dismissal of them, just because they're women, or hold a different view of your action.

So, here's the Comic Book Goddess Manifesto:

1) I will support only the characters, writers, artists, or stories that I find compelling.
2) I will not allow you to suggest that I have any less right to an opinion on them than you do.
3) I will argue with my friends about who is cuter, Clark, Bruce, Kyle, or Hal. Because I have more women comic book fan friends than men comic book fan friends. And because not just gay men read comic books to enjoy the sight of the male characters.
4) I will continue to break as many stereotypes that I care to break.
5) I will look for the artists that appear to be trying to treat men and women in a similar and equal fashion, and I will do my best to make them successful.
6) I will tell people if I think that they are accidentally being an idiot. In return, I expect them to make sure they have more justification for the idiocy in the future, and I also expect them to play with the inverse of the stereotype they just accidentally upheld.
7) If the publisher is making an effort, I'll give them a chance.

To that end, I'm dropping every Marvel title I'm currently buying except Runaways and Daredevil. And I'm not buying any more Civil War trades. I don't think they're trying. I think that Quesada and Hughes are being weasels about the whole thing, they're getting defensive, and they're listening to the people who just don't get it and convincing themselves they don't need my money. Even if my money won't change their thinking, at least I'll be able to be happy with myself. We've offered them lessons. If they won't learn, I'm not going to upgrade them to my paper route.

At least DC is trying. Admittedly, they don't always manage to ride all the way down the hill, but, hey, what we can get is better than nothing.

Rating for The Enlightened Bloggers - 5 Goddesses

You draw the Avatar: Anoia, Goddess of Things Stuck in Drawers. She indicates That You Should Keep Rattling Until Something Good Comes Out.


Blogger Laurel said...

Well done. Well thought-out. Well written.

I returned to comics fandom a few months ago. I don't buy ANY Marvel books. How, oh how did they fail to rope me in?

12:58 PM  

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