This post on girl power in comics, from Retconning My Brain, is a seriously awesome piece that made me want to read a lot of these books (Power Girl, Batgirl, etc.) more than I already did.
The original “Girl power,” a sugared-up, popified version of what Riot Grrl was, hit when I was in my last years of high school. The late 90s, which brought us post-communications deregulation prefab pop, but also at least sort of acknowledged that women wanted pop culture that was their own, and that there was more to it than fighting over a man on a soap opera. It brought us Xena and Buffy, too.
I’ve never been the type of feminist who is terribly bothered by the word “girl”–if prodded, I can even conjure up a defense of using it as a word that doesn’t contain the word “man,” although that’s really not any less useless to me than spelling woman with a y. At the ripe old age of almost-thirty, I still refer to myself as a girl and usually anyone else who is my age or younger. I’ve even been scolded for it by friends male and female. But I can’t really help it, and I wonder if the twin specters of Riot Grrl and Girl Power are to blame.
I was thinking about Girl Power, while I was writing my generally-happy reactions to the stories, and I remember learning about third wave feminism and discussing Girl Power in my class, and the positives and negatives. You had shows with strong (Xena) or complex (Ally McBeal) female leads, but they were wearing short short skirts (and some of them could have used a sandwich, ahem). You had the Spice Girls saying friends come first (in a way more empowering way than bros before hos, yo) but most of their popular songs were still about finding love or something. I think. I can’t actually admit in public to listening to the Spice Girls. You know.
So. Is the rash of “Girl” comics a revival of this kind of feminism-lite? There certainly has been a trend lately, especially with DC books, toward female leads. Batwoman, Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens (and yes, Marvel Divas) and many more that I’m probably missing because this just isn’t really my area of expertise. The pop universe doesn’t seem to be swinging that way in the dramatic fashion it did in the Spice Girls era, but we do have Twilight and other pop-culture phenomena that are aimed at girls bringing a new demographic to geek culture–check out Vaneta Rogers’ awesome piece on The Fangirl Invasion.
Either way, I have to agree with this statement, again from Retconning My Brain:
What it came down to for me this week was that it was nice to buy a bunch of comics that are led my female superheroes, who are super with or without their male counterparts, but don’t exist in a vacuum of femaleness or solely for the gaze of the male reader. They’re there to kick some ass and be super.
Amen to that.