Julia Sabbagh knows what girls want from comics, 25 years ago
Jan 9, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted In: Articles, Editorial

Catwoman and Batman have sex on panelThough the the Catwoman and Red Hood controversy died down, the comics blogosphere hasn’t run out of steam in regards to pointing out the gender inequalities found in comics and in its industry. They’re tackling video games, movies and TV and whatever else they can get their hands on. Regardless of how you feel about it (the protesters say they are calling attention to an important issue while their detractors feel this is making a mountain out of a molehill), for many this is serious business.

The claim is – if I may paint with a broad brush – that comics creators and employers as well as the fan base are misrepresenting women as well as under-employing and under supporting them. I bring this up because while perusing my collection the other day I came across this opinion piece by Julia Sabbagh from The Question #2, published in 1987

An opinion piece about comics for girls

Here are a few choice quotes if you prefer not to read the piece in its entirety.

“Years ago before women were a large part of the workforce, comics enforced what was to be the future for young girls (…) now we’re out of the kitchen and earning a living.”
“Girls attach themselves to heroes with more emotion and compassion.”
“Continuity in comics serves to alienate girls who prefer the richness of fantasy without the excess accumulation of data.”
“girls are looking for examples in society which support their growth potential.”

Most amusing of all to me is DC’s disclaimer box at the end of the editorial which reads:

“The views and opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views, opinions or position of DC comics.”

To be fair, that disclaimer is published under each of the opinion pieces printed in the series.  But the omission of the usual “does not necessarily” sort of ends up incriminating DC.

So you tell me. This was published 25 years ago. Did DC heed Julia’s council? Has the comics landscape improved for women since this editorial was published? Is this a real issue or are we just throwing a tantrum over a non-issue?


4 Comments Add Comment

  • Chipreece January 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Wow, great find Jason! I can’t really speak for content in female character books, because I have read almost none.

    But I would assume in appearance girls would have some problem with the majority representation in comics.

  • Chemist52 January 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Interesting article! I like her point about the role of girls/women in society changing, but not the conclusion she seems to draw from it; that some books should be aimed to suit “girl’s tastes”. I don’t agree that women have inherently different tastes, and marketing a product towards some socially defined ideal of “what women want” isn’t much better than leaving them out entirely. Nonetheless, I like the benefits of comics she points out, like providing role models and making people think. Those are two reasons that keep me coming back!

    P.S. Nice catch with the disclaimer! I wouldn’t have noticed it…lol!

  • Steve Rogers January 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

    From the sound of this rant, Julia is obviously a “militant feminist” who doesn’t like men and the comics “men” create. Take a gander at the droll Disney puts out, Julia.

    Its ok to fill our daughters heads with superficial ideas like being a Princess right?


  • Jason Newcomb January 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    @Chemist: I’m of the same mind. Females are not universally of the same tastes. Though I’d say it’s fair to say there are common threads among the tastes of women.

    @Steve: This strikes as pretty far from militant. I’ve a read a modicum of feminist literature and this opinion is quite mild relative to some of the more extreme points of views of certain feminists.