Saturday, March 11, 2006

I Can't Look Away

Posting came to a Screeching Halt this week due to my fascination with the workings of flawed logic and my procrastination when it requires me to reread my own post to find out where the miscommunication occurred.

As a result of this morbid combination, I've left my "Adolescent Power Fantasy" thread up for three days, and not added anything to the discussion brewing there. Each day I find a longer list of things to address should I choose to post. I'm putting it off until I've slept again, because as I stated above, it requires me to reread my own wretched writing. Rest assured, reasonable readers, I will set the record straight.

Then regular posting will resume.

In the meantime, please enjoy these other choice selections:
-- Referring back to the below conversation on femininity, Dan asks about masculinity (and compliments me so nicely I'm not sure how to respond).
-- Gordon's Blog Against Sexism Day post which I thought I'd mention here because I can't seem to get comments to work on his blog, and I couldn't fit it under the topics of WFA.
-- Jen risks her independant mind and soul to review FX's Black. White. Episode 1 for us. *Shudder* Reality TV.
-- I agree with Mickle about Disney Princesses. And I thought her grammar lesson added another dimension to Kalinara's complaint.
-- I've been spending a lot of time wandering around Scott's Comics and Medicine archvies. Too much perhaps, because when I read through this old argument on Insensitive Gynecologists and came to a comment that described one lady's incredibly lucky find (after the pregnancy rant, third Doctor described) all I could think of was how much he sounded like Dr. Mid-nite. She didn't outright mention that he was blind, and had a slight Norwegian accent and an owl in the examination room. But still, not too far off.
-- And, if that's not enough, Tuesday saw the Tenth Carnival of Feminists posted for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where's My Adolescent Power Fantasy?

(My own Blog Against Sexism Day contribution)



I got into an argument in a chatroom once. I'll pause here long enough for you to get over your disbelief. Anyway, someone expressed annoyance that the majority of new female characters were of the "Amazon" variety. Which confused me, since we hadn't had new Amazons come out of Wonder Woman for a few years yet. He said that he felt that there were personality differences in men and women, and that most of the female characters he saw were like "men with breasts." This statement annoyed me immeasurably, but it was long before I'd really started to think about feminity. I was still taking gender roles at face value. I listed off a few nuturer and female stereotype characters that were popular (Ice, Donna Troy -- which got into an argument in and off itself. "You think Donna Troy is a soft nuturer?" "Yes. She's a soapy supportive type woman who loses her temper easily. Stereotype nuturer") and spouted some New Age explanation of feminity (which now that I've had time to explore the question a bit, seems horrifically erroneous) that he found 'interesting' and we decided to end the disagreement with a truce.

The Point

But this argument stayed with me, long after I'd forgotten the name of the man I disagreed with. I've only recently realized why. He was trying to tell me that the characters that I identified with, the characters who behaved in the way that I wanted to be able to, were unfeminine. He was essentially telling me that not only did I not want to be a woman, I wasn't even a valid woman because I wasn't a soft, receptive, nuturer. The more I think about this, the angrier I get, and the better it is that I don't rememebr his name. I'd love to set him straight, though.

He and like-minded individuals who call strong women characters "men with breasts" or "Amazons" (same tone as "Unicorns") are missing something very important. They've probably realized that superheroes are an "Adolescent Power Fantasy" because that much is obvious. But they think of twelve year old boys when they think of it. They haven't looked beyond their own gender to realize that woman also have "Adolescent Power Fantasies." It's unheard of, because females are supposed to fantasize about love and romance and world peace and crap like that. Women don't want to be punch out the people who offend them. That's ridiculous, only men have those impulses. Women want more substance from their comics. They read Sandman dontcha know?

I suppose now I should clarify that this was a chatroom on a superhero fansite, specifically about Green Lantern. And it would be logical to conclude that a woman reading Green Lantern is probably reading it because it has the same appeal for her that it would if she were a man. I freely admit to reading a lot into my comic books. Particularly superheroics. It's not because I specifically got into superhero comics looking for meaning and symbolism. It's because I was already reading the books and I started to notice the patterns.

