I was recently asked my thoughts on the outrage caused by the ‘Sexist’ shirts released by DC comics available at Walmart. For those of you who don’t know, both DC and Marvel comics have recently released some shirts with phrases like “I only date heroes” or “Training to be Batman’s wife.” The release of these shirts has put both major comic companies under fire for apparel that many have found blatantly sexist.
The fact that random people will tag my social media account with Star Wars, XMen, Lord of the Rings, or more is just a hint to my enjoyment of comic and sci-fi preferences. In fact, you can probably catch me dragging my fiancé to the latest comic book movie that’s come out and explaining storylines of genetically enhanced characters to a blank face who would rather be watching the Buccaneers lose another game. To stake the grounds of ‘geek-dome’ so clearly laid out by my nickname, the “Geek in Disguise”, I will address the issues that came up with this release for me.
For the people who like the shirts and think they’re funny we shouldn’t minimize the dream for women whose goal in life is to be a good wife. I have had many friends who wanted only to be a good wife and mother in life. Some were grads of Ivy League colleges even, but their hearts knew they wanted a more domestic lifestyle. As a feminist we should encourage women to achieve their goals even if this is one of them! Getting married doesn’t mean you need to suddenly turn into the shadow figure of some jack ass, quit your career and lock yourself in the kitchen. It’s a relationship choice, it shouldn’t be the definition of your being. I’ve said in my book that we need people to set better examples in their relationships and put more time into raising kids if we want to see a positive change in the world. If getting married is the sole thing you want from life, then do it. We need to accept this choice that some women have if it is what they truly want. I have every intention myself to be a good wife and my future husband knows that being a wife is never going to stop me from taking on other heroic roles in my life as well.
However, I can’t help but to take a step back and think about what type of woman would actually want to be married to these superheroes. I mean, I dated some ‘Wrong Men’ but think about it. The population of male superheroes is filled with players who are never home, they may die at any second, they do not make commitments to anyone in their personal life and have massive identity problems. Wait, did Clark Kent ask you to marry him? Or did Superman? Is Clark, the dad changing diapers, going to suddenly start running down the street, change into Superman, and start hooking up with Wonder Woman? “Training to be Batman’s Wife?” Really? Bruce Wayne? This guy is publicly a playboy and an asshole who is squandering away all of his parents hard earned money on elaborate toys. Let’s look at Spiderman, perhaps one of the more emotionally dedicated heroes. Do you think he’ll ever be home? And when he is, what are the odds he’ll spray that black widow web in the back yard? Are these the things we want in a husband? Again, the assumed definition of greatness in society are demented.
With my relationship concerns out of the way, I will now tackle the debacle of these shirts as my alter ego, the marketer.
The problem with this shirt release is that they did not release other shirts for women who were more ambitious to other areas of life. DC and Marvel might be in a time warp of cosmic proportions when they thought putting out product lines that solely targets women whose identity lies in their relation to their spouse. Even the few minutes of research I did for this article should have told them that they needed to include some shirts that fulfill and encourage the ambitious women’s needs, or even balance it out to save backlash with “Training to be Cat Woman’s Husband” shirts. 66% of women ages 18-34 say that being successful in a high-paying career or profession is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives. I also found that 46.67% of self-identified comic fans are women. And, 62.07% of the fans of female characters are women. Hello… target market averted! BAM! POW! What were you thinking DC? Go figure, your female fans are not identifying with the women who sit helpless on the side-lines, but the ones who get the fun toys, hot outfits and get to put the bad guys in their place!
When I first saw these shirts, I figured “OK, maybe DC is still run by some old man who just isn’t connected to the reality of what women really want in life.” Nope, I was wrong. The President of DC Entertainment is a Diane Nelson… a woman! A woman who many would say has jumped leaps and bounds to achieve a successful career ranking in The Hollywood Reporter’s “2013 Women in Entertainment Power 100” list. I’m sure the decision of these shirts was not only her fault, but it’s probably time for the product department and marketing team to be evaporated.
So here we stand at the moment of trial with Walmart equipped with comic book shirts void of feminine empowerment. The comic industry is an industry that feeds on the idea of the human advancement. As an industry that brings us a glimpse into a fantasized future of advanced genetics, scientific miracles and powers beyond human comprehension, I think it’s time to bring some of these social advancements up to your warp speed to catch up to your female fan base. Women, there is no shame in wanting to be a good wife but always make sure that you man is truly a super husband as well and don’t hide behind his identity when you have an amazing one of your own. If you want to buy the shirt, buy the shirt… But as for me, it’s Up, Up and AWAY until the world needs me again.