On Women, Wonder and Being Super

“If you want to date a queen, you have to be a king.” – Conventional wisdom

Superman’s long-standing relationship with Lois Lane was recently dissolved in the annals of DC Comics.  Instead, his new designated partner is someone who is more like him: also a superhero, also able to defy conventional physical limitations.  They chose to explore Wonder Woman as a partner for the Man of Steel.

On the surface, that doesn’t seem so bad.  While yes, they are messing with a classic pairing, perhaps it’s time to examine the flawed assumptions that the classic supports: that women are weaker than men, that the man always saving the woman is a normal or even rejoiceable item, that Wonder Woman must be single as a feminist icon, even that a female reporter could date Superman and fail to suspect his real identity.  A number of those things limit feminism, and women.

However, that’s not how the masses have it.  Over at Ineffable Aether, the comments are piling up:

The “new” they chose disrespected and degraded two powerful women. It legitimized the idea that Diana exists not to have her own story but to be part of a man and pushed aside the most powerful civilian woman in the genre.
It confuses mr that you, of all people, don’t think that is condemnable. – Elle

Greg Rucka is quick to distance himself from the specific details of DC’s implementation of a new continuity – and I myself have to raise my eyebrows hearing about some of them – but the idea that Superman is with someone who is more like him, a partner in fighting the good fight, is not automatically objectionable to me.  I don’t see it as degrading or disrespectful to tell a different story here.  I understand that new Lois Lane is shown as a sexual creature, whereas the original 1930s characters were created in an earlier era, and not really sexual at all.  But the fact that this is automatically lamentable wins no points for consistency; whence cometh SlutWalk? Are we not pushing the idea that women are free to have as few or as many sexual partners as they choose?  How can we push that idea and simultaneously be squeamish about showing a sexually active woman in a work where men are shown to be equally sexually active?

Only if you define those two characters solely by their relationships. Wonder Woman is not disrespected or degraded by putting her into a relationship with Superman, just as she wouldn’t be is she was linked romantically with anyone.
However, if you’re worried that, by linking her romantically with Superman she will, by dint of Superman’s overwhelming status as “the” super-hero, come to be seen as an attachment to him rather than an important figure in her own right (“Superman’s Girl-Friend Wonder Woman,” as it were) you may have point, but only time will tell. – Gray

1.) Supporting the idea that Wonder Woman is a sex object and “sidekick” “girlfriend’ figure as opposed to a protagonist in her own story is a huge mistake that is going to be detrimental long term to the character in the WAY men perceive her going forward. There is a subset of male fans who have always viewed Wonder Woman as a sex object and attempted to re-purpose her for their own vision and use as opposed to honoring who she truly is and what she stands for. DC used to refuse to cater to those people because it was essential that DC upheld the line that Diana did not exist to belong to men because she wasn’t here for men or their gross sex fantasies about how hard she could “take it” during sex (gross btw)—she was here for women. DC has now given them permission to view her this way. – M.

So a subset of people with an irrational viewpoint (which sounds borderline fetishistic) is more important to you than all the people who have more reasonable takes on the story.  I mean, that appears to be what you’re saying – you’re not arguing about how most people take it, you’re saying “because these extremists believe X, and we’d only be encouraging them by doing Y, Y is verboten even if it wouldn’t send that message to most people.”

You can find anything on the Internet, so I would hardly take the fact that some extremist thinks something as proof that that thing is the new normal.  Now, if a year from now, the work has increased the number of people who think of Wonder Woman in a way that you find objectionable and harmful, then this argument may really be right. Until then – do you propose we let the extremists decide everything? That would be handing them power.

2.) A Superman story where Superman is not struggling in some form with his passion/lust/sexuality/love for the very flawed and mortal Lois Lane—whether she be his wife, his girlfriend, or simply the friend who sits next to him at his desk that he loves from afar— is not a story about Superman.
– M.

Really? I seem to recall similar situations in Twilight being condemned as “abstinence porn.”

Is a Superman story all about how a totally awesome guy has to content himself with a flawed woman?  Maybe in the past, that has occurred with some regularity.  But maybe, just maybe, switching Superman’s partner means that new stories can be written, stories in which the man doesn’t always happen to be the competent one and the woman doesn’t happen to be in need of rescuing all the time.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

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Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 3:36 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Yawn…. After Zero Hour, Else Wheres story lines, parallel universes, why are folks surprised to see these two kissing? I’ve been reading comics for too long, lol.


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