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Not All Refrigerators: Gender Violence in Geek Literature

Not All RefrigeratorsRecently, my friend, and frequent conference collaborator, AJ Ortega posted a story about one of his students complaining about a short story he assigned for them to read. The story was “How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl or Halfie)” by Junot Diaz. AJ’s student felt that it was inappropriate for a teacher to assign a story that was so “obviously racist”. Oddly, AJ’s student didn’t seem to notice that the story is “obviously sexist” too. This got me thinking about my own students’ most common criticism, that I force them to debate “uncomfortable issues” in class. Of course, AJ and myself, like pretty much every other English teacher in the world, ignore that complaint because we realize that the entire point of the class is to get the students to think about complicated issues that literature addresses. Of course, the racial and sexual overtones of the Diaz story are the entire reason AJ assigned it in the first place. I do pretty much the same thing. Everyone does. But when I started thinking about I don’t think it’s really the student’s fault they feel that way. They’ve been trained to think that good stories don’t offend anyone. In reality, it’s often just the opposite. One of literature’s most important jobs is to deal with the offensive. But, if you look at people’s responses to offensive media, you wouldn’t know it. That’s how the students got trained that way in the first place.

Game of Thrones: S05E06 (2015)

A couple of months ago, the internet got in an uproar over an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones where Sansa Stark gets violently raped. Then, immediately after the show and all through the next day, Twitter and Facebook were all abuzz about how gratuitous the scene was and how it had no place there and how they were never watching the show again.1 I didn’t really believe it, but the viewership of the show did fall from 6.24 million people to 5.4 million the next week. I was kind of surprised, maybe the event really did lose viewers. Of course, then it shot up to 7 million a week later and continued climbing to 8.11 million at the season finale. Since it’s episodic, I’m guessing that the loss in viewers had more to do with the fact that the “down week” was because that was Memorial Day weekend and people just had better things to do. Since the show is available “On Demand” and online, I’m guessing people just caught up afterwards and the show gained viewers because of the controversy. So the question is, “was it gratuitous?” No — Sansa Stark had to be raped!

Airboy #2 (2015)

A little while later (last month), there was an outrage over the comic Airboy by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle. The story concerns the 1940s hero Airboy, who has been transported into the real world 21st century to hang out with the writer and artist of the series and it details the misadventures he gets into as his idealized WWII era comic book sensibilities come into conflict with 21st century America. In the July 2015 issue Airboy and the metafictional version of Robinson, high on pot, encounter and hookup with two transgender women in the bathroom of a dive bar. While Robinson understands that the women are transgender and doesn’t care, Airboy doesn’t find out until after he receives oral sex from the woman and then proceeds to go off on a transphobic tirade over the “woman with a penis.” And of course there was outrage… with Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Programs, going so far as to say “It’s shocking in 2015 that a publisher would allow this type of transphobic scene to be associated with its brand. Robinson and Hinkle repeat the outdated, stereotypical attitudes toward transgender women that the rest of America is quickly leaving behind.” which caused Robinson himself to issue an apology for the story. Was the story transphobic? Absolutely. Was it over the line? No — Airboy had to be bigoted!

The Killing Joke (1988)

Finally, a couple of weeks ago at San Diego Comic Con, DC Comics announced that the next animated feature they had in development was an adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. In this story from 1988, the Joker surprises Commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara (Batgirl) while they are having lunch. He shoots Barbara in the stomach, shattering her spine and paralyzing her, strips her naked, and (apparently) rapes2 her while taking pictures of the incident. Joker then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, strips him naked, locks a dog collar around his neck and forces him to watch a loop of the photos of his daughter’s rape in an attempt to drive him insane. Eventually, Batman comes to the Commissioner’s rescue and prevails over the Joker, but the damage on the character of Barbara would remain as her career as Batgirl was ended and she would be wheelchair bound until DC (controversially) healed her in a hand wave of retcon when they rebooted their universe in 2011. And so, with the announcement of a forthcoming cartoon of the story, some fans are, as you might expect, outraged. Was the story horrific yes? Should it therefore be excluded from receiving a film adaptation. Absolutely not — Batgirl needs to be raped and crippled!

These three stories are all obviously horrific in their own ways, and it’s understandable why people might be offended by them; something offensive is happening in each. You’re supposed to be offended. But the offensiveness of each is precisely why they’re important and why I think they have to be the way they are.

I’ve said on other posts before that some how, inexplicably, we have found ourselves in a  Golden Age of geek culture. If you’d told me when I was seven that one of the highest grossing movies of the year was a comic book movie, I’d be amazed. If you told me that ALL of the highest grossing movies EVERY year were comic book movies I’d have thought you were fucking with me. This is why I’ve been so critical of geek media. We’ve gotten to a point where it’s time to stop worrying about fighting for recognition and start worrying about fighting for quality.3

But what I’m really fascinated with right now is the way in which geeks, as a micro culture have started to self-police in regards to social issues. In a way, it’s awesome. With the advent of the #gamergate yahoos there’s been an even stronger rallying of the geek.feminism movement to punch them in the dick. And that’s wonderful. But as social activism in the geek community has grown, I worry that it’s starting to become less a movement and more a meme. Whenever anything controversial happens in geek media, particularly of a sexual/gender-based theme (and to a slightly lesser extent, a race based one), I can almost predict the complaints that will occur. Again, the heart behind these complaints is often great; it’s the execution that I find troubling. The reason people like Jerry Seinfeld complain about Political Correctness ruining comedy (or really all of media) isn’t because they want to embrace old and outdated modes of thinking, but because they want to comment on them.

The Airboy story did not perpetuate or reinforce a derogatory mode of thinking. It commented on it. While Adams may claim that America is “quickly leaving behind” these prejudices, he knows that in actuality there’s a long way to go. Some of America is evolving, sure — and thank HOVA. But a cursory look at any social media site will show that it certainly isn’t quick. A large percentage of Americans think that the pinnacle of social activism is reposting memes complaining that Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t deserve to win an award for courage that they’d never have even heard of if she wasn’t winning it. That was like two months ago, and people still haven’t shut up about it. Why, because lots of people are still extremely transphobic (and homophobic, and racist and sexist and antisemitic, etc)… which really, is why groups like GLAAD need to exist in the first place.

