Wonder Woman. Less Sexist? Yes! Empowering? We’ll see…

As a feminist I tend to watch women in media with cautious optimism because…

Wait. No. That’s not the whole story. I’ll back up.

As a parent I tend to be very critical of movies and media and their impact on my son’s…

Damn. That’s not all of it either.

Okay, take three. Here we go…

As a parent, feminist and comic book nerd who likes movies and fantasy I want to watch something enjoyable that is culturally relevant as well as entertaining. Comic book movies are no exception to what I want to see- especially where cultural relevance is concerned. Comic books are fantasy stories that often reflect current events and culture.

There’s a new Wonder Woman movie that’s set to drop next June. We got a first look at it when Warner Bro’s dropped a shiny trailer at Comic-Con 4 days ago. Check it out:

Hold onto your impressions of the trailer. I’ll revisit it in a bit. I want to talk about the first frame -which is actually a shot of the poster Warner Bro’s released at the same time:

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Okay. Is Wonder Woman too tall to fit on a poster and they had to cut her face off? Or perhaps she sees out of her breasts, so they wanted us to make sure we looked her in the.. um… bustier eyes..? Look, I have nothing against sexy woman in action movies. I really like that, in this case, the sexy woman is more than just eye candy – she’s actually a main character. The thing is – this incarnation of Wonder Woman is being sold as empowering. DC and WB are marketing feminism in a big way with this franchise – but the first poster they release not only doesn’t have Wonder Woman’s face, but it clearly highlights her cleavage.

Let’s break this down and talk costumes and evolution.

Wonder Woman first appeared in DC Comics in December 1941, and made the cover of the January 1942 Sensation Comics Issue #1:

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Wonder Woman on the January 1942 cover of Sensation Comics

I can see her face, which is cool. Her outfit, while not practical for fighting all those guys with guns, doesn’t raise red flags for me.

All superheroes have to have a weakness: Superman has his kryptonite; Batman has his bats and emotional trauma.

It makes sense. You can’t paint a good story with a fully invulnerable superhero. The endings become far to predictable. You have to create uncertainty, and above all, you have show a superhero overcoming adversity and triumphing against all odds.

Superheroes excite us and can teach us incredible lessons. My son pretends to be the Flash when he’s riding his bike. He pretends to be Spiderman when he is in an uncomfortable social situation. These larger than life superheroes help him out – they provide an avatar of strength and general “coolness” that can help him explore and grow. We have Marvel and DC books meant for young kids that teach lessons as well as showcasing superheroes that struggle with very human problems – weakness, judgement, fear, etc.

All the superheroes that my son loves are male.

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Silly Aphrodite. Making a sexist Law that strips women of their power if a man ties them up.

Wonder Woman is being sold as a superhero that young women can relate to. Someone that they can look up to – and call upon when they’re uncomfortable, or need some larger than life fantasy to help explain a complexity in growing up.

So it completely makes sense that her weakness originally was being tied up by a man (see image right).

See, it all stems from Wonder Woman’s Bracelets of Submission. That’s logical for a superheroine to have. ‘Bracelets of Submission’  definitely has an empowering ring to it. (I sure hope you can feel the sarcasm in my writing today)

In fact, these bracers are a double edged sword. Apparently a man – and it must be a man – can strip her of her power by tying her bracers together but she also goes berserk and uncontrollable if her bracers are removed:

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Those Amazon women. Sure glad that she has her bracers of submission so she doesn’t go berserk on me! Glad I can bind them together to force her to submit if she gets out of line, too.

That weakness was retconned (removed from her origin) in the 80’s and now she is simply a superhuman that actually can get hurt by conventional means – hence the armor in the new version.

In the 1940’s version of Wonder Woman, she leaves the remote Amazonian world called “Paradise Island” when – you guessed it – a man, Steve Trevor, crash lands into Paradise Island and Wonder Woman (Then known as Diana) is smitten with him and his ‘handsomeness’. Because of dreamy eyed Steve Trevor’s stories, Diana decides to leave Paradise Island and comes to earth to fight in World War 2.

After she fights in the war, hiding her superpowers by pretending to be a nurse so she can help Steve Trevor recover, she begins to start saving the world as Wonder Woman.

Eventually Wonder Woman ends up getting invited to join the Justice Society of America – that superhero league thing. Of course, though, she is invited to join up as their secretary, despite her superhuman strength and superheroine status.

The weird sexist portrayal of Wonder Woman persisted in the 1970’s when she slammed women’s lib groups that were active at the time:

Wonder Woman No. 203, 1972: Wonder Woman tells the women’s lib movement to go stifle itself. Actual dialogue: “I’m for equal wages, too. But I’m not a joiner. I wouldn’t fit with your group. In most cases I don’t even like women.”

Source: Wonder Woman: 10 super sexist moments from her vintage comics

These stories, like many others, have been retconned to appear a bit less sexist.

So, overall, from 1942 to 2016, Wonder Woman has become less sexist. But I’m not convinced that she falls into the category of an “empowering female superhero” for a couple reasons.

