Occasionally I wonder if I’m not enough of a feminist because of some of the media I enjoy. There are comics I read and movies I watch which are obviously “for the male gaze” that I enjoy in spite of their misogyny.
Am I reinforcing the idea that it is okay to treat women as props and sex objects by reading Suicide Squad? DC doesn’t know that I am reading this title for the escapism of over the top violence despite how much Harley Quinn is objectified. They just see sales numbers and assume the readers like everything about the book or, worse, think that people read the book because of the “sexy” (read: exploitative) way they have redesigned Harley.
Also, am I invalidating my point about treating female characters as equals if I enjoy something that that treats them as damsels in distress? I will watch the ’89 Batman every time it comes on TV even though I hate the way Vicki Vale is portrayed. I have a hard time believing that an award-winning photojournalist panics and screams in the face of danger, which makes her fundamentally underqualified for her career. She is obviously meant to be heroic in a way that is not threatening to the male lead, but would still lead her into situations that would require a big, strong man to come and save her. Yet, as problematic and troubling as this character is for me, if you put this movie on right now, I would sit down and watch it. This movie was not made for me. It was made “for boys”.
But isn’t the point of feminism that I can enjoy things that are “for boys”? That I don’t need to justify my choices because of my gender?
It also means I don’t have to stay silent about the parts that bother or offend me. I don’t need to keep quiet just because I enjoy things in spite of their more troubling aspects. And I don’t need to stop demanding that the characters who share my gender be treated with respect.