Wonder Woman’s Kinky Feminist Roots

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Wonder Woman;s Kinky Feminist Roots

Wonder Woman will appear in another DC film, which is a sequel to the 2017 smash hit . The character has become so recognizable and popular that she has appeared in TV, books, ads, and other popular media. The character’s creation is a fascinating combination of feminism, fetish, and psychology. Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston was to say the least a strange figure in the comics world. He believed as this article from The Atlantic stated were superior to men. Marston  was convinced that in 1,000 years women would be running the world. It was not that he just thought they would be in charge, rather they should be. There are more female leaders in governments around the world, but it seems improbable that some form of matriarchy would arise. This article was published in 2014 before the Wonder Woman movie was released.  While longtime fans know all DC characters there remains a rich history that is normally ignored. The early Wonder Woman comics were designed to promote feminist ideology, yet also had sexual innuendo with the the depiction of bondage. Some how Wonder Woman was always getting tied up in ropes or chains and then used her immense physical strength to break free. There may have been more than one type of fetish suggested than bondage. Besides being involved in comics, Marston was a psychologist. When discussing the creation of Wonder Woman all  the credit cannot be given to Marston alone. His two lovers Elizabeth Holloway  and Olive Byrne  contributed to the character’s creation. Entertainment can sometimes be a vehicle for the promotion of ideology.

       William Moulton Marston was a very unusual personality. His family life was a menage a trois . He had four children from Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne. This would have been unacceptable in the 1930s  and 1940s, so it was kept secret. Marston was influenced by the women and historical events in his life. The suffragist movement and Olive Byrne socialist feminism were two factors in his ideological development. His fetish for bondage may have come from suffragettes chaining themselves to buildings during the 1910s. It could be questioned whether or not he was genuinely feminist. It appears that he was able to manipulate two women into maintaining what was an unconventional home life. Marston’s article ” Don’t Laugh at the Comics” caught the attention of Charles Maxwell Gaines. Gaines was the head of DC comics and realized from reading the article in Family Circle that the company could benefit from his expertise. Comics were coming under attack as being a bad influence on children. To counter this Gaines needed professionals to counter this falsehood. William Moulton Marston thought that comics main problem was the “bloodcurdling masculinity” as he referred to it. This was not exactly the more ludicrous argument of “toxic masculinity” uttered by feminists of today, but rather the lack of female heroes and independent characters.

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If girls and women were presented with negative images in entertainment or media in general this could effect their self-esteem. As Marston articulated the damage of  negative images of women : “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power.” He explained further ” not wanting to be girls they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peaceloving as good women are.” Not all women are good and peace loving. This is a positive sex stereotype that at times is embraced by feminists when it suits them. The idea was more so a product of social feminism and the temperance movement. Marston exalted female qualities as he saw them saying  “women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness.” Thinking deeply about this it actually puts men into a gender stereotype. Violence and brute force are associated with men, when there are cases in which women were involved in sparking conflict. Every man is not violent or is every women peaceful. Maybe Marston was not as progressive as thought, at least by a 21st century standard. However his intent for Wonder Woman’s creation was clear:   “the obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” One wonders if Marston was genuine activist, fetishist, or possibly a con man. His failed business ventures and the development of the polygraph make some wonder if the socialist-pacifist feminism he preached was just another enterprise.

        When deconstructing entertainment, literature, or media certain elements can be discovered. Interpretations can be debated. However, there are some messages that are so obvious. Bondage and fetishism was a part of Wonder Woman comics. Wonder Woman in many of her comics were either tied up by her enemies. Panels would be devoted to breaking free from chains. Some would be quick to say that this is just a trope of action comics. Others would say this a metaphor for women’s oppression and the inevitability of  equal rights being achieved.The blatant display of bondage is so obviously it is almost unthinkable that Marston was able to put that in Wonder Woman comics. The character was so popular that William Marston had a level of creative freedom. Bondage was not the only fetish that could be seen in the comics. Cratolagnia was part of the list of fetishes that Wonder Woman comics demonstrated.

