Feminism Explained Through the X-Men

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Not that X-Men doesn't have its share of sexism, too.

Not that X-Men doesn’t have its share of sexism, too.

AlliReed Alli Reed
Alli Reed spends most of her time arguing about which fictional...
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According to the internet, feminism is essentially Nazism if Hitler’s dad had been a little more withholding. The word brings to mind an army of unshaven militant lesbians using men as ottomans and turning their unused penises into decorative napkin holders.

But obviously that’s not real. Right? That’s obvious, right? And no one actually thinks that feminism is a global conspiracy bent on the destruction of testosterone? Right? Still, a lot of people seem to be unclear what, exactly, these “-ism” and “-gyny” and “-archy” words mean. I can only relate to the world through the lens of pop culture, so I’ve broken those words down in terms of X-Men characters, as this particular Marvel universe already deals heavily with issues of broad-based, systemic oppression as well as Hugh Jackman (both fundamental concepts to feminism, and indeed humanity at large).

Patriarchy = Society Led By Non-Mutants // Men = Non-Mutants

Non-mutants are not inherently evil, nor are they inherently good. They’re a huge, amorphous group of people with unique experiences and opinions. They do have one thing in common, though: they’ve been the dominant powerful group for a very, very long time. It isn’t their fault that they were born into this position of power, but a non-mutant unquestionably has opportunities and privileges in the world of the X-Men that a giant hairy blue dude might not.

For as long as people started writing stuff down, non-mutants were the ones making laws, leading businesses, and writing for that one single newspaper that seems to fill all the news-dissemination needs of any comic book universe. It’s not their individual faults that this is the case; they were just born into that world. However, the fact that this has always been the case means that anyone born as a mutant is going to have a much tougher go of it. It also means that non-mutants can have a very hard time understanding what the mutants are complaining about, since the experience of, say, being excluded from positions of power because they’re considered too dangerous and unpredictable, or of constantly being told at parties “Wow, you’re really funny for a mutant! I didn’t know mutants could be funny!” are completely foreign experiences to non-mutants.

Misogynists = People Who Just Don’t Like Mutants Very Much

There have been a number of anti-mutant crusaders throughout X-Men’s long and storied history, ranging from Dr. Warren Worthington, Jr. and the staff at Worthington Labs who thought they were helping by finding a cure and letting mutants not be mutants anymore, to Senator Robert Kelly who just straight-up hates them, in that simple, black-and-white, Leave-It-To-Beaver way that no one seems to hate anything anymore.

That range is important — a misogynist is not just someone who comes right out and says, “Women, am I right? The thing I’m right about specifically being how much we hate them, and all the things they do and say.” Dr. Worthington might have thought he was pro-mutant, but his actions stem from a deeply-held belief that being a mutant is a bad thing and must be cured; similarly, misogyny can be telling someone they run like a girl (because what could be worse than doing something like a girl?). Misogyny can be wolf-whistling at a woman while she walks home with her groceries, or insisting that a girl who likes video games is just doing it for the attention, or pressuring your girlfriend to take on human form when you go out in public (that last one might just be for mutants – I won’t pretend to know what goes on in your bedroom). The point is, both misogyny and anti-mutant sentiment stem from an ingrained belief that they just aren’t quite as entitled to their own agency as we are.

Misandrists = Brotherhood of Mutants

As wonderful as the X-Men universe appears to be, it can’t be perfect; for example, there’s almost certainly some form of Reddit there. I imagine, in any discussion thread about bad things being done to mutants, a whole crusade of commenters would appear shouting “Brotherhood of Mutants!” the same way the word “misandry” is used as a sort of “Fus Ro Dah” to forcibly clear this world’s threads of women and/or rational discussion.

Yes, there was a small group of mutants who got so fed up with the way society treated them that they banded together to form a violent revolutionary group bent on revenge, world domination, and better costumes. Certainly, we can’t condone their actions, but still…you kind of get where they’re coming from, right?

Misandrists are feminism’s Brotherhood of Mutants. Small group. Small group. Reacting to a lifetime of not being treated super nice – over-reacting, sure, but reacting nonetheless. Not representative of the movement as a whole. Listen to a lot of Riot Grrrl.

Feminists = X-Men Family At Large (and their broad network of support)

The group of mutants at the Xavier Institute represent a hugely diverse group of people and opinions, from Storm (in some versions, she’s pretty angry at mutant oppression and not big on associating with non-mutants) to Moira MacTaggert (a human who goes to great length to further the cause of mutant equality) to most of the X-Men, who don’t appreciate it when people explain to them how it’s sooooo much harder to be a non-mutant because they have to walk all the way to the fridge to get ice cubes. But, for the most part, X-Men just want to live and be happy the best they know how.

That’s the core of feminism, I think. It’s not about wallowing in self-pity, or trying to turn regular sexism into reverse-sexism, or any of those things that Rush Limbaugh would have you believe. It’s just a group of people who acknowledge that, yeah, things have been pretty crappy for women for a pretty long time, and maybe it’s about time we did something about that. Starting with full-body leather jumpsuits.

You get a rose, and you get a rose, and but Kentucky doesn't get a rose, and Gonzaga gets a rose if you can believe it...

You get a rose, and you get a rose, and but Kentucky doesn’t get a rose, and Gonzaga gets a rose if you can believe it…

Now that you’re a sensitive man, you’ll surely want to do something nice for your girlfriend. Why not endure some of her reality TV? (wait–is that sexist? Because the stats say no.) We’ll help with more X explained by Y articles like Use March Madness to Talk to Your Girlfriend about “The Bachelor.”


You Look Nice Today
And if zombies, DIAF.

And if zombies, DIAF.

Alli Reed would definitely be Magneto if she could, minus the occasional evil stuff. Follow her on twitter: @alliperson

Pin the tail on the drunky.

Pin the tail on the drunky.

Alli suggested games to give your lamer friends in How to Make a Gamer and invented Your Childhood: The Drinking Game.

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