Guys need feminism too

(Content Note: gendered and racial slurs, homophobia, othering)

If you’re a guy reading this, take a moment to think about the expectations society has placed upon you throughout your life. These expectations may not be the same for every individual, but as a whole there are general social rules associated with being a man and men as a whole are expected to follow them. These rules dictate appropriate activities, occupations, jobs, skills, hobbies, and interests for men. As a kid, you’re expected to like blue, not pink, to play with toys labeled “for boys” rather than those labeled “for girls”, and to express an interest in sports. You’re taught to be tough and endure pain, to be resilient and protective of girls. And of course it’s drilled into youngsters that Boys. Don’t. Cry. Boys can be emotive. They can be happy. They can be angry. They can be sad. But by god, don’t you cry!

You get older, and people look at you and treat you automatically as heterosexual (hell, that starts when you’re young-sometimes when you’re a newborn) and act as if you’re supposed to think about girls and sex all the time. You’re to continue being a tough guy, whether by playing sports in high school or working out or both. In adulthood, you’re supposed to go to college, graduate, and make something of yourself so that you can settle down with a woman, raise a family, and be a provider. Which means you’re expected to have a career that pays well (think more doctor or judge, less painter or photographer) And you’re supposed to want to get married bc marriage is the natural path all men are supposed to follow. Oh, and you’ve gotta have kids (and boys, specifically).

If you don’t want to do any of those things, if your predilections run counter to the acceptable social norms for men, or if you deviate from the rigid rules of masculinity, you will quickly be criticized. Your membership in the Man Tribe will be threatened bc those rules are there for a reason, by golly. They are there to tell you how you are supposed to behave and live your life (never mind that you were never consulted on these rules that are to govern your life). If you think you can just show emotion like crying without facing the social consequences, you quickly find out how wrong you are when people call you a girl. If your sexuality isn’t part of the dominant (read: acceptable) group-heterosexuals-your manhood will be called into question by calling you a ‘faggot’ (a slur intended to emasculate a man and make him feel less like a man and more like a woman). Don’t like sports or cars? You’re a pansy and there’s something wrong with you. Do you refuse to eat meat? Turn in your man card. Do you enjoy wearing clothes that are comfortable, regardless of the gender they were created for? You’re a sissy. Don’t go around fucking every woman you can? Want to have long rather than short hair? Don’t like fighting? Oh man, you’re the biggest pussy on the planet. Social opprobrium will almost always be brought to bear against you if you think about trying to exist as a male without conforming to societal expectations of masculinity.

And I have a problem with that.

I have a problem with that because when society dictates how masculinity is defined and what traits, skills, and characteristics define a man, then those that do not conform are ostracized. They are made to suffer. They are often discriminated against. They are prevented from maximizing their potential, bc they are told that there are limits on how they can exist. Think about gay and bisexual teenage boys who come out to their families hoping for love and acceptance and instead get condemnation, rejection, and, all too often, eviction. Think about the young boy who wants to be a fashion designer only to be told that fashion is a girly endeavor. Just picked the image of a young boy who’s dreams have been crushed. Consider the 13-year-old boy with long hair who is interested in poetry, dislikes sports, isn’t aggressive, and shows little to no interest in girls and is bullied so much that he attempts suicide. Recall the mid-30s guy in your office who is not married, has no kids, and is still a virgin. Remember all the times he’s been the butt of jokes, and been treated like utter shit bc he’s following a different script on how to exist as a man. At every turn in our society when men do not perform masculinity in the approved manner, they are vilified for it. They are told to toe the line. To “act like a man”. To “man up”.

Manhood and masculinity should not be tied to any particular set of activities or specific behaviors, skills, occupations, or hobbies. What it means to be masculine and what it means to be a man should not be determined by society. If you identify as a man, you should be the one who gets to decide what it means for you to be a man. If you’re looking for an ideology that seeks to dismantle gender roles, look no further than feminism.

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Guys need feminism too
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DC Comics aims for more diversity

Mainstream comic books in the U.S. have long featured a sea of white, male faces. From the beginning of the industry back in the Golden Age, through the Silver Age, and into the Bronze and Modern Ages, there has been a lack of diversity in superhero comics. Characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and so many more mainstays of Marvel and DC have been white guys. Now, that wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t dominate the comic racks. But they have. For the better part of the 20th Century and even into the 21st. It hasn’t been until recent years-the last 5 or 6 by my estimate-that Marvel and DC have made a concerted effort to diversify their output. With pressure mounting from readers, both companies have taken steps to produce content that doesn’t appeal to the same old, same old crowd. Which makes sense, bc GBLT people, women, and PoC read comics too. And in significant numbers. This can be seen by dropping in on any of the numerous comic book conventions around the country. The people showing up aren’t just white men, and they want to see themselves reflected in the comics they read. The pressure exerted on the companies by female readers has led to an  explosion of titles featuring women in starring roles. Where 30 years ago, Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, and Supergirl were pretty much the only women starring in their own titles, the last few years have seen Starfire, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Batgirl, the new female Thor, Storm, Squirrel Girl, Elektra, Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel (among others) receive their own books. But the request for greater diversity from the Big Two is not limited to fans asking for more books with female leads. Many readers (myself included) want more books headlined by People of Color.

