Superheroes Should Be Men

Before people start to yell at me for being backward and sexist, let me start with a fairly obvious claim:  violence against women is bad.  Violence in general is bad of course, but when we say that violence against women is bad we’re not just saying that violence in general is bad.  The “against women” part adds something to the claim.  Violence in general is bad, but violence against women is worse precisely because it’s against women.

Violence is frequently involved in superhero stories.  It isn’t always, of course, but it’s rather the exception when superheroes and supervillains resolve their differences through conversation.  Most of that violence is directed at the superheroes, too.  (A violent superhero beating up a pacifist supervillain would be almost incomprehensible.)  If the superheroic target is a woman, this becomes violence against a woman.

First let me respond to the suggestion that perhaps it isn’t the same sort of violence against a woman that people mean when they say, “violence against women.”  My response:  do we really want to nitpick?  Do we want some violence against women to be more acceptable than other violence against women?  Do we want some husband who beats his wife to get a lighter sentence because he’s able to show that he “doesn’t mean it in that other way.”  If you want those things, I simply can’t understand your position, and you will probably never understand mine.  I suspect that the overwhelming majority of humanity is on my side though.

Second let me respond to the argument that the superheroic woman is superpowered, and thus shouldn’t draw the same response.  Perhaps you mean that in essence she is a superhero, not a woman, and therefore the violence is merely violence against a superhero.  If being a woman isn’t essential to her though, why all the clamor to make sure that some superheroes are women?  If she isn’t a woman, then the other superheroes aren’t men, so there can be no gender disparity.

Perhaps you mean that superpowers alter her in some fundamental way so that we don’t need to see her as a women when she’s the target of violence.  Again, it isn’t clear why there’s such a clamor to make sure some superheroes are women then, since becoming a superhero means becoming less of a woman.  You might suggest that she becomes more of a woman, although then the would still be the target of “violence against women” and you’ve added an odd insult to all the women in the real world:  they are not woman enough to endure violence.  Do we really want to say that?  (Again, if you want to say that, we will probably never understand each other and the world is on my side.)

Perhaps you mean that her superpowers make her somehow equal to the fight, whereas real women are presumably not equal to any fights.  This radically changes the dynamic of superhero stories though, in addition to any insult to feminists.  While everything in superhero fights scales up (often dramatically), the basic situation of a man fighting another man (or group of men) is realistic.  Good men often fight evil men in the real world, too.  The only difference is scale.  I may never get in a fight that threatens a city and has global implications (a la Superman in Man of Steel, which is almost traumatically scaled up), but I may someday have to fight someone else on my own meager level.  That isn’t an unrealistic possibility in and of itself.  (Although it is thankfully unlikely.)  If real women are not equal to any fights (and that’s the source of our conviction that violence against women is especially evil), then any man fighting any woman is objectionable regardless of scale.  Giving a woman unrealistic powers doesn’t make the basic situation more realistic, it only highlights how unrealistic it is for a woman to be in that situation.

Third let me respond to the argument that violence against superheroic women isn’t objectionable because the women involved volunteer for it in some way.  What makes violence against women objectionable though can’t be that women usually don’t choose it.  That would make “violence against women” nothing more than “violence against the unwilling,” but even men can be unwilling.  (For example, I am unwilling.)  What makes violence against women objectionable has to be something either about the fact of womanhood or the choice of the attacker to target a woman.  Both of those would remain even if the woman had superpowers.

With all of those responses in place, consider the most common argument in favor of making some superheroes women:  the need for superheroic women as role models.  Marvel has just announced that Thor will soon be a woman; let’s imagine that I start my daughter reading Thor.  Thor is a pretty violent comic.  Pretty soon Thor is going to get into a fight against some man, perhaps Kurse.  Kurse is unlikely to refrain from punching Thor, since hitting Thor is one of Kurse’s favorite passtimes.

Now, in the real world, if my daughter comes across a man who happens to enjoy hitting her, what I’m going to want her to do is get to safety and get help.  (If you don’t agree with that desire, see my earlier comments about how we will never understand one another.  And stay away from my daughter.)  So, what I want Thor to model for my daughter is running away and getting help.

