Monday, July 03, 2006

Evil Woman!

Well, the devil, he's a woman with coal-black hair-- except in comic books.

I like women in comic books, both as villains and heroes. Once upon a time, there were very few of either type, and they were sometimes painfully derivative (e.g., Miss Arrowette). So part of me likes that there are now so many female costumed adventures, good and bad.

Yet another part of me hates it. It's been my observation that, on the whole, women are not nearly as likely to be idiotic as men. I mean, how many women appeared on Jackass, or imitated things they saw on Jackass?

While I understand women's desire for parity with men in positive areas like rate of pay, I pale when it myopically expands into a desire for parity with men in negative areas as well. It makes me sad to think that in order to become men's socioeconomic equals, women would have to stoop to men's level of jackassery.

I will believe a man can fly. It is substantially more difficult for me to believe that women are as likely as men to put on a costume and fight crime. That's the kind of self-aggrandizing theatrics driven by a savior complex that I associate with the typical flaws of men, not of women.

Yes, I like Kate "Manhunter" Spencer, but throwing on a costume, grabbing some random high tech weapons, and dashing to a sewer to confront Copperhead on the spur of the moment is the exactly kind of jackassery that's even harder to credit in women than in men.

It's even more of a strain to unflinchingly accept woman villains. Men are more violent than women. Men are more likely to become criminals. Although the number of female prison inmates has grown dramatically, that's due to drug convictions (a crime of weakness to which all people are equally prey) rather than violent offenses (crimes of aggression to which men are more prone).

One may not like stereotyping as a matter of principle, but stereotyping is seldom baseless: men are more violent and criminal than women, which is why they outnumber them in prisons by at least nine to one.

Setting aside for a minute men's hormonal tendencies toward aggression, men are stupid. Or perhaps more accurately, men are more likely to be narrow-minded or short-sighted.

The reason that most people are good citizens instead of criminals isn't because most people are good; it's because because it's easier. That's part of the whole point of society. In the long run, being good and cooperative with society is safer, easier, and more profitable than being a criminal.

Ever watch those reality teevee cop shows, where some moron tries to rob a gas station or lead cops on a chase, or run away naked from a domestic dispute? You immediately think: "What on earth is that person thinking? Do they really think they're going to get away and what will they do next when they do?" The answer is simple: they aren't thinking. Not past the moment, anyway. Now, who's more likely to do that, a woman or a man?

Yet, because the costume crowd are the stars of our comic books it feels manifestly "unfair" when more capes belong to men than women, regardless of how much more realistic that would be. And so we all find ourselves clamoring for more female nutjobs in spandex, including villains.

In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupdity is every bit as great as men's!" That may be "equality" but I'm hard-pressed to view it as empowerment or advancement. Except in, you know, professional sports.

Come now. "I intend to rule the world!", "I shall destroy you all!", "Mine, mine -- it's all mine!", and even "Hahahahahaha! Die at the hands of Dr. Virus -- and Kryptococcus, the Omni-Germ!" really do sound more natural coming out of man's mouth than a woman's. Most women couldn't say stuff like that without laughing; men say stuff like that to themselves while shaving.

There's an unfortunate side-effect of all this. The comparative incredibility of female villains pushes writers toward dangerous motivational waters.

Because world-conquering and bank-robbing don't feel like hobbies that women are keen on, writers veer toward other motives -- then get in trouble with readers for stereotyping. Let's see how many female characters you can put under the following headings:
That last one's my favorite. Men, you see, steal piles of cash that they can then convert into anything commerce permits. Women skip the middle-man and go straight for the shiny shinies they want; yes, Catwoman, I'm looking at you.

All this is part of why I am unhappy with Catwoman as a hero and fine with Batgirl as a villain: because female villains with any sort of remotely realistic motivation are hard to find.
Catwoman was a good villain because her motive was simple, realistic, and comprehensible: she wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. She wasn't out to hurt anyone, defeat anyone, or conquer anything. And if you got in her way, she either pushed you out of the way or did an end-run around you; no hard feelings. She was the anti-Luthor.

As for Batgirl, well, yes, the turn to villainhood is a dramatic one and a severe shift away from the direction previous writers had taken her, but I least I understand her motivations (unlike, say, the Vilification of Leslie Thompkins, who let Spoiler die to, um, prove a point -- or something). Still, it is uncomfortable that what seemed to push her over the edge was simply the fact that "there was another woman in her Daddy's life"; icky.

Comments:
hmmm...

This will be an interesting comments thread.

I shall watch.
 
I'm still not sure why "It turns out I'm not an only child. Daddy, you lied to me! I hate you! I'm going to go out and kill a load of people!" qualifies as a sensible reason for turning evil, but oh well. Surely that's number one on your motivations list, but with her father as the 'man'?

Like you said, 'icky'.
 
Hey, Scipio, I wouldn't credit women with a higher I.Q. than men, just most women tend to plan ahead or think about consequences more. I also wouldn't credit women with less violent tendencies, just less physically violent tendencies. Yes, men are more likely on the whole to go Rambo on people than women, but women, I think, are more likely to hold a grudge and try to hurt people pyschologically. Oh, got to go.
 
What about the woman who robbed banks while talking on her cell phone? She thought it would be an obvious distraction... Eventually caught, of course. Was there a man behind all of it? Don't recall - it was just her stupidity - and the fact that she got away with it for a while.
 
"as a sensible reason for turning evil"

Oh, it's not sensible; but it is comprehensible.


And, Kathy; yup, there are certainly stupid woman and stupid woman robbers. No argument from me on that. I'm not arguing that such woman are impossible, only that is extremely unlikely that there would be as many such women as men.

Must admit, though, hadn't heard of Cellular Sal the Bankrobbing Gal.
 
Well, to someone who's read all 73 issues of Batgirl's book I don't find it the least bit comprehensible. Especially since at the end of the last story arc she learned that Cain trained *dozens* of other kids. So why would finding out that he trained *one* more making her snap is quite the odd thing.

Besides, Cassandra never had that "daddy complex" thing with Cain. That was all Batman...
 
I'm the same anon as before. I think this is the reason more women in comics have mental powers. (Emma Frost, Psylocke, Marvel Girl, and that's just from X-Men) Men are more likely to have power-lust, and women are more likely to want revenge. Neither has a greater bent or ability for evil, just different kinds of evil.

Now, women as super-heroes I have a harder time crediting. Men naturally want something to protect. Women don't. (Not that women want to be protected, just that they don't naturally want something to protect (besides their children, I guess ) )

Aw, man. It seems I just wrote a thesis. Anyway, Scipio, are you aware that you have Dave's Longbox in your links twice?
 
"Neither has a greater bent or ability for evil, just different kinds of evil.

Now, women as super-heroes I have a harder time crediting. Men naturally want something to protect. Women don't."


That is an interesting thesis. I think my opinion may be exactly the opposite. I think men do have a greater bent toward evil, and women are more into protecting while men are into conquering.
 
Men, you see, steal piles of cash that they can then convert into anything commerce permits.

Some men, sure. The men who are big-time Batman villains though, are more likely to steal bird-themed objects or the Rarest Hat In The World or something. Catwoman at least steals something valuable.
 
If women are more likely to be protectors, then how can you credit any female villain, regardless of motivation? At least Catwoman does it for herself. As you point out, the "oh so understandable" Batgirl is once again simply doing it for "Daddy".

This ubiquitous Electra - Elektra - Complex is made even more egregious because Batgirl is one of the few comic book characters to have a mother. And she had just finished working out similar issues with Shiva in her own book. Why couldn't she become a great assassin to piss off Mom, huh?
 
LOL, true enough, Monty! I assume the Big Timers have all the money they need, so they go for prestige stuff that they wouldn't be allowed to buy.

But remember: EVERYTHING stolen in Gotham can be converted into cash thanks to the Insuperable Fences of Gotham, as previously discussed here at the Absorbascon.
 
You should read the essay "Are Women Morally Superior to Men?" by Katha Pollitt.

Your argument is one that appears to be complimenting women while in fact saying that women are less capable of quick decisions and bravery. Taken to its logical conclusion, you're really saying it's a good thing we live in a patriarchy, because women would dither too much before doing what needs to be done.
 
so what you basically say is that women are more likely to react in accordance with society's expectation of them, instead of their desires or needs?
 
so what you basically say is that women are more likely to react in accordance with society's expectation of them, instead of their desires or needs?
 
You seem to have equate foolhardiness with "quick decisions and bravery"; spoken like a true man, Charlie.

Your argument is one that appears to be complimenting women while in fact saying that women are less capable of quick decisions and bravery.

It is? Funny. i don't see that anywhere in my post.

