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Spectacular Comic Shop Girl #7

Blink!
A thought just occurred to me in writing this, that it might make more sense to write these monthly, going with the issue motif. Then again, some issues come out much more frequently, and some, considerably less frequently. So then I thought "fuck it", and wrote this.

Spider-Man has boobs?

No, this wasn't a quote. Not quite anyway. A couple came into the store looking for comics for their son (they said as much :P ). Their son was apparently fairly young as they went right to the children's area to look at the comics there. At one point, the man picks up one of the small trades of Spider-Girl and says out loud "Spider-Girl?"

"She's the daughter of Spider-Man, in an alternate future. It's pretty well done and would be great for kids as well as adults", I said. He looked at me incredulously. I explained further that it was done in a style similar to late silver age/early modern age in that while there is some angst, the story is overall very light; much different from the current Spidey books.

Still looking incredulous, he said "I don't know, I don't think I can accept a Spider-Man with boobs."

It was my turn to look incredulous. "Well, she's not Spider-Man. She's a different person with different troubles. She's more popular in school, she still has snarky comments in battle, but she's a different person."

"Yeah, I don't think so." He said, then bought a trade of the Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

I don't know what exactly he had a problem with. I don't know if it seemed like a marketing thing to get more people to read the comic, or if he really had a problem with female characters taking up the mantle of a male predecessor. I do wonder if there was a comic called "Spider-Boy, the Son of Spider-Man" if he would have had the same issue with it (if he had an issue with perceived marketing" or if he would have thought it was a great idea. Had it been my own store, I might have asked him. As it wasn't, I didn't, so I guess I will never know. Still, it was moderately irritating at the least.

You can't have that, that's for girls

This is a quote, one that I don't hear often at the shop. Well, actually, that's the first time I've heard it ever in any comic shop. A mother, her daughter, and son were in the shop. I don't know if they were just looking around or waiting for someone else. The daughter wandered around by herself while the mother and son were at the children's section. The boy was probably five or six years old, and I guess he pointed to something on the shelf. His mother told him "That's not for you, that's for girls".

I don't know exactly what it was, I only saw them from the side. I do know it was something low enough not to be Betty and Veronica. When I went to look later, it was likely the W.I.T.C.H. trade that he was looking at. It was the only thing in the area that was remotely "gendered". The only thing "gendered" about it was the cover was bordered in fuchsia. Granted, the book is about a group of female protagonists, but I wouldn't consider it gendered just because of that. I do know many people would, especially in relation to a boy. Girls are given no flack for following a group of boys, but boys following a group of girls is often considered a bad thing.

This is sexist on two fronts. Let's go with the sexism against the boy first. It's pretty clear that boys are limited in their interests as well. If boys show interest in anything "girly" they're mocked for being gay, femme, or any host of words meant as insults. Femininity is something that is often quashed in many boys as they reach puberty as in many people's view, it is inappropriate for the boys to express. Take a look at a more basic thing. Ask a guy with long hair how much crap he gets for having long hair. It's because long hair is seen as a feminine trait. And while this is changing, there still are plenty of men who are singled out for having long hair. Especially if they're looking for work. Even if it is well kept, shaped and maintained, it is seen as a "bad" thing. And this is something very small. Any man who dresses well, uses moisturizer or skin product, or anything else can often be harassed for those things.

These things are considered "female" and thus, bad for men to exhibit. This is clearly sexist toward men, and at the same time, just as sexist (if not moreso) toward women. Femininity is seen as a bad thing, society only permits it for those who are female. But then, even when it comes to women, being "feminine" can be considered "bad" if you exhibit too much of it. It also pushes the idea that seems so pervasive in our culture and cultures of the past that women are this "strange species from another planet", that male is the norm and female is the variance (which is ironic in that biologically, female is actually the norm and male is the variance in mammalian life).

In some ways, it is ok for women to express more "male" traits or interests, allowing for more variety in gender roles for women than men. This seems to be in terms of clothing and general "personality". When it comes to men, men are not allowed to express more feminine styles or personalities without some rebuke. However, in other ways it's the other way around. Women are not allowed to be aggressive or assertive, as that "makes" so many people see her as a "bitch" or "frigid". If a woman has sex with many people she is seen as a slut. This is not the way for men. In fact, these are the very traits men are encouraged to have in our society. They may be the traits people reference the most, but it is because it's still true.