I started reading when I was teenaged girl. I was just being exposed to the real world and its attitudes about women. I was not happy about it. My mother embarked on quest to ensure that I would never trust a boy enough to get pregnant during High School or college. To give you an idea of how intense this could be, I'll give you a tamer example. As a pre-teen, I once mention offhandedly that I liked watching Daktari reruns and got a story about a young woman who was cannibalized on a trip to Africa in return.

School was no better. Current Events, World Cultures, Criminology, Sociology, Spanish, Physical Education. We were learning about sexual harassment, and sexism, and seeing it actively demonstrated. Discussing it was good, but frustrating. There was very little that we, as high school students could do about the anecdotes we were hearing. For me, there was something very freeing about reading JLA. My sister complained that Wonder Woman didn't have enough panel time, was drawn as a doe-eyed innocent, and wore a ridiculous costume. But there was no denying the power she showed when she did show up. Zauriel stopped to start at her butt, Hitman made the x-ray vision joke, but as I was seeing, every male on that team still respected her when she did show up. No one dismissed anything she said.



I kept reading, though I spouted off about the same things my sister did. Despite starting out as a mouse, I somehow gained a reputation as the most fierce feminist in my school. Got into more than a few fights. When the "What mutant power would you have?" game came up in the geeky circles I ran in, I was usually assigned super-strength or some other physical power.

Time went on, I still read. I still heard horror stories, to the point that the only school I applied for was an all-girls liberal studies school. At the last minute, economic necessity, my father's example (he's a policeman), and the idealism gleaned from comic books won over. I signed up for the military. Everyone was in complete shock at this news. I plunged myself into the most masculine, traditionalist atmosphere available.

After Basic, I was a mouse. I couldn't act the way I did in high school and still get away with it. And adult can't hit another adult without legal reprisals, especially in the military. I wasn't a skilled debater, I often found myself backed into a corner during an argument so just stayed out of the controversal stuff. Having been already inclined to modesty (somewhere growing up I picked up the idea that it was a virtue), and now inclined to following orders, I withdrew for a few years. I generally followed the lead of stronger men and women. I had a friend at my first duty station, Liz, who had a great effect on me. She was a country bumpkin type. Too level-headed to get backed into an argumentative corner. She had no need to be violent, and was sexually active without worrying. I spent a lot of time around her at first, and after a while broke away. I latched onto a few more people, and clung to security blanket of military equal opportunity. I didn't experience or notice any problems on the job due to my gender, but I wasn't willing to explore the actual opinions of the men around me. I didn't want to have to argue around it. I dind't get my confidence or backbone back until I learned to discuss these things openly without getting upset, and without getting talked into a corner. This took years and after I got past that, I even found mice following me like I followed Liz. Through all that, of course, I still read.



And through all of that, even now, I still encounter those little moments. Little offhand comments, looks, and overall attitudes. Mostly off the job. Things not really worth getting into, and certainly not worth hitting someone or getting into trouble over, but annoying things nonetheless. I like the quiet moments, when I can take someone aside and discuss it. Sometimes I misinterpreted it, sometimes they didn't realize just how stupid they were being. Sometimes, I'm up against a brick wall. I'd love to punch through it, but this is the real world and there are ways of dealing with problems (long way, involving months of paperwork) that are acceptable.

Some days, you just feel like hitting something. Super-strength and invulnerability would be nice. So would a secret identity. I'd love to be able to take the jerks of the world to task immediately instead of waiting out the system. I want to act like a superhero. I want to talk, dress, and look like a superhero. I want to hit the guy who deserves it. I want to wear what I like and still be taken seriously. I want to say cheesy things like "I can't take time out for a social life, Steve Trevor, until the world is safe from crime!"

I want to get my own damned cat out of the tree.

I see the feminine appeal of Power Girl. Here is a woman so formidable that she can walk around with a hole in her shirt and not worry about attracting unwanted attention. She shows up on the scene, and her colleagues say "Great! A heavy hitter!" She can apply my methods of problem solving, but she can also deal with these problems in a way not possible for any law abiding citizen. JSA #39 was pure fun, simply because I'd had the exact same fantasy years before, sitting in Sociology class and watching a Lifetime-style movie about how difficult it was to prosecute a stalker.