Airboy #8 (1947)

The great thing about science fiction is that it allows us to explore real life issues in contexts that are abstracted in ways that we can’t really look at them in reality. The key to the Airboy story isn’t Airboy’s disgust at receiving a blowjob from a transwoman. It’s comparing Airboy’s disgust at it to Robinson’s ambivalence towards it. In a story where a comic book character is transported 70 years into the future and out of a comic book and into reality, the most unrealistic thing isn’t the magical premise of the story; it’s that all he does is complain that “the lady had a penis.” Realistically, any 1940s flyboy who was propositioned by a woman in a bar for oral sex would go for it. But realistically, if he then discovered that she was transgender, he wouldn’t complain belligerently to his friends, he’d more likely beat the shit out of her, and in doing so would be praised for his morality by the other GIs. If that story somehow appeared in a comic that was actually published in the 1940s, it would be praised for standing up for the moral fiber of America.

Does that make Airboy “right?” Of course not. He’s a bigot with a misguided sense of morality from nearly a century ago. And that’s the point! It’s a social commentary about the time we live in. Lots of people are bigots with misguided senses of morality from a century ago. To complain that the publisher “would allow this type of transphobic scene to be associated with its brand” is analogous to complain about the racism in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The word “nigger” is used 205 times throughout the 43 chapters. This encourages some people to want to ban it as a racist book. Of course it’s a racist book. It’s a book about racism. The mistreatment of Jim because of the color of his skin and Huck’s inability to understand that because he’s more progressive and thinks of Jim as a friend first and a black later is the WHOLE POINT OF THE STORY. Furthermore, even though Huck is more progressive than most white boys in the antebellum South would be, by 2015 standards… he’s pretty fucking racist. Twain published Huck Finn twenty years after the Civil War ended to explore the complex views on race that the country was in the midst of even then (despite many not wanting to acknowledge it). Airboy does exactly  the same thing for our time.

Similarly the other two stories, The Killing Joke and Game of Thrones, point to an obviously important but offensive issue: rape. The key however is in how the rape is used from a storyline point-of-view. More specifically, “are the rapes gratuitous or not?” or put another way, “are they in refrigerators?”

Green Lantern #54 (1994)

In 1999, comics writer Gail Simone coined the term “Women in Refrigerators” to refer to women in comics who are used as victims of horrific crimes to further a story. The name is a reference to a comic where Kyle Rayner, early in his career as the Green Lantern of the 1990s, came home from a day of fun-filled day of greenlanterning to find that his live-in girlfriend had been murdered by a villain and stuffed in a refrigerator, thus teaching Kyle the important lesson that being a superhero is hard work and that with great power comes great responsibility and that women are apparently only good for sex and plot devices.

There has been much debate in comic geekdom over the years as to whether or not Barbara counts as a Woman in a Refrigerator. I actually tend to fall on the side of “yes.” At least at the beginning. Crippling Barbara was not really a part of her storyline at all. It was just an excuse to move Batman to action against the Joker. As he’s stripping her clothes off to rape her, Joker even tells her that it’s not about her at all, he’s simply doing it to prove a point. That’s how unimportant she is as a character in that scene. He’s robbed her of all agency not only physically but in literary terms. She is incidental to her own rape, and in that sense she is entirely a plot device which is the point of the refrigerator trope.The Killing Joke (1988)

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

I have a  problem with both the way many people use the terms “Women in Refrigerators” and “Strong Female Characters.” They’re very good, but very complicated ideas. People don’t like complicated. So they’ve reduced it to a meme, the easy to digest idea that strong female characters are “ones that kick ass.” It is the illusion of strength. I love the Hunger Games books, but Katniss isn’t strong… not in a literary sense. The entire point of the series is that the plot happens around her while for the most part she has no idea what is going on from scene to scene. Despite being a kick-ass girl with a bow and arrow, she needs rescuing as a damsel-in-distress more often than not and at most other times is effectively unaware of her surroundings. Much of her survival throughout the trilogy is due to dumb luck or the fact that most of the male characters are too in love with her to let anything bad happen to her.4,5 The opposite end of the spectrum (particularly in geek media) is the female action hero who is simply a male action hero with boobs. Undefeatable and one-dimensional — Lara Croft. While these characters may be physically strong their strength as fictional characters is limited.

Oracle

However, what is important about the character of Barbara Gordon is what happened in stories told about her after the events of The Killing Joke. Originally through the efforts of John Ostrander, and later, largely through the writing of Gail Simone herself, Barbara became the character Oracle —a wheelchair bound computer hacker, who fought through her physical disability and sexual trauma to become one of the most important characters in the DC Universe (at least until the New 52 reboot in 2011). Her “strength” was not in measured in her ability to beat people up, but instead in her ability to advance the plot of the story through both her own strengths and weaknesses. Her limitations are as important as her advantages. So while I will agree that yes, in the context of The Killing Joke she is a woman in a refrigerator, the ramifications of her fridging were useful character building moments. This is the difference between her and the Green Lantern’s girlfriend, whom I challenge most comic book fans to even remember her name without looking it up.6 You can’t! Because she wasn’t important. She wasn’t a character, she existed only as a building block towards Kyle Rayner’s character (like Batman’s parents, or Spider-man’s uncle… of course you know those names). Barbara was strong simply because she was more than that.

That said, while I am a huge fan of The Killing Joke story, I will acknowledge that Barbara’s place in the story proper is purely as a plot element. That said, The inclusion of the rape in the story is the main reason that it SHOULD be remembered. It was not gratuitous. It was important purely because it doesn’t happen very often in comics. While a reported 1-in-6 women in America is a victim of rape, it is sorely underrepresented in superhero comics, a literature form dominated by crime stories, even those auspiciously marketed as “gritty realism” and targeted at adults. The sad truth is that if a world exists where women routinely put on spandex and throw themselves into the middle of dens of violent criminals, at the very least rape attempts would be far more common than comics from the Big Two would have readers believe that they are. Even in the relative few instances from Marvel and DC where the issue is brought to light in canon it is often minimalized in the story.7 There are so few instances where the issue is treated seriously at all, that stories like The Killing Joke are the only way in which fans of comics as a literary form, and specifically superheroes as a genre, can even have stake to have the conversation around. 

