'Let Me Empower Myself for Your Pleasure, Master'

I haven't closely followed the relaunch, but DC it's catching heat for familiar reasons:


At this point Catwoman #1 is arguably just a boyishly exuberant exercise in superhero titillation, with lovely pencils from Guillem March and terrific colours from Tomeu Morley. But it's the final five pages that cement this book's place in comic history, as Catwoman aggressively turns a visit from the Batman into a bat-booty-call, thus reducing years of sexual tension into good old drunken Halloween sex. 

Now, when it comes to transparent attempts to pander to the sexual fantasies of fanboys, this one looks unusually progressive. The woman is clearly in control of the situation and is using the willing male for her own satisfaction. This must be what nerds think feminism looks like. The scene is dressed up as female empowerment, but it's not there for female readers. Like two straight girls making out in a bar, it.s all about pandering to male hormones. Catwoman is not trying to please the man in the comic, but she is trying to please the man holding the comic. 

And that's fine. There's a place for that sort of thing. Our culture will always pander to straight men like it thinks they must be important - and, who knows, some day they might be. (Oh, don't make that face.) There absolutely ought to be room in our culture for this sort of straight male wank bank codswallop. 

The problem with the DC reboot is that it's not leaving much room for anything else...

Characters who should be leveraged to show female readers that the medium is a safe place for them to find entertainment are instead showing more skin and less gumption than they might have a month ago. Perennial favourite Harley Quinn has switched from sassy moll to Suicide Girl. Bisexual stripper Voodoo is one of only two female character to get a new title. Power Girl's book got cancelled, and she's now someone's girlfriend. 

One of this week's other new releases, Red Hood & The Outlaws, sees Starfire pulling the same 'let me empower myself for your pleasure, master' schtick as Catwoman, only she does it socially-inexperienced alien style, like a sexy orange Mork. Even Oracle, a popular female hero who has to rely on her brains rather than her athleticism, has been rolled back to a generic previous incarnation, thus bumping two other established characters out of the picture. She's not wearing hot pants yet, but she has made the DC universe a less diverse and inclusive place.

I love the feminism for nerds line, but it really is beyond even that. One of the things about pitching stewardesses and playboy bunnies as liberating, is that it's a kind of freedom that's really comfortable for men to grapple with.

I'd have to say that, by far, gender problems are the greatest force driving me away from my childhood obsessions (hip-hop, comics, and to a lesser extent, video games.) Even as a kid I thought that there was a something rather pathetic about 'boyish sexism.' At it's core it's bullying.  But I was willing to tune it out for those aspects I loved. (I had that privilege.) But you get older and you have kids and you have a wife and, somehow, your angry denunciations of "gold-diggers," and your fantasies about Catwoman simply don't fit.

You have other fantasies. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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