Last week we explored how the X-Women (despite their large roster of kick-ass ladies) may not be the best representation of true equality in comics due to the message that their powers send out to an audience, their standing in society, and the careers that they may (and may not) have. Please check out Part One if you haven’t already.
Or, if you’re a rabid Avengers fan, let’s jump in and discuss how the She-vengers may do a better job at portraying well-rounded women than the X-Men. The Avengers have been gaining notoriety ever since buzz of the first film began to form. Black Widow has been the predominant ass-kicker in the public consciousness, but characters from upcoming films (Scarlet Witch in Avengers 2, rumors of Wasp in Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel in her solo film) are also beginning to receive attention. Given their cinematic platform, these women are starting to become household names, competing with the notable women of Fox’s X-Franchise. But how does their reputation hold up against the X-Women?
Like last week, I’ll only be mentioning some of the more well-known X-Women and Avengers to save time. So let’s begin.
While there are some of the She-vengers that fall into the power categories of protection, generation, manipulation, seduction, or deception, what sets the Women-gers apart is that they have more positive attributes to balance them out.
Of course, there are some problematic messages as well. Wasp, the first female Avenger, has the ability to shrink and blast out tiny bolts of stinging energy. Translation: she is small, relatively unseen, and her power is to be annoying.
Scarlet Witch, the mutant with the power of disruptive energy, basically brings chaos and screws things up regularly.
Moondragon and Mantis both have been known to manipulate people with their telepathy.
However, the Lady-vengers have several women that are allowed to be physically imposing and capable of holding their own against men (most notably She-Hulk and Smasher, but also well-trained women such as Black Widow, Mantis, Mockingbird, and Tigra). Some of them are muscular, others are athletic, but all of them are able to hold their own against male opponents without their victories being seen as a “cheap shot”.
Moreover, two of the women on that list (Black Widow and Mockingbird) have absolutely no powers at all, making their tenure on the team all the more impressive. Think about it: Black Widow, an above-average spy, is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with actual gods and super-soldiers and garner their respect.
This sends an awesome message: that with hard work, determination, and skill women can elevate themselves to places of greatness. Smasher (a new recruit from Hickman’s run on Avengers) has upped the ante even more by being chosen as the only human emissary between Earth and the Shi’ar system. Take that Hillary Clinton!
While the Fem-vengers do have certain members with unsavory records (most notably Scarlet Witch, who had a brief tenure in Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), most of their roster could pass a background check. And that’s exactly the point: the Avengers at one time was a government sanctioned team. Hell, they even had a UN Charter which stipulated that no Avenger is “above the law” and each member was subject to disciplinary action.
Furthermore, the close ties that the Avengers have with SHIELD would dictate certain levels of security clearance (which would be hindered by previous criminal activities). The fact that the Estrogen-gers (too much?) have boasted three members that were SHIELD operatives (Black Widow, Mockingbird, and Spider-Woman) is evidence of how closely tied the two organizations are.
And while the Avengers may do things which politicians or the general populace may disapprove of, they are still invited to Capitol Hill, parades, and functions. They are still seen as positive role models.
Not only do the She-vengers have high approval ratings due to their team membership, but many of them also have careers outside of superhero-ing.
- Wasp is a well-known fashion designer who has created costumes for a number of superheroes.
- Captain Marvel was in the Air Force.
- Spectrum was in the National Guard.
- She-Hulk was and is a lawyer (which was prominently featured in her recent series).
Having these female heroes balance their personal, professional, and super-professional lives is quite a task, and one that sends a clear message to the readership: women are more than capable of handling a career on top of any other obligations that life throws their way.
At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that my personal taste as an adult is not necessarily what is best for the upcoming generation. Do I want my future child to internalize the message that women are not as proficient when compared to men? That they are not to be trusted? That they are not as capable of maintaining multiple interests and responsibilities?
I would rather not have to explain these shortcomings. I would rather surround my future children with women of strength, character, and commitment. Women who are valued by society, who are seen as staples of their communities, and who stand on equal footing with the “big boys”. And with the recent reveal that Thor and Kamala Khan will be on the roster of the revamped Avengers title, there is even more to be happy about.
Which team do you think are the best role models for the next generation? Chime in with your opinions below.