Women in Refrigerators
Women in Refrigerators (or WiR) is a website that was created in 1999 by a group of comic book fans. The site features a list of female comic book characters that had been injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books. The term "Women in Refrigerators" was coined by writer Gail Simone as a name for the website.
- Sad list, isn't it? Further proof of what I have always said: too many (male) writers seem able to think of only two things to do with female characters -- rape 'em or knock 'em up. The dead ones might be the lucky ones. At least I made Wonder Woman MORE powerful. That's one ...
- As for some characters being dead and then alive again -- that happens to both genders in comics. Look at Wonder Man. The thing that, to my mind, separates the male and female characters are the sex crimes. Only the female characters are victims of sex crimes; male characters are never subjected to that. (There may be one or two exceptions when the male character was sexually abused as a child, but that's about it.) It is the number and frequency of THAT which troubles me. (...) A female soldier in battle may suffer wounds; that's different than a woman being stalked, kidnapped, and having violence done to her in civilian life. The former incurs the physical damage because of her occupation; the latter, strictly because of her gender. A female cop may be shot because she is a cop, not because she is a female. That, to me, is part of the difference.
- It's a pretty scary list, scary mostly for what it says about (male) comics creators. What I think about this is the guys have good intentions, to use more female characters, and they try consciously to make them strong and positive role models and all that good stuff, but unconsciously it's very hard for many men to see women as something other than victims. (...) And where it comes from in many men is that men are real and women are vehicles for men's needs. One of those needs is to feel strong emotions such as grief, anger, pain, maturity. There are any number of movies and books in which a weak man becomes a hero, or faces up to life, because a woman has been raped or murdered or has committed suicide. Did the writer realize he was (once more) victimizing women? (...) I just checked out the web site after all, to see the reactions of (some of) the other creators. It was interesting to see how many of the men felt called on to defend (or apologize for) their own murdered female characters. You know, I assume, of the point made by people like Trina Robbins that the powers of female characters in the '60s showed a good deal about the male creators-- a "girl" who turns invisible, another who makes herself tiny and buzzes around men annoyingly (when she's not shopping)...
- I think it's sad and terrible. I think that too many creators got on the "Bad Girl" bandwagon and did nothing but pander and exploit their own creations. To be honest, many creators that I've talked to solely created those characters to be exploited and exploitative. Now mind you I don't see this as a gender thing as much as I see it as a genre thing. Everybody is out for the quick buck and too many are too lazy to try to come up with something original. I know it's scary but if tomorrow's hot comics are about one-legged Mongolian dwarfs, than you can be sure that more than one respected creator will be jumping all over the concept but will claim to be giving it "their spin." (...) The worst news is that it's a million times worse in other parts of the entertainment field, mainly because there is more money involved and fewer morals.
- I'd chalk most of what's on your list up to lame writing. In desperate search of drama, and unable to obtain it any other way, some writers will resort to obvious emotional triggers/easy pickin's. You can always get a bang by killing Aunt May, or for that matter, Superman. The biggest crime is that many of these stories are unfolded badly, baldly and pathetically, by writers who don't have a clue. People looking for Freudian motives, i.e., hatred of Mother, etc., are wasting their time. Most of these writers sweated cannonballs trying to think of something SO SHOCKING that it would evoke a response from readers, and violence to women was the most horrifying thing they could come up with. Usually, the response to these badly told tales is boredom. Sometimes, they succeed in mobilizing folks like you, who wonder if these writers are sick. Nah. They just suck.
- There's the famous--and true--anecdote of the Hellcat story that consists mostly of her being beaten to a pulp by a man, a story that BY THE *WILDEST* COINCIDENCE was written by a man in the middle of harsh divorce proceedings. (...) I'm responsible for the death of Ice. My call, my worst mistake in comics, my biggest regret. I remember hearing myself ask the editor, "Who's the JLAer whose death would evoke the most fierce gut reaction from readers?" What a dope. Mea culpa. But I've learned my lesson. In fact, one of the only reasons I still hang on to FLASH is because I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the moment I walk, the next guy's gonna drop a safe on Linda Park's head before my last voucher's been paid.
- I think it generally means killing female heroes is supposed to elicit more emotions from readers than killing male readers. (...) I think the wholesale slaughter is because there's a lot of writers who think all major character motivation is made by killing folk and women characters are easier to kill than male characters since so few of them are major heroes on their own. (...) I fear, that most boys want to read stories about big muscled guy heroes showing off than gal heroes. They want the girl heroes there in the background, and even important to books, but they rarely if ever buy a book starring a female. Younger boys I think are frightened to some degree by the overly muscled women even while they may find a sexual delight in them.
- Having always created lots of female characters, and doing some good work on them, I think, by making them all individuals (whether someone liked the Titans or not, Starfire, Wonder Girl and Raven were not in any way the same person in different latex costumes), I find most female heroes that other writers do are simply cookie-cut outs. Since a very few of these are anything special, it's easy to knock them off. Acknowledging that does not condone it. It merely explains it.
- As regards the female characters thing, I'm afraid I think it's giving male creators a bum deal. The list does read pretty shocking at first until you think of everything the male heroes have gone through, too, in terms of deaths/mutilations/etc. Granted, the female stuff has more of a sexual violence theme and this is something people should probably watch out for, but rape is a rare thing in comics and is seldom done in an exploitative way.
- Before being able to comment on the tragedies which have befallen only female comic characters as any kind of a trend, I would need to see a similar list of the kinds of tragedies which have befallen MALE characters in direct proportion to the number of female characters vs. male which exist throughout the entire industry. (...) As a writer with at least over 500 story credits (I stopped counting. Math isn't my strong suit), I will say that professionally speaking, I believe in treating ALL my characters, male, female, black, white or Kryptonian with equal measure respect and abuse. Basically, you have to respect them enough to abuse them in order to see how they will handle the adversity. Remember, monthly comics publishing is akin to a soap opera with more punches thrown. Characters HAVE to be made to endure both physical and emotional adversity in order for the lifeblood of the genre -- i.e. MONTHLY serial stories -- to work. When you've done more work on the subject, I'd be glad to discuss your results.
- I reserve the right to refuse to like a comic just because there is a girl/woman in it, or someone's decided to take a limp stab at marketing it to girls/women. (...) Push past those posters of giant titties and that one of the impossible pose where some gal is displaying her butt, crotch AND breasts, and that one where the girl looks like she's been oiled up and spanked. Push past all that, my sisters! (...) There, my sisters, under all those eye lemons and tree-killers are comics you will like. Don't hold it against your retailer if he or she is keeping the store going with chromium multi-variant oops-my-tittie-fell-out 1-to-4 short-packed speculator specials — get in there and grab that Previews and you will find something for you, and by God order it and get all your girlfriends to do the same and your store will still be in business after the superhero readers turn 18 and start reading the Mangerotica books and the speculators have left to sell their Beanie Babies to pay the rent! (...) Of course, always give your business to the store that makes it easy to get what you want, and doesn't offended your eyeballs with faux-core (as opposed to soft core) porn. Thank you.
- Women in Refrigerators index, March 1999, retrieved August 5 2006.
- Women in Refrigerators: Responding Creators