For anyone who went to San Diego’s Comic Con this year, rumors of the estrogen-driven Batgirl were sure to spread quickly, especially to those invested in DC’s reboot of the new 52. She managed to get out of the wheelchair (Oooo, spoiler alert!) and up to the mic in order to state her opinion….four days in a row.
Being a woman, I can say that feminism and women’s rights can get very tricky, and has taken a turn for the weird since the suffragettes did their thing. It’s somehow all too easy to forget that they marched in heels…but this was obviously because they were being pushed by society to dress in such a manner, right? Or perhaps some of them just enjoyed looking and feeling pretty. I know men who relish the same pleasure.
When trying to categorize what a feminist actually is, there shouldn’t be rules, but somehow there are. Little invisible ones that say whether you are “with” or “against”. Let’s take, for example, Wonder Woman. Last year, there was an attempt to put pants on this Amazon-princess-turned-American-patriotte. The man responsible, J. Michael Straczynski, claimed that this was done in order to “toughen her up and give her a modern sensibility.” Seems more like a shot at modest sensibility. Why is it that the one woman in the DC Universe core was asked to become more realistic in her ensemble when the guys still get to dance around in their leotards?
And here comes that tricky part I mentioned.
Feminists say: “Why are women being exploited through this character? Why does she have to be virtually naked to be accepted?!”
So, they cover her up. Give her some pants. Not boyish pants either, but skin tight, Paris Hilton paint-ons.
Feminists say: "….wait, what the hell is this? Where are the red boots? Why do I miss thigh-highs and cleavage all the sudden??"
And mostly everyone else is chanting right along.
My initial response to the Batgirl at the microphone demanding more female roles as well as writers was similar to interactions I have with mosquitoes. I felt that it was rude and unnecessary to try and pinpoint any hidden agenda on DC’s part, and seemed especially acrid towards Dan DiDio, who had to bear the brunt of the woman’s sharp tone. He was obviously irritated by the daily rantings, but handled it as gracefully as he could by day four. Batgirl was taking full advantage of having mic-time at a panel of people that would otherwise be difficult to speak to directly (…unless she was willing to talk about it over drinks at say, the Hyatt bar) . But then again, so was everyone else, right? That’s what the mic was there for, and this was anyone’s chance to get out their thoughts.
On Monday morning, after all the chaos had subsided from San Diego’s downtown, my boyfriend and I met up with David Lloyd for brunch, which ended up being finger food and many, many glasses of Prosecco. After draining a few, I began speaking loosely about my feelings toward this “girls-in-comics” issue, expressing my annoyance at the seemingly pessimistic stance of many apparent campaigners for women’s rights. I made fun of Batgirl’s outfit, quoted her in a nasal voice, and made out to be the enemy to all things revolutionary. This was naturally challenged by David, artist of V for Vendetta, which is in itself a graphic novel with powerful feminist undertones. Having the background of a calm, educated, working class Englishman, his take on standing up for your rights is much more lenient than mine. Something I could take a lesson from. Hearing his perspective made me wonder, when did I stop standing up? Suddenly I realized that what Batgirl was doing was perfectly acceptable, if not a bit amateur.
I never thought of the gender of superheroes to be all that important to my experience in reading comics, since I enjoy savoring the attitudes and energy given by a particular character. I’ve always felt that their powers and capacity to fight the good fight under any circumstance is what makes them satisfying to connect with. However, after this real-life experience of someone doing just that, the question of gender has clearly become something to not only consider, but to be applied. After Comic Con, I saw quite a number of blogs and websites mention the topic of women in comic books, spawned by Batgirl with her attention-seeking tactics at the New 52 Panel. Can’t say the effort didn’t pay off. When it comes to making change, there has to be someone willing to step up. Looks like Lady Luck might in fact be on the girls side for the DC reboot, and hopefully she’ll be bringing more with her!
Let’s just hope they’re not all in pants.