Here's the good news: According to some recent research by FiveThirtyEight.com, the website that applies data to just about everything -- most notably, US elections -- the ratio of female to male characters in mainstream superhero comics is improving, and more LGBT characters are showing up in Marvel and DC's pages.
That said, the numbers still aren't great. "Female characters make up only 30.9 percent of the DC universe and 30.6 percent of the Marvel universe," the site's report states. In a world where women are 51 percent of all people, that's not so representative.
DC Comics has taken some heat over the past couple weeks for some licensed apparel that implied, or outright stated, that boys can be superheroes but girls have to settle for being superheroes' girlfriends or wives. The criticism reached a point where DC itself had to issue a statement promising to review its licensing process.
Another example of a licensee making a bad gender-related decision flew a little lower on the radar last week, but in this case the licensee, Wonder Forge, issued an apology itself. The game makers failed to put any playable female characters in its game, Justice League: Axis of Villains, and people -- particularly a concerned parent -- complained about the Target-exclusive game.
By now, you've probably heard all about the genuinely awful licensed t-shirt featuring Superman planting a seemingly unwelcome smooch on Wonder Woman and proclaiming "SCORE!" and that he's "done it again." It's bad for a lot of reasons -- blatant sexism, the awful lettering of the caption box -- but, as an optimist, I've always taken the position that nothing is so bad that it can't be improved in some way. And apparently, that's Bill Sienkiewicz's position as well.
DC Comics has been the butt of a lot of jokes and criticism about sexist depictions of female characters and the company's lack of female creators. But recently DC has been making strides towards employing more women in creative roles and publishing more progressive, women-centric books like Gotham Academy, the new Batgirl and the Wonder Woman anthology Sensation Comics that seem to have a lot to offer women readers. It’s disappointing, then, to see a rash of new licensed DC apparel aimed at women with sexist slogans like “Training to be Batman’s wife.” This kind of clothing does not send women the message that they are welcome within the DC Universe as anything but prizes to be won.
The great thing about Fox News is that it's only Tuesday and you're already about to see the dumbest thing you'll see all week.
In this case, it's a clip from Fox's weekend morning show, where three people with the collective brains of a sack of doorknobs turn their reasoned and well-thought out opinions to the world of comic books. Specifically taking on Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman's upcoming run on Thor, where the iconic Marvel hero will get a new identity as a woman, and complaining about Wonder Woman's costume in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice film by comparing it to Jim Lee's redesign from four years ago that, according to them, appears to be a product of what they characterize as fundamentalist Sharia Law.
No, really, this dope on the left actually says that.
“If the harassment is so bad, why don’t women just report it?”
“I want to believe these women, but if they’re not willing to come forth and put their name to these accusations, I just can’t.”
“These claims of harassment are all so overblown. I never see it happening.”
I have been a woman in the comics industry for a few months now. It has been wonderful. It has also been terrifying.
Terrifying in a way I’m used to, though. When you grow up enveloped in the miasma of “tits or GTFO,” “attention whore,” and “fake geek girl,” fear becomes the price you pay to enjoy your hobbies. You don’t even think of it as fear most of the time. Sometimes you join in the fear mongering yourself, enjoying the a**hole glamour of not being too pussy to call another girl a slut. Sometimes you hide in woman-heavy spaces, which go maligned elsewhere (“Tumblrinas!”) but do a pretty solid job of keeping you safe. The fear comes back eventually, though, as a slew of graphic rape threats or a simple joke about “feminazis” you are expected to chuckle along with. It might be in response to a screed worthy of Andrea Dworkin—or maybe you just tweeted something about disliking Guardians of the Galaxy. What matters is that you were a woman with an opinion on the internet, and now you must be punished. You must be made to fear.
Over the past few years, comics fans have been embroiled in a debate over the double standard that applies to superhero costumes. While men's costumes are increasingly depicted as totally functional, women's costumes remain what they've been for decades: skimpy, overtly sexualized, and all too often, anything but what would be practical for the purposes of patrolling the streets and fighting crime.
Filmmaker Luke Patton's short film "Sexy Superhero" faces that debate head-on and makes something really funny out of it.
One of the biggest issues in the news this week has been the ongoing rampant misogyny and outright terrorism in gamer culture, specifically the attacks on Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn and feminist media commentator Anita Sarkeesian -- both of whom have suffered exceedingly personal attacks and threats on their lives (including the horrible one in the graphic above, which was sent to Sarkeesian via Twitter). The former for merely talking sexual agency as an independent, adult woman, and the latter for criticizing the industry's treatment of women in its games. What do these issues have to do with the rest of geek culture? Well .... everything. Misogyny in gamer culture is a symptom of a larger, systemic issue. And something needs to be done about it. Now.
Sometimes good people say dumb things, and in those times it falls to other good people to call them out. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actors Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield seem like goodpeople and a sweet couple -- they've been dating since 2011 -- but in a recent kids' Q&A to promote their upcoming movie, Garfield said a dumb, sexist thing. And co-star Stone coolly challenged him for it. You can watch the video right here.
“I think this woman is wrong about something on the Internet. Clearly my best course of action is to threaten her with rape.”
That’s crazy talk, right? So why does it happen all the time?
Honest question, dudes.
That women are harassed online is not news. That women in comics and the broader fandom cultures are harassed online is not news. That these women are routinely transmitted anonymous messages describing graphic sexual violence perpetrated upon them for transgressions as grave as not liking a thing… that is actually news to me, and it’s probably news to a lot of you guys reading this.
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