Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fanboy to Fangirl: Beginnings of a Dialogue?

Highlander over at The Miserable Annals responded to my thoughts about the argument between male fans of comics and female fans. He's been given food for thought. I replied to him, twice, but his blog's moderated and I didn't save the first response. Not knowing when I'll see my responses (because RL happens) I'm also putting my second reply and the main thrust I remember of the first, here.


Firstly, he had this to say:

...These superheroines are supposed to be intelligent, they're supposed to be competent, they're supposed to be among the finest physical athletes and martial artists in the world. And they're dressed like THAT?

It seems more than a little ridiculous, I have to imagine. In fact, it may well seem so ridiculous as to be offensive....

And this:

The fact that these female characters behave like admirable, wonderful, fabulous people while dressed as porno starlets is, on a fundamental level, confusing and offensive to female comics readers. It causes them, to say the least, some emotional conflict.

And I told him he got it. With those statements acknowledging that there is a conflict, he got it. And I challenged him since he's about to become a father (to three girls), to look at the new Supergirl and imagine his youngest dressed up as Supergirl and defending it because Supergirl is a hero. 'And you like comics Dad'. Would he look at her and think he didn't want some grubby fanboy thinking that all there was to his beautiful, talented, brilliant daughter, was the skin she showed? (There was more - I believe I mentioned a male character in his entry being dressed like he should lick boots and like it - but I've forgotten the rest. When the comment shows I'll edit and add)

But there was another aspect of his entry. And it took me a while to figure out what bothered me about it and if I wanted to respond to it. I decided it's not a knee jerk reaction.

And it doesn't matter how nuanced their dialogue may be, or how many kids we see them pull out of how many burning buildings at great risk to their own life and limb, because no matter how courageous or competent or valorous or noble they are, the fact remains, they are dressed in costumes specifically designed to give any man seeing them a gigantic woody, and most women have nothing but (perhaps merited) contempt for any woman who specifically dresses simply to provoke that kind of reaction in men.

My response:
I can't speak for most women. But I think the 'contempt' you mentioned goes right back to my thoughts on 'the cat fight'. You seem to be speaking of the characters being torn down unconsciously because of the way they look. I'm speaking of a history of explotative physical appearance. It's not that she's trying to make men horny so she's a ho and we don't like her. I know many women who're all about sex worker rights and the fact that some women do feel empowered by being strippers or porn stars. Their rights should be respected. It's hypocritical to say a woman's body is her own when it comes to abortion but then say a woman who chooses to be a sex worker is automatically ignorant of the politics or has been culturally brainwashed about her sense of self worth and needs to be regulated into doing something better.

There is a matter of choice here that real women have and I know that I tend to hope they make that choice from an informed station. That they're not going along because this is how they've been told women are sexy. And mostly I hope that they're not making that choice because it's the best way to get money, despite how they feel about themselves, their bodies and the job, because they haven't had opportunities to train for anything else.

I've never seen in character/ in canon references to why the heroines dress the way they do. No, I saw one. In Supergirl where Stargirl commented on the bare midrift they both shared and wondered if Supergirl was going for 'distracting the enemy'. And then they went on to mention that it wasn't dangerous for Kara because as a Girl of Steel it'd take kryptonite to really hurt her.

But Huntress was shot. Baraba did lose use of her legs and Black Canary was once so badly beaten she lost her cry. How in the face of those circumstances can Helena and Dinah continue to wear flaunting clothing? What's going on in their heads?

You said that men just go 'The artist was smoking crack' when they see a hero wearing something that doesn't match up to his personality or his job. Fangirls do think the same thing. The problem is that the artists are always smoking crack.

If our (female) heroes are drawn like that it's because it's appealing to men, and no thought is given to whether these particular strong women would really expose themselves in that manner. That's doing them grave injustice as characters.

Your original post about Catfights mentioned that the female roles seem to be generally subordinate to the male roles. My complaint is that the female roles seem to be subboridnate to the artists. It doesn't matter if Barbara Gordon, who was shot and paralyzed, would arguably have something to say about the safety of her agents, especially if they were injured before. So it would be logical for her to insist and / or discuss with them, them wearing clothing that protects them. The artists want to see skin, so they show skin. Dinah and Helena and all the rest never got to make a choice.

And given the history of the world it just makes the analogy of 'Man = puppet master, Woman = puppets' all the more distressing in an industry that's allegedly saying 'But wait, is a bird? A plane? No it's Supergirl! She'll save the day!'

(And yup I did catch my typos in this repost)

ETA: I've realized one of my comments to Highlander, re: his daughters was kind of creepy. And as soon as blogger stops being broken, I'll appologise.

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