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Wondering about feminine stuff in comics

by  in Comic News Comment
Wondering about feminine stuff in comics

If you haven’t been reading Ragnell’s and Kalinara’s blogs, shame on you.  Okay, maybe you have a life, but that’s your only excuse!  They decided to put together a list of characters in DC and Marvel comics who have been raped or who have raped people.  You might question the point of such a list, but they promise they are going to get to context and discussion soon enough.  Ragnell is doing the female list, while Kalinara has the male one.  But that’s not the point of this post.  It just got me thinking.

So then I was reading the Absorbascon, another blog you should read, and Scipio got himself in some trouble by writing a post about why women don’t make good heroes and villains. The shit really hit the fan in the comments. It also inspired this response and this response. While reading the first post, I noticed that Karen is angry about a Birds of Prey story in which Huntress sleeps around. But these links aren’t necessarily the point of the post, either, but they did get me thinking.

So, you’re wondering, what is the point of this post?  Well, I may have missed it on Ragnell’s or Kalinara’s blog, and I haven’t been reading Girls Read Comics (and They’re Pissed) for too long, but I wonder about female characters in comics and the women who read comics.  To put it succinctly, what do female readers want?

This is not a flippant question, you understand.  I recognize that female characters have been treated rather poorly throughout comic book history, mainly because almost every comic book creator has been male and bring male viewpoints to their work, and male viewpoints of women are often skewed.  And the readership is no different – overwhelmingly male, and therefore not always aware of things that might piss women off.  Some of the things are obvious, of course, but many more are more subtle.  And that’s where I wonder about what women want.

Let’s take Kay Challis.  I just finished re-reading Morrison’s Doom Patrol, and despite the fact that Crazy Jane is raped, I forgive it for a few reasons: Morrison is a good writer, and I like Doom Patrol (which is an understatement, as I think it’s the best run on a comic book ever); he wrote the story before raping female characters became a cliche, so I’m willing to concede that he didn’t do it for a shock; he actually deals with the problem and doesn’t simply make Crazy Jane a crazy superheroine out for revenge; he doesn’t care about how the men react to it, except for Cliff, and his reaction is not necessarily an admirable one.  But I could be wrong.  Well, not wrong exactly, but misguided.  Is the rape of Crazy Jane any more forgiveable than that of Felicia Hardy, which was done just for shock value?

The thing that bugged me was the post about Helena and her relationship with Barbara and Dinah.  Karen makes excellent points, and the fact that Helena ends up in bed with some guy after repeatedly belitting him is vexing.  She rightly takes Gail Simone to task for it, but it still bugged me.  If a woman writer can’t write females “correctly,” what hope do males have?  Should we ban rape from comics because it’s been done, and poorly, for so long?  Who, in these women bloggers’ opinions, is a well-written female character?  They spend a lot of time writing about how women are done poorly, but I would like to know if there are any that are done well.  If I think a female character is done well, is that enough?  I happen to think Jessica Jones in Alias is a wonderful character.  She’s a completely reprehensible person on a lot of levels, but she’s a complex and wonderful character.  Do women see it that way?  And yes, I know I’m generalizing when I say “women,” but I don’t know what other term to use.  I think Crazy Jane is one of the most complex and interesting female characters in comic book history, but does her rape nullify anything Morrison did with the character?

I know we have a few female readers out there, and I’m curious about what kinds of female characters you like.  It’s easy enough to say “men don’t get it,” but for the foreseeable future, men are going to be the majority in creating comic books, and it would be nice to see them write better characters overall, not just female ones.  I certainly don’t want fans to dictate to writers and artists how to write and draw females, but if the overwhelming majority of comic book fans think “Emma Frost’s outfits are HOT!” and “I just want to see Batwoman make out with another woman!” are valid criticisms, it’s never going to change.

Now, I’m sure there’s no template for writing female characters, but I still wonder about how women want women to be portrayed in comics.  If a male character had so brazenly slept with a girl after saying he wouldn’t, would we blame the writer for not getting men?  Or would we simply say it was a stupid decision by the writer?  Does everything that happens to a woman in a comic have to be viewed through the lens of “violence against/misunderstanding of women”?  Isn’t that a narrow viewpoint, or is it necessary because it’s never been done in comics, and only through overemphasizing it can we make people aware of it?

I’m just curious.  I think these sorts of things are fascinating, because I can’t have a personal perspective on it.  Which doesn’t mean I can’t have a perspective, but I’m interested in different ones.

What say you all? 

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