In April a new X-Men comic will be released that features an all female cast. This has been claimed by some to be a step in the right direction with regards to the way women are portrayed in comics. Having this all female team is meant to be progressive and show that the superheroes are not just for boys. I don’t think this is the case, both in terms of it being a step in the right direction and that the comic genre is somehow lacking enough in terms of strong female presences to warrant a team of nothing but women.
I can think of two ways you could arrive at a team of only women. You can ether set out from the start with that in mind or it can arise naturally during the construction process. For me there is a world of difference between setting out to make a team of only A and setting out to make a team that ends up being made of only A.
Without reading the issue I can’t say which camp this falls into, but it seems like the former case, and people are certainly talking about it as if that were the situation. What I’ve found that I don’t agree with is that some people are talking about it being constructed purposefully to be female only as if that were a good thing.
If it is that case that the team was made on purpose to be a girls only one then this isn’t a good thing for women. You are saying that the deciding factor on giving these charcter the lime light is nothing other than the fact that they are women, which to me seems patronising and sexist. And if the tables were reversed and you had a men only team people would cry foul. I know this because they have. Off the top of my head I can think of only one team with an exclusively male roster  and it’s the one I’ve seen people complain about, the Illuminati. The Marvel Illuminati is a team of people who meet in secret to protect Earth. The team consists of
Iron Man – Founding Member of the Avengers.
Mr Fantastic – Leader of the Fantastic Four
Dr Strange – This dimensions Sorcerer Supreme.
Black Bolt – King of the Inhumans.
Namor – King of Atlantis.
Charles Xavier – Spokesman for Mutants.
Black Panther – King of Wakanda.
Captain America – Head of the World Security Council.
Beast – Chosen to replace Prof X.
I cannot prove it but it would seem to me that The Illuminati falls into the latter category of team construction I mentioned above, despite them being an all men this doesn’t seem to be the reason they were chosen. They were the characters that, at the time, make the most sense to include in a gathering like this, and when Black Bolt was presumed dead his wife Medusa, queen of the Inhumans took his place .
I hope that this new all female X-Men team is only all women as a consequence of something other than the desire to have a man free team, but at the moment it feels like nothing more than a publicity stunt. What makes things worse, for me, is what Brian Wood said about the series in a recent interview. He said it would feature a lot of relationships, love and sex, and that he “wants to challenge the double standards that have been in superhero books for years, where Wolverine can sleep with anybody but if a female character does it twice, she’s promiscuous”. Relationships? Fine, all characters are in some forms of relationships. Love? Not the most common of themes in superhero comics but okay. Sex? Hmmm, now it really seems that instead of being a normal superhero team that does normal superhero things this is turning into some sort of comic soap opera. I’m not trying to say that these things have no place in comics, but they are not nearly frequent enough in the medium to stop me raising a sceptical eyebrow at their mention.
I strongly believe that if you decided you need to make females more central in comics (which, again, I feel they already are), writing a new comic just featuring women, and then pitching it with things that a) are not normally at the forefront of the genre, and b) are stereotypically “girly” is the wrong way to do it. It may be that after the first few issues are out it turns out that the series is great and I just got the wrong initial impression, but I’ll have to wait till April to find out.
Interestingly I can think of three possibly all female teams; Birds of Prey, Lady Liberators and the Star Sapphires↩
Although she didn’t remain on the team as she didn’t share her husbands love of the humans and had an alien race to get back to conquering.↩