Should girl power become woman power?



I have looked at many different aspects of fashion in my blogs and many different aspects of the presentation of women in comics, but one thing which bears some mention is that women in comics are often under represented in terms of what would be more accurately called girls.  A quick look for characters named girl versus those named woman, is almost staggering.   Of major characters named Woman is both major comic book companies there is Wonder Woman, Invisible Woman, Catwoman, Spider Woman and Batwoman.   It is not a fair comparison perhaps because of the Legions of Super Heroes, but the term girl shows up much more often.   In fact not even counting the Legion, there is a corresponding girl to each of the women mentioned, though Catgirl was not a very famous character (Sue Storm used to be called Invisible Girl).  Is there actually something of a bias against grown women?

This goes back to the original readership of comics, how it was mostly aimed at a young male audience.  Most of the characters were either archetypes of the hero genre, or they were sidekicks.  It was rare for a sidekick to be female (in fact none were until Supergirl) but even as female characters become more popular it was rare to see one ever grow out of this title (which Power Girl, a fully grown adult has never done.)   The girl aspect of most of these female characters was highlighted as well as things like bearing midriff or wearing skirts became commonplace in their depiction.   So the early readers could probably associate more with a character that was young, flirty and maybe a bit sassy than they could with a strong woman role.  Even the major female characters were rarely portrayed as something which represented what adult women might behave like (Wonder Woman and Invisible Woman being the exceptions.)   

As comics evolved so did the readers and subjects and characters changed to meet the new demand.  With this though some things were considered sacrosanct though, such as a shoddy scientific basis for stories (though this has increasingly gone away) or the pinup nature of certain characters from this early era (Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Power Girl).  This second aspect has never really gone away, as any Emma Frost fan can tell you.   The depiction of girls though has remained.   It is still rare to see an elder female character which younger male characters look up to, but a young female character looking up to a male character is kind common.  So, for instance, while they dropped the girl part of the name, many young X-Men female characters looked up to the older ones (for instance Wolverine with his connection to Rogue, Psylocke or X-23.)   

In terms of its use though, I am not sure if this is something which the creators do purposefully, but rather something which is done “just because it always has been done that way.”   One of the Superboys grew into the villainous Superman Prince, Robin grew into Nightwing and then Batman, Aqualad grew into the Tempest, Wally West went from Kid Flash to perhaps the most popular Flash ever (to be fair Donna Troy was also for a very short time Wonder Woman).   Is it time that Power Girl be allowed to grow into Power Woman?   I would say yes, just because its something which has never been done doesn’t mean its something that can never be done.   It is also the responsibility of the writers to sometimes break the patterns of the past and set the tone for the future.  To do so makes comics more relevant to all and also more entertaining to all.

Posted by azza04

I agree, it's deffinetly time Power Girl became Power Woman :)

Posted by aztek_the_lost

I don't think their names should change from girl to woman but rather they should just get new names altogether. On a personal note, though, I've always felt like the word "woman" just doesn't flow as "girl"...but characters in general should just stray away from girl, man, boy, woman, etc. names unless they're iconic enough (the Trinity, Spider-Man, etc.) or they haven't really outgrown the name (like Supergirl).

Posted by SC

Damned syllables. Rogue and Psylocke mind you actually were on much equal footing with Wolverine originally and usually as well barring movies and... (??) 
I am not really a fan of character names that involve man, boy, girl, woman etc unless its for a good reason, backed by history or ironic. 

Posted by Degalon

Most of the time, it's simply because "Girl" has a better ring to it than "woman". 
For example, "Power Girl" rolls off the tongue much better than "Power Woman". 
Same with "Batgirl/Batwoman" "Supergirl/Superwoman", and "Spider-Girl/Spider-Woman". 
Plus most of the time, they are teens, but for the most part, it's the former reason.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@Degalon: Well there already is a Batwoman, Superwoman and Spider-Woman.
Posted by Degalon
@spiderbat87: Right, but I thought that the Girl versions came first.
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@Degalon said:
@spiderbat87: Right, but I thought that the Girl versions came first.
@Degalon said:
@spiderbat87: Right, but I thought that the Girl versions came first.
There all diffident characters, not older versions of the same one.
Posted by Degalon
The girl versions still came first, though, right?
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@Degalon said:
@spiderbat87:   The girl versions still came first, though, right?
Spider-woman came before Spidergirl the other two girl came first.
Posted by The Stegman

i don't really see the problem with it, sure her name is Powergirl, but she's all woman to me...and no, that's not sexual, i just meant she seems pretty mature to me, why should a name matter?

