Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Open Letter to Male Comic Fans:

Recent developments over the cause of comic-book feminism have gotten me thinking. I don't know if a lot of guys really understand what feminism's really about.

At least what *my* brand of feminism is really about.

So I'll tell you.

It's not really about the costumes, be they midriffs, boob windows, fishnet stockings. Yeah, some of them are silly. Some of them are stupid. And yeah, when I think they are, I'm gonna damn well say so. But I don't want female characters to go around in shapeless tracksuits any more than you do. I like most of the costumes, and while I might prefer it more if Kara Zor-El wore the Matrix Supergirl's costume and cheered when Huntress changed to the non-midriffed bodysuit, that's not what I really care about.

It's not about breast size. Look women come in all shapes and sizes. And in general, when it comes down to it, I like the variety in comics. I'd like to see more variety in comics. I certainly don't want Power Girl or Phantom Lady to suddenly become a b-cup or anything like that, (though I much prefer Phantom Lady in the recent BfB art style than the Freedom Fighters.) Regardless of what certain folks might think, I like Power Girl's breasts.

It's not about making comics less fun for guys. I don't begrudge you your action, attractive characters and power fantasies. I like them too. I don't begrudge you your eye-candy, though I want more male eye candy to balance out.

So what is it about?

It's about:

  • Rape/Sexual Assault Storyline being few and far between. It's got incredible evocative power. But only when used sparingly and subtly. It loses all sorts of impact when everyone and her mother has it in their backstory. It should Never be the default method of establishing strength and development in a female character.

  • Female characters being defined as more than just their male counterparts with boobs. Having two X-Chromosomes is not a sufficiently defined personality. Female characters should be as complex and developed as their male counterparts.

  • Female characters being no more or less sacrificed for a storyline than their male counterparts. Characters have to die sometimes, we understand that. But a hero character should neither be specifically targeted nor specifically spared because of their gender.

  • Female characters being on average of an equivalent competency level with their male counterparts. For every Steph Brown there should be an Oracle. For every Jennie-Lynn Hayden a Katma Tui. The woman should not always be the weakest of her ilk.

  • Writers caring as much about the consistency of the characterizations of their female characters as they do their males. We love these characters for their personalities as much as their appearances and powers, these should be kept consistent. Growth is a good thing, rampant out of character-ness for the sake of the plot is NOT. For a man or a woman.

  • Gender not being used as a crutch to stick to the same old archetypes. Men can be nurturers, women can be ball-breakers. Men can be sensitive, women can be sex-crazed. Variety is a wonderful wonderful thing.

    It's about respect.

    I don't want to spoil your fun. I don't want to make you feel bad or defensive. I don't think you're all misogynists and sexist jerks. I don't really see anything wrong, for example, with you liking to see attractive female characters in revealing clothing.

    I just want the gals to have personalities, brains and skill to go with their beauty. I want female characters to have the same respect and consideration as male characters. I don't think that's too much to ask.

    Our desires aren't mutually exclusive. We've got no reason to be adversaries. It would be very easy for us both to be happy. Think about it.

    • At June 21, 2006 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      What do you think will be the future of gender in comics?

    • At June 21, 2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

      You just summed up almost every serious article I've written in the last year.

    • At June 21, 2006 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Brilliant post. Can I say one rather tangental thing?

      I might prefer it more if Kara Zor-L wore the Matrix Supergirl's costume

      One of the reasons I personally get so defensive about the classic Power Girl costume is that it, very pointedly, does not include any variation of the 'S'. It's an icon that carries an almost religious significance within the DCU and when even Steel and Eradicator are wearing another man's logo I think it's a huge thing that Karen, as much as she may love her cousin/father-figure, refuses to stand in Superman's shadow.

      . . .

      And the whole point of my posting was actually to ask which issue you had gotten this Sand scans from, I can find it and use it for GREAT EVIL (well, scans_daily).


    • At June 21, 2006 10:11 AM, Blogger Steven said…


    • At June 21, 2006 10:29 AM, Blogger joncormier said…

      I don't know about other guys, but personally I shy away from Cheesecake comics. It's just not my thing in much the same way new country music isn't my thing or watching television sitcoms isn't my thing. Yes they have their audience and can be done well and from time to time I'll partake. But if I see cheesecake covers I don't go for the comic. And it doesn't matter how great the actual comic is, unfortunately. I hear She-Hulk is great but the covers simply turn me off too much to want to pick it up.

      I guess more than anything I don't like being treated as if I have the desires of a pubescent boy. I don't find it particularly enticing anymore but I can also understand (and even appreciate) how cheesecake art can work in a story. I'm not arguing that no female character should ever be presented as a sexual being. It's when the cheesecake is added for no good reason - or I perceive to be that way, I stay away.

