Saturday, May 13, 2006

So, What's With All the Feminist Posts Lately?

You know, I never originally intended for this to be a Feminist site.

No, I'm not disavowing Feminism, nor am I apologizing for any of the opinions on this site (even the ones which have been changed), nor any of the reactionary ranting (even the stuff which no longer applies) -- because if I was angry, it was for a reason. If I thought something, it was for a reason. And if I think something different now -- that, also, is for a reason.

I'm just saying that this wasn't the original intent of this blog. No, this blog was started instead because my co-workers rolled their eyes at my reaction whenever someone off-handedly mentioned a superhero, because I spent four hours at dinner explaining to my non-comic-reading date why the Yellow Weakness was the absolute best of the arbitrary Silver Age weaknesses, because I was nicknamed after my favorite superhero in Management School (I kept relating the Group Dynamics lessons to the Green Lantern corps members) , because I was telling strangers on the street what was wrong with the Wonder Woman reboot...etc..

Something had to give. So, for the sake of my co-worker's sanity, I started to blog about comics. And then, timidly, afraid to alienate my few readers, I put up a few posts about women in comics. I got recognition for it. Hey, cool. I even got singled out as highly thoughtful and intelligent. So, I increased the insightful posts, and kept blogging. Except, I'm a mostly gender-conscious person. The majority of my insights depend heavily on being a woman, and how women fit into comics. I wandered into the mainstream Feminist community, usually keeping quiet (my education is all technical training, and many of these sites are Advanced Women's Studies) but learning and applying those insights and even linking when it counted.

Yes, there's more!The idea for When Fangirls Attack" came because I noticed an increase in "women in comics" posts, and I wanted to link them all and see the lovely discussions/rants/fights, but didn't want to flood this blog with them. Again, I wanted a comics blog, not a Feminist blog. I'm a Feminist, yes -- in politics, in professional life, in family life, in real life, even in the comic book store -- but I'm online to talk about comic books not philosophy or politics (unless, of course, they relate to comic books)!

But my hits increase when I discuss feminism and comics. I'm an awkward wall-flower in the Feminist community, I'm so much more outgoing and comfortable in the Comics community, but somehow I get the most attention when I mix the two.

I just don't like to become an issues blog. Partially, it's due to the low-profile nature of comic book readers who are also women. There are more than you realize, but some women don't blog about comics (even though they do read), and some women prefer to remain gender-neutral. So a comics blogger who is a woman becomes a woman comics blogger, and a novelty to much of the community. It becomes "This is a woman's blog, so here is where you go to find out how women feel about comics" as opposed to "This a blog that talks about DC Comics, and it's run by a woman so naturally there's a few insights on how comics portray women."

So, anyway, I'm going about my business this week, reacting to a comic book column that I felt was ridiculous, and following regular WFA events, when I quoted a young lady who's comment I couldn't link directly to (this was a trick to get the comment attention on WFA, as I will occasionally do on this, my comics blog). She replied to this in her own journal with:
And if I sound like an uber-rabid-feminist in that piece, I do apologize. It's not often I talk comics on my journal (or others), and I don't want to make things look bad.

I don't think there's anything wrong with feminists in general, per se, but I'm talking about the 'rarr men are all evil women are the only important gender!!' types.

I have to admit, I was a little worried this was as a response to being quoted in this blog.

The banner's a bit militant.

So, anyway, I asked a friend about this and he answered "Umm... Honestly?"

After a little egging, he timidly offered this question "Well, when was the last time you wrote a post about comics -- the Flash panels don't count as they don't exactly have much substance -- that wasn't about women in comics?"

He did, to his credit, point out that was basically my niche. But, with the original intent of the blog in mind, I was a bit annoyed. I mean, if I'd wanted a Feminist Blog I would've just started one, y'know? And again, it's the "any blog by a woman comics blogger will be about women in comics" mentality I'd hate to see perpetuated.

So, with this in mind, I resolved to turn my reasoning facilities to a post that wasn't about women or Green Lantern objectification.

