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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Gender and People with Super Powers

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Author Topic: Gender and People with Super Powers
orca
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So this is sort of random and a little silly, but I'm in a goofy mood today.

I was thinking about how the names of superheroes (or supersheroes) almost always includes their gender, as well as their age. Like Superman and Wonder Woman and Robin the Boy Wonder. I've been trying to figure out why that is and why it's a tradition that seems to carry over even into a lot of modern day comics and superheroes and supersheroes (like Hell Boy). Any thoughts on that?

And for fun, if you made a comic strip of someone with super powers, what names might you use for the characters so they are more gender (and age) neutral? Or would you just go with names like Spawn and Hulk?

[ 08-21-2009, 06:27 PM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Jill2000Plus
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The Reassuringly Nearby Fabudabulous Parachuting Mushroom. I actually drew a picture of them (but don't have a means of uploading it to the internet), one of several gender neutral edible plant superheroes I invented, I had Jetpack Equipped Peas called Jo, George and Sam. I also did a very thoughtful and slightly depressed looking Banana Hero with a cape and an apple with grass for hair, jeans and shurikens made of apple slices. That was a fun art lesson.

I'd quite like to see Slinky the Toy Wonder become a recognised superhero... when children are bored and parents need to practise their untangling skills, when everybody wants to watch something that's made of bright and shiny metal or in all the colours of the rainbow plus some other ones, along comes our amazing coiled friend to fall down stairs for the amusement of all without any pain or emergency room visits (unless somebody leaves Slinky on the stairs and then tripping ensues).

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Heather
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In terms of gendered names, I don't really have an issue with that. I mean, I think it can be powerful to have powerful icons identified as sharing your gender, especially when those icons are not about power-over or oppressing anyone. That "Wonder Woman" has woman in it has, I think, had some big impact on girls it may or may not have had with a different moniker. Tough to say, and absolutely, it may have had the same effect regardless, especially since her gender has been made VERY visually identifiable.

On a less-sunny note, THAT is really the area where I get my own knickers in a twist when it comes to comics and gender. As we all know, not every man is tall, V-shaped and packed with muscle, and not every woman has mile-long legs and giant breasts. For instance, it would be a lot more interesting, inclusive and subversive to have had Wonder Woman be called that, but have a much less highly-feminized appearance, or even to have been androgynous enough that ONLY that name identified her gender, you know? What if Superman was FTM instead?

Cool questions and thoughts, though (and I freaking love the mushroom, Jill)

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orca
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Jill, I don't think I've laughed that hard in a while. I love those comic ideas you have, and I hope you can make them a reality. You might see if your public library has a scanner (sometimes they do) and then you could scan in your drawings and set up a free blog to post your work. There are a lot of free blogs like that, with artists who post their own comic strips. Some of them even gain a lot of popularity. Places like Wordpress or Blogspot are free, though I don't know if they are available in the UK or not.

Very great point about the appearances of supers/heroes! It's really interesting when you think about people like Spiderman, who were scrawny and (by mainstream appearance standards) average looking until they got the super powers and then suddenly they transformed into that ideal. And Clark Kent looked kinda dorky (according to mainstream beauty standards; according to mine, he'd be pretty sexy) until he stepped into his spandex suit and voila! suddenly he's Fabio with short black hair. While on the one hand the stories give this hope that those without certain privileges and with less power (let's not forget that the majority of the supers/heroes were of low-income, were bullied in school, and/or were orphans) can rise up, gain power, and fight for good, on the other hand they are gaining that power by conforming to society's standards of appearance and beauty. (As for supers/heroes looking androgynous, I guess that's where Ziggy Stardust comes in. [Wink] ...and my David Bowie obsession just became apparent.)

[ 08-21-2009, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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overkill-max
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Well there are also a lot of characters that don't: Daredevil, Rorschach, Nite Owl, Angel, Rogue, Wolverine, Storm, The Tick, etc.

I think that with those names they were made more to describe the hero and their powers. Like with Storm, her powers have to do with controlling the weather. Superman is superhuman because he has super strength and other super things.

Maybe making a superhero that has a name that isn't descriptive of their powers? I think that would be original and confusing. Because sure, everyone knows that the invisible woman would turn invisible but what about toilet seat?

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Jill2000Plus
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"Look, it's Windowsill Knitter!"

"What can zie do?"

"Calculate at the speed of light and dance like Elvis to distract and entertain criminals!"

"Uhh... ok..."

Incidentally, sorry if this disappoints anyone, but just so you know Banana Hero and the superpowered apple are separate heroes (this is deeply important to me), unfortunately somebody I showed the pictures to thought I was joking, and yes the superheroes were meant to be sort of comical, but I put real effort into the drawings, it all started when some of the boys in my art class were drawing scribbly pictures of banana men (and also pictures of penises, I think the two were somewhat linked in their heads) and I thought "oh yeah, well I'll draw a real banana superhero, with pathos! And I'll colour the picture in! And they'll have shoes and gloves and a cape!" I love to draw, though my skills could do with some developing.

