One comment on “Back Matter #6 — Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose and Objectification

  1. Listening to your discussion, I get the impression that this comic is wrestling with an extremely ancient complex of ideas having to do with male physical strength, female sexuality, and witchcraft — but not coming up with quite the right answers.

    Some of the most ancient myths — found in Africa, Australia, and the Americas, which means they’re really, really old — say that originally women held all the spiritual power but the men stole it from them through brute force. In one typical Brazilian myth, men originally had no culture, while the women lived in a village, wore male ornaments, and made the first flute. (Flutes represented both spiritual power and fertility, and in one version of the myth the women also had clitorises as long as penises.) Then the men stole the ornaments and flutes, raped the women, and set up the first men’s lodge, where the flutes were kept and played to appease the chief spirit. The women were forbidden to enter the lodge or so much as glimpse the ritual objects on penalty of gang rape.

    Those are the basic terms of the problem to this day. Men still keep women under control by threat of rape (or keep other men under control by the threat of raping their womenfolk.) Even short of rape, women are controlled by slut shaming and being handed a reputation of being easy. Those threats greatly restrict women’s options, keeping them from dressing as they like, walking alone at night, or entering certain male-dominated professions.

    There are simple fantasy solutions to this problem — which is where this comic goes astray. “If I was as strong as a man and could kick ass, no one would dare attack me.” “If I was as casual about sex as men seem to be, they wouldn’t have a hold over me.” “If men realized they were as vulnerable to rape as women, they wouldn’t be able to maintain the same threat level.”

    And then there are the difficult, real-world solutions, which have to do with status and respect and creating situations of genuine equality. They may also begin with addressing what goes on among men when women aren’t around — the bullying by the strongest and most aggressive that makes even the weak, nerdy guys dream of having somebody still weaker to boss around, because that’s easier than fighting back.

    But to present those solutions in story form, you need to change the social context in which your characters exist — and the brawn-based power structures of typical superhero comics are never going to provide a context in which genuine female empowerment is possible. So you get the fantasy answers instead, because that’s the only way women can survive in a male-dominated fantasy universe.

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