There is clearly sexism on both sides against women and men to varying degrees. When it comes to something like comics, it's often girls who are told that it's not for them. Hell, even as adults we're still told that from time to time, and not just from some men. As I've mentioned in another SCSG, our society genders things so often, and tries so desperately to maintain those gendered "norms". It so disappoints me when parents choose things for their child not on what the child wants, but what is "appropriate" for the child's birth sex. As if that's the only important thing about the child, what genitals the doc sees when she or he first holds the newborn.

Our society could advance so much further if there weren't silly restrictions based on those first five seconds after birth, where children are given all opportunities, not just ones that are "appropriate" to their gender. Again, not letting this boy get a W.I.T.C.H. trade may seem like a small thing, but it is so indicative of a larger problem in society, a problem that leaves many people of any gender behind.

Can you name the characters?

A father and his daughter were in the shop a few weeks ago. The father bought his stack, and while they waited for me to ring them up, they were looking at the Countdown poster that was taped on the side of the counter. The daughter started naming off as many characters as she could with her father encouraging her along the way. She was able to name probably a third of the characters, but then, they were both Marvel fans, so it wasn't much of a surprise. It was nice, especially after a lot of recent things (most of them have made it to one issue of SCSG or another) to see that not all parents gender things, making them "inappropriate" to another gender.

What was kind of amusing was she got stuck on Zatanna. She knew the character, but was totally blanking on her name.

"Annataz", I said.

She looked at me somewhat confused and said "Annataz?"

"Annataz", I said again.

Bill figured it out immediately and said "she's a magician who casts spells by saying words backwards."

Suddenly, she got it and said "Zatanna!"

Fun. :)

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
jyd
Oct. 7th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy reading the "Spectacular Comic Shop Girl" entries here but sometimes (usually when I've been drinking to be honest) it can get thoroughly depressing. Out of all the issues relating to feminism it's this gender allocation that winds me up the most. Teaching children this "for boys" and "for girls" rubbish feeds every other problem by reinforcing ludicrous notions of "normal" and ends up equating abnormal with subnormal. If children were just left to enjoy what they enjoy and not what they "should" enjoy then it'd be a lot harder to judge people based on their gender because it wouldn't matter. People would just be people. I hate this conditioning that we get as children because it's something that is very tricky to overcome. I like to think I don't do so bad at treating people equally (in relation to gender - I perhaps don't do so well in terms of judging people by what football team they support) but there's still that notion in the back of my head that I should keep my love of Hello Kitty or musical theatre quiet and that I should be ashamed of my inability to punch people in the face to solve problems. Assigning such specific traits to such broad categorisations of people is absurd and simply has to be one of the main causes of so many problems in our society.

Bleurgh. Apologies for the poorly written and nigh-incomprehensible rant there. I thoroughly enjoy Dude! It's a chick! and don't want to lower the tone with my absence of writing skillz and complete lack of understanding of grammar but this one struck a chord with me and (ill-advised or not) I felt I had to give my two penn'orth.

Anyway, keep writing and I'll keep reading.

- JYD
crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 8th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thank you. :) And you make a point that I think I only really hinted at, that those who have those interests are weird, strange and more of an anomaly than anything else. Which goes into a whole new direction on the implications of gendering things. So, no, your rambling makes sense.

And I'm sorry I keep depressing you. ;)
skalja
Oct. 8th, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)
Oh, please. Of all the major superheroes, Spider-Man is one of the most androgynous. He's a skinny little geek with acrobat powers, essentially. Now, Wolverine? Batman? I will grant that there are some heroes you can't really play a straight genderswitch* on, but I really don't think Spidey is one of them.

*Actually, a "Paris Hilton by day, scary vigilante by night" superheroine would be pretty fun, but that's not a straight-up switch because the gender implications of a male vs. a female socialite are so different.
timeliebe
Oct. 8th, 2007 05:22 am (UTC)
:Actually, a "Paris Hilton by day, scary vigilante by night" superheroine would be pretty fun ::

Rabican, I thought that was Kara Zor-El.... ;)

Megan, our local comic bookstore's manager told us last year, in all earnestness, that while he was happy a couple local folk were writing WHITE TIGER, he wouldn't be reading it b/c he doesn't read "girl comics". ::groan::

Just when I think Tammy's exaggerating about how stratified "boy books" and "girl books" are for teenagers, something like this happens to prove she's actually understating the case....

