The Feminism of Black Panther vs. Wonder Woman

First, I’ll start off this article by stating a simple fact: I saw Black Panther on opening night, and since then, I’ve wanted to write this post. I walked out of that film with so many ideas to talk about, I was nigh bursting. However, I waited this long to post anything about Black Panther for a simple reason – there are other voices than mine which should take precedent in a conversation about a film so strongly impacting people of color right now. There are so many writers of color putting out thoughtful, insightful articles about Black Panther that I felt it was important for me, as a white woman, to sit back and listen without stepping in and having my say.

Then, I saw this image pop up online asking why more white women weren’t speaking up about the feminism in Black Panther when so many are touting Wonder Woman as such a feminist film. So I figured it was time to write this then, to do my speaking up.

Because folks, I’m going to agree: Black Panther is a more feminist film than Wonder Woman. And I’m going to show you how.

[[Note: Major spoilers for Black Panther below.]]


DoraMilajeWonderWomanFeminism As An Integrated Force

Previously, I’ve written extensively about the incredible job the creators of the recent Wonder Woman film did translate Themyscira and the Amazons onto film. Sure there were some issues along the way, but overall I believe director Patty Jenkins did a phenomenal job telling Diana’s story on the big screen. However, there has always been a part of the Wonder Woman story that rubbed me the wrong way.

As a little girl, when I saw misogyny growing up in the world around me, I longed for a place where I could escape, a society of women who were not only strong but intelligent, thoughtful, creative, and loving. Themyscira truly was Paradise Island, where a woman could be everything she ever imagined, without the influence of patriarchy on her growth.

Yet now, as a grown woman, I can see a fundamental flaw in this idea. Though the thought of a world without men is seductive when faced with the dangers of toxic masculinity on all society, I’ve come to believe removing one’s self from “man’s world” to only focus on a woman-based culture devoid of men is to ignore a larger part of society. Toxic masculinity, in fact, effects men in a “man’s world” just as bad as it does women, if only in other ways. I believe that to ignore those effects and abandon the rest of the world to its own devices is to truly ignore the promise of feminism’s positive impact on the world. By separating themselves away from men, the Amazon’s evolved into a utopian society to the detriment of the rest of the world. Their influence could have changed the world if only they’d emerged from their hiding sooner.

pantherBy contrast, we have Wakanda. Though Wakanda is an isolationist society much like Themyscira in regards to the rest of the world (a subject for much debate elsewhere and addressed directly in the Black Panther film), it is also a well-balanced, nearly utopian society, growing technologically and societally with every passing generation while still holding onto its ancient traditions. Yet unlike other societies, Wakanda does not focus on patriarchal ideology, despite its male-dominated leadership (Wakanda has a history of only kings on the throne until, spoiler alert, Shuri becomes the first woman leader in the comics). Instead, Wakanda has fully integrated the idea of women as equals, creating a society where women are not only respected but accepted without surprise when in positions of power.

black-panther-marvelThere are powerful examples of this integration all across the film. Shuri is the princess of Wakanda and yet, as a super genius serves as the driving force behind Wakanda’s technological evolution. Okoye is the leader of the Dora Milaje, a fighting force of women drawn from every tribe of Wakanda to be its most dangerous protectors. As the bodyguards of the royal family, the Dora Milaje are never questioned as warriors but instead accepted not only as equals but as superiors in combat. Even King T’Challa knows he is meant to be deferential in many ways to Okoye, who has more experience as a warrior and general than he does. Let me say that a little louder: never once does the king of the sovereign, advanced nation of Wakanda speak down to or diminish the power of the women warriors and creators all around him. He humbly recognizes women as equals, worthy of respect as a matter of commonplace course.

[A brief note: The film makes an interesting adjustment to the story of the Dora Milaje that sets it apart from the comic book version. In the comics, the Dora Milaje are indeed chosen to become elite warriors to protect T’Challa and the royal family. However, they are also meant to be taken from every tribe so eventually T’Challa will choose a bride from one of their ranks. This idea was stripped from the film, a choice that mirrors a more progressive ideology being embraced by the film’s creators. The Dora Milaje were always badasses, but they’ve now become more than just badass prospective consorts as they were originally written.]

