Geek Girls Rule! #213 – Sexism in the Avengers?
So, Jim C. Hines had a post about how he felt that Whedon’s depiction of Black Widow was problematic. Basically, he felt that the scene between her and Loki had spun out of her control and that the sexist attack by Loki was out of character. I, and a few others, disagreed, well, I disagreed with the first part. We felt, especially given the opening Widow scene, that Natasha was completely in control the entire time and played Loki like a fiddle. Yes, she used her real pain (as you see in the later scene with Hawkeye), but she used it against him, he didn’t pry it out of her like he thought he did. And I have to say that the look on his face when he realized what had happened was priceless.
However, I do agree that calling her a “mewling quim” was egregiously sexist (which I neglected to add in my direct response to him, sorry, Mr. Hines), and kind of out of character for Loki, who pretty much has an equal amount of loathing for all mortals. I have to agree with Mr. Hines that the line was a “mainlining kittens” sort of line*, and totally unnecessary, and probably little more than a way to sneak in a really naughty word, yet preserve their rating. If he was going to use that line on Widow, then they should have researched some Shakespearean naughty words for dudes, too, and had him use those on the others. Trust me, there’s hundreds of ‘em.
Mr. Hines later made another post to chide those of us (or at least some of us) who disagreed with him about not being able to criticize our fandoms. And yes, I agree with him, especially after blogging here as long as I have, that there is a segment of fandom that seems pathologically incapable of either criticizing or accepting criticism of their obsessions.
But sometimes people just disagree with you.
I have a lot of criticisms of Joss Whedon’s depictions of women, which I’m realizing now pretty much require their own post, but Black Widow isn’t one of them. And I think this is partially because Widow’s backstory was out of his hands. Black Widow is a spy and assassin. She was a cold-blooded murderer for hire, and now she’s a cold-blooded murderer on the side of angels (kind of sort of, I mean, well, the screwed up shit SHIELD does would need a post of its own). Look at it this way, on that team, Widow is the only one who isn’t a God, Superpowered in one sort or another, and without a power suit to give her equivalent strength and protection. Of course she ran and was freaked the fuck out after Hulk chased her, anyone would be. Even Thor looked less than pleased to have to fight him. The thing is, they didn’t have anyone else on that team who would have needed to run from Hulk like that, who wasn’t Tony (suit). If they’d had Hulk chase Tony before he got to his suit, no one would find Tony getting away believable. Because let’s face it, the dude drinks like a fish and has probably ingested every designer drug known to man, and a few extras he whipped up for kicks one weekend. And they needed someone awesome to run from the Hulk to show how pants-shittingly scary he is.
And look at it this way, Hawkeye HAS a super power, but if you noticed, once he was free of the alien mind control he mostly stayed out of hand to hand combat. He did what he does best, shooting the fuck out of things with explodey arrows. If a female character had done that, even with that power, you can bet you’d be hearing all about how useless she was. But nearly everyone who saw that movie came out with a big, giant crush on Hawkeye, even the dudes.
So, Widow, with no super powers apart from being more clever than the God of Clever**, is down in the thick of it, shooting, stabbing and shocking dudes. She kicks Hawkeye’s ass, in spite of trying not to really hurt him (and that puts you at a serious disadvantage. If you’ve never fought someone who was trying to hurt you, while you were just trying to make them stop without really hurting them, even though you know you could, it’s hard as hell. I’ve done it. I’d rather fight someone I didn’t give a shit about any day). I don’t find even Widow’s willingness to use her own pain to hook Loki problematic in the least. She’s a superspy/assassin. She makes James Bond look like a freaking Cub Scout. She uses every tool at hand, even her own vulnerabilities.
So, to summarize, “no that would take to long, let me sum up:” I disagree that having the Black Widow channel her own pain to manipulate Loki was sexist. I do agree that the line “mewling quim” was sexist, out of character for Loki and gratuitous. I don’t think having her run from Hulk was a sexist decision. Well, it would have looked a whole lot less sexist if there’d been other, superpowered, female Avengers in the first place.
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*”Mainlining kittens,” for those of you new to the blog, is my shorthand for unnecessary “evil things” to show you how “evil” the character is, in case you missed that he’s “evil.” Tim Roth’s characters in just about everything where he’s a bad guy, but especially in Rob Roy and The Musketeer, are excellent examples of mainlining kittens.
**Loki is the trickster god of the Norse. That’s his thing, being more clever than anyone ever, and tricking them all. Subnote: Loki is a TERRIBLE name for a cat. They try to live up to it, just saying.