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Romance Comics and Sexism


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If you've ever wondered why women and girls need feminism, look no further than romance comics from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Unsurprisingly, they were written and drawn entirely by men, and it shows. Just look at the questionable messages they were conveying to our mothers and grandmothers:

http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics339.html  (victim blaming for date rape)

http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics340.html  (women only have value and identity based on a relationship with a man)

http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics44.html (fatshaming; extols changing yourself to make a jerk like you)

http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics466.html (I don't even know where to begin with this one)

As terrible as the messages females get today are, they generally aren't as bad as these. If this is what girls were being taught 50+ years ago, it's amazing that enough of them were able to buck their conditioning and protest for their rights.





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Sweet baby Jesus on a pogo stick.

The one from the 1970s in which the boyfriend spanks his girlfriend to teach her a lesson?!?

I will say there is a bit of redeemable stuff in the "Joe Harris's chick" one. At least part of the message is not to build your whole life around one guy and ignore your girlfriends. I also think it's good to teach young girls that only dating one guy for a really long time can have its drawbacks and to try and get to know a lot of different people. (Though the comic's reasoning for why not to do that is so one can be assured of greater marriage prospects and not to end up an old maid at nineteen.)


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I know this is only a slight tie in, but I was just reading this article on the Comic's Code from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, (btw check them out they do great 1st amendment work), and it actually talks a tiny bit about Romance comics, and how they were a genre that was heavily hit, by the code. Interestingly the backfire, might not have taken out all the smut, but certainly, stuck, to "good girls, should do what they are told", attitudes. Jungle Girls is lightly tied in too, but not as much.

Here is the quote on Romance Comics:




Young Romance #1 (1947) Prize Comics

In order to reach the audience of girls and young women reading comics, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby of Captain America fame created what is credited as one of the first romance comics in 1947 — Young Romance (Crestwood Publications). Capitalizing on what were considered “real-life” stories of young American women, the genre quickly gained popularity and spawned whole other teen-oriented genres. From Flaming Love (Quality Publications) to Glamorous Romances (Ace Magazines) and Hollywood Confessions (St. Johns), romance comics appealed to readers of all ages and were the Harlequin Romance and Seventeen magazine of the day.

Like most pre-Code comics, though, not all romance comics were innocent tales of true love or young women coping with their husbands and boyfriends going off to war. Some romance comics could be as hot and spicy as the most popular romance books being printed today. From depictions of divorce, illicit affairs, and even murder in the name of love, romance comics ran the gamut from innocent tales of Hi-School Romance (Harvey Publications) to lurid secret lives: My Secret Affair (Fox Feature Syndicate), My Secret Life (Charlton), and My Secret Marriage (Superior Publishers Limited).

It was these aspects that made the genre a target of the CCA, specifically when it came to depicting the sanctity of marriage in a negative light. The Code set standards that called for the removal of any romance comic that “devalued” the home and/or would “stimulate the lower and baser emotions.” The Code also targeted explicitly the kinds of advertisements featured in romance comics, rejecting the advertisement of “sex or sex instruction books” and “medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature.”


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Wow just wow. This makes me so angry but the worst part is stuff like this is still happening today. These are still the expectations of how men and women should act in some people's minds

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I spent my entire morning reading all of these comics, and the article you posted. I love comics, and I really enjoyed laughing at how ridiculous these are, while also feeling quite enraged at the sexism. My favorite was how she lost 50 pounds in five weeks in the third comic... what the actual fuck.

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