  •  Wonder Woman is still being sold as “Sexy”.

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Spartan Hoplites. Note the Helmets…

Her current incarnation of a costume is still impractical for combat. It resembles a Greek Hoplite’s armor, which makes complete sense as her origin story is Grecian. But given that Wonder Woman can actually be hurt in combat, you would expect her to have, well, more protection. A helmet, for starters.

Also, as stated above, that poster that cuts her face off to accentuate her cleavage is clearly marketing her sex appeal, and not her strength.

This is all just marketing. The actual “sexy vs. realistic” debate about Wonder Woman that I am having will come out once I see the film.

  • Being good at causing violence is equated to being strong and empowered.

I’m glad that my son likes larger than life superheroes, and I’m glad that comics can be a forum to teach life lessons and provide entertainment as well as stimulate imagination. But, ultimately, superheroes beat up bad guys and operate outside the law. Wonder Woman is no exception. The trailer shows her being a bad-ass, dodging bullets and beating up countless men.

Its high time that women and men share equal screen time in action flicks as main characters. Its nice to see a movie like Wonder Woman accomplish that ideal. But lets be honest – this is being sold as an action movie, and while I have nothing against a good action flick, I want to call a spade a spade – This is an action movie with a sexy main character, not a compelling tale of an empowered woman. She’s going to be doing superhuman and extraordinary stuff that No young woman should ever do.  As the title of this block says, in Wonder Woman (and most superhero movies) being good at causing violence is equated to being strong and empowered.

In Conclusion…

Maybe there will be higher morals that can translate past the violence and sexiness – perhaps an action flick like this can supersede traditional film tropes and a greater message can be gleaned from the script.

Maybe we’ll see  a compelling tale of a woman embracing destiny and making morally strong choices based on character and strength of reasoning. Perhaps Warner Bro’s can use a violent action film as a medium to really display an empowering and thoughtful superheroine. Perhaps superhuman strength and larger than life feats of violence can become a bastion of cultural empowerment for young women in a male dominated comic universe.

 

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It’s a good quote – one that superheroes seem to take to heart…

Perhaps, as most comic book stories do, it will paint Woman Woman as being a bastion of

action – making the decision to stand up to evil when no one else will. John Stuart Mill would be proud.

I sincerely hope that Warner Brothers delivers a great movie. I plan on watching the film. I probably will even enjoy it – as aforementioned, I do love a good action film and comics. But I am skeptical that it will be a film that showcases empowerment for women. Wonder Woman has come along way since 1941, but I maintain that Less Sexist does not translate to Empowering unless there is a clear direction to make it such.   

 

 

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Raising Compassion, Not Hate

Trigger Warning / Disclaimer: I’m talking today about the Stanford Sexual Assault case. It’s a heavy subject.

A few weeks ago, mainstream media had it out for Brock Turner, the “Stanford Rapist”, in a big way. Most of the controversy around the case stemmed from the incredibly light sentence Brock received – 6 months in jail after he was found guilty on three counts of felony sexual assault.

The victim was 23. She wants to be anonymous, going by the pseudonym “Emily Doe”. She wrote an incredibly powerful victim’s statement about what happened — but then took it a step further. She read it, in full, to Brock. Face-to-face, in the courtroom. All I can say is Wow. That takes a level of courage I can’t even comprehend. Please follow the link and read her words. Again, trigger warning. This is heavy and graphic.

Public media on this subject was startlingly vocal about the fact that he received a light sentence. Oftentimes in these situations, media tends to side with the rapist, not the victim. I am actually impressed with CNN’s Coverage of the rape. Not too bad for mainstream media, but news outlets sure talked an awful lot about how he was a star swimmer, in line for the Olympics – a fact that made headlines when the Olympics leveled a lifetime ban against Brock.

Now, some people think he should be executed or castrated. I can’t stand this kind of mentality. Brock Turner planned and carried out a horrific crime against this woman, and he deserves to face his consequences under the law accordingly. I can agree that 6 months is a disgrace. It’s ten times shorter than that minimum sentence for the felonies he committed. I think the Judge should lose his job. I think judge’s should not be able to sentence solely at their discretion, and should be forced be accountable to minimum sentences. But let’s not mutilate or kill Brock. It’s real hard to hold the moral high ground on sexual assault and then call for castration.

However, the most disturbing bit, and the bit that is relevant to me and my blog at AtoZFamily, is the part where Brock’s dad defends his son, saying that it was “A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”, then going on to deliver a sob story about how his son will be a sex offender for the rest of his life. How his son’s life is ruined. How the justice system is heartless.

As a Father, I am revolted by this man. Your son was found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt on three accounts of assault, and you have the audacity to minimize that into “20 minutes of action” and to complain about how much it impacts your son?

The thing is,  I get wanting to protect your son – believe me. I get loving your child unconditionally , and I get that family in this world can sometimes be the only refuge where you can find safety without judgement. But there comes a time in any parent’s life where you have to admit that your child messed up. For most of us, this hopefully falls into simple things – your child pushed another at the playground or drew on the walls with crayon.

