Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feminist Musings

I just got done reading "There is Another Hellmouth in Comics" over at Occasional Superheroine. Basically it comes down to this: our lovely commentator there is done blogging about Women in comics. It is an issue that she is so passionate about that it gets her stressed to the point of a stroke. Because of this and a need for new perspective, she is going to walk away from the issue and focus on news and light opinion.

I don't blame her one bit. I feel the same way at times.

It does make me sad though. I appreciate Occasional Superheroine's opinion on many things. She is whip smart and she has a unique perspective. Since she was in the industry, and has a love for comics that may even exceed mine, I enjoy reading her thoughts.

But I still don't blame her for wanting to change her focus.

Sometimes the issue of women in comics makes me want to scream and pull all my hair out. I get the same emotions that things will never change unless there are more women in positions of authority. Then I remember Renae Geerlings's tenure at Top Cow and get a bit sad again. Geerlings disappeared without a trace to go into acting and not much was said about it. I also remember feeling a bit guilty about her moving on because I was worried that she wasn't the right person for the job.

BUT SHE IS A WOMAN, SO I SHOULD SUPPORT HER, RIGHT? Go Renae!

That is a bit off subject, but I guess where I am going with this is that it is easy to pander to the pack mentality associated with females in and around the industry.That is the quickest and easiest way to get hits on your site, right? Heh heh. Hey everyone, I am pissed off and female, come see me lose my mind! That is how I feel things have come to at times. I hate like hell that at times it comes down to snark and anger. I try so hard to separate my emotions from the problems I see and come up with a rational solution rather then sacrifice myself on the altar of the blog counter. If only five people come here, I would rather it be the people that want to talk rationally and solve problems rather then the people who are looking for a fight and possible hype.

That being said, I think that for the most part, the women that blog would like to see changes that focus around the way female super heroes are portrayed without so much emphasis on the bimbo mentality. I think that there are varying degrees to which we take our arguments, and I think that we are similarly hoping for books we want to read. I appreciate these women who speak out, and though I don't always agree, I love the fact that we can speak to the issues. I just don't like it when bloggers get so mad they lose sight of the problems at hand. I believe that is part of what the lovely Occasional Superheroine speaks to that is so frustrating.

That doesn't change the fact that the industry in general still caters to it's target audience. I sometimes think that even with women in positions of authority, things would be extremely slow to change. The demographic is still going to be the same. That being said, I am DYING to see any statistics that either Marvel or DC may have about female readers and their interests. Has there ever been a poll taken? I know I have brought this up before, but I would really like to see that data. If not, I would love to figure out how to take a poll to get significant numbers. The problem with this is the amount to money it would take to make it happen.

The bottom line for me is that I am sad to see my fellow female blogger change target, but I respect and understand her need to. God knows my blood pressure hits the ceiling sometimes. I get so upset that I want to SCREAM and tell my fellow internet users to piss off. Thank God for my workouts, or I don't know what I would do. Seriously. Then I remember the First Amendment and I calm down considerably.

The industry and the comic book internet are in a flux right now. With the disaster of division that is Supergirl #20 at our forefront and the past battles for more female-focused product all around us, something has to give. It may be that some of our strongest voices fade. It may also cause permanent hard feelings between humans that have NEVER EVEN met yet feel deep hurt over hopeless arguments of difference of opinion. That makes me saddest at all.

That being said, I will continue to talk about issues of gender as I see fit and I will always try and come up with a solution if possible. It may not be a change I can foster, but when I see the incomparable Lisa at Sequentially Speaking start up a passionate voice for change in P.O.W.E.R. in Comics, I couldn't be prouder. Good on you, Lisa- you are my hero! Occasional Superheroine, I will continue to haunt your site, whatever you decide to talk about.

