(Originally posted at my tumblr: Ami's Tumblr Place of Cat DOOOM)
I was reading this post on Racialicious about the continuing problems with Rick Remender's Uncanny Avengers
and his idea that discrimination would just be solved if people stopped
seeing differences. In the specific issue the post is talking about,
Remender uses Scarlet Witch as essentially his mouthpiece to shut down
Rogue who is kind of a strawman representation of his critics. She's
portrayed as being overly emotional and presenting weak arguments (or
poorly backed up arguments) so that Remender's stand-in can easily knock
On top of what Racialicious has brought up as the
issues with Wanda's arguments (the mutants do have a shared history,
etc), I wanted to add some of my thoughts of why I think this entire
argument of "don't see differences and there will be no problems" that
Remender's posited (starting from Havok, continuing through Wanda) is
ridiculous and problematic.
To me I see at least 3 major issues that Mutants face (there may be more, but I want to just address these 3 for now):
1) Accessibility issues.
This one I don't think gets talked about enough when people talk about
Mutants as an allegory for discrimination in society. People talk about
them as an allegory for race, and an allegory for queer acceptance, but
Mutants aren't just having trouble fitting into society because they
look different, or that they have powers. Many of them have physical or
mental differences that prevent them from easily being able to access
and live in society. Without his ruby glasses, Cyclops can't open his
eyes without blasting a hole through everything constantly. If he
didn't have a wealthy benefactor in Xavier to begin with, he probably
would have to live his entire life with his eyes closed. How does
Havok's "don't see differences" philosophy help him, or others in his
situation? How does a society that embraces his philosophy help
Cyclops? Is it his job to close his eyes and pretend to fit in, or does
he need to have the wealth and means to buy ruby glasses to keep out of
the way of others? Will society help mutants who shoot beams out of
their eyes, or who emit acid from their hands with their accessibility
needs and fund what equipment they might need to live their lives? Or
will it just be up to them to keep their differences out of sight?
what about Rogue? It's especially pressing because she's the one
talking to Scarlet Witch. Rogue isn't like Wanda, she isn't just a
regular human with some added nifty powers. She can't touch people
without killing them. She can't shake hands, she can't kiss people, she
can't ever experience intimacy. Her mutancy alters the way she
experiences society and her ability to interact with society. She can't
close her eyes and pretend this doesn't exist. It's a real thing she
has to constantly be concerned about and it affects what she can do, and
how she dresses. How does a "see no differences" society accept her,
and accommodate her? Would such a society leave people like her jobless
because it's just easier to hire somebody who can shake hands with
clients without a glove, or who you don't have to worry might
accidentally kill a co-worker or customer? If we're just treating
people "like people", then the "I'm just choosing the best qualified
person who causes the least trouble for my company" argument can easily
be used to just ignore mutants with abilities like Rogue. Society is
designed around non-powered people, and that includes the clothes we
wear for work. Will a "no differences" society obligate companies to
alter their dress codes to accommodate Mutants who need to wear or not
wear certain things to work there, or would the Mutants who can't fit in
just be SOL?
And what about issues like housing, or shelter?
Would she be able to find any place to live or stay if people are
worried about her accidentally sucking the life out of her housemates,
or being a danger to people in a shelter? Would any shelters even allow
her in? Would she be allowed into communal showers or dressing rooms
because of fear that she might harm other patrons?
In the Marvel
world, it's easy to ignore these as issues because Rogue and Cyclops are
superheroes and they don't have to worry about employment, or housing,
but if Remender wants us to think of this issue beyond just "superheroes
in tights", you can't just pretend that these things wouldn't happen,
and aren't an issue for Mutants trying to live their day to day lives.
And they DO happen, in real life, all the time, to those who have to
deal with issues regarding access such as people with disabilities and
trans people. Accessibility barriers are real, and can seriously
impinge on a person's quality of life, ability to get and keep
employment, ability to be housed, and ability to get around in life.
Society is designed around abled people and cis people, and that design
means disabled people and trans people are often at a severe
disadvantage in being able to interact and live in society. You can't
just pretend you don't see it, and it goes away.
This also adds
another fucked up layer to Wasp's Mutant fashion line: it's not just
appropriation in a racial sense, but it's appropriating outfits and
apparel that Mutants NEED to wear to live their lives. It's a fun thing
for some kid to wear Rogue's gloves or Cyclop's visor, but those things
aren't just affectations to those characters, they're things they need
to wear to interact with society the way non-powered humans take for
granted every day.
2) Discrimination on appearance.
This one's been talked about quite a bit, so I think I'll try to keep
it brief. Characters like Beast or Nightcrawler can't just claim "I'm
human, stop seeing my powers" because it's not necessarily about their
powers when it comes to people's prejudice against them. They don't
look the same as the "default" accepted idea of how people should look.
They aren't the privileged group visually, and that's not something you
can close your eyes and ignore either. It's easy for Havok or Scarlet
Witch to pass as human, but other characters can't. It's a lot easier
for people to "not see differences" when the differences are something
they can more easily pretend don't exist. History has shown again and
again that "race blindness" just leads to people defaulting to the
"norm". By telling people that differences don't matter, you encourage
people to not challenge their own biases, just merely "not thinking
about them", and that always benefits the privileged group, because
they're centered in society.