I love it when people tell what point I'm making ... after I've just made my own point quite clearly.

I've also found that when people "take your argument to its logical conclusion" they usually mean "casting aside all the qualifications you've put on your own thinking so as to keep it realistic".

Make your own argument, Charlie; I'm quite capable of making mine.
 
I understand what you're saying, but I think women have just as great a bent toward evil as men. All people are equally bad; no-one is inherently good. Women's bent toward planning and foresight makes them naturally try to cause mental pain. It's a conniving, ruin your life kind of evil. Neither kind of evil is worse, just different.

I think really what I'm saying is that no-one has a greater bent toward good. Left absolutely, completely to himself, anyone will always do the wrong thing. The Law is there to make doing good easier than doing evil, but given no Law everyone will do evil. Therefore, the Law is good. Since man (and I use man to mean mankind) inherently does evil, man cannot have made the Law. Left to himself, man would not even know evil was bad, since it would be the only thing he knew. Only someone good could have made the Law.
 
"so what you basically say is that women are more likely to react in accordance with society's expectation of them, instead of their desires or needs?"

No. What I am saying is that women are more like to understand the best chance for everyone's individual success lies in mutual cooperation rather than in self-centered grasping, which is one of the principles society is based on.

Or, as we say where I'm from, "One person don't build a barn."

I also find people who say "what you're basically saying" really mean, "let me simplify what you went out of your way to put in a non-simplistic way so that I can attack it more easily."

If I'd meant to say something basically, I would have, thank you very much, and if you think such matters can be discussed simplistically, then you probably aren't ready to discuss them at all.

I'm continually astonished how many people choose to hear something as an argument that angered them before (and one they are prepared to attack), rather the one actually being made.
 
"Left to himself, man would not even know evil was bad, since it would be the only thing he knew. Only someone good could have made the Law."

Hmmm. I'm not sure what you mean by "left to himself". Any person who lives with others and is the recipient of their "evil" would know that "evil is bad". People do not make laws because they are good; people make laws because others are bad.

You don't have to be "good" to make law, just afraid of evil.

Trust me, I know; I live in Washington.
 
Putting aside the specifics of Batgirl, let's address the underlying sexism of your post on sexism:

"Men have saviour complexes, Women don't"

Women have Maternal Instict, Men don't. And how can Women be inherently good if they won't protect others when given the power to do so?

"Self-aggrandizing theatrics"

How many men have worn swans to a red carpet ceremony? How many men are on the beaches of Cannes in less than a g-string shouting "All cameras on me"? How many movies-of-the-week have been made about Men with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy?

There is a difference between not wanting attention and living in a society that ignores your efforts and insists that you be meek and demure. Given an outlet, Women are even more vainglorious than Men.

"Men are more aggressive"

There are more Men in prison for violent crime, that's innarguable. But when women *do* commit a violent crime, they have "Battered Woman Syndrome" and "feared for my life" to fall back on. (And how many Men are going to file a police report claiming - admitting - that they were beaten up by a Woman?) Also, when Women do commit violence, they tend to use quiter means. (See "meek and demure" above.) The weapon of choice for Women serial killers is poison, not guns. (It is easier to clean up afterwards, and you know who is going to have to do that.) If we prosecuted all the "suspicious deaths" as aggressively as we did drive-bys - and didn;t excuse them just for being woemn if they are caught - I have no doubt that the fraction of Women in prison would rise dramatically. (Though I will admit, probably still not to parity.)

"Women are smarter"

OK, got me there. (Hi, dear.)

Seriously, Women seem smarter because these days we equate smarts with with the bookish geek and stupidity with the schoolyard bully. Intellect with quiet contemplation and idiocy with immediate action. Yes, Women don't commit bank robberies because they know they will get caught. But they know this not because they are smart enough to consider the odds, but because they are meek and demure enough to believe society when it tells them they can't succeed. It may be better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than speak and prove it, but ultimately it doesn;t make you any smarter.

And finally, the basis of all your arguments, "Women are better than that":

It sounds so nice doesn't it? I mean, it can't be bigotry, because you come to praise Women, not to enslave them. That's exactly the same type of thinking that says all Native Americans are Noble Savages and all Black Men Can Jump. Which is even worse, because it limits the options of minorities even more than "They can do nothing". And it's pleasent facade and passive voice make it even harder to stand dagainst than someone actively burning a cross on your lawn. It's the "Benign Neglect" of the Political Left. (And I say this as a card carrying Socialist.)

As bad as it sounds, until we have more Women supervillains - Take over the world, Bwah hah hah, "I find your lack of faith disturbing"*snap* SuperVILLAINS - as well as Superheroes, more serial killers as well as Senators, then there will still be sexism. If Women are more pure, than they should be protected. And if Women are less agressive, then Men will have to protect them. And the easiest way to protect their purity from the evils of the world is to lock them away and not let anyone near. And that sure isn't equality.

Who knows, maybe in the end some quirk of biology like lower (on average) upper body strength or the inability to pee standing up will mean that (on average) Women really do want to be Nurses rather than Ninja Asassins. But unless we beleive that Women can be Ninjas, and allow that that want to at least try, then we are allowing alowing our unthinking, inbred stereoptypes of Women to keep some individual woman from being the best damn Ninja Assassin the world has ever seen. (And an equal number of guys from being Nurses, Stay at Home Dads, and other caregivers, too.)
 
Actually, I'm a woman. I just find reductive discussions of men=aggressive, women=thoughtful incredibly sexist and annoying. It's a way of explaining why men are in leadership roles. Men are more aggressive and more impulsive, therefore they make better leaders. I recognize that you're not saying "men make better leaders," but what you are saying is that women are more quiet, thoughtful types than men. Which equates, in the end, to saying that women are "nicer" and less strong than men. That kind of reasoning just annoys me. Gender stereotyping, in general, annoys me.
 
David, you really do need your own blog. No, really.

Because, well, this one is taken.

In the name of "equality", people (like you) have spent lots of effort pretending that there are no generalizable differences between the sexes, and charging anyone who says otherwise with "sexism".

This, even though are general differences between the sexes that are biological not societal. There are reasons that "tribes of warrior women" are produced by literature, not history.

And that's why some goof makes a fortune with a book called Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus: because the last generation or so has conspired to pretend that there are no differencees between the sexes, having confused "equality of opportunity, dignity, and treatment" with "identicality".

Vive la difference!
 
"I recognize that you're not saying "men make better leaders," but what you are saying is that women are more quiet, thoughtful types than men. Which equates, in the end, to saying that women are "nicer" and less strong than men."

If you equate being quiet and thoughtful with being less strong, Charlie, then you think a lot more "like a man" than I do.
 
By "left to himself" I mean with no Law or outside intervention.

For example, if you lived in a culture with no law and Big Johnny killed someone you loved would you...

A. Pass a law telling him not to do that, or
B. Take revenge

Everyone would choose B if they didn't have something influencing their decision. (Morals) Everyone has these in the form of a conscience, but in a lawless society they would be weeded out. (As in Lord of the Flies) The fact that we all have consciences and the Law shows that there is something else than just pure natural selection.
 
I should think that, if you had any else you care about, or didn't want that to happen again, you would look towards others to create law.

Much of law is merely society's promise to take revenge for you, after all.

You are thinking only in terms of the invidual's survival. But natural selection works toward survival of species, not individuals. And collective action (something any pack animal does), the creation of societies, the establishment of rules in those societies, and the punishment of those who threaten the society are a logical result of natural selection.

If you've spent any time with packs of dog (and, believe me, I have spent LOTS of time with packs of dogs), you see that intraspecial aggression is usually ritual, not actual. Harming other pack members is, on the whole, bad for the pack and therefore bad for the individual.

Our species evolved conscience because it helps it to survive and cooperate successfully in a hostile environment without killing our own species off. So far.

There may be good reasons to believe in a higher power; but the existence of conscience and law certainly doesn't require it.
 
We don't live in some kind of pacifist matriarchal culture. We live in a culture that equates brashness and aggressiveness with strength. That's why George Bush is president. You're arguing that women are more thoughtful and less capable of unthinking aggression, which is what men have said about women for centuries. That's the Victorian stereotype of womanhood, in fact.

You're also trying to use cultural stereotypes to make excuses for the fact that so many women in superhero comics are badly written, when in fact the explanation is simpler: it's bad writing. There are plenty of examples in comics of female characters who act impulsively and put on silly costumes to commit or fight crime. Look at Rocket, who is much more impulsive and rash than Icon. Look at Birds of Prey. Or look at the example you mentioned, Manhunter.
 
