They're feminist, and they're
sabato 4 aprile 2015
NEWS/L'EDICOLA DI LOU - Sadica, lesbica, femminista...: il mito di "Wonder Woman" rivisto e (s)corretto
NB: I think when you're talking about female empowerment, you don't want to talk about women being bound and submitting; there's an obvious reason the people who want to talk about women's freedom wouldn't see bondage as a good thing. But there's another strand of feminism which looks at femininity and saying the things associated with feminism, things like submission or love, shouldn't be denigrated, those things are important too.
Articolo tratto da Mic.com
It's hard out there for an Amazon warrior princess.
Wonder Woman has been a mainstay in popular culture for close to seven decades. While today she's known as a conventional hero (albeit a sexily costumed one), standing shoulder to shoulder with the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel, there's a tension between the way she has come to be portrayed in popular culture and how she was envisioned by her creator.
Originally conceived as a response to the violence of popular comic heroes of the day, Wonder Woman reflected a particular brand of feminism that was simultaneously forceful and sexy, strong and desirable. She embodied dominant and submissive figures of BDSM while representing a matriarchal system of power; her later representations, however, stripped these sexual undercurrents away entirely, making her more of a conventional hero (albeit a sexily costumed one), fighting for truth and justice.
Created by the American writer and psychologist William Marston, Wonder Woman made her first appearance in late 1941, with DC Comics publishing the comics almost without interruption ever since. Her connection to Greek mythology and current world events (including World War II) made her tenets of love, peace and sexual all the more pressing, yet timeless. The debate over her onscreen representation, and the search to find the right director, reflect the anxieties not only related to the character, but in what she represents to us at this point in history, when the word "feminist" is dirty and the acts of bondage and submission, are, for some, debasing to women.
Marston envisioned her as a kind of revolutionary, combining morality, sexuality, power and femininity, and creating a new hierarchy based on dominant/submissive connection. Marston has a unique history, as the inventor of a blood pressure test that would later come to be major component in polygraphs; whether this came into play through the depiction of Wonder Woman using her "lasso of truth" is the subject of much debate, but it's fair to say Marston was interested in teasing out the ties between the physical and the emotional. Along with his clinical work, Marston maintained a unique home life; he was married to feminist Elizabeth Holloway, but fell in love with Olive Byrne, the niece of noted birth control campaigner Margaret Sanger; Byrne ultimately joined the Marston household, and together the family raised four children.
The creation of Wonder Woman came about as a response to what was perceived as the unruly violence contained in comics like Superman and Batman. The concern was that the brutality contained within these works would be corrupting to its young readers. As the Economist wrote, "Wonder Woman was to be the magic bullet who, without bullets, would silence comics' critics and, as Marston put it in 1945, act as "psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world."
Unlike journalist and Harvard historian Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which explores the creation of the character as well as the lives and lifestyles of its feminist creators, Berlatsky's work examines the roles of bondage and lesbianism in the work, with the author intricately detailing the meaning and overall power the comics still hold, particularly for our day and age. As Berlatsky asked in a piece published by the Atlantic in October 2014, "How committed can a work of art be to feminist liberation when women (and it is overwhelmingly women) are shown being tied up on every page?"
It's the tension of dualities, between liberated and bound, aggressive and submissive, of ultra-feminine and ultra-masculine, and playing with those definitions, that powers much of the original Wonder Woman and reflects the ethos of its polyamorous creator. As Berlatsky points out in his book, these dualities, together with Marston's pro-queer, pro-feminist, bondage-friendly ideology, have been swept under the proverbial rug to present a more mainstream-friendly figure who is still the stuff of comic book fantasy.
Berlatsky, the editor of Hooded Utilitarian, a comics and culture site, has written a work filled with deep scholarly insights on the history and politics of Wonder Woman's creator, as well as a larger examination of the histories, lifestyles and personal ethos that gave rise to one of popular culture's most powerful figures. Along with sexual politics, it's worth examining how and why the lifestyle and personal beliefs of Wonder Woman's creator are so central to understanding her importance to contemporary feminism.
Mic: What inspired you to write a Wonder Woman book about the character's history and her creator?
Noah Berlatsky: I've been blogging about the original Marston-Peter comics for a few years. I found out about it through Dirk Deppey at Journalista, the Comics Journal blog, which is sadly defunct. He posted a picture of Wonder Woman where she had to bite through a mask while thinking about the history of French bondage. I thought, "Oh my god, what is this?!" I started to find more, then downloaded the original comics, then I was blogging through all of the original Wonder Woman, all 28 issues, which were more or less what Marston wrote. I thought this would be fun to write about at greater length, and found out Rutgers was doing a comics series.
Mic: What makes the 1940s Wonder Woman comics so worthy of investigation?
NB: They're inspiring and weird and really thoughtful about issues of gender and violence and sexuality, which are things lots of people are interested in. I'm interested in them as well. The comics are also distinctly great art, and they're timely in the way interesting art is often always timely. very pro-gay and Wonder Woman has a connection with queerness. Marston was kind of a feminist and queer theorist himself, so he fits into those debates well, and I think he has an unusual perspective on a lot of issues that are still important and controversial, and that a lot of people are thinking about. As I talk about in the book, I think he speaks to trans issues, which are timely, he speaks to issues around sex-positive feminism, which is still very much an issue, and women and gender continue to be lenses through which people view the world.
