Posts Tagged ‘Sexism’

Here Are Some Of DC Comics’ New Shirt Designs, Inspired By Their Hit New Superman/Wonder Woman Shirt

September 29, 2014

Yesterday, DC Women Kicking Ass pointed out a new t-shirt design featuring Wonder Woman and Superman engaging in a romantic embrace. Here’s what it looks like:

This is a real shirt. You can buy it for $19.99.

So if it wasn’t bad enough that DC is attempting to introduce the stupid Superman/Wonder Woman romance to a wider audience, they’re doing so in this gross, bro-centric fashion. Both DC Comics and whoever they licensed to make shirts for them need to have their heads examined, because this is awful.

And, sadly, not terribly out of place. DC has licensed shirts for girls with the Superman logo and the line, “I only date heroes”, while a line of workout gear for women includes a shirt that reads, “Training to be Batman’s wife.” It seems that women can’t be superheroes themselves, but maybe they’ll be lucky and some day kiss, date, or even marry a superhero. These shirts all have terrible messages, and I’m particularly incensed about the diminishment of Wonder Woman in the kiss shirt above. By turning her into Superman’s “score” they make her only a sexual object, and negate all of her superheroism and power.

However, DC Comics seems poised to double down on their horrendous Superman/Wonder Woman shirts with some new designs that should debut shortly. These are definitely 100% real shirts and not something I whipped up this afternoon in my favourite knock off Photoshop program to make fun of DC Comics and their penchant for sexist products. I would never, ever do that. I am far too respectful.


First up, DC is keen to get Batman in on the action as well, so here he is putting the moves on everyone’s favourite feline fatale. Expect to see dudes wearing this at comic conventions across the country soon:


And they can’t leave the Flash out! This new shirt design features the Flash and his lady friend, Iris West. It’s a little crass for my tastes, but DC is pretty keen on this one:


DC also wants to reach a female audience, so they’ve made this shirt for the ladies inspired by the New 52’s characterization of Starfire. While I’m not so sure that this is the message that female fans will want to communicate, DC is very confident that they know how to appeal to women:



Finally, DC Comics wants to honour the legacy of “women in refrigerators” by immortalizing the moment that inspired Gail Simone’s original coining of the term. I’m not 100% sure that DC is going about this the right way, but DC really thinks this shirt will strike a chord with feminists while appealing to their dudebro audience. I don’t know, DC. You may be going too far with this one:


I hope you all enjoyed this sneak peak at these shirts that aim to continue the message of DC Comics’ hit new Superman/Wonder Woman shirt. They’re certainly in line with products that DC is currently selling in stores right now, and isn’t that just the saddest thing.


Violence, Misogyny, And Why All Men Must Be Better

May 26, 2014

This weekend, a young man in California went on a killing spree. The media has been covering the story extensively, but are highlighting his father’s connection to The Hunger Games movies and speculating about his mental health rather than addressing the vitriolic misogyny at the core of a Youtube screed and a 140 page manifesto the perpetrator left behind. The man was a virgin, and was furious with women for not giving him the attention he felt he was entitled to. He frequented sites run by pick-up artists and men’s rights activists that degrade and dehumanize women, internalized their hateful messages, and then bought a gun and meticulously planned out his vengeful attack.

The whole situation is appalling, and I have nothing to say about the media’s lack of focus on the shooter’s obvious misogyny that hasn’t been said better elsewhere; I suggest Jessica Valenti’s excellent piece in The Guardian. But watching the public reaction to the shootings on Twitter and elsewhere this weekend has been depressing. Those who pointed out the misogyny at the heart of the violence, many of them women, were met with choruses of “not all men.” It seems that certain men, faced with women talking about their own experiences with misogyny, feel compelled to make the conversation all about themselves, essentially proving the original point.

None of this is surprising. “Not all men” is such a common refrain that it’s become a meme. But this weekend, the “not all men” chorus was answered with the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, because while “not all men” threaten women, all women have felt threatened by men. Women related their experiences with sexism and misogyny, highlighting the daily issues they face just by being a woman in a patriarchal society.

It is indisputable that we live in a society that undervalues and dehumanizes women. Rates of sexual violence against women are massive, while the number of prosecutions of rapists and perpetrators of assault is miniscule, much less convictions. In my own field, I regularly write about sexism in the comic book industry and have yet to be threatened in any way, while every woman I know who writes about the same topics has been met with rape and/or death threats. Again, this is not surprising information. Such things have been going on for quite a while; millennia, in fact.

Now, you may be a man who has never threatened a woman, has never committed an act of sexual violence, and has certainly never brought a gun to a sorority house. Congratulations, you’ve reached the lowest bar of human decency by not doing something terrible. But here’s the thing: All of the misogyny that’s out there, this culture of entitlement and disregard for women’s agency that breeds contempt and violence, that’s on us. We are the primary beneficiaries of the patriarchal society that spawned it, and it’s our job to stop it. All men must be better.

Being men, we have it much easier in our society, on account of the fact that the world was designed for us. Men have been in charge for a long, long time, so by and large everything has been created in our best interest. We make more money. We hold more positions of power. Even in the most mundane, everyday experiences, things are better for us; we can ride the subway without being groped, we can talk and people will listen to us, we don’t have to watch our drinks at parties, we don’t have to carry pepper spray or tasers or rape whistles or arrange our keys like a weapon when we walk home alone. And it’s easy not to notice these advantages, because it’s our only experience of the world.