You may pale when 'equality' "myopically expands into a desire for parity with men in negative areas," and believe me, I do as well, but it's true. Women are just as aggressive as men, if not more so. It may manifest differently; women have larger social groups and tend to grasp "mutual cooperation" better than men, but the women I know also tend to group into cliques and have no problem humiliating or harrassing people who disagree with them. I wouldn't mind seeing female supervillains written this way either.

Good post though, I liked it.
 
"Even though are general differences between the sexes that are biological not societal."
but when does it stop?
where do you make the decision which differences between the sexes is biological and which are societal?
if we accept that women are less "criminal" then men due to biological difference, what stops us from accepting women as less fitting to run a major company then men due to biological difference?
after all using your logic:
("stereotyping is seldom baseless: men are more violent and criminal than women, which is why they outnumber them in prisons by at least nine to one.")
women have less ambitions and management abilities then men, which why they are outnumbered by them in executive positions in major companies.

"In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupdity is every bit as great as men's!" That may be "equality" but I'm hard-pressed to view it as empowerment or advancement. Except in, you know, professional sports."
in the context of equality in jobs that are biased towards women, such as teaching young children, being nurses, etc.
while the majority of bias is against women, to think that there is no anti-male bias is naive.
and to accept anti-male bias and not anti-female bias is sexist.
 
If there wasn't any law would there be any right or wrong? Or is there something else which makes right and wrong?
 
There are reasons that "tribes of warrior women" are produced by literature, not history.

See the Warrior Women of Dahomey, an all female army. You also can find other bands of women warriors through out history and among many nations including Japanese, American Indian and Russian cultures
 
I also have to disagree with Women=Thoughtful straight out--it sounds too nice unqualified, since we're talking about villainy. I'd go with Nietzche, Women=weak (physically), therefore their evil tendencies tend to be influenced by fear of (men/stronger people) patriarchal system more than the self-confident male criminal. 'Thoughtful' in a way that is NOT positive.

Quieter methods of violence allow the cowardly criminal to avoid her weakness in battle against a man or the representatives of such. Inflicting mental pain is more common among women than men because it does not involve physicality where the woman is weak, also it leaves little evidence for the patriarchal system to punish her for.

Why don't women become evil because of other women doing them wrong? Well, mostly because it's too commonplace to note. Men are the Givers of Compliments, the source of doting attention, and protective figures. A man's betrayal is an Event. (Generally. A lesbian whose lover betrayed her might have different thoughts.)

Why don't more female villains want to take over the world? Um. Got me. A woman's desire to control others could be seen as a warped version of the biological desire to care/protect/recieve-it's-attention/love/obedience from offspring (and it's perfectly possible for a woman to identify non-offspring or non-children as MINEMINEMINE). "I would be a Queen! All shall love me, and despair!"

Seems to involve more emotion than simple dictatorship. The rationale escapes me, but I'd lean toward the inescapable fact that women's relations with men and children involve both being inside them, making lack of empathy difficult to achieve.

But this is my inexpert musing on average psychology. A woman with the ability to trash men (or too crazy to care anymore) would vary from the norm. I also agree that bad writing (or poor understanding of women) is the fault of most problems in this genre.

Kris
 
"You're arguing that women are more thoughtful and less capable of unthinking aggression"

I'm not arguing it. I'm stating it. As a fact. Which it is.

Your vested interest in blurring the differences between men and women does not make those differences any less real.

Such differences have and can be used inappropriately to "keep women in their place." Yes; that is bad.

Rail against that invidious practice all you want, as will I; but pretending differences do not exist simply as a way of avoiding such practices is disingenuous at best.

And if you believe there are nine times as many men in prison as women because, I don't, society is not providing enough equal opportunity for women to commit violent crime, then "disingenous" just won't cover it.
 
"Warrior Women of Dahomey"

That's pretty cool. I didn't know about them.

There are some pretty interesting counterexamples. Still, they are notable because they are exceptions and the fact they are exceptions just highlights my point. Yes, there are female warriors, female criminals, female supervillains; but not in proportionate numbers.

It's part of what makes Wonder Woman cool. She's not an intentional superhero. She's a superhero because circumstances require it, not because she feels the need to slap on spandex and kick some butt.
 
""Even though are general differences between the sexes that are biological not societal."
but when does it stop?
where do you make the decision which differences between the sexes is biological and which are societal?
if we accept that women are less "criminal" then men due to biological difference, what stops us from accepting women as less fitting to run a major company then men due to biological difference?"


Yes; I share your concern, wholeheartedly. That is precisely the slippery slope one must be wary of.

But simply sticking ones head in the sand and pretending there are no differences between men and women on average is NOT a sensible way of avoiding it.

after all using your logic:
("stereotyping is seldom baseless: men are more violent and criminal than women, which is why they outnumber them in prisons by at least nine to one.")
women have less ambitions and management abilities then men, which why they are outnumbered by them in executive positions in major companies.


I was not aware that violence and criminal tendencies were prerequisites for corporate executives. I guess that's why I didn't become one.
 
"If there wasn't any law would there be any right or wrong? Or is there something else which makes right and wrong?"

If there are people in a society, there is law. And since people are born into a mini-society -- the family -- there is always "law", or more simply "a distinction between right and wrong".

No people, no right and wrong. Laws do not decide what is right and wrong, people do; laws simply codify society's agreements about what is right and wrong.
 
"We live in a culture that equates brashness and aggressiveness with strength. That's why George Bush is president."

Well, that's arguably due to that equation being intentionally promoted by GOP propaganda and a compliant media. (Note the GOP's treatment of actual brave veterans of combat who question the morons in the Bush administration.)

FDR was far stronger and more able than Bush, despite being anything but brash and aggressive. After all, FDR kicked the asses of the Nazis and Japan, all around the world, in the time it took Bush to get bogged down in just two countries fighting a bunch of ragtag guerrillas and a nation which had been crippled by sanctions for a decade.

Bush's current low approval ratings, in the 30s, strongly suggest that Americans have figured out that the braggadocio was just Bush's way of hiding how far in over his head he was.
 
Look, if you buy one of the basic premises of superhero comics in general, villains are by definition atypical people, damaged people. Lex Luthor is a pretty good "normal" villain, basically an alpha male who is amoral. But most male villains don't make a lot of sense even as specifically male characters, unless the correct writer gets a hold of them. (Captain Cold, for example, was just a yutz with a gun until Geoff Johns wrote him.)

You may be right to suggest that a lot of (male) writers come up with fairly (male) ideas about what a damaged, atypical woman might be. But think about it: there's plenty of malicious or cruel women out there who do not act with a sense of how to achieve goals cooperatively who could be models for supervillains.

Now it might be, if you think about a lot of the real-life "villainous" women, that in many ways the archvillainous "plotter" supervillains should be more often female than male. Dr. Doom, the Yellow Claw, any villain that manipulates people, works "socially", might be better female. Think Lucrezia Borgia.

Other villainous females to consider as templates make you realize why comics avoid a few such templates. There's the obvious one of whore/temptress, sexual manipulator of men: Amy Fisher, say. A bit hard for comics to really go all out on that, and if mishandled, badly misogynist, but still, plenty of examples. Imelda Marcos or Evita Peron: the queen behind the throne. Lyndie England: the woman desperate to be just one of the guys. Ann Coulter strikes me as being a good villain template. The bored, suppressed housewife who breaks free of a lifetime of enclosure in an uncontrolled manner.
 
I physically could not possibly disagree more, but it's not one of those things we could ever settle. Just my life experience versus yours, I suppose. I don't think there's anything specifically male about stupid power fantasies, it's just that traditionally most never got to have them. Maybe it's the Feminazi crowd I ran with in university, but I'd put women at at least 1.23 times as likely to dress up and save the world or destroy it.

Amusing entry all the same, though.
 
"The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."
 
"She's a superhero because circumstances require it, not because she feels the need to slap on spandex and kick some butt."

Doesn't that depend on the interpretation of the character? Batman or Superman certainly *say* they fight crime because circumstances require it, although you can attribute dramatic male posturing behind that motive if you like, and writers certainly have. But there are plenty of superheroines who just want to put on a costume and kick ass (that is, until they're retconned to be reacting to sexual abuse in their past): Black Canary, Mia Dearden, Cassie Sandsmark, Barbara Gordon as Batgirl... You can argue for each one that there's a greater or lesser degree of them acting out of a conviction that circumstances require their heroics or just a desire to be a superhero, but it changes from writer to writer and is equally as malleable with male and female characters. I don't really think you can say definitively that men become superheroes to showboat and women become superheroes to serve and protect.


