To call the relationship between women and comic books complicated would be putting it lightly. From the Tumblr artists who ridiculed the objectification of women in comics through the Hawkeye Initiative to the recent controversy around a DC Comics art contest asking for illustrations of a female character naked and preparing to kill herself, the fight for positive representations of women in comics is an ongoing one.
So it’s always encouraging to see someone in the industry publicly stand up for portrayals of women against those who want to exclude them. This week, that person was comics legend Brian Michael Bendis, writer for Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, All New X-Men, and more. Bendis received an anonymous question from a reader on Tumblr who was clearly unhappy with the small changes taking place in comics when it comes to female characters:
“I understand trying to make comics female friendly, but aren't you guys worried that you're going to lose your core audience which is male? In the X-books you've had more focus on the likes on these females like jean and kitty while it should be Cyclops who has been the star of the X-Men comics for years,” anonymous wrote. “What warrants these characters more page time than him? Jean and kitty are secondary characters. You guys listen too much to women bitching. They cause so much freakin drama in comicdom.”
Bendis could have ignored the question and avoided entering the seemingly endless debate about female representation in comics, but luckily, he didn’t. His response is one every comic book fan should read:
“Wow. you are the first person who I am kind of glad asked your question anonymously because I don’t want to know you.
as a reader of my work I want you to listen to me very carefully: you have major major issues. almost every line of your question reeks of complete misunderstanding of yourself as a man and of women in general.
it’s okay to find yourself more interested in something than others, of course it is, it’s okay to like Cyclops more than Jean Grey, but for you to draw the line at women characters not being interesting to you because you are a man or that you think I am being manipulated by some bitching women is really out there.
and as a reader of the X-Men whose entire philosophy is about tolerance and understanding… you are missing the point.”
His words struck a chord with other readers.
“I’ve been loving Marvel’s books lately, especially the increased focus on good female characters and I applaud Bendis…” wrote Tumblr user thenimonbepraised.
Tumblr user yoroi submitted her own comment to Bendis thanking him. Yoroi wrote “I just want to let you know that your response towards that horrible question regarding female readers of comics was beautiful and it just validated my stance against everything I struggled with in the past. I could never be open about my love for comics before college and I endured a lot of taunting and name-calling because I was not meeting a "standard". People like you are a ray of hope for girls like me who love comics simply because we do. :) Thank you. :)”
Bendis answered this comment by reminding female fans they are not alone, something that is all too easily forgotten when the voices against female comic book characters and fans get loud:
“Thank you very much. I just want to tip my yalmaka to the many many many people who have contacted me this weekend that I really appreciate your passionate views on this subject,” Bendis wrote. “but one thing that I wanted to briefly mention is many female readers have reached out to me to say they feel they are in the minority or are alone in their love of comics. well, in this weekend proves anything I think it is safe to say that you are not alone. I’ve always said that comics had something for everyone. I really do believe that. the best thing about the digital revolution is that no matter where you are in the world you can find this material. it was amazing to hear from all of you all weekend long. i was rather overwhelmed by the response. yay comics!”
Image via WhatCulture!
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