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December 2, 2009

Comics, world: Still chilly to women

Filed under: issues,pop culture,Superheroes — posted by Mia @ 3:48 pm

Is it cold in here, or is it just misogyny? “It’s not healthy to be a female character in comics,” notes writer and comic book fangirl Gail Simone, compiler of a grim list called Women In Refrigerators. Refrigerators? Refrigerators. And we’re not (necessarily) talking about women who are experts in cryogenic engineering.

The story: One day a while back, Simone began to realize that most of her favorite female superheroes wound up de-powered, raped, or cut up and stuffed in a refrigerator. Granted, they’re superheros, so they’re in the line of fire, but still. The particular punishments and demises, she observed, appeared to be particularly cruel and disproportionate. So Simone started to make a list of all the female superheroes she knew and what had become of them. Circulated through e-mail and bulletin board systems, the WiR list grew to reflect the contributions and reactions of fans along with responses from some professional creators about their chosen plot devices.

The list doesn’t attempt to catalog the vast list of wives and girlfriends who suffer at the hands of Women in Refrigerator syndrome, described as, “WiR referring to a female character’s death having no real lasting impact or importance to the writer after the initial incident.”

As a comic fan and superhero sidekick, I find this pile of evidence depressing. Are breakups really too rough for superheroes to handle? Why is it easier to devise these ghastly ways to make women go away?

The list, and the term, have been in existence for some time (full history here). What really makes me mad is (a) that it’s still relevant, especially considering that (b) the “meme” is hardly confined to the world of comic books and fantasy. Between women’s health care needs being discredited and devalued in the national health care debate (e.g., domestic violence as a preexisting condition), and with pop culture at large suffering from Women in Refrigerator Syndrome (last week Good Morning America cancelled the appearance of Adam Lambert because of his bawdy behavior at the American Music Awards, instead welcoming convicted felony girlfriend abuser Chris Brown.

Talk about still needing to get women out of the kitchen. I will not be taking off my ass-kicking boots or supersidekick spandex any time soon.


  1. There’s something also about the symbolism of women and REFRIGERATORS. It’s like putting them in the blender or the vacuum cleaner or the spray bottle of cleaning product. Domestic symbols gone bad, or something. (Not getting the Women’s Studies Analysis medal tonight, but you know what I mean.)

    Comment by BG — December 2, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  2. …but what if your wrong? What if more guys are turned into rugs but we don’t see that becouse it is so much more shocking when it happens to a women?

    … Is the name sake story sexist for killing her? Would it no longer be sexist if the her was a him? If not why not?
    As a kinda sorta storyteller myself I will say this. I’ll stuff men, women, children, horses, stuffed animals, puppies, rainbows, butterflies, and small furry woodland creatures into refrigerators if I feel it’s appropriate to a story.

    Comment by Andre — December 7, 2009 @ 4:17 am

  3. @Andre: Those are good questions, all part of the longer WiR story, and discussed here, too: http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/reacts.html

    Comment by Breakup Girl — December 7, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  4. I can’t seem to find where it is really discussed. Maybe you could go ahead and answer my questions then?

    How can this be proven true?
    How can this be proven false?
    Is it wrong/sexist to kill a women in the name of story and plot for a male hero? what about a female hero?
    In the name sake story was the wrighter in the wrong for doing what he did? Had it been a guy would it have been ok?
    If I am telling a story is this something I should keep in mind so as to not contribute to wir? If so how is that not sexist itself?

    I have no love for dogma and seeing as how populer this meme is I think it needs a more objective look and some better understanding instead of just righteous indignation.

    Comment by Andre — December 7, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

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