This was originally posted on 26/03/2012 on The Bat and the Battle
My original title was this article was going to be ‘Why the New 52 Wonder Woman Series Gets Everything Right’.
But last week issue #7 was released, and while I really enjoyed it, many other readers did not, objecting to new revelations in the Wonder Woman mythos. Reading their criticisms me question myself, made me wonder if I’m a hypocrite calling myself a feminist.
Ever since I first learned about feminist theory (in particular, modern 3rd wave feminism) in college, I have self-identified as feminist. Essentially, it seems crazy to me that women are still seen as inherently less worthy than men by many people, when women have many strengths than men could only dream off. 3rd wave feminism particularly appealed me, as it brought to light the problems caused for everyone else under white western patriarchy, such as the problems of people of other races, people who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered and even the burden of expectations it applies to men.
When it comes to comic book fandom, it is the feminist or female perspective criticism I pay most attention to also. Superhero comics are traditionally a teenage male endeavour, but they can work so well as power fantasies for everyone. The female centric criticisms tend to push against the norm, asking for something good in general, not just what is is expected of the medium. So, think of my shock when they were deeply offended by an issue I really enjoyed.
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman series has been reminding me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods quite a lot, and I’ve been loving them for it. Heavy emphasis on the mythology, and showing how the Gods of the Greek pantheon fit themselves into modern day society.
Eros (Cupid) has traded his bow and arrow in for a pair of golden pistols and is helping people hook up at clubs. Hades is a petulant child with crown of candles. Zeus is being a womanising and sleazy as the myths always portrayed him, also butt naked. Wonder Woman herself is pushing 7 foot tall, and is drawn and written with no attempts to titillate teenage boys.
She is also revealed to be the daughter of Zeus, a new wrinkle in her backstory. I don’t mind the change, its led to a hell of a story of an almighty family falling out, but it turned out to be the first change to split opinion, and not the last.
In issue #7, we are introduced to Hephaestus, and through him we get an explanation of how the Amazons manage to perpetuate an all female society. They rape sailors for their sperm, kill the donors so word doesn’t spread, keep the female children and trade the males with Hephaestus in exchange for his superior weapons. Yeah, you can see why this didn’t go down well with some people.
Personally, I still think its a great addition. It makes sense to explain where new generations come from and it links back strongly to the Amazons’ mythological origins. Of course, it does make them rapists, murderers and liars too, but the mythological world being set up in Wonder Woman is a brutal one, where this type of Amazon fits well.
But my feminist writers? They hated it. This gave me a crisis of feminism! Could I call myself a feminist when all the feminist writers I followed had the completely opposite view? I actually asked one of them on Twitter and they had this to say:
Absolutely not. We all see & absorb stories differently. If this doesn’t bother u, it’s ok. U can still be a good feminist. 🙂
So, yeah, I gave it some thought, and I’m still happy with what Azzarello and Chiang are doing with the series, and I’m still happy to call myself a feminist. The fact that the audience’s eyes for this series, Wonder Woman, is disgusted and shocked too means that they thought about the implications of what they were doing. I think the Amazons are in for some redemption and rebuilding in later issues. I also don’t think we’ve heard all the sides to Hephaestus’ story. This isn’t the first time the Gods haven’t told all the truth…
Finally, I’d like to quote one of Kelly’s commenters, “Jay” who sums up my opinions of the hero herself quite well:
To me, the icon of female empowerment and feminism isn’t the Amazons, but Wonder Woman herself–the curious adventurer who escaped from isolation and not only lived in the world of “Man,” but thrived, and fought along-side men as an equal, sometimes even their better. THAT seems more in line with what I consider to be feminism than the Amazons.
Couldn’t have wished to say it better myself