I enjoy reading about the X-Men and I love the characters. What is unsettling to me is how the title "X-Men" underscores the position of women on the team and in the Marvel universe. Though there are women in X-Men and in X-Force and in other X-team that exists, the fact remains that the team is ultimately about the Men. Up until recently the women of X-Men had no book of their own. That is until X-Women #1 was released in June of this year. And I cannot say that I like the looks of this book with relevance to how the women are portrayed. Yes, women (and men) are exaggerated in comics but this new title is downright porn. I will let this video by Brutally Honest do some of the talking for me on this issue.
Literature is a medium that has long been controlled by men. The literary canon that any English major reads from is saturated with literature written by men. Only in recent history has any attempt been made to balance the disparity of women’s contributions. In that respect, what is considered admissible to the literary canon is up for debate as well as what is considered literature. The graphic novel is a perfect example. Just as in the literary canon, the medium of the comic book and its offspring the graphic novel has largely been influenced, controlled by, and catered to men. And in the realm of culture, comics and graphic novels are considered to be on the “low” end of the spectrum, settling within the sphere of pop culture. I believe that graphic novels can be more than just pop culture amusement; in fact they are a perfect medium for postfeminist writing.
Essentially postfeminist writing describes women who are fallible yet capable and accept responsibility for who they have become. This type of writing is exemplified by Kiriko Nananan’s graphic novel Blue. The novel is a story about young girls discovering who they are and who they love. The characters definitely march to the beat of their own drummer which makes them a good example of an independent woman, but at the same time they are flawed which shows the side of their human weakness.
Blue is not characteristic of most comics and graphic novels. The overwhelmingly large majority of comics are written, lettered, drawn, and colored by men. The popular titles still feature women with unrealistic body proportions; however the men are drawn the same way. There is an underground of women centric comics that is growing which gives promise of opportunity for the female in the comics industry. If this group continues to rise in power and talent, which I believe it will, the old boys club of the comic book world will give way to a gender equal industry. Equally disturbing to the current absence of women centric comics is the lack of representation of non- white and/or gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters. Right now comics represent the interest of the men that are in power and by writing these “other” characters in the stories would help to disassemble the “boys club.”
X-Women #1 is beautiful artwork and I can appreciate that. Yet the dearth of female-centric comic books should not be requited by sex. In that sense, I would say yes to Brutally Honest's question of whether or not the release of X-Women #1 is a back step for Marvel. Let's give our X-Women more credit, because right now Marvel is saying that women don't deserve their own title or team unless it emphasizes sex. I would also say that because pop culture represents those who are in power, this reflects what gender group is in power.
Personally, I am really sad and confused by Marvel putting this title out in this manner. I would really like to hear how you feel about this matter. And since I have my feminist train of thought at full steam, I will continue in my next post with reference to 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales: Juarez or Lex Nova & the Case of 400 Dead Mexican Girls. This title is based on a true story where the murders of over 400 women were left unsolved.