      I'm sure I'd like She-Hulk if I read it. I always like Power Girl when she shows up, but if you want to get me (at the very least) the covers need to be toned down. I'll read the character not the sexpot cover I'm supposed to get all flushed over.

    • At June 21, 2006 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Very nicely written. This will definetly be passed around!

    • At June 21, 2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At June 21, 2006 11:59 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

      [Repost: fixed typo.]

      "At least what *my* brand of feminism is really about."

      Well, that's part of the trouble, though, isn't it? Put ten feminists in a room and you'll get ten different definitions of "What Feminism Means." Apart from agreeing that the point of feminism is to make the world a nicer place for women, you'll hear very different ideas about what matters and how we should go about changing things. E.g., I'm sure there are plenty of feminists who would argue that wardrobe and body image are central issues.

      Like any major religion, feminism has splintered into various sects and factions who don't see eye-to-eye and often disagree, sometimes violently. Everybody agrees God is super-keen and we should do what He says; but even within the same denomination, you find disagreements about what He said and what he wants us to do.

      Put another way: you'll never please all the people all the time - and that includes feminists.

      Good post overall, though: you articulate your stance pretty succinctly. :-)

    • At June 21, 2006 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I totally agree with your "brand of feminism", and that confuses me. Whenever I take a look at comics that "feminist fans" seem to like it's invariably something I find hideous.

    • At June 21, 2006 12:47 PM, Blogger Jeff Pollet said…

      Well, that's part of the trouble, though, isn't it?"--FB

      Why is this 'trouble', in the context of her post? She's pointing out her brand of feminism is the way she describes; she's not attempting to say "What Feminism Is". And she doesn't have to.

    • At June 21, 2006 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Nicely written Kalinara.

      I have to ask about the first part. Are issues of sexualization completely unimportant to you or are you saying that they're not the only issue (which a lot of the counter arguments seem to believe)?

      Jon, cheesecake can drive me away from a comic as well. I don't have a problem with it but it distracts me when it doesn't make sense in a story like when Balent drew Catwoman with those huge, unhindered breasts... I'd stop reading the story to wonder how she manages to commit her crimes when she looks so unweildy... then I start comparing how the women are drawn in comparison to the men (and I usually to see a greater effort to make the women attractive).

    • At June 21, 2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

      Works for me...

    • At June 21, 2006 2:30 PM, Blogger joncormier said…

      Yeah, cheesecake is a weird one for me to put my finger on. On the one hand sexy women should look, well sexy. Same for the men. But whereas there are all sorts of male types who get out of the costume and wear a suit most of the women are in equally revealing outfits. It gets to be a bit much for me. Let's get a bit of variation in there - for both the sexes. It won't kill off comics.

      Oh I love this post by the way. I didn't say that earlier.

    • At June 21, 2006 2:35 PM, Blogger 100LittleDolls said…

      I really enjoyed your post!

      And I love that feminism isn't just one mantra--that in itself would be extremely problematic.

      I'm not familiar with how feminists have "violently" disagreed. In-fighting, sure, and vocal debate, definately. Debate and disagreements can distract from issues at hand, but feminism has to evolve, change and make room for different beliefs and opinions. And as long as the baseline--equality--is there, I have no trouble with that at all.

    • At June 21, 2006 2:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      anon: At heart I'm optimistic. More women in the industry, more women are vocal as readers. That's a good sign.

      marionette: :-)

      flidget: Hee that's why I shouldn't type early in the morning. I actually meant Kara Zor-EL. The new one, not Power Girl. I like PG's costume.

      Scan comes from JSA 16. Beginning of the Injustice For All arc

      Steven: Thanks.

      Jon: Me too, but I don't actually begrudge their existance. I just want a few more that aren't.

      She-Hulk is very good though. You're missing out. :-(

      But I definitely understand where you're coming from.

      Anonymous: Aww, thanks.

      Ferrous: yep. But in general I think a lot of the knee jerk reaction to feminism in the case of comics is that guys really don't get that most girls aren't really trying to take their fun away.

      But thanks. :-)

      Anonymous: Well, we all have different tastes. My personal favorite comic of all times is Guy Gardner: Warrior. Which is a little weird, I suppose.

      Jeff: Aw, thanks, but I understand what Ferrous is saying here I think. When you've got a lot of feminists together, you do have so many different variations, and that's good. But a lot of guys, and even some *women* see it and think "hive-mind" or something.

      But it's right also that guy fans don't necessarily understand that we're not all the extremists either. :-) I'm pretty moderate really.

      Lyle: Well, sexualization is weird. I think it's an issue sometimes, but not as much as many believe. I thought the 52 issue with Renee and partner in underwear was funny more than offensive, for example.

