Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks Illustrated......... Edition
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About the Author
Emily Pohl-Weary is co-author of the Hugo Award-winning Better To Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, a biography of her grandmother. She is a regular book section writer for Toronto's Now magazine, edits the zine Kiss Machine and is fiction editor for Broken Pencil. Her website is www.girlswhobiteback.com.
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Okay, so I have another challenge for you. Do the same thing, only this time list only females.
Can you even come up with ten? Don't feel bad if you can't. Feel pissed off. Feel short-changed. Ask one question: Why?
It's only been in the fairly recent past that women have started to make an appearance in pop-culture in such a way so as to present examples of strength, combined with wit and, on occasion, super powers. Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks, edited by Emily Pohl-Weary, is a collection of essays, both prose and drawings, all dedicated to girls who choose to fight back. There are some essays focusing on the more obvious characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (giving Willow due props as well) and Xena: Warrior Princess. More interesting are the historical entries that explain how these kick ass women came to be and the characters that preceded them. Several pieces are fictional and create brand new fighting women, or give readers instructions on how to become one themselves.
Some readers of Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks will be overwhelmed by the science fiction, the comic book references and the overwhelming amount of attention given to Buffy, but fear not, the book offers some for all. And the section not of your element are written in such a way that even those ignorant of vampire slayers will be able to confidently read about Buffy and maybe even check out her show. You may not run out to buy your first comic, but you will feel new wonder towards Wonder Woman and some general irritation at the metamorphosis she has made in her lifetime from plain old Super Hero to sex-icon Super Hero.
In a total of 36 entries, women are given their due and readers are given an inspiration to either 1) support the few examples that currently exist in the media, 2) create new sheroes in the media and / or 3) become sheroes on their own to inspire women everywhere.
The highlight, for me, was "'Cuz the Black Chick Always Gets it First," by Candra K. Gill, a solid bit of work on the dynamics of race in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' - it's refreshing to find a fan who can deconstruct a show for its weaknesses, not just its strengths, and balancing both in the same entry was a nice touch.
The lowpoint, for me, was actually an artwork piece. Shary Boyle has a panel of five or six pages, which ran the gamut of a wonderful piece with a frumpy lady flying with birds, to a very angry looking woman with a baseball bat. But the piece that really threw me off was one where three young girls of various racial descent are holding a man pinned in a kneeling position - one little girl holding his hands behind his back, one with her foot on his groin, in a pose that speaks of pressure application, and one with a knife to the man's throat.
Now - I think there was an aim for role-reversal here - the typical (and factual in the majority of cases) white male pedophile. Reversed, this picture would be a disturbing violent piece about a pedophile, a predator, a sick tableau of violence. Instead, we have a sick tableau of violence where three little girls threaten a man's life, and we are left to assume the man has done something bad (since, for all that I can attempt to project here, it's not like one can point a finger at a row of men and say "Normal, normal, pedophile, normal...") Like I said, I think it aimed for role-reversal; it missed.
All in all, however, this was a solid bit of editing - prose and nonfiction both, some graphic novels, some artwork (the rest of the pictures by Shary Boyle, I should note, I quite enjoyed), all of it of a decent enough calibre to be substantive in total.
Definitely worth a bite.