Comics? Misogynistic?

By | Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4 comments
So I'm talking with this woman on eHarmony. I managed to pique her curiosity with my interest in pirates, but I noted that it was a somewhat less interesting subject to me than comic books. Part of her response, though, read...
I'm just being honest here! I never got into comics. The closest I came to like one was watching Sin City in the theatre. Even then it reminded me of the reasons why I couldn't stand comic books. A lot of misogyny and racism. Even as a kid I caught on to it. Maybe things have changed, but that ship has sailed for me.
Having spent decades reading comics and having to respond to people asking why I enjoy them, I'm usually pretty quick to defend the medium. And I can rattle off dozens of reasons why there are great things happening in comic books, and how they can really be sublime pieces of art.

This time, though, I was stumped. I could defend the industry a bit by saying that there's not much racism in comics per se, even if the industry is still dominated by white guys. But her claim on misogyny? I can't really even pretend to dispute that.

I defended myself a bit by saying that, generally speaking, I don't read those comics. In all honesty, though, I can't claim that I don't read them at all. Even though I buy Return to Wonderland for the updated twists on the Alice mythos, it's still a book from Zenescope, and it's hard not to notice the protagonist's clothes being ripped to shreds, "forcing" her to put on a French maid's outfit.

But citing some of the titles I read that have strong female leads isn't going to help because the books aren't that well-read in comic circles, let alone outside them. Show of hands: how many of you read Dorothy? Local? Bizenghast? Pirates of Coney Island? That's about what I thought.

The only other thing I felt I could do was to say that yes, it's an issue and it's actually been getting some attention lately thanks to some vocal feminists (for lack of a better word). But what else can I say? "Yeah, but comics aren't as bad as movies and TV?" Well, no, that's not really accurate, is it? I mean, sure, they put Hayden Panettiere in a cheerleader outfit, but that's nothing compared to the they-might-as-well-just-be-body-paint tight outfits in any given superhero comic. I mean, can you compare ANYTHING that ANY of the women on ANY of the CSI shows have ever worn with this...
(And don't give me any lip about just pulling one specific example. You know as well as I do that I could come up with hundreds of more gratuitous covers.)

Is it any wonder that our Occasional Superheroine recently discovered that 90% of all American comic readers are male? If it's obvious from a decidedly outside group that women aren't wanted in this little boys' club we call comics, of course there aren't going to be many women wanting to join! And if it's kept as a boys' club, why shouldn't the ringleaders cater to what that demographic wants to see? Especially when that very same set of visuals also serves to reinforce the notion that women aren't welcome! It's a self-perpetuating cycle.

Oh, I could've brought up the whole manga thing, but there's a danger there, too. While there are plenty of girl-friendly titles available, when you hit one that's not girl-friendly, it tends to be REALLY not girl-friendly!

So I'm left with, "I don't read those comics." And that is just sad! I shouldn't HAVE to defend the industry on this! I should be able to point to at least a couple dozen name titles that are actively promoting a consistently positive outlook towards women. But not only are those titles absent, but the name publishers almost revel in their "women in refrigerators" approach.

"I'm more interested in comics as a medium. I don't care about the adventures of Spandex-Man and She-Hostage."

Damn it, though! I shouldn't have to defend the whole, frickin' industry!
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Matthew E said...

It's like Chris Rock's thing. "Love rap. Tired of defending it."

I mean, you're right: there's not a lot you can say to defend (the most prominent) comics against that charge. So just admit that it's true, and that's not what you like about it (assuming it isn't), and that comics nevertheless have other positive qualities.

Anonymous said...

But, Sean...

Haven't you been venting your spleen pretty regularly against that same comics industry, and how it's betrayed your trust and affection, peppering your remarks with exhortations to your readers to check out non-mainstream titles? Don't you get linked from Journalista! these days?

Why feel like you have to defend the comics "industry" to the eHarmony girl, when you don't defend it to anyone else?

In a few months maybe you can give her Mouse Guard to look at, or even that Colleen Coover Marvel Girl. You know we always talk as if Love And Rockets was an "entry-level" comic, I suppose the same way Citizen Kane's an entry-level movie. And after you learn to like Kane, maybe you'll like Diehard, and then you can move on to Transformers. What? No no no. It sounds to me as though you and the eHarmony girl actually have common ground, from what you're saying. And isn't that a good thing?

Just a thought. After all, she is dead right.

That's a thing that kept me out of reading comics for so long too, and a lot of my girl friends also. :\ Just looking at a lot of the covers and the posters and ads and stuff that are pushed, and just everything we pick up about comics makes it seem like a very un girl friendly medium and it makes some of us not even want to put our foot in the door. :(

I'm too tired to be more coherent xD But this was a great post :) And I give you a hug for it :] *hug*

Also I hope things got better from there with eHarmony girl? :D Plok is right, you may have a lot in common on this topic after all! :D