      Stephanie Brown's sexualized death is a big thing, but that offends me more because it was in Robin and in mainstream comics. (Far better suited to an adult-oriented elseworld like Unholy Three, IMO.)

      Mostly I think they're important, but only really in terms of the second part of the essay. A little bit of cheesecake isn't a bad thing (especially as one of my favorite male characters still looks like he's wearing shibari bondage. :-P)

      keeper: glad to hear it!

      jon (again): That can be annoying too, I admit. :-) And variety is definitely good.

      And thanks. :-)

      100: Thanks! I don't know of violent disagreement much, though I do tend to roll my eyes at certain extremists too. In general though, the discourse is good. If nothing else, we're showing we're not some monolithic Other hive-mind. And that's always good.

    • At June 21, 2006 3:17 PM, Blogger Aditya Bidikar said…

      Excellent post, and very good for reference use. This will be passed around. Thanks!

    • At June 21, 2006 4:29 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Aww, thanks. Glad it'd be useful. :-)

    • At June 22, 2006 12:28 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

      Kalinara, it sounds like you and I have the same criteria regarding cheesecake: It's good as long as it doesn't retard the progress of the story or it's not so frikkin' implausible that it takes you OUT of the story.

      A classic example of the first pitfall is All Star Batman and Robin#1, where we have Frank Miller and Jim Lee's Vicki Vale in her penthouse clad in panties, a bra, and heels(?) blathering on for 4-5 pages about how she's going on a date with Bruce Wayne and it's cool, essentially wasting 1/5 of the book. Now contrast that with a similarly-clad Thorn drawn by Ed Benes, except SHE'S spending four pages kicking bad guy ass or being on a high-speed motorcycle chase with Black Canary and Huntress in Birds of Prey. In other words, STILL ADVANCING THE STORY. (That's the beauty of Ed Benes. He seamlessly fuses cheesecake with fast-paced fluid storytelling. His teaming up with top-notch writers like Simone and Rucka doesn't hurt either.)

      The second pitfall explains why I've liked Power Girl's chest circle but hated Huntress' bare midriff costume. PG's impervious, but Huntress is a normal vulnerable human who fights gun and knife-wielding bad guys regularly, so it's ludicrous she wouldn't protect herself better, no matter HOW hot her abs look.

    • At June 22, 2006 1:36 AM, Blogger DivaLea said…

      I'm afraid I have nothing more eloquent to add than WELL SAID!

    • At June 22, 2006 3:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I so missed reading these posts.
      Thank you SO MUCH for giving me some damn fine ammunition next time I'm the Girl in the Comic Shop(tm) again trying to explain why Supergirl makes my skin crawl.

    • At June 22, 2006 3:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      notintheface: I agree completely. It's why the underwear stuff in 52 struck me as silly but not awful. It was part of the scene, quick, and (almost) made sense.

      lea: Thanks!

      carla: Glad to be of service. :-) Show them what's what!

    • At June 22, 2006 5:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Let me just add myself to the list of people who just want to say they loved this concise and interesting post and will certainly be showing it around.

    • At June 22, 2006 5:38 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Aww, you guys are good for my ego.

    • At June 22, 2006 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I'm a bit of a newbie in the modern comics blogosphere (which is probably now an outdated term), but this post is a great example of why I enjoy reading your blog.

      I'm with the other guys who find the cheesecake covers embarrassing. I found them kind of icky and creepy when I was a teenager, and that feeling has only intensified. I don't want all the female characters in comics to suddenly look like Orca, and (I admit it) I do sometimes appreciate the visuals (at least when the chest sizes aren't totally out of control... then I start wondering how they get around without a back brace).

      But we have a few male shlubs in comics already--I've been away for a long time, though, they haven't "buffed out" Harvey Bullock, have they? Anyway, I think it would add a nice, realistic touch to add more and different female body types to comic art. They can't all look like supermodels (who need back braces), and who ever said supermodels are the apex of human beauty, anyway? Not me.

      I don't know how representative of my gender my opinions are, though. I don't much like the weak/wispy/stereotypical female characters; I like the ones who are bigger and at least as, or more, powerful than the guys. If I may act adolescent for a moment--I would be perfectly happy if Wonder Woman overpowered me. Wouldn't bother me a bit. There, I said it, and I feel better.

      As for rape in comics... the recent posts by you and Ragnell have done are enough proof that comics need to stay a long way away from that subject for many, many years to come. In fan terms, it's radioactive. It's also convinced me that half of the creators must be lazy, and the other half creepy, disgusting perverts. I'm all for making this subject go away.

      Anyway, I hope that rambling was entertaining and actually added to the discussion.

