Friday, February 14, 2014

Gender roles in comics and sci fi


“It’s important for little girls to know not every story has to be a love story and for boys to know that soldiers aren’t the only ones to triumph in war.” Guillermo del Toro said this during an interview last summer when promoting Pacific Rim. It’s an important statement that can be applied to the discussion of gender roles that is not just going on in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, but in the real world as well.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this topic for a while now. Every time I have tried to put my thoughts into words, what I was writing just felt awkward. Now, hopefully I can make my point in an eloquent and diplomatic fashion. And I can’t go on without giving credit to some of the people I follow on Tumblr (The Mary Sue for example) for posting some great points and fantastic articles and information.

So what is my position? Let me start out by telling you about a situation I’ve had to deal with, and from what I’ve seen, others have had similar experiences. Just this past weekend my family welcomed a new niece into the world. In the days leading up to that my wife and I were doing some shopping for baby cloths and whatnot. There is literally nothing nerd related that we could find for girls. All the cool stuff was in the boys sections. And primarily, all the girls stuff was in pink. Not that pink is bad. I have nothing against pink as a color. But why is it a girls color? The more I read about how gender roles are marked to us from birth, the more it weirds me out. It gets worse for girls as they get older. Mostly girls stuff and toys are about being feminine and pretty. Again, noting wrong with that, but girls like stuff that go boom too. Things for boys are more “masculine” and adventure oriented. And god forbid if a boy likes and wants to play with the “girlie” stuff. Society is getting better about letting kids and people feel out and build their own identities, but lets face it, we still have a ways to go.

But there are signs of hope. I recently bought Ms Marvel #1, the first new comic I’ve purchased in years I might add. I enjoyed the comic. It was funny, I related to the character, and if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t have any reservations if she wanted to dress up as the new Ms Marvel. Look it up if you have not seen the new costume already. I’ll be posting a full review of the comic later. But back to the point, Marvel has launched a superhero that boys and girls can look up to and relate to; who’s drawing power is not going to be how tight or revealing her costume will be. Sure, it’s obvious body issues will be discussed, going by the end of the issue, but we all have those. And the story looks like it will be one of Khamala Khan (Ms Marvel) becoming comfortable in her own skin, rather than becoming what pop culture views as what a female hero should look like. This also reminds me of when I was at San Diego Comic Con two years ago. During a women in comic panel (I forget the exact title) a teen girl asked when there was going to be costumes that would be age appropriate for the under 18 fans.

This is the point where my train of thought tends to break down and I struggle to solidify what I’m trying to say. So let me go back to Guillermo del Toro’s quote and simplify it even more. Not every story has to be a love story. Boys and girls should be told that. And especially when it comes to younger characters. And to ad on to that, if there is a love story, it does not have to be the man saving the woman. Nor does the woman have to look like the typical feminine damsel in distress. Girls can look and be tough too, just as men can be soft. I was in the Army. I know this. And while we are on the subject, it doesn’t always have to be Adam and Eve. It can be Adam and Steve or Eve and… What rhymes with Eve? But you get my point. Which is… (and I admit it got a little jumbled there)

We should not restrict kids and people to predefined roles, gender or otherwise. We are born wired specific ways, though life experience can either enhance or short circuit us. Girls can “act” like boys and still like boys. Boys can “act” like girls and still like girls. And if girls like girls or boys like boys, that is okay too. We all need to find our own way and do our best not to get in the way of other peoples journeys.

My apologies for this getting a tad unfocused.

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