So there’s a bit of a brouhaha in the superhero fandom lately, over an altercation at a DC panel during Comic Con this weekend, in which a woman cosplaying as Batgirl asked the panelists about the perceived lack of both female characters and creators in their relaunched books. According to reports (a description can be found here) the panelists’ reaction was dismissive and mocking, which then led to the cosplayer to get booed by some in the audience. The discussion has been taken to the blogosphere, where posters like “Me” at the DC Women Kicking Ass blog, have taken to defending the status quo. This was my response, with the bits I quoted from “Me” in italics (his entire original post can be seen here.
Just take a look at
the posts on this blog or any other women centered thread on comics
boards. There’s nothing but hypersensitivity to any imagined slight
whether it be real or not. They are usually accompanied by insults to
real people over imaginary characters. So creators are supposed to
walk on eggshells and ask how high when told to jump for a group that
doesn’t think twice about constantly insulting them no matter what
Walk on eggshells? Not at all.
Acknowledging that there is valid issue to be discussed is not
walking on eggshells—it’s the first step in any sort of good faith
discussion. And fiction which consistently and willfully presents
men as the norm, with women who exist mostly in their relation to men
instead of as individuals? Is very much a problem.
The complaint now is
that there are 4 former Robins but only 1 Batgirl and it’s just
because of sexism. Really?
Really really. What other explanation
would you give? Given the compressed timeline they’re trying to work
with, having four former Robin stretches suspension of disbelief to
the breaking point, and goes against their stated desire to make
things easier for new readers. It’s supremely and obviously
counterproductive, and yet, DC sees their worth, and so they’re
there. Why do they get that benefit, when none of the other Batgirls
do, despite being equally or more interesting, and certainly more
varied from a conceptual perspective? There’s several potential
answers, and “sexism” goes well with every one of them.
There’s a Batwoman
AND a Batgirl with a Huntress mini coming and Steph coming as
Sure, and we’re glad to have them.
However, the fact that they exist doesn’t hide the fact that this new
DC Universe has unfavorably skewed the male/female ratio in negative
way. We have all of them, but we’ve lost an Oracle, two Batgirls,
one Grace Choi, one Amanda Waller, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
And another thing, numbers are only
part of the problem, but they also help obscure another part of the
problem; you could have a movie with a million women or POC on them,
and it’d still be sexist/racist/homophobic if you treat them in a
sexist/racist/homophobic manner—say, by having them be a monolith,
or by having them exist only at the service of the privileged. DC
may have a million women, but if they’re all like Winnick’s Catwoman,
you’ve got a DCU full of sex toys—they may be fun, but they’re
objects, not people. And I for one, much prefer people.
Steph, the lily white blonde girl who most find an annoying character but who has been catapulted over Cass as the direct result of the evil male
creators actually listening to you guys and bringing her back as
Batgirl in her own book.
Really. I wasn’t aware of any great clamor to bring Steph back
as Batgirl. Would anyone more involved
than I care to back up that claim? In any case, it would have been
simplicity itself to return Steph into the fold without doing wrong
by Cass (although if I remember correctly, Cass had already been
neck-deep in character derailment by the time Steph was brought back
into regular circulation) and then had two additional strong female
characters in the Bat-family instead of just one.
Yes, superhero comics is mainly made up of male
fans and male creators. You know what? That’s not
inherently evil. Throughout all pop culture there are different
genres that are dominated by different demographics. Should
female genres be forced to placate males? Should the adult
females who sexually fawn over teenage Twilight
characters be shamed? Well, ok, maybe just as much as people who seem
to get sexually charged over drawings but that’s a whole different
Inherently evil? Perhaps not (although groups that go out of
their way to alienate women tend to stagnate sooner or later). It’s
merely unnecessary, and counter-productive in the extreme. Superhero
comics? Are dying. You’re probably right that DC’s fandom (and
Marvel’s for that matter) mostly consists of males, but it’s also
rather damn clear that that audience will not sustain the industry.
DC knows this. They acknowledge it. They even make token attempts
to rectify it, like the current reboot.
There’s a huge, untapped market made out of people who are not
white heterosexual cis-gendered men.
The mainstream media would have you believe there isn’t any worth
in targeting them, but they are wrong: did Sex and the
City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding,
problematic as they may be, not do beacoup bucks
at the box office? But in order to get those audiences, you have to
a) acknowledge that they exist, both creatively as a corporation, and
engage them and b) treat them as individuals deserving of the same
amount of respect everybody else deserves, instead of as the
exception to the rule, or as something that exists at white
heterosexual cis-gendered men’s pleasure.
And you know what? Not only would a serious effort to reach a
wider audience garner more readers, they make comic books better.The Wire, one of the very few shows to honestly attempt to deal with the African-American experience in America, is widely considered the best show on television. The Scott
Pilgrim series features well-developed men and women, and
both the books and the series are critically acclaimed. Buffy
the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess did a lot to make genre TV cool again. They star women. Greg Rucka is considered one of the best comic book writers around; guess which kinds of characters he likes to write?
This doesn’t mean that books starring white heterosexual
cis-gendered men have to disappear—I still want to read my
Spider-Mans, Supermans, Spider-Mans and Wally Wests, thank you very
much. I just don’t want them to be the one thing you see on the
racks, overcrowding everything else, not when there are so many
kick-ass stories starring other kinds of characters to be told, who
could make a lot of people a lot of money if they just
decided to tell them.
By the way, it’s not just women who feel this way: plenty of men–like myself, in case the avatar didn’t make it obvious–would LOVE more diversity in the DCU. But apparenlty DC isn’t interested in what I have to say, either. Shame.
I also noted that there are several similarities between these and the recent “Elevator Guy” incident, in that both involve a woman calling out sexist behavior or practices, and establishment figures demonstrate naked sexism in their reaction to it. I hope that, like in that earlier incident, this one serves as a catalyst for change in the community, particularly since naked sexism is SO not what DC needs if it wants to survive.