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce - who will be signing at Comics for Collectors in Ithica, NY on 10/10
crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 8th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
"our local comic bookstore's manager told us last year, in all earnestness, that while he was happy a couple local folk were writing WHITE TIGER, he wouldn't be reading it b/c he doesn't read "girl comics". ::groan::"

Wow. I honestly can't think of anything else to say to that other than wow.

And I guess that I don't know why I'm surprised at that. ;)
timeliebe
Oct. 8th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, "Wow" is about all I could think of to say myself - though a serious ::headpalm!:: also seemed appropriate!

But don't worry - b/c apparently children's publishing needs to spring into publishing more books for boys than ever...b/c, you know, a majority of male protagonists in books ALREADY (according to SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL's 4/07 issue) isn't enough, what with all you wimmen reading more books than boys and all!

Best,
Tim Liebe
"You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! STUPID!" - PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE
timeliebe
Oct. 8th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
And HERE is the link I was looking for to support my sig! :)

crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 9th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
I remember reading that article when it came out. It's pretty lame, and a lot of it has to do with it being ok for girls to read "boy's stuff", but not the other way around. The whole "male is the norm, female is abnormal" schtick.
timeliebe
Oct. 12th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
Megan - yeah. Unfortunately, according to Tammy's it's all the rage in library and academic circles right now. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL did a viewing-with-alarm piece about how We! Need! More! Books! For! Boys! - and so did VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES Magazine.... ::sigh::

You know, this problem existed when I was in school, too - back when Nick Fury wrestled the dinosaurs, and all that. ;) Seemed to me then that the way to encourage boys to read was to - well, stop discouraging boys from reading, which is what every gym coach and half the teachers (including Sunday School teachers) and other caretakers certainly did! "Oh, Timmy - get your nose out of that book and come out and play with the other boys! You don't want them thinking you're a 'fairy', now do you...?"

You can write all the books for boys you want (and if I remember the statistic Tammy quotes in her speech on this matter right, currently 7 out of 10 books have a male protagonist, and if you're talking adventures the number goes up to nearly 9 out of 10!), but they're not going to get read until boys stop being told that reading is somehow "unmanly" - now git out there and toss around that football!!!! :ppp

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce - Well be at World Fantasy Con in Saratoga Springs, NY November 1 - 4! :)
lea_hazel
Oct. 8th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)
Paris Hilton by day, scary vigilante by night.

Echo did that with the Ronin costume in New Avengers. It was fairly awesome, even if it did only last for part of one issue.
skalja
Oct. 8th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC)
It was! Although it was a little bizarre that no one noticed she was deaf ... um.
crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 8th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
Well, they did do both. There's X-23 and Cassie Batgirl. Sometimes I think Cassie out Batmanned Batman in her dark and brooding schtick she had for awhile. Granted part of it was because she couldn't talk...

Kate Kane is the female socialite that is the obvious analog to Batman (considering she's...well...Batwoman.) They didn't go much into her yet (assuming they ever will since she's a scary lez). The Paris Hilton thing might be interesting if the character wasn't, you know. Paris Hilton. *shudder*
skalja
Oct. 8th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC)
Both X-23 and Batgirl have way, way different origins/secret identities, although, hmmm, I think you may be right about Batgirl out-Batmanning Batman! I think the Bruce Wayne thing is also important, though. Still, good call on X-23 - Wolverine the manly man as an example is retracted.

I was thinking about Kate Kane, but I didn't mention her because, well ... she's just kind of around, really. Certainly her secret I.D. doesn't seem to function in the same way that Bruce Wayne's does.
edogawa1983
Oct. 8th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
on Spider-Girl, here is my two cents on it.
For one to really understand and love Spider-Girl, first of all,
you must know that once upon a time, Mary Jane was with Peter's unborn child, when Mary Jane give birth, that child who was suppose to be baby May was stolen by the Agent of Green Goblin and never seen again. They also need to read that what if issue, what if May found found by her parents and becomes Spider-Girl, the issue that started the whole MC2 universe. After that, it's 100 issues of Spider-Girl, with every issues one becomes more in love with May as Spider-Girl. Did you really expect a parents that came looking for comics for their children that prolly doesn't really know anything about comics to come in into your store to appreciate Spider-Girl?