If I’m not mistaken, Marvel leads DC on that front, as the last several years has seen the New York-based publisher produce titles like Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova, Red Wolf, Spider-Man 2099, and Devil Dinosaur & Moon Girl. Meanwhile, over at DC, the company’s only books in recent years with a Person of Color in the starring role are Dr. Fate and Cyborg. The powers that be at DC cannot be ignorant of the demand for more racially diverse titles. In fact, this awareness is probably a significant reason why the company will soon be adding a new title to it’s publishing schedule, New Super-Man. The title will see a Chinese teenager acquiring some of Superman’s powers:

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DC Comics aims for more diversity

Argumentum ad dictionary, may you die a quick death

A friend on Facebook reposted this Tumblr meme today. As I read it, I nodded along, thinking “yup, pretty much”. Racism and sexism in the United States are systems of oppression that discriminate against and marginalize People of Color and women.  There’s nothing controversial there. A group of individuals holding prejudiced or bigoted beliefs who have the ability and resources to see their beliefs preserved in the cultural fabric, leading to the oppression of specific social groups at all levels of society-that’s what makes something a system of oppression. It is that system that makes racism and sexism so awful. A no-brainer, eh? To *some* of us it is. To others, all of that is highly controversial.

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Argumentum ad dictionary, may you die a quick death

Such fragile egos these fanboys have

The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries – they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight it’s high noon, the hottest day in history, and you’re about to spend it in the Twilight Zone.

 

That’s the opening narration to the ‘The Midnight Sun‘, the 75th episode of the Twilight Zone, by host Rod Serling. The Twilight Zone was a popular USAmerican science fiction television show that ran from 1959 to 1964 (and saw several attempts at revivals over the decades, as well as a movie). This particular episode is one of my favorites as it involves an apocalyptic scenario in which humanity is helpless. All our intellect, our wits, our technology, our weapons-all of it is useless in the face of a catastrophe of global proportions. The episode served as a reminder that for all our power and accomplishments, for all our money and wealth, we are fragile creatures.

 

This episode came to mind today as I was giving thought to the ongoing culture wars in society. Progressives have been fighting for decades (longer than that, really) for marginalized people to be treated with fairness and equity. They have fought to extend the rights enjoyed by the majority-white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men-to everyone else. From the battle for women’s reproductive rights to the fight for LGBT equality to the ongoing crusade by the Black Lives Matter movement to dismantle systemic and structural racism, the culture wars have been fought on multiple fronts. And while some successes have been achieved (yay, LGB people can marry and oh look, some police departments are getting body cameras), there still continue to be setbacks (the reduction in abortion providers across the country and the lack of accountability of police officers around the nation). But not all such cultural battles occur on a national scale, nor do they all occur in meatspace. Some occur on a smaller, more private scale-the Internet. One such conflict-the push for greater diversity and inclusivity in the comic book industry (specifically at Marvel and DC)-has been brewing for a while now. Funny thing though, for all the pushback, it’s clear that just as Hollywood is making progressive strides, so too is the comic book industry. Of course, along with that progression comes the howling and screaming of those opposed to progress.

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Such fragile egos these fanboys have

The progressive march of pop culture

Hollywood, aka Tinsel Town, is home to the entertainment industry of the United States. Viewed as the land of the rich and famous, Hollywood has long been the destination for many people seeking to make a name for themselves, whether on the small-screen, the big-screen, or in the music industry. Unfortunately, with so many people looking for fame and fortune, Hollywood is a difficult industry to break into, let alone succeed in. Some groups of people have an advantage in the industry, due to a bias in their favor. This bias-which favors white, heterosexual, cisgender men-has resulted in a Hollywood that is not reflective of our culture at large. Because of this bias, members of marginalized communities-LGBT people, women, and People of Color-have greater difficulty making it in the entertainment industry. Whether in front of the cameras or behind them, on the big screens or the small ones, these groups have long been plagued by unequal treatment in Hollywood. The second annual Hollywood Diversity Report (available for download here) examined more than 1,000 broadcast, cable, and digital tv programs from the 2012-2013 season and its results were not encouraging.
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The progressive march of pop culture

More faces of Rape Culture

Marshall University’s Women’s Center defines Rape Culture as:

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

Rape Culture affects every woman.  The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape.  This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.

The book Transforming Rape Culture defines Rape Culture as:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville helpfully gives an extensive (though not exhaustive) list of the ways Rape Culture manifests. Here’s an excerpt:

Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for hir own rape.

Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featured in the Odd News.

Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.

Rape culture is “nothing” being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.

Rape culture is boys under 10 years old knowing how to rape.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

Rape culture is the narrative that sex workers can’t be raped. Rape culture is the assertion that wives can’t be raped. Rape culture is the contention that only nice girls can be raped.

Rape Culture exists in the United States. It exists across the entire planet. Attitudes surrounding Rape Culture are on display innumerable times, every single day. David Edwards at Raw Story has written about yet another example of Rape Culture.  A Florida man is defending his sexual assault of a 6-year-old girl by blaming her:

The Palm Beach Post reported that the girl told detectives that Andres Bartolome Juan grabbed her in her apartment’s laundry room on Jan. 31.

According to the police report, Juan shook the girl by both arms, and then he assaulted her twice.

The girl’s mother found her bicycle unattended and called out for her, interrupting the alleged attack. The mother said that her daughter ran out of the laundry room “with a panicked look on her face.”

The mother found Juan in the laundry room trying to escape through a back window, the police report said. The mother told detectives that Juan’s belt was unbuckled, and his pants were open.