The rest of you ladies: I understand your frustrations. I feel it too. I have over 35 years invested in my love of comic books and I am not going away anytime soon. Keep speaking in your unique voice, and with conviction. BUT don't let the feeling that every post must be about a female related issue get you down either. Speak from the heart and speak your mind. If it is a post about something you loved, I want to see that so badly. Focus on what you like and don't worry about the rest of the "pack". We are allowed our own opinions even if we don't always agree.

Men out there: Don't get frustrated and run away, or feel you have to speak in anonymity to make your voice heard. We have to find some middle ground, and I offer that here. I may not always agree but I will hear you out. Even if our stress level gets a bit high, and things aren't going well, know that I will treat you with the same respect I would like to have from you.

Whew. I feel better now. How about you?

Love and respect all around, Bartender!

9 comments:

Mark Engblom said...

"The bottom line for me is that I am sad to see my fellow female blogger change target, but I respect and understand her need to."

As usual, you're a class act all the way, Heidi...but don't think for a minute Occasional Superheroine is going to hang up her boxing gloves.

If there's one thing I've learned in my (almost) one year of blogging, it's that we bloggers are a dramatic lot. Who else would think anyone wants to hear what we have to say? Seriously, if O.H. is half as passionate about women's issues as she claims to be, she'll be back at the megaphone before you know it. It's just the nature of this fickle business we call "blogging". People enter and retire, leave then enter again with great fanfare...and they (either secretly or not so secretly) love every second of it.

Sure, she'll probably go through the motions and take a break from the Sturm und Drang of the "Feminist Outrage of the Week" trend that's been running all summer, but she'll be back. Trust me.

As for your own outlook on it, I continue to applaud your sympathetic, yet pragmatic attitude. I think at the end of the day, in all honesty, superhero comic books will always be run by and aimed at men. As much everyone talks about a Happy Future when exactly 50% men and women join hands to create a Perfectly Diverse, Equitable, and Unbiased comic book world...we're never going to get there. Why? Because nobody can agree on what "getting there" actually IS! That's what I asked Occasional Superheroine at the end of her "I Quit" post: What exactly is it you're after? What's the goal, realistic or otherwise?

It's easy to keep complaining how long the race is if there's no finish line in sight.

I think a ton of male writers are great at writing characters that appeal to bothgenders, just as there are great women writers who can "impersonate" a solid male character. At the end of the day, it all has very, very little to do with a person's gender and more to do with their raw ability to craft a story that entertains people.

The constant "Balkanization" set up by some, while seemingly proactive and change-oriented, has (in many ways) become poisonously divisive and alienating.

Swinebread said...

If it wasn’t for blogs, I wouldn’t even have known that woman read mainstream comics… that an exaggeration but you get the idea.

Lisa said...

As I said on the OS site... My feeling is still that while complaining gets the word out, being active gets the job done. That's why I started P.O.W.E.R. in Comics. We're just a fledgling network, but I hope that encouraging people to do small, grass roots things in their own communities will help to improve the comic book industry in the long run. It won't happen overnight, but I think it can happen.

And the best part of blogging is meeting interesting people who have the same passions as you do. After all, without this great blog I'd never have come to know this cool gal named Heidi :)

Vail said...

This is in response to Mark Engblom. I have a problem with the statement about "superhero comic books will always be run by and aimed at men." Other bloggers have posted examples of superhero comics aimed at females in the past (mostly golden or silver age ones). So it hasn't been "always". Patting us on the back and saying well hon, sorry it's always been that way, and it always will be so stop with all this rainbow and hand holding crap is kinda patronizing. This is what we want "after" (or at least I do, please read other blogs where this is discussed at length). We want female superheros that are heroic first. We want the comic book industry to realize women read comic books too, and our money is just as good as the guy's. We want good stories that don't rely on rape/murder/torture of a female character to energize a storyline. There, there is a "goal" that we want. If that means that the comic book industry needs to hire women to reach that goal, well heaven forbid that their hiring reflects the fact that women are half the population of the planet. I'm not saying that they have to hire crappy female writers/artist to do that, or that there should be quotas, but I do mean that they should start looking around and not judging people by their male bits.