Instead Thor pulls out her hammer and fights.  What is my daughter supposed to learn from that?  That it’s okay for her to get hit in some situations, perhaps as long as she hits back?  That’s not helpful.  That she might be able to handle the situation differently if she can be something other than a woman, or if she can be more of a woman (or less of a woman)?  That’s not helpful.  That it’s certainly nice not to be weaker than attackers?  That’s not helpful.

What virtue is she supposed to imitate?  Bravery?  I’m fine with her being a coward if it gets her away from the violence.  Endurance?  I don’t want her to wait and see how much violence she can endure.  Hope that she can eventually overcome?  HOPE IS WHAT GETS WOMEN AWAY FROM VIOLENCE!!!  (If you ever tell an abused woman to just have hope that she can overcome….  you are a sick monster.  Give her hope that she can escape abuse.)  I don’t want her to take a beating while she watches for a chance to win the fight; I want her out of the fight.

(That last illustrates a crucial distinction.  My wife is a fourth-degree black belt; she can defend herself.  I have no particular problems with women learning self defense; I actually think that’s a good idea.  Superhero stories aren’t just about superheroes defending themselves though.  Batman doesn’t just know martial arts for self-defense, for example.)

At least with respect to violence, superheroic women inspire all the wrong sorts of behaviors.  Violence is a significant part of superhero stories however.  Even worse because of this, things we ought never want to see come packaged with material intended to entertain us.  We want to read a story or see a movie about people saving the planet, but for half of it we’re watching some woman getting beaten up for the sake of dramatic tension.

I think it’s great and positive for superhero stories to include important, complex, and powerful women.  I’m not advocating a return to some sort of world in which women are nothing more than McGuffins, characters that are only included because the superhero has to be rescuing somebody.  I don’t think women should be background objects, attractive but useless.  I just think that when it comes to the action part of superheroics, when it comes to getting in the fights that need to happen, it’s better to leave that fighting to men.


The Supreme Court’s Mistake

The United States Supreme Court has made a horrifying mistake.  Some people have been given the freedom to deprive others of important rights and assistance, rights and assistance upon which those others rely, basic things that ought to be free to everyone!

But these folks, the ones who were given this freedom, succeeded at a daring ruse.  They wanted to act on a self-centered and destructive attitude, so they portrayed it as a fundamental right.  That is to say, they made it seem like their rights were in jeopardy when people were merely asking them to rise to the basest requirements of justice.

The court believed them, overlooking all the damage that decision would support.  Unlike those people above, other people’s actual rights were in jeopardy in fact, not just imagination.  Not made up distortions or exaggerations, but real and fundamental rights were in jeopardy.

I am of course talking about Roe v. Wade, which gave women the unilateral authority to kill other humans beings based on such weighty considerations as convenience and whimsy.  If you need to read the first paragraphs again, now that you understand I’m not talking about Hobby Lobby, go ahead.

Just to be clear, a fetus….  Actually, let’s back that up.   A zygote is both human and alive; that’s not in question.  Both sides have to agree to it because it happens to be a fairly indisputable set of scientific facts.  Abortion is an intentional act to end the life (kill) a living human.  The only question is whether that living human should have the right not to be intentionally killed.

Abortion advocates argue that unborn children shouldn’t really be counted as people (usually based on a completely nonsensical understanding of the importance of “brain waves”), that what’s at stake is women’s freedom and destiny, that defenders of “forced birth” are trying to hold women back and subjugate them.

It all sounds very evocative–it certainly stirs up tremendous emotion in abortion advocates–but it boils down to the claim that women shouldn’t be required to accept the rights of others when doing so involves any personal hardship.

Personally, I am sympathetic to the hardship involved–pregnancy and childbirth are hard–but human rights trump hardship.  Should we have let slave-owners deny the rights of their slaves because emancipation was going to be hard?

Actually, the slavery comparison is more appropriate than it might seem.  You know who else used “science” to deny basic rights to people they argued were not human enough?  You know who else felt like their destiny was imperiled by vicious restrictions on their obvious rights?  You know who else made up inflammatory and ridiculous terms to make their opponents seem like monsters?  You know who seems like the monsters in retrospect?

