I've been following the discussion regarding the representation of Wonder Woman on the cover of Playboy Magazine since it first appeared on Pink Raygun and then reverberated throughout various blogging circles.
When I saw the pictures from Playboy for myself, I found myself thinking about a male equivalent for the Wonder Woman imagery. My first thought was of Margaret Harrison's images of Captain Marvel in drag, which were included in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibit in Los Angeles. It, too, appropriates a superhero figure that symbolizes a gendered ideal of patriotic agency and submits it to a sexualized gaze.
I'd also recently browsed some of Nicole Eisenman's work when it appeared at a gallery here in Los Angeles. I love her work and have written about her several times on In Sequence. One of the works I saw included an image of the knowledge-seeking Alice from Alice in Wonderland with her head nearly consumed by Wonder Woman's exposed snatch. Wonder Woman's heavy legs, her stance, and the "missing head" as a byproduct of sex remind me of R. Crumb's depictions of headless women having sex.
I imagine that as a lesbian, Eisenman identifies with both figures in this work: the big, triumphant Amazon woman and the one who seeks knowledge by way of a woman's body. Here, it looks like little Alice, with her penchant for looking into holes, is following the instruction to "Feed your head."
While we're discussing the phantasmic worlds of Alice, I might as well mention one of the most discussed comments regarding the Playboy issue, Greg Rucka's statement linking the appearance of an undressed Wonder Woman with anti-Hilary sentiment:
Do you really think it's a coincidence that Playboy chose this year, the issue for the month containing "Tsunami Tuesday," to run this particular pictorial? Do you really?
I really couldn't believe how many people were completely freaked out at this statement. But people also took it very literally. It seems obvious to me that there will be many strange permutations of and challenges to the theme of "a powerful woman in charge" in our culture over the next few months, and maybe longer. (For an excellent analysis of Hillary hatred, read Stanley Fish's recent essay for the New York Times, "All You Need Is Hate.")
I like the haughty side of Wonder Woman, which seems to be more in evidence recent issues. Her expressions of disdain, whether they occur when she's fighting a weak opponent or brushing off a would-be admirer, make me feel like the character is in charge of her sexuality. The other visual element of Wonder Woman that makes me feel incredibly empowered as a woman are, of course, her vaginal speed trails, on fabulous display in the picture at left.