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Her strength and athleticism was highlighted through the art of  H.G. Peter. William Moulton Marston was not a comic artist himself. The job of illustrating fell on Peter. Few people remember his name, but he could also take credit for being one of the creators of Wonder Woman. His career was based in cartooning and illustration. After Marston’s death he would continue to work with the character. Peter’s character design featured a Wonder Woman with a traditional figure, with some athletic development. The moral panic critics were quick to see that there was a fetish element in Wonder Woman. Marston stated that it was not violent or abusive, rather it was teaching readers to value peace and a more  positive perspective about women. This was published before the sexual revolution and the second wave feminist movement. The character was more of a bold statement back in the 1940s. The article incorrectly says that Marston presented strong women as submissive. What he was really articulating was the idea of men submitting to women’s loving authority. Only when this happens can the world be free of war and oppression. It is questionable how much the creator actually thought this was possible. One thing is for sure is that he was into fetishes.

          Using Amazons to deliver a feminist message can be both a bizarre and contradictory message. The Amazons of ancient Greek myth were a tribe of warrior women who live apart from men. Some myths presented them as man hating, rather than protagonists. Their existence in mythology was not to glorify the strength of women, rather to exalt Greek male heroes. While skilled in combat, they would meet their defeat. The blatant message was do not challenge male strength or power. Most importantly do not violate the natural gender order. Penthesilea was killed by Achilles. Hercules takes the girdle of Hippolyta and kills her. The queen of the Amazons was defeated in the ninth labor of Hercules. Amazons however got a more positive image in popular culture. It could have been due to a greater acceptance of strong women or women as protagonists. The Amazon’s of the DC universe are not man-hating, rather they despise the ways of the outside world. They are capable warriors, but not bellicose. Wonder Woman has been forced to fight seeking as the problems of  outside world come to her home. Instead of remaining on Themyscira she sets out to battle war and injustice. This depiction of  Amazons differs due to the fact it is based on utopian  social feminist literature. The interesting aspect is that over time the term and concept has been used differently. Some have used the term amazon to refer to strong or muscular women. Knowing the original myths and definition it does not fit perfectly. The Amazons of myth were warriors. While the sportswomen of the modern day are not warriors ( although there are women serving in combat roles). The Amazons of myth are normally not depicted with noticeable musculature. The modern sportswoman has attained a highly developed physique through training and sports nutrition. Strong women of today do not hold misandry as part of their beliefs. Amazons of  Greek myth only kept men around for breeding purposes for producing more girls. At least in a contemporary  context strong women are   modern Amazons.

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Definitions and words can change overtime. The question remains is are Amazons a feminist statement? The ancient myths were not pro-women pronouncements. The modern pop culture presentations could be. The image has made such an impact it has become a small branch of feminist ideology. Amazon feminism promotes celebrating the strong woman both in history and fictional works. The idea of amazon may no longer be a pejorative. The history and myth can be confusing, which why it is subject to debate.

      William Multon Marston can either be viewed as a fetishist, a feminist, or charlatan. Maybe he was all of these. A combination of psychology, political ideas, and art produced one of DC’s most iconic characters. His contradictions almost reflect the contradictory nature of  the feminist movement in America. The feminists were allied with the abolitionists in the 19th century. When emancipation occurred the alliance gradually drifted when African Americans demanded more rights. By 1920. the movement completely abandoned the cause for racial equality, when suffrage for white women was achieved.  The feminist movement was always divided between race and class lines. The sex and gender division just like others was debated. Marston’s solution was the embrace of loving community. To the radical feminists that would emerge in the 1960s, this would be unacceptable. They wanted separation and tended to have a more hostile attitude at men in general. Marston could have face harsh criticism from these individuals if had lived to that decade. He most likely would have been classified as a sex positive feminist, which still remains condemned by sections of the movement.  Wonder Woman has kinky roots, but since 1941 has become something more.  She will remain a long lasting and lovable cartoon character for generations to come.

