As a child, I loved reading and watching the adventures of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman. As an adult, I still do – unfortunately, on the reading side of things, it’s been mainly ‘Superman’ these days, with Lois and Clark taking a (distant?) back seat.
It often surprises me that others are surprised that I’m so passionate about the ‘emancipation’ of women. Granted, I don’t attend protests or anything like that (more fool me?) but the fact is that I know that girls and women have a right to education, to express themselves, to work, to lead. It doesn’t have an adverse effect on their moral character, it doesn’t make men weaker, and it doesn’t make men ‘obsolete’.
It often surprises me that others are surprised that I’m so passionate about the ‘emancipation’ of women, but it disturbs me when they justify their surprise with:
‘But you’re a guy…’
Or (worse, more often than not):
‘But you’re Muslim…’
I’m not going to write about the rights and status of women in Islam (not this time), what I am going to write about is the influence, on me, of one of three very, very important characters and how they’ve shown me, in my formative years (and beyond), the ‘rights and status of women’ in general.
These names are famous across the world and have formed the ‘template’ for many other characters within fiction over the past 75 years. Sometimes people have been ‘derogatory’ or dismissive in their reference to the characters, other times the use is an expression of appreciation and admiration. More often than not, though, people are unaware as to how influential these characters have been, and continue to be.
For now, let’s focus on Lois Lane.
My first memories of Lois are from the old Fleischer cartoons – specifically, the Mechanical Monsters episode and, more specifically, her climbing in to one of the robots.
Those memories are not of someone hiding in fear.
Those memories are not of someone shying away.
Those memories are of someone trying to find out what’s going on.
The next set of memories is from Superman: The Movie where Lois deliberately drops her purse to frustrate her would-be mugger. Yes, many would consider it foolish – the guy was armed with a gun, afterall – but why should she give up what’s hers, even if it was ‘ten dollars, two credit cards, a hairbrush, and a lipstick’?
Then there’s Lois distracting a French policeman with a dictionary! (No offence to the French but I still grin when I see or remember that scene)
Further down memory lane and it’s the reprints of Byrne’s Superman and Action Comics and, again, there’s Lois staring bad things right in the eye and, pretty much, saying ‘bring it’.
Over the years, others have tried to take Lois’ place as the confident, plucky, witty, no-nonsense woman who can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with any man – there was April O’Neil, Princess Leia, Jennifer Hart and dozens of strong mothers in various television shows (I can’t include the ‘Angels’ from Charlie’s Angels since, well, their name ties directly to a guy…) – but (and I know I’m being biased here) Lois stood shoulder to shoulder with a superman.
Before there was ‘Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper’, there was Lois Lane. Plucky, confident, witty Lois Lane, with a nose for a good story and a willingness to face various dangers to get to it. This is 1938. Women in America had barely had the right to vote for 20 years. For those of us in the West it may be hard to imagine.
When you look back at some of the movies from that period and beyond, more often than not you’ll find women dependent on men, rushing to the arms of men, protected by men. The naysayers will argue that ‘Lois has Superman rescuing her all the time’, but this ignores the fact that Lois was in dangerous situations dozens of times, no matter the continuity used, before Superman was Superman.
Before Clark Kent created the persona of Superman (Action Comics (vol 1) issue 1); before Superman landed on Earth and was given the suggestion to have a secret identity and named ‘Clark Kent’ (Adventures of Superman radio show); before Clark Kent moved to Metropolis and entered Perry White’s office through a window (Adventures of Superman television show); before Kal-El returned from 12 years of study, moved to Metropolis and joined the Daily Planet (Superman: The Movie); before Clark Kent saved the Constitution from a fiery demise (Man of Steel mini series, issue 1); before Superman made Glen Glenmorgan confess to his crimes (Action Comics (vol 2) issue 1)…there was Lois Lane, fighting for truth, justice and the good in life.
Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel: I salute you and thank you for creating this awesome woman.
Lois Lane: I’ll see you over the next 75 ;)