Getting back to the main post, what I'm getting from it (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that men are more likely both to be costumed superheroes and supervillains because they are more likely to be impulsively violent and ridiculously melodramatic. I don't buy that, but granting it for the sake of argument, becoming a superhero or a supervillain is not something done in the heat of the moment. Anyone can say "I shall become a bat!" but actually *doing* it takes a time commitment that puts it out of the realm of the *impulsive.*

Furthermore, supervillainy is not petty crime or sudden violence. It's not the subject of reality TV cop shows. It's preplanned, complex crime or long-harbored evil, which again places it outside the realm of acting on impulse. Lex Luthor doesn't do what he does because Superman made him mad *that instant*; he *always* hates Superman and methodically plots ways to destroy him. It's dramatic, but it's not impulsive.


"In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupdity is every bit as great as men's!" That may be "equality" but I'm hard-pressed to view it as empowerment or advancement."

There's nothing wrong with being aggressive, actually. Unless you're a woman, in which case you're told to stop being so angry and loud and pushy. So yeah, saying women are as aggressive as men (and evil, selfish, foolish, and blindly stupid) is certainly okay by me.


"Once upon a time, there were very few of either type, and they were sometimes painfully derivative (e.g., Miss Arrowette)."

Oh no you didn't!
 
I just read this post, and can't read through all the thirty-odd comments already submitted (but I read some). Anyway, I got from Scip's post that women aren't as likely as men to rush into a dangerous situation, based on real life facts. For every girl who dreams of being the NASCAR champ, there are a hundred more who want to be a corporate lawyer. Manhunter's origin reads like twenty different male heroes and I think that's the point. She's the exception, she's the Danica. It's more likely if a woman was somehow blessed with superhuman strength and invulnerability, she would figure out a way to use them in a less insane way, instead of throwing on her gym clothes and stopping muggers.
Maybe it's society and the way sons and daughters are raised. But when you go to the comic shop or comment on a comicblog, count heads. See how many are male, how many are female. We're the people who would don the costume to save/destroy the world if superpowers exist. A normal person would just join the police force or become a firefighter or start their own protection agency.
 
This comment thread gives me a headache.

Here's my problem, Scipio. I can't tell where these generalizations are coming from in the context of the original article. Are you saying they are biologically based or socially programmed?
 
Ahh, rereading the original article I can see how stupid I've been. I missed the most obvious flaw.

Gender should be a non-issue, as comic book characters tend to be victims of circumstance. Few of them are normal people. Especially recently, most heroes and villains have been essentially forced into the costumed subculture by Fate, no matter how much they'd rather be a normal person.
 
Wow, there are so many things in this piece I disagree with I don't know where to start.
I'll choose this one,
In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupdity is every bit as great as men's!"

In law.
In history.
In literature.

I very much enjoyed this entry. You have encouraged me to reconsider my assumptions.
Thank you.
 
"...because she feels the need to slap on spandex and kick some butt."

Sounds like a perfect synopsis of the Kate Spencer Manhunter origin!

(i liked Arrowette, sorry)
 
The word "feminazi" was used.
"Feminazi".
Ladies and gentlemen, Reason has left the building.
 
"supervillainy is not petty crime or sudden violence. It's not the subject of reality TV cop shows. It's preplanned, complex crime or long-harbored evil, which again places it outside the realm of acting on impulse."

That's a very good point.

And my reference to Miss Arrowette is NOT to Cissie King, whom I adored; it's to the ORIGINAL Green Arrow story, starring her mother, who called herself "Miss Arrowette" and used powerpuff arrows and hairpin arrows and needle-and-thread arrows. Yes, really.

It's in the Showcase Presents Green Arrow.
 
"comic book characters tend to be victims of circumstance. Few of them are normal people. Especially recently, most heroes and villains have been essentially forced into the costumed subculture by Fate, no matter how much they'd rather be a normal person."

Yick; sounds like you're reading Marvel, Ragnell!
 
Yick; sounds like you're reading Marvel, Ragnell!

You don't consider Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman's origins based on circumstance and fate?

Add to it that since the 40s in the DCU, it's been not only a known social practice to put on a costume and fight like a moron, but it's outright expected when you gain powers. Why, to me it seems unnatural that more women wouldn't have the motivation of "Just Because" when they found themselves with powers.
 
Well, this is certainly an interesting discussion.

All I know is that given the stupid crap my friends and *I* came up with as kids I'm surprised we didn't break our necks. And we were both boys and girls there.

And even now, I know a heck of a lot of women that would suit a show like Jackass.

...we just don't tend to do it in front of men. Heh.
 
Shhh! Kalinara, you're not supposed to let that out. It's part of the Woman Code.
 
Shit! They're going to fire me again, aren't they.

*mumbles dejectedly*

On a more serious note, I can see a bit of the point here. Our culture does encourage women to be more restrained and "sensible". I don't necessarily think we're like that naturally, god knows I'm not, but we're encouraged from childhood to "behave ourselves" and conduct ourselves like "young ladies."

Thing is, we also find outlets. I remember reading an anthropological study on PMS (eww, girl stuff, icky. :-)) in which it was determined that the extreme mood swings of PMS suffers in Anglo-American countries weren't shared by women in other countries. The theory proposed, which I tend to agree with, is that because of our society's behaviorial expectations about women, we repress ourselves and subconsciously seek an outlet. Thus the mood swings work, because we can permit ourselves to be as angry/aggressive/erratic as we like and we've always got that built in excuse. Men and even other women will write it off as PMS rather than take us to task for our unseemly behavior.

One could consider the development of powers and the adoption of a heroic identity in much the same way. It becomes an outlet for the more flamboyant/ambitious/silly/stupid tendencies that proper girls are taught to repress. In a world where this is expected and accepted, it wouldn't be surprising to me to see more women adopting heroic/villainous roles.

I know I would.
 
This post reminds me of the JLA story I read today where the Red Tornado is mad at himself for acting like a man instead of an android. Beacuse he'd charged into battle without thinking and was caught the issue before.
 
"One could consider the development of powers and the adoption of a heroic identity in much the same way. It becomes an outlet for the more flamboyant/ambitious/silly/stupid tendencies that proper girls are taught to repress. In a world where this is expected and accepted, it wouldn't be surprising to me to see more women adopting heroic/villainous roles."

An interesting thesis!
 
"You don't consider Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman's origins based on circumstance and fate?"

Superman, yes; Wonder Woman (who went out of her way to earn the right to her title) and Batman (who after his parents died chose to make himself into a hero), no.
 
Let me tell you something. I've known only one murderer in my life. She was an extremely clever career woman, who killed two people in order to cover up her embezzlement. She was careful, clever, and ruthles, and she very nearly got away with the murders. And the embezzlement? She definitely would have gotten away with it, she had been so careful in hiding it, if it wasn't for the fact that one of those two victims had spotted it... while trying to do a little embezzling HERself. So don't tell me that women can't be vicious criminals, and don't tell me that people break the law because they're too stupid to know crime doesn't pay and you get more returns by being law abiding. This woman clearly wasn't stupid, and clearly would have benefited from breaking the law if it wasn't for another woman that had the same idea. Ugh. That link made my head hurt.
 
Fair enough on Batman, though I would say that the way it's set up Fate played a hand in the whys there. A sane man would've joined the city government, though.

But the rest of them -- The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman -- circumstances. Batman's really notable simply because he's the only one who's arguably a self-made hero. And you cna argue agaisnt it by laying it on his parent's murder and the bat imagery while he was emotionally vulnerable.
 
"Let me tell you something. I've known only one murderer in my life."

Well, there's a scientific sampling.


Now let me tell you something. Only about 14% of those incarcerated for violent offenses are women. So, since the number of men and women in roughly equal, men are six times more likely to be incarcerated for violent crime than women are.

Unless, of course, you believe that women are so much smarter than men that they rarely get caught.
 
I wouldn't argue that women are smarter than men. But isn't it possible that occasionally certain biases about the likelihood of a female violent criminal could blind many law enforcement individuals to evidence to the contrary?

It wouldn't surprise me if a number of female criminals got away with foul prey just because the police were focusing on male suspects.

Most of us do tend to only see what we expect to see after all.
 
I TOTALLY CALLED THIS THREAD!

Wheeeeeee!
 
Most of us do tend to only see what we expect to see after all.

As this comments section so beautifully shows. ;)

Scipio:

I completely agree that there are inherent differences between men and women (and I don't just mean the form of the body).

Unfortunately, in the political climate of today, you'd have a better chance of getting people to believe the Moon is made of "green cheese" than have them admit to this.

Still, I enjoyed you piece. I don't agree with everything you said in it, but I did understand the point you made. Don't let this reaction make you think you were wrong to express it.
 