    • At June 22, 2006 6:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Aww, thanks.

      For the record, I don't disapprove of every rape/sexual assault plotline. I actually didn't mind Mia Dearden's original backstory that much as it was specifically designed to establish the character as a survivor and set her up parallel to Ollie in Quiver.

      I think the certain subtextual implications of JSA 18 (which I blog about a lot) are particularly powerful in terms of understated horror.

      But I do think it's far too often used. Especially overt. Subtext isn't so bad because you at least have the chance to read it the other way.

      Understated is better in terms of horror anyway. Less is more.

      And don't worry, I can't think of anyone who'd really mind being over powered by Diana. ;-)

    • At June 22, 2006 7:15 AM, Blogger Doc Hall said…

      A very interesting and enlightening post.

      It's certainly given me something to reflect upon in terms of why I enjoy what I enjoy, and the fields in which they can be improved.

    • At June 22, 2006 6:32 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Doc: Thanks, glad to help. :-)

      EL: :-) I tend to think the criticisms are pretty universal. When you've got a male dominated industry, you tend to have problems. Things are getting better all around though, I think. They have ways to go though. :-)

    • At June 24, 2006 12:22 AM, Blogger James Meeley said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At June 24, 2006 12:31 AM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

      Meeley, you remind me of Terry Long.

    • At June 24, 2006 1:28 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

      When someone is screaming in your ears, the reflex is to cover your ears. Not listen more intently.

      Conversely, when someone continually refuses to listen, the reflex is to raise your voice.

      You're very quick to take this opportunity to point out the shortfalls of feminist comic fans, when none of these shortfalls apply to Kalinara's post.

    • At June 24, 2006 6:10 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      James: Female Leads and Female Creators are all well and good, but the thing is that respect should be across the board. Many male creators clearly respect women, many female characters are written respectfully even when not the star. There's no reason to segregate ourselves to just stories with female leads written by women.

      Chris: Heh.

      Ragnell: Conversely, when someone continually refuses to listen, the reflex is to raise your voice.

      There's definitely that factor. We've spent centuries not being listened to, being overlooked and disregarded, so it's perhaps understandable that now that we're actually getting somewhere, well, we're impatient.

    • At June 25, 2006 11:17 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At June 25, 2006 11:25 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

      True enough. But then, some people won't hear you, if you had the "voice of God" telling them something. Sometimes, you just have to chalk some people up as a lost cause and focus on finding those who aren't.

      Good point. I won't even bother reading or responding to your comments anymore.

    • At June 25, 2006 11:57 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At June 26, 2006 2:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      I have to admit, I don't really see a point proven there.

      I do think a lot of the problem is women being frustrated that men don't seem to catch the difference between a rant (letting off steam, usually sans a particular target) and a persuasive argument (rational, aimed toward a specific audience).

      A lot of what you'd call "Hand of God" arguments are ranting. Women letting off steam. We've spent years frustrated, we're permitted to do that. Not everything a feminist posts is about convincing men or non-feminists. Sometimes it's just to rant.

      When we rant, we're not necessarily targetting anyone in particular, just our upset with the whole thing. And guys rant too. But when we rant, that tends to be when guys leap on board saying "that's not fair, *I*'m not like this..." They don't get that in the end, not everything a feminist writes is about men, in particular. A rant is about the whole unfair situation.

      Thing is, most rants are open ended. If you feel targetted by a rant, it might be worthwhile to look at why you feel that way. It could be a bit of guilty conscience.

      (I myself had this happen when over on a thread in Jenn's Reappropriate she ranted against exoticizing Asian culture. I was offended. And I was forced to realize, after sleeping on it, that deep down, I was offended because I was afraid she was least a little. It's an unsettling realization.)

      I think Ragnell and I tend to come across as "reasonable" because we focus more on persuasion than ranting. I would like people to see my opinion, so I try to phrase it as un-accusingly as possible. Because I think most people are open to new perspectives given the chance and no one really *wants* to make others uncomfortable and/or unhappy.

      But just because I try not to rant (I'm not always successful) doesn't mean that I don't understand why it's done. And the hyper defensive response can be very frustrating when all you want to do is let off steam.

      That's my take anyway

    • At June 26, 2006 7:56 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At June 27, 2006 1:00 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

      I think that's where the fundamental difference in our philosophies lie, honestly. There will always, I think, be reprehensible behavior displayed on either side of any issue, but in the end the righteousness or worth of the cause is what's important. I can't imagine wanting to take away from a whole group based on the actions of a vocal minority.

      In the case of feminism, there are feminazis, to use the perjorative, as well as chauvanist asses, but the innate cause of feminism would benefit everyone, thus the fight will continue, and support grows, because the cause is just.