Posted by ragdollpurps
@SC said:
Damned syllables. Rogue and Psylocke mind you actually were on much equal footing with Wolverine originally and usually as well barring movies            
Were and still are on equal footing with him. Also, for a while X-23 saw Psylocke as a role model and in X-Treme X-Men, before Psylocke died, Rogue looked up to her in combat training. 
Posted by Vortex13
@spiderbat87 said:
@Degalon said:
@spiderbat87:   The girl versions still came first, though, right?
Spider-woman came before Spidergirl the other two girl came first.
Actually there was a Batwoman before there was a Batgirl.
Posted by Darkmount1

Ah, see, it's debates like this that make me like the name-selection in Transformers or GI Joe better. Sure, GI Joe has a member named Cover Girl, but it's a slang term having to do with the fact that she was a former fashion model.  Just look at the names TF's have had over the years: 
-Stinkbomb (a skunk) 
-Rapido (a sports car) 
-Airazor (a peregrine falcon) 
-Quickmix (a cement mixer) 
-Divebomb (an eagle) 
-Trypticon (a dinosaur who turned into a city) 
Or even in GI Joe: 
-Sci-Fi (laser rifle trooper) 
-Kamakura (ninja) 
-Bullet-Proof (urban commander) 
-Airtight (hostile environment trooper) 
-Bombstrike (forward air controller) 
That way, we don't have conundrums like this whole "girl" vs "woman" upgrade issue.
Posted by B'Town

Incredibly well thought out article. I'm glad for the discussion.

I use to have a problem with the whole girl - woman references, not just in comics but in real life as well. There had been times when, I had actually taken offense to being called a girl and even woman. But, my touchiness on the subject is over. I have embraced the "Girl" wholeheartedly as well as "Woman".

The first time I said, "I throw like a girl" and said it proudly, changed a lot for me. I hear and say the words differently, than I once did.

So, I'm a woman, grrrl, dyke. I'm all of these things and so are the many heroes and villains I love to read about.

As for Power Girl, I don't read her, but if I were a fan, I imagine I would like her to stay Power Girl. Yeah, I like the sound of it.

Power+Girl = Pretty darn Powerful

Posted by tonis

you do always come up with the most interesting thoughts to dance with :)

It's true, there's an intentional motivation when a creator adds the 'girl' or 'boy' moniker to a character. That gets even more twisted in interpretations because depending on the viewer it can take on totally different meanings.

They also amplify the same stereotypes you see in any adult named counterpart which is why you see many of the same things.

Power Girl has proven herself to be Power Woman several times but I suspect the writers that be prefer the younger title for marketing reasons.

Edited by lorex

While it remains to be scene what will happen with Power Girl with this reboot/relaunch it may be a good time to change a few things. Its my feeling that 6-8 months several titles in the relaunch will fail and I am hoping PG will reemerge and not just a business woman Karen Star. As for changing the name well it makes sense in a way to to refer to her a Power Woman because as she is depicted she is all woman.  With PG though I never got the feeling it was being used as a pejorative or a put down, she uses the title Power Girl because that whats she has been called for along time. I guess if her title was changed for some BS politically correct reason then I would not be in favor of it. However if a change was made to allow some growth and maturing of her character then changing to Power Woman would make more sense.

Posted by Jnr6Lil

Girl power sounds more catchy then woman power.

Posted by christopherwalken

No, it shouldn't. But they could both co-exist as parallel -and not entirely mutually exclusive- concepts.

Edited by HexThis

I surprise even myself when I say this but I almost like the term "girl" for some reason. On a strictly superficial level, it sounds nice and I think it provides an interesting contradiction to what most people view classic "strength" as being. But it's something that has to be played correctly and I see how it can become irritating if women are never allowed to ascend to womanhood so as to look less powerful. Power Girl works, I'd accept Power Woman though. 
In a strange way I sometimes don't mind certain female counterparts or sidekicks to male characters. For the simple reason that comics can sometimes be very patriarchal, whenever anyone goes for a tender moment they always resolve to incorporate a little boy who relates to the superhero, either that or a grown man trying to embody his father's ambitions. I remember a non-canonical arc wherein Bruce becomes a physician like his father and Clark becomes a farmer... I mean, come on! Two men who changed the world still seek paternal validation and regress to being exactly like the generation before them? How is that character progression? And it's just insufferably sappy as well. 
To understand what I mean you need only see the last few minutes of Dark Knight when Jim Gordon decides of his family, his son is his favorite. It's an excellent enough movie to surpass that lameness but really? What in the hell kind of parent (or decent parent, rather) picks favorites? And solely on the basis of gender and the inheritance of their power? That's some very archaic thinking.
But a girl like say Batgirl looking up to Batman and coming up with her own interpretation of his iconic status I think is a positive thing. Batgirl is a separate commodity from Batman now, a versatile one as well, same with the Huntress.