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, I'd just like to point out that the reason there aren't so many female villains (or heroes) in comics is that those comics have been overwhelmingly written by men for a male audience.

Look at the response from the DC guys last weekend to Kalinara's question "Will Major Force ever be beaten by a woman?"

It's not gender politics. It's not female behavioural patterns. It's because it doesn't occur to the male writers to write decent female villains.
 
But when considering his argument about supervillains, you don't (I think) need to share Scip's belief in "innate" or biological differences playing a big role in shaping difference in behavior and character. All the claims his post makes are about U.S. society, in reality and in comics. Adding "socially conditioned" to his every description of a gender trait wouldn't change the post's argument at all: why the hubbub?
--Josh
 
"men are six times more likely to be incarcerated for violent crime than women are."

Fine. Then if you're going to let statistics rule fiction, then for every six men that are reprehensible, selfish, foolish, aggressive, or just blindly stupid villains, there should be one woman with the same qualities.

I can guarantee you that there are woman out there that don't fit into your little picture of how the world should work. I should know, I'm one of them, and I want to kick your smarmy ass just because you offend me. But I can't, so I'm forced to talk about it. But buddy, believe me when I say talking things through wasn't my first instinct on reading this crap. I am feeling very aggressive and evil toward you, particularly in the way you consider Cassandra's motivation "realistic" when that "motivation" contradicts just about every story ever written about her, including one that wasn't one month old when the new story started.
 
Edit to my plast post:
be thankful that you only voiced this opinion where I could see it on the internet and not to my face. Maybe it's one of those differences between men and women, but when I would have hurt you for this crap - and I would have hurt you for it if you said it to my face - I wouldn't give you any warning.
 
Obligatory comment: the reason Batgirl's turn to villainy is so hated is mostly precisely because it doesn't make any damn sense. Her stated "motive" is just some random gibberish that is so unrelated and even opposed to anything we've come to know about her that it might as well come from the mouth of a little green alien.

I'm going to have to argue that it could only seem sensible to a person whose knowledge of the character is limited to this same Robin arc - and I suspect that the writer is one such person.
 
"I was not aware that violence and criminal tendencies were prerequisites for corporate executives. I guess that's why I didn't become one."
I haven't said they were, I said ambition and management ability were prerequisites for corporate executives, and then I used your "system" to prove women don't have them to show you how flawed your argument was.
but if you want a more offending example of using one statistic to "prove" some kind of biological difference:
there is a far larger amount of white people with a college degree then there are blacks with a college degree,
and intelligent thought is a requirement for having a college degree,
therefore blacks are less capable of intellegent thought then whites.

"But when considering his argument about supervillains, you don't (I think) need to share Scip's belief in "innate" or biological differences playing a big role in shaping difference in behavior and character. All the claims his post makes are about U.S. society, in reality and in comics. Adding "socially conditioned" to his every description of a gender trait wouldn't change the post's argument at all: why the hubbub?
--Josh"
adding "socially conditioned" would change the post's argument.
it would change it from: women are superior to men in several areas,
to: currently men are acting in inferior ways to women in some aspects, but in time things may change.
any argument reffering to innate differences is an argument that things cant change, that men will always be violent and with criminal tendecies irrelevent of living condition, society, or education.
it's an argument that says that equality is not only an impossibility, but is also undesired, since it is not the best option for society.
 
Interesting thoughts (both in the article, as well as in the firestorm).

Maybe this is a hint as to why Oracle works better than Barbara as Batgirl. The motivation just "works" better. Rather than being a frustrated girl who puts on a costume when she's not allowed to follow in Daddy's footsteps (as shown in Batgirl: Year One), Barbara has taken control of her own life, but is doing it in a very different vein.

One question to ask though, is how much "social pressure" there would be on Metas/Mutants to do *something* with their powers one way or the other. So, someone who isn't really inclined to get involved, feeling that they're supposed to just because they can bench press a VW Bug... (that whole "with great power" riff in a way). That still doesn't explain the non-Meta heroines/villainesses of the world of course, but is something to think about.

I'm trying to think of any character in either universe who has combat-type powers that doesn't jump into the mix, and isn't somewhat sneered at (not counting those who "did their time" and retired). So, one factor that would need to be added into the mix is social pressure of "ok, I'm supposed to go do this."

Another factor (especially in the DCU) is the prevelance of Role Models who break the old patterns. If you take the ever shifting timeline of the DCU at face value, you have to take into account the influence of someone like Wonder Woman, and all the young girls who looked to her as an example of empowerment. That doesn't answer the villain side of the issue, but perhaps one trailblazer is enough for both sides in this case. One of those circumstances where Comic Book Logic begins to deviate from what we know in the real world.

On the other hand, after the recent meltdown in the Harry Potter Online fandom, woman-as-manipulator tropes seem very likely right now *L* It's been absolutely unreal.
 
You - our most recent and brave Anonymous – are an ass.

Scip is presenting a post of his opinions that had no intimations of violence of any kind, and was presented, whether you agree with him or not, in the spirit of utmost civility, elequence and reasoned discourse.

While you, on the other hand just want to bash his face in. Perhaps you wish to do this to prove a point, that yes, women can be violent, unreasonable assholes when provoked. However, any sane person would realize that a blog, HIS blog, where he can express any opinion he likes about this art form and the societal forces that shape it, is hardly adequate provocation.

Or if you feel it is adequate provocation, you have presented yourself as an angry, disturbed sociopath who should be kept away from people or heavily medicated or both.

Hopefully, you're just having a bad day and are upset about Batgirl, and are usually a decent, reasonable person who chooses violence as a last resort.

(Oooo Scip, your first villainess! Someone should design a name and costume for this interesting person. And call the police.)

You DO however prove an interesting point about Batgirl. That sometimes people, no matter well adjusted they seem, make turn of the dime decisions and just snap, their actions contradictory, mystifying and painful to the people around them with no warning.

Whatever. Your threats of violence are unforgivable regardless.
 
"Maybe it's one of those differences between men and women, but when I would have hurt you for this crap - and I would have hurt you for it if you said it to my face - I wouldn't give you any warning."

Dude, do you realize you just said you want to punch someone because of what they think about a comic character? You need therapy. Game over. You just lost any credibility you had in any argument that you could have made.
 
Thanks, James; I appreciate it.

Actually, I'm almost amused that such controversy and passion can be generated by making such a world-shaking, unprecedented, observation as "there are inherent differences between men and women."
 
Mr. Scipio, you know you've made the Blogger Big Leagues when you get threats of gross brutality from anonymous strangers who are too chickenshit to leave their real names.

I'd congratulate you, if it wasn't both so soul-crushing sad and horrifying.
 
"I should know, I'm one of them, and I want to kick your smarmy ass just because you offend me."

Zowie. Your committment to proving how violent women are is ... impressive.

Feel free to visit and "kick my swarmy ass", because I'd welcome the opportunity to add you to the statistics on women incarcerated as violent offenders. It would help your argument and keep an obviously disturbed person out of civil society.

As a comic book store owner, I very very seldom say this but: you really need to read fewer comic books.
 
Reminds me of that old Lee/Kirby/Ayers classic, "I Survived Anon, the Woman Who Thought Like A Man!"
 
Ooo, controversy.

There does seem to be a point to be made (although it was made badly) in that statement about there being one female for every six males comment. If statitics like "six to one" are going to be the basis of your defence, it only works if you're willing to allow the "one" to show up. There's about 1200 male gang members in boston, and about 400 female gang members. I don't know the statistics on how much more likely the guys are to kill you, but I do know that a "kiss" from one of those gals means a slash to your face with a straight edge razor. You're proposing a world where for every six nasty male villains there no nasty female villains. And while this is far from a scientific sample, it does seem notable that you've not only gotten a few women miffed, but the first person to actually respond in a socially unacceptable way to this little thing is a woman.
 
"Reminds me of that old Lee/Kirby/Ayers classic, "I Survived Anon, the Woman Who Thought Like A Man!""

ROTFL!
 
"And my reference to Miss Arrowette is NOT to Cissie King, whom I adored; it's to the ORIGINAL Green Arrow story, starring her mother, who called herself "Miss Arrowette" and used powerpuff arrows and hairpin arrows and needle-and-thread arrows. Yes, really."

Oh, I know that. I'm speaking out for Bonnie here. I love her and her psychosis.
 
See, to me, Superheroes and villains are pretty much by definition extraordinary cases.

I mean, it may be true that for every 6 male criminals there's only one female criminal, but in the world of comic books there's only one supervillain for every, oh, 600 female criminals.

We're not talking about a representative sample, so I see no reason to act as though we were.

