Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Defense of William Moulton Marston:

This is something that's been brewing in my mind for a few days, so it's possibly apt to be somewhat scattered and incoherent.

I was thinking about discussions of Wonder Woman and feminism, and particularly the feminism of Marston. A lot of times, the notion about whether Marston is feminist or pro-feminine superiority gets immediately dismissed by the fact that he a) has a well-documented pornographic kink and b) used a lot of images of women in submission in his comic.

Both are true, of course, but I think they're an over-simplification.

Marston had a kink, clearly. He practiced BDSM, lived in a long term threesome with his wife and another lady, and did all sorts of other things that make for one heck of a sordid biographical read.

But does that really mean he can't be feminist TOO?

I mean, as I see it, it's kind of similar to being a slash or yaoi fangirl. No, being a fan of slash or yaoi doesn't make someone automatically a member of the gay-straight alliance. There are a number of fans who ARE homophobic or heterosexist, who see nothing wrong with exploiting homosexuality to get their rocks off while still voting yes to ban gay marriage. Personally, I find this to be utterly abhorrent, hypocritical and dehumanizing, but I can't deny this sort of thing exists.

But at the same time, being a fan of slash doesn't mean that you can't ALSO be a supporter of homosexual rights without it being an extention of your kinks. By voting "no" on a gay marriage ban, I'm not trying to exert my kink onto reality and increase my opportunity of meeting and watching attractive gay men interact. It means I genuinely believe that a gay marriage ban is cruel, dehumanizing, and ultimately unconstitutional. (This is not an invitation to debate gay marriage in my comment section, moreover, anyone who tries is apt to find their comment deleted. There are many political blogs out there where you can express yourself adequately on the subject, thank you.)

Marston had a kink, yes. But he also had a long career in which he expressed publically and academically a very pro-feminist view. Do I agree with everything he says? Of course not. To be honest, I think a lot of it is complete and utter tripe that goes on to place my sex on some sort of ridiculous, contradictory, glamorized pedestal.

But I disagree with Andrea Dworkin and Catharine McKinnon, as well. Marston, to me, is another extreme viewpoint that, while very different than the other mentioned feminists, is similarly one I do not share. That doesn't mean that he is not, in his own way, a feminist. I believe that his body of work is itself indicative that it's more than a kink for him.

Finally, while, yes, Marston's comics did heavily feature women, particularly Diana, in bondage and submissive positions, it also always, invariably, showed her breaking free.


  • At December 16, 2007 7:48 AM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    I agree completely. While we might know something about a person by his sexual proclivities, their kinks don’t necessarily say anything beyond that they have that kink. To say that Marston is somehow anti-feminist because of his bondage kink would mean that we’d have to assume that all gay men into bondage or S&M are somehow anti-male, but they don’t seem to be. What you think is sexy and who you think should have rights and opportunity don’t appear to connected so closely that you can substantively guess at what socio-political theory a person believes by what they do in bed. For instance, we would have to assume that Larry Craig was pro-gay.

  • At December 16, 2007 8:56 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I agree :) I think that he can be both feminist and have kinks :D

    I have many many kinks xD

  • At December 17, 2007 7:40 AM, Blogger running42k said…

    You hit the nail on the head with the last paragraph.

  • At December 17, 2007 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So you can be FOR lifting up and dignifying women while at the same time showing them in humiliating, dehumanizing situations.

    Got it.

  • At December 17, 2007 10:53 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mark: That's a bit of an oversimplification. If you'll notice I specifically point out that Marston has Diana breaking free under her own power.

    There is something of a notable difference between this and later complained about scenes as written/drawn by certain other comic professionals.

    I would be careful of using responses like "[over simplified statement]...Got it." in discussions about important issues about sexism and racism. It makes you sound flippant, dismissive and even scornful, which I'm sure wasn't your intent at all.

  • At December 17, 2007 10:46 PM, Anonymous Marionette said…

    *takes single sentiment entirely out of context*

    *dismissive gesture*

    See, I can troll too.

  • At December 18, 2007 4:54 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    Also, the point is that you can have sexual kinks without having those kinks necessarily define your intentions. :]

    I have many kinks that ppl would be SURPRISED I have :D




  • At December 19, 2007 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "So you can be FOR lifting up and dignifying women while at the same time showing them in humiliating, dehumanizing situations."

    Yep. Helps if it's consensual (if BSDM) or a triumph-in-the-face-of-adversity storyline (if not). MHO, YMMV.

  • At December 19, 2007 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The really crucial thing here is that Marston took his particular sexual kink and elevated it into part of a higher theory of behavior, one which revolved around the idea that aggressive people had to learn to submit themselves to the authority of others out of love. In a sense, he's taking religious devotion to God and directing it to other human beings as a way to restrain humanity (and especially men)'s violent instincts. Real freedom flows from submitting to someone who loves you and thus restraining yourself from the bad instincts which destroy true freedom and happiness. The reason his view of bondage shouldn't be seen as anti-woman is that it's not about degradation. It's a voluntary submission to a loving authority which would set you free of your darker instincts. And given his view of women and men, it calls upon men to submit more than women. The reason an Amazon loses her powers if she lets someone chain her wrists together isn't 'bondage defiles you' but rather 'submission to wrongful, violent authority is degrading'. Amazons aren't supposed to do that because the correct submission is based in love and rightful authority. (Note that rightful submission in this context is always submitting to a woman.)

    It has the fundmental problem, mind you, of 'who watches the watchmen'; ie, what happens if the one you've submitted to becomes corrupt. And other issues as well. But it's not anti-feminist in general, though it certainly wouldn't get along with some kinds of feminism.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home