Sansa Stark

This is why stories like Sansa’s rape on Game of Thrones are important. It isn’t just Sansa. The kingdom of Westeros is so defined by rape culture that it makes our own world look like Candyland. In doing so the show creators are exploring the problem of rape through the character of Sansa. Has she been put into a refrigerator? But what makes her interesting as a character is the story exploring how she gets out of the refrigerator; or perhaps, how she will fail to. For all the struggles that she has gone through in the most recent season, Sansa is by no means a weak character. Quite the contrary. To imply so would be insulting. Were she a real person, we would not say that she was weak because she was raped. To do so is to blame the victim. She is strong because her character and the events that happen to her character (even her failure to prevent her own rape, in a world where she quite literally had no way to do so) drive the story. She is the story.

While I believe that one purpose of comics, fantasy, and literature in general, should be an escape from the struggles of everyday life and the harsh reality of the real world, we also must realize that another purpose is to explore those horrors. To assume that stories like The Killing Joke have no place in comics (or animation) because of the atrocities that they deal with is to reduce the art form to a sophomoric state. It is to embrace Fredric Wertham’s theories from Seduction of the Innocent, that comics must be aimed exclusively at children and that to deal with more complex and darker themes would somehow corrupt the readership. A theory that not only has been proven false, but created a style of self-censorship in comics that nearly destroyed the industry. If we are in a Golden Age of Geek Culture, then it can only continue if we allow comics to evolve into an art form that can explore culture, as well as entertain. Even rape culture.

Yes, there is a danger with this. It means that some really horrible rape stories will be written. Not all literature is good. And in fact, if someone doesn’t like Game of Thrones, Airboy or The Killing Joke because they feel like they are sucky stories or they just don’t like reading about rape or transphobia, that’s a completely fair issue. Yes, some people will take it the wrong way. I am certain that there are fans of Games of Thrones who loved that scene because “thank god, that bitch Sansa finally got what was coming to her.” Just as I am sure that someday, some #gamergate weenie is going to find this article, not understand it or not read it all the way through (I write long shit, yo!) and link to it as justification for why rape stories aren’t sexist just because I called it “Not All Refrigerators.” La mort de l’auteur! I take solace in the fact that hopefully when they repost this at least one smarter person will at least read it all he way through and think about the deeper issue of why these stories are important. And moreover, I take solace in the fact that when that happens, hopefully a geek.feminist will punch the person who misquotes me in the dick.


Footnotes

  1. Some portion of the outrage over Sansa’s rape really isn’t about the atrocity of the crime at all, but more because it was a deviation from the book where another character, Jayne, was raped in her stead. Geeks fear change. I’m ignoring the distinction here because it’s irrelevant and dumb. Leslie Loftis did address the issue in her defense of the rape scene if anyone cares, much of which gets to the points I’m making here.  
  2. There is some dispute as to whether or not Barbara Gordon is raped in this story. Author Alan Moore has claimed that it was his intention to have her “sexually assaulted but not raped,” but over the years some doubt has been cast as to whether or not that was the original intent, most notably by the revelation of artist Brian Bolland’s original more graphic (yet still slightly ambiguous) artwork for the scene. In any case, whether a penetration actually occurred or not the scene clearly reads as a sexual assault which is enough for the context of this discussion. Oddly enough, for all the debate about the inappropriateness of the sexual assault on Barbara in the story, very infrequently is the sexual assault of Jim ever discussed.
  3. In one way or another, I’ve spent the better part of my life arguing for the acceptance of comic books as “legitimate literature.” I’m not alone here, obviously; @scottmcloud’s entire life’s work, is essentially based around making this argument. And of course, there are any number of books that people (at least now in 2015) are clearly attempting to be serious “grown-up” literature, instead of “superhero kid stuff, like PersepolisBlue is the Warmest ColorFun Home and A Contract With God. And I feel the same about other “geek” media, namely movies and TV shows. The thing is, the comics that tend to be “taken seriously” are basically the that aren’t “traditional.” The reason everyone loves Persepolis is that it ISN’T about superheroes. That’s not why it’s good. It’s good because it is an excellent story, but that’s the reason people are willing to even consider it for a moment. Of course there are a few exceptions… Well, two really. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. Those are the two “super hero” books that probably most acknowledged as meaningful literature. But even those two are at the bottom of the list, outside of the “geek community.” That’s just how high culture works, especially in academia. It’s just easier to consider Alison Bechdel as higher brow than Frank Miller if only because she’s less accessible to a popular audience.
  4. Not only Gale and Peeta, but also Haymitch, Finnick and others including other female characters such as Johanna. Even Katniss’s sister Prim takes more direct action than Katniss in her relative few scenes throughout the series.
  5. Team Gale forever!
  6. It was Alex DeWitt, by the way. There, I saved you time and effort of googling. You’re welcome.
  7. Of the instances I could think of off the top of my head, there is The Killing Joke, where the rape is left ambiguous because apparently the idea of sexual assault without actual vaginal penetration is somehow “better” and reader is intended to believe that the megalomaniacal Joker was intent on driving ruining Barbara, Jim and Batman’s lives, driving them crazy, torturing and killing them but just wasn’t willing to cross “that line.” “Alias” by Brian Michael Bendis, where the main character, Jessica Jones spends six months as a mind controlled slave of the villain and is forced to watch him use his powers to force other women have sex with him while for some reason, he chooses not to cross that line with the main character herself (though, I tend to read that book as though Jessica is lying because she is unwilling to admit that she was raped) and most egregiously, Avengers #197-200 where Ms. Marvel is mind-controlled and impregnated by an alien being while she slept and the whole thing is written off as a romantic gesture (which is so problematic that it has seldom been mentioned since). The only character besides Jessica Jones that comes to mind where rape is a clear and integral par of her story is Kate Bishop, the female Hawkeye, who  uses her rape as a character building moment; it is the event that inspires her to train as an archer and martial artist in the first place.

 

61 comments for “Not All Refrigerators: Gender Violence in Geek Literature

  1. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Excellent article

  2. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 6:11 am

    While you make some moderately good points about the works themselves, the injection of your own beliefs/ideology, while understandable(it is your blog), detracts from the overall impact of the piece for me.

    The importance of literature tackling relevant social issues was enough of a defense in my opinion.

