David Finch, the artist who will be heading the DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, refers to Wonder Woman saying,
“we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong—I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.”
If you read the comments below the Mother Jones blog where I first saw the story, you would think David said something offensive. This is nothing new. Many feminists have set in motion a pattern that makes it uncomfortable for men to talk about feminism. They expect men to either support feminism like figurines decorating a craft show or men must shut up.
What David is saying is that he doesn’t want Wonder Woman to be seen as a politically ideological character. David perhaps knows that feminism is a diverse field like any other ideological field in which actors remain at ideological war, trying to answer questions of who exactly do feminists represent, who are feminists, and what constitute feminist representation.
Avoiding the politically ideological might not give David the results he hopes for. But that is the messaging strategy he wishes to sell. There is nothing offensive within his statement. In fact, what is offensive is that identity politics still looms as a billion dollar industry that treats views as though they are created in a marketplace dominated by ideological shoppers of the day; and there isn’t more outraged about that fact.
Responses to issues of gender, race, and the LGBT community are seen as extremely sensitive to the point that discourse is hijacked and learning has been stifled. Of all the things David said about the Wonder-Woman project, we need not wonder why his brief comment about feminism made headlines.
Simple! Gender controversy sells! Most of us fail to realize how we are participating in this manipulative matrix as babblers (myself included). We believe we are really shedding light on an issue, taking an activist position for equality. Indeed, we might be doing all that, but it’s time we realize we are also engaging an exploitative tradition where every piece of non-offensive talk is amplified and decontextualized in order to keep us babbling at our keyboards while someone else rakes in profits.
If I were in David’s position, I would allow Wonder Woman to continue doing the powerful things she had been doing, and I wouldn’t oppose others who label her as feminist, but it is not a word I’d use to describe her.
What makes Wonder Woman feminist? From what I see across the Internet, many people say that she is a “strong woman.” Even David said that too. Perhaps he knew that such a characterization would immediately make others think Strong=Feminist, and so he attempted to disrupt that equation.
Is it that all “strong women” are automatically feminists? So what about women who aren’t “strong,” are they of a less worthy cloth in the hierarchy of woman and human power structures? Are feminists solely recognizing, in order to culturally replicate, “strong women”?
We could even ask what makes a woman “strong,” and who are weak women, or women in-between strong and weak. What specific roles in the private, public, economic, activist, and political spheres define these labels?
That there is a tendency to identify and valorize “strong women,” could that automatically mean feminists are locating only “distinguished women,” a minority of women. “Minority,” I say, because feminists wouldn’t have highlighted “distinguished” patterns if such patterns were the norm among the majority of women.
Could this be a criticism of some feminist movements? That is—they are ignoring the majority of women by only praising a minority; and in the process, they are making it appear as though they speak for all women—and that all women should consider the title “feminist,” the highest among honors? Could these concerns be among the premises David Finch resists?