And the sad thing is that abortion is a miserable reality even for the mother.  It’s most often a dejected and desperate act of a woman who feels powerless, an act with serious, harmful, long-term emotional and medical consequences, in addition to the death of a child.  It isn’t some triumph of liberty and autonomy, through which women exercise their ability to determine their own destiny.  Women don’t choose it because they feel free to.  They choose it because they don’t feel free not to.

In short, we are killing those who need us and who cannot defend themselves, and who are so dependent on us through no fault of their own, and we are doing it in pursuit of our own degradation and harm, because we no longer have the moral courage either to endure hardship or to support those who endure it.  We certainly don’t have the moral courage to say to the clamoring throng who support abortion that what they defend is twisted, sick, and evil.

The Radical Harry Reid

It’s neither rare nor surprising for a politician to say something conspicuously wrong-headed.  That seems to be the bulk of what they do; it’s almost enough to make one suspect that they have special training.  Sometimes though one says something which is inconspicuously wrong-headed.  These are the times I’m most tempted to comment, a temptation to which I am currently succumbing.

Early today, in response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision concerning a portion of the Affordable Care Act, Harry Reid reportedly tweeted, “It’s time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women.”  This sounds like exactly the sort of comment around which feminists everywhere should unite, and they probably will.  It’s so groundbreakingly stupid though, it’s hard to believe that Mr. Reid, who isn’t stupid, invented the comment himself.

I’ll gloss over the suggestion that the five men of the majority opinion decided based on their sex rather than on the legal reasons that they themselves provided.  Not only is that suggestion obviously fallacious (and insulting), it’s very nearly a conspiracy theory about how more than half of the most powerful justices in the United States are largely and obviously incapable of thinking clearly.  (Or perhaps it’s an indictment of clear thinking in general.)

What’s far more interesting–at least from the perspective of absurdity–is the suggestion that a decision affecting women is somehow unjust unless it has been adjudicated by women.  Presumably, no one but women can fairly decide women’s issues.  Naturally, it would be helpful if there were more women, perhaps a majority, with seats on the Supreme Court.

Then how could they fairly decide men’s issues, though?

It seems that the only solution acceptable is to have two Supreme Courts, one comprised of women to decide women’s issues and one comprised of men to decide men’s issues.  They would of course be equal, just separate, or to be slightly more transparent:  “Separate but Equal.”  Naturally women and men should also each have their own Congresses, to write laws that affect them, and their own President, to oversee their own individual militaries and to spout their own most ridiculous rhetoric.  Afterward we can make sure that they attend different schools, so that their educations aren’t unfairly biased, and drink out of different water-fountains, so that they don’t get cooties.

According to Mr. Reid (or whoever tweeted as him), the difference between their experiences is so great that they simply cannot be trusted to represent each other.  Clearly no one can fairly decide any matter involving anyone significantly different from himself or herself.  Ironically of course, the difference in question is one that we as a culture are aggressively trying to pretend doesn’t exist anyway.  After all, it’s wrong to treat men and women differently.

Perhaps Mr. Reid (or whoever tweeted as him) should have begun with a difference that he’s ideologically prepared (and required) to acknowledge, an economic one.  Perhaps it’s time for rich people (like Harry Reid and most other politicians) to stop deciding what happens to poor people (like most of their constituents), with the complimentary claim that poor people should stop deciding what happens to rich people too.  (I’m sure a lot of 18th century French nobles would have liked that.)  Perhaps the rich and the poor should have their own governments too, and never the twain shall meet.

It seems we actually need four governments–one by and for rich men, one by and for rich women, one by and for poor men, and one by and for poor women.  I don’t know why we should stop there though.  After all there are other significant differences that might impugn someone’s credibility as a representative.  We might also divide by race, by religion, by marital status, by the marital status of one’s parents, by whether one lives in an urban setting or a rural one, and by any criteria that someone might possibly use to complain about disenfranchisement.

Of course that last is perhaps the most critical.  Eventually, as the various (but obviously more fair) governments become smaller and represent smaller groups of people, the most obvious division in any particular group will be between those people in government and those people not in government.  Why should those people in government make decisions for those not in government?  By virtue of being representatives, they fundamentally alter their experience so that they are no longer representative.

Clearly Harry Reid (or whoever tweeted as him), with his call for a more justly representative Supreme Court, doesn’t want representative government at all.  That’s something of a problem for an elected official in a representative democracy.