Halloween Night of Super Heroines and Feminist Beginnings

wonder woman 21st century manga
From a 2014 manga comic magazine issue, featuring Wonder Woman. Golden arc represents the Golden Rope of Justice which Wonder Woman in comic books and in 1970’s TV series. Golden rope was unleashed by Wonder Woman to lasso her criminal perpetrators so that they would tell the Truth.

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

Halloween costumes of audience attendees celebrate women achievers, U.S. feminist-writer Gloria Steinhem (left) and Hypatia, an ancient Greek mathematician. Hypatia won a prize for the costume.  "Take Back Halloween" event. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong
Halloween costumes of audience attendees celebrate women achievers, U.S. feminist-writer Gloria Steinhem (left) and Hypatia, an ancient Greek mathematician. Hypatia won a prize for the costume. “Take Back Halloween” event. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong

(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.

Puppet skit involved a Muppet with papal hat. Photo by J. Chong 2014.
Puppet skit involved a Muppet with papal hat. Photo by J. Chong 2014.

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.

After being initially banned, Wonder Woman was revived in 1942, for anti-Allied propaganda comics during WW II.  It was felt a woman comic figure was less violent for public reading. Photo from film documentary shown during feminist Halloween event in a church. Calgary AB. 2014.
After being initially banned, Wonder Woman was revived in 1941, for anti-Axis propaganda comics during WW II. It was felt a woman comic figure was less violent for public reading. Photo from film documentary shown during feminist Halloween event in a church. Calgary AB. 2014.

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

Wonder Woman was compassionate to other women who initially misunderstood or were frightened of her. Her goal was to create community and understanding among women. From film.
Wonder Woman was compassionate to other women who initially misunderstood or were frightened of her. Her goal was to create community and understanding among women. From film.

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.

Costumed audience members flanking emcee in middle : Amelia Earhart, lst woman to fly around the world (but she disappeared forever, her body never found) and on right, Frida Kahlo, the flamboyant Mexican oil painter.
Costumed audience members flanking emcee in middle : Amelia Earhart, lst woman to fly around the world (but she disappeared forever, her body never found) and on right, Frida Kahlo, the flamboyant Mexican oil painter. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong

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.

A fighting trio. "Take Back Halloween" performance evening, a fundraiser for a local women's centre. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong. Drama and entertainment provided by a local feminist theatrical group.
A fighting trio. “Take Back Halloween” performance evening, a fundraiser for a local women’s centre. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong. Drama and entertainment provided by a local feminist theatrical group.

Halloween Stokes My Memories of Feminist Awareness and Pop Culture

I cycled to the event and entered on-site with my year-round chic (to me) bike helmet of goblins, ravens and spider webs.  Probably confused others since I donned the purple witch hat instead. Helmet is by Giro and it doesn't seem to be in their product catalogue anymore. 2014.
I cycled to this event and entered on-site with my year-round chic (to me) bike helmet of goblins, ravens and spider webs. Probably confused others since I donned a purple witch hat instead. Helmet is by Giro. Doesn’t seem to be in their product catalogue anymore as of 2014. I wear it whenever I’m bored with my typical yellow-black sporty other helmet.

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.

Some Halloween decorated homes while cycling to performance. This was an inflated balloon friendly cat that nodded its head to visitors. Calgary, AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong.
Some Halloween decorated homes while cycling to performance. This was an inflated balloon friendly cat that nodded its head to visitors. Calgary, AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong.

More Reading
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.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds like you had a very interesting night Jean. I never knew all that history about wonder woman, nor had I suspected she’s been around that long!
    Diana xo

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      While watching the documentary about Wonder Woman and highlights of recent feminist movement, I am sometimes amazed that some of us lived through and had memory of that critical historic time period. I nearly didn’t go. I told myself I was an idiot: after I was active in an all-women’s cycling group for 5 years in Toronto.

      Like

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    I had seen this event being talked about on the news .Sounds like a most interesting evening.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Lots of fun with an intent to teach bits of history and popular culture. All for a good cause. The world of comic figures and manga is not known to me. I settled on Doonsbury cartoons (more political stuff) and Veronica (how simplistic) comics from the newspapers.

      Like

  3. Lani says:

    I love hearing about your unique Halloween. And I used to collect Wonder Woman comic books when I was a kid. I also got into X-Men in college and liked the only Asian female superhero Psylocke. Now, everyone is getting excited for the next Asian female superhero, Silk (a female spiderman).

