Thursday, August 06, 2009

Cry for Justice #2: not sexist at all, actually

Wow, WFA already has 4 posts about this issue up. May as well add to the debate then.
View the page in question here.

I don't see how Hal having a 3some with Zinda and Helena is sexist. They're adults, it's pretty well established that Hal hits on women a lot and I don't think it's too out of character for Helena or Zinda to have a one night stand. *Maybe* that's because I don't think one night stands are bad or morally wrong, unlike most everyone else I know. Having sex, not a bad thing ok? Anyway, from what I've read of both Zinda and Helena, they both seem like they like sex and booze. Having Helena have another one night stand does not make her a slut. While we're on it, The use of the word slut? Really derogatory and disrespectful.

I have a lot of issues with some comments in the CBR page that I linked to above. So lets go through them.

After storming out on a JLA meeting, Ollie thinks that Hal needs to confess a threeway? How does that make any sense?
How about because they're friends, they're used to ribbing each other and they've been waiting on the rooftop for a while so their anger has probably abated?

This throwaway line of dialogue adds nothing to the story, except making Hal seem like he uses alcohol to get laid.
Yes, he probably does. What's your point?

It also paints Blackhawk and Huntress in a very negative light; they never had serious romantic relations with anyone during a lengthy run of a team comic, but a bottle of grappa gets them naked together?
You'll only think that's portraying them in a negative light if you think casual sex is bad. Consenting adults + sex generally equals fun. And yes I do think you can consent whilst drunk. I don't like the commenter's insinuation that the women have to be duped, tricked or made drunk. For all they know it could have been Zinda or Helena's idea. But oh look, that would give the women some sort of agency over their sex lives wouldn't it? I get the impression the commenter doesn't think they would ever willingly have casual sex. I disagree.

They go from being professional teammates and friends to some fantasy groupies.
Erm, no. Having a one night stand with Hal and each other does not stop them being professional teammates. People sleep with folks they work with all the time, it doesn't stop them doing their job. I also don't see how sleeping with Hal makes them groupies - that term intimates that the night was all about Hal. I betcha both Zinda and Helena enjoyed the shag too. And a 3some doesn't mean they got down with each other either. Even if they did, so what?

With one line you did a good job at tearing down years of progressive writing by Simone.
By giving the characters a sex life? Get stuffed.

I think if Huntress was congratulating Black Canary on a threeway with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, fanboys would be up in arms.

They probably would be. But that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing that Hal had a 3some with Z and H. And of course Ollie congratulated him on it, he had a fun night! I congratulate my friends too if they have a fun night, that doesn't mean the other participants are being disrespected.

Gail Simone's comments:
I hate to see Huntress get branded as a slut again.
Who's branding her a slut? No one in the story is. If the readers then decide she's a slut, that's their issues.

Once again, this is all about the man

Only because it's a conversation between 2 men, talking about their experiences.

I really feel like most writers of mainstream comics get the sex thing all wrong over and over. It’s all wink wink nudge nudge and women as trophies and thumbs up
I really didn't feel that it read as women as trophies.

But it does feel weird that people can read bop and still come away with the impression that THAT Huntress and THAT Lady Blackhawk would get drunk and be someone’s sad Penthouse fantasy.
Now that's fair enough. That's an is out of character type comment. Well, Gail Simone wrote BoP, she'll know the characters, I haven't read all of BoP and I don't know the characters. But, in my knowledge of them, I can definitely see them both getting drunk and laid. I'd be surprised if Zinda and Helena actually shagged each other, given that Zinda's from the 40s and Helena hasn't revealed any lady loving tendencies, so far as I know. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't shag Hal.

So yeah, I liked this issue a lot, far better than #1. It's a bit of a shame that Kara's costume isn't longer in the torso area, but then again they changed her cape several times in Superman: WONK too. The rest of the issue was great.

I'm really surprised no one has commented yet on the text bit at the end of the issue - the bit about the Atom, and Jean Loring. If anything was gonna get called out for sexism that would be it, I'd have thought. Man, the writer, (Is it Robinson?) really hates Jean Loring doesn't he?

