Saturday, July 22, 2006

Access to Power

Thanks to When Fangirls Attack, I've come across Megham Daum's article for the LA Times that discusses Batwoman's lesbianism. She discusses in her article that strong women in the media have to be lesbians:

I'm allowed to say this because I'm secretly gay too. Or at least I try to be. What choice do I have? Apparently "lesbian" is now the de facto label for any woman who asserts her own tastes and opinions and does not necessarily need to get married tomorrow. Granted, this might be confusing for people who lack opinions and their own tastes, and are desperate to settle down, but happen to be actual lesbians. But, according to the current cultural mind-set, a heterosexual woman who has her act together simply does not exist in nature.

Is it any wonder, then, that we (at least we in the media, who have high rates of secret lesbianism) are so fascinated by Batwoman's newest incarnation? DC Comics might be touting the idea of diversity, but I suspect what we're really seeing is an antidote to the rampant girliness of our era presented — how's this for ironic? — in the safest way possible.

If there's anything scarier than a strong lesbian, it's a strong straight woman. Now there's a superhero we could use.

I understand what Daum is trying to get at: that straight women, or rather femininity, is not viewed in our society as a bastion of strength or success. That in our society, lesbians can fudge the rules a bit, and be viewed as strong because, well, if you're a lesbian, you have to be masculine.

But I have to say, when the label "lesbian" is used in our society, the context is derogatory. Being a lesbian in our society is not a positive thing. When people call Condoleezza Rice (Daum's example) a lesbian, it is because she's being thought of as less of a woman. Are people really impressed with Rice's amount of power? Sure, they may be threatened by her position and whatever power she may yield, and that is because she's a woman. A straight woman. To call her a lesbian is to try to take away some of the power she might have from being in the public eye and serving the current administration. To call her a lesbian is an attempt to further other her and cast her in a bad light.

As far as DC making the current incarnation of Batwoman a lesbian: it's to sell books. DC in no way believes that straight women can't be powerful, that a straight woman superhero isn't the answer to the typical male (straight) superhero. Most of the superhero's that we read about are straight: Wonder Woman is straight, She-Hulk is straight, Phoenix is soo straight, I could go on and on. I can only count on one hand the number of lesbian superhero's I'm aware of.

To say that in our society that only lesbians are allowed to be "powerful" is drastically missing the point. To be a lesbian in our society is about being an outsider. It's about having less privileges. It's about being looked at as just a lesbian-period-and hardly anything else.

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