Thanks to recent linkage from When Fangirls Attack!, I've picked up a few new comments from a new reader, shilohmm, one of which is in the thread over at Chick Fight!. I responded to her comments at my usual tiresome length in that thread, but still, I find I want to respond further where more people may have a chance to take part in the debate, if they want to:

shilohmm sez:

OTOH, under certain conditions ("the mama bear response" is not the technical term but gives you the general idea), women on average are more aggressive than men. Women can be much more aggressive than men when protecting someone they value. The idea that men are inherantly violent and women aren't is cultural, not one based in reality. Other cultures have characterized women as the violent and out-of-control gender.

I believe men in this culture think women are not as aggressive as men are for two reasons - first, because women don't defend "territory" the way a man would, and so may not respond aggressively to stimulus that would set most men off; and second, because women are not stupid, and obvious aggression is rarely the best response when dealing with a guy who outweighs you by fifty pounds or more. This says nothing about what women would like to do, and nothing about what women would do if they were suddenly more powerful than the average male, which is why the "aggressive powerful superheroines are chicks-with-dicks" argument irritates me.

Women are less likely to show their aggression, because being obviously aggressive when you can't physically defend yourself is dangerous. When you're 5'3" in a world where male height averages 5'9", physical force isn't usually a valid option. OTOH, if you're suddenly given superpowers the average male doesn't have access to, physical force would be mighty tempting.

I used to deliberately take on bullies in grade school and on into junior high (even though by junior high I was smaller than those I challenged). Obviously superheroines resonated with me. While I collected and enjoyed Lois Lane: Superman's Girlfriend and stories of Linda Danvers/Supergirl at the orphanage (I started reading comics in the 1960's), I also loved She Hulk and Ms. Marvel once they came along - although I do admit that early on there was tiresome "men are weak" stuff sometimes. Still, I loved them because they enjoyed the power to act the way I would - they gleefully thunked the bad guys. ;)

I don't know what to say about this.

Is it true? Do women only use reason because, as a general rule, they've found violence isn't an effective problem solving tool for them? If women were able to 'thunk the bad guys', would they? Would they immediately jettison all non-violent, non confrontational problem solving techniques, the minute they become capable of picking up a Buick station wagon and hitting someone they don't like in the teeth with it?

If so, this fills me with despair for the human race, as the implication seems to be, our default setting is violence. Or, at least, unreasoning physicality. If shilohmm's assertions here are accurate, then we are a race to which cognition does not come naturally, a race whose instincts and nature run towards a brute force solution to any problem we may encounter.

I hope this isn't true. I hope that humans, regardless of gender or race or age or other subdivision, have a capacity to think about things, not only after we've tried hitting them with a rock and that hasn't worked, but even before we reach for the rock.

I hope this especially, because in our here and now, our 'rocks' include poison gas, tailored bacterium, and nuclear weapons.

And, yeah, I have to admit, the people within arms reach of the GO buttons on all that shit do certainly seem to bear out the assertion "hit first, think afterwards".

I hope we're better than that, I really do. And to bring it back around to the much more narrow subject the article and comment thread was originally discussing -- I would hope that superpowered women, in general, would still be more likely than superpowered men to apply their powers with intelligence, after reasoned, lucid analysis of whatevere problem it is they are trying to resolve. (I'd like to see more superpowered men apply their powers with intelligence, too, but there's certainly little hope of this in contemporary superhero comics, where even the Sorcerer Supreme has recently been reimagined as a martial arts asskicker who essentially fires energy blasts out of his hands at every opponent until the opponent is charred into submission.)

Are we just brutes? Is that what superhero comics ultimately reflects? Male or female, are all humans...or fictional artifacts representing humans... simply thugs? Worse, is that what we WANT to be?

In a culture that lionizes Forrest Gump (to a point where we've even elected him to be our President) while quaking in terror before Hannibal Lecter, what other conclusion is there? We, apparently, WANT to be morons. We find it comforting, and admirable, just as we find intelligence to be threatening, and frightening, and loathsome.

Ah, maybe it's just me. I'm sure if I were to take up drinking, or going to church on Sunday, I'd find this all much less worrisome.

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