And that is where I had concentrated my efforts last night, until I saw this --
I've always been of the feeling that there is just something intrinsic in a woman's nature that causes that to be the case, the same way it is so dominant in male to be the provider/hunter. A sort of "cosmic yin and yang", as it were (I also believe that the actual ability to give birth to children creates a bond, both mental and chemical, that's unique to women, which a man will never fully be able to understand or duplicate, but that's a whole other topic).

-- and this --
So if comics had lets say this as a cover

Never show that cover or link to it ever again, or you're banned for TWO lifetimes.

-- and, of course, this --
For all the talk about revealing superheroine costumes, do any compare with those worn by Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer or the Thing? These guys are out there fighting the good fight in Speedos, for cryin' out loud! These cats don't even have shoes -- high-heeled or not!

One of the reasons given for women not reading comics is the overly developed females that adorn many comic book covers. I find that notion a little ridiculous and somewhat insulting to the intelligence of women. Women aren't stupid. They're certainly capable of discerning what magazines are aimed at them and what ones aren't on a magazine rack. Why should a comic book rack be any different? There are plenty of titillating pictures to be found on various magazine covers and women can figure out, in short order, the difference between "Playboy" and "Cosmopolitan" even though both feature attractive women on their covers. Women don't avoid all magazines because the covers on a few of them offend their sensibilities -- the very notion is ridiculous. There are magazines aimed at women that sell hundreds of thousands of copies. The reason women don't go into comic book stores is not because of a few covers --it's because there's little to attract them into these stores and, if they did dare to wander into one of these often filthy little dens there's very little in there for them to read. Women simply aren't interested in adolescent male power fantasies. (At this point a number of you will take offence at the term "filthy little dens" but don't overlook the qualifier "often." I'm not talking about your specific store, Mr. Great-comic-book-storeowner -- I mean those others -- you know the ones, those with walls decorated with posters of half-naked women and shelves lined with statues of the same. Those unclean, poorly lit establishments that more closely resemble porn shops than a bookstore. Given their appearance, it's understandable that women would not feel welcome there).

I don't think that it's fair to lay all the blame on any one kind of book or to think that getting rid of them would make women want to come into comic book stores.

There are magazines for men and ones for women and that's fine. Women buy the magazines aimed at them. But dress up a place that sells magazines with shots from men's magazines and women won't dare step inside to buy a copy of Cosmo. The fault is not the magazines themselves -- there should be men's magazines -- but rather, the way the storeowner has opted to display his or her merchandise. Racy comics are not to blame, but rather the storeowner who puts cheesecake shots on his walls and makes women feel unwelcome there. In the comic book stores that I go to, you are not assaulted by images of scantily-clad females at every turn (those stores are Comic Relief in Berkeley, California and Dr. Comics and Mr. Games in Oakland). They do carry those kinds of comics, sure, but their walls aren't adorned with pictures of Lady Death and DarkChylde. Consequently, they tend to attract more female readers than many stores -- they're not there to buy most superhero comics, but these stores tend to stock books of interest to all readers -- not just guys. Women can (and do) feel welcome there. Women don't go to stores that specialize in baseball cards either and I don't think it's because of the racy posters and half-naked statues to be found there. There simply aren't things of interest to women to be found there.

Not many women read superhero comics, period. The subject matter, most often, does not draw them in.

I've been to a lot of comic book stores. Some are filthy little shit-holes, some are clean, well lit, organized establishments that are as presentable as a Hallmark store. The latter shops tend to get more female customers -- and male customers as well.

The shit-holes do okay in places where they're the only show in town. Open a clean, well-lit establishment in that burg and the shit-hole would vanish faster than a piece of cake in Oprah's dressing room.

The often shirtless, Goth pretty boy Sandman is a star of unparalleled magnitude for many women that do seek out American comic books. The near-naked Adonis Namor is another and who can forget Nightwing? Be still, my beating heart.

Some will say that a shirtless fellow with a pretty face and tight abs is not the male equivalent of a busty female with pert nipples struggling to be free of the clothes that confine them, but I've found that most women aren't attracted to wrinkled nut sacks and bulging packages. Most women are (sorry, guys) subtler than most men.