Second, what is the basis of your assertion that women are biologically more likely to think in a certain way? Isn't it possible that women are less aggresive becasue men tend to be physically more dominating?

For female supervillains, the threat of violence and ostracisation from society is basically gone. Given that, wouldn't they be likely to indulge in behaviors that work out power fantasies? Especially given that, again, we're talking about non-representative samples?

We really have no idean how many women ibn the DC universe have powers but never use them to fight crime.
 
Hmm, a lot of what I was going to say was already said by Ragnell and Kalinara... but when it comes to men and women I agree that there are inherant differences (as to what they are I doubt anyone will ever agree) but I have to say if I got superpowers - or even just a lot of money - I'd try and become a superhero, spandex and all. Also, I've always enjoyed female villians. As much as Talia al Ghul was originally doing everything for dear old dad she's certaintly taken her role into something that's her own. And I've always thought that the portrayals of the Devil as a woman made more sense somehow. I've probably watched Mean Girls one too many times though ;)

The only other thought I'll offer is that I have mostly guy friends and they all think I'm one of the most violent people they know. I'm not really sure where this comes from, I'm assuming they don't know many actually violent people (I believe this impression comes from my fascination with fighting styles and swords), but as much as I may be an exception I've never considered it a stretch to believe that there are a bunch of female heroes/villians running around in comic books - at least no more unusual than the superpets vs the legion of substitute heroes.

It's always enjoyable to read your blog! Thanks for the entertainment :)
 
"You - our most recent and brave Anonymous – are an ass."

That is very true!
 
I'm sure all the long speeches have already been covered in the previous 79 posts, so I'll just toss in my two cents: that women and men aren't intrinsically different (mentally, I mean, physically there's some obvious ones), and that among those non-differences are equal cruelty, expressed differently because of culture.

In short, Scipio is cool. Thank you and good night.
 
http://www.upenn.edu/researchatpenn/article.php?461&sci

I really don't make this stuff up, ya know!
 
Fascinating study, Scipio! But I see no link to the details.

How many people participated? What age were the participants? What races? What social backgrounds? How many men vs how many women?

Are there other parts of the brain that can compensate for this particular part?

Is this a section of the brain determined by biological hardwiring alone, or can it be influenced to develop differently at an early age?
If it is the second answer, can the early social conditioning given to a little girl have nutured this area of the brain? What about the social conditioning given to boys? Is it possible that our cultural mores are causing early harm to young developing male minds?

How many times has this hypothesis been tested? Just once? Twice? Numerous times over several years? Or is this just one study, likely to be overturned by the next study as so many scientific studies are overturned?

How biased were the researchers? Was it a blind comparison or did they know before they accumulated the results which scan belonged to which person? Or which group? Or which gender?
 
Ragnel, how closely have you read the article? You ask;

"How many people participated? What age were the participants? What races? What social backgrounds? How many men vs how many women?" It says;

"The Gurs' study measured the ratio of orbital to amygdala volume in a sample of 116 right-handed, healthy adults younger than 50 years of age; 57 subjects were male and 59 were female."

True, it doesn't mention class or race, but I doubt either effects the size of a part of the brain. As for "what about social conditioning?", that's not relevant to the article, it's only saying that there is a physical difference between the part of a brain that causes aggression;

"Once the scientists adjusted their measurements to allow for the difference between men and women in physical size, they found that the women's brains had a significantly higher volume of orbital frontal cortex in proportion to amygdala volume than did the brains of the men."

And although people have already said similar things here and the topic is getting old, I'd like to add that I don't see the major objections to Scipio's post. Culturally conditioned or biological, why should women be more/as violent? There isn't motivation, they aren't encouraged (in general) and aren't as physically capable (again, in general).
 
As a counter-point, you can't make this up, either:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9469-dodging-punishment-may-be-its-own-reward.html

How about a flipside to your argument: If men are too "hot-headed," violent, aggressive, and prone to jackassery, as you claim, would you argue men shouldn't be involved in, say, government and diplomacy? Being "more likely to be narrow-minded or short-sighted" would be a liability, you'd think.
 
Isaac -- 116 right-handed people who all live in the same area are a good enough cross-section of humanity to base these generalizations on?

And how do you know class, which indicates health and diet and upbringing during the crucial formative years doesn't affect the structure of a human mind? How do you know age wouldn't have an affect? Who's to say that the area is always larger in women? Suppose that it's larger in women are one age, but larger in men when older? What if the hypothesis is totally disproven when a different age group is studied? What if adolescent boys have a larger tissue area than adolescent girls? What then? We only know they were under 50. We don't know how wide a variety we got, or the differences at the age. The study itself is not even linked in that article.

How do you know race doesn't play a factor? How do you know what plays a factor? We don't have the variables there. We don't have a followup, we don't have corroboration. We have a mere 116 people based on the theory that "larger tissue area = more control," and we have nothing that even theorizes about what causes the larger tissue in the female subjects. Our brains aren't born fully developed, you know.

And although people have already said similar things here and the topic is getting old, I'd like to add that I don't see the major objections to Scipio's post. Culturally conditioned or biological, why should women be more/as violent? There isn't motivation, they aren't encouraged (in general) and aren't as physically capable (again, in general).

As for the major objections -- I have 3:

1) In the Victorian Age a number of extremely stupid things were said about a woman's place in the world based on scientific hypotheses that were eventually proven wrong. This is an article citing a single study, and please note the words "possible" and "our belief" and other such quantifiers, placed there to carefully point out that this is not exactly Holy Writ we're discussing here. They aren't finished researching, they weren't in 2002, it's too early to be basing assumptions on this study.

2) People who base general assumptions about other people on single scientific studies rarely know anything about the Scientific Method. Any scientist worth their salt is a skeptic, particularly at the early stages and especially when it supports conventional wisdom -- because the researchers are most likely to be biased in favor of conventional wisdom.

3) Even when seemingly justifiable generalizations are made, too often they are presented as universal fact. This, in turn, used to tell women who do not fall under the generalization that they are "unnatural."

While you may argue Scipio did not present the argument as universal fact in his original post, please note that he was using it to support the idea that the female characters seemed unnatural to him. How do you suppose a woman who sees that idea and regularly identifies with characters such as Manhunter or Power Girl, aggressive and violent female characters, would react? They'd take it as a personal attack.

That's not to say all of the comments here are acceptable, some of them indicate a severe need for psychological help -- but I am saying that this idea, this idea that a character that rings true to many female readers yet doesn't ring true to other readers because "that's not how women behave" needs to be challenged. Because obviously these characters are speaking to some of us.

Scipio -- No offense, man, but you missed widely on this one.
 
Wow this is one hell of a thread. I have to cast my vote in with the dissenters, however.

Especially when it comes to that article about the UPenn study as a basis for the claim that aggression is innate in men and not in women. I highly suggest that you read my article on Embracing Your Inner Skeptic which discusses why it's not a good idea to use one interpretation of a single study with a small sampling size as evidence that a cultural bias has been "proven" by science.
 
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11737441&postID=115193028456961084&isPopup=true

Corollary 1: The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 2: The smaller the effect sizes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 3: The greater the number and the lesser the selection of tested relationships in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 4: The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 6: The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true.

It seems like the study that Ragnell seems to want would involve/break some of these Corollaries as well.

It's been an interesting discussion none the less.
 
Women abuse their children. Women in Lesbian relationships are also the victims of abuse from their partner. Women start and get into fights with other women. Women also hit their husbands/boyfriends as well. Women experience road rage. More often then not, women simply aren't arrested for these acts of violence.

When given the oppurtunity, women will be as violent, as evil, and as stupid as men. Just as men can be good, nourishing, and caring.

After all, it isn't safe approaching a female wild animal, is it?
 
I guess, but the argument seems to be that because some see female superheroes or villains as less plausible than men this is a precident for oppressing women who don't fit in, something I don't buy into. There are other studies, I think I heard somewhere that women in the army are alot less likely go to the front lines then men. This doesn't make women less brave, it just means that women are less likely to intentionally put themselves in danger, and that when reading fiction I find it easier to buy into a male superhero. I don't have anything against the idea of strong women in costumes fighting crime or taking over the world, I just think that really only happens in fantasy.

Ok, I've probably been offencive by accident, I'll stop now.
 
Heh. I'm not sold on Scip's point here, but ...

I don't have anything against the idea of strong women in costumes fighting crime or taking over the world, I just think that really only happens in fantasy.

So strong MEN in costumes fighting crime and taking over the world is NOT only in fantasy?

Well, I guess if you count police/military uniforms... or a sensible blue suit with a red tie.
 