      On a shallower note, Hal isn't my favorite, but he's a good character. Just like Kyle is really. (We all know my favorite Lantern is a red-haired jackass. :-P). And really awful behavior has been shown on both sides of the Hal/Kyle debate.

      But in the end, Hal and Kyle are both wonderful, entertaining characters, and I'm glad that both have fans getting what they want. I'm benefiting too. :-)

    • At June 28, 2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Jeff Pollet said…

      I know I'm late here, but I'd just like to say that I appreciate the patience that both Kalina and ragnell exhibited when responding to stuff. Frankly, it's unearned, and welcome at the same time.

    • At June 28, 2006 4:31 PM, Blogger kalinara said…


    • At July 07, 2006 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Brilliant post. I only recently became interested in comics after taking a class in gender and popular culture but it is frustrating that from what I have seen is a lot of narrow characters who's primary purpose is to look "sexy" in a tight costume with disproportionate breasts. Hope for more diversity in the future. Food for thought indeed.

    • At July 07, 2006 6:54 PM, Blogger kalinara said…


    • At March 05, 2007 11:51 AM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

      I keep reading on feminist comic blogs that rape is being overused, but when I count up the rapes that I’ve seen, there appear to be very few rapes. Am I missing a lot of rape?

    • At March 05, 2007 12:12 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    • At March 09, 2007 1:44 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

      Those links help for me to get what you are talking about, but I'm not sure what kind of time frame you are looking at. There are over 2000 comics put out every year, and the vast majority of them are filled with violent crime. It still seems to me that as a percentage of violent crime, rape comes up as less than 1% of the total. Compared to murder, assault, robbery, and arson, rape would appear to be underrepresented. Further, rape appears in less than 1% of the comics that have come out.

      May I also point out that using “mind control” as symbolic rape is a bit of a cheat. Virtually everyone has been mind controlled in comics. It’s a trope of the genre, not rape. If mind control is going to be counted as rape, virtually all the telepathic and many of the mystical characters in comics will have to be removed to make rapes be "few and far between." I might note that far, far, far more superheroes have been mind controlled than you have listed. At one point, Dr. Doom mind controlled everyone in the Marvel Universe who breathes. We’d have to assume that every comic with the character Karma, whose only power is to control minds, is about rape.

      Further, some of the things are called “implied rape,” like slavery, actually appear to be “inferred rape.” By the definition supplied, there doesn’t have to be anything that actually says rape or sex, it just has be something that one can infer even if there is no evidence of it. For instance, Starfire’s slavery was called “implied rape” even though she was held in slavery by a different species that never said they would use her for sexual acts, that was never shown using her for sexual acts, and that almost certainly would not use her for sexual acts because she is of a different species. If one wants to infer rape from slavery, one can, and certainly there is a history of sexual abuse associated with slavery, but that doesn’t mean the comic writer was implying rape even if a reader chose to infer it.

      Also, because you don’t define what “sexual overtones” are, it’s hard to evaluate whether the other instances of violence you might be considering rape are really more accurately described as kidnapping or torture. Virtually all superheroes have been kidnapped and tortured, but that doesn’t mean the writer was implying rape in most or even a substantive minority of those instances.

      Also consensual sex between people who are both under the age of consent is not statutory rape. If it were, both parties would have to be arrested. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of sex that has happened in the world over the history of human existence has been between people under the age of 18, but I can’t say that that sex has mainly been rape.

      In short, I think those lists really cheat to make a point that I’m not convinced is valid. But even if we counted all of those on your list, we’d still find that less than 1% of comics contain rape. Maybe I just don’t understand what “few and far between” mean to you.

    • At March 09, 2007 3:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Scott, what we're complaining about is that if you think of five superheroines off the top of your head, you will find a good four of them very likely have an actual or attempted sexual assault in their background, let me demonstrate:

      Wonder Woman, Storm, Dinah Lance, Black Cat, Oracle, Rogue, heck, the new Hawkeye, She-Hulk, and so on

      The plot of rape might occur only 1% of the time in comics but it doesn't change the fact that by this point it's been used on a good 80% or more of the superheroine population as a cheap way to cause drama or to give the character a founding motivation.

      The ones above are ACTUAL rape attempts and sexual assault examples, by the way. Our lists themselves are meant to be analysis research. Implied/symbolic is a category meant to examine how we look at rape versus other violations as well as what interactions/behaviors suggest rape. The lists aren't meant to make a point.

      However, I personally feel that rape is overused to the point of apathy. When a female character needs something traumatic, that's the first place, in my perspective, that they go. It's lost emotional impact.