Manga seems to have broken down a lot of barriers. Girls buy manga. They're still not going to poke their heads into one of those shit-hole-esque comic book stores (and again, I don't mean all stores here) but they will read them in a presentable bookstore.

But I've digressed somewhat from the point I started out making and that is that it is nearly impossible to stick in enough qualifiers to make any statement bulletproof and that even with said qualifiers in place to deflect any argument, those determined to take offence will find a way, be it taking isolated sentences out of context, misquoting or deliberately ignoring a person's intent in order to start a fight.

And that sucks.

I say enough stupid things without somebody going out of their way to make me look like an insensitive, uneducated clod.

Not that I'm not an insensitive, uneducated clod.

The Feminism Will Continue Until the Stupidity Dissipates.

And this is not about censoring comic book covers (Feminists like sex as much as everyone else, that's why we're pro-birth control), or yelling at Kevin for liking breasts, or putting an end to killing female characters (which isn't what that list is about anyway, but people misinterpret it). It's about the attitude behind it. It's about the mentality that says "Give me impossibly big breasts on the cover, but don't you dare assault my eyes with the sexualized bodies of men! Women need to look at what we want and not what they might want!"" The mentality that says "Men and women are biologically different, so all women are naturally the same." The mentality that says "This hobby is for Men, and this hobby is for Women, and since there's no women here and there shouldn't be, there is nothing wrong with offending women here."

But I realize, in accepting Feminism as an official secondary theme (I still have no intention of limiting myself to just gender-central writing. This is, first and foremost, a blog about comic books, not politics) in this blog, that I am perpetuating the "Girls write only about girl stuff" mentality. So it's in my best interest to draw attention to the other women who blog about various geeky things like comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, and video games. To this end, I have stolen borrowed an idea from Natalie at Philobiblon -- Her Friday Femme Fatales, which is that once a week, she collects ten interesting posts from new (to her) female bloggers, links to the posts and adds the blogs to her blogroll. She's at 560 right now.

So, I'll be starting next week sometime (not necessarily on Friday, I need to think of a catchy alliterative name) and may need your help. I've found plenty of female bloggers who didn't touch on feminism enough to be linked to WFA, or who didn't touch onto comics (although they were certainly geeky enough!), but I'm going to need more in the future. I'll be keeping my eyes open, but if you've seen a geek-lady who should get a wider audience, e-mail me with a link to her. You don't need to be a DC reader, a comics-only blogger, or a Feminism blogger to make the list, just a female geek who's still actively blogging/writing columns. In fact, I'd prefer as much variety as possible, so I can give an idea of how diverse the female geek demographic really is.

I know many of us prefer to write as fans first and women second, but when we're too rare, we easily become women first and fans second in the eyes of the rest of the community. So its time to be joiners, it's time to step up to the geek community at large and yell "We do exist, we are here, and we want to talk about the same stuff you do!"


  1. Shit, I don't care if you're feminist while you write about comics. It's actually fascinating, because I don't know any women who read comics. Most of the time I don't think you're coming at it from a "feminist" viewpoint but a female viewpoint, which is very interesting and something we don't often see when it comes to comics. We get idiots like Erik Larsen (or, you know, me) telling us what we think women are thinking. Obviously, each woman (like each man) is different, but you still see things that I, as a man, might miss in comics, and that's refreshing. So be a feminist! It's all good.

    I'll keep my eyes out for other women talking comics. Good move.

  2. Nice!

    That "banned for two lifetimes" post caught my eye as well. Talk about a double standard!

  3. Right on!

    (You're one of the smartest bloggers around, by the way. I'll happily read anything you post.)

  4. *blinks*

    You know what? You have suddenly become less intimidating.

    I do mean that in the best way possible.

  5. It's weird in a way, now that I've read what he had to say, that I agree with many of his points even while I can see that he misses the point, himself. I certainly prefer nice comic book shops to dirty, disgusting ones where the guys are all weird and leer at you.