They're feminist, and they're
They're feminist, and they're
Mic: Wonder Woman seems like a feminist figure, but at the same time, the word "feminist" is still a dirty word in some quarters. I'm curious where you think the figure of Wonder Woman fits into that whole debate of "what is feminism?"
NB: There's various ways that works. Obviously, feminism is a flash point, it's been discussed on the Internet and elsewhere. It's not just that people don't identify with the word; the Internet has made feminism more visible and more popular in some ways. The Internet is a place where marginalized people can be attacked, but it's also a place where marginalized people can find each other. In terms of explicitly feminist heroes [...] there's Buffy, who, I think in many ways, it's not that she's perfect, but she was intended to be feminist, and Wonder Woman herself is sometimes presented as feminist figure too.
But with Wonder Woman, it's tricky because in the comic book industry, the creators are very male, the people who write the drama of comics tend to be mostly men, and the readership, I think is changing, but traditionally superhero comics readership has been very male and perceived as being quite male. The people who came right after her, like (comic book writer) Robert Kanigher, were disinterested in that. (Kanigher) was the opposite of Marston; he had no interest in feminism and wanted her to be a more domestic traditional figure. The Wonder Woman animated movie a few years back was uncomfortable with feminism too, I would say.
Mic: We haven't seen Marston's Wonder Woman in popular culture, have we?
NB: People are into Wonder Woman as a figure of empowerment, as a figure who fits with the more popular vision of feminism, which is equal access, empowerment, that sort of thing. Marston's Wonder Woman causes problems with that, because (his version) is all about bondage and submission. Those are things that the people who are comfortable with Wonder Woman's feminism aren't necessarily super-comfortable with.
Mic: Why do you think there's that divide?
I think Marston is coming from there, to some extent. He was exploring this bondage switch, where the person on the top should be on the bottom, and the person on the bottom should be on the top, and it switches back and forth. He's promoting this one aspect of femininity and feminism, which exists. But Wonder Woman, as a heroic icon who saves people and beats up the bad guys, has been more congenial to many of her fans — you even see it in the new movie, with her in the armor with the sword.
NB: Yeah, that's the other thing about Wonder Woman: Marston wants Wonder Woman to be hot. When people say, "Wow she's sexy," he thinks that's great, because sexuality is the way women influence everybody to be submissive, not just men. But to some degree, he's also a crank: He really loves to sign on to the idea that women are essentially this and men are essentially that. I think (the Marston comic) was very pro-sex and, not coincidentally, very pro-lesbian.
Mic: What were the problems you had with Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman? Is it fair to say you felt she left too much of this stuff out?
NB: To some extent it's good — if she'd written about the comics, then no one would need to read my book! (laughs) There are a couple issues, though. First of all, she doesn't really see the comics as interesting in themselves. She doesn't see the comics as being a worthwhile artistic endeavor; she's not especially interested in them. She's interested in Marston's biography and in his connection with Margaret Sanger. She thinks (Marston's life) is interesting because of that connection and with early feminist communities. As far as the comics go, she doesn't see them as interesting.
The other thing is that Marston isn't really presented as a feminist or queer theorist, so ... there's an interest in his polyamorous lifestyle, but not so much in what he has to say about polyamory or sex. I think it takes away the excitement or the power of having this person, of having Wonder Woman, be kind of a voice of marginalized communities in some ways because it's not really what (Lepore) is focused on. It becomes more of a curiosity than a kind of actual part of what he's doing.
She doesn't talk much about how important lesbianism is to the comics or Marston's theories, which I think has a lot to do with his polyamorous relationship — that's where it's come from, and going to. Obviously he's a guy, and there's some reasonable mistrust or wondering about what it is he's doing, but at the same time he's somebody who had a very close relationship with people who were bisexual; his argument that lesbianism is normal and healthy and good for everybody seems like an important part of what he's doing.
NB: I actually don't think she's more popular than ever. The original comics were really, really popular, they sold 800,000 or a million copies per issue or something, which dwarfs now — comics just don't sell like that anymore. She was a very popular character, but the Wonder Woman comics have never been anywhere near as popular again. There was the television show, which was very popular, and she was on the Justice League cartoons — that's where most younger people know her from — but in terms of the character being popular, it's not like Superman or Batman, where they've been consistently popular.
Mic: In your book, you write about how Wonder Woman is angst-free. Why is that important?
NB: That's true, yes, it's great that she's without angst. I think people, like most popular heroes now ... people want angst. But what I like about the new Ms. Marvel comic is that she doesn't become a hero because she has some sort of traumatic horrible backstory; she becomes a hero because she wants to help people, and that's where Wonder Woman is coming from in the original. And ultimately that's where Marston was coming from: "This is awesome, the heroism and caring and capturing and being-captured and doing good — and turning the world into a matriarchy ... it's fun and it's awesome, and everybody should enjoy it."