Man, looking back on those stories now, she [Loring] is a major pill. Yeah that's one thing me and Ray have in common. I was even married to a girl like that for a couple of weeks. (Boy was I relieved to learn that marriages in Bolivia aren't legal in the US.)
Dismissive. Rude. Playing for laughs. No idea if the marriage story is true or not, if it is, it's a rather ugly thing to say in your public place of work. If not, it seems an odd thing to put in.

After having to put up with what I was sure was a marriage of headaches for Ray (except in the bedroom, where I'm sure it was Jean who had the headaches)
So not only is she not a nice friendly compliant wife, she also won't put out? Oh noes, poor Ray, how will he cope. Hey guess what. Sex - not a right. Not happy with how much you're getting? Have a wank.

And then Jean returns to his life an even bigger nutjob than we realized, and kills poor Sue Dibny.
That's just a sentence filled with bile. We know that Loring wasn't all there, she had quite clearly gone to the dark side, but why all the hate?

I think it's pretty clear that the writer of the text piece doesn't like Jean Loring. I'm not suggesting that the writer hates all women. I do think the above pieces of text uses sexist and demeaning language.


Lord Runolfr said...

I'm not very familiar with these characters, other than GL, but I have to think that having a power ring handy during any sex play could be pretty useful. Maybe that's Hal's real secret.

Saranga said...

*snort* I hadn't thought of that! And soemwhat more appealing than the Plastic or Elongated man as well. Certainly prettier.

Bookwormwithanattitude said...

I guess we disagree here, I saw that as very out of character for Huntress. After the whole Josh debacle, didn't she decide casual sex with random people wasn't her thing? She even turned down Catman, for god's sake. Catman. You realllly have to be restrained to do that, in my opinion.

And as you've mentioned, Zinda is from the forties. I may be wrong, but I think threesomes weren't really in the vogue back then. I can't see Zinda agreeing to it, especially as it could possibly compromise her friendship with Helena. (I really have no idea, but the impression I've gotten from people discussing the event are that threesomes can be really awkward for friends, and that it's really hard not the shag both other particapants when you're in one.)

And I do think they're treated as trophies here. It's treated as "wink wink well played sir! Two hot ladies, another notch on your bedpost!" Huntress and Zinda are given no personalities here (or motivation), they're just two hot chicks Hal bagged and everyone things it's just soooo great, haha, that Hal he's a stud! Two girls at once!"

As Gail said, I can't see DC allowing this to happen with the genders reversed. I mean, what about the ghey? And it would so compromise their manly characters to be "well played, ma'am" by women! And as someone who works for DC, I think Gail would know the mentality there.

Bookwormwithanattitude said...

The Jean Loring comment was awful, though. I didn't read Cry for Justice, so I don't know the context, but...ick.

Saranga said...

Hi Nev.
Yeah I know Gail is going to be way more knowledgable about the culture at DC and the characters than me, and I don't want to stomp all over her words proclaiming I'm correct and she sucks, because that would make me an arrogant toerag. Having said that, i do think there is room for interpretation of characters that is different from what the author intended.

I also agree that if the genders were reversed it would be very unlikely to be published. But, I think that's indicative of a double standard at DC, and all the fanboys being homophobic, not necessarily that this scene is sexist.

Re Zinda's sex life in the 40s, weeelll, I reckon they got up to all sorts back then, it just weren't discussed much in public at the time. I read some accounts of celebrity lives and they were doing all we'd do now, it just wasn't discussed in the tabloids. Zinda strikes me as an adventurous sort.

As for it being OOC for Huntress, I could argue that we don't know when this one night stand happened, could it be before the Josh thing? Maybe Hal wasn't around then though..or maybe she just changed her mind. Or maybe it is completely OOC. In which I case I retract my statement about it not being sexist, but only for the involvement of the Huntress.

As for them being treated as trophies, maybe so, but tbh, that's kind in character for Ollie isn't it? He's a womaniser. So's Hal. I see the conversation as being true to their characters and showing them in a negative light. Not the women. This is maybe because I've got such a strong sense of Zinda's and Helena's characters, (due to Simone's BoP run), that I can't imagine them being passive about sex and who they choose to sleep with. I'm also pretty sure that if they heard Ollie discussing them like this they'd be having serious words.