The girl later told her mother that she had been touched inappropriately, but “was too scared to talk about the details.”

Detectives were able to identify Juan because he had once lived in the apartments. He was charged with two counts of sexual assault against a victim 12 years old or younger.

“I touched the little girl,” he reportedly admitted to detectives during an interview.

“It’s [the girl’s] fault this happened,” the suspect added while deputies were taking a DNA sample.

Juan was being held in the Palm Beach County Jail without bail.

This story is disgusting. Children  are not physically or mentally capable of making informed decisions in matters concerning sex. There is a reason that the age of consent in the United States is 18. I don’t care what Juan says–It. Is. Not. Her. Fault (I’ll add that even if the girl were an adult woman, what he did still would have been sexual assault).  He chose to sexually assault her. That decision was his and the blame is all on his shoulders. His victim-blaming is one of the many vile manifestations of Rape Culture.

A second example of Rape Culture comes in the comments section of that same Raw Story article. A commenter leaves this puke-inducing pile of shit:

Castrate the m.f.s.o.b.child abuser. He better not drop the soap in the shower once in jail.

Both sentences are an example of Rape Culture. The first sentence is an endorsement of retributive justice, akin to “an eye for an eye”. Answering sexual assault with sexual assault…meeting a violation of bodily autonomy with the violation of the bodily autonomy–this is not something any society, especially a civilized one should condone. How the hell can you condemn sexual assault and the violation of an individuals’ bodily autonomy while simultaneously expressing a desire to violate bodily autonomy and commit sexual assault?  It doesn’t matter what the justification is. Sexual assault is wrong. Violation of bodily autonomy is wrong. Neither act becomes “right” simply because of state support. Endorsing sexual assault and violation of bodily autonomy is most certainly an example of Rape Culture, no matter what the justification is.

There is an additional problem with this idea of justice by castration. Being castrated won’t prevent Juan from sexually assaulting anyone. You don’t need a penis and testicles to sexually assault someone (just look at the New Delhi rape case where-in addition to penetrative rape-the attackers used a metal rod to rape the victim). The commenter displays an appalling ignorance of the realities of rape.

The second sentence of course, refers to prison rape which is a huge problem:

The well-being of our prisoners isn’t a topic that often garners much sympathy. Perhaps that is why few Americans know that rapes and sexual assaults of U.S.inmates have reached epidemic proportions.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics confirmed this human rights crisis last month. It says that nearly one in 10 prisoners report having been raped or sexually assaulted by other inmates, staff or both.

That’s why the release of a separate report by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was created by Congress in 2003, is so important. It challenges our society to take seriously a problem that has ruined many lives.

As the above article mentions, prison rape is not treated as a big deal. Far too many people dehumanize prisoners and think they don’t (or shouldn’t) have rights. The thing is, human rights exist for *all* people and that includes prisoners. Not just the “good” people. We can and should punish people who commit sexual assault and rape. But we shouldn’t adopt their tactics. We shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that rape and sexual assault are permissible under certain circumstances.  When we do so, especially when we try to speak out against rape and sexual assault, we completely undermine ourselves. Even the most repellent human being still has rights. The minute we start deciding that some category of humans should be sexually assaulted or have their bodily integrity violated is the minute we start descending the dangerous slippery slope of “only some people have rights” (hell, some people have already begun their journey down that slippery slope. Just look at the existence of so-called “corrective rape“).

More faces of Rape Culture

Pushing forward

According to Merriam-Webster, diversity is defined as “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc”. A diverse workforce, for instance, is one in which you find people of varied backgrounds and with varied physical qualities. For many, diversity is thought of in terms of race or sexual orientation, but it goes far beyond that. According to Loden and Rosener, there are two main dimensions to diversity. Within the primary dimension are unchangeable characteristics, such as race, age, ethnicity, physical qualities, sexual orientation, and gender (the last one is changeable however–gender is not an innate quality of an individual, it is a social construct; despite the fact that one can change their gender, that is no basis for the discrimination or oppression of trans people and if you think it is, you are a shithead). The secondary dimension consists of those qualities that are not inherent. These more malleable characteristics include parental status, religious beliefs, income, education, and military experience (via Arizona.edu; source: Loden, M, & Rosener, J. (1991). Workforce America!: Managing Employee Diversity as a Vital Resource. Homewood , IL: Business One Irwin.)

That’s what diversity is, but why is it important? Why should it matter that queer people desire better representation in comic books? Why does it matter that this years Academy Award nominees were a sea of white faces? Why are people so happy that the next Ghostbusters movie will feature an all-female cast?

Other people matter. That’s why.

For too long the message from society has been that the only stories that matter, the only experiences that matter, are those of male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals (MEACHs). That is not true. It has never been true (though many people think it is). Recognizing that all humans have dignity and that we all matter means that our stories matter. Our histories matter. Our experiences matter. Maybe they don’t matter to MEACHs (though certainly there are many in that group who value the lives, stories, and experiences of others), but the world doesn’t consist of, nor does it revolve around that group. Unfortunately, for too long in USAmerica, almost everything has catered to the desires and wishes of MEACHs.  The overwhelming majority of movies produced by Hollywood have reinforced the idea that the only people who matter are MEACHs. Our politicians have been and largely continue to be predominately MEACHs. For a long time in this country our workforce was dominated by MEACHs. The protections of the government were extended only to MEACHs for much of our history. In effect, the message sent by U.S. society is that unless you were a cisgender, heterosexual, white male, you did not matter.