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 6:21 am

      Can you be specific with which beliefs/ideology? Because I’m not sure what you’r referring to.

      as far as I can see there are only 3 beliefs I really talk about:

      1) Rape is bad
      2) Trans-bashing (really any bashing, but trans in this case) is bad
      3) Talking about bad thing is literature is good

      Since you specifically point to number 3, I assume you’re ok with it. But 1 and 2 aren’t exactly controversial stances to take. So I’m honestly lost on which part you’re saying is detracting. And I mean, without referring to them I really wouldn’t have had an article.

      Or are you talking about something else?

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 6:45 am

      Huck Finn is not a “racist book”. The story in and of itself is not oppressive to black people. It is a book about race, as you stated. Using the word “nigger”, in either text or speech, is not in and of itself “racist”. It is just a word.

      I am very much in opposition to the whole “woman in a refrigerator” thing. Primarily because it comes from a place of entitlement, common among feminists(contemporary) who are generally unwilling to acknowledge the privileges afforded to women in modern society, while clinging to outdated ideas that are not supported by law(or lack there of) anywhere in the western world.

      Calling someone bigoted simply because they don’t accept another’s lifestyle, sexual orientation, hair color is very intolerant in and of itself. A person could very easily not agree that Caitlyn Jenner is a “woman”, but have not real opinion as to how he/she lives their life beyond someone asking them their opinion. That does not make them bigoted. They might be. Just as someone who is uncomfortable around another race might also be racist. But how they feel, in and of itself does not make them so.

      And yes, rape is bad. Which is why our culture does not accept it, at all. There is no where in this country where rape is ok. But there is far too much discussion going on in regards to what is and is not rape. So called “rape culture”. So while 1 in 6 women might have reported feeling uncomfortable in certain social situations. It is a fallacy that 1 in 6 women will be actually sexually assaulted in their lives(as in forced to have sex with someone against their will). Assault is bad. It is not akin to rape, which is where that 1 and 6 statistic is derived from, and even then it used a survey, that used particularly leading questions, etc. If you are interested in a counter point, just google, 1-5 myth or something like that. There is a lot of anlysis of the studies used to get those numbers and you can make up your own mind as to the validity. In MY opinion, based on what I have read, there is no solid evidence that supports the claim. So while I completely agree that SEXUAL assault, OF ANY KIND is bad, I am not convinced of the epidemic we supposedly face as a society.

      As I said. I don’t agree with your assessment of these social issues. You and I already know this. We do not need to debate such things. I am open to a discussion of course, but I am not going to bash or argue with anyone over this. Your overall point in regards to the need for what I would call “honest” literature is good enough for me, even if we have different views on the particulars of why it is important.

      • avatar
        mav
        August 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

        Ok… I think I see where you are coming from now. I don’t think you really disagree with me on the key point (here) so i’ll clarify.

        Huck Finn isn’t racist because of the usage of the word “nigger” alone. It’s “racist” because the book is full of racist behavior. That’s the point of the book. Huck doesn’t understand why Jim is treated differently than anyone else. Lots of racist stuff happens. I’m not implying that Twain himself was racist (at least not for the day) but he is commenting on a racist society in much the same that Robinson is commenting on a current transphobic one. That’s the reason Twain uses the word nigger so much in the first place. 205 times in the context of Huck Finn. Zero times in the context of Tom Sawyer, a book that features the same characters but addresses different themes.

        By the same token, Airboy (the character) is transphobic. He’s meant to be. Robinson has as much as said so. It’s not a question of whether or not someone believes that a trans person (say Caitlyn Jenner, though obviously she isn’t in the story) should be considered a member of the new gender. The question in play is whether or not it is right to behave in a derogatory manner towards the person, which Airboy does, as opposed to the character of Robinson who clearly doesn’t care.

        Splitting the hairs as to whether or not the 1 in 6 statistic on rape is accurate is similarly irrelevant. My point is even if you think it’s 1 in 100, rape as a crime is horribly underrepresented in superhero comics. As I point out in the foot in footnote #7, there are only four instances of rape of primary characters that I can think of in superhero comics in general, and of those 4, only 1 is clear and unconvoluted (Kate Bishop) and it happened off-screen and in the characters backstory before she was actually a character.

        But in any case, without addressing those issues I really don’t have an article.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:11 am

          I think we just disagree on what makes something “racist”, no issue there, just a difference of opinion. I take racism more literally, as in it is an act that is done to someone, by someone else. We have had this discussion before and I think we are pretty clear as to our positions. Again, no issue, just was answering your question.

          “The question in play is whether or not it is right to behave in a derogatory manner towards the person, which Airboy does, as opposed to the character of Robinson who clearly doesn’t care. ”

          OK, I agree with that. Should people be allowed to not accept someone else based on their sex, race, etc. I think it was just the way you said it that threw me off.

          “Splitting the hairs as to whether or not the 1 in 6 statistic on rape is accurate is similarly irrelevant. My point is even if you think it’s 1 in 100, rape as a crime is horribly underrepresented in superhero comics”

          Now that brings up a good question. Do you really think it is an issue that needs representation in a media such as comics? My position is that rape is known to be bad. It is not an accepted part of society, so do we really need more reminders of that? I have no issue of it being used in stories, good or bad, they are just stories.

          Are you saying that it should be used more to create greater awareness?

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:16 am

          Adding one. Black Cat in Kevin Smith’s “The Evil That Men Do” storyline. Even with that one, your point still stands.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:24 am

          Vic: I understand what you mean by racist vs institutionalized racism. What I’m saying is that Huck Finn is full of both. That’s literally the point if the book. it occurs during slavery. It’s not even ambiguous. I didn’t really go into it much because that wasn’t the point of my article

          As for the rape issue, yes… i think it is an issue that should be represented more in comics (and media in general). To go back to your initial argument about whether 1 in 6 is valid… the simple fact that there’s a disagreement there is one that makes the discussion worth having, regardless of who is right.

          Strauss: Yes, that’s a good example too… though worth noting (for those who don’t know the story) she is ambiguously raped off panel, between issues, and whether or not it happened or not is specifically a major plot point of the story. Though it is worth noting that in the course of the story, it is revealed that she definitively was raped in the past… so that puts her in the category with Kate Bishop.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:34 am

          I know this may be asking a lot for a FB post, but I am curious. Can you briefly explain how a book that references racism is in and of itself racist? Is it because it does not actively condemn racism? It’s been ages since I read that book so I don’t recall it’s tone, but I don’t believe it condoned racism. Again, I could be wrong. If so, no need to elaborate.

