Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday Bat Blogging

If gender has become a battleground at this time, it is worth asking who fights the battles, who receives the wounds and bears the scars, who dies?
- Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity

If I'd had my coffee, I'd have shoehorned DC's ongoing Batgirl controversy into my previous post about Batwoman.

But I had not, so I did not.

This Scripps Howard piece gives a pretty good summary of the brouhaha, i.e. although "Batgirl was treated from the outset as a serious crime-fighter", the cover of DC's "Showcase Presents: Batgirl" retrospective depicts her as "more concerned with her lipstick than fighting crime." It also notes the gender gap between those who care and those who say "Who cares?"
[T]he cover selection has resulted in a furious debate in fandom, breaking down largely by gender lines. Men generally react with "What's the problem?" -- whereas women generally say, "If you don't see the problem, that is the problem."
It is no surprise that this breaks down along gender lines. Sexism is as central to underwear pervert superhero comics as costumes or super powers. Those troubled by the sexism have to choose between standing and fighting it or moving on to some other form of entertainment.

In my experience, female fans of superhero comics -- a rare and noble breed -- are of the stand and fight variety. I guess they identify with the books heroic battle-against-all-odds themes. Or maybe they were bitten by radioactive spiders. In any event, they are engaged in an ongoing grass-roots fight with the corporate masters and those who don't see a sexism problem in funny books.

By contrast, guys who are really bothered by super-heroic sexism usually move on to some other less embarrassing type of comic or some other form of entertainment. It's one thing to be seen reading comic books, it's another to be seen reading
this type of comic book.

Unfortunately, that leaves "guys who aren't really bothered by sexism" as the vast majority of male super-hero comics readers. Which, in turn, makes them the primary market for super-hero comics.

And speaking of guys who aren't really bothered by sexism

The author of this piece, Mister(!) Andrew A. Smith bravely took a stand for not taking a stand:
I'm going to give DC a pass. I don't know why this cover was selected, but it is historically accurate -- and its drama is derived precisely because Batgirl is acting out of character.

Yes, sexism has always been rampant in comics. But I read "Showcase Presents: Batgirl" with a clear conscience, and I think you can, too.
But when one considers the gruesome manner in which DC terminated Batgirl's crime-fighting career, it seems pretty obvious that she deserved something better.

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