103334Never is T’Challa’s acceptance of the influence of women more apparent than in his relationship with his ultimate spy, Nakia. Nakia left Wakanda to embed herself in other societies for the purpose of saving people (especially women) endangered in the turbulent outside world, flying directly in the face of Wakandan tradition and T’Challa’s own interests. T’Challa sought out Nakia as a love interest and yet respected her choice to leave, even when he disagreed. When he finds her once again at the beginning of the film, he is struck nearly dumb at the sight of her, a king lost for a moment in the sight of the woman he obviously still cares about, much to Okoye’s snarky delight. Yet with every interaction between Nakia and T’Challa, we see a man not only besotted with the spymistress, but a man who does not treat her as a sexual or romantic object. Instead, he values her experience, her opinion, and her power, accepting her choices without real complaint and listening to her advice so much she influences his entire foreign policy.

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Queen Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett)

From Queen Ramonda (played by the unbelievable Angela Bassett) to every one of the Dora Milaje, from Okoye and Nakia and Shuri and the councilwomen who serve as representatives of their tribes, the powerful leading women of the Black Panther film are not presented to the audience as exceptions to the rule in Wakanda. Instead, they stand as examples of how Wakanda has evolved as a society which allows women to flourish to their full potential equal to men in all ways, with no question or compromise. In Wakanda, women and men live lives of nearly unvarying potential with no need to withdraw or hide.But beyond their own integration and acceptance in society, the women of Wakanda seem to have brought a very important influence as well on the men around them.

The Divestiture of Toxic Masculinity In Black Panther

When watching Wonder Woman, the message of Diana’s journey into “man’s world” is hammered home over and over. As representative and in fact the idealization of all the Amazon’s believes, Diana is acting as an ambassador from her world of women’s idyllic perfection to the patriarchal outside world. She is, as she states, becoming “a bridge to the world of men” so as to bring the Amazon’s message of peace and understanding to a world ripped apart by strife. She wants to present the idea of feminine equality to the rest of the world, where it has been so long repressed, suppressed or destroyed in so many cultures. She is the exceptional woman, out to influence the men around her with her clarion call of justice, truth, and love. And while this is a beautiful idea, a truly feminist ideology in many ways, it rings a little hollow when you look at Diana as the exceptional outsider.

wonder-woman-gal-gadot-ultimate-edition-1024x681Diana enters the world outside an innocent, ready to bring her ideas to someone else’s culture without any idea of their real history, their issues, or the ingrained ideas she’ll be facing. She believes she can change men’s minds just by bringing them a better way from the outside of their society, from a clearly “superior” place. In a strange way, she is a cultural tourist, if a well-meaning one, presenting her feminism into a world which is in many ways unprepared for a radical cultural shift and unwilling to change so quickly just because they’re told about “superior” feminist ideology from an outsider. It’s for that reason Diana struggles so hard to influence “man’s world” – she is not a part of it, but an alien influence presenting a new form of thinking to a world with thousands of years of ingrained thinking to undo.

WONDER WOMANIt’s no wonder then that the men around Diana remain, in large part, still entrenched in their toxic masculine ideas. Though Wonder Woman earns the respect of many of her male colleagues both in the comics and in the recent film, her ideas are still considered foreign to most men around her. In fact, most do not divest themselves of their ideology to embrace a way of living outside the influence of toxic masculinity. They instead bend to Diana’s ideas only when they are the most needed, flexing back to their ingrained patriarchal thinking often right after she’s not around. Steve Trevor is an example, as in the film he spends the entire time attempting to influence Diana to his way of thinking instead of the other way around, using his patriarchal thinking to drag her halfway across Europe and blocking her action with what is clearly his male privilege. A male privilege which is obviously lacking in Wakanda.