          Do you think we need more male rape in comics? And no I am not being a wise ass. Statistically more men are raped than women. And while these are predominantly in prison, I don’t think that makes it any less of a crime, unless we are saying that prisoners deserve it. Regardless I can see your point in regards to having the discussion, though I don’t feel as if the subject is being underrepresented. Just an opinion.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:51 am

          Men have been raped in comics (Invicible #110, League of Extraordinary Gentleman). But, as you point out, the VAST majority of male rape in real life occurs in prison. Unless you really want to read comic books about prison life (I certainly don’t have any interest), there isn’t even vaguely as large an under representation of male rape as there is of female rape.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:55 am

          And, since you got me talking about the topic, when it comes to media, male prison rape ISN’T underrepresented in media. In fact, just the opposite. Whenever a character goes to jail (in comics, in television, in movies, in books, etc.), almost always the first thing that happens is that someone rapes the character (Shawshank Redemption), attempts to rape the character, or threatens to rape the character. Even in comedies like “My Cousin Vinny”, one of the main characters is so sure that he will be raped that he seriously misconstrues a conversation with Vinny.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:56 am

          I think to use “a racist book” and “a book about racism” interchangeably creates unnecessary confusion and blurs a very important distinction.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:56 am

          I am saying that I don’t personally need any more rape representation in media. I am not against such thing being used in stories, I just don’t see a need for it in terms of raising any sort of awareness.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:05 am

          Then, honestly, you are living under a rock. The point, which I believe Mav was trying to make, and I agree with, is this:

          For decades (centuries arguably) rape of females was portrayed as acceptable for males or even as a positive trait (Goldfinger, Against All Odds, The Bible). Then society began to realize it wasn’t acceptable. The media response was basically to remove all references of rape from nearly all types of media (with the sole exception of police procedurals like Law & Order).

          Because media effectively has an infinite lifespan, this means that the vast majority of representations of rape in media are still ones that spin it as a positive thing (or make a joke of it). That is the problem with lack of representation in comic books of rape as a negative thing that has horrible repercussions. The media being enjoyed never portrays the appropriate message and the old outdated messages still exist and propagate.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:07 am

          Max cleared it up pretty well… I’m not really saying that Huck Finn is a racist book (i.e., that it is encouraging people to run around and try to lynch black men who are trying to escape slavery) I’m saying that it is a book about racists, since that’s pretty much the plot to Huck Finn. Similarly, I’m saying that Airboy isn’t trying to encourage people to get blowjobs from transexuals and then bitch about it. It is addressing the issue.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:10 am

          Do people really bitch about getting blowjobs? 😉

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:14 am

          Strauss: that is a very astute way of putting it. I’m not saying Vic (or anyone else) should go out in search of any stories that aren’t their cup of tea or make them feel bad for whatever reason… rape, racism, transphobia, whatever… I wish more people would… because I think reading (or watching) stories that deal with those issues helps us to formulate opinions and thoughts that make us combat them (this is pretty much fundamental in the discussion of literary theory… which is why I opened by talking about my and AJ’s classes… our students don’t have a choice)

          I’m saying that it is important for more literature to tackle these issues so that those who want to explore them have the opportunity, and those who haven’t been exposed to them have an entry point.

          Taking the rape issue… as I was beginning to point out before, whether you believe the 1-in-6 number or not is almost irrelevant (though I’d argue that the fact that it’s in question is reason enough to have more of these stories). I don’t think anyone in America would argue that the number isn’t at least 1%. But far far far far fewer than 1 in 100 female comic book characters (from the big two) address this issue. I’d be amazed if it was 1 in 1000.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:15 am

          Vic: yes… people would bitch about getting a blowjob, if they later discovered that it was from a transexual… which was the point of the Airboy scene in the first place.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

          But we are not talking about centuries or even decades ago. Today in 2015, in the western world. Rape is not acceptable. 1-6, 1-1000. You are right, it makes no difference. ONE is an unacceptable number. Which is why it is not accepted by society on any level.

          Yes it could be argued that it is under reported. Or the police mishandle the cases. Which are, again, travesties when the crime does in fact occur, which is another issue entirely. Misrepresentation of the crime itself.

          Like racism, I am a proponent of bringing things like rape and bigotry to the surface, but ONLY when the acts are clear examples of these prejudices and crimes. I am not a fan of “muddying the waters” with ever changing definitions of what should be very specific acts.

          That being said, I see your points and I appreciate the clarification.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:47 am

          I believe the GamerGate movement was relatively ok with making rape threats.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:52 am

          yes… pretty much. And yeah, anyone that far gone is probably beyond the ability to be educated by a Batman story….

          but what I’m far more interested in is the 99.99% of readers who exist between “#gamergate 4chaner” and “regular readers of themarysue” or more specifically… the 14 year old comic fan who says “is rape really an issue in modern society? I don’t think it is… that’s something that happens rarely and no one ever … holy shit… Batgirl just got raped!!!! Maybe it can happen to anyone.”

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

          Gamergate is a hashtag not really a “movement”. There was no real organization, thus no way to stop anyone from saying anything they liked. Point being, anyone could make threats and use the hashtag, and they did, including people trying to discredit the people who were using it as a legitimate means of criticism.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

          uhhh…. There are totally organized gamergate groups… where have you been? I mean, by that same argument, there’s no such thing as “feminism” because there’s no incorporated group called “Feminists” but there are certainly feminist organizations and there are plenty of self-declared gamergate ones…. one of the most notable being Honey Badger Brigade: http://kotaku.com/gamergate-booth-kicked-out-of-canadian-comic-expo-1698538297

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 10:01 am

          “The Honey Badger Brigade, a group of men and women sympathetic to men’s rights activism and calling itself a collective in favor of artistic expression, had its booth removed from the ongoing Calgary Expo today for reportedly disrupting panels and associating with GamerGate.”

          That is a group who was commenting on Gamergate, they existed before the hashtag. Being pro gamergate does not mean that they have control over who used it as a reference. I have seen/read quite a bit about the fiasco, it is one of the biggest problems the people with legitimate concerns had in regards to the whole thing. Being classified as belonging to some organized hate group.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 10:05 am

          that is the most insane hair splitting ever…

          yes, certainly they don’t have control over anyone who identifies with it anymore than themarysue has control over anyone who calls themselves a feminist… that’s specifically why I used the two as examples.

