"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere


Monday, January 14, 2013

All-Women X-Men

I love Brian Wood. He has written some of my favorite comic books of all time (Northlanders, for example).  He's also got a pretty fantastic track record for writing female characters (he's even BUST magazine-approved).  And I suspect his new book, simply titled X-Men, featuring an all-female cast of characters, will be a really good read.  I have high hopes, and I also appreciate that the cover, at least, includes a lot less skin and a lot more badass than many comic covers including women characters have. Also, it looks like half the team (so far) are women of color.  So, lots to look forward to, lots to be appreciative of.  A wait-and-see attitude is probably a good one.

And yet, it's tough to ignore that this is an all-female book named X-MEN.  Which is not to say that anybody wants the book to be called X-WOMEN, really. It's just a stark contrast, seeing all of the women on the cover, standing behind the X-Men logo. It's easy to see it as a fine example of the concept of men-as-default-women-as-secondary/other.  (Yeah, yeah, it's "just" a comic--but if you're taking that line of thought, you're reading the wrong blog.)  

Of course, folks are calling out Wood on this (even though it's unlikely it's really his decision).  I'm not on board with Wood's response, however: 
No reason to change that?  As I tweeted back, if we keep following that sort of logic, we'll always have female firemen and congressmen.  It's a dismissive response to something that I'm pretty sure has more nuance, and I'm pretty sure Wood knows that.  A response like "hey, yeah, it's a complex issue, and we'll deal with that sort of stuff with these characters in the book" would have been welcomed.  And I admit that's a lot to ask--it is a comic book, after all--but I'm also pretty sure Wood is savvy enough to write this book well, keeping the complexities in mind, so I will wait and see.

Still, would it have been so difficult to find a woman writer for the book? Or a woman artist?  Would women who write and draw professionally have wanted to do this book?  I'll be interested to see what folks say, and I can't wait to read the book.

Update:
Brain Wood points to this, which is something of a rehash of what he's said before:
Everyone certainly acknowledges they are women. But what they also are, are X-Men, and have been forever - these are classic characters. If several of them congregate in the absence of a penis, it doesn't change them into something else. They are entitled to the name and they've earned it, and this is what they ARE. "X-Women" suggest a sub-category, or at least a group to one side, and that's doing all these characters a disservice.   
 I get what he's saying and thinking here (and we'll leave aside the "penis" comment--though is it too much to ask him to be aware that some women have penises?), but I just disagree. "X-Women" doesn't *have* to suggest a sub-category, any more than than "congresswoman" has to. Also: They're entitled to be called men? They earned that? Meh. 
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