Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

On Comic Book Feminism:

This is finals week for me, well technically the beginning of two weeks of finals but I'm in denial, so my posting will probably be fairly lightweight.

I'd like to point out that this post of Ragnell's is something I agree with whole-heartedly.

I very much enjoyed Ms. Bear's piece. I have aspirations of writing someday myself, I have many ideas of my own and would love the chance to eventually publish them.

But I also love superhero comics. I love them for what they are and what they aren't. I love the characters and plots and potential. I won't deny the sexism present, I've certainly complained about it enough, but to be blunt...

It's worth it.

I don't understand the pessimism about superhero comics feminism. I don't. I've hovered around internet and personal fandom for most of my life, and honestly, I think superhero comics fandom is possibly one of the most feminist-friendly fandoms I've ever seen.

As insular and change-resistant as a lot of comic book fans are, they're nothing compared to a group of hard-science-fiction readers if you dare try to bring up broad genre feminist complaints in that environment. Want to attack the anti-feminist conventions of the romance novel genre? Better have a REAL thick skin.

But taking on the stereotypical anti-feminist comic book fan, "Comic Book Guy" so to speak, in his own environment? Bring it on.

Moreover, we get results. Fairly BIG results. We have big name writers and artists publically defending themselves from feminist critique in mainstream comic fandom environments. We're not just talking about interviews with a specifically feminist publication like Sequential Tart, here, either. We're talking about groups like Newsarama.

I might criticize Matt Brady's interview approach on the issues in question, but it's fairly notable that he HAS to bring them up, don't you think? And hey, as stupid as I may have found Quesada's justifications of the Heroes For Hire cover, or the pitiful excuses for the Mary Jane statue...

We've at least reached the point where they have to make them. Heck, Marvel kind of parodied itself with that whole statue bit recently, and even if you read that scene in the manner most offensive toward the feminist comic book fan, that doesn't change the fact that it's a direct acknowledgement.

Both companies are beginning to acknowledge the untapped female audience with new product. DC's got Minx. Marvel's got Anita Blake. It's baby steps, but it's baby steps in the right direction. (I personally despise Anita Blake, but I know quite a few women who read it voraciously, so clearly it's reaching a target audience.)

We have serious efforts to fix Wonder Woman and Supergirl in place. Those shifting creative teams happened for a reason. As botched as the attempts may have been, DC is acknowledging at least that they're not reaching the target they were aiming for and instead of giving up and saying "Fuck it" they're actually taking steps to try to fix their approach. Will it work? Who can say? But they're trying.

Marvel's trying too. As a DC reader mostly, I'm primarily focused on that side of the bank so I can't talk as much about Marvel efforts. But I think it's fairly clear that attempts to spotlight female characters are happening, books like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk are still going strong. Heck, in a strange sort of way, even the T&A covers are a good sign.

They're basically saying: "Okay, we've got our core audience reading these comics because of plot/character/art, but we're not confident of reaching the lowest common denominator type stereotype of the comic fanboy. So how do we do that?" And instead of changing the content to pander to these guys, they just slap on a sexy cover. They never have to lose that core audience.

That means something.

And those particular fans who pop up on WFA periodically to denounce and decry feminist fans, female fans and the hive vagina? Well...think about it this way, would they be so vocal or so adamant if there wasn't the element of threat involved. If, on some level, they didn't think we might win.

I've seen and addressed the complaints of certain WFA readers that some of the people we link may well just be trolling the community for traffic and negative attention. Which may well be true. But you know what? That's an acknowledgement of the sizeable audience that WFA's managed to obtain and the usefulness of getting linked there. I'd like to be humble, but the truth is, my ego kind of loves that conclusion. Heh.

Change doesn't happen immediately. It doesn't happen in one day, one week, one month or even one year. It's very possible that twenty years down the line, Ragnell and I, Girl-Wonder, Sequential Tart, Friends of Lulu, and all the others who I may have forgotten to mention, and whoever our spiritual successors may be, will still be clamoring for change in the superhero comic book community. But we are getting results. We're being heard. Will there be backlash? Probably. Will we be mocked? Sure. But those are perfectly natural steps on the path of social change. We're going places.

