Spider-woman and Sexual Portrayals of Women
So many opinions on the interwebs these days! You guys know I tend to stay out of this stuff, but I actually have something valuable to say…or so I feel.
If you want to know my opinion on Milo Manara’s Spider-woman cover, I’m going to have to disappoint you and say I feel super divided on it. I love Milo Manara!! It’s a variant cover…so it’s sort of an erotica variant! Of course, I’d also like to see Katie Cook do her own version…that’d make Marvel’s choice seem a little less like a systemic problem. And yes, it’s all a different story with context, but without context, it is a bit jarring and I don’t negate that because the Internet really changes our experience these days. And the image itself does remind me a lot of images by artists I DON’T respect…I wish it looked more characteristically Manara instead of a Greg Horn illustration (sorry, Greg Horn! (Not that you care!)). Again, all that said, it’s Milo Manara and if anybody should be able to do things how he wants, it should be him.
That’s not my point. My point is, it’s not an easy thing to evaluate or explain what is okay and what’s not. Some sexy drawings of women I can get behind, some I can’t. Some of that’s context. But a lot of it is what seemed like a weird intuition that I couldn’t really pinpoint, until recently.
The word that changes everything for me is “personhood.” Does this woman seem like a person? Do they have life breathed into them? A personality? Or are they an object? Do they feel manufactured or repetitive? Would guys who like this appreciate that I am a living, breathing woman? Or would they complain I talk too much?
This is why I love Guillem March’s work despite some weird occasional gems…He exaggerates but his women are diverse and boiling over with life. You can tell he likes the ladies, but he likes them, person and all. I know not all women can get behind this dude, but I strongly believe we need him in this industry.
Compare that with this image…which appears to be a photo manip by someone named “CHOWY”…anyway, it creeps the hell out of me. Why? Because these are not presented as people; they are objects that serve a purpose. Moreover, it’s obvious I was not invited to this celebration of comics. And I like getting invitations.
This applies to stories, too. It’s an oldie, but I’ve always disliked the Tomb Raider movie. Female protagonist? Check. Strong? Oh yeah. Smart? Anthropologist smart! Human being? Bzzzzzzzt!!! Wrong. Hollow shell…HEY! Let’s watch her take a shower!
(I wish I could tie this all back to the Manara cover, but I feel like the point was that she’s Spider-woman, so she’s less human, more spider. The truth: I was just using this controversy as an excuse to get on my soapbox.)
Of course, the depressing undertone to this post is that so many guys don’t see (or don’t want to see?) women as humans. So, so weird, so sad. I tend to surround myself with guys who think I’m human and gals who think they themselves are humans, so I can pretend this problem isn’t common. But reality is a bastard.
Anyway. Personhood. I have a name for it and it has given a reason to my rhyme. Maybe it’s your reason, too?
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