You know what's the real difference between Spider-Man and Spider-Girl, it the 100k difference in sales. Spider-Girl is only appreciated by a small amount of Spider-Girl fan who have loved her
since that what if issue.

I also found it funny that you would explain Golden Age and Silver
age to the parents that just wanted some comics for their kids, yeah, they are not going to care about any word you said, they just wanted some comics for their kids. I have tried explaining comics to people who never read it before, it's like trying to explain advanced physics.

I think what you should have done really is point the parents to the Marvel Adventure line, the line of comics that were made for young children, if you want to get creative point them to the new Power Pack by Gurihiru, but not Spider-Girl, people who don't know she is,
is not going to care about her.
crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 8th, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
Give me a little credit. This guy was familiar with comics from his childhood; which, from his age, was when Spidey et al started out. He likely wasn't familiar with modern stuff, but that's WHY I explained it. I didn't just say "It's like late silver age" and just leave it like that, I EXPLAINED what I meant by saying that it was much brighter than the angst ridden comics of today, and a lot more kid friendly. They understood that, that again, wasn't the where the hang up happened.

It wasn't unfamiliarity with the character, it was "Spider-Man with boobs." He explained right there why he wasn't interested in it.
edogawa1983
Oct. 9th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
explaining comics to casual reader is kind of crazy if you haven't
noticed. I just realized that after trying to get my female friend
to read Birds of Prey. Then I tried to explain to her what is Birds
of Prey, it's Babara Gordan, Batgirl, but she's not Batgirl anymore, because of Killing Joke. Then I had to explain the Killing Joke.
then she brought up Birds of Prey TV series, then I had to explain how
it's kind of like that, but not really. Then I have to explain Earth 1, Earth 2, and Crisis on Infinite Earth, and I'm pretty sure I lost
her.

What I have learned as a hardcore comic fan is that, casual fans doesn't care about the same characters we care about, they don't care about Spider-Girl, or my favorite characters, Batgirl and Spoiler. It's not because Spider-Girl is a girl, it's more like, because she's not "the Spider-Man"
crazy_elf_girl
Oct. 9th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)
Well, had it been that, I doubt he would have mentioned her breasts. He would have just said "I'd rather he read Spider-Man." Her breasts had no play in the conversation outside of him having an issue with there BEING a Spider-Girl.
skalja
Oct. 8th, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC)
You know what's the real difference between Spider-Man and Spider-Girl, it the 100k difference in sales. Spider-Girl is only appreciated by a small amount of Spider-Girl fan who have loved her since that what if issue.

This is untrue. Spider-Girl is being carried not by the hardcore fans the single issues are published for, but the readers who buy the digests in bookstores and who, presumably, are not all regular readers of comics and certainly haven't been following the series, or Spider-Man, since What-If 105!

I got into Mayday's adventures as a late and somewhat skeptical convert, before I ever read the Clone Saga, and followed it just fine.
edogawa1983
Oct. 9th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
I don't agree with you, 20k is Marvel's number for canceling a series, Spider-Girl is allowed to continue because of the hardcore Spider-Girl
fans that followed her from the beginning, those fans are the ones
that started the bring back Spider-Girl movement.

Spider-Girl fans are the best ones in comic
skalja
Oct. 9th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
Um, if you read the interviews from around the time of the title relauch, editorial explicitly states that they were going to cancel the title for good with #100, hardcore fans or no hardcore fans, but then they realized the digests were selling in really good numbers and decided not only to give her title a permanent stay of execution (as opposed to extending her series for an arc at a time, like they'd been doing previously) but relaunching her series.

Disagree with me all you like, but that's the reason Marvel gives! It's hardly an insult to hardcore, old-school Spider-Girl fans to acknowledge that their favorite character has exactly the crossover capacity they've been claiming she has all along.
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