It was 40 years ago that the first official issue of Ms. Magazine hit the stands. Yesterday in New York City there was an event to honor the magazine. I’m not going to discuss the impact the magazine has had, I’ll let you read this essay by actress Marlo Thomas.
You probably know who appeared on the cover of that first issue - Wonder Woman. The magazine’s editor Gloria Steinem grew up with the character, had written a series of essays for the first compilation of Wonder Woman comics, and was instrumental in having the character’s powers returned after her “Mod era” depowering.
On the New York Times this morning, I noted a telling comment by Paul Levitz
[Levitz] remembers seeing copies of Ms. at DC Comics when he would go and hang out there after school.
"It’s so fascinating, the transition from it being such a radical statement to a generation that says, ‘Why is that a big deal?’” he said. “When I talked to kids I teach about how recent these changes are, they’re like, ‘We had dinosaurs and the Roman Empires, and then we didn’t let women do stuff.’ That’s as much historical perspective as they have on it.”
Levitz is a professor at Pace University where he teaches on comics and graphic novels. It’s interesting, but sadly not surprising, to hear that students interested in comics might have a lack of perspective or even a sense of “been there; done that” about the history of feminism and equality. (And, note, this is not a knock against Levitz in the least).
I think that lack of understanding and perspective is actually part of the problem these days. And not just in comics but society as a whole. And it is not just men but sometimes women need to evolve their thinking as I well. I read with fascination earlier this year a post by writer G. Willow Wilson on her journey to embracing feminists. I interviewed a former DC editor who admitted that she had changed her perspective about feminism. But there is much more education that needs to be done and more people who need to be enlightened.
Forty years after the arrival of Ms. Magazine we are in the middle of a political “War on Women”. In just the last few days we’ve seen “new levels of mysogyny in gaming, and, despite some incredibly positive gains in comics, jaw dropping moments of "what were they thinking" when it comes to depicting women.
Sadly in terms of equality for ALL women in society, over the last 40 years we’ve been there and, in many ways, we’re still there. For every two steps taken by the giant Wonder Woman on the cover of this iconic magazine cover, I feel like there is one step back. I hope it doesn’t take 40 more years to complete the journey.
I’d also just like to add if you choose to comment on this piece, please remember the concept of irony.