      When the American national estimate for women who've been sexually assaulted is 1 in 4 (for men 1 in 10), one would expect the comics proportion to be similar. It's closer to 4 in 5 and 1 in 50 respectively.

      What I want to see is a decrease in the usage so that the statistics end up a little closer to reality. I'm not saying to stop using it altogether, but I'd like to be able to think of more than a handful of heroines off the top of my head who HAVEN'T been raped.

      That way, when it is used in the storyline, it can be used to its full dramatic potential.

    • At March 10, 2007 7:43 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

      80% or more? I don’t think that is true. I think your theory is suffering from experimental bias. I think you are subconsciously choosing female characters based on your knowledge of their sexual assaults. For instance, when looking at the list that you linked to, I couldn’t help but to notice some peculiarities. The first one I noticed stuck out because I’m a Legion fan. I saw that there were 2 characters that had kind of iffy rapes associated with them and one was declared clean, but there are a lot more female Legionnaires and supporting characters that weren’t mentioned at all, and I don’t recall any of them being raped. I also noticed that only one character from the entire run of The Sandman was mentioned, the one that was raped, natch, but there were dozens of female characters in the series. But the instance of bias that really stuck out to me was Sally Sonic because A) she wasn’t a hero and B) Bulleteer, the star of the book, is not mentioned at all, and she was not raped. Doesn’t it seem strange that the villain of the book was mentioned as a rape victim but the star of the book was ignored?

      The way to prevent experimental bias is to use a source that won’t pick characters based on your bias. So instead of saying “Let’s make a list of all the female characters who were raped,” you say, “Let’s make a list of all female characters and see how many are raped.” So what I did was flip through the DC Encyclopedia and Wikipedia lists of superhero characters and pull out all the female characters and compare them to your list of raped characters and my memory of the characters. I did find some characters that I think should have been on your list that weren’t. For instance, I believe Shadowcat was involved in a statutory rape, and I think Mockingbird was sexually assaulted by the Phantom Rider. But the thing is, I found well over 200 female characters who were not villains, had post-Silver Age adventures, had more than a couple appearances, that I was familiar enough with to have a pretty good idea of whether or not they’d been raped, and that I couldn’t remember or find in their bios anything that seemed like rape or attempted rape. I left out a lot of semi-duplicate characters like the Ultimate versions of Marvel heroines, which I think would have added dozens more. I include a few supporting characters, but your list had some too, but I didn’t really go digging for them. For instance, I know I didn’t add a lot of girlfriends (e.g. left out lots of Spidey’s and the Torch’s) or wives despite the fact that there were some on your list. In other words, if I worked a little harder, I could have found over 300 female characters that didn’t have rape in their backgrounds that I was aware of. And many of these characters have been having consistent adventures for 20, 30, even 40 years. Many of them were big name characters who had their own books, lead groups, and would be names any comic fan would know. Your list of women under the raped/attempted rape categories had 63 names. I can post my list if you want, but I think if you just look at some Wiki lists of characters (e.g. Avengers members, JLA members, X-Men members), you’ll see that you won’t find that 80% of them have had rape in their backgrounds.

      You wrote, “When a female character needs something traumatic, that's the first place, in my perspective, that they go.”

      I’m going to suggest that while I believe that is your perspective, the facts suggest that your perspective is skewed as if you were looking at things through a funhouse mirror. You seem to have agreed that less than 1% of comics have rape in them, and I think if you look at a fuller list of female characters, you’ll see that 80% isn’t close to the real percentage of women who have rape in their background. I just don’t see how somewhere they go less than 1% of the time can be the first place they go.

      You wrote, “When the American national estimate for women who've been sexually assaulted is 1 in 4 (for men 1 in 10), one would expect the comics proportion to be similar. It's closer to 4 in 5 and 1 in 50 respectively.”

      First, you know I dispute the 80% figure, but I also find this line of reasoning to be flawed. Far less than 1% of women are victims of murders and attempted murders, but nearly 100% of comic heroes are. Less than 1% of people are involved in kidnappings or arson, but those are very common occurrences in comics. Comic book heroes, including the female heroes, are assaulted all the time, but less than 1% of the assaults that comic women face are sexual assaults, but I don’t think that is true of assaults among real life women. The assaults that real women face are far more likely to be sexual assaults than the assaults that comic women face. If the percentage of assaults that comic women faced where to reflect that same kinds of percentages that real women face, comic women would be raped far more frequently. And more men, particularly young fellows, would need to be raped too. In other words, if you ask for the percentages to more closer to real world stats, I think you are asking for much, much more rape, which would appear to be the opposite of what you really want.

      You wrote, “That way, when it is used in the storyline, it can be used to its full dramatic potential.”