          My point is exactly what I said… I’m not concerned with anyone on either edge of the spectrum. I’m concerned with the middle.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 10:15 am

          Yeah, I am not arguing with you. He said:

          ” I believe the GamerGate movement was relatively ok with making rape threats.”

          Which is not true. Some people who used the hashtag had no problem doing that, but there was no unified “movement” that condoned such things in any way. It’s like saying all feminists want to killallmen, just because some feminists used that hashtag as well as whyIneedfeminism.

          The distinction is important as not all feminists want to killallmen any more than all people using the gamergate hashtag made rape threats or condoned such behavior.

          Such behavior was pretty much universally condemned by groups like The Honey Badgers.

          You both made generalizations in regards to what that hashtag was about, which I don’t see as being necessary to make the completely valid points that you have made regarding the subject of rape in media.

          That’s all.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 10:32 am

          Ok. For the sake of clarity:

          No, I don’t think everyone who has ever used the #gamergate hashtag advocates rape. I don’t think Tom would say so either. In fact, we’ve both used it in this context here. So sure.

          Yes, it is a generalization, much the same as assuming all feminists hate men and are falling for the radical separation of the sexes and a matriarchal society. Yes there are some women who believe this (maybe even some men… To keep this comic focused, “William Moulton Marston, I’m looking in your direction”), but no, most feminists have never tried to actively enslave any men.

          I don’t think most of my blog or Facebook readers would take seriously The absolution with which Tom or I spoke, but yes… On the off chance that they do, we were making a joke about a very specific subset of a larger whole.

          There.

          That said… The real point of the entire post is that the usefulness of stories that address the subject is to educate and inform conversation…. Specifically conversation that allows the larger whole of gamergate to exist in the first place.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 11:12 am

          If you don’t like the word “movement”, fine. Pick a term you like better to describe a group of loosely or unaffiliated individuals rallying behind a common identifier or belief. Until then, I’ll go with “GOLOUIRBaCIOB”.

          I cited the GamerGate GOLOUIRBaCIOB as an example of a subculture where rape threats are tolerated. I’ll also cite prison, the Quiverfull GOLOUIRBaCIOB, and the U.S. Armed Forces. There are numerous segments of American society where views of rape range from don’t-ask-don’t-tell to tacitly endorsed.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 11:37 am

          And I explained to you that, no, they were not in fact tolerated by any organized group using the hashtag.

          So in no way was the “gamergate movement” or whatever you would like to call the people who used the hashtag ok with rape/death threats/doxxing etc.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 11:43 am

          except that that’s just wrong, Vic. Because we know that groups of individuals have been responsible for rape, death threats and doxing in the name of #gamergate. Just like we know that groups of individuals have been responsible for the same thing in the name of feminism.

          That’s what an organization is… a group of people, working towards a common cause or end or with a common stated ideology. It’s not like The Crips, the Manson Family or ISIS applied to the USPTO for a registered trademark… they just started doing shit

          the only way you are right is if you change the definition of “organization” to “a group of people that Vic approves of as an organization and if I don’t, then you don’t count”

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm

          So then all feminists want to killallmen?

          No, of course not. So to say that people who used the gamergate hashtag are all fall under the same umbrella is invalid.

          Why is this important? Because it was used as an example of “rape culture”. Which I do not agree exists in the Western World as we in no way AS A SOCIETY condone or excuse the act of rape. That does not mean that it does not happen, or that it is not an issue to be addressed, I simply do not agree with the idea that it is systemic. We need not discuss it further as we are both aware of the others views on various social issues.

          I don’t really care about gamergate, it was simply an example that was used/misused to describe an organized group of people with the goal of condoning rape, even in threat as ok. Which is not true.

          It is a hashtag that was misappropriated by extremists/juveniles who were immediately criticized by those with a legitimate issue in regards to the whole scenario.

          Gamergate was not an ideology, but rather a response to a specific situation that was then used by feminists as an example of misogyny and sexism in the gaming community.

          Anyway, you have answered my questions in regards to your original post. I appreciate that. Thank you.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:18 pm

          If we as a society don’t condone rape, why was my younger brother raped by an officer during USAF basic training and then involuntarily separated? The officer suffered no disciplinary action, I assure you.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:20 pm

          I am very sorry to hear that, truly. But I don’t see how something that happened in that specific circumstance indicates societal acceptance.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:24 pm

          No…. It’s not saying all feminists want to kill all men… it’s just the opposite. You’re the only one making that conflation.

          You’re arguing that because “not all people who said #gamergate advocate illegal behavior, we can’t say that illegal behavior is a problem with the gamer gate subculture. There are no organizations that believe in gamer gate that advocate this” That’s untrue…..

          It would also be untrue to say “there are no feminist organizations who believe in killing all men.” this is patently and untrue…and in fact, the fact that there are hate groups who associate with feminism who believe this is in fact one of the biggest facing feminism in general from a PR standpoint. There do exist people with that belief and that makes it harder for the majority of non violent feminists.

          Similarly, it’s like saying that “there are no conservatives who believe in racial segregation.” Except that there are… we know there were Klan marches in South Carolina like a week ago… and those people are conservatives… the fact that 99.99% of registered republicans denounce them doesn’t make them less so….

          Not all muslims believe in Jihad either… it’s the 13 that caused 9/11 that are the big problem….

          The reason this is a relevant conversation is that your arguing against the semantics of what an organization is and whether or not that applies to the group distracts from the actual point which is the development of a culture where such behavior can thrive… and that culture DOES exist in all of the cultural groups that I mentioned above.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm

          It indicates societal acceptance in that one of the most rules-oriented organizations on Earth allowed it to occur, took no action against the rapist, and punished the victim. What more do you want, a pro-rape editorial in the Stars and Stripes?

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm

          I am not going to argue with you. Again, I am truly sorry for what happened to your brother.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm

          it indicates societal acceptance because an institution is set up along lines where institutional prejudices are not just tolerated but often enforced as a matter of implicit (and sometimes explicit) policy.

          As I’ve said repeatedly on these threads institutionalized prejudice (racism, sexism, whatever) is often far more prevalent and powerful than explicit. Not just in our society, but throughout history. I know you don’t believe that. You’ve made that clear many time. You consider it a difference of opinion. But it’s a fundamental truth of cultural theory and sociology… which is the whole point.

