Here at Not Your Mama’s Gamer we spend a lot of time talking about the unfortunate side effects of being a woman passionate about the video game industry. Obviously for good reason, there are constant struggles in our quest for equal AND correct representation in video games that need to be brought to light and discussed in a healthy manner. Every now and then there is a glimmer of hope and I personally try to bring these instances to light just as much as the bad because it’s easy to lose hope when you are surrounded with stories of women being sexually assaulted at conventions or misunderstandings of what it means to make a “joke” about rape.
If you are an avid comic book/Marvel fan you may have heard of a man named Brian Michael Bendis. If you haven’t heard of him you should start paying attention: he’s a comic book writer who has won five Eisner Awards for his work (Eisner Awards are the comic book world equivalent of an Oscar), helped to launch the Ultimate Marvel Universe for which he continues to write for Ultimate Spiderman, and relaunched the Avengers comic book franchise with New Avengers. This is only a small amount of the work done by Mr. Bendis; needless to say he is a well-known and well respected member of the comic book/graphic novel realm.
On September 15, Bendis responded to a question asked anonymously via the “Ask” feature, which must be an honor as a popular name in the comic book industry I imagine Bendis receives an immense amount of questions on a daily basis. Unfortunately the question asked was one in which the asker was being unintentionally sexist, and I say unintentionally because you can tell this person is being earnest in their question without intending on being hateful but the cultural mindset towards women in “comicdom” has almost groomed them into having this sentiment. The user asked:
I understand trying to make comics female friendly, but aren’t you guys worried that you’re going to lose your core audience which is male? In the X-books you’ve had more focus on the like on these females like jean and kitty while it should be Cyclops who has been the star of the X-Men comics for years. Jean and kitty are secondary characters. You guys listen too much to women bitching. The cause so much freakin drama in comicdom.
To which Bendis responded in the most amazing manner possible; there is no name calling or meanness to his tone, he is really just sad that this sentiment exists.
Wow. You are the first person who I am kind of glad asked your question anonymously because I don’t want to know you.
as a reader of my work I want you to listen to me very carefully: you have major major issues. almost every line of your question reeks of complete misunderstandings of yourself as a man and of women in general.
it’s okay to find yourself more interested in something than others, of course it is, it’s okay to like Cyclops more than Jean Grey, but for you to draw the line at women characters not being interesting to you because you are a man or that you think I am being manipulated by some bitching women is really out there.
and as a reader of the X-Men whose entire philosophy is about tolerance and understanding… you are missing the point.
Normally I would not have posted something like this in its entirety, but I really don’t want any of our readers to miss the point here because of inability to click through to Tumblr (my work blocks this site, for example). Bendis was able to respond to that fan in a manner that people have had a hard time arguing against. Usually the trolls will come out and defend their fellow Marvel reader, but Bendis really put him in his place. And this is very rewarding for the likes of women like us because of how well respected Bendis is in his industry. While our voices can only add so much to the fight for equality and understanding, a voice like his can do so much more.
On top of this, Bendis adds his voice to a much larger matter: whether or not women are viable superheroes. By answering this question in the manner that he has, Bendis has implied that he finds the female superheroes (specfically Jean Grey) just as interesting and able to hold a protagonist position as the other male superheroes. This is a debate that comes up quite a bit in the comic book industry as more females argue that they want to see a female superhero they can relate to and respect. Marvel’s focus on their female arsenal has been refreshing for a good chunk of time now, but as this questioner shows, not everybody has been happy about it. Marvel has plugged along though and it’s obvious that this must be in part due to Bendis.
This is a victory, but currently a somewhat small one as this has not gotten very much attention (and by not much, I mean that I can only find one site that references it). Not that I’m saying we need to plaster it across billboards in order for it to matter, but spreading the word of someone whose voice has weight can have a very large impact on those who may think that this cause is meaningless or unfounded. While people like Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade gain a lot of attention for saying controversial things that hurt the cause, someone like Bendis has so far gained very little attention for what he has said. The wins are just as important as the fight, in fact they may be even more important because we have to show that we are accomplishing what we set out to achieve. A big name, a respected name, and someone who is not publicly labeled feminist coming out and defending a comic books focus on female characters is a great step forward; one that should be celebrated.