Saturday, January 18, 2014

A word on Wonder Woman’s parentage


I was perusing the library’s “adult comics” section, which consists entirely of Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side anthologies, and I saw this poppy little number about the history of Wonder Woman. So brightly colored! So pleasingly shaped (the book, not the woman—although . . .). Sure, I could stand to be educated on Wonder Woman. She IS fairly important, and there IS a movie coming out in 2016 that will give us our first cinematic representation of that character (and that is a rant for another day). Let’s learn about Wonder Woman! Girl power and so forth.

Her history starts out innocently enough. Wonder Woman’s creator was prominent psychologist William Moulton Marston, best known for his invention of the lie detector machine. Professional academic though he was, he took a look at the growing popularity of comics and said, “I’d like a piece of that action.” For the CHILDREN though.
“Feeling big, smart, important, and winning the admiration of their fellows are realistic rewards all children strive for. It remains for moral educators to decide what type of behavior is to be regarded as heroic.” (p. 12)
I mean, someone has to morally educate the youths, and if they insist on reading the comics, we will put the morals in their comics.

Foolproof plan.

Marston’s wife, Elizabeth Holloway, seemed a self-sufficient sort of a lady. After she married Marston, she decided, like him, to study law. He was going to Harvard Law, but that hallowed establishment didn’t allow women to attend and “she dismissed the era’s idea of a separate Harvard law school for women as ‘lovely law for ladies’” (p. 12). She got her master’s in law from Boston University instead.

Even so, William was WAY more gung-ho for the women’s movement than his wife was. (In fact, she didn’t see the need for a women’s movement in 1970 and actually said, “What’s the fuss all about?”) But his views were a little . . . hm . . . well.
In 1937, “he gave an interview to The New York Times predicting that ‘the next one hundred years will see the beginning of an American matriarchy—a nation of Amazons in the psychological rather than physical sense,’ and that eventually, ‘women would take over the rule of the country, politically and economically.” (p. 19)
Sounds pretty good, but notice how he wasn’t talking about gender equality? He was talking about feminine domination. Possibly involving whips.
“In short, he was convinced that as political and economic equality became a reality, women could and would use sexual enslavement to achieve domination over men, who would happily submit to their loving authority.” (p. 19)
Let me just repeat that, using Marston’s own words. He believed that womankind’s long fight for equal (or superior, in this case) social and economic status would ultimately be clinched by the fact that “her body and personality offer men greater pleasure than he could obtain in any other experience. He therefore yields to this attraction and control voluntarily, and seeks to be thus captivated” (p. 19).

According to your father, yes.

And this was the enlightened context from which sprung forth Wonder Woman. More quotes, because I couldn’t make this garbage up.
Marston’s words again: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world. There isn’t love enough in the male organism to run this planet peacefully. Woman’s body contains twice as many love generating organs and endocrine mechanisms as the male. What woman lacks is the dominance and self assertive power to put over and enforce her love desires. I have given Wonder Woman the dominant force but have kept her loving, tender, maternal and feminine in every other way.” (pp. 22–23)

And it gets better.

The book keeps mentioning Marston’s four children. What it fails to mention until page 28, which I was unfortunately reading immediately before bed last night, is that two of those children are biologically his wife’s . . . and the other two are biologically his research assistant’s.

Right. So. Olive Byrne was his student at Tufts, and then she and Marston became friends, and then she moved in with him and his wife, and then the three of them made babies and were a happy family. Because why not. The women even named their children after each other.

Oh yeah, and Marston based Wonder Woman on Olive, pinnacle of liberated womanhood that she was.

All this, combined with the knowledge that Marston also wrote bondage erotica featuring Julius Caesar “conquering” the peoples of various countries, thoroughly sullies all my idealistic notions of Wonder Woman being a champion of women’s empowerment from the start.

But I intend to be fair to Diana Prince. She shouldn’t be punished for the sins of her father; so I’ll continue reading and hope for a swift end to Marston’s involvement in this proud and storied history. Besides, she seems to be overcoming her daddy issues nicely these days.

That's the gist of it.

10 comments:

  1. I...don't...know...where to even start on this one. WHAT? WTF? Both seem like good responses to the intelligence you've just shared.


    I'll just close with a jolly "Lolly, lolly, lolly, get your adverbs here" because I think this situation calls for a non sequitur.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow...I mean, I'm not super surprised with all of the domination stuff given WW's lasso and all. But this is...huh. Wow

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interestingly, the lasso makes people tell the truth...so it's kind of like a lie detector test. (We SEE what you did there, Marston.) The part about her costume that is super bondagy is her bracelets. They keep her powers in check. So, like, if she takes them off she goes kind of nuts and kills everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I. KNOW. It's pretty upsetting, and I'm sorry I had to burden you with it, but I just couldn't bear this terrible knowledge alone.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ahahaha you cited page numbers. Like we're gonna yell at you. *shakes head* Copy editors.


    LOVE GENERATING ORGANS


    And ok, SEE how hard it is being concise about non-fiction? Because SO MANY FACTS.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Girrrrrl, I ALWAYS cite the page numbers. Some habits are perhaps silly but harmless, and therefore best not fussed over.


    I feel like you're trying to gently inform me that this post was a bit long. And you are correct.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's kind of long BUT ALSO you haven't finished the book and I am super-relating because my non-fiction posts are always wayy longer than my fiction posts because "HERE I MUST INFORM YOU ALL OF ALL THESE IDEAS."


    Whatever I liked this post. Even though did you ever mention the title, madam?

    ReplyDelete
  8. And I wasn't even planning to WRITE anything about this book. I was just gonna peruse it and laugh quietly to myself about invisible planes.


    It's not MY fault the book cover up there doesn't have the damn title written on it. I didn't DESIGN the thing. (It's called Wonder Woman: The Complete History.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I. KNOW. It's pretty upsetting, and I'm sorry I had to burden you with it, but I just couldn't bear this terrible knowledge alone.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interestingly, the lasso makes people tell the truth...so it's kind of like a lie detector test. (We SEE what you did there, Marston.) The part about her costume that is super bondagy is her bracelets. They keep her powers in check. So, like, if she takes them off she goes kind of nuts and kills everyone.

    ReplyDelete