Holy traditional family values, Batman!

This frame is from the 1959 Batman comic “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman”:


Via Eatliver.com. Description is in footnote 1.

Lonely Gods expands on the rest of the story:

Batwoman’s status as an inferior woman was most clearly stated in the 1959 story “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman”. In this tale, Dick Grayson fell asleep and dreamed of a possible future where Bruce Wayne and Kathy Kane married. Soon after their marriage, Bruce Wayne told Kathy he was Batman in an attempt to stop her from interfering in their cases any longer.

“Maybe now Kathy will realize Bruce doesn’t want his wife to endanger her life, and she’ll be content to be just a normal housewife,” Robin thought to himself as he watched the scene. This plan failed, and Kathy immediately tried to join Batman and Robin as they set out for their next adventure.

“Now look, Kathy – one crime-fighter in the family is enough!” Batman rebuked her attempt to help him. “A wife’s place is in the home!”

Kathy retorted: “A wife’s place is with her husband!”

Batman forcibly prevented Kathy from joining them as Batwoman by hiding her costume, and set out with Robin. Midway through their adventure, however, the duo were joined by Batwoman wearing one of Batman’s costumes. As the three of them fought various criminals, Batwoman’s cowl was torn away and revealed her secret identity to the world. Batwoman could only sob helplessly as the criminals immediately connected her to Bruce Wayne, who they quickly realized was Batman.

“Kathy, do you know what you’ve done?” Robin shrieked. “You’ve wrecked Batman’s career! He’s finished, Kathy – and it’s all your fault because you wouldn’t listen!”

I can’t be the only one who can’t help reading this story slashifically, but wresting my mind away from Robin’s overwhelming jealousy issues for just a moment: surely this goes way above and beyond D.C.’s policy of relegating women to secondary importance?

This is flagrant misogyny and woman-blaming, not “benign neglect”. Being a submissive, meek housewife is “normal”, and Kathy Kane is depicted as incompetent, interfering, uppity, and treacherous for attempting to break out of that mould. Women who have careers or missions – even if their vocation is motivated by altruism and by being by their husbands’ sides! – will poison the righteous, innocent men. Disobedience to a husband is betrayal, doom.

Methinks Robin is not the only one with issyews.

For more comics feminism, check out Girl-Wonder.

[Hat tip to Simon.]

[1] Description of strip:

header: “The next night, as Batman and Robin once again answer the Bat-Signal…”

Batman and Robin are swooping toward the batcar. Batwoman, still in civvies (a red skirt and shirt with lacey cuffs), is saying “Wait for me! I’ll have my costume on in a few minutes!”

Batman is holding up his hand in a “stop” gesture, saying “Now look, Kathy – one crime-fighter in the family is enough! A wife’s place is in the home!”

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, history, work and family

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5 replies

  1. The world of 1959 was indeed a nasty place if you were female
    someone pointed to “The Dick van Dyke Show” of the same era as feminist – but the show was pretty sexist – Laura was not a feminist character despite her Capri pants and the underlying message of the show was that no woman is complete without a husband – look at Sally – it wasn’t until “That Girl” a decade later that the female star could win a fight against being married on-screen

  2. wow, I mean, wow. If I were her Bruce Wayne would never see his wife again.

  3. Of course, it couldn’t be Batman’s fault for hiding the costume that actually fit her.

  4. Gosh, I remember “That Girl” – it was like a whole new world opening up. To this day I’ll always love Marlo Thomas!
    Suzann’s last blog post..Listening to Whispers

  5. We have to remember to contextualize these things. Was it fair? no. did it suck? yes. But don’t use the present tense. everything was a little twisted fifty years ago, and fifty years from now, we’ll look back on current issues as a little twisted. But does now-DC owe now-women an apology for a fifty year old comic book? Surely no more than now-British owe now-Americans for that whole “taxation w/o representation” thing. You can’t judge things said and done then by now’s standards and knowledge… it all seemed like a good idea at the time. Instead, reflect and be glad they wouldn’t be able to get away with it today.

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