Two things I saw in the news in the past 24 hours are of great interest to me – Wonder Woman and ‘Cat Calling Revenge’. Completely coincidentally, they are both related to women challenging the norm and fighting to gain equal footing by changing the way that society dictates female sexuality.
First, I’ll tell you a bit about an interesting new website started by a Baltimore resident, Shawna Potter. It’s called ‘Hollaback Baltimore!’ and it was created to send a message to all the men who harass women on the street, calling out things like “Eh,Yo, Beautiful!”, “Nice Legs”, “Looking Good”. Women are encouraged to take photos of the men who harass them, if it is safe, and post them on the site using apps for the Droid and iPhones, or uploading them to the website. The site features a map so that stats about the prevalence of harassment can be collected.
“There’s a bit of a shaming aspect there. A person might change his behavior if he knows his picture could be posted on a site where his boss or wife might see it.
We’re actually trying to give a consequence to the action. Until now, we just walk on and we don’t engage, and our silence normalizes the behavior. There’s no consequences, and most likely, most people don’t know what they’re doing is stressful or detrimental to women’s mental health.”
Her mission has found her in other cities where she has heard stories of harassment from other women. Street harassment is a global problem no matter who we are and what we’re wearing. Under Maryland law, street harassment is illegal, but requires the harassed party to first inform the person committing the behavior that it is unwelcome. If repeated, the guilty party could face criminal charges with a penalty of a $500 fine and up to 3 years in prison.
I’m trying to remember if there have been any incidents of harassment for me, but it all seems kinda hazy. Probably because I mostly ignore people who do, or have perfected my “f**k off” face and they know not to mess with me. I do remember one occasion though. It happened here in Washington DC. It was the afternoon of lobby day 2009. Myself and a couple of other YWOCLC girls decided to go shopping to kill time before our respective departure times. I don’t remember the area, but it was an H&M store. One of the sales assistants said hello as I walked towards the dressing room. He was cute and all but I wasn’t interested. I’m not the kind of person to be rude for no reason, and so I said hi back. Dude got pissed and was like “Is that all? You’re not gonna ask how my day’s going?” (Io_oI) What? Long story short, he threw a mini-tantrum with a lot to say about how black women complain there are no good black men but are rude when they do find one.
NPR’s pop-culture blog ‘Monkey See’, recently published a very interesting and amusing post about the irrationality of Wonder Woman’s costume. The writer Linda Holmes, wrote the post in form of a letter to Wonder Woman, pointing out to her, the various things that she couldn’t possibly accomplish in her skimpy costume. The post is appropriately titled, “Dear Wonder Woman: YOU Will Get Arrested If You Fight Crime In That Top”.
Here are some of my favorite parts:
Dear Wonder Woman:
…I’ve seen some of your costume reboots… I realize that you have often been asked to embrace the ridiculous, the silly, the impractical, the spangled, the swimsuit-y, and the downright inappropriate…
…these are not clothes for butt-kicking. They are clothes for high-kicking, specifically in a Rockettes Christmas show where you and sixty other women just like you are playing the part of an entire shipment of Wonder Woman Barbies that Santa had to throw away because they were deemed too naughty for the kids on the "nice" list…
Tell me the truth, Wonder: If I asked you to participate in a 50-yard dash, and it were you against someone you really wanted to be beat, is there any possibility you would say to me, "Sure, let me run inside and get my red plastic bustier that sucks me in like Scarlett O’Hara and supports fully 30 percent of my natural blessings?" THERE IS NO SUCH POSSIBILITY. You would not do yoga in that top. You would not run to catch a bus in that top, unless you crossed your arms over your chest the whole way there…
… Not only can you not use your lasso in that outfit, you can’t raise your arm to hail a taxi in that outfit…
It’s all true. Yes they did replace the star-spangled ‘hot pants’ *giggle* with dark blue pants. But the costume is still grossly illogical. Am I to believe that she’s going to do all that jumping and kicking without feeling the bustier (which in Sandra Bernhard’s opinion is designed to “boost your yays”) in her kidneys? All that boob bouncing has gotta be painful. It’s like Holmes pointed out, that’s what sports bras are for. It is not the fault of the creative team that Wonder Woman is so scantily dressed. The pressure to live up to old comic glory comes from the fans. An attempt to revamp WW’s image in 2010 was shot down.
Proposed change vs. Latest costume
Holmes makes a few interesting points about the contrast between Wonder Woman’s scanty attire and the current state of feminism. It might once have been deemed impossible that a woman could be smoking hot and a good fighter at the same time. Now there are characters like Uma Thurman’s ‘Beatrix Kiddo’, Sarah Michelle Gellar as ‘Buffy’, Michelle Yeoh as ‘Yu Shu Lien’ in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, or even J-Lo’s ‘Slim’. These are all characters who kicked ass and looked good doing it. They weren’t wearing underwear when they did it either. It’s all about the tennis shoes and yoga pants.
Many are arguing against the rationale of changing such an iconic character to fit in with current opinions of sensuality rather than the degrading, sexualizing ‘fan-service’ as we Otaku like to call it. I don’t think this is something that’s going to go away quietly. Most haven’t heard about the show yet and so I expect a lot more commentary, especially from women. Until then, I’ll be laughing at Holmes vivid descriptions of the various wardrobe malfunctions that could occur mid-battle.