      And it is true that if rape were used less frequently it would have more impact. No doubt about it. However, couldn’t the same be said of all violent crime? Let’s say, for instance, that we wrote Hawkgirl, and we decided to use violent crime in less than 1% of the issues that we put out. We’d go for about 10 years in our monthly comic with Hawkgirl using her flight to save kittens from trees, to fly sick people to the hospital, to catch drunk drivers, etc. Heroic. Definitely heroic. Then in our 10th year, we have her brutally beaten in a knockdown, drag out fight with the Shadow Thief. They really beat the hell out of each other, but Hawkgirl is eventually victorious. However, she then spends the next issues recovering, and thinking about not only the violence she suffered, but the violence that she inflicted, beating on a man with a mace.

      Damn! That would be powerful stuff, but only because we hadn’t been having her do it virtually every issue over the past 10 years …. like she does in her comic now. And the same would be true of kidnapping, arson, robbery, attempted murder, and MURDER! But because of the violent nature of comics, violent crimes in comics don’t have the impact that they do in real life or what they could have if we scaled back their frequency. However, I suspect that you wouldn’t suggest limiting violent crime in superheroic comics to less than 1% of the issues like rape already is. So why is that you are saying that rape, which is used less than 1% of the time, should be scaled back in its frequency to make better stories, but you aren’t making the an even stronger case of scaling back violent crimes that happen with far, far, far greater frequency?

      I would suggest that the reasons you’d like rape to be scaled back has less to do with writing strong stories (because that just doesn’t hold up to reason) and more to do with what you think rape represents to the male creators and readers. I’m going to suggest that you think rape is about the (subconscious?) desire to treat women with disrespect. It's not about strong stories; it’s about respect, right?

    • At March 10, 2007 10:15 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Simple enough:

      You claim you can think of a lot of characters that haven't been raped.

      Name them.

      And please consider how many have any sort of prominence in the present day comics.

      I don't doubt you'll be able to name quite a few, but I'm going to make a big leaping pre-judgement here and say I have the strong feeling that for each you name, I'll be able to name two or three female characters of equivalent prominence that have.

      And I never claimed to not have a biased perspective, but I am not the only biased person here. Just because you DON'T percieve a problem doesn't mean that one doesn't exist anymore than just because I DO perceive one means that one exists.

      Also, and I'll be frank about this, please don't conjecture about my opinion about why male (and female) creators use rape in a story. I've never claimed that the use of rape was out of any sort of deliberate disrespect. I believe that it is overused and loses emotional impact. I believe that is lousy storytelling.

      And I believe that the automatic assumption that a female fan arguing that rape is overused is for reasons OTHER than it being bad storytelling is disrespectful.

      THAT is where "It's a matter of respect" comes in. I'm not saying that ultimately you have to agree with me about whether rape is overused or not, but kindly give my own perspective the same validity that you give your own.

      In other news, "agreeing to disagree" won't make you less of a man when blind argument and assumptions about my motives do make you look something of an idiot.