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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marigold
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"one of several gender neutral edible plant superheroes I invented"

Jill, you're just so cool! [Smile] It also seems like inventing these was a project of yours even before the thread happened. So, do you have any other crazy hobbies you'd like to share with us?

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Jill2000Plus
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If I really want to crack myself up I draw stick figures with smiley faces wearing hats, for some reason this is hilariously funny to me. I also have a love of novelty socks, particularly when worn with sort-of-matching T-shirts. I have a treasure draw with bubble mixture, glass beads, a slinky, christmas decorations, animation cells, stickers, an abacus, juggling balls (and I am learning to juggle but with a different set, long story), an insect eye plastic toy, and loads of other stuff. I think that's about it.

I may try and invent a superhero/ine who's a veggie fajita, largely because I made some this evening and they were deliciously yummy.

I got the recent Wonder Woman animated movie (Bruce Timm produced, so that's promising, they did an excellent job with Batman the Animated Series in the early nineties and the various other DC adaptations that they were involved in), I'm really looking forward to watching it, though I've also got loads of other DVDs I haven't seen yet, I just finished Beck Mongolian Chop Squad and I have the first half of Ouran High School Host Club and all of Mushishi and Planetes and Justice League Unlimited Season One and Fantastic Children and Ben 10 Season 4 and Cardcaptor Sakura Box 1 (I'm almost certain to never get Box 2 because it's out of print), I also have some dishes to do and a hob to clean [Smile]

Also, isn't David Bowie a superhero? He can appear in the dreams of troubled digi-folk parody musicians and transmit messages using his nipple antennae (if anybody doesn't know what I'm talking about watch Flight of the Conchords Season 1). My favourite superhero is probably Buffy BTW (she IS a superhero, by the technical definition). There are things that bother me like how there's Hulk and She-Hulk, as if you would presume that Hulk is male unless otherwise specified. Hellboy is interesting in that they are actually clearly a fully grown adult Hellman at this point, but the name has stuck, which I think is perhaps a way in which they are dehumanised, not that being a child is bad, but many think it is.

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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marigold
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it's cool how you can enjoy that treasure collection or drawing... in an other thread you told you have aspergers (I have thinked I am somewhere in the spectrum too, now I don't know), and this reminds me of that otherwise not too good movie, Snow Cake, where the autistic protagonista is able to enjoy things like glitter in a deep way, and I have remained after watching that movie with a positive feeling of "let's enjoy this side of mine/life" [not the glitter, but finding joy in strange things].

keep up with the good work! [Smile]

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Jill2000Plus
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I did watch the Wonder Woman movie, and I thought it was excellent, I thoroughly recommend it to everyone, even though there was some stuff I wasn't sure what to think of, I reckon it was probably meant to show that Wonder Woman can't just make gender roles disappear like that and she's fallen for a guy who is sexist in some ways and she, like every other woman is probably going to end up picking her battles.

Does anybody have a recipe for snow cake? It sounds like some kind of mixture of coconut and meringue and icecream, hopefully including chocolate because I like chocolate?

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Bonnie.N.Clyde
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Okay. My computer ate 3 posts I tried to make so this time, I'm writing this and saving it FIRST. (yay evergreen campus' internet!)

This topic is a GREAT one! So great, in fact, I went on a rant (3 times!). I love what Orca started with, and Jill200Plus- your ideas are awesome. Particularly the banana. I had a story in mind a few years ago about a queer super world. The villain (I'm obsessed with villains..) was a gender queer activist who was tired of gender conformity and had become a radical terrorist of sorts. And the heroine was in love with hir.

It saddens me that in the comic book world, where ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (tm!), there are so many restrictions. Like Heather said, many of the men are muscular and the women have big breasts and tiny bodies. Mentally as well, men save the day, women watch, with the exception of some heroines. Fortunately, with the emergence of indie comics, more pro-feminist and pro-queer men and women are producing their work. But still, a majority of comics plays to a relatively small audience, all things considered.

David Bowie IS a superhero, and I'd love to see (or work on!) an FTM superhero! Still.. it is the sad truth that a lot of mainstream heroes are not 'outside the box'. Most of them conform to gender norms in one way or another.

One example that heats me up is Pixar's The Incredibles. Written for a partly kid audience, it starts out with a pretty strong female role model. Elastigirl begins by saying: "Leave the saving of the world to the bed? I don't think so." Then, we see her some years later. She loves her family but she's very discontent. She becomes happy, however, when her husband gets a better paying job that causes HIM to be happy. Not to mention she is now only known as MRS Incredible. When I thought Pixar could be redeemed by the sarcastic, bitter, nearly-villain daughter Violet, she "grows up" and chooses to wear pink duds and a headband so she can actually show off her face!!! AND she gets a date from the popular boy who until now, didn't know she existed!