Thankfully, that is changing.

Hollywood for instance, is beginning to see that there is market for and money to be made in movies featuring women.

THR reported Aug. 2 that Sony wants to launch a female-led reboot of Ghostbusters from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. Two days later, the studio said it is targeting 2017 for a woman superhero film set in the Spider-Man universe. Marvel Studios, whose Guardians of the Galaxy lured a 44 percent-female audience on opening weekend (the biggest share of any Marvel film) is said to be close to greenlighting a Black Widow pic forScarlett Johansson. And The Expendables producer Avi Lernersaid Aug. 4 he wants to shoot a female spinoff Expendabelles in 2015 (Sylvester Stallone says he wants Sigourney Weaver to star).

Even as U.S. box office is down about 18 percent this summer, women and girls are driving some of the biggest success stories, including Maleficent ($727.5 million globally), The Fault in Our Stars ($263 million worldwide) and Lucy(a $43.9 million U.S. opening). They follow female-fronted smashes The Hunger Games and Frozen. “It used to be people would look at the success of individual titles and look at them as being the exception to the rule,” says Columbia president of production Hannah Minghella. “But I don’t think we can think that way anymore.”

Of course there is resistance to Hollywood’s diversity initiatives. The Manosphere (helpful glossary here) is filled with whiny, entitled douchenozzles.  These people (largely MEACHs) weren’t happy to hear about an all-female Ghostbusters movie.  While some tried to mask their sexism behind complaints like “Hollywood is ruining our childhood” and “what about nostalgia” and “women aren’t funny, how can they be Ghostbusters”, it’s plain to my eye, that they are really whining because they aren’t the only ones being catered to any longer.

“Our childhoods”. Really? As if your childhood is magically going to be retconned and your memories will be wiped. Your childhood still remains the same. The movie you watched as a kid hasn’t changed. Your memories haven’t changed. Nor will they. So stop your whining you spoiled, petulant brats. The world does not revolve around you.

Diversity in Hollywood can be seen in the upcoming Aquaman movie, featuring Jason Momoa in the title role. In the comic books, Aquaman has always been a MEACH (just like the target audience), but Momoa is Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli to be exact).  When the Aquaman movie hits in 2018, children and adults of Hawaiian background will get to see themselves represented on the big screen, something that is, to say the least, quite rare. Not only that, but they’ll get to see themselves represented in a heroic manner.  This-diversity-is a good great thing and Momoa is excited, not just for himself, but his kids:

“It’s awesome as an actor to know what your future is going to be because I have children and I’ve busted my ass to put food on the table,” he says. “It’s awesome knowing that I’m going to be in Justice League because my son is the biggest Batman fan and my daughter loves Wonder Woman. It’ll be cool for them to see me in something because they’re not going to be watching Game of Thrones or Red Roadanytime soon, but now they can see Daddy kicking ass in IMAX.”

Momoa joins fellow ass-kickers The Rock and Vin Diesel as a new breed of ethnically ambiguous action hero. As a Hawaiian, it wasn’t easy for Momoa to break into Hollywood.

“I’ve had to bust ass to be in this industry. A lot of things are very black and white,” he says. “Aquamanis especially cool because being a Kanaka Maoli—being Hawaiian—our Gods are Kanaloa and Maui, and the Earth is 71 percent water, so I get to represent that. And I’m someone who gets to represent all the islanders, not some blond-haired superhero. It’s cool that there’s a brown-skinned superhero.”

Yes, it is cool. In large part because it will show that heroes can come in all races and ethnicities, not just European-Americans. This is only one step, however.  Other important steps: Cyborg, starring Ray Fisher, due in 2020 and Black Panther, featuring Chadwick Boseman, in 2017.  Four examples do not, of course, magically make Hollywood more diverse.  Beyond superheroes and beyond increasing the on-screen presence of People of Color, women, and other minority groups, Hollywood needs more Black, Asian, Latino, and female directors, screenwriters, producers and more. Then there are the supremely underrepresented groups in Hollywood, like trans people, people with mental or physical disabilities,  More. More. More. Don’t stop until Hollywood accurately reflects USAmerica, rather than just MEACHs.

The comic book industry is another area in the United States that needs to diversify. Traditionally the domain of MEACHs, mainstream USAmerican comics have diversified somewhat over the last 15 years. There are an increasing number of women creating comics. There are an increasing number of female-led comic books (for instance, Marvel currently produces Thor, Angel: Asgard’s Assassin, Storm, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, Silk, and an all-female team of X-Men; She-Hulk and Elektra were cancelled recently).  Despite this, things in the land of USAmerican comics are far from perfect, and one young girl recently decided to express her dissatisfaction with DC Comics:

The letter reads:

Dear DC comics,
My name is Rowan and I am 11 years old. I love superheroes and have been reading comics and watching superhero cartoons and movies since I was very young. I’m a girl, and I’m upset because there aren’t very many girl superheroes or movies and comics from DC.
For my birthday, I got some of your Justice League Chibis™. I noticed in the little pamphlet that there are only 2 girl Chibis, and 10 boys. Also, the background for the girl figures was all pink and purple.
I remember watching Justice League cartoons when I was really young with my dad. There are Superman and Batman movies, but not a Wonder Woman one. You have a Flash TV show, but not a Wonder Woman one. Marvel Comics made a movie about a talking tree and raccoon awesome, but you haven’t made a movie with Wonder Woman.
I would really like a Hawkgirl or Catwoman or the girls of the Young Justice TV show action figures please. I love your comics, but I would love them a whole lot more, if there were more girls.
I asked a lot of the people I know whether they watched movies or read books or comics where girls were the main characters, they all said yes.
Please do something about this. Girls read comics too and they care.
Sincerely, Rowan.