    Anyway, I loved seeing Hypatia! I did a report on her many years ago, and it was so interesting to learn about someone most folks have never heard of! Thanks for sharing your Halloween ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Yo, a comic book fan! I am honoured to have you comment knowledgeably on this subject. Thank you Lani, for enlightening on a world that is nearly foreign to me. Wow, great to have a blog reader who was a kid Wonder Woman comic book collector. Those manga books aren’t cheap nowadays –$16.00US for the issue where I photographed a featured illustration that readers see here. So, if you can offer any other common plot lines that Wonder Woman comic books would have.. An Asian female spiderwoman. Silk will definitely scale more than mountains and loads of army tanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. MB says:

    Wonder Woman is the symbol of feminism for many and also their first glimpse into feminism. I didn’t know about her until I was an adult.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Depends how one defines feminism, MB in terms of “exposure”. I actually didn’t pay much attention to Wonder Woman tv series. I would see bits of it and then bury myself in my studies, books or artwork. I was in high school. I read Steinhem’s autobiography on her personal initial journey into the women’s movement just before I finished university. I did take a 2nd year sociology elective course on Sociology of Gender Roles. That’s when my awareness of feminism started in a structured way.

      But looking back, there different things in my own family and friends that are building blocks to my begin my understanding. Even when I was 13 yrs. old, I had a best friend who was talking abit in the language of equity and gender roles. Later I found out her mother did her university degree in fine arts, was a commercial artist but gave it up when they had a family of 3 children. So that probably piqued her understanding.

      Like

  5. This is really cool! I like this special take on Halloween. I especially enjoy to see that some young women chose Gloria Steinhem and Frida Khalo, two women I especially admire. Thank you for sharing such an unusual event with us. Happy Belated Halloween!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, events like this which combine fun and some information as well as raising money for a worthwhile women focused services, might attract a few who otherwise wouldn’t bother coming. Gloria Steinhem certainly has contributed enormously particularily combining word and action on a larger scale. Frida had a really tough life and much more isolating since she lived during an era where anyone living on the margins of mainstream lifestyle, was suspect. I’d like to peruse her art more over time, Evelyn.

      Like

      1. There is a great new picture book about her by Yuyi Morales, if you have kids around you. The art work is exceptional.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          She certainly has some beautifully illustrated books.

          Like

  6. jbw0123 says:

    Wonder Woman was banned? That’s pretty funny. Pretty cool way to celebrate Halloween.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, she was only reintroduced to mollify more violent comic characters. Then later in the 1950’s-1960’s she was even a model, film star.. It was a memorable Halloween, jbw.

      Like

  7. diahannreyes says:

    I really enjoyed this story about reclaiming Halloween and restoring witches and single women into a more human, positive light. I enjoyed reading about Wonder Woman’s background herstory- she has always been my favorite super hero. What a great way to celebrate Hallowmas!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Diahann, how coincidental that you had posted something back in Aug. that referenced Wonder Woman. After looking the video which led me to another, I thought I’ll post this video link that features clips of Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, her protégé.

      There are more references which I will post later. As it turns out the psychologist who thought of Wonder Woman was a bit of an oddball. Still it doesn’t tarnish our vicarious delight in watching the comic flicks. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. diahannreyes says:

        I really enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing, Jean. I would definitely watch this show again if it were on cable. Brings back some great memories. The disco version of the theme song was fun to hear, too.

        Like

  8. There seem to be more and more Halloween events every year, but that one takes the broomstick!

    A green goblin bike helmet, followed by a purple witch’s hat– that was quite a fashion statement you made there, Jean!!

    I always liked how Wonder Woman could change into her costume just by spinning around. Unlike Superman, she didn’t need no steenking phone booth!

    Your Gloria Steinhem quote at the end really made me laugh– a great way to tie the post back to bicycles!! Thanks for a very, er, haunting post, Jean. : )

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I totally agree, Mark. It seems there are more adults nowadays that enjoy donning costumes. I’m not sure what possessed me to buy that helmet a few years ago but I do wear it. With less vents, it does keep my head warmer when I need it or for times I just want to be fun and non-sporty. How’s that for a 50+ yr. old woman cyclist?

      I had forgotten about Superman’s phone booth! They have to invent something different for the 21st century if everyone is waving around iPhones! Yea, probably to take pics of Superman flyin’ strong. 🙂

      Yes, well I did find that cycling aphorism connection with Steinhem. I just couldn’t just let that one go unnoticed!

      Like

      1. Wow Jean! I could never have imagined your age!! You are my new Wonder Woman..

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Ok. Not sure I want to be in the new pantheon of super heroines. But thx for er…the larger than life compliment. I actually look more tired in the face in the last few years, even if body likes cycling.

          Oh well. I’m only human. 🙂

          Like

  9. Rita H. Azar says:

    It seems that you had a very interesting night Jean!
    Great to learn more about Wonder Woman. I always liked her!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Well, I found Wonder Woman at that time, even abit kitschy. But lots of fun to watch the series here and there. I think I was deep into my studies…

      Like

Chime in with your thoughts here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s