Women in Comics: Wonder Woman isn't a Feminist?
Recently, DC artist David Finch made some comments about drawing for the upcoming run of Wonder Woman. He included a mention of feminism that has the internet in a (relatively small and civil) uproar. Here is what he said: "I think she's a beautiful, strong character. Really, from where I come from, and we've talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it's a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong—I don't want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong."
That quote, and particularly that one little phrase, has got a lot of people asking, why not feminist? Feminism (which is just the belief that men and women should have the same rights) isn't a particularly controversial position, but the struggle for equal rights continues to make headlines on a regular basis. What was David Finch trying to say with regard to Wonder Woman’s position on equality? Here are a few possibilities:
Possibility Number One: David Finch doesn't think that Wonder Woman believes men and women should have equal rights.
This is stupid. David Finch doesn't think this (or if he does, then David Finch is stupid). The question of whether Wonder Woman is a feminist isn't really open to debate at this point. It would be like saying, "we want Batman to be a strong—I don't want to say he was upset by his parents' murder, but a strong character." It may be worth debating whether Wonder Woman is a feminist icon (and it's well worth debating whether she’s a good one), but the question of whether the character herself is a feminist, that ship has pretty much sailed.
Possibility Number Two: David Finch had that Joss Whedon speech rattling around in his head.
Last year, at an Equality Now event, Joss Whedon made an interesting, and oft-reposted speech about the word "feminist." (If you aren't familiar with it, you can read/listen here.) The speech is framed around the idea that Whedon doesn't like the word "feminist." Obviously, it turns out to be an intensely pro-equality message. We won't rehash it here, but we agree that there is something clunky and antiquated about the very idea of needing a word like "feminist." We shouldn't need a special word for behaving like a human. We don't use the word "nontoddlerstabist" for people who believe toddlers shouldn't get stabbed, because we all just kind of get that. We aren't necessarily arguing that we don't need the word feminist anymore, we are just saying that it sucks if we do.
Possibility Number Three: David Finch (or DC) thinks "feminist" is a problematic term to use with their readership.
This is something worth considering. Keep in mind that, despite the headlines, Finch never said that Wonder Woman wasn't a feminist, he said, "I don't want to say feminist." It is entirely possible (even probable) that Finch was counseled, either casually or formally, that DC doesn't want to call a Wonder Woman feminist, because they have concerns about how that word will be received by their readers. Comic book readers have always had to struggle to be respected and taken seriously, and no one today thinks less of the sophistication and maturity of comic readers than the big comic publishers.
What do you think? Do you think this was an example of DC trying to talk down to their imagined readership, or do you think something else is going on here? What do you think about the state of women in comics in general?