Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Graphic Misogyny

As readers of mainstream comics (read: superheroes) know, sexism in comics is nothing new. True, it exists in other media and genres, but it's always been a bit more noticeable in a world of fiction traditionally aimed at young males and populated by physical paragons in tight-fitting outfits. Hell, even Wonder Woman, icon of female empowerment, has a history of being tied up a lot. (Conveniently, she even carries her own rope around.) Anyway, the question of how women are treated in superhero comics comes and goes from time to time, and a recent comic event made me think a bit about it.

In the latest issue of New Avengers #35, C-list hero Tigra (sorry, is severely beaten by The Hood, a new supervillian and Kingpin wannabe. What's sexist about that, you say? Well, nothing necessarily, but a couple of things set this apart from your typical superhero battle and made it legitimately questionable. First, the beating happens in Tigra's apartment because she's been targeted for a beating. She's not beaten in the line of duty or anything like that -- The Hood breaks into her place, waits for her to get home, and jumps her. Second, perennial Punisher punching bag, Jigsaw, records the whole thing. Y'know, for home viewing pleasure. Creepy. It didn't help that Tigra's costume is literally fur skin and a bikini.

Reading that story made me wonder if it was okay. And judging from the online reaction, I wasn't the only one. Some readers thought it crossed the line and others thought those people were overreacting. Me, I'm not sure. Any story involving violence and women has to walk a very fine line. If you're going to accept female superheroes, then yes, they're going to get hurt. Like I said, as a home assault this was different than a slam-bang fight with a giant robot, but I wondered if it was any different than Luke Cage getting attacked in his home during Marvel's Civil War. Is it just that he escaped? Would people even be talking about this if Tigra had won? If not, why not? Shouldn't the point be that she was attacked, and not the outcome of the attack?

I have no doubt that there are plenty of examples of misogyny in comics, but I don't know if this is one of them. But I think we can all agree that hating on women is dumb. Chris Rock said it best: "I like women. My mom's a woman -- that helps."

Ken Ip



Blogger unkiedev said...

Really interesting. The Hood earlier took out Wolverine, but that is nothing new: Everytime Marvel has a new character they want to seem tough they have them school Wolverine. Most of the complaints I've read online discuss how Tigra, while a C-lister, is a highly trained combatant with heightened reflexes and senses.

Occums razor would argue there is subtextual sexism at play. As you said, attack aside, her costume is a blue Bikini, and her last appearance was as a late night trist for Dr. Henry Pym in Mighty Avengers.

There was a news story this week about a British "Happy Slap" attack by a group of 17 year old teen boys against a 17-year old girl. Humiliation, sexual degredation and violence where all caught on tape, as one of the boys filmed.

Correlation is not causation, but it does make you wonder why it was Tigra that got this treatment and not, say Justice or Patriot.

November 7, 2007 at 11:18 AM  

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