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 6:49 am

      Let me clarify this, as I just re-read my post and it was a bit vague:

      “I am very much in opposition to the whole “woman in a refrigerator” thing.”

      I feel it implies that men are not used in this manner in comics, which I think is pretty silly. Tertiary male characters might as well be wearing red-shirts from day one in a lot of cases.

      • avatar
        mav
        August 4, 2015 at 11:09 am

        Men certainly are used in this manner in comics…. i specifically point out Thomas Wayne and Ben Parker as instances (and Jim Gordon in the story which I was analyzing). The point of Women in Refrigerators was never that they aren’t… Even Gail Simone would say that. The point is that female characters are disproportionately used that way. That’s by design…. since superhero comics have traditionally been aimed at boys and have traditionally been heteronormative, if you want to to kill off a spousal character for a character building moment for your protagonist, it essentially has to be a female character.

        The point Simone was calling for initially wasn’t an end to the idea of sacrifice of secondary (or tertiary) characters. It was the inclusion of female protagonists in the first place (something that is far better in 2015 than it was in 1999, but still clearly unbalanced… to argue any differently is simply to not understand the character makeup of the business… you can just count them).

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:17 am

          my responses are not threading correctly when I post from my website for some reason. Obviously, this was in response to Vic Carter’s response to me.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:17 am

          “That’s by design…. since superhero comics have traditionally been aimed at boys and have traditionally been heteronormative, if you want to to kill off a spousal character for a character building moment for your protagonist, it essentially has to be a female character. ”

          I would alter this just a bit to say “was going to be a female character”. Simply because of what you said in regards men making up substantially more protagonists than women.

          My problem with the phrase is definitely not in the sense of it calling for a need to have more female protagonists but rather in almost every instance where I have seen this phrase being used it is as an illustration of female oppression implying that it is somehow the industries responsibility to create more female characters simply because ‘patriarchy’. Where as I think it is the responsibility of the writers who feel this way to create more characters that align with their views. And I have no issue with that at all. We are starting to get some better written characters all around, female included.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:19 am

          It shows up for me as a response regardless but yeah I can see how that would be annoying. I would have responded to your blog but I am not ready to release mine yet and it would have just seemed random. I wanted to actually have a discussion with you, as me.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 7:58 am

          yes… since I was talking about historically, it should have been in the past….

          well, or maybe more accurately, I should have I shouldn’t have been talking about it in the past in the first place, because heterosexual white males still make up the lion’s share of superhero protagonists in comics today and therefore a “fridged” spouse character is still essentially destined to be female. Which was the real point Simone was trying to make in initial “Women in Refrigerators” article. The point is, even though the industry targets itself this way, actual demographic data points to the fact that the readership is nowhere near as homogenous as this and therefore it makes more sense to have better representation.

          Which is to say that yes… that what you’re complaining about (the industry’s responsibility) IS what she was getting at. It is a patriarchal issue. You’re assuming that individual creators have the power to simply decide that there will be more female focused books. They don’t. Not in the big two. These are editorial decisions.

          Across comics as a whole there is a far more diversified lineup of protagonists than exists at Marvel or DC. Along gender lines, race lines, sexuality lines, religion… pretty much everything. But a writer at Marvel can’t suddenly decide “minorities, women and homosexuals are underrepresented. I want there to be a book about America Chavez!” Even in a team book, a writer can’t simply decide “Dammit, from here on out America Chavez is the leader of the Avengers.” Those are decisions made by editorial committee.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 8:09 am

          So do you agree with reinterpreting traditional characters in different ways? Something that puts me on the fence.

          On one hand, I don’t have a problem with movie interpretations being different, or based on alternative versions. On the other hand, I like seeing the characters I am familiar with, even with my admittedly limited exposure to comics. I guess it also depends on the character for me as well.

          I wouldn’t care if the big screen version of green lantern for example was John Stewart as opposed to Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner. But for me Peter Parker is Spiderman, and he is a dorky white teenager. That is my comfort zone.

          Personally I think the movies are a great opportunity to add new and more diverse characters, which can/should translate to comics.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:28 am

          i see that as a separate issue. One that I covered (sort of) before when I talked about Black Cap and Lady Thor (here: http://www.chrismaverick.com/wp/2014/07/15/on-thor-and-feminism-for-fun-and-profit/ and here: http://www.chrismaverick.com/wp/2014/07/17/on-thorcaptain-american-and-feminismmulticulturalism-for-fun-and-profit/) but those were my feelings on individual cases… so I’ll sum up here and deal with how it affects your question directly.

          The problem is twofold. There is obviously a lack of diversity across the line in the properties of the Big Two. Both have acknowledged it and are taking steps to address it (finally). BUT, this is conflated with another issue that the Big Two have with creator-rights and the way contract for hire work occurs in the comics industry.

          If you write/draw for Marvel or DC, any characters you create for them, at least under the standard contract, are wholly owned by them. You’re not guaranteed any royalties. If someone decides to put them in a billion dollar movie you don’t get a cut of the action. Consequently, whenever anyone has what they think is a really good idea for a brand new property, they either self-publish it or publish it under Image Comics which has a far better deal for the creators. This is how you end up with stuff like say The Walking Dead or Scott Pilgrim.

          So when Marvel decides “hey, we want a teen black superhero” and they go to their favorite writer (Brian Bendis) he doesn’t really have any motivation to create “the Remarkable Dragon-Man” because they could go on to make millions for it and never see a dime. He’s better off saving that idea and doing it on his own later so that when there’s a movie or a toy or a TV show, he gets the money. BUT, it totally makes sense to make the bi-racial version of Spider-man (Miles is black and hispanic) because he was never going to see anything but a single paycheck per Spider-man story anyway.

          Consequently, it’s very hard for Marvel and DC to get new characters these days and they’re forced to do retreads of the intellectual property they already own. Another very successful recent version of this is Khamala Khan, the muslim Ms. Marvel who took on the name when the original Ms. Marvel became Captain Marvel. There’s nothing about the new Ms. Marvel that has anything to do with the original. They could have called her “the Amazing Morph Girl” and the book would have been exactly the same (and just as excellent) except that they already owned the trademark on “Ms. Marvel” and had to do something with it.