This letter expresses the feelings of many comic book fans.  A DC Comics rep responded on Twitter:

Despite the advances made in the comic book industry (which, btw, is more than just Marvel and DC; I focus on them because they are the Big 2 publishers and put out the vast majority of comic books on the racks), there is still a long way to go and the bigwigs at Marvel and DC are not the only ones who realize this.  BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie says he wants to help push comics forward:

It’s Keith Giffen’s fault. I keep telling people that he talked me into it in a dive bar on L.A.’s west side. But the truth is that I started this company out of the spare bedroom in my apartment because I couldn’t believe the guy that created Rocket Raccoon thought I could do it. Maybe we could bring something to comics that hadn’t been there before?

I’ve loved comics since 1976. I never thought I’d publish them. Sure, I’d worked with giants of the field, including Barry Windsor-Smith, Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, Walter Simonson, and others too numerous to mention, when I was a young marketing turk at Malibu Comics 20 years ago. But me, publish comic books? You’re crazy.

So it’s 10 years later now. Comics publishers don’t often make it that far, do they? We should do a victory lap right now.

But who wants to look backward when there’s so much more cool stuff around the bend?

Let’s talk about the future.

Have you ever had a friend that shared a lot of your interests, but they didn’t read comics? You gave them Watchmen, you gave them Y: The Last Man, you gave them X-Men. But nothing stuck. They liked the idea of comics, but there wasn’t a comic book that felt like it was made for them…

Let’s go make that comic book for them. Together. As fans, as creators, as retailers, as the press, as publishers. All of us. Let’s talk about how we can allPush #ComicsForward. Because comic books should be for everyone.

We know where we’ve been—our favorite eras, our favorite characters, our favorite runs. We already know all of that. I’ve got a garage full of Silver, Bronze, Copper, and Modern Age comics and I love them.

But the medium of comics has never been more on the forefront of driving pop culture and as fans of this art form, we have a rare opportunity to take that interest to the next level and embrace an entire generation of potential fans who don’t read comics right now.

We can make a new Golden Age.

At BOOM!, we’ve carefully selected new projects in 2015 that we believe will help Push #ComicsForward. These projects will take on risky subject matter, introduce new characters from diverse backgrounds, and debut a swath of new creative voices to the industry.

Just in the first few months of 2015, we’ve launched a gaming-inspired humor comic in Munchkin, two projects that tackle the complex climate in the Middle East with Burning Fields and The Realist, five series with unique female leads (Curb Stomp, HaloGen, Cluster, Help Us! Great Warrior, and Giant Days), a period crime project (Hit: 1957), and an original graphic novel about the cutest crabs to ever start a revolution (The March of the Crabs). And we’ve only just begun. But this movement isn’t just about BOOM!, it’s about all of us. We’ll be devoting a ton of our time and energy in 2015 to work with the press, conventions, and social media channels to keep the conversation going.

If you know me, you know I’m the “Challenge Accepted!” guy. If there’s a problem that hasn’t been solved or a project that seems insurmountable, I’m the first one to jump in. This is a big challenge, but I want you to join me in taking it on.

No one thought comics targeted at All Ages was viable until KaBOOM!. Now it’s the norm. No one thought an all-female cast of characters with an all-female creative team had a shot in the Direct Market—until Lumberjanes. And who would have guessed that an oversized limited series like Memetic, starring a hearing-impaired, gay college student and a blind, African-American general about a meme-induced apocalypse, would garner rave reviews? We did.

If you believe comics are great just the way they are, this isn’t for you. If you think superheroes are the only kinds of stories worth telling in comics, this isn’t for you. But if you want to see everyone reading comics—your aunt, your co-workers, your niece, your boyfriend, that kid down the street—let’s Push #ComicsForward in 2015.

Together.

ROSS RICHIE

Founder & CEO

BOOM! Studios

This is the type of thing I want to see more of, and not just from the comic book industry. Not just from Hollywood. I want to see greater diversity everywhere. Not just for me, as a gay, black male. I want to see women represented better in society. I want to see Asian-Americans granted more prominence. I want to see the lives of Latinos treated as if they have value. As if they matter. I want to see trans people recognized as human beings with rights, and I damn sure want to see greater representation of them. Everywhere. Because they matter. That’s the lesson to be learned. Everyone matters. Not just male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals.

Pushing forward

All the single ladies of 1938, put your hands up

Hearken back dear reader, to those days of yesteryear.  Before the iWatch. Before the beeper. Before the Internet (was there such a time?). Take a journey with me, back through the decades to the year of Superman’s birth:  1938.  Btw, male readers, this one is not for you. In fact, you may want to avert thy eyes. For this article is about…

 Dating tips for the single women of 1938

Some of this advice is sensible.  It is common courtesy to be ready at the agreed upon time for a date. It’s rather rude (barring some reasonable explanation) to keep a date waiting. Oh, and unless you’re planning on having dinner in bed (no sexual innuendo there, nosiree), you probably should be dressed by the time your date arrives.  It’s probably a nice idea to try to greet your date with a smile, but I don’t know that it’s essential (if for no other reason than “shit happens” and can put you in a bad mood before a date; I’d rather the person I’m going out with be honest than try to fake being in a great mood). The big problem with this advice is that it’s very female centric. Let’s nip that in the bud.  This is reasonable advice (with a few tweaks) for everyone.  Moving on…

Whoa. Hold up. Before we move on, isn’t this the era of “this is how men and women are supposed to act”? Why the heck is the guy in the image trying to sneak a peek of his date?

