Anybody else remember this episode? In it, a female villain called Femme Fatale is stealing millions of dollars in Susan B. Anthony coins. Naturally, the Powerpuff Girls go to stop her. She then convinces them that men are all horrible because female superheroes aren’t as well known as male superheroes, even asking Blossom to name some to where her only answer is Wonder Woman.
They start acting bitter, refusing to do chores when the Professor asks and even telling the Mayor to save the town himself. Ms. Bellum and Ms. Keane talk to the girls and basically explain that being mean to guys won’t do anything and that isn’t the kind of message feminists should put out.
They proceed to beat up Femme Fatale while giving her a history lesson about Susan B. Anthony, the story where she voted and was found guilty because women couldn’t vote back then, but when the judge wanted to let her off easily because she was a woman, she forced them to take her to jail. The girls handle her and the lesson is that misandry will not stop misogny and we all should just respect each other.
And it fell on Tumblr’s deaf ears.
I don’t usually engage with much beyond silliness on this blog, but..,
I just.. Okay, I just wanted to say the reason this episode was able to function in a somewhat narratively sound way was that it was a story told in the context of the Powerpuff girls. What I mean is, the Villain character is a ridiculous representation of “feminism” in that she is so utterly the dangerous nonsensical man hating Straw Feminist trope, that obviously her methods and ultimate goal are going to be suspect and illogical.
But at the same time, despite her character speaking truths that sour the girls, she isn’t the real villain of the story. In a lot of ways, the powerpuff girls become the villains, in that their new discontent with gender inequalities causes them to go beyond simply refusing to do things and being “mean”. They don’t hurt feelings, they legitimate threaten and bully and are lax in their duties (to save the city) putting others in harms way because they are mad — so in the end, when given the speech by the two other, “more reasonable” women on the show, and their final message of equality on all things where FF is shown to be a hypocrite and a joke, well it is a speech that seems applicable.
And it is. On the Powerpuff Girls. Because in the context of this show, these girls are literal super heroes who live in an idealistic — often simple, and strange — city, with strength and abilities that make their behavior actually dangerous. They bully their dear sweet Father who cowers before them, the dopey yet lovable mayor, a boy on the school yard. They are obviously over reacting, right? It certainly seems this way, when super humans turn physically cruel to the poor men in their lives who are shown by the script as harmless and in no way at fault, and when their anger has the very serious consequence of putting the city in danger because in this cartoon world, they have that sort of power.
Which is why I just.. well, I don’t agree with the crux of this post? Obviously vindictive, vitriolic misandry is an unlikely way to find resolution with misogyny. But I really wish that a show that is usually pretty awesome for young girls wouldn’t straight up frame it as being exactly the same thing? Because y’know, despite a smattering of cases, the most harm to come out of real world misandry is hurt feelings and bitterness; whereas, time and again real world misogyny leads to real acts of violence, sexual violence, death, unsafe environments (not to mention the inherent issues of living in a cultural context where the systems of law are still, in many ways, stacked against women. See healthcare/reproductive care, consistent violence and oppression of trans individuals for moving outside of preconceived norms and the lack of recourse or action taken against this, the wage gap, the violence of the pornography industry, comodification of female parts etc etc etc). And yes, we should try to be respectful of each other, and the best way to solve problems is to try to find common ground. But telling young girls not to be angry over injustice, to be respectful and accommodating in the face of wrongs or in the face of oppression or in the face of violence or invalidation. I have a problem with that.
To construct a laughable Straw Feminist, and then have two other “less angry, more reasonable, somehow more respectable?” women take these young girls aside and tell them, calm down girls you’re making people uncomfortable and your feelings are going to ruin it for the rest of us.
Wow. No wonder it fell on deaf ears.