The above photo was Tweeted out earlier this week when a Aimée Morrison (@digiwoonk) while shopping in Target Canada shopper found this delightfully idiotic baby pj set. Morrison is an asspciate Profressor working in digital humanities and new project media design and theory. Which sounds super badass.
In any case, Aimée shared her disappointment with the pj options as they appeared to encourage gender conformity in BABIES, particularly that girls were only going to date superheroes while the boys would grow up to be the heroes the girls would eventually date because yay adult behavior in INFANTS. First of all, the color scheme for the girls pj set is hideous; whoever approved that slate heather gray and bright pink obviously hates babies and decent color pallets. It doesn’t stop there, Wal-Mart’s junior section boasts a particularly disheartening t shirt on their website as well as in stores:
So what you’re telling me is that as a woman I’m only as good as the idiot boyfriend I snag in spandex?
Besides fueling obviously dated and tired tropes about where women land in the hero spectrum, it again pairs HIDEOUS pink and gray tones as if to say, hey ladies, you like them dudes doing dude things and you also like pink because we’re guessing that’s what you ladies like.
Maybe if you had that on a black tee with yellow lettering like classic Batman colors, or even the vintage blue and gold coloring I’d be sold on it because then it would match the pairs of converse your average nerdy lady owns and that is really the fashion that matters. (not really, Batman is pretty much over for me)
Does a t-shirt really make the fan? What is the message that DC is sending to female readers? Marvel isn’t exempt.
In the long list of things DC keeps failing at, t-shirts seems to be the next notch against them. The Batman’s wife in training shirt is an Officially Licensed product, meaning that someone in their merchandise and branding department had to approve this message before sending it into production, the same with the Marvel shirts. Essentially, the top brass approved it thinking nothing of it and we, the internet denizens were appalled and rightfully so. These major corporations, whether they want to really be responsible for it or not, do shape some of the basic understanding that young boys and girls have when it comes to gender equality. By green lighting these shirts, DC and Marvel effectively say, yeah, girls and women know who these guys are but we’re pretty sure they don’t really want to BE them. They’re throwing women a fashion bone by even thinking of them. When kids get a new shirt to show off, you know they’re comparing their designs and the boys are really buying the slogans on the girls shirts while the girls are staring longingly at a Thor shirt that comes with a cape. They slowly accept the burden of being the lesser because a cartoon character on 100% cotton said so; the company responsible reminded them that this is a boys world and you’ll never really get to have all of it. Is it really the case? Hopefully not but those lessons come from parents who are ideally teaching them that everyone is equal and we’re all capable of extraordinary things. The shirts are exterior expressions of their internal values and in essence, who they are as people. If you tell a girl she’s only as good as the boy she snags, she won’t want anything else.
Some women in comics only serve to advance the hero’s journey and have a short lifespan.
Other women in comics advance it to the point where you want more from them they you do the male protagonists like Natasha Romanov and Laura Kinney better known as Black Widow and X-23.
Today Thor # 1 launched and people are lining up to pick up the comic despite mantle of Thor going to a woman Expect the numbers for such a title to be massive, given the controversy behind the entire thing to begin with. How is it possible that we are still living in a world where even our t-shirts are dictated by tropes and dated concepts? A solid majority of passing comic book movie watchers, delighted that they’ll have something cute to wear with something, will no doubt buy it not realizing they’re continuing to fuel a disparity between the sexes when it comes to t-shirts and fandoms. Someone is fueling the demand for idiotic shirts with poor slogans and we, the people aware of the entire thing will be standing in the streets asking why.
A t shirt does not make a fan, a slogan does not define the wearer but they do make statements about who you are and the values that you have. If you don’t like something, do something about it. You should protest it, make a scene about it, make other people aware of what it is that bothers you so much about the object in question. In fact, it’s encouraged. Voice your opinion on why this is wrong and like the old saying goes, money talks. Don’t spend your money on it. Force the brands and companies at large that you are not interested in this type of message and instead voice that there are other ways to tell a comic book shirt than by relying on the same old thing. Yes, there are some girls who just want to be the girlfriend to the tough guy super hero (or super villain). There are even BOYS who want to be the bad girl’s boyfriend but they are always told that no woman is out of their reach while girls are told there are types for them; a lid for every pot as it were. It’s sad that Target and WalMart will continue accepting these shirts, lunch boxes, outfits, toys and other questionable things from Marvel and DC, despite their approval; a buyer from each respective retailer has final say on the things that eventually adorn the shelves. It’s worse because it seems that the majors don’t care about the FAN; they’re still stuck in data that dissects gender, age and income rather than whether it’s a good product to begin with. I’m still super pissed off that there aren’t any Gamora toys in the BOYS or GIRLS toy section and that Black Widow is part of a Legends series that has more Winter Soldiers and more variant Captain Americas than it does BW or Falcon. It’s upsetting to think that you feel like the tangible things that make you a fan aren’t aimed towards you as a consumer because the entities involved don’t consider you to be important enough to be listened to.
The sexism in comics at large isn’t shocking, it’s the fact that the companies themselves continue to feed into the stereotype as though women in the space are tainting and destroying their sacred area with their lady essence. If anything, women in comics have made things so much better, ushering in a new wave of diversity, new ways of telling the same old stories and bringing some of the most talented artists to the medium front and center. So many men seem upset that women are even in shops and if they are, there’s a massive test that they need to pass in order to be taken seriously. Dude. You barely speak english correctly, who the hell are you to quiz me on who’s stronger Thanos or Galactus ? (Answer: Brainiac, watch them keel over in sheer horror) You can ask me where the latest book is and I’ll point your mouth breathing self in that direction, don’t assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about and if I don’t, please believe I will educate myself, I don’t need you.
While I am a Marvel fan with passing interest in DC, I’ve come to adore the work coming out of Dark Horse and Image, especially when it comes to how female centric their titles and creative teams are. They are interested in storytelling, the hell with who’s at the focus of them. As New York Comic Con fast approaches, it will be interesting to see how things play out when I’m elbow to elbow with some of the shitbrains who are more and more frequently being called out on their shitbrainness.
This is bigger than t-shirts and what they say. This is about being treated fairly and equally because you also like a thing. This is about being able to buy a Thor t-shirt with a detachable cape knowing full fucking well that you shouldn’t be wearing them but dammit if it isn’t good looking!
This is about being able to wear a shirt that isn’t pink and adorned with some glitter that proclaims you as Batman’s Wife or Captain America’s Best Gal. This is about being able to wear a shirt that says You Kicked Creel’s Ass and All You Got Was A Lousy T-Shirt or I’m The One Coulson Calls. This is about being able to tell the world that while comic books are fairly geeky and cater to a strange and wonderful section of our population, you are someone who loves to live in the world where everyone looks good in spandex, kicks a little ass and works as a team.
It’s about being a hero even when you feel like you can’t go on, it’s about being able to wear something that says you’re more than the sum of your parts and as long as fashion continues to promote otherwise, it’s about fighting until we’re all allowed to wear a shirt that says Training to Be Batwoman.
Check out t-shirts from We Heart Fine because they’re user created and take the high road when it comes to flirting with gender as well as visiting Her Universe because it’s only fair that we support creators seeking to reach a consistently disenfranchised and marginalized group.
I’d rather be a hero than training to be their sidekick.