Here's the thing, Isaac, it is an oppressive argument because he's arguing that female superheros and villains are unbelievable to him while a number of us want to see them so we can project ourselves into the story.
 
(Oi vey, this comments thread hurt my eyes. Scip, could you be so kind as to include a line or something between the comments in your permalink of the p)

I'm an attention whore, so I'm re-posting some criticisms of the UPenn study that I originally posted over at Ragnell's. I was able to pull up the .pdf of the actual article through Pubmed, and read through everything, paying attention to the materials&methods and results sections.

I highly suggest that anyone considering presenting a scientific study as defense of their argument read the papers in question because oftentimes you will find the reason for conflicting results in the experimental techniques and the hypothesis addressed (as well as the specific conclusion reached, which is often misrepresented by the lay-press).

In this study, the Gur group used an MRI scan to map the brains of 100+ individuals of indiscriminate race or geographic distribution (we should be concerned by this, as variations in size of particular organs at a scale that we're talking about here may differ more along racial/ethnic or geographic boundaries -- the Gurs may be looking at a particular subgroup of people who just happen to have gender-based limbic size differences, not reflected in other populations)

Alright, then the Gurs determine that women have a significantly larger limbic region than men, which previous studies suggest is a region used for control of aggression. This is primarily represented in figure 3, where you can see that range is shifted slightly upward of the men -- but of course, there's a great deal of overlap.

The most important problem is that while we may agree that the limbic region of women is larger than men (assuming the MRIs were performed and carried out correctly), this doesn't mean diddlysquat when it comes to function. The Gurs note in the Introduction section that the conclusions are based upon the assumption that larger size corresponds with greater function -- a questionable assumption since in neuro, greater function is correlated with greater complexity rather than with greater size.

In the Discussion section, the Gurs also note that they don't know what makes up for the larger limbic region in the women they sampled. If the neuronal network is less compact, less complicated, but taking up more space, this could result in a slightly larger limbic region with no functional difference compared to men. The Gurs conclude that they need to address the question of complexity of network to determine if there is a functional component to this larger size.

Also, as alluded to above, many studies like these are unable to resolve or even address the question of nature versus nurture. Are women born with larger limbic regions, or has the limbic region increased with greater use? A blind person's region of the brain that controls sight is usually very tiny while the regions that process information from other senses is usually enlarged and more complicated to reflect their dependence on these senses. Similarly, if women are trained to exert more aggression control by society then it would be within reason to imagine that their limbic regions might have a more complicated neuronal network.

It is still questionable as to whether there are quantifiable behaviour differences between men and women that exist as part of our biology rather than part of our societal training. What I do know is that we can't use prison statistics to defend biological differences -- by the same logic applied above suggesting women to be less violent criminals then men, the fact that the vast majority of incarcerated criminals are Black men would suggest that there's something biological within African American men that makes them more prone to violent, unlawful behaviour than virtually anyone else.

I'm fairly sure that most of us agree that the prison system reflects not a person's tendancy towards violence but those that society are willing to prosecute.

I think ultimately the problem is that the feminists aren't trying to say "we're bad, too!" but that any subscription to gender roles breeds inequality in gender treatment. If I'm naturally more gentle and thoughtful, more nurturing and kind, what's to stop a man from deciding that I wouldn't be as good at being in the army, a politician, or any other "stereotypically male" jobs?

It is "scientifically justified" differences that have historically been used as rationalizations for discrimination and disenfranchisement to women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ community. It doesn't matter what the stereotype is, no stereotype is a good stereotype.
 
Oh, I'm also uncomfortable with the general skepticism of science in this thread. I would postulate that scientists aren't usually presenting false research -- just that most of the time, when it gets translated to the lay-press, it gets totally blown out of proportion.

We go through a pretty rigorous process of peer reviewing as well as a lot of time spent designing our experiments to test specific postulates. I would say that most of what comes of the science field is more or less reliable information, given the fact that the conclusions are usually very specific.

It's usually the lay-press who blows it out of proportion and draw conclusions that can't be drawn from the study. Scientists are getting such a bad rap these days.
 
I don't know but, I'm thinkin', 'You can realistically wrap your brain around the idea of some man flying through the air in some red tights or shooting lasers out of his eyes and disentergrating metal, but you can't even conceive of a female villan?' Sounds kinda sexist to me.
I have to agree with an earlier poster who said that comics have typically been drawn by men, who simply see the world from their points of view. And what a limited point of view it is!
Talk to women you know, we have so many more motivations than the men in our lives! And yes, on a quasi-realistic level, the female super hero/villain won't be as physically strong as their male counterparts, however, their mental powers can be as great and greater.
The women in comic books like 'Birds of Prey' allow girls/women to project ourselves into the fantasy world of comics as well. Why should we always be looking to the men as our 'super' heroes? In films, we often root for the bad guy, because that's who we want to be. We want to be able to raise a middle finger up to the system. It feels good to give Bush the bird, knowhati'msayin? Why can't it be a woman flippin' the bird? Think 'Thelma and Louise' or 'Set It Off'. Women loved these movies! We got to see ourselves bucking the system.
All I'm sayin' is that this is a fantasy world anyway, why can't the girls come play too?
 
Looks like someone's been drinking the feminist Kool-Aid.

You people really need to stop politicizing comics. Thy're just stories written for entertainment.

"I have to agree with an earlier poster who said that comics have typically been drawn by men, who simply see the world from their points of view. And what a limited point of view it is!"

Give me a break! And Women are less limited how?

"Talk to women you know, we have so many more motivations than the men in our lives!"

Oh bullshit. Motivation depends on the individual. And having more motivation

I find it funny that in same post you whine and bitch about how women are generalized in comics, but then you go and generalize about how evil and dumb men are! Talk about double standards!

I got news for ya pal, women can be just as violent as men! Most cases of females abusing their spouse or significant other aren't reported though, because the men are often ashamed to admit that they get beat by a girl. Mothers abuse their children, lesbians ab use their partners, etc...

http://www.fathersforlife.org/fv/fv2.htm

The best evidence you can come up with is a single University study! Give me a break. You can take any cross-selection of Americans and tweak the questions and results to get whatever results you want. More often then not, these studies are the product of a search for funding, not a search for knowledge, so the so-called "scientific" results are usually fit to predetermined outcomes that reflect popular thought. The more research supports a popular idea, the more funding!

Let's look at some of your more dubious statements. Wait, I don't have too. David J. already debunked most of your inane points while you ignored the debunking and insulted him for having the gall to post an opposing opinion on your precious blog. How very "open-minded" of you

"Men have saviour complexes, Women don't"

Women have Maternal Instict, Men don't. And how can Women be inherently good if they won't protect others when given the power to do so?

"Self-aggrandizing theatrics"

How many men have worn swans to a red carpet ceremony? How many men are on the beaches of Cannes in less than a g-string shouting "All cameras on me"? How many movies-of-the-week have been made about Men with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy?

There is a difference between not wanting attention and living in a society that ignores your efforts and insists that you be meek and demure. Given an outlet, Women are even more vainglorious than Men. I would like to add that men are not the ones who paint their faces bright colours and wear jewelery to attract attention.

"Men are more aggressive"

There are more Men in prison for violent crime, that's innarguable. But when women *do* commit a violent crime, they have "Battered Woman Syndrome" and "feared for my life" to fall back on. (And how many Men are going to file a police report claiming - admitting - that they were beaten up by a Woman?) Also, when Women do commit violence, they tend to use quiter means. (See "meek and demure" above.) The weapon of choice for Women serial killers is poison, not guns. (It is easier to clean up afterwards, and you know who is going to have to do that.) If we prosecuted all the "suspicious deaths" as aggressively as we did drive-bys - and didn;t excuse them just for being woemn if they are caught - I have no doubt that the fraction of Women in prison would rise dramatically. (Though I will admit, probably still not to parity.)

"Women are smarter"

OK, got me there. (Hi, dear.)

Seriously, Women seem smarter because these days we equate smarts with with the bookish geek and stupidity with the schoolyard bully. Intellect with quiet contemplation and idiocy with immediate action. Yes, Women don't commit bank robberies because they know they will get caught. But they know this not because they are smart enough to consider the odds, but because they are meek and demure enough to believe society when it tells them they can't succeed. It may be better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than speak and prove it, but ultimately it doesn;t make you any smarter.

And finally, the basis of all your arguments, "Women are better than that":

It sounds so nice doesn't it? I mean, it can't be bigotry, because you come to praise Women, not to enslave them. That's exactly the same type of thinking that says all Native Americans are Noble Savages and all Black Men Can Jump. Which is even worse, because it limits the options of minorities even more than "They can do nothing". And it's pleasent facade and passive voice make it even harder to stand dagainst than someone actively burning a cross on your lawn. It's the "Benign Neglect" of the Political Left."