    But women are 51 per cent of the population and if comics are to survive in the age of computers, catering to a broader demographic for comics and for superheroes makes sense, and that means figuring out how to get women reading them.

    I used to buy my comics in the neighborhood drug store. I went to my first comicon in the mid''70s and found out about comic book shops. I went to a comic book shop in Manhattan soon thereafter. It was love at first sight and the place was small, cramped, dusty, musty, and full of comics.

    In NYC, women go to comic book shops, and even work in them now. I feel incredibly welcome in Forbidden Planet and have for the 25 plus years I've been shopping there. Jim Hanley's Universe is also welcoming, with something for everyone. In both places, I chat with the staff and am treated as a valued customer.

    I want to read about female and male characters. I want to read good stories, well written with fully realized characters. Breast size or package size doesn't matter, except as eye candy, of course. ;)

    Keep doing what you're doing. It's fine by me.

  6. "The Feminism Will Continue Until the Stupidity Dissipates."

    omg - you are so my hero.

    If it makes you feel better - I went out and bought my first real comic today (as opposed to the multitudes of manga and graphic novels that I already own).

    Without you and Kailinara telling me what's good about women and comics - and being honest about what isn't - I seriously doubt I'd be settling down tonight to read comics. You've made it easier to find stuff I like and made me believe that there's stuff out here that is good enough to make dealing with the idiots worth it.

  7. Feminism is unique among "isms" -- capitalism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, you name it -- in that it is the one bias which calls itself a bias. Feminism says that a bias against women already exists in society, and therefore a bias in support of women needs to be introduced in order to restore adding an acidic substance to water which is too alkaline in order to make the water neutral. Being feminist has nothing to do with hating men; it has everything to do with not hating women. Being feminist is something women and men alike do whenever they say women deserve to be treated like human beings. It really is that simple.

    So when an outrageously bigoted statement is made, or there's an case of gross objectification of a female character, or someone acts like a boorish pig...the feminist is just someone who calls it what it is. This is both good and necessary.

    My personal belief is that people's behavior always tends to lower to whatever they can get away with. This is why (and I'll admit it's a roundabout way to make this connection) a guy at some hotel for a scientific conference or sales meeting or comics convention might think it's okay to dunk a woman into a pool when he would never behave that way at home. The cues for what constitutes normal behavior are missing -- hotels are like an otherworldly limbo to start with -- and bad behavior creeps in. The only way society's standards ever change isn't some magical change in human's by other people standing up and saying this isn't acceptable, no way no how and sticking to it. The people who do this will sometimes get labelled as scolds and nags and humorless man-haters. Screw that. The people who know better are the ones whose opinion matters.

    The past few weeks have had some outrageous sexist provocation. One of the reasons I enjoy reading this blog is that I can trust Ragnell to tell it like it is. That and it's funny.

  8. This is why I only write about karate explosions and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

    Awesome knows no gender.

  9. Blogs are about whatever the author wants them to be. As long as the writer writes well and brings something interesting to the table the blog will be read. Write about what interests you, so far it has been well worth reading, keep writing.

  10. That's a really good thought (about the the female geek thing). thought on feminism is that it's actually alright, but some get too overzealous and carried away with it. That's why I'm nervous to assign 'labels' to oneself. Because unfortunately, some people just get the WRONG idea.

    At the same time, I think "Screw them". But the feelings are still conflicted.

    I was surprised to see how many other female comic fans there were online, as in RL, I hardly see any out there at the comic stores or hanging around, so it's kind of a big wake-up call. I knew they existed, but..

    I can't say I've gotten the "strange look" reaction from males that many times, but there's been one or two times that I walked into a comic store and had the other customers (male) go silent and stare at me as I was selecting books from the shelf. So I understand the feeling of being looked at oddly for being a girl 'geeking out' over comics.

    That, and the real elitist guys tend to have the "girls don't know as much as WE do!" mentality, so that would explain some of it. Sometimes, it's almost worth it to see the 'wtf' looks on some people's faces, though (Had a LCS owner get weirded out when I asked if they had any Infinity Inc backissues around, and then asked about Ray/Damage ones).