I’m sorry, is there one universal awkward position that we’re all supposed to be aware of? I never got that memo. I wonder if anyone else missed out on it? I say sit however the hell you’re comfortable. How a person sits on a date is infinitely less important to me than what kind of person they are.

As for never looking bored, and especially if you are…I don’t think this is a useful tip. What if you are bored? You’re just supposed to sit there and feign interest? That’s not terribly honest.  Granted, I’m not saying it would be a good idea to say “God this shit is boring, can you talk about something else?”, but if you’re interested in the date, but just aren’t into the conversation, speak up. Change the topic.  Use something your date said to springboard onto a different subject.  But to sit there and ‘fake it’? No.

Then there’s the silliness of chewing gum. I guess it has to do with the perception that women are flighty and not serious, but that’s just gender essentialist bullshit. If you want to chew gum, chew the damn gum. If your date has a problem with you chewing gum, that’s a problem they have. And if it’s that big a problem, they can get up and go.

Questions:  Can the guy chew gum?  What if the guy is bored with the conversation?

Why don’t men like that? What else is the darn handkerchief for, anyways (yeah, I know, digging snot out of your nose or wiping sweat from your brow)? In any case, if a man gets that bothered by a woman wiping her lipstick on his handkerchief, then he’s the one who has problems. Not her.  And I don’t think there should be rules on where you can put on makeup. People are going to do it where they feel most comfortable doing it.

I’m starting to think these rules are how “proper ladies” are supposed to act.

Questions:  If a woman didn’t follow these tips, was she not a “proper lady”?  What about women who don’t wear makeup-is that permissible?

Define careless. Then show me the evidence that carelessness affects how a man perceives a woman. Then tell me why a woman should care.

Don’t talk? What if you’re continuing a conversation from dinner? What if it’s a slow dance and the guy is trying to strike up a conversation with you? Are you supposed to sit there and say “I’m going to briefly break the rule on page 30 of the dating guidebook to tell you that I’m not supposed to talk and dance at the same time. I’m not sure why, perhaps the Internet will break in half in 2014 if I do so, but no one has explained the harm in me talking right now, but I’m going to do it anyways. So please don’t be mad if I don’t respond to you until after our dance is completed.”

Gah. I’m going to pull out my hair with this gender role bullshit.

I can understand the rule about wearing a bra. If you feel you need to wear one, wear one. Your choice. Likewise, if you don’t want to, then don’t.

Girdle? What’s that? Just kidding. I know what they are. This just sounds like body shaming and rigid gender rules though. “A woman’s purpose is to find and marry a man. Thus, they need to look their best. To that end, they should wear a constricting girdle so that they maintain that perfect hourglass look. Nevermind dressing for comfort or taste. Dress as you’re told to dammit and don’t stress your pretty pink fluffy ladybrains!”

And oh noez! Wrinkled stockings! He’s not going to marry you now. No man in his right mind would marry a woman with wrinkled stockings!

Questions:  Too damn many! Although I’m really curious why the guy is averting his eyes in the second panel…is he scared of her hair?  A minute ago he was trying to sneak a peek of his date adjusting her stockings. Now he’s shy about seeing her adjust her hair?  Sheesh.

We continue our trip down “Women should concern themselves solely with the needs and desires of the man” lane. I do have to wonder how many times women need to be reminded how to deal with their makeup though. You’d think women would have figured that out, even by 1938. Why, it’s almost like they don’t need not stinkin’ directions on where, when, or how to apply makeup! Heeeey, you don’t think women were able to think for themselves even in the bygone days of the late 30s, do you?

More rigid rules for relationships. Written as if they’re supposed to apply to everyone.  Written as if they’re sensible or reasonable.  Look, if a woman wants to kiss you or caress your hand, she ought to check with you first to see if you’re cool with it. Some people will be. Other’s won’t.  Pretty simple. The rule should be “do I have their consent”, not “what did that Depression era guidebook on dating tell me to do”.

It’s considered bad form (in some circles) to discuss past relationships on a first date, but again, I’m not a fan of hard and fast rules when it comes to dating. I’ve talked about past relationships on first dates. If the subject comes up, why not discuss it? All of that is meant to apply to the people on the date, rather than one member of the date and their waiter/server.  I tend to think it might be rude to discuss past relationships or the good fuck you had last night with your waiter.  But is that something that women really needed to be told? Or is this just another case of policing women’s behavior?

Oh, and while men may desire your attention, no man deserves it. Thinking that way leads to a culture of entitlement where men think they deserve the affections of a woman. That way leads to Rape Culture.

I was going to say it’s all downhill from here, but really, after the first image, it was so far down, I think we’ve reached the bottom of the Marianas Trench by this point (and there are more images to go).

Don’t talk about clothes? You knooooow, guys shop too. Guys buy clothes too. I bet they did it back in 1938 too. If a guy is interested in your clothes, or shopping, or talking about clothes–talk about fucking clothes.