I actually agree with you that women and men are different, espicially in that their bad behaviour shows up in different ways. Let's consider some of these negative traits, shall we? Women are more vain, gossippy, and vindictive than men. Women are also more likely to make judgemens based on their feelings. Given the opportunity, women will be as violent as any man. It's jsut that on a regular basis, thier evil manifests in different ways.

You'll probably just ignore this as it doesn't fit your liberal dogma, ironic since you condemmned "zealots" in an earlier post about "Action Philosophers".


And if women are supposed to be smarter, why are there more men in business and politics, and don't give me that "glass ceiling" crap. Men have more street smarts. Also, most scientists and engineers are male.
 
Anyone who thinks women are morally superior to men and wouldn't be a superhero, etc., for that reason has not been paying attention. Look at real world examples such as Indira Gandhi, Beanzhir Bhutto or Margaret Thatcher. I wouldn't put a single one of them on any morality or ethics panel. Their governments were not superior to male-head-of-state governments and Thatcher was as quick to go to war as any man.
 
RE:
"You're arguing that women are more thoughtful and less capable of unthinking aggression"

I'm not arguing it. I'm stating it. As a fact. Which it is.

-Essentializing women and men does everyone a disservice.
-Taking "facts" out of context is like saying jello is good because I like it. Its useless and irrational.
-Women and men will behave in ways thats serve their interest. The end.
If its criminal, that is their interest, if its law abiding, there you go, it works. Its all very goals oriented.
-People make choices IN A FRAMEWORK not of their own choosing.
 
RE:
And if women are supposed to be smarter, why are there more men in business and politics, and don't give me that "glass ceiling" crap. Men have more street smarts. Also, most scientists and engineers are male.

1)women+men=equally smart, under different social conditions, however
2)there is a glass ceiling. read some peer reviewed articles, theres lots.
3)men may have more street smarts. maybe not. thats learned. think about it.
4)yeah. think about socially appropriate jobs. Think about money restraints. If a condom breaks, who doesnt end up going to school? (Long-gone dad?Hmmmm...)
5)Try being in a profession like that in Iraq or some place where women CANT,good luck.
 
RE:

I would like to add that men are not the ones who paint their faces bright colours and wear jewelery to attract attention.

1)ok. you MUST have seen period films, where straight men wear jewels, makeup, wigs, highheels?? ringing a bell?
2)Metero sexual men sometimes wear "man" makeup.
3)what does a fancy car and rolex sound like to you? necessary? un-vain? please.
 
RE:
I think I heard somewhere that women in the army are alot less likely go to the front lines then men

-yes. This is policy, not natural desire or anything.
 
Here's my take on the subject:

Let's say the original poster is right about everything he has mentioned (I disagree, but I'm hypothesizing here). We're going on the assumption that there aren't AS MANY violent females as males. That there aren't AS MANY heroic females as males.

But, that's hardly an excuse for not writing more engaging violent and/or heroic females into comics. Because what are superheroic comics anyway? They're stories based on extraordinary - albeit fictional - characters. Obviously, no comic writer wants to write about a boorish woman who cares only for the cream colored cardstock her wedding invitations are printed on or the woman whose only weakness is shoe shopping.

On the flipside, no comic writer wants to write about a male plumber who lives for 5:00 and the beer his wife will bring him when he gets home or the male Wall Street broker who cares only about the numbers and a bit of blow on the weekend.

While there might only be one Joan of Arc for every five Jesus Christs or one Lizzie Borden for every five John Wayne Gacys the fact remains that there still are Joan of Arcs and Lizzie Bordens. Why not write about them?
 
Well, I suppose it's always nice to know my female friends can rest easy; there's some great big hairy man who’s ready to tell them what they're all about. They should be grateful that this guy is willing to tell them how they think and feel- even if they don’t.

I really have to wonder how he would treat my ex-army, gun-nut, unspiritual, controlled sociopath friend. Would he insist that she's "unfemale?" Would he demand she get a hysterectomy or something, because she doesn't meet the stereotype of the "cooperative, rational, non-violent woman"? God forbid she actually be aggressive and uncompromising- that’s seriously not allowed for women. Isn’t it a pit that theory gets so messy when it hits reality?

As far as comics go, I tend to think that superheroes and villains are so out there that their hero- nature dominates everything else; they should be treated as singular individuals first and foremost. It's a really nasty double standard in that females in comics aren’t allowed to simply be characters; they have to be symbols of their gender before they are individuals. After all, it's bad enough to see that in real life.
 
There are female soldiers, female firefighters and female police officers. How is it then unreasonable to expect that in a world of superheroes that there would be female superheroes? Especially considering that superheroes tend to be vigilantes so there wouldn't be any patriarchal bureaucracies to fight through.
 
read this VERY carefully: http://www.web.net/owtoad/vlness.html

then sit back and wait for mystique to beat the crap out of you using only three toes.
 
I'm the latest "Anonymous", not out of sneakiness or cowardice, but because I simply don't have a Blogger account. PLEASE PLEASE click on the link I left, and if you don't want to, here are some loverly excerpts from the essay it leads to, written by the brilliant Margaret Atwood:

"Were all heroines to be essentially spotless of soul – struggling against, fleeing from or done in by male oppression? Was the only plot to be The Perils of Pauline, with a lot of moustache-twirling villains but minus the rescuing hero? Did suffering prove you were good? (If so – think hard about this – wasn't it all for the best that women did so much of it?) Did we face a situation in which women could do no wrong, but could only have wrong done to them? Were women being confined yet again to that alabaster pedestal so beloved of the Victorian age, when Woman as better-than-man gave men a license to be gleefully and enjoyably worse than women, while all the while proclaiming that they couldn't help it because it was their nature? Were women to be condemned to virtue for life, slaves in the salt-mines of goodness? How intolerable. ...And there were certain new no-no's. For instance: was it at all permissible, any more, to talk about women's will to power, because weren't women supposed by nature to be communal egalitarians? Could one depict the scurvy behaviour often practised by women against one another, or by little girls against other little girls? Could one examine the Seven Deadly Sins in their female versions – to remind you, Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Avarice, Greed and Sloth – without being considered anti-feminist? Or was a mere mention of such things tantamount to aiding and abetting the enemy, namely the male power-structure? Were we to have a warning hand clapped over our mouths, yet once again, to prevent us from saying the unsayable – though the unsayable had changed?"

"Or, in another word – were men to get all the juicy parts? Literature cannot do without bad behaviour, but was all the bad behaviour to be reserved for men? Was it to be all Iago and Mephistopheles, and were Jezebel and Medea and Medusa and Delilah and Regan and Goneril and spotty-handed Lady Macbeth and Rider Haggard's powerful superfemme fatale in She, and Tony Morrison's mean Sula, to be banished from view? I hope not. Women characters, arise! Take back the night! In particular, take back The Queen of the Night, from Mozart's Magic Flute. It's a great part, and due for revision."

"But female bad characters can also act as keys to doors we need to open, and as mirrors in which we can see more than just a pretty face. They can be explorations of moral freedom – because everyone's choices are limited, and women's choices have been more limited than men's, but that doesn't mean women can't make choices."

"Evil women are necessary in story traditions for two much more obvious reasons, of course. First, they exist in life, so why shouldn't they exist in literature? Second – which may be another way of saying the same thing – women have more to them than virtue. They are fully dimensional human beings; they too have subterranean depths; why shouldn't their many-dimensionality be given literary expression? And when it is, female readers do not automatically recoil in horror."

I'm convinced that NO ONE should be ALLOWED to read, write, or criticise female characters without reading that article from top to bottom at least a dozen times. And, to counter the smokescreen of anonimity, at msn.com, my email name is "apostasie."
 
lets put this in context of comic books because that where it started

Also forget to factor in Women can be HELLA strong as a super hero. So that changes things when the strengh differnce not that much differn

Accept for SUPERMAN and Hulk being STRONGEST ONE THIER IS!!


Least there strong then most citezens and non super power criminals

That changes things a bit. Women commit less physical crimes cause there less physical. But there high up on the mental abuse.

Heck in comics even a Human woman can be skilled enough to beat the butts of regular men

And that not just cause a femnist

Skill OWNZ strengh in comics. Batman outpower guys 10 times his strengh. Let very few people complain in comics when men body slam someone who should be able to knock them out with a flick of a pinky. That ok cause the guy is skilled

But complain when a woman beat up a guy, even though it might be just as big as a skill differnce

Comics are not base on the real world. You got to factor in the rules and how having FLYING PEOPLE change the status of said world
 
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