What happens when an educated culture critic tries to talk about things she clearly has no knowledge about and then makes bullshit statements? This gem gets published. I swear I feel like I’m having déjà vu to last year when someone else decided to make baseless bullshit statements about the same topic. If you haven’t read Jill Lepore’s article I’ll sum it up for you, it’s a sad attempt to pass judgment on a medium she clearly doesn’t care for or know nothing about. She enlists preteen boys to be her Google then proceeds to make some of the most infuriating statements I’ve read about female comic book superheroes.
I instantly wanted to throw my phone across the room when I read her opening paragraphs and saw the words “lady Avengers” and “look like porn stars.” First of all, any superhero whether female or male that is part of the Avengers in Marvel comics is called an Avenger. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America aren’t called guy Avengers team. Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are not Lady Avengers, they are fucking Avengers. And while yes its significant that A-Force features an all woman team of Avengers to reduce them to just lady Avengers is some passive aggressive shit talking. My other issue is who exactly on this cover looks like a porn star? Everyone on this cover is featured in a pose meant to project power and movement like any cover featuring a team with heroes. Is it cause She Hulk is wearing a wrestling one piece that shows some leg? How is that in anyway pornographic? I mean what exactly does a pornstar look like? A green woman? A woman with long red hair? A Goth dressed woman? Oh is this one of those I’ll know it when I see it situations. Because Lepore never really answers her own question.
Also, Jill Lepore needs some context on the example she and her preteen experts talk about. I mean there Google for that sort of thing, but hey I’ll do it for you. Thor did not just become a woman (and interestingly enough Norse mythology plays with gender a lot). A woman, who was recently revealed to be Jane Foster who is battling cancer, who is so worthy of the power of Thor she changes the inscription on Mjlnor lifting it becoming Thor. She’s so worthy not even Odin could take the hammer from her.
The other line that absolutely sent my blood pressure through the roof is that because Pepper Potts is wearing an Iron Man style suit it’s like a “boyfriend shirt” she just borrowed from Tony. No. No. No. HELL NO. Pepper is not just wearing a “boyfriend shirt” she is wearing a suit of armor designed to help with search and rescue operations. That’s why her name is Rescue. Sure is the boob plate irksome? Totally. But Jill never says that, she just takes a look at her and automatically assumes it’s a fluke. Pepper never wanted to be a hero but after she almost died and got an arc reactor implanted in her chest like Tony she stepped up. Pepper herself CHOSE to be a hero.
Then there’s this exchange:
“All the girls here have, like, gigantic cleavages,” Captain Comics said, giggling.
“Why do they have gigantic cleavages?” I asked. Did it seem inevitable to these little boys, I wondered, that women would be drawn this way?
“Because they’re girls, Mom,” Mr. What? said. “What else is going to happen?” And he laughed, because it was funny, and he knew I would find that funny—the idea that nothing else was possible—the way it’s funny when Jessica Rabbit says, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” Alas, the Avengers are not funny, and neither are the She-Avengers.
My first reaction is so what is some of the heroes have giant cleavages does that automatically discount them from who they are? My second reaction is if that is what the kid said then he needs some intro lessons that WOMEN are more than their appearance and their “gigantic cleavages” don’t discount who they might be or what they are capable of. No she just laughs. Instead of asking, them why they just see that and maybe pointing out that these characters are more than their appearance problematic or not she just stops there and continues on her bullshit train to nowhere.
Now I’m not defending the unrealistic male gazey portrayal of superheroines in comics but I will say that Lepore never once takes this to task instead she is dismissive and all chuckles at the thought of “She Avengers”. Which not only does a disservice to the creators who are writing titles trying to make change and the many young girls and women who turn to comic books and comic book media for consumption. Because women and young girls are reading comic books and they deserve a wide spectrum of superheroines that they not only can identify with but who they can aspire to follow.
A-Force #1 Cover by Jim Cheung, Out May 20th, 2015