12 July, 2014

Wonder Woman and Feminism

Last week I heard an entertaining piece on the Today programme which debated whether or not Wonder Woman is a feminist. This whole issue arose because David Finch, the artist who is taking over Wonder Woman for DC Comics, has said that he wants her to be "strong" but not "feminist". The two women interviewed on the Today programme were in no doubt that Wonder Woman is feminist. She is an Amazon, hence was raised by women in an all-female society, she runs her own business, she slit Superman's throat with her tiara. How could she not be feminist, they quipped?

My overriding memory of Wonder Woman, never having been a comic reader, is the 1970s TV series starring Lynda Carter, which I grew up watching. Now that was cool. But given the era, I don't think there was much emphasis on Wonder Woman's feminist side. Certainly, there was a lot of emphasis on  her sexiness and there were an awful lot of dads (as well as sons) who fancied Lynda Carter rotten. But given the boob tube, shorts and knee-high boots worn by the gorgeous Lynda, rather than just drawn in a comic strip, who could blame them?

I don't think much has changed these days, either. You only need think of the utterly self sufficient but surprisingly scantily clad Lara Croft, or even the groan-worthy but addictive Xena: Warrior Princess TV series, to realise that, in the world of media at least, female strength is often painted hand-in-hand with sexiness.

And the same goes for (some) men too. The sister series to Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules, starred the lovely Kevin Sorbo. Not only was he super strong, but his sexual image was all-important too. The long hair, the blistering smile, the muscles, the tight leather trousers, the sexy wristbands--all of this aimed to seduce the watcher.

So perhaps strength and sex simply are natural partners. Maybe we just do find someone--man or woman--who is in control, masterful, and their own person inherently attractive. And maybe the issue of feminism is irrelevant here, or a side issue at best.

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