From the very beginning of the Black Panther film, I felt something odd when watching Chadwick Boseman in his portrayal of King T’Challa. While T’Challa is the royal leader of his country and therefore, presumably, the representation of the pinnacle of its masculine representation in the narrative, he doesn’t exude many of the typical traits you’d see of a film’s leading male character. T’Challa is both powerful and sensitive, thoughtful and respectful. He is from the beginning willing to not only express his emotions in front of others but especially to and in front of women, who surround him as his closest family and advisors. T’Challa never disrespects or tries to strong-arm the women around him, even when he disagrees with their choices, but praises and welcomes their input, agreeing to disagree and offering support where he can.

TChallaMournsTChakaT’Challa also has powerful emotional connections to the men around him, including Zuri the priest and especially his father, the late King T’Chaka. When he is put into the trance during his test to assume the throne, he speaks to his father and falls crying against his side, showing a level of emotion often considered anathema to a male protagonist. He doesn’t brood but instead shows his inner conflicts over his right to be king with quiet consideration and a willingness to take criticism and advice without anger or retaliation. He, to be plain, showcases all the hallmarks of a male protagonist stripped of the signposts of toxic masculinity influence, as do the other male characters in Wakanda.

With T’Challa as the pinnacle example of Wakanda and the other male characters expressing similar emotional signs during the film, we can then surmise T’Challa is not the exception to the rule but instead a typical example of how Wakanda has evolved as a more emotionally open society, stripped of toxic masculine influences. And that, matched with the equal treatment of women, leads me to surmise the cultural acceptance of those women have helped Wakanda evolve as a place where patriarchal influences did not rise up to quash men’s emotional expression and their chances to grow outside of what we’d see as “normal” masculine archetypes.

Wakandan men are not bound by the western idea of what it is to be a “man” but have grown instead with the comfortable acceptance of what western culture might see as “feminine” behavior. It is the influence of Wakandan women as equals that have brought a truly feminist idea forward: the defeat of toxic masculinity not only for the damage it does to women but the damage it brings to men as well.

Black-Panther-Killmonger-Costume-Concept-Art

Never is the Wakandan ideal of the sensitive, more “feminized” man so contrasted as when looking at the villain Killmonger. Left out in the outside world to grow up in a dangerous life, Killmonger does not have the influence of Wakanda’s more sensitive society to smooth down his rough edges. He does not live in a place where his rage over his father’s death might have been cooled or at least channeled in a different way. Instead, Killmonger represents the harsh, toxic masculinity of the outside world, where his somewhat thoughtful (and even partially correct) ideas about the unfairness of Wakanda’s isolationist policies are twisted into hateful, angry actions.

david-s-lee-limbani.w710.h473.2xKillmonger shows all the brash hallmarks of a man trapping his pain away in rage, using violence to solve his problems rather than embracing his emotions to give way to catharsis and resolution. His disconnection to women is also apparent in the film, as he is followed by a woman of color who barely has any speaking lines or so much as a name (I had to look it up, it’s Linda). In every scene, this woman is treated as the token girlfriend/henchwoman, and then killed by Killmonger when Ulysses Klaw uses her as a hostage. She is the ultimate expression of Killmonger’s embroilment in the toxic masculine culture. Even Killmonger’s influence on others brings patriarchal influence and damage to Wakandan culture, as he twists Okoye’s beloved W’Kabi away from his loyalty to T’Challa and turns his entire tribe against the throne with promises of revenge and violence.

Killmonger-and-TChalla-Black-Panther-e1519141115492Yet even in Killmonger’s scenes, we see a spark of that Wakandan emotional connection, when he goes into the trance and speaks once more to his father. Killmonger’s father clearly expresses the same emotional complexity and sensitivity showcased by other Wakandan men when he tries to connect to his son, but despairs at the rage and closed off pain he sees in the man his son has become. It’s only through T’Challa’s attempts to reconcile with Killmonger that we see a little of the emotional sensitivity of Wakanda rubbing off on the furious villain. But still, the outside world has trapped Killmonger so badly into the patriarchal cycle that, even in his end when T’Challa offers him peace and solace in his final moments, he is unable to be anything but angry in his own sorrow.