Basically I don't see evidence for the meta text being sexist, I do see evidence for Ollie and Hal being sexist.

Re how involved each person gets in a 3some, I have no first hand experience either but I know others who have gotten involved in various formations (e.g. 1 guy two women, and 2 guys one woman) and in all cases the same sex people didn't shag each other. So it's possible.

If you find any other commentary on the text part regarding Jean Loring please link it on WFA. I'd be really interested to hear other bloggers' views on it.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think that whatever happened was NOT a threesome but more that Hal got drunk and embarrassed himself.

My reasoning? Ollie heard about this from Dinah. And if Hal had tried any drunken tomfoolery with her friends that didn't result in abject humiliation, there's be a lonely little ring flying around Sector 2814 looking for another honest and fearless person.

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

Great post. You said virtually everything that I was thinking. To me, a lot of the reaction to the scene seemed anti-feminist. It assumed all sorts of things about women (e.g. they don't really want to have sex, sexual activities that are out of the ordinary are only male fantasies, etc.) and sex (e.g. this makes the Huntress a slut) that I don't think are true. I understand someone saying that this seems out of character for the Huntress, but a lot of the other complaints seem to be more related to people's baggage about sex than any real criticism.

Anonymous said...

That rocked so much!
Can I quote you?

Saranga said...

Of course you can quote me. May I be nosey and ask the address of your site? (If you have one)

Anonymous said...

Your post makes a lot of sense to me, although I read it wanting to disagree with you! It's true - I did have an immediate gut reaction reading the scene: "Huntress and Blackhawk are being dismissed as sluts for a cheap laugh." I think that knee jerk reaction might be due to the fact that women superheroes are still hypersexualized. Yes, the men are too, but Simone referred to the fact that there are very few comics that deal with the relationships between women superheroes. The BoP comic was one of the few comics where the girls weren't in relationships with men, and even so we are used to them wearing skintight leather costumes and net stockings rather than, like, sensible performance fleece or bulletproof vests. There isn't anything wrong with sex, but there isn't anything wrong with NOT having sex either, or depicting facets of a character that don't involve her physical attributes or sexual and romantic relationships. I think a lot of readers are sensitive to that, and are quick to jump at any hint that superheroines are becoming marginalized, or oversimplified. It's true that the ladies shouldn't be branded as sluts for enjoying a threesome; however, I think that sex has a stronger effect on our emotions than we would like to believe, and that how we go about it says something about our maturity and self-confidence. It would be interesting to see how the girls were feeling about it, actually; cool with it, or super awkward?
I guess I don't think that GA and GL chortling over the morning after was very relevant to the story. Seemed frivolous to me, given that Hal is all intense about things lately. GA is a dick.

Saranga said...

Hi (a different?) Anonymous, thanks for stopping by.

You have very valid points. I think the differing reactions to this may well come down to cultural differences - I think that us Brits are more easy going about casual sex (and getting drunk) than Americans are.

You're right there is nothing wrong with not having sex (and this is something that should be promoted more), but I think in both the US and the UK where the cultural standards of behaviour and morailty for women tend to revolve around them not having sex I think it it important to state that having (consensual) sex does not make you a bad person. It is not a bad thing.

Non consensual sex is obviously an entirely different matter, but there is no way in hell that I am going to believe that any of the following scenraios happened:
1)Hal got them both so drunk that any sex turned into rape
2) Zinda are Helena suddenly turned into lightweights and became unable to walk away
3) Zinda and Helena didn't know exactly where any drunken flirting was heading (neither of them are innocent)
4)If Hal had taken advantage of them I can't believe he'd still be walking around intact.
All credit to Simone here - I have such a strong feeling of these characters because of her writing. They do her credit.

I agree, it would be good to see what Zinda and Helena think about it. My betting is they'd be ripping the piss out of him - neither are the type to go doe eyed over a one night stand. Hal might expect them to simper, but he'd be in for a mighty big shock.
Having said that, I've no idea about Hal's character lately.