Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sandicomm needs her own blog...

...But until then I'll quote one of her comments to draw attention to it:
And on a completely unrelated note, I had a mini-epiphany when I was walking my dogs this afternoon. The worst thing that can happen to a comic book woman is to be raped, as if the death of a loved one or contracting a horrible disease weren't worse. (And don't get me wrong, rape is an incredibly bad thing, but if you really want to hurt a character, surely there are other things to do.) But the best thing that could happen to her is that she gets a mate, particularly a superhero. So there's a blinding double-standard, and the only thing a woman is good for is sex, even in a world where women can be just as superpowered as men. This is something you've known and thought about for a long time, I'm sure, and it's something I understood self-consciously, but I never really realized it until now.

17 comments:

  1. If y'all want an especially "I think I'll go bang my head against a brick wall" example of the first part of this double bind, go read Eragon.

    It's short, but very much there, and it annoyed me enough that I've considered trying to talk people out of buying it.

    I swear, if they keep that exchange in the movie - heads will roll.

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  2. Speaking as a man... the best thing that could happen to me would be to find a good mate to settle down and make babies with. Does this mean the only thing I'm good for is sex? And speaking as someone who knows 28 victims of sexual assault, I'm not sure if you can qualitatively compare the worseness of those three horrid things.

    At this juncture, I believe the appropriate comic quote is "flame on".

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  3. Since traditionally rape was seen as worse as even death for reasons that have nothing to do with rape being a horrid experience, and since many modern stories that use rape as a plot device are quite obviously tapping into that tradition, yeah....I kinda think you can say so.

    In real life, my answer would be more nuanced, of course, but if I was a centuries old elf on whom the fate of the world may rest, you better damn well believe I'd be using every last once of my strength and will to do what I had to do - I wouldn't waste any of it on sparing myself from rape - or any other form of torture - for any reason. Isn't that what heros are supposed to do? Isn't that what makes them heros?

    The fact that a main character - a main heroic character - directly condradicts the whole premise of heroism in such an off-hand way, the fact that both main characters condone her behavior without a second thought, and the fact that this written by a sixteen year old who essentially copied all the popular fantasy novels, shows not only how far past redemption his editors are, but how ingrained such idiotic double binds are.

    I mean seriously, where the fuck did that come from?

    Oh, yeah, from the idea that even when the focus is one her, it isn't really ever on her. And that the most heroic thing a woman can do is save her body for someone else use.

    Thus the difference between real life Toby wanting a soul mate and cute little kids - and Kittyn Pryde bbeing reduced to a love interest and protector of children.

    (and sorry for the minor spoilers, I just really need to vent about that book sometimes)

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  4. re: "ut the best thing that could happen to her is that she gets a mate, particularly a superhero. So there's a blinding double-standard, and the only thing a woman is good for is sex,..."

    Assuming "mate" isn't meant in the "National Geographic" sense, the above suggests that relationships are only about sex.

    Once again, finding male companionship is equated with marginalization of female characters.

    Sad.

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  5. But the best thing that could happen to her is that she gets a mate, particularly a superhero. So there's a blinding double-standard, and the only thing a woman is good for is sex

    Wait, so getting a mate equates to being a sex object? Finding a partner is all about the sex?

    You know, there really is more to it that just sex.

    as if the death of a loved one or contracting a horrible disease weren't worse

    Going with the original argument, one could say that these are all about sex too. For example, Death of a loved one (i.e. mate) = no more sex.

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  6. I think whether we like it or not, both genders are defined by the attitudes and actions of the other. It's that wacky Yin and Yang thing of the sexes.

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  7. Yeah -- in Ultimate Spider-Man, the best, happiest moments are when something works out with Mary Jane or Kitty Pryde. I don't think Peter's a character defined by sex, but his personal triumphs -- the really heartfelt ones, rather than simply jailing a felon -- are often in the dating arena.

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  8. Isn't Spiderman fairly unique when it comes to being defined by his personal versus public acheivements though? I rather thought that was part of the appeal of Spiderman, after all. So...bringing Peter Parker into the argument is rather like crying "Yorick!" when someone points out that the corrollary to the predominance of male main characters is that secondary characters are mostly male as well.