And can we ditch this bullshit about “the man is more important than the woman is”?  I daresay a date is usually about two (or more) people spending time together, and learning about themselves. That means a two way conversation. That means both people talking about their interests. It’s not all about one person or the other.

Also, pleasing and flattering your date just sounds so NOT genuine.  Yes, I think telling your date you find them attractive is a nice thing. Who doesn’t want to hear that? But let it come naturally…genuinely. I think overdoing it can get annoying, but that’s my personal take.  And a lot of things I would do on a date are things other people wouldn’t. I’m glad there are no dating rules (well there have been books written that laid down rules, but I don’t follow those bc interpersonal relationships can’t be broken down into simple rules for all people to follow; we’re too individualistic for that to work).

Whaddaya mean ‘men don’t like tears’?  I know, I know. It’s 1938, and men were strong, righteous, logical, and unemotional.  Any show of emotion in public is a sign that a man is not a man. He’s a woman! And that’s a bad thing. Or some such gender role bullshit. Again!  Heeeeeey! This is a great time to remember that Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (in this case, we see the rigid gender rules in play that state women are emotional and men are not).

I’m shocked!

Shocked I tells ya!

I thought for sure the advice would be “Don’t drink ladies. It’s not proper for a woman to be under the influence of anything but a man.”

As for ‘dignity’, is this something only women have to maintain? Why? Do men have to maintain it too? Is there a whole other advice column for men that’s every bit as sexist as this drivel?

Questions: Since when does drinking make anyone seem clever?  Did the author of this piece of sexist advice ever meet any drunk men? Some of them get pretty damn silly, and I don’t think that’s something unique to 21st century men.

But it’s ok to inconspicuously talk to other men 🙂

How about this:  if you flirt with other men on your date, your date may get annoyed and may not call you again. They may even choose to end the date early.  But you are a grown person, and you are free to do as you like.

All of this “advice” serves nothing more than maintaining social gender roles between men and women. It reinforces the perceived role of women in society: to seek a man, marry him, and father his children. Everything you do should be centered around that. You are to subsume yourself…your dreams…wishes…goals…hopes…desires…to a man.  Ultimately, that prevents the full expression of women. Look, if you want to pursue a man, have at it. That’s up to you.  But equally, if you don’t want to pursue a man–don’t.  You can even pursue a man and a career.  You could pursue a woman and a career. There’s a wealth of opportunity out there available to people when you ditch these rules that say “this is appropriate behavior for men and women”.  Which really needs to happen. Like, now.

All the single ladies of 1938, put your hands up

Transgender student supported by her classmates

“I always turned up in trousers but I felt repressed and for me wearing a skirt was about expressing my freedom over who I am inside and not how society sees me.

These are the words of 17 year old Maria Muniz, a transgender student at College of Saint Kitts Pedro II , located in Brazil.  Sadly, the school administrators were not happy, and fined her.

She was fined because she failed to fit into culturally prescribed gender roles.  These roles inform how men and women are supposed to act and what they are supposed to wear.  Deviation from these gender roles is viewed as improper and unacceptable. Yet the question remains:  Why?  What purpose is served?    Her choice to wear a skirt is not an issue of morality, nor one of ethics.  All she sought to do was express her right-the freedom of expression, which is a right held by all human beings, and for that she was penalized.  She was effectively told “No, your comfort and happiness is not as important as following cultural norms”.  I say “FUCK those cultural norms”  Muniz wanted nothing more than increase her personal comfort and happiness. Her actions harmed no one. This is reason #491085 why rigid gender roles are not healthy for society- they stifle human expression.

This story has a happy ending though, the school backed down after a group of male and female students decided to show their support for Muniz by wearing skirts to school.

Way to show support folks.  Good job.


Violence against trans people is huge problem and is widespread.  In early 2014, the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal (TVTP) released its first report, tracking 102 incidents of transgender related violence.  10% of the incidents were suffered by transgender youth:

According to an update sent out from TVTP, 10 percent of the 102 acts were suffered by transgender youth:

  • An 8-year-old boy was beaten to death by his father
  • A 14-year-old was strangled to death and stuffed under a bed
  • Two 16-year-olds were shot to death
  • Three 18-year-olds were stabbed to death, dismembered or shot
  • Two 18-year-olds were murdered with no details being reported
  • An 18-year-old suffered two violent attacks by a mob and survived

Among the 102-person figure that comes in from 14 countries worldwide, “36 persons were shot multiple times, 14 stabbed multiple times, 11 were beaten to death, three were burned to death, three dismembered/mutilated, and two were tortured, two were strangled, one was hanged, one had her throat cut and one was stoned to death.”

For more information on TVTP, as well as violence against trans women and men, see the Transviolence Tracker.

Transgender student supported by her classmates

Another day, another new blog of interest

This one is different though. It’s called Gender & Society and is a peer-reviewed journal focused on the study of gender.

Gender & Society is a peer-reviewed journal, focused on the study of gender. It is the official journal of Sociologists for Women in Society, and was founded in 1987 as an outlet for feminist social science. Currently, it is a top-ranked journal in both sociology and women’s studies. Gender & Society publishes less than 10% of submitted papers. Articles appearing in Gender & Society analyze gender and gendered processes in interactions, organizations, societies, and global and transnational spaces. The journal primarily publishes empirical articles, which are both theoretically engaged and methodologically rigorous, including qualitative, quantitative, and comparative-historical methodologies. Gender & Society also publishes reviews of books from a diverse array of social science disciplines.