    I don't mind being quoted, it's just that I can't say it's ever happened like that before, so it was a surprise.

    Let the girls come out, indeed. I've noticed that a lot more seem to be rising up. Maybe it's a sign that some of us just can't stay hidden anymore..

  11. Interesting post for two reasons:

    1. Feminism isn't a dirty word. Thanks for not shrinking away or disclaiming any connection to the idea set that feminists have. Even though your primary focus isn't sex/gender issues, you can integrate it with comics with great ease and intelligence and at the same time not abandon any male readers. That is no small feat.

    2. The observations about covers marketing to women vs. marketing to men. Industry folks should wisely spend some time reading this article for reasons to brainstorm some new ideas.

    There are many other reasons too, but you get my general appreciation.

  12. I've never really seen one of those horrible psycho-anti-man feminists around.

    Sure, a few feminists rib men, but no more then most men rib women in normal society.

    It ends up being a sort of odd double-standard.

    Much the same as the standard which says that it's okay, even admirable for women to look at comics where women are objectified, but that men are justified in freaking out if they see male objectification. A woman freaking out about female objectification is some kind of freakish prude, but men are perfectly justified in doing the same thing.

    Also, the Thing as an objectified male? Really now? HE'S MADE OF ORANGE ROCKS! I'm sure some woman somewhere finds him physically attractive, but he's HARDLY objectified.

    I can't even really follow the rest of that article after reading that.

  13. I understand your point of not wanting to be pigeonholed as a "feminist" comics blogger, and not wanting to fulfill the stereotype that all women who write about comics write about women in comics.

    But, if you are writing honestly, your gender should inform your writing, shouldn't it? What other perspective could you write from?

    It's why I enjoy reading you, regardless of my personal ideas on feminism. Hell ... I have the graying, white, straight, overintellectual, male comic reader thing down. Been working on it for a good peck o' years now. I don't read blogs to look in the mirror, y'know?

  14. Also, the Thing as an objectified male? Really now? HE'S MADE OF ORANGE ROCKS! I'm sure some woman somewhere finds him physically attractive, but he's HARDLY objectified.

    Sadly, I run into this argument frequently...

  15. That's just scary, lyle.

    (sigh) When the Anita Blake comics finally come out, I'm might just have to start randomly posting pictures of Jean-Claude, Phillip, and Richard up with every single post. Maybe I'll go splash some up on a few of the forums as well.

  16. Hi there, I found your excellent blog through the Carnival of Feminists XV hosted by Holly. I would love to follow a list you'd provide of blogs you found interesting; I don't know if it fill the criteria you seek but one of my favorite online comics is Cat and Girl. Geeky in the very best sense of the word!

  17. I read your blog because it's interesting and your opinions are obviously well thought out.

    You even got me interested in Green Lantern again, although it's Hal (sorry).

    I'm not surprised you are a feminist, but that classification did not define your blog or writing to me.

    I just thought of you as a person with strong opinions.

    But then again, we don't get around too much at the Fortress...

  18. One of the things I like about feminism is that its application is so broad - instead of writing "about feminism," per se, we end up writing about all different topics, from a feminist perspective. So I don't see that feminism as a theme in your blog will compete at all with comics - comic books are still your topic.

    Besides, being neutral about gender would mean maintaining the status quo - and the status quo is sexist. Male and female fans should both be aware of gender in comics, even if they don't focus on it.

    Anyway, what I really came here to say is: I grew up reading comics. I came to feminism a year or so ago. While I have a great deal of passion for feminism, comics are my childhood (and current) love - so this blog is a wonderful place for me to play with both. I hope you keep writing for a long time.

  19. I read your blog because you're an intelligent, opinionated, thoughtful, woman who writes about subjects that I'm interested in. I also read blogs from intelligent, opinionated, thoughtful men who write about subjects I'm interested in. All of these blogs are different because they are all written by different people. They could be different because of their sex, life experiences, taste, and a million other different reasons, but that's what makes them interesting. Keep writing about whatever you want to write about and I'll keep reading. I don't care what it's labeled as long as it's good.