And really I can think of far less worthwhile things to be doing with my time. :-)


  • At December 09, 2007 10:56 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    You make a very valid point, Kalinara. If a certain genre of Fanboy didn't feel threatened, they wouldn't be writing all those hideously misspelled diatribes.

    So steps.

  • At December 09, 2007 4:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    But I likes me my Avengers comics to be borderline porn :(

  • At December 09, 2007 4:45 PM, Blogger Mithel said…

    But can we agree never to use the phrase 'hive vagina' again? It gives me a serious case of the jibblies.

  • At December 09, 2007 4:55 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hmm, we can agree to only use it in a semi-mocking/ironic manner?

  • At December 09, 2007 5:45 PM, Blogger zhinxy said…

    Hmm, we can agree to only use it in a semi-mocking/ironic manner?

    Agreed! But whenever anybody tries to use it seriously you instantly have a wonderful occasion for mockery. It's win-win, I think.

  • At December 09, 2007 10:05 PM, Blogger Brainfreeze said…

    I've got to say, I too would be happy not to ever see the term "hive vagina" again, because it does indeed creep and gross me out. Put it down to too many horror movies.

  • At December 10, 2007 2:22 AM, Blogger Rational Mad Man said…

    And so the vaginal hive mind has agreed there is no vaginal hive mind. Just like the mafia.

  • At December 10, 2007 2:24 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Or Fight Club.

    Aww, RMM, don't feel bad. Every post from you just affirms my faith in our ability to get results. :-)

  • At December 10, 2007 3:06 PM, Blogger Rational Mad Man said…

    Yeah I know. I mean afterall its not like Micheal Turner is still doing covers. Or Like there was a Butt shot in Coutndown, or like Chuck Dixon felt prefectly comfortable setting up anbd laughing at those of you in the pink crowd. I mean hell its not as if every single time you complain about something DC/marvel put more of it inside the comics. You can claim my comments give you "hope" but we both know the comics ac tually being published are catering more to my type of fan thatn yours, and we both know the trend has ben acellerating.

    God I love you wathcin you misandrists squirmand try to make it look like youre winning. Its like watching retards trying to fuck a dorrknowb, no matter how many times you see it, its always entertaining.

  • At December 10, 2007 3:20 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) I keep meaning to commend you on being such an adept parody of your supposed cause, RMM. You never fail to make me chuckle.

  • At December 10, 2007 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm a die-hard pessimist about superhero comics -- that whole genre has no attraction for me, indie till I die -- but I love what you all are doing and how you've become a force to be reckoned with.

    (By the way, there's a very strong and high-profile community of feminist romance novelists and readers. Dear god, us feminists are EVERYWHERE.)

    ((Also, here's a dissenting voice in favour of "hive vagina", if only for the hilariously squirmy reactions it evokes. Like a dentata, but stingy!))

  • At December 10, 2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    (((Forgot to link: feminist romance HQ.)))

  • At December 10, 2007 6:31 PM, Blogger David Campbell said…

    Well said.

  • At December 10, 2007 7:04 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    tlonista: :-) I don't mean to insult feminist fans of romance novels. I've got a lot of respect for you guys.

  • At December 10, 2007 11:15 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I think you're right about anti-feminists feeling threatened. xD I do find it odd and funny tho that some of them claim both that feminists fangirls are "losing" and that we dun matter and that nothing we want will sell, and that most comic fans (if not all!) agree with them and like the comics they do. And then they turn around to portray themselves as the fearless rebels fighting the "feminist hive mind" that is slowly taking over their comic books and outnumber the poor oppressed male fandom!

    They can't have it both ways >_>

  • At December 11, 2007 10:30 PM, Blogger Jack Norris said…

    I can't quite agree on the SF-fans thing (being so much more sexist than comic fans), unless you're referring to specific pockets on the net. The first experiences in my entire life with feminism were through SF fandom. Granted, this was significantly pre-internet, so I'm talking strictly a clubs, cons & zines fandom here. To any degree that a male can be feminist, the roots of my feminism are all due to the women I met through that milieu. Maybe it was just the particular group I fell in with, but the women seemed more in charge if anything.
    That first post (in the link chain) also also treats the "oh no, fantasy is encroaching on SF's shelf space" panic reaction as something new, when it's a good 25+ years old (and hasn't always been just a "ew, girl stuff" reaction).


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