The Intersection: Ghosts in the Genre Machine

16 Nov

The other day I heard a rumor about DC’s future plans for Wonder Woman that really pissed me off: the writers are considering ‘shipping Wonder Woman with Bruce Wayne. On the surface, that sounds harmless enough—that is, until you consider this thing called “context.” With that in mind, I’m going to make an unambiguous statement.

Repeatedly demonstrating via story (in media and literature) that women are not complete beings without being in a relationship with a man is damaging. It props up patriarchal narratives on the non-value of women. It reduces them to one fate: being the property of a man.

batman__and_wonder_woman_cuddling_session_by_saints_row_boss-darg5zv

“OMG! How can you say that, Stina? Aren’t you married?” Why, yes, I am. I’m all for relationships in general. They make humans more empathetic. We don’t live in a world filled with an overabundance of love and empathy. Let’s have more, please! Confused? Let’s go back to that ‘context’ word. You see, there’s a reason that two of the most powerful fictional women on television when I was a child (Samantha from Bewitched and Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie) had their powers taken from them and/or were severely restricted when they married.

Psychologically, when a man marries, he gains power. When a woman marries, she becomes a ghost.

Ask any woman who has married. There is a common phase in the marriage process that no one talks about. It’s the depression that hits you the day after your wedding. So much of what society presents as success for a woman is centered on getting married and nothing else. Centuries of pressure still exists—ask any single woman. Post marriage, there is no more story for women. It’s the giant ‘The End’ on the last frame of the movie. Traditionally, women were (and still are) pressured into quitting jobs and having children. Their needs are no longer viewed as a priority. The family’s and/or their husband’s are. Psychologically speaking, this is a death of self. The problem is only going to get worse as more and more girls are told they’re whole people only to grow up into women without value. Men don’t go through this process because their needs are prioritized by the world at large. I won’t go on about this as it’s a tangent, but you needed to be aware of it in order for the rest to make sense. There are a number of volumes published on the subject. I urge you to look into it for yourself.

So, let’s go back to genre fiction.

Genre fiction and media has a long, nasty tradition of gutting strong women. Such characters are only allowed to exist for a certain period of time before they’re fridged, raped, have their power stripped from them[1], and/or are reduced in power in some way…like, say, being overly sexualized or becoming some man’s girlfriend or wife. It’s relentless. I personally can’t think of any powerful female character who hasn’t been subjected to this treatment in the guise of “making her story more interesting / appealing.” In addition, these “strong female characters” are always young and pretty. There’s a reason that very few SF/F stories exist about middle-aged or older women. This reflects society’s traditional stance that women cease to be worthwhile, whole human beings upon marriage.

Women and girls need stories that demonstrate life beyond relationships. We absolutely do. That’s one of the main reasons why Wonder Woman is so important. Sure, she sticks to the “young and pretty” stereotype but at least she’s her own person. The director purposely filmed her in a non-sexualized way as much as possible. This is why there was strong objection to her forced relationship with Steve Trevor.[2]

With that in mind, fucking leave Wonder Woman alone. Dear straight men, just let us keep her. For the love of all that is good, don’t gift her to Bruce Wayne—a notorious, self-centered cynic who is practically a poster child for toxic masculinity and whose only super power is being rich. Wonder Woman is a hopeful character. Being with Mr. Broody Nihilist McBrooderson runs against everything she is. You’ve got the whole rest of the fucking genre for sexual power fantasies. (Hell, you have Wonder Woman’s entire past history for that matter.) Fucking leave us this version of Wonder Woman, damn it.

And keep your “undercut the strong woman” story-mitts off the women of Wakanda too.

 


[1] I’m staring at you non-existent-in-my-world Alien 3.

[2] Yes. I know that’s canon. But it wasn’t handled well in the movie. I never had a problem with her sleeping with him or even caring about him as one human being cares for another. That’s pure Wonder Woman. She’s sex-positive. It’s well within her character to have a fuck buddy or a one night stand and not for one moment feel bad about it. Because she shouldn’t. The part that bugged me was when they tried so hard to make their fuck-buddy friendship more than what it was.

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