Oh, Yikes: DC Comics' New T-Shirts Are Not So Awesome For Girls
I love comic book T-shirts. I practically live in them, so I was stoked to hear that DC released a new line of licensed T-shirts. And then I saw the shirts for girls.
If DC was hoping to connect with female comic book readers by releasing a line of shirts for girls, they made a major misstep. Their shirt reads in big pink letters: “TRAINING TO BE BATMAN’S WIFE.” Oh dear, where do I even begin? The notion that one “trains” to be a wife is archaic enough as it is, so suggesting that someone has to train to take up the mantle of Batman’s wife is ludicrous. How does one even train to take on that position? Do you have to learn how to make Batman’s favorite breakfast? Like, do you have to learn how to change the oil in the Batmobile? Why is this even a discussion we are having? Oh right, it’s because Wal-Mart and Amazon have started selling these shirts, and I bet they’re flying off the shelves for all the wrong reasons. (As of right now, Amazon claims to be ‘out of stock‘ of the shirts).
What continues to be troubling is that females are pigeonholed into these roles as “wife” or “love interest.” This shirt only seems to reaffirm the stance that comic books don’t know what to do with their female characters, not only in print, but in our real world. Consider this, would we ever see a shirt that reads, “Training to be Catwomam’s husband?” Of course not. A shirt like that would never sell to the male demographic, so it’s a bummer to realize that someone at DC thought this shirt would sell to the female fans.
In my 20-something years of comic-book loving, I’ve never once imagined what it would be like to be a hero’s wife. I’ve imagined myself as the hero dozens of times, or even the sidekick, but the superhero’s wife? That seems like a stretch. And forget 20-somethings, what kind of message is this shirt—which is being sold in the junior’s section—really saying to girls? That their only place in the comic world is as the doting wife or romantic interest? We should be teaching girls to be the superhero, and not just marry one. In other aspects of pop culture we’ve seen a feminist transformation, but this shirt is more proof that the comic world still lags behind in terms of progress.
The problem here continues to be that DC doesn’t get that women can be fans of superheroes in the same way men are. We don’t want to marry Batman, we want to geek out about him—just like guy fans. If they want to connect with their female fanbase, they should consider making gender-neutral t-shirts, or even throwing some empowered female superheroes in the mix too. Considering I’m someone who is willing to shell out $19.99 for an awesome graphic T-shirt with my favorite characters on it, I want to be able to wear a shirt that I feel comfortable in. Not now, or in the near future, am I going to sign up to train to be anyone’s wife, even if it’s Bruce Wayne himself.