    Now, if you'd like to discuss how Wolverine is defined by his love life.....

    re: mate = sex

    Were you all feeling the need for a gratuitous "gotcha" or something?

    Any remotely reasonable reading of Sandicomm's comment would recognize her first argument as being that, in a world where rape is worse fate than death for female characters, and female characters only, women are mainly defined by sex. Thus women's romantic relationships = sex even if it's not explicitly stated - simply because women = sex.

    If you disagree with the assertion that rape being shown as worse than death supports the idea that women = sex, or even with the premise that it is assumed that rape is worse than death, fine. Argue away.

    What y'all are arguing though, is more along the lines of "God doesn't believe in slavery, so Twain is stupid for making Huck declare he's going to hell." Which really skips over the point being made in the first place and pretty much tries to claim that the person making the original argument should assume all her readers are as dumb as rocks as can't get across the street without a road map.

    Onto the actual arguement:

    It doesn't really matter if Peter Parker's biggest acheivements are his love life - because Peter Parker's biggest acheivements tend to involve saving his loved ones and his biggest dissapointments involve not saving his loved ones.

    Plus, being a guy, "loved ones" is more likely to include people other than Peter Parker's girlfriend; the term can obviously mean uncles, father( figure)s, and close friends as well. In comparison (and yes, I'm switching media again) we had five Star Trek series and only one ever really showed even significant friendship among female crew members. It's like the women on board were only ever mothers or girfriends when it came to relationships. They weren't even daughters* - even though we did get at least three sons as regular characters throughout the series. It's all quite erie, really. And far too common.

    So even before you get to the discussion of whether or not all heroes are like Peter Parker when it comes to the importance of the personal versus the public, you have already established that men and women bring something very different to relationships. And I don't mean that whole Mars vs. Venus/different spheres thing. I mean the whole "women are for sex and babies" thing.

    Once again, women = sex is hardly explicit, but focusing on rape so often, and in the manner in which it is done, implies it as strongly as is possible without crossing over into outright stating it.

    *yes, Deanna Troy was shown as a daughter - but her main role was as a love interest (and later mother to yet another son) and the point of bringing her mother on the show was very obviously to have her mother act as the mother-in-law from hell, not to explore the parent/child dynamic.

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  9. Mickle,

    Dismissing Spider-Man is silly. He's the most popular hero in comics. Even if he were an anomaly, he's a very significant one.

    But he's not unusual at all.

    Many Marvel heroes (and some DC ones) have as a secondary motivation (behind doing good in a general sense) the desire to be rid of their powers, to be normal. And why is that? So they can have a normal life, complete with wife, girlfriend, whoever. Alicia Masters, Sapphire Stagg, Betty Banner -- even when they're with the heroes, they want to be rid of their alter egos to be better mates (and granted, in the Hulk's case, also to not be a national disaster).

    Most heroes are reactive. There really IS no "best thing that can happen to them" on a professional basis. Superman isn't running for President. Captain America won't be promoted to General America. And if they jail Luthor or the Red Skull, they'll be back again in six months. The only significant good things that happen to the heroes are personal, and more often than not, that involves finding a mate. Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn't, but if that's no the best thing, what is?

    And as for rape being "worse than death," I'm sure in some places it's portayed that way. You're upset about Eragon, but I haven't read it, and have no idea what the plot point is that you're so pissed about. But I'd argue that that most significant rape in comics in the past five years -- Sue Dibny's -- was NOT portrayed as worse than death, in that she and Ralph both were portayed as having moved beyond it. Reader's reactions to the rape in comparison to the death are another thing entirely, but in the pages themselves, rape is treated as an awful crime, but death is worse.

    So honestly, I think the first half of the premise is on shaky ground (but I'm not a rape aficionado, so I could be wrong), and don't buy the second half at all.

    Oh, and one last thing. You wrote:

    So even before you get to the discussion of whether or not all heroes are like Peter Parker when it comes to the importance of the personal versus the public, you have already established that men and women bring something very different to relationships. And I don't mean that whole Mars vs. Venus/different spheres thing. I mean the whole "women are for sex and babies" thing.

    I've established that? Must've been with the words you were putting in my mouth.

