Tag Archives: Marvel Girl

Greatest Hits: Sexism in Vintage Comics

11 Feb

 

 

 

I originally tracked down all these images to create the banner for my site. Every time I looked at them, I wondered if people who viewed the blog were actually able to make out what they said. I couldn’t stand the thought that people might be missing out on these spectacular instances of vintage sexism in comics. I am so glad that these are humorous now, women in comics have come such a long way.

 

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Here we see Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) using her superpowers for housework. Interestingly enough, this backup feature “The Female of the Species!” featured in X-men #57 in 1969, was written by Stan Lee’s assistant Linda Fite, in an attempt to include a feminine perspective. In this same piece Jean states that it doesn’t take telekinesis to turn heads. You’ve got to love that. Jean was the only member of the original team not given a backstory in these backups.  

 

 

 

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In this frame we see Batman telling his new wife, Kathy Kane (Batwoman), that she is not invited to join them on their adventure. This was published in Batman #122 in 1959. Prior to their marriage, Kathy had been an ultra-femme crime fighter. She carried a purse full of gadgets in lieu of a utility belt, and of course wore a dress. Batman seemed to find her more of an annoyance than an ally.  

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Sue Storm doesn’t see how she can be of help, but she is quickly reminded that she is always of help because she is beautiful! She can help keep morale up, of course, thank goodness. This panel comes from Fantastic Four #12 published in 1963. 

 

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This images are all from Detective Comics #371 published in 1968. Throughout the issue, Batgirl repeatedly jeopardizes the mission by worrying about her appearance. Silly Batgirl. 

Its nice to see that creator’s are willing to let the girls play now. Each of these characters has evolved to be an individual, with an independent motivation and personality. They are all tough in different ways, and have such a long way .

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Here’s Jean being dark and powerful.

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And Batwoman, being decidedly uninterested in Batman romantically.

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And Sue doing more than boosting morale.

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And Batgirl, not worrying about her makeup.  

As attitudes toward women continue to change, these characters will continue to evolve. Certainly now, they are great symbols for how far women have come in the last half century. 

Jean Grey And Pants: The History of Modern American Women in a Flash

7 Feb

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In Brian Michael Bendis’ series All New X-men, Jean Grey, along with a team of  her peers travel to the modern world from “the past.” Bendis remains purposely vague about when exactly the team hails from. I suppose, judging from the costuming choices, we are to associate them with the original 1963 team. However, Bendis is smart, and realizes that readers can do math, and readers will realize that no man who was old enough to legally drive a car in 1963 could look like Scott Sommers does now.

So let’s follow Jean’s costumes over the years and see what her appearance tells us about Women’s History.

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Jean Grey’s original uniform was a utilitarian garment, not unlike swimwear popular in 1963, but with the added coverage of tights and long sleeves. She wears pants, in that she does not wear a skirt, but it is function over form. When not on duty with the X-men, Jean wears shirt waist dresses, and occasionally hats.

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For the time Jean’s appearance is not out of the ordinary, Title IX which prevented public schools from prohibiting girls to wear trousers was not enacted until 1972. It is likely that most women at that time were wearing pants only for function, not for fashion. Pants were considered “loungewear,” and deemed inappropriate for wearing in public among most circles. In fact in 1960, a judge ejected a woman from his courtroom for wearing slacks; not in the Deep South, but in New York City.

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So it is no surprise that When Jean later takes it upon herself to update Marvel Girl’s appearance, a sensible, albeit short skirt injects some femininity into her ensemble.

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Marvel Girl’s new look premiered in X-men Vol 39 in December of 1967.  That is the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states banning unmarried women from purchasing birth control pills were unconstitutionally invading those women’s privacy. It was beginning to be acceptable for women to possess their own sexuality. Perhaps this has something to with Jean’s gams and décolletage being so prominently displayed.

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So time moves on, women stop connecting their worth to housework, and start taking ownership of their sexuality. Jean evolves, becoming Phoenix in 1976. In the nine years that passed had seen everything from the Summer of Love (1969) to the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973), more and more women were delaying family life in lieu of pursuing careers, the phenomenon of single motherhood was on the rise, and there was disco. Jean returns from the dead, empowered with a new force, much like her real world female contemporaries.

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But as good things will, the Phoenix Force went the way of disco, leaving people scratching their heads, wondering why they ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Women began to demand equal pay for equal work; it became clear that two working parents in a household meant more out of home child-care, threats like AIDS loomed right around the corner (1981). All of these things meant that the novelty of the women’s liberation was wearing off and the patriarchal society was left making the walk of shame, from the one decade stand they shared. So, Jean gets dark.

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Jean came back too powerful, so naturally she was corrupted by evil. She steps in place as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club in mid-1980. Scantily clad in black leather, she may represent a woman, left to her own devices, unchecked by social mores. She is hyper-sexualized, incapable of dealing with her own power, and hopelessly impressionable.

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Jean is ultimately corrupted in this arc as she becomes the Dark Phoenix

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Jean is planning on consuming the world, but in the end, decides to sacrifice herself so that things can continue on the way they were. If that is not a comment on the modern woman’s dilemma I don’t know what is. There is more of course, but lets stop there, and just consider for a moment, what face’s Bendis’ Jean as she learns her future.

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These women exist, the ones that watched our world change, they were Rosie the Riveter, and June Cleaver, and bra burners, and workin’ 9-5; they were our mothers and grandmothers, and us… and for some of them; I imagine they felt they watched the changes happen at this speed.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And find Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1

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