My tastes are matured, yes. I like some depth in a story, I chase symbolism, I'm interested in character interaction and wild plots and entertaining dialogue. Just watching a woman beat up a guy is not enough to make me like a book anymore, I generally want something more. But every once in a while, I still want my Adolescent Power Fantasy. Especially when I see sexism brought up by the characters in the story. If a female character has to deal with a jerk, then I want to see her deal with him in the most harsh way possible. The way I can only dream of dealing with him.

Which brings me to what I'd originally intended this essay to be about -- Witchblade #91 disappointed me. I was in the business of giving Ron Marz the benfit of the doubt. On the second read, I'd enjoyed his Green Lantern stuff, but was still iffy about his handling of female characters, so out of curiosity I picked up issues 89 to 92. Sara Pezzini sounds a little like Kyle Rayner in the narration, which is good actually. I liked Kyle's narration. And he follows through on his rules about supporting cast members getting pounded regardless of gender (Poor Gleason). And, for the first time, the main character of Witchblade came across like a three-dimensional person. But the plot let me down.

A federal agent is introduced who comes onto Sara. Now, right away, he's showing the narrative signs of evil (the writer was using sexual harassment as dramatic shorthand for Jerk) so I know he's not actually there as a sleezy disappointing love interest. He's there to get beat up. Yay! And he does get beat up, in issue 91, proving that the writer understood that a sexist bastard introduced in the first act must have his ass handed to him in the third. What Mr. Marz missed, of course, was that if the offended female character is the main character, then she is the only one with the right to beat up the offender. Here, a guest star did it. Sara never got a chance to touch him. Hell, neither did her partner Gleason and he said some things to him that really deserved a punch in the mouth.



Now, this is just Marz's style of writing. I've seen him do this with Kyle several times, too, and it didn't really bother me because the subject matter was different. In a standard superhero comic, you are going to have stories where the main character doesn't personally solve every problem. I probably would have liked it in this story, were it not for the fact that sexual harassment against Sara was being used to characterize the guy. She had been hit on several times by this guy, and he even grabbed her wrist with his creepy hand. She didn't like him, he was sleezy and pushy. She reacted like a most woman in that position, she glossed over it and tried to get on with her job. He would leave soon anyway. I've seen this happen, I've heard of it happening to friends. This is a problem not far from my mind, or really the mind of most working women. We're not superheroes like Sara, though. We don't have a powerful mystical artifact like Sara does, and so we have to work through our problems in a rational, nonviolent way. But in situations like this, you do feel like hitting someone. It would have been undescribably satisfying to be able to vicariously kick this guy's ass through Sara.

Thankfully, Birds of Prey was next on the pile that week.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Darkseid

I have to admit, I never saw Darkseid as the terrifying figure Jack Kirby wanted us to. It's probably because I was introduced to him during the Morrison JLA run. That was during his downhill slide. Over a period of perhaps a decade, the Wicked Ruler of Apokolips went from a cosmic-level, plotting, looming threat to Superman's weekly punching bag. And so, once I did get my hands on a Kirby collection, I had sincere difficulty appreciating the majesty and terror of Darkseid.

Today, flipping through a long-abandoned 80 Page Giant, I am reminded of the fear and revulsion that this villain can inspire. I turned the page, and looked in the top lefthand corner of the book. My eyes were under attack! Such intense imagery entered through my sense of sight and invaded my other perceptions. I had to slam the book down, and turn away from this unspeakable fight. My friends, it was awful. This panel will haunt my nightmares until the day I die. I will never be able to see Darkseid as the featured villain without being reminded of these moments of terror.

And now, I will share with you, gentle readers, the single most hideous sight ever seen amidst the firepits of Apokolips.

Be aware that once seen, this sight can not be unseen.

The Horror...

Monday, March 06, 2006

What Evil Lurks in the Heart of Ragnell?

(Disclaimer: I am beyond hope. Do not try this at home. For a more healthy way to deal with your negativity, try this advice.)

You find the damnedest things browsing Internet for When Fangirls Attack links.

Read on...

Today, searching for posts on women in the JSA, I ran across a blog about Wonder Woman.

Well, rather, it was a blog for posting pictures of people dressed as Wonder Woman.

Normally, when I run across this sort of site, I don't find any topical posts so it's not really worth my time. But here, at the very top, was an in-depth post about Wolverine. I don't read much Marvel, and the writer was verbose, so I just skimmed past it. I figured I'd find something relevant in the earlier posts.