I'm almost 100% certain the brass themselves evaluated this very thing, but it boiled down to simply " some consumers will likely be confused ".
We live in a world where music CD's with just 4 to 5 tracks listed in order on the back of the case are almost always numbered as well, as if counting
to five were a task for enough costumers.That proves something to me right there.

Posted by The Impersonator
Posted by NightFang
@azza04 said:

I agree, it's deffinetly time Power Girl became Power Woman :)

I think Lady Power would sound better.
Posted by fodigg

I like PG. 
This reminds me of the Legion series where three different Legions were all together and one of the younger version girls says something like "i really like Colossal MAN" and an older girl responds "actually, he still goes by Colossal BOY" to which the first says "that's adorable."

Posted by AmoralBatman

Could it be as simple as it sounds better? 
Personally I think Catwoman sounds good while Catgirl doesnt. 
Similarly Supergirl sounds better then Superwoman. 
Perhaps this is only because I'm used to them (though I think the older brother younger sister relationship Kal and Kara have is whats preventing them from letting her grow up) 
last note. Would BatBoy ever sound good...

Posted by Tempest55

I really liked how Power Girl was called Power Woman in one future scenario of Justice League: Generation Lost, she was even wearing the S symbol! I think it will happen in due time, she definitely deserves to be Power Woman.

Posted by Jnr6Lil

Depends on the type of character first also.But yeah there were woman characters before girls

Posted by KEROGA

am ready for HWAKGIRL to be HAWKWOMAN.....its a perfect costume oppurtunity
Posted by Gerhabio

I sense some feminist stirrings and I like it.

Yeah, as you've noticed, depictions of women in popular culture media are often infantilized. Comic book writers cater to the sensibilities and desires of what they perceive is their main audience, mainly men. It's a little disturbing but based on the popularity of young-acting or young-looking characters over mature, more realistic women in comics, anime, video games, etc, men like female characters to be teen-like (if not, dare I say, child-like). There are a few popular exceptions like you mentioned but they are still few.

I find what you said about there being more young girls looking up to a older male than boys looking up to older women very interesting. I had not noticed that but now that I think about it, it is true and I suspect it is because a lot of men are still more comfortable with women in a subservient position relative to men as opposed to a dominant one (as say, a mentor-pupil relationship).

Posted by Glitch_Spawn

Hmm. I don't think so but it's not for any sexist reason or anything.  Just preference I guess, but then again it would be similar to calling Superman, Superboy.  So you do have a pretty good point.

Posted by Shadow_Thief

Well, one could make the argument that by using the term "girl," which is generally considered to be a less powerful term than "woman," one is striking a harsher blow at convention by the pseudo-paradoxical nature of the expression. Of course, study language long enough and you begin to realize what a utterly futile method of conveyance it is for deeper thought...

Posted by ReVamp

No, I really don't think so, I believe girl power encompasses a greater number of people, and rolls of the tongue better.

Posted by Tazirai

I tend to like the Girl, boy, lass, lad, man, etc.  
In every online superhero mmo I play all my female toons have -Woman or -man in their names.  
Depending on Origins however Something else may be more appropriate.  
If a Guys Power comes from the 4 fundamental forces of the universe. I would think Universe Man or woman would suck. 
But Cosmic man, or Cosmic woman would work.

Posted by difficlus

I agree on many levels, it is very rare to see a young female look up to an older woman. Even for me as a reader, there's no old female character i really look up to in awe or respect. idk. wonder woman is too bland and her previous outfit didn't work in favor of my respecting her. Storm is kewl but usually forgets her african heritage and Invisable Woman (or the FF as a whole) have always come off as poorly written or characterized and very bland to me.

But good blog!

Posted by Hazlenaut

They can always Maiden or Lady




Is it too wordy?

Posted by Timandm

Regarding the issue of young male characters looking up to female characters.

I think Invisible woman and Storm are female heroes that younger males look up to....

I've not read much Wonder Woman but I would guess it's the same for her...