For some, maybe your child caused a minor crime or ran a red light. Most parents would scold their children for doing so. I know my mother accompanied me to the courthouse to pay my speeding ticket when I was 16. We laughed about it, but there was a edge: my parents knew that I had messed up and needed to accept the consequences of that action.

But Brock’s Dad doesn’t see that. He doesn’t see that sexual assault is a heinous crime. He sees it as 20 minutes of action. Read Emily Doe’s letter again. That is not 20 minutes of action. What was done to her was monstrous – a wound that will never fully heal. Now, anyone who can write and speak that eloquently about such a despicable and horrific crime is by very definition strong. She is a genuine bad–ass, and hopefully has all the support she needs to get through. But sexual assault just hurts. Regardless of how strong she is, she has a hard damn road to overcome the wound inflicted upon her.

So how… how… does someone get so messed up that they can rationalize doing something so vile to someone else?

Well, Brock’s dad clearly didn’t instill a value of respect for others in Brock when he was growing up.

And, well, we don’t do a good job in the country of making sure sexual offender actually receive consequences.

And, well, we view rape and Sexual assault as pretty laughable things – in fact, trauma like the one Brock caused is often the butt of horribly insensitive and triggering jokes.

And, well, our culture starts shaping boys and girls from a very young age to be pressed into a gendered box that helps shape and define their roles in society.

And, well, we criticize and blame the victim in case after case after case – for everything from what he or she was wearing, to their level of drunkenness, to where they were walking. This is called victim blaming and it doesn’t hold up the moment you scrutinize it. Think about it… what would you have to do to be “okay” with going through the trauma Emily Doe is going through? Is there any act or series of acts that any one person could do that would make them “deserving'” of such horrendous and devaluing treatment at the hands of a peer? Absolutely not, is my answer.

So what do we do as a society?

Well, parents, a lot of is up to us.

If Brock’s Dad had taught him to respect others – to learn what Consent is and to respect boundaries – that alone could have prevented this tragedy. What about cultural influences? If enough parents teach enough kids how to be decent human beings, then we can change that culture.

I, for one, am raising my Son to understand his body – inside and out. We talk about emotions. We talk about physical attributes of our bodies and others. We talk about space and consent. We remove the shame from body parts so that we can openly talk about them without uncomfortable feelings getting in the way. I establish appropriate boundaries around body parts, specifically in relation to anyone touching him, or him touching anyone else.

He’s 4.

That’s not too young for these conversations. Consent at his age deals with how he treats kids at the playground – and how he treats his own body at home. But these behaviors grow up with him. Consent will never not be a part of our instruction.
In the same vein, acceptance of consequences is a part of our household.

Our kids are the future generation, folks. Lets teach them how to make a society that we can be proud of. Let’s teach them that a moral society, a just society, has no room for Sexual Assault. Let’s teach them to love themselves and others and to respect one another, and to never do anything without mutual, informed Consent.

-Daddy Levi

My Dad’s a Good Worker

Whew, Okay.

When I set up the AtoZFamily, I set it up as a way for me to express and share about the joys, struggles, and hilarity that me and my family experience daily.

I’ve talked about quite a bit of things since founding this blog.

I’ve talked about sicknesses.

I’ve talked about body parts.

I’ve talked about really gross accidents.

And so, when a restaurant that was an integral part of our family went through all the nasty legal troubles detailed in my previous post, I used my family’s blog as the forum to share that story.

I got an incredible response. I was overwhelmed by the reach my post made. Thousands of people have read my words, many have shared or otherwise reacted to them. Many people got angry, as well. Whatever the reaction, though, I was simply blown away by the exposure that my post had in my community.

I wrote the piece to grieve for the loss of an institution that profoundly affected my family. This blog is, after all, for exactly that – expressing what my family is going through.

So, Thank you, Red Lodge. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your words. Thank you for sharing your emotions and reactions with me, both online and in person. While we may not all agree about who was right in the legal battles of the Cafe, I think we can all agree that what happened was a tragedy in how it unfolded.

The Cafe is forever gone from my family’s life, but the community of Red Lodge is still here. And we love you!

Okay, enough heavy stuff. Lets bring back some laughter!

I want to continue my purpose on this blog – that of sharing about my family. So here we go….

My father sent me this hilarious mini-story about an interaction that Monster had with him and Grandma Tammy when he was out at their house last week:

Grandma Tammy:  “Hey Monster, let’s have you try the pedal car while Grandpa is here for lunch so he can adjust the seat if it needs it”

 Monster (Looking doubtfully at Grandpa): “Are you a good worker?”

 Grandma Tammy (answering because Grandpa is laughing too hard): “Yes, Grandpa is a good worker”

 Monster: “My dad’s a good worker.”

So there. I know you were all curious about my work ethic. Just remember, truth from the mouth’s of Monsters is infallible.

-DaddyLevi