Wonder Woman’s Kinky Feminist Roots

Beth Skwarecki : Worrying About Bulky Muscles on Women Is Some Sexist Bull****

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Worrying About Women Getting Bulky is Sexist

For too long the fear of women getting bulky has held them back from athletic potential. Even though “bulkiness” or “long lean muscles” is not a reality of exercise science. There is obviously sexism related to this. Man are told they can become strong. Women are told they can tone or worse they may see improvement at all. Beth Skwarecki explains why this acceptable form of sexism still remains. Not only is it prejudiced and biased there is no scientific credibility. Women have just as much right to develop their bodies athletically and physically. The idea that femininity should be equated with weakness or inferiority must be challenged. Women no matter what they look like are subject to ostracism. The stunning part is that other women also insult women who look different. Skwarecki describes  the tightrope in which a female athlete walks. It is one between a new image of woman, but not upsetting the status quo. All women are not immune from this. Former First Lady  Michelle Obama was criticized for her arm strength. Female athlete are criticized for being “too big .” Convention needs to be overthrown. Women or others do not have anything to fear from the rise of physically powerful women. It is time for people to accept that others are different and they are not going anywhere.

         There is sexual dimorphism  between male and female bodies, however the muscular system is not radically different. Women have the same muscles in relation to anatomical structure. Lifting weights with a certain level of intensity can induce muscular hypertrophy. If consistent enough then a change can be noticeable. At one time it was thought exercise for women was either bad for their health or they are incapable of having any form of physical prowess. The frailty myth and the weaker sex stereotype still persists in the minds of many.  Beth Skwarecki even explains if a woman looks “too feminine” the assumption is that she has no physical ability. Women can be stronger than they look. Genetics,diet, training method are factors in how strong a person can get. The error was that women were once thought as biologically  inferior. Casual exercisers and professional female athletes demonstrate that women’s bodies are capable of increasing physical fitness. Some refuse to accept this saying it is not natural for female bodies to have this level of muscle and strength.

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Most of what people eat or use is not natural. Human bodies have been altered by changes in the environment, chemical exposure, food, and drugs. Knowledge of science has enabled humanity to manipulate its own biology. Human phenotypes are diverse. We have different skin color, height, weight , and body size. The unfortunate part about people is that they are prejudiced and stereotype. Women are subjected to harsh criticism about their appearance not just by men, but other women. The female body has been subject to scrutiny and women are now rejecting these social pressures. Biological sexism still remains. There never was a femininity or muscularity tight rope. This was imposed by a society that could not handle the idea that women could be physically powerful. Women are now developing their bodies, but a coded fitness language emerged to police the idea of what is acceptable.

           Bulky and toned are terms that are directed at women. Long and lean are a new addition   to this terminology. These terms are not facts of exercise science rather descriptions of appearance. Bulky has been used as a pejorative for women and a compliment for men. According to Skwarecki ” generally what people mean when they say ‘I don’t want to get bulky,’ they’re referring to the look where you have a good amount of muscle on your frame but you also have a good amount of fat covering it.” The first idea that comes to women’s minds is the female bodybuilder. It should be noted while these women have significant levels of muscle, they weigh less than they appear. The reason women look so big is due to the fact they reduced fat levels so much that their muscles look extra exaggerated. Training for years, diets, and supplementation produces bodies like that. Bulky is not even a good description.

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A bodybuilder must have a balance between size, shape, definition, and conditioning. Simply being big is not going to win a contest. The objective is to create an aesthetically pleasing physique in the tradition of sculpture. Few can appreciate this bodybuilding aesthetic.  Women have created with the sport a new paradigm of beauty. It combines a dynamic strength with a feminine softness. The reason it causes shock or confusion is for the first time in history women have develop their bodies to a physical maximum. When viewed from this perspective bulky may not be such a pejorative. It only means an athlete is getting closer to their goal.Maybe its time to take full ownership of the term.