          That’s the business reason for why it’s done. Now for the storyline effect:

          I have no problem with John Stewart, Green Lantern… and in fact I really like the character. Green Lantern is a job. John Stewart suddenly becoming Green Lantern didn’t stop them from continuing with Hal Jordan stories.

          It more bothers me when they replace one character with another, because I find that to be lazy, but given the earlier thing I said about the business reasons, I understand it.

          The problem I tend to have if when it comes to Black Cap is that it DIDN’T actually diversify the line because rather than creating a new balck character, they “promoted” an existing one that was already prominent in the line. This means not only is the net number of black heroes still the same, the story implicitly makes the argument that being the Falcon, a black character with 45 years of publication history, is less important than being the replacement for the white Captain America.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:38 am

          So you would prefer a story where Jack Johnson(for example) was secretly frozen during WW II as part of, say Tuskegee experiments(no belittling what happened, just making an example), after being the first super soldier, who is then discovered and added to the Marvel universe as another Captain America, either replacing or supplementing Steve Rodgers.

          Or adding new mutants of varying ethnic origins, though I think they have done that throughout the years.

          I agree with you in regards to diversity being actually diverse as opposed to a rehash or recycled character.

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:42 am

          yes, I would prefer that story. in fact, I do prefer that story. It’s called “Truth: Red, White & Black” and it is excellent! Only his name was Isaiah Bradley, not Jack Johnson and he was never frozen, but otherwise, that’s a pretty close approximation of the story.

          http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0785110720/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0785110720&linkCode=as2&tag=cosmihellc-20&linkId=OYLPP3524ZWOE5G5

        • avatar
          August 4, 2015 at 9:42 am

          Cool, I will check that out. Never heard of it before.

  3. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 7:23 am

    And even Thomas Wayne (thanks for stating the name outright, I was completely blanking on it) and Ben Parker aren’t quite the same. They are killed to progress the story, but NOT specifically to harm the protagonist. The “Woman in a Refrigerator” trope is based on the concept of killing a woman specifically for the purpose of harming the male protagonist (you know, because the woman only has meaning based on her relationship to that male figure).

    This is why Gwen Stacy and Barbara Gordon fall into this category. Both were harmed (Gwen killed and Barbara paralyzed and raped) in order to harm a male protagonist. Switching to a slightly different medium, Aeris was effectively fridged, too. Killing her was more about harming Cloud than anything else. But, Nei (Phantasy Star 2), who dies in a VERY similar way about halfway through the story wasn’t fridged because the enemy that killed her was specifically doing it in response to Nei’s actions.

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 8:03 am

      It’s not so much that it’s specifically to harm the protagonist. More that it’s to progress the story. It’s the treating of the character as a red shirt or canon fodder that is the principle objection.

      Thomas and Martha Wayne and Ben Parker are different however because of how they were treated. Both of them died pretty much immediately after being introduced, but this is more of a mark of a different way of telling stories in the golden and silver ages of comics than in the modern age. Stories were far shorter and self-contained. I used The Waynes and Uncle Ben because they satisfy the same function as Alex DeWitt (the literal woman in the refrigerator, if you didn’t read the footnotes). They are a part of the origin story that cements the protagonist as a hero. However, it’s wroth noting that Alex actually lives for six issues instead of just a couple pages like Ben and the Waynes because Kyle’s origin was written to cover an arc instead of a single issue.

      but yes, the effect is the same.

  4. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 7:35 am

    I’m wracking my brain, but pretty much the only example I can think of, in comic books, of a “Man in a Refrigerator” is “The Death of Robin”. Jason Todd is definitely killed to harm Batman, not because of his own agency. Though, even that story effectively includes the “Woman in the Refrigerator” trope because Jason Todd’s mother is used as bait and killed to harm both Jason Todd and Batman.

    The closest thing I can think of to a second example is when Black Widow kills Jarvis in Ultimates. But that isn’t a pure example because it is done more out of expediency (she is trying to kill Tony Stark) than out of a desire to harm Tony Stark.

    In current TV media, Hal Mason was kidnapped with the intent to kill him, in order to harm his father on the TV series “Falling Skies”.

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 9:34 am

      There are tons of examples. Just to stay with Robins, Damien Wayne was an example more recently.

      But the classic example is probably Jimmy Olson. Jimmy exists for no other reason than to be a male damsel-in-distress for Superman to rescue. Even in his own golden age book, most of the time Superman had to come and save him.

      But again, one of my big points is that this is my problem with the memefication of “Women in Refrigerators.” The problem was never that there are female victims or that there aren’t male victims. The problem was the lack of other possibilities for female characters OTHER than victim.

  5. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 10:47 am

    ahhhh, so late. Do I read comments or post first?! Acckk.

  6. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 10:47 am

    ahhhh, so late. Do I read comments or post first?! Acckk.

  7. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 10:48 am

    the eternal struggle of being in the wrong timezone!!!!

  8. avatar
    August 4, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I enjoyed your article, Mav. I tell all my classes on the first day that we’re going to discuss issues that will make them “uncomfortable.” Most don’t know what they’re in for . . .

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Yeah. I mean selfishly, that’s half the fun of teaching the class in the first place.

      But pedagogically, the point of them being in college is to learn to accept, analyze and internalize new ideas. I honestly don’t give a damn if they really and truly understand the sexual politics of Shakespeare’s time or the racial politics of antebellum south. Sure it’d be nice… But it’s far more important that they understand the concepts in general and can apply them to contemporary society.

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Agreed. I would add that it’s important for students to read material that challenges their own views – too see that their white middle-class suburban bubble (at least in the case of the two schools where I teach) can indeed burst. Keep fighting the good fight!

    • avatar
      August 4, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Agreed. I think that’s the essence of the problem. One would think that moving into a digital world where your personal micro culture is less geographically bounded would lead to a more diverse worldview.

      But I think the opposite happens. Digital communities self-select, so you’re even more likely to end up with worldview just like your own, and since you’re no longer geographically bounded, it’s easier to assume everyone thinks just like you.

      Furthermore, along with the increase in digital communication we’ve seen an increase in self-policing through political correctness. And self-policing through all out flame wars. A middle ground is needed where ideas are actively exchanged. When people just flame each other with parroted talking points, nothing comes of it. But also, nothing comes of ignoring media because it’s controversial.

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