    • At March 11, 2007 2:09 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

      1. Arachne (a.k.a. Spider-Woman II)
      2. Armor
      3. Atom Girl
      4. Aurora
      5. Batgirl (Cassandra Cain)
      6. Batwoman (the new one)
      7. Black Alice
      8. Black Betty
      9. Blink
      10. Bloodstone, Elsa
      11. Bordeaux, Sasha (Black Queen)
      12. Bulleteer
      13. Cairea (in the Hulk now)
      14. Carter, Sharon
      15. Chase, Cameron
      16. Cooper, Valerie
      17. Crimson Fox
      18. Crystal
      19. Cyclone
      20. Dagger
      21. Dead Girl
      22. Dean, Karolina
      23. Donovan, Milla
      24. Duran, Courtney
      25. Dust
      26. Echo (a.k.a. Ronin)
      27. Elasti-Girl
      28. Enchantress
      29. Energizer
      30. Fahrenheit
      31. Fairchild, Caitlin
      32. Fallen Angel
      33. Fire (Black King’s Knight)
      34. Firebird
      35. Firehawk
      36. Gamora
      37. Gorgeous
      38. Gypsy
      39. Hill, Maria
      40. Hudson, Heather (Exiles version)
      41. Infectious Lass
      42. Invisible Woman
      43. Irons, Natasha
      44. Jenny Quantum
      45. Jones, Jessica
      46. Judomaster
      47. Katana
      48. Kent, Martha
      49. Knight, Misty
      50. Knockout
      51. Lady Blackhawk
      52. Lady Mastermind
      53. Lady Shiva
      54. Lang, Lana
      55. Liberty Belle
      56. Light Lass
      57. Light Speed
      58. Lilandra
      59. Luna
      60. M
      61. Ma Hunkle
      62. MacTaggart, Moira
      63. Madame Xanadu
      64. Manhunter
      65. Mary Marvel
      66. Medusa
      67. Meggan
      68. Mercury
      69. Midnight, Jessica (Black Queen’s Bishop)
      70. Miller, Layla
      71. Minoru, Nico
      72. Mirage
      73. Miss America (Freedom Fighters version)
      74. Moonstone
      75. Namora (Agents of Atlas)
      76. Night Nurse
      77. Nightmask
      78. Omega Sentinel
      79. Parker, Aunt May
      80. Phantom Lady III
      81. Phyla-Vell (Quasar II)
      82. Platinum
      83. Polaris
      84. Polaris
      85. Power Girl
      86. Power Princess
      87. Princess Projectra
      88. Pulsar (a.k.a. Capt. Marvel, Photon)
      89. Rainmaker, Sarah
      90. Raptor (Brenda Drago)
      91. Ravager
      92. Raven
      93. Red Bee
      94. Sage
      95. Sawyer, Maggie
      96. Scarlet Witch
      97. Sersi (the Eternal)
      98. Shadow Lass
      99. Siryn
      100. Songbird
      101. Spaulding, Roxy (Freefall)
      102. Spider-Girl
      103. Spitfire
      104. Squirrel Girl
      105. Star Girl
      106. Starfire
      107. Stature
      108. Stepford Cockoos (do they count as 3?)
      109. Summers, Rachel (Marvel Girl)
      110. Supergirl
      111. Surge
      112. Tabitha (a.k.a.Boom Boom, Meltdown)
      113. Talisman
      114. Tarantula (Heroes for Hire)
      115. Tautin, Josephine (“Mademoiselle Marie,” Black Queen’s Knight)
      116. The Question ( the new one)
      117. Thompkins, Leslie
      118. Thunder (in the Outsiders)
      119. Tigra
      120. Traci 13
      121. Triplicate Girl
      122. Troia
      123. Venus (Agents of Atlas)
      124. Vision (the Ultimate one)
      125. Vixen
      126. Waller, Amanda (White Queen)
      127. Wasp
      128. Watson-Parker, Mary Jane
      129. White Tiger (the newest one)
      130. Wolfsbane
      131. Wonder Girl
      132. Yorkes, Gertrude
      133. Zatanna

    • At March 11, 2007 3:02 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

      Whoops! Looks like Polaris got in there twice, so let's replace one of them with Contessa Valentina DeFontaine & Sabra, who both just kicked ass in the Union Jack mini.

    • At March 11, 2007 9:07 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      That's a nice list! :-) Let's take the discussion here:

    • At April 14, 2008 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      As hetero male I support feminism, but I don't support militant feminism. I get that revealing costumes aren't the real issue but then you have the Rachelle Goguens who complain about anything and everything (Supergirl's outfit, etc) thus making the real issues seem like nothing but trivial criticism. Why do so many people have hate the bare midriff??? Sure its cheesecake, but is it really that bad!? No... it's a stomach for Christ's sake! He-Man didn't exactly cover up but do guys complain about his lack of attire? No... but I guess that's because it's ok for male heroes to bare skin for some reason. I'm confused, isn't it meant to be misogynistic to judge women and label them sluts because of how they dress? How ironic. Girls who bitch about bare midriffs or short skirts are not feminists they are just homophobes and this ain't the goddamn 1940's so please, please get over it.
      *End of rant*

    • At April 14, 2008 1:32 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Thank you for that rant that has very little, if anything, to do with this original post.

    • At April 14, 2008 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Some of what I said there was a bit off the subject I will admit, but my point is there are real issues in comics like what you mention and then there's bare midriffs. Alright so comic creators should know the difference between right and wrong, but how do you expect them to listen to important criticism when there's so much pointless venting on the net about revealing outfits and stuff, this is why they don't take these matters as seriously as they should, well that and they're clueless. Nonetheless we all need to to stick to the problems worth addressing not pet peeves.

    • At April 14, 2008 4:07 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

      Why shouldn't we address pet peeves? Particularly pet peeves based on gender roles?

      I admit, I don't much give a flying fig about midriffs or not anymore (I've mellowed over the years) but it's still a fairly gendered wardrobe choice. It's worth addressing as a feminist concern by people who care about it.

      You can think it's stupid all you want, but you don't get to decide what's a worthy feminist cause for someone else.

      Besides, ultimately, considering how often fans bicker about the stupidest points of continuity (could Wolverine really beat random character X like that when random character X can do THIS?!!), there's no reason why costuming should be exempt, feminist concern or just irritation.

    • At April 16, 2008 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Point taken, Kalinara.


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