This is exacerbated by a general lack of understanding of anyone else’s experiences. Again, patriarchy. The majority of what we see, hear, read, and experience is through the lens of men. For example, when you go to the movies, on average 75% of the characters are men, 13% of the films are written by women, and only 7% are directed by them, despite the fact that women are half of the population. Our cultural experience is a male experience, and thus male issues and perspectives get amplified. The result is an echo chamber that shapes our view of the world, further entrenching us in the system of male-centrism at the core of our society.

We need to aggressively counter this.

Because if we don’t, we get swallowed up by dominant cultural messages just by going about our day, and thus reinforce the patriarchal system. Women’s voices are marginalized, so we need to seek them out. We need to go out of our way to read, listen to, see, and talk to women so that we can understand their experience of the world. Fiction, non-fiction, music, television, comics, everything; we need to engage. We have to understand their perspectives as best we can, and realize that there are perspectives, plural, because women are not monolithic. We need to value their experiences of the world as much as we value our own.

Not being a sexist jerk isn’t enough, because our society is inherently rigged against women and we’re benefitting from it. We need to counterbalance our own personal experience of the world, and then go out and be better. And show other men how to be better. And most definitely teach boys how to be better. We need to take apart the patriarchy that we’ve built brick by brick, and to do this we have to see it. And hopefully, eventually, things will start to shift.

Seeing women as people and respecting them isn’t even the least we can do. It’s not even step one. It’s step zero; it’s the landing we start on. It’s basic human decency. Step one is engaging, and understanding and actively countering the biased system we are steeped in every day. All men must do this, or we are tacitly enabling its continued existence. All men must be better.

On Female Customers In Unwelcoming Comic Shops OR These Shops Will Slowly But Surely Die

February 11, 2014


Yesterday, Noelle Stevenson posted a comic about her experiences in comic shops that were unfriendly towards female customers.  Noelle is a comic book creator herself, the writer and artist of the fantastic and award winning webcomic Nimona and the co-writer of the upcoming Lumberjanes, and yet she often finds comic book shops uncomfortable and offputting, to such a degree that she doesn’t go to them anymore.  The staff can be condescending and dismissive to women, and this obviously creates a rather unpleasant environment for female customers.

Some might suggest that Noelle’s experiences are her own and not necessarily indicative of comic shops more broadly, but here’s the thing: Her comic has been up less than a day and it’s already got over 60,000 notes.  There are A LOT of people identifying with her frustrations, and this highlights a huge problem within the comic book industry.  It’s not a new problem, certainly, but one that’s existence is ridiculous in 2014.

Now, there are a lot of fantastic, welcoming comic shops out there.  The site Hate Free Wednesdays lists tons of great stores, including my own local comic shop, Strange Adventures.  But for every awesome store, there’s a shop that conforms to The Simpsons Comic Book Guy stereotype and treats female customers poorly.  They assume that because she’s a woman she doesn’t know anything about comics, or that she’s there just to buy stereotypically “girly” items.  They see themselves as the gatekeepers of a vast mythology that the uninitiated are unworthy to access, and see all women as automatically on the outs based solely on their gender.  They believe that the objectification and sexualization of female characters is fine – nay, required – because comics are meant for them and must cater to their prurient desires.  They are a sad, contemptuous bunch who have long forgotten the joy and awe these caped adventurers inspired in them when they first discovered comics.

Which brings us to the comic book industry itself, and superhero publishers in particular.  In many ways, these unwelcoming shops are a reflection of these publishers.  They assume that women don’t want to buy their products, they rarely hire women and when they do they often put them on books starring female characters, they’re terrible at making their characters accessible to new readers, and they continually pump out T&A to appease what they see as their core audience.  Their books are dark and gritty, joyless tales of death and destruction.  For quite some time now, unfriendly comic book shops and unfriendly publishers have been working in tandem to repel women away from comic books.

Things have been getting better on the publishing side, albeit slowly.  Marvel in particular has realized that a female audience exists AND that they enjoy more than just female characters, though the recent increase in female-led books is nice too.  The New 52 and Marvel NOW! have created a somewhat better level of accessibility.  The T&A is still pretty ridiculous, though, and there is often an entrenched antagonism towards anyone who brings up sexism or problematic choices.  They don’t seem to realize that making a few good moves doesn’t mean that people won’t continue to criticize their many bad ones.

Nonetheless, the industry is slowly improving, however glacially, and ideally comic book shops will follow suit.  The growth in popularity of publishers like Image and Boom!, particularly among female fans, is shifting audience demographics, and the stores that continue to see female customers as some sort of affront to their purity will miss out on a lot of business.  In this day and age, when it’s so easy to get comics, both physical and digital, online, all comic book shops are going to have to offer excellent service to survive, and those who actively exclude half the population will probably be among the first to die.

Noelle’s comic perfectly captures the plight of many female fans in today’s comic book marketplace, but hopefully the tide is turning.  It’s ludicrous that women still face such neanderthalic treatment in comic shops in 2014, and the responses to the comic from mansplainers online has just been foolish.  Patriarchy; it’s the worst.   But in the end, some women will find good shops and these stores will thrive, while others will find alternative ways of getting comics.  Some might ditch the medium, which is unfortunate, but overall the recent growth of female readers has been very encouraging.  I mean, disgruntled female customers are MAKING COMICS about their experiences.  Comics will be fine; this is the new vanguard of what the medium is becoming.  In the end, the real losers are the actual losers who fail to recognize that women are people and instead lock themselves in their He-Man women haters nerd dungeons; their shops will stagnate or die.  And good riddance to them.

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