This is just one teensy example, but if you have vegetable heroes or FTM heroes or whatever! that stretches outside of the norm, I think it's really important to get your ideas and work out there. We need more good heroes (and villains!) that some of the folks outside the box can relate to.

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"And when everyone is super, no one will be."

-Syndrome, "THE INCREDIBLES"

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Kalex
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As a teenager, I didn't really view the Incredibles, particularly the character of Violet, in the way that you did. I actually found her quite inspiring. She was a 'shrinking Violet', as the expression goes, in a way that I'm sure many teens can relate to. Introverted, nervous, afraid to reach out to people at school...I knew exactly how she felt. Starting Grade 10, that practically was me.

Then she 'grew up' as you put it, during the course of the movie by taking initiative and coming out of her shell, becoming comfortable with herself. And yes the popular boy asks her out, but...there was one scene earlier in the movie where it seems like he sees her out of the corner of his eye, turns to look at her, but she goes invisible. I always construed that to mean that he DID notice her before, but she always hid and seemed completely inapproachable. I had no problem with that.

Also, as far as Elastigirl goes, she does turn into a housewife in the beginning of the movie. However, this is at the point in the movie where everyone's dysfunctional and in hiding. Then she sneaks onto Syndrome's base all by herself, which I found to be impressive. Near the end, Mr. Incredible wants to go off and fight the robot by himself, but she doesn't stand for that. He wants to protect her and the children, and says he isn't strong enough to lose her again, but her line is lovely: "If we work together, you won't have to be." To me, this was a strong woman who is a mother and a wife, but also is strong, brave, and does what she needs to without oppression.

Not to mention that movie also has Edna Mode, who is one of the coolest fictional women ever.

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initium
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I like the Legion of Super-Heroes. Gendering, however, is one of the classic constants of their nomenclature - Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, whatever. Cute for the 1950s, retro today.

But I like that in the 1994 (post-Zero Hour! I was too young for Zero Hour, I was just a baby then, but goshdarn do I feel like a real fangirl for knowing all this...) the names are less gendered, but just as (or even more) awesome.

E.g. Triad for Triplicate Girl, Apparition for Phantom Girl, and gender-neutral names like XS. Recently, reasoning that a shapeshifting race has no need for gender, Chameleon Boy became an ungendered Chameleon.

Sometimes I heart me my superhero comics [Big Grin]

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Bonnie.N.Clyde
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I don't know. I just ache for non-typical women. Yes, the things you pointed out are valid, but the mainstream difficulties of competing with the blonde who she thinks is having an affair with her husband, "nagging" at her husband, being put out of the spotlight even though she is obviously capable... It's a whole bunch of contradictions. There was a great essay on the Incredibles by a feminist author, but it's been lost in the interwebs. But this is interesting, and it's funny, too! [Smile]

http://vastpublicindifference.blogspot.com/2008/06/pixars-gender-problem.html

And Mirage was actually my favorite, until she loved babies so much that she couldn't be evil anymore. *sigh*

[ 10-29-2009, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: Bonnie.N.Clyde ]

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"And when everyone is super, no one will be."

-Syndrome, "THE INCREDIBLES"

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Jill2000Plus
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Has anyone here seen Cybersix? I've been watching it and I think it's awesome, the animation is really fluid and well timed and the central character is a female superhero (Cybersix) who crossdresses as a male teacher to keep her identity secret (if I'd seen this show when I was a few years younger I probably would have had a huge crush on her), the plot seems to be partly about where she gets her energy from because she may have gotten her superpowers as the result of being forced to be a test subject for scientific research or something? Anyway, really recommend this.

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Bonnie.N.Clyde
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Noooo! That sounds rad! I shall find it!

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"And when everyone is super, no one will be."

-Syndrome, "THE INCREDIBLES"

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panique
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quote:
If I really want to crack myself up I draw stick figures with smiley faces wearing hats, for some reason this is hilariously funny to me.
My friend and I spent the better part of a year of maths classes together drawing four little circles with feet and faces with hats on. [Razz]

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"If I ever saw an amputee being hanged, I would just yell out letters."

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moonlight bouncing off water
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What is FTM? (I really need to update my vocabulary, I thought I knew a plethora of words!)

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~moonlight

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vshanti
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quote:
What is FTM?
FTM is a term used to describe a person who transitions from female to male.

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Vanessa

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I do, I do, I do.


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bluejumprope
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FTM = Female-to-male. It refers to transgender people who are biologically female but identify as male.

Here's an intro to gender stuff you might appreciate [Smile]
Genderpalooza! A Sex & Gender Primer

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without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Oh, so would there also be MTF?

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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We've got a great article which explains gender and includes some of the terms you say you're lacking right here: Genderpalooza! A Sex & Gender Primer.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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