My Halloween night was about comic super heroines and feminism. Oddly it made me reflect on what stoked my awareness of feminism –real people and popular culture.
Celebration of Friendly Feminist Past Ghosts: Heroines and TV Characters
Out of curiosity, I went to fundraising event, Take Back Halloween, hosted by a theatre group. Urban Curvz for a local women’s centre. It was a feminist Halloween celebration with dramatic, light hearted skits, film, costume fun contest, popcorn, song, puppetry and of course, candy.
There was a little tour of mini theatrical skits in the house of patriarchy (which this entire event was housed in a church). A vignette of 2 mad male scientists with an electrical drill, etc. to create their “perfect” woman. A frazzled under-appreciated housewife-mom who was multi-tasking by running on an exercise treadmill in her slippers, while she issued orders on her cellphone.
Costumes on Female Achievers, Songs about Witches, Single Women and Outliers
I am happy to report that costume winners included a white robed Hypatia, an ancient Greek female mathematician during Alexandrian rule, a black tight walking skeleton and a trio of white faced Zombies
(or maybe I got it wrong). Red-haired Queen Elizabeth I was regal in her gown with her prince escort (some people believe she had several different lovers in history.) and so was Frida Khalo, the flamboyant Mexican painter who was second runner-up in costumes.
A guitar-playing songstress entertained us several times of which there was a comic song about witches and single women –both greatly misunderstood in the past and ostracized. Thank goodness bad vibes for being a single woman in the 21st century, has fallen by the way side –at least in some societies.
Comic Super Heroine, Wonder Woman Creation of a Male Psychologist
We saw a 40 min. documentary on social history of the comic super heroine, Wonder Woman. Most North Americans from the 1970’s may remember the actress, Lynda Carter who played in the American tv series, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is the female version of Superman. She was conceived as a comic book character in the 1930’s by a psychologist, William Marsten. The film traced Wonder Woman’s ascent around the same time, as women during the WWII were sent to work in the factories to do work men had left behind when men went overseas to fight.
First Banned, Then Revived for War Propaganda
Wonder Woman’s early adventure struggles were about justice with some anti-Nazi messages during the 1940’s.
She was initially banned from the reading public because of her sexy attire and messages of bondage which she does break free. In comic strips and later in TV series, she unfurls from her belt, a golden rope (which I barely
remember) around her evil perpetrators. It was her Golden Rope of Justice. Captives were roped in so that they were made to admit the Truth.
In comic strips, Wonder Woman aimed to create better understanding among women. Hence, when frightened or confused women featured in the comics, who misunderstood her role initially, Wonder Women was portrayed with compassion for them and communicated to gain their support.
Wonder Woman Slumps into Passivity: 1950’s-1960’s
Super heroine, Wonder Woman did lapse into passivity during the 1950’s- 1960’s. It was the same time, women were expected to return home and be housewife-moms without aspiring for a paid job elsewhere. Wonder Woman was portrayed as being lifted and rescued by a man. On the odd occasion, she is held captive in ropes.
Wonder Woman series only ran for a few years. However a movie is set to release in 2017 on Superman vs. Wonder Woman.
Sad, Secondary Role of Female Comic Super Heroines: 21st Century
Sadly the documentary film points out in the 21st century, there are hardly any comic book and films with central female action figures where the woman fighter is in a series where she is not killed, tortured or commits suicide. There are still very few comic female super heroines who aren’t evil themselves and take proactive steps to fight independently and for the good of community. However the film highlighted a few 1970’s TV series that featured female action characters —Charley’s Angels, Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner, which originated from the Million Dollar Man tv series) and in the 1990’s, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Unfortunately in the 1960’s, Cat Woman plays a tertiary, seldom seen role in Batman series. Batman often criticizes Cat Woman.
Halloween Stokes My Memories of Feminist Awareness and Pop Culture
While watching the film documentary, I was reminded acutely my (advancing years) as a late baby boomer.
Those tv series, including Wonder Woman, except Buffy, I saw as a teenager in the late 1970’s onward. By the way, I did watch the iconic tv long running series of working / career woman, Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was familiar with Gloria Steinhem*, the U.S. lead feminist from the late 1960’s onward was interviewed in the film in her group’s collective effort to revive Wonder Woman back into the pantheon of comic super heroines and heroes. I did read Steinhem’s book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, along with issues of Ms magazine that she helped start up. When I moved to Vancouver several decades later, I donated Ms. magazine issues to the local public library book sale. Hopefully someone else has been enlightened by recent social history.
Who would have thought Halloween would have stoked up feminist memories.
Dockterman, E. Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about Wonder Woman. In Time Magazine, Oct. 28, 2014.
Pogrebin, Abigail. How Do You Spell Ms. In New York Magazine, Oct. 30, 2011. On history of Ms Magazine that was created in 1972 by Gloria Steinhem and group of feminist writers.
*Note: It was Gloria Steinhem that penned the aphorism: A woman without a man, is like a fish without a bicycle.