       The term toned also provides a level of confusion. The word tone is actually a term that refers to tension on a muscle at rest. That means that even the most muscular woman is toned . The colloquial use means a look in which carries some muscle on the body. A product of marketing, it was used as a way to sell weightlifting to women. The issue is that the gender specific terminology plays on sexist beliefs. The first one is that women are weaklings so serious workouts are not for them. They need low intensity or simple exercises, because their bodies not designed for it. The second is that power and strength cannot be feminine. Strong women have a following among some male fans of women’s sports. The modern female athlete has successfully combined power and grace into one physical form. Tone even as a general term is so arbitrary. Certain women could be  in the middle of a female bodybuilder and toned physique. There exists no term for that.

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The idea of the toned woman ,who has some definition.
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Some women have more muscle that is beyond what is considered toned.Yet, they are not so big that they would be called bulky.
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This is the image of a  bulky woman with higher levels of muscular density

   Some critics are vocal about what they consider too much. This is a matter of opinion and personal taste. What could be extreme to one person, maybe tolerable to another.Frankly, the criticisms seem baseless considering women are not doing this for male approval. The demand that all women should appeal to a individual male’s preference is unreasonable, Double standards continue and the lugubrious part is that few see the sexism in it. When a woman lifts weights, she is building muscle. Toning just seems like a condescending term directed at women.Thankfully, women are embracing sports and strength sports more so than they ever have in the past. The fitness phenomenon is not just regulated to professional female athletes, but the casual female gym goer.

        Beth Skwarecki poses an important question. What do you call a woman who just works out ? Some women just love to be active without plans to compete. It is a fun hobby. The stereotypical image is that women are only into fad diets or if they do exercise it’s just cardio.When women take their fitness and sports seriously it becomes a controversy. Men do not face these dilemmas, because it seen as natural for them. Sports, exercise, and fitness are activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Women were either excluded based on the idea they were too weak, had no skill, or would harm themselves. Strength and physical prowess was not part of femininity in the traditionalist  viewpoint. Besides backward thinking, there has always been a fear about women attaining too much power. Physical strength was thought to be the sole domain of men, that women could never enter. When skilled female athletes emerged, so did more sexism that did not want to see the gender role status quo dismantled.

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A postcard from the 1900s shows an athletic woman boxing. This is a depiction of fear of a physically capable woman.
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Another postcard criticizing women in sports and involvement in physical culture.  Here it highlights the idea of female ineptitude.
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How sad that very little has changed. What makes this woman a freak ? This magazine was published at the beginning of the 21st century. One would think people would have become more open minded.

Women’s demand for basic rights and freedom could not be stopped. While society’s laws and social system changes, people’s attitudes do not. Many will cling to their sexism,no matter how much society progresses. Battles are still being  waged for equal pay and reproductive rights.  The American women’s soccer team continues to fight for better pay even though they have won multiple Women’s World Cups. Women can at least have access to gyms and sports, but this still is not happening in every nation. Certain countries violate women’s basic human rights to an egregious degree. It is time for the world to have a dramatic change in thought about women’s roles and what they are capable of.

        Women should not have to worry about what happens to their bodies when they weight train. Getting muscular should not be considered an awful thing. Weight training can improve musculoskeletal health and protect the circulatory system. Lifting could also be an effective method of weight management. Certainly only positive developments can come from such a training regimen if done properly. That means consuming enough  calories to fuel workouts and the sufficient amount of protein to maintain muscular hypertrophy. There still is considerable debate on whether a person can lose fat and build muscle simultaneously. These responses to exercise stimuli are two different results. Depending on the fitness goal a personal trainer,  dietitian, or nutritionist can be consulted. Prior to this consult your doctor or physician about embarking on an exercise regimen. People just need to accept that women’s bodies vary in appearance. Muscular women should not be treated as some anomaly or aberration. People will be judged no matter what.Just because an activity does not fit into your personal opinion does not invalidate it. There are men who object to women in strength sports, but they will not stop anytime soon. It is refreshing g to hear    Beth Skwarecki  embrace women with muscle. Normally, women in the fitness industry favor simple weight loss for women rather than functional fitness. Just remember bulk is beautiful.

Beth Skwarecki : Worrying About Bulky Muscles on Women Is Some Sexist Bull****