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  10. re: mickle's "Were you all feeling the need for a gratuitous "gotcha" or something?"

    Were you? Because I sure don't remember bringing Peter Parker into this conversation. You and rob s. have been the ones on the PP tip.

    Like someone else said, that must've been words you were putting in our mouths.

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  11. Re Mickle's "Onto the actual arguement"

    The "actual arguement" was Sandicomm's assertions, not the Spiderman happy hour you and Rob S. have going.

    Thankfully you did adddress this in your post, quite well. Good Mark Twain reference.

    I think that Sandicomm's comments speak to how SHE sees the issue. That's fine. If you look close enough, you find this same trend in other mediums as well. Its just lazy male writing. Guys need to do some actual research into what makes a female character click.

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  12. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. Because frankly, I can’t even tell who I’m arguing with at this point.

    I didn’t mention Spider-Man on a lark. I mentioned him as an example of a male character for whom “the best thing that could happen to him” would be to pair him off with a mate. It was an attempt to refute the idea that female characters are the only ones for whom pairing off would be the best thing that can happen to them. I also mentioned the Thing, the Hulk, and Metamorpho.

    But maybe offering examples is the wrong way to go about it. It’s not my assertion, after all. The burden of proof isn’t on me.

    So Sandicomm, if you’re reading, what are you basing these assertions on? I’m fairly new to this blog, so please don’t assume I know what you’re referring to when you say 1) that being raped is portrayed as a “fate worse than death,” and 2) that the best thing that can happen to a comic-book woman is to get a mate.

    I’m sympathetic—or else why would I be reading a blog that focuses on feminist critiques of comics?—but I’m skeptical of sweeping generalizations, and those seem pretty broad to me. They seem more like conventional wisdom than actual fact. Can you back them up with examples? (It could be that I'm just not reading the comics you're complaining about; I know I'm not reading Black Panther, which seems to be a hot-button issue lately.)

    Thanks,

    Rob

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  13. re: " Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. Because frankly, I can’t even tell who I’m arguing with at this point."

    Not me.
    I just didn't understand mickle's "you all" comment, since no one else brought up PP, as far as I could tell.

    It just seemed kinda oddly ironic.

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  14. This is one of those conversations where I should just leave well enough alone.

    Maybe I'm just a romantic here, but isn't "finding a mate" the best thing for most folks, male or female? I'm not talking "one-night stand," I'm talking life-long loving partnership. I mean, I would think that falling in love would be among the top moments of anyone's life, fictional or otherwise.

    Honestly, if "finding a mate" were only important to female characters, would there be such outrage over Spider-Man's current marriage issues? If "mate=sex," would we have been able to debate Clark Kent's virginity throughout years of dating and engagement? I don't see Diana and Steve Trevor or Trevor Barnes together and immediately think "bumpin' uglies," and to suggest that a romantic relationship necessarily includes sex, or that sex is the most fundamental part of a relationship, is really kind of insulting.

    I guess it's hard for me to look at Wally and Linda or Peter and Mary Jane or Clark and Lois or Conner and Cassie and think 'those characters are defined by sex.'

    I don't know, I think this is really fishing for something to be offended by.

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  15. Oh my God, you are so sweet! I just noticed this four days after the fact. Thank you!

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  16. And to clarify myself (if anyone is reading this post still), I love romance. Give me good, fat sloppy romance. Seriously. There is nothing wrong with finding a mate. But I feel that many female characters are shoehorned into this role--that that's all they're their for. A sensitive portrayal of any character would be that their triumphs are personal in nature. And finding a soulmate is a triumph. But I feel that a lot of female characters are being shoehorned into only finding a mate and not having any other purpose, like making amends with any family that they have, or succeeding in their friendships, etc.

    To answer your question rob s, if you're still reading, I am nowhere as near well-read in terms of comics as Ragnell and the lovely people at girl-wonder.org are. I must admit that some of my thoughts are influenced by the aforementioned people, so I can't think of any cases at the top of my head, but you can find solid examples here: http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076495&tstart=75

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  17. I'll take a look at that thread when I get a chance, Sandi, but yikes! It's 16 pages, which is some serious time to a behind-the-deadline-eightball guy like me right now. But thank you very much for the link.

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