Friday, October 20, 2006

Rethinking "Rethinking Feminism"

Occaisonal Superheroine's article Rethinking Feminism in Comix has had me thinking a lot this week. It is thought provoking for all the wrong reasons and effectively demolished by Karen Healey in her response. In fact it's so bad that you tend to skim over a lot of the minor points because the major ones are so wrong-headed and stupid, but I feel like addressing them anyway.

Specifically, at one point in her argument she gives us what she calls her "Cassie Code"; a list of rules that could be imposed comics code style on all published comics. She's not seriously advocating this code of course, it's deliberately over the top and ludicrous in its demands to illustrate how stupid it would be to try and institute such a thing. Not that anyone has. But if the evil feministas tried to then wouldn't they look bad?

Anyway, here it is:

The Proposed Cassie Code
1. All women's breasts must be properly covered and realistically drawn and shall not exceed a C cup.
2. No thongs.
3. No high heels for superheroines.

See, when you look at it in detail you find that mixed in with the absurd crap there is the occasional bit of semi-sense that almost makes it look believable. Of course it would be absurd to limit the body shapes allowed to be portrayed - hell, this is just a gross exageration and inversion of the current situation where some have complained about the lack of range in body types currently seen in comics. We want greater diversity, not just a different set of limits.

As for the clothing, my personal opinion (and I am not suggesting it's anyone else's) is that female characters should be drawn in whatever costume the writers and artists wish, providing that clothing is treated realistically. Points 2 and 3 become irrelevent once half a dozen heroines have broken ankles and chafing.

4. All superheroines must die heroic deaths in battle in a manner deemed non-misogynistic by the Cassie Code Council.
5. Only two female characters are allowed to be killed from each comic company per year.
I don't see how killing off all superheroines would help the cause, however heroically they went... Oh wait, that's not what you meant, was it? Again, it's absurdity by isolation. There's no sense of equality, it's all "women must be treated in a special way", which is about as far from feminism as you can get.

6. No rape scenes.
7. Superheroines must not have rape or sexual abuse anywhere in their origin story.
I agree with 6. Not as the absolute presented here, of course, but I have been saying for months now that I would like to see a moratorium on sexual abuse used in comics in any form for a while as the current overuse has turned it into a nasty cliche. You can only repeat the same thing over and over so many times before it loses all meaning.

Superheroines having sexual abuse in their origin story? So how many male superheroes have sexual abuse in their origin story? How about we say no more abusive origins for females until the men have caught up? I could live with that.

8. Strong women cannot be depicted as villains.
This has to be one of the funniest. Most feminists I know would love to see more strong women as villains. There aren't nearly enough.

9. No women shall be depicted in chains, bound in rope, mentally enslaved by a devious psychic villain, suspended in a cage over a pit of steaming lava, or otherwise shown in any way that would make them seem vulnerable to men.
But that's no fun. Now I'd prefer it if when a heroine found herself in such a situation she were to get out of it herself, rather than being rescued by some guy. Especially if he then rushed after the villain to have a big fight, completely forgetting the heroine and leaving her to bleed to death on the floor. I'd also like to see equality with male characters. When was the last time Batman was tied up to a big penis substitute?


Shawn Levasseur said...

"When was the last time Batman was tied up to a big penis substitute?"

What's the over/under on time before Scipio answers that question (with photographic evidence)

SallyP said...

I read this article too, and found it to be condescending and a tad on the arrrogant side. Also wrong.
Thanks for setting things straight.

Anonymous said...

"Superheroines having sexual abuse in their origin story? So how many male superheroes have sexual abuse in their origin story? How about we say no more abusive origins for females until the men have caught up?"

I seriously thought about this one, and amazingly, two of my favorite "heroes" (and in their cases I use the term VERY loosely)in manga both have sex abuse present in their origins. Guts (Berserk, which is heavily glossed over in the anime) and Alucard (!) (Hellsing, back when he was a human and a child over a century earlier). In Gut's case, this was done with an amazing amount of realism because rather than just a shock prop device to explain his bad temper, it caused Guts a lot of realistic emotional problems for much of his later life in the story, including an aversion to being touched (especially if you're a giant black man, which Pippen finds out the hard way), and a rather scary moment after his "first time" with Casca (totally missing in the anime).