On -isms: "For Girls"

By | Thursday, April 23, 2015 2 comments
This week, DC and Mattel annoucned a joint project called DC Super Hero Girls, "an exciting new universe of Super Heroic storytelling that helps build character and confidence, and empowers girls to discover their true potential." Full announcement here. As you can see, the press release is liberally peppered with phrases like "just for girls" and "exclusively for girls." Reactions, from what I've seen, have been mixed. While people seem pleased that they're trying to do some outreach beyond the almost-exclusively-boys-club they've had for several decades, a lot of people don't know that this is quite the right approach.

It isn't, and I'll tell you why: "separate but equal."

What's being done here is that, yes, they are adding more material that will (in theory) be less overtly sexist and misogynistic but by calling it out as a distinct grouping unto itself, separate from their primary IPs, they're effectively saying that girls are still very much unwelcome in what they've been doing. It's paying lip service to equality but going out of its way to highlight the inherent inequality in their business.

Does the phrase "separate but equal" sound familiar? It might; it's been used in US history before. Here, let me do a Google image search and help jog your memory. The first image that comes up when I search for "separate but equal" is...
Is what DC doing as bad as that? No, but it's the same mentality. It a mentality that says that some groups just aren't worth as much as others. It's a mentality that says you'll cater to anyone, but only because you're being coerced or even forced into it. It's a mentality that says you can be equal, but only within a limited set of parameters.

Yes, I suppose it's better to do something instead of nothing at all, and even this bit of tokenism is (sadly) an improvement. But it showcases an ongoing sense of misogyny coming from DC, and reinforces the idea that everyone there is missing the point.
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Matt K said...

This kind of makes me wonder, how plausible is it that DC ever really reforms?

How much change has actually taken place at DC, over its history, in terms of inclusiveness? Is it realistic to think that, relative to today, DC will in future achieve substantial progress over a time horizon less than its entire history to date? (Or even less than a billion years?)

You might argue that eventually, the old guard begins dying off, and new people come in… but it's 2015, and so far DC's management seems to filter individuals from younger cohorts who are depressingly like the old guard. (Jim Lee, step forward! http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/news/123917-jim-lee-speaks-on-harleygate-teaches-fans-about-context.html)

Is there a reason to think they can't keep doing this? DC at this point seems like an established change-averse institution, how much is that corporate culture going to evolve so long as it's possible to keep bringing in people who "fit?" (GM had a near-death experience, after all, and still seems unable to avoid regular counter-resets…)

If any substantial change at DC is possible, at all, I suspect it may require an organized, dedicated effort from outside. Progressive young nerds, start recruiting your sleeper agents now…

gummboote said...

Hysterical nonsense.