There was a Donna Troy post that initially looked promising, until I scrolled down and saw a series of pictures of some woman taking off a Wonder Woman costume, piece by piece. Yeah, I thought to myself, That'll go over real well on WFA.

So I scrolled down further, and found a decent post on the origin of Wonder Woman and its feminist aspects. (Albeit, a erroneous one at some points. The writer labored under the delusion that being the JSA Secretary meant that Diana made coffee, got donuts and answered the phones. If this was true when she first joined, there's no indication by the time I started reading -- I have 1, 8, and 9 of the All-Star Archives. From what I saw, it meant she was an officer who took notes at the meetings, answered letters, and monitored the local papers for pertinant events. She took full part in adventures. But I digress.) I linked to that post.

Chris AIMed me to ask what's going on, so I linked him to the site and told him what I was doing.

Chris is a bloodhound.

Chris found Morrison-hating in 4.5 seconds.

There it was in... blue and lighter blue, a light jab at the Great Morrison.

I read on. It turned into a few paragraphs of pure, unconcentrated hatred.

I don't know why I was angry and shocked about it. I mean, people are entitled to not enjoy a Morrison book. Hell, one of my favorite bloggers subtly slammed the man for months before the awful truth was revealed. A few shy dissenters (of the All-Star Superman love that was currently permeating the community) even came out on his thread. Everyone was okay with it. The next day, he posted a panel of Hal Jordan getting hit on the head, all was forgiven and there was peace in the Blogiverse.

But this man, for whatever reason -- perhaps because of the Wonder Woman stripper, or lack of even the most basic knowledge of Robert's Rules of Order, or because he just wasn't as funny, or just because he was a professed Marvel Zombie and therefore had no taste -- could not be excused.

Somehow, Kalinara informs me, I've gotten the reputation of a serious feminist (or, well, as a serious as a feminist can get and still post pictures of Kyle Rayner's butt) in our little corner of the internet. Possibly because of WFA. In truth, I started that because I like to watch people argue. (I have the Feminist_Rage community friended on livejournal because of this. It's truly equisite arguing there, actually, as very rarely does anyone lose their temper in the comments, but every thread starts with an incredibly pissed off rant and there are numerous ways to offend any member) But I digress. The point is, I am not actually a nice person in any way, shape, or manner. I'm a troublemaker. On the D&D test I score Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil depending on the day. It's not unusual for me to encourage a conflict to continue beyond its natural resolution, and it's not unusual for me to start one (between two other parties). When I'm being a peacemaker, it's normally because the fight isn't fun to watch anymore.

Because of this blemish on my soul, I felt an intense need to make his life uncomfortable somehow. I wanted to shower on his name with dishonor. I wanted to see him taken apart, piece by piece, psychoanalyzed, and thrown to the masses wearing his carefully obfuscated insecurities around his neck!

I was determined that I would read through the entire Donna Troy post and find a reason to link it on WFA. (In the interest of fairness, here's the post in question)

Anyway, I read through that entire post in detail and let me tell you that was tough. I suspect he added the pictures of the girl stripping to distract readers from the insanity he was actually spouting. A short way into the post, he confesses his love of Marvel over DC. Which is acceptable in the case of charming and intelligent bloggers, but as this person was neither charming nor intelligent, it was a strike against him.

Right from there, he goes into why he hates Morrison. It seems to boil down to either his handling of the Joker
or the Weapon X retcon. Maybe because after Morrison's revamp of X-Men he finds it harder to relate to mutants, being that Morrison validated the vaunted civil rights metaphor by treating them as a (mostly) harmless minority with their own separate culture, and not just a bunch of wierd, unpopular kids who looked strange but hid great and destructive power underneath their freakish facades (which we all know is the true appeal of X-Men), I'm still not sure, as again, I was distracted by the dripping poison of writing.

As the stripper unzipped (since when the hell does the front of Wonder Woman's costume have a zipper? Isn't that a gilded breastplate and a mystical girdle?) her bustier, he finally got back to Donna. He doesn't have much to say, so he intersperses it with covers until he gets into details about why he hates kid sidekicks.

