A few weeks ago, I left a seemingly innocuous comment on a little known feminist blog. My comment praised an innovative post exploring the dire conditions of women in the economy through the humorous lens of the action figure. Included in this incredibly positive comment, was a one sentence critique abt the absence of women in the second 1/2 of the essay and poc in the post.
The blog post had just the right amount of pop culture kitsch to make the anxieties of economic down turn and the scale at which it is impacting women an interesting and emotionally manageable read. The action figures used to illustrate the post made me laugh and think of other blogs I read that use unique illustrations for their posts with fondness. However, the blog author’s solution to women’s poverty in a recession was to call in the men (male thinkers, heroes, and deities) and serve them food from “the lunch lady” while they did all the heavy intellectual lifting. (I’m not making this up; the only female figure invited to solve the econ crisis was a large white woman in a hairnet with a lunch tray named “the lunch lady” whose job, according to the blog author, was to serve the men sandwiches while they thought us out of the problem.) Equally disturbing was the blog author’s decision to use a bald, white, action figure with mismatched socks, no shoes, to represent the president when he has one of the most recreated images in recent history (including a ridiculous amount of action figures).
As many of you can imagine, and I should have, the blog author responded with a long drawn out denial about why there were no action figures of color and why women were absent in the second half. Her excuses moved quickly from “it’s so hard to find any women or poc action figures” to “I can’t afford to pay for the rights to use characters with copyright” (even tho she had figured herself as Laura Croft and used both Croft and Wonder Woman’s images without a citation or presumably paying for them) to “I don’t get paid to blog, so I can’t spend all day checking for everything that might look left out.” What it did not include was that she had time to search out my email account and send me a long drawn out plea of self-righteous apology that when she received no response from me was quickly put up on her blog with an added comment disparaging my “amusement at women’s plight in the economy.” So, also typical, if “sorry” and denial don’t work move to anger.
It took me less than 15 minutes to find over 100 action figures that were either poc or women or both. I found several obscure characters like Ruth from the Bible and several obvious characters like any number of super heroines. To her chagrin, I also found Cleopatra offered by the same company where she had gotten her picture of Annie Oakley for her post, in fact, they were on the same page. And I found Joan of Arc in 10 minutes, even tho she denied that such a figure existed. In fact, I found almost every female figure I searched and several women and people of color I had not even thought of or imagined would be action figures like: Malcom X, Che Guevara, and Madam Currie. They even have literary figures like the Brontes.
Part of the problem in finding these figures was that I knew what I was looking for. I did a specific search for various female figures in history, philosophy, religion, and the supernatural rather than a generic search for “women action figures.” While I think the difference between a specific and a generic search was part of the author’s problem, she said she spent 5 hours looking for figures and yet did not even include the women of color found on the pages of figures she used in the post. Much more important, her mind went to Einstein and Moses rather than Madam Currie and Joan of Arc when thinking of people with the chops to solve the problem. Hermoine certainly could have thought her way out of an econ downturn and used magic to fix it. And Martha Jones once saved the universe when Dr. Who was being slowly killed by the Master, by organizing folks and giving them hope. Both of them have action figures.
While I could write a whole analysis of how a simple observation that warranted a simple answer like: wow. I missed that. I’m going to fix it right now, revealed deep seeded commitment to both gender and race hegemony that neither I nor the author expected . . . I’m not in the mood.
Instead, I’m going to put up pics of some of my favorite action figures, found while responding to this woman. Because you see, while she was revealing her own bigotry and building walls to keep out anyone who rocked her sense of herself as “a good person” by daring to point out how her world not only erased people of color but her feminism didn’t even extend to seeing women as their own saviors, thus victimizing herself by narrowing the scope of her activism and her intellectual pursuits, I was happily collecting images of action figures that make me giggle with childish abandon like the dork that I am. I was imagining giddy run-on sentences to introduce a series of Torchwood figures, like Ianto in his oh-so-cute-three piece suit, with a nary a thought to the absence of LGBTQI figures in her post . . . ha.
So if you are not a dork, or you will somehow think less of me b/c of my willingness to appear unapologetically dorky on occasion in public, then you are welcome to think about the exchange between two feminists, me and the other blog author, and how a post about the economic losses women are disproportionately experiencing in our economy brought us right back to the same old racism-sexism argument that divides our efforts. You can ask yourselves, how a self-described feminist could not imagine women as part of the solution, and how the spectre of race is so deep that she could not even address this major slippage in her thinking for all the desperate machinations she was engaging in to hide racism. Or you can ponder how much more vehement her denials would have been if I had pointed out that in universalizing her privileged (white, hetero, employed, educated, non-parenting) experience her post also failed to discuss how different women have different anxieties about the economy like women of color who are the worst hit by the crisis. Their potential for re-hire is exponentially worse than white men and considerably worse than white women especially the longer they are unemployed. Undocumented women’s exploitation becomes all the more dangerous in a downturn as the avenues to economic justice when exploited at work narrow all the more. While job loss for single mothers and female heads of household also carry burdens of being one of or the sole provider for multiple people.
I for one, prefer to look at Captain Jack and crew, and laugh. Some times, that is all you can do.
I have probably lost all respect from some of you readers; tho, I would ask you to ponder how it is mainstream feminists retain respect when they consistently advocate for a world that is no less oppressive to the majority of women on the planet (LBTI, differently-abled, rural, woc, etc.) and this woc feminist could lose your respect by posting a few action figures that make me feel silly and joyful in the face of so much that is wrong in this world? So I’m going to admit one more thing: I would do a happy dance if I ended up with any one of the following figures, or most of the ones illustrating this post, for Christmas and I don’t care who knows it.
And yes, I would put them in my office. Should someone mention them, I’d use it as an opportunity to theorize about femme gender & sexuality, race, and feminism b/c I am that good. 🙂
- Birds of Prey/DC
- Martha Jones/Dr. Who Series 3/BBC
- Hermoine/Harry Potter/Figure Realm
- willow & Kennedy/ Buffy the Vampire Slayer/ Shelly’s flickr
- Torchwood Series/ Torchwood
- Felicity Shagwell/Austin Powers 2, Tom Baker as Dr. Who/BBC, Martha Jones/BBC, Michelle Obama/Political Figures Inc