And even beyond just physical
appearance, do Mutants have to try to "act human" too? Does Beast have
to shave constantly and wear clothes to get a job? Does Nightcrawler
have to hide his feet and hands? Will he be kept in the back of a diner
to not "scare" the customers? Beast has a different posture than
what's accepted as "human", does he have to change that, or downplay
that? Some mutants are more comfortable moving or acting in a certain
way due to their mutancy (Nightcrawler perches a lot), is that something
that people will understand, or again, something they'd have to change
to downplay their differences, and stop "shoving it in people's faces"?
could continue, but the comparisons to racism, homophobia, transphobia,
and cultural/religious discrimination have been made before, and I
presume most people "get" how some issues Mutants face are allegories to
the above. But these are real life issues that affect real life
people, and "being color blind" only exacerbates them because it often
ignores that people can't turn off their biases, and more than that,
often is used to discriminate against people by claiming that they are
"shoving it in our faces" if they act or look in a way that isn't
minimizing their "differences".
Also, do non-white Mutants not
exist or something? How about instead of having a bunch of white
Mutants talk about how being a Mutant relates to race, we have some
non-white Mutants chime in with their perspective? I'm sure more than a
few understand the relationship between the discrimination they face as
Mutants and what they face as people of colour, and they can tell Havok
and Scarlet Witch just how effective "don't see race" has been in their
3) Mutants as threats. So this is the
part that does affect people like Havok and Scarlet Witch. Because
Mutants actually DO have powers. And this is where they differ from a
straight comparison to real life, because real life marginalized groups
don't have super powers that put them on a completely different level
than other groups (and generally in our society, the
physically/militarily/economically superior group is the dominant,
privileged one). People may THINK a marginalized group is a threat, but
they're not actually one. Black people may be seen as more dangerous,
but they can't wave their hands and wipe out a town. Some mutants can.
And it, again, can't just be handwaved away by "pretend everybody's the
same." How DOES society deal with the reality of some people being
"one man armies"? How does society deal with the possibility of people
like Magneto? You can limit people's access to weapons, but not to
themselves. What if somebody with the power to shoot fireballs feels
like blowing up a school? What about telepaths who want to use their
powers to manipulate others, or rape others? How does the legal system
cover "consent" with a telepath, or somebody who emits phermones? This
is a case of Marvel writers wanting to make a direct analogy to racism,
or other real life discrimination, but ignoring that real life
marginalized groups don't have super powers that can be used to
destructive consequences. If Remender wants me to think of the Marvel
Earth as a serious actual real world with real life concerns, the above
aren't issues that that world can just ignore because "let's just not
However, since "marginalized groups as threats"
IS a narrative that is used to discriminate in society, we can adapt
certain things about the fear of Mutants and their powers into real
life. Does a Mutant with depression get treated as an automatic
threat? Do we fear that a depressed teen Mutant might kill all their
schoolmates with energy beams? Do they have to be locked up then? Are
they going to be forced treatment for their depression? These are
issues and stigma that people with mental illnesses already face in real
life. "Not seeing differences" again tends to mean "treating everybody
from the baseline of the "norm" or default" and that means that people
who aren't neurotypical get treated as if they're necessarily threats,
or dangerous, or must be locked up, or forcibly medicated.
well, people who are HIV+ face similar discrimination as "threats", and
are feared, treated more harshly by the law, and excluded in many
situations. They ARE treated as if their very existence is a potential
weapon. But their condition, and their ability to access treatment and
medical care are also very real. How does "see no differences" help
them? You can't handwave their disease away, but that doesn't mean that
acknowledging their condition means that they must be treated as
pariahs, or threats, or potential killers.
And we just dealt with
the Trayvon Martin double tragedy (what happened + the verdict). How
would "stand your ground" apply in the Marvel world? Can you imagine
the number of mutants that would be murdered because somebody feared
they would fireball them? "Sure, he was just walking towards me, but I
know he can shoot eyebeams, I had to shoot first!" And again, I'm just
talking about how this would work in the Marvel world. In real life
black people don't actually have powers, but our society constructs
black people to be seen as physically more aggressive, powerful, and
dangerous, and people's prejudices based on this can't just be ignored.
You can tell them not to see the color of a black person's skin, and
they'll just justify their discrimination based on (perceived)
physicality, and claim it's not racism.
Marvel society couldn't
just pretend that Mutants don't actually have powers, or accessibility
needs, or physical differences, because it's an actual real physical
reality in that world. Mutants deal with all three issues above, often
in various intersectional combinations. All Havok's pretty speech would
do is have society pretend that their own fears and discrimination of
those differences don't matter or exist, rather than address how to
accept and co-exist with those who ARE different than them.
a much more real way, it's telling the readers that in the REAL world,
where people don't even HAVE powers, that all we need to do is to close
our eyes and discrimination will go away. That the only problem is
people seeing differences, rather than that those of us who are
"different" live in a society not designed for us, whether that's the
medical system, the legal system, the architecture around us, dress
codes, hiring practices, or just the narratives and thought processes
that people grow up being taught about us. THOSE are the real problems
that need addressing, and they need REAL solutions, not fantasy close
your eyes and it goes away platitudes. Differences are real, and they
matter. They only don't matter to those who society sees as "normal"
and has built itself around.
Article from the Toronto Star about it here.
This sounds like a good campaign, and taking a different tactic to raising awareness and getting people’s attention, hopefully people get the message and don’t just laugh it off.
Using Superman, I think, is also really powerful, because (besides the use of him in tights to send the message about clothing) it shows that no matter how physically powerful you are, or if you’re a man, you can still be assaulted. The clothing message is the obvious one, but by using a powerful superhero icon, there’s also the messages about not victim blaming people by speculating on if they could have fought back, or inventing ways of how they could have fought back (and therefore should have) or “but you’re so much bigger than them”, etc…
If we can believe Superman can be assaulted, then maybe we can believe the non-powered people we meet IRL when they say so.