Monday, October 27, 2014


Bearing in mind my previous pronouncement of how little of a comic book nerd I am, this evening I happened across an episode of Fresh Air on my way home from frisbee that was all about Wonder Woman. More specifically about the creator of Wonder Woman, Moulton Marston. There's apparently a lady who has written a book about "The Secret History" of Wonder Woman (spoilers: the creator was in a poly relationship and may have also been into BDSM).

Also disclaimer: I didn't hear the entire show. I tuned in after browsing stations on the radio and hearing something about bondage, so I stayed on the station. I'd read a fair amount about Marston before, so once I figured out the interview was about him, I was even more intrigued about what they were going to talk about.

Overall, I was extremely unimpressed. Firstly, that the entire bondage angle was interpreted as an homage to suffragettes. Which I hate to get all high school Literature teacher about, but only looks at the very obvious correlations between what Marston was doing and similar illustrations of suffragettes breaking free of the "chains" of male supremacy. Wonder Woman's main weapon was a lasso. Which she trapped villains with and also had the power to make people tell the truth once they were tied up. No matter how many times Wonder Woman broke free of a situation where she was bound, her entire offensive strategy depended on binding others and then making them be honest. Bondage wasn't something used against Wonder Woman to show how she repeatedly broke free from evildoers (i.e. the patriarchy) as much as bondage was used by Wonder Woman to sustain the greater good and make otherwise deceitful people tell the truth.

I also took serious issue with Terry Gross's approach to the fact that Marston lived with both a wife and a mistress. Her question was framed more as a criticism - that Marston couldn't have really been a feminist and advocate for women's rights if he was romantically involved with two women at the same time. I don't remember the episode directly to quote it, but something about wouldn't it be more respectful if both women had a single husband they could devote their love to? And wasn't Marston enforcing his male supremacy by having two female partners at the same time? Despite the fact that Marston's mistress was the granddaughter of one of the founders of Planned Parenthood and would possibly be intelligent enough to enter a relationship where she felt respected and loved. Despite also that both women stayed together after Marston's death and that Marston's children are on record saying how loving and supportive the relationship between all three of their parents was. Both of these points were brought up by the author in response to the question, and are apparently focused on in the book. It would have been very easy to start the discussion about Marston's family on a more positive note instead of the challenge that it's not possible to be a feminist and also be in a poly-oriented relationship.

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