Heidi Meeley said...

Wow. I am speechless. Give me a day and I promise to make a full comment. I can't do it justice tonight. :-)

Eaglewing said...

Wasn't sure I'd comment on this as I try to avoid the politics/comics 'discussions' on the web, but what the hell. Having read through (and kept right on going past) some feminist "hear me roar" comics blogs, I remember thinking as I read "wow, what's it like to be angry ALL the time?" If your hobby is pissing you off, something's really wrong. I think it is better to move on than to keep at something that's making you stress to the breaking point. Life's too short for that.

Comics should be something we enjoy (we're spending our hard earned money on it after all), not endlessly fight about. After all, they are just comics, not life and death (unless you're Jean Grey). And I think we'd all be better off promoting those things we love about the medium, instead of everyone writing a post about the latest "issue" of the moment. Those angry posts add up, become redundant as you go from blog to blog, and wind up just bringing more attention to the thing that is despised while the good stuff goes unmentioned. (Case in point: I never would have known about the Mary Jane statue, tentacle porn, or Supergirl's underwear issues had it not been for the blogverse. On the other hand, I only heard about how great Immortal Iron Fist was on Vaklam's blog recently, read the issue, and am now a fan. But I had to go through some raging comics blogs to get to a really good tip. With the bad vs good average like that, the stuff that is problematic is what is actually getting the heavy promotion. That's counter productive.) Yes, there are things that need to be changed, but the single minded focus on the bad seems to be making even ardent fans forget the good, or why they even read comics in the first place. That can't be good. Yes, talk about the things that need to change, but at the same time be ready to yell out "hey look over here - they got this right! This is good!" There's got to be a happy medium there somewhere.

Honestly, I can't ever see myself getting pissed off about comics (unless they went and killed off Wolverine ;). For me, they're a distraction and a hobby and sometimes even inspiration. I focus on the ones I like, and don't put further money into the ones I don't. Of course right now I'm too happy about comics to be pissed off - I finally got my Hardcover Punisher Max Vol 3 from Amazon Canada. Discuss the bigger issues amongst yourselves - I'm busy reading :)

Vail said...

You're right we should post good things too. I have seen good posts on Supergirl #20, Birds of Prey (which I then went and read and loved) and other comics. There are positive posts out there (not all make it to WFA so you have to follow the bloggers themselves and not look just on WFA only). I even read and liked Empowered, though it started as a Fetish character (but that's up front and you don't think your getting an 9+ age level comic then get a shock when you open it up). I still think that things will/should change and that the squeaky wheel gets the grease though.

James Meeley said...

eaglewing:

My friend, you couldn't have phrased my own feelings any better if you were trying to. i feel the same way.

I'm hoping the chnage of focus O.S. is having, is due in part to her coming to realize that "the raging" isn't really bringing any meaningful changes in comics and is doing more harm than good.

Being pissed off all the time has to get very tiring. All that energy wasted, which could have been used to do something positive, that will have a much more lasting impact. It's almost too sad to even think about.

And i certainly agree with Mark, when he says: "The constant "Balkanization" set up by some, while seemingly proactive and change-oriented, has (in many ways) become poisonously divisive and alienating."

It's "red blogs and "blue blogs". Heaven help you if you post on the wrong color one.

This is why the "the raging" is ultimately doomed to fail. It doesn't bring people together. it doesn't get people to listen 9to your message, anyway). It just divides people and throws up walls between them. It makes others get defensive and closes off communication between people. How one could ever think such tactics will bring about a meaningful change. is beyond me.

The squeaky wheel doesn't get the grease. Sometimes it gets tossed in the garbabe and replaced with a shiny new wheel. This is something the "ragers" might do well to think about at some point.

Lisa said...

Well put James! Well put.