On gendering & comics…Posted: May 12, 2007
I can’t believe I missed this exchange until this morning. Much of what I’m going to say here has been covered by commenters and bloggers (Dick, who hates other comics blogs [and probably this one too] has some good points) but I want to throw my two cents out there. I’ve done some work this semester on gendering as a historical process (and it has been said I am only as intelligent as the last book I read) so issues like this are fresh in my mind.
Fundamentally, I believe that no genre is gendered. Typically, of course, many are. Romance novels (you know with the bare chested dude and swooning woman on the cover) are gendered female, either by marketing and/or creative intent. But that doesn’t mean that romance novels are on the basic level (you know like the Platonic ideal of a romance novel… or something) are feminine works of literature. A writer could easily write a romance novel gendered towards males or one that was gendered neutral.
Another example of this assumption is ‘light fantasy’, like say D&D novels (and other D&D products). I read about two or three D&D novels a year to give my brain a rest from overly heady history and to maintain my uber-geek cred, and I have discovered more often then not that these books are gendered male. Does this mean that they have to be? That they are fated by the GODS OF FANTASY to be that way? That if one was to write a D&D novel towards a female audience, or a gender-neutral audience, it would loose something fundamental to its genre? That’s just not true. Both on a philosophic and practical level (For an example: see the excellent Forgotten Realms novels of Elaine Cunningham).
Thus the Platonic ideal of a superhero comic book (or something) is not sexist or gendered male. Yet historically, of course, superhero comics often have been. Thus critics, like Ragnell and others (including me sometimes) are well within their rights to bitch about the current (and past) expressions of the superhero comic industry’s sexism.
So, yeah, despite her master’s degree in fan studies (!?), Johanna Draper Carlson is very way off the mark on this one.
I know this is well-traveled ground but I just wanted to get my take on this out there because I find argument like Carlson’s view wrong headed and, ultimately, defeatist.