Dear Tabulit - 5. What Wonder Woman Should Teach Us About Men and Women

Normally, as seen by past issues, I want to feature comics on Tabulit for this series. But in this case an exception just felt right. At the time of this writing, the movie Wonder Woman is less than a week away. And it is expected to be pretty awesome.

Just to be upfront, this article is more of an opinion than coaching advice. My hope is we can all learn something from what looks like will be a global phenomenon and historical moment in entertainment.

Woman's Only Screening Makes Men Mad

In a brilliant marketing move, the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin had announced a women-only screening of Wonder Woman. And because we have the internet which can become a breeding ground for outrage culture, according to an article in Mashable, "It didn't take long for a bunch of dudes to show up in the comments, crying about the sheer injustice of it all." You can read the article and comments along with the hilarious way the Alamo Drafthouse dealt with it all (evidently the show sold out and a second screening as well).

What is interesting to me is how the article starts: 

Behind every great women's event is a man upset that he wasn't invited.

Now, I realize that everybody is doing their job to get attention, including the female writer of the article, but I take a small exception to that statement. I cringe at the gross generalization here, again fully knowing it is all about marketing, but it's very indicative of where we are as a culture today.

Personally, I thought, "Cool!" when I heard about this women-only screening. If I had a daughter, I would have wanted her to participate. If my wife told me she was going, I would fully approve. But most importantly, I would have had a discussion with my fictitious daughter and real-life wife about the reason they wanted to go and the importance of it all. And while I recognize there are many trolls out on the interwebs (male and female, but mostly male from what I can tell), if the opening statement was, "Behind every great women's event are often men upset that they weren't invited," I wouldn't argue.

So, I decided to float the article across various social media channels and the reactions were predictably quite mixed. Both men and women in my social circles had opposite takes. Some applauded while others made key points arguing the sexism of it all.

Entertainment is a Mirror to the Collective Soul of Humanity

Now that comics have gone mainstream, there is an interesting platform to make commentary about our culture and the human condition. I was just telling some coaching clients the other day how poignant the relational dynamics in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were in relation to what happens in real life. No doubt that Wonder Woman will be the same. It has already been very revealing.

This is where we can miss the point entirely if we don't go deeper for insight. Consider for a moment the Wonder Woman story to begin with. Our hero was born in an all-female society and was designed to be counterculture back in the day. Wonder Woman was created by William Marston who once wrote:

Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.

The reality is, being a man, I will never be able to fully relate to what women go through. I can certainly empathize on a cognitive level just like Marston did, but I will never truly know. At the same time, no woman will ever be able to fully embrace the reason Superman is such an important character for me (and a lot of other boys that grew up with the comic).

Let's be straight though, Marston created Wonder Woman in a time where comics were dominated by male audiences. What does it really mean when Wonder Woman had "all the allure of a good and beautiful woman?" Do all female super heroes have to be attractive and possess certain physical traits like Lynda Carter who originally portrayed Wonder Woman on TV? If Wonder Woman was represented in the movies today like she was on TV years ago, the different kind of backlash would be insane.

A Spotlight on Body Shame(ing)

Body shaming online happens to both men and women. The impact on both men and women are different but equally horrible, But Wonder Woman has really spotlighted some of the more cringe-worthy levels for women.

First, there was a whole thing about Gal Gadot being "too skinny" to be Wonder Woman. To her credit, the actress went through years of packing on the muscle for the role. But again, does this mean all women superheroes have to all have a certain body? (Netflix's Jessica Jones somewhat breaks the mold which is an awesome on many other levels too.)

Then the lunacy went to a whole new level about Wonder Woman's arm pits. Oh yeah. If you haven't heard about this I am not joking. There was enough online brouhaha that Warner Brothers actually digitally fixed Gal Gadot's armpits in the movie trailer. I will leave that here but if curiosity prevails, read the article on Screen Rant.

Finally, Wonder Woman is being used to promote ThinkThin diet products. Just to add some gasoline to the fire of course. The mixed messages of Wonder Woman the movie and unrealistic body expectations abound. You can read the full article on The Mary Sue here, but this excerpt really got my attention:

As part of the promotion, ThinkThin also commissioned a survey asking women what superpowers they dream of having. The most common pick was invisibility. While invisibility would, for sure, be a cool power, it’s hard to ignore the connections between a lifelong insistence that we “think thin” and a desire to erase our bodies entirely.

Now as I stated before, I don't know what it is like to be a woman. But I do know what it means to struggle with my weight, physical appearance and shame,. Shame is the emotion of wanting to hide (be invisible). Like I said, this hits both men and women, but I fully profess that it is farm more blatant for women.

Will There be an All Black Screening of Black Panther?

That's right, I said it. Being Asian, this is a reality that does not escape me. Luke Cage was awesome as a black superhero which was another score for Netflix. But then the story of a white guy learning to be a martial arts master didn't really hit the mark. (Yes, we're talking about The Iron First. You can't win them all Netflix.)

I digress.

So What's The Point?

Like I said, there really isn't any coaching advice here. I guess awareness is the first step we should all take. I am seeking to first understand before being understood. Maybe if we men took time to really understand what women go through and what a hero like Wonder Woman means (and does not mean) to the opposite sex, then we might start to avoid all the unnecessary emotional bloodshed that happens between men and women, especially on the internet.

For me, the more men take responsibility for the problem, the better off everybody will be. If you look at mainstream comics, we cannot deny that it has been male-dominated and Wonder Woman represents a shift we can either embrace or die fighting.

At the same time, women can be part of the solution here as well. I am sorry, but a lot of the stuff women say, especially celebrities, that make men bad is not helping at all. I can get my back up against the wall and my own shame gets triggered. This makes me respond poorly and make things worse. If women aren't willing to be part of the solution then there is a bigger problem we all suffer.

Dialog, not monologue, is the key. The internet can be a great place for the former, but unfortunately can be rife with the latter. If we claim to be advancing and progressive as a culture then dialog should be common sense. We can start with Wonder Woman which is an opportunity I don't intend to miss.

As a community that loves comics, let's enjoy this moment, the movie, and then be open for discussion.