Here is a sample of a few recent posts:

What do Americans know about abortion and other reproductive health topics?

My encounter with Maria helped to shape my interest in knowledge about reproductive health, because I wondered how many other people shared her concerns and were making decisions about women’s health and well-being with partial information or misinformation. Together with my co-authors, I set out to investigate what Americans know about abortion. We carefully reviewed the literature for the scientific consensus on different aspects of abortion and other reproductive health topics, then we created a survey that asked respondents to evaluate statements based on best possible evidence. We administered this survey to 639 randomly selected men and women aged 18–44 via an online survey.

We found that Maria (who was not included in this survey) was not alone in holding misinformation. Of the 14 items about knowledge of abortion, contraception, pregnancy, and birth in the survey, only four were answered correctly by a majority of respondents. Only one question – whether or not abortion until 12 weeks gestation is legal – was answered correctly by more than two-thirds of respondents, and 17% of respondents couldn’t answer it correctly. (Seven percent mistakenly thought that abortion until 12 weeks gestation was illegal, and another 10% didn’t know if it was illegal or not). Surprisingly, women were no better at answering questions about the health risks of abortion than men. In fact, women were less likely than men to know that the health risks of abortion are less than those of giving birth.

Disney’s ‘Frozen’-A lukewarm attempt at Feminism

Most of the arguments about Frozen’s progressive gender representation revolve around a few key themes and occurrences in the movie. These are: 1) Disney rejects the “happily ever after” heterosexual romance trope in this movie, 2) Elsa is a powerful idol of women’s empowerment with a message of independence, 3) Anna is another strong woman role model who is independent, adventurous, and brave. Is Frozenreally as progressive as these arguments claim?

According to the first argument Disney is mocking its earlier versions of princess stories by portraying the idea of falling in love at first sight as foolish especially since Hans turns out to be a scheming prince. But is the heterosexual romance trope missing? Certainly not. Most of the movie revolves around Anna and Kristoff’s relationship, and we do see it culminate in a kiss. Further, it seems that Anna and Kristoff haven’t known each other for more than two days! Thus, Anna and Kristoff’s relationship certainly falls within Disney’s previous versions of romance.

The next argument is framed around Elsa, who is seen as a powerful and independent woman who learns to love her power instead of concealing it. Yet, her storyline undermines that message. For instance, we see that once Elsa goes into exile, she unleashes her power, which is symbolized by the fantastic ice palace she builds for herself. However, we see shortly after, that her power and independence start to turn her evil. This is evident when she nearly murders two men—by almost impaling one, and trying to push another off the mountain, and when she sends a snow monster after Anna. It is only when she returns to her village and uses her powers for people’s entertainment (by building an ice rink), that she is in fact accepted by people. This is a version of femininity that is soft, safe and selfless; it is about pleasing and nurturing people, and not about building monuments that celebrate one’s power.

The final set of arguments for the progressiveness of Frozencenter on Anna. Anna is adventurous and brave. However, Anna is never supposed to be taken seriously by us.  She seems adventurous because she doesn’t seem to know any better, not because she is a capable young woman. The comic relief most often comes from her being child-like, and not physically capable.

Over the past few weeks, I have been poring through the spate of social media (here, here, here, and here, for example) focusing on debates and tensions between anti-feminism, trans-exclusionary radical feminism, and trans feminism about who gets to count—as women, as feminists, as radical, and as lesbians. The fact that these debates coincide with the latest iteration of the contentious Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival only makes them more timely and salient. During this same time, I learned that some of my own published research (here and here) on cisgender women partners of transgender men had been cited extensively by Sheila Jeffreys in her latest work (here). Within this text, Jeffreys frequently misgenders the partners of my research participants as women and refers to them as “transgenders” or “female-bodied transgenders” (p. 114). Jeffreys poaches verbatim quotes from my research participants and frequently writes “[sic]” in instances where participants use “he” or “him” to refer to their trans partners. When Jeffreys does use pronouns such as “he” or “him” to refer to the trans partners of my research participants, it is always surrounded by shudder quotes. These editorial gestures reveal Jeffrey’s appraisal of trans men’s illegitimacy as men. In one instance, Jeffreys describes the gender identities of the partners of my research participants as “carefully constructed myths” (p. 118). Jeffreys cherry picks my data for quotes to bolster her claims about the hurtful potential of gendered (and especially transgender) identities, omitting all context—particularly that which does not square with her claims.

The Gendered Metropolis

In the course of conducting research for my new book (here), I discovered an astonishing diversity of queer spaces. Researchers, however, emphasize the experiences of gay men, and in doing so, they erase the lives of lesbians. To set the stage, consider the words of sociologist Manuel Castells. “Lesbians, unlike gay men,” he says, “tend not to concentrate in a given territory.” He thinks that they “do not acquire a geographical basis.” Gender differences between men and women are to blame. “Men have sought to dominate,” Castells continues, “and one expression of this domination has been spatial.” On the other hand, “women have rarely had these territorial aspirations.” For gay men – as men – “to liberate themselves from cultural and sexual oppression, they need a physical space from which to strike out.” Lesbians – as women – “tend to create their own rich, inner world and a political relationship with higher, societal levels.” This perspective leads Castells to conclude that “they are ‘placeless.’”

I disagree.

Lesbian geographies exist.

Another day, another new blog of interest