Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being a woman in comics

I follow a lot of people in comics, so this last week was pretty exciting as people tweeted from San Diego Comic Con.

The announcement that I found the most intriguing was actually a misunderstanding. There are new Blade and Squirrel Girl comics coming out, but separately. I wasn't sure how that team-up would work.

What has been sticking with me more is the question of diversity. There are starting to be more diverse characters, but they are still overwhelmingly being written by white men, especially with the bigger publishing houses.

There are many white male writers that I love, and I am glad they get work (though it doesn't really apply to any of the titles I have been reading about). I am actually not even going to focus as much on writers of color here, though there are points that can be made.

There are two things that are reinforced by the announcements. One is that it doesn't look like there is much effort being made in terms of recruiting a broader base of writers, which means that very talented people who are having a hard time breaking in will probably continue to struggle.

The other thought is how badly they get it wrong sometimes. A good writer should be able to write all types of different characters - I believe that - but then they shouldn't be getting it so wrong.

This comes partly from an article posted on a discussion board, and the discussion that followed:

There is some good information there, and good links. I love the story about Kamala Khan adjusting her costume, and it's pertinent. First I want to go to one of the comments in the discussion group. She (a woman, yes, but one who posted a lot of criticism of feminists) said that it was a practical thing for the women to wear sexy costumes because it would distract the bad guys and give them an edge. Another poster indicated that this reasoning was used in a book, possibly by Power Girl.

I have seen this argument too, somewhere else, over fifteen years ago. There was this guy who wrote Wonder Woman fan fiction. "Fan" may be an overstatement, because every single story had her being raped. Before that she would enjoy turning guys on, after that she might want to act it out, but in the middle she was raped. (Unless he wrote about her sister, Wonder Girl - then she would be raped instead.) That writer also had Wonder Woman reason that she had to wear skimpy clothes to distract the bad guys.

I think one reason he liked that is because then it made her kind of conniving. It went along with her being so slutty - because she may not have liked the rape but she sure did like it rough, and doing it in play.

I didn't think much of him, so I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about his reasoning, but I have a few thoughts now.

One of them is that I think you'll find that most rape victims would not find playing games about it sexy. That he could write that indicates that he didn't know much about it.

I have thought more about the costumes now, and this is where we come back to Kamala's story - those costumes are impractical. Hopefully you wouldn't want a teenage girl to be that sexy anyway, but outfits that are going to ride up or slip down are really annoying. A woman planning her crime-fighting outfit would think about that.

One problem with the other justification is that her thoughts are centered on her enemies instead of herself. Another is the assumption that she'll be fighting straight men. It's a bad strategy, and one that seems a lot more likely coming from a man. It disrespects the fact that she already has super strength or training or some trait that is her edge.

Maybe the biggest problem is that it sounds fake and stupid, almost as if that were not the reason at all, but a belated attempt to justify objectification.

I'm still not saying a man can't write women, but if he was at least working with more women, he might have a better idea of what they would do and wear. If you hired more women and more people of color, including women of color, that could raise everyone's game.

And maybe a story about a woman could actually be about her, instead of a projection centered on men.

Here are some excellent posts about racial diversity aspects:

Just for nostalgia:

No comments: