This post was originally posted at the blog of New Voices Magazine. The author, Elle Weiss, is a law student and Emerson fellow from New York City.
Being a comic book nerd is hard enough when people think you have no social life. But is it un-American? Phyllis Chesler seems to think so.
In her latest article, Chesler cites how Wonder Woman’s new costume shows American submission to the evils of globalization. Chesler says Wonder Woman’s getup is “non-American, and therefore anti-American” because it is no longer red, white and blue; for her, this is a sign that “many Americans are ashamed of their own country.”
Is she reading the same comic book as me?
Chesler claims to be a feminist and writes that Wonder Woman “ fought evil in fabulous female form” that was “half-naked, dressed in a low cut bodice, high, sexy boots, and a short ice-skater’s skirt.” This is a great example to set for my niece: ff you want to fight evil, make sure to bring the stripper boots. Wonder Woman’s original costume made her into a sex symbol–but as long as the costume was red, white and blue, Chesler had no problem. Welcome to America, people, where the women are beautiful and wear nothing.
She adds that “Wonder Woman was conceived as a counter to the bloody ‘masculinity’ of most American comic books,” and rhapsodizes on how the series shows women as “natural leaders who could rule the world.” But in the comic, Wonder Woman was shoe-horned into being the Chick for two more popular male characters. In some continuities, she ends up de-powered and running a flower shop. Behold your feminist goddess.
For me, Wonder Woman was the girl who got to look pretty next to the real heroes, Batman and Superman. I never wanted to dress like her or be her, because she seemed so ridiculous. It’s neither empowering nor liberating to force women to dress a certain way for men, be it modestly or immodestly. Freedom is about loving your body and dressing in a way that makes you feel comfortable, not about submitting to chauvinist societal norms.
DC Comics has decided to re-brand Wonder Woman as a more universal symbol. That makes her anti-American? As forward-thinking people, we should be dancing on the rooftops to see a woman being de-sexualized and commanding respect. Wonder Woman doesn’t look like she’s fighting crime in a bathing suit anymore, there to make men star at her body. She looks like a sleek, sexy, crime fighter who is fantastic, practical and less silly. She may not wear the American flag, but she represents the best of America: strong, intelligent women who fight for justice. She can finally be my hero. For a formerly Orthodox girl who dreamed of flying, this represents a turning point. You can be modest and still save the world.
One thing Wonder Woman wouldn’t like is criticizing women for “slumming” in foreign dress, calling it “their native, imprisoning clothing,” as Chesler writes. Respect for other cultures has always been a heroic virtue. Yes, many women wear more modest clothes when entering a more religious environment, but many non-Jewish men (including Superman in one memorable comic) wear yarmulkes in traditional Jewish homes. It’s called mutual respect. Comic books emphasize these universal values, and Ms. Chesler does a disservice to the genre by politicizing it.
I will end with a review from “The Simpsons’” Comic Book Guy himself: “Worst. Article. Ever!”