Then he quotes Dr. Wertham.

Allow me to repeat that, he quotes Dr. Wertham.

I had to read through his explanation of why he likes Fred Wertham twice. It is reasonable to give a villified man a second glance, and the benefit of the doubt, so maybe he was on to something. After I read through the entire thing, I reread the most controversial part. This guy wasn't on to anything. His was the sort of explanation that sounds reasonable when you read through it too fast. But once you slow down, look at some of the more unsettling comments (such as how he doesn't feel its homophobic to believe that Batman turned young boys gay), and realize it's being followed by a topless Wonder Woman fondling her own breasts, he loses some of his credibility.

Then he gets back to Wonder Girl. You can tell, because he starts posting covers again. It's not long before he starts bitching about Crisis on Infinite Earths and how the Multiverse confused him too much. Meanwhile, the stripper moons us and it's back to Donna and the explanation of John Byrne's retcon.

Nothing that could justify a link to When Fangirls Attack.

It was the most fucked-up thing I think I've ever seen on the Internerd. I ran through a mental list of places I could send this link to for a proper dissection and mocking. I understand that the moderators of the Gentle Scent of Pee in Your Longbox welcome fodder like this, so I was tempted to send it to them. I'm sure there's a number of Donna Troy fansites and Titans/Wonder Woman enthusiast message boards that would be interested in his opinion. On the other hand, Grant Morrison's following is loyal, rabid, and contains some of the most intelligent and stubborn members of the species. I considered the fun a forum like Barbelith Underground would have at his expense (Fortunately, a fine upstanding community like that would have nothing to do with an person such as myself). Worst of all, I considered feeding him to Twisty Faster for digestion at I Blame the Patriarchy, I'm sure her readers would have a lot to say about the stripper (but it would doubtless be painful to read the radical feminist opinion of Wonder Woman and our beloved hobby).

After making my way through The Insanity, Chris and Kalinara talked me down from the edge of Chaotic Evil, and I decided to write a post exploring my reaction to The Most Fucked-Up Post on the Internet.

Which became harder and harder to do without describing the original post.

I've realized, writing this post, that what I really, really, really wanted was first crack at him. In fact, I did a Technorati search looking to see if anyone had gotten at him first. No one had.

If you are reading this, it means I've given into the darkest part of me. The post in question was a labor of love. The writer slaved long, hard hours putting it together. He agonized over every word and picture for the maximum effect. I'm sure he looked back after posting it with pride and a sense of accomplishment. He felt he was giving something worthwhile to the internet. He's a living, breathing human being with thoughts and feelings and a right to express his opinion in whatever manner he sees fit!

And here I am, the Evil, Two-Faced, Sneaky Bitch, plotting to ruin his sense of self-worth. He's opened himself to the world, and I'm targetting him from my own Fortress of Blogitude, surrounded by a crowd that I am confident will feel the same as I do. I'm actively marring his efforts, belittling his manhood, and calling the negative attention of intruders to his safe, private space for sharing his dreams, emotions and ideas. And then I'm planning to email his link to others who would mock and degrade him for their own judgmental amusement. Don't I know that imbeciles have feelings too? Shouldn't I nuture and encourage him like a good woman? Coddle his moronic opinions in the name of free speech and diversity? Indulge his unrepentant snobbery? Acknowledge his right to pass himself off as an intellectual as he spouts his hateful nonsense about my favorite writers and objectifies my gender without taking a few good jabs at him myself?

I should be ashamed of myself! I'm not doing this to be constructive, or help, or add anything worthwhile to the community. I'm picking on a harmless idiot! I'm a bully. I'm secure from the safe perch of a blogger who holds the same opinion as the vocal majority. Would I be wallowing in my own darkness like a warthog in dead squirrel guts if I was not confident of the popular opinion? I should be guilt-wracked for such insidious, cowardly behavior. Don't I feel bad about subjecting another human being to treatment which would, in all likelihood, make me cry?

Why, no, actually, I feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside.

I'm going to go hug a kitten now.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I call her "Betsy"



Because of the comments for my last Manhunter post, I was able to get a real good chuckle out of this panel.

Kate's staff, the most phallic symbol of aggressive weaponry in the series, is described as female by Dylan.

How could you not love Dylan?