Thursday, June 13, 2013

No (superhero) justice for the ladies

While briefly online this morning I noticed on FB a bit of a rant by a friend where she lambasted the paltry appearance of Wonder Woman in the new Justice League merchandise at Target. (I presume she sought items with the Amazon princess for her daughter, but heck, her aim may have been for herself.)

On the site was the picture above of the JL featuring only Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash, leaving out WW altogether (but if one scrolls all the way over to the right one will find her, as shown below). My friend understood why (marketing towards boys), but still lamented that a strong female character couldn't be included with the other heroes. Would that really be so damaging to our nation's boys?

It is unfortunate that in 2013, with the geek ascendancy that we've seen over the past decade, that female superheroes are still underrepresented in comic books, but what is perhaps most unfortunate is that when it comes to gender development, young boys tend to be more inclined to play with toys of male characters. It's entirely likely this is partially attributable to the fact many parents have issues (conscious or unconscious) with boys playing with toys of female characters and thus they do not purchase the items for their sons. This isn't necessarily backward-thinking conservatism; it's entirely possible this is motivated by wishing to protect their sons from teasing and the cruelty of other children. (Life can be hard enough as it is for a kid without being an unwitting pawn in reversing gender stereotypes.)

I like to believe that if I have a son I'd have no hesitation about letting him wear a Wonder Woman shirt, but I guess I can only know for certain if I find myself in that position someday.

Of course, if the geek culture maintains its hold on the mainstream of society, by the time a son is old enough to be to that teasing target age it's possible society will have more fully embraced boys liking female heroes, so such a thing won't be fodder for being made fun of. I'm not sure we're there yet, however, and as such we get to the economics of the current situation.

It's likely that stores not having the same selection of Wonder Woman merchandise as other characters stems from past sales, where those items have not disappeared from shelves like the male characters have. Obviously that says something about the public, and again, it's unfortunate, and clearly the only way it can ever change is by having the merchandise be available. However, retail outlets and the manufacturers of these items have as their primary motivation turning a profit, not changing societal norms. Their agenda is making money, not promoting feminism.

I concede it's easy to sit here, as a male who has long had characters with whom I shared a chromosomal similarity (as well as an ethnic one), and look at the situation from a particular perspective that never left me feeling underrepresented. I really have no proverbial leg to stand on, I know. Still, I fancy the notion there's at least a modicum of objectivity in looking at the situation thusly, while admitting (with full sincerity) that I could not possibly be more delusional about that.

Still, while I'm under that delusion, I do find myself inclined to note a way girls do have the advantage (from my distinctly non-girl experience), slight and inadequate though it is. They can like these male characters and have that be seen as cool by boys (not that all boys will be cool enough to see it as cool, but some will). Society has long had the role of the tomboy they can labeled, and while that is not without stigma, it's still more socially acceptable than would be a boy embracing a female character. Not that there wouldn't be exceptions—there are plenty of open-minded individuals out there, but if you believe they are the majority of Western society, you must not venture outside of Portland/Brooklyn/Silverlake very often.

One conceivably could argue that girls only liking female heroes is hardly better from a gender equality standpoint than is girls not having any female heroes to like and that we should work toward a world where children simply like characters of both sexes for whatever reason children like anything—because children probably already do that on their own until we adults impose our agendas on them and make them pick sides. I'm not making such an argument; I'm merely acknowledging there is a universe where someone who is far less full of shit (or perhaps who is unconcerned with being full of shit) could do so.

But if you'll excuse me I imagine I have obligated myself to have to go find a Wonder Woman shirt—not that I'll find one at Target, it seems—and start wearing it merely to lay the groundwork for a world where if I happen to sire a male offspring someday he can wear a similar one if he so chooses on his own, (acknowledging that in the immediate I will be construed by society not as a trailblazer but as a perverted middle-aged guy)—which will guarantee only daughters, who likely will prefer Martian Manhunter. (If you think Wonder Woman merchandise is hard to find…)


But seriously, what happened to Hawkman?


  1. I was disappointed that nobody pointed out the absence of Aquaman or Martian Manhunter in response to my status. I'm glad it came in here!

    What really gets me about this issue is that it isn't like there are NO female Justice League members...there are! They have been EXCLUDED or MODIFIED to fit a predetermined marketing model of what girls like and what boys like. That is what disgusts me.

  2. Praise Zeus that David E. Kelly didn't screw up WW. Maybe her status will change if the CW network gets Amazon on the boob tube.


So, what do you think?