If we step away from speaking about men again for a minute, we can look at the women of Wakanda in the Black Panther film for what they are: exceptional without being exceptional at all.

The Non-Exceptional Exceptional Woman

593ff1b91d00002900cc2ac9As stated above, Wonder Woman is the exceptional woman in a world of men, the ambassador and outsider who shirks her own society’s xenophobic tendencies to save the outside world from itself. She is the one in a thousand, one in a million, the beautiful and infinitely powerful immortal goddess on earth who brings her special brand of love and ass-kicking to both the battlefield and her personal relationships. When you read her comics and watch the film, the narrative makes one thing clear: there is no one truly like Diana, and she is the ultimate of her kind. And when we look at her sister Amazons, they all are expressed with similar, if less powerful, expressions of the same archetype of idealized feminism and utopian female ideology. Together, they are an often uniform face of the Exceptional Feminist, set apart and ready to impress with their evolved ideas.

Black PantherBy contrast, the powerful women of Wakanda are not only exceptional in their power but nuanced in their presentation in the narrative. Their equality and power are not packed into a single package of ass-kicking and peace and love, but instead, each woman is her own nuanced expression of a fully realized woman.

Where Shuri is brash and feisty and in many ways a typical teenager, her mother is regal and loving, the complicated mother figure transitioning from a queen into the queen mother she has become. And though Okoye and Nakia are both ass-kicking women who take to the streets at T’Challa’s side, both are very different women with their own thoughts, ideals, skill sets, and struggles. Okoye spends the film trying to decide where her loyalties lie, to the throne or to what is right, while Nakia follows her heart no matter the danger to her position in Wakandan society. Each lives their own stories as complex as any male protagonist, weaving their narratives around that of T’Challa and his conflict with Killmonger.

black-panther-shuri2

In Black Panther, the women of Wakanda are complicated and different from one another, telling the story of the different archetypes women can represent, while in fact evolving those archetypes beyond to represent the complexity of real women. They are not the tropes we so usually accept from the Girlfriend, the Woman Warrior, the Mother, or the Sister. They are women all their own, and they are brilliant.

In Conclusion

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I could continue to break down the narrative even further by speaking about the power of all these women and their representation as women of color, but as I said there are POC out there far better equipped to handling that conversation. In the matter of that topic, I step back and want to speak less and listen more. But in contrasting Wonder Woman and its feminist ideology alongside that of Black Panther, I can only conclude that while Wonder Woman brings us a kind of exceptionalist feminism, Black Panther brings us a vision of what a truly gender-equal society can accomplish, breaking down the barriers of gender stereotypes to present opportunity for anyone to be anything they wish in their full complexity and freedom of choice.

Thankfully, the world of comics and films has room for both kinds of feminist representation. In fact, it’d be amazing to see multiple complex versions of feminist representation flood media so we can have more women-empowering films and television and books so we can have countless conversations and essays to foster more discussion.

Yet in the meanwhile, when contrasting these two films as our present examples, I conclude Black Panther presents us with a more hopeful vision of feminism, a world where men and women can embrace what they wish without persecution or protestation. And maybe we could use a little more of that kind of feminist representation in our lives.

76 Comments

  1. Totally agree with this!!! As much as WW was a good movie. I hated the supremacist feminism in it… at least that was the feel the movie gave to me.
    Black Panther is about gender equity. Women and men are equals and I loved that.

  2. With all due respect to you and your excellent writing ability, I believe asserting that Black Panther showcases a more hopeful version of feminism than Wonder Woman is, I think, a bit counterfactual.

    Let’s break this down a little…

    1. There never has been nor ever will be a culture totally free from Sexism. Wonder Woman confronts this fact while Black Panther casually glosses over it. Black Panther basically tells women to simply accept that all your problems will be solved with the right man (king) in charge.

    2. Since they are living in an absolute monarchy, the rights of women have been given to them by the king, (therefore, not fought for or struggled for.) All that is asked of women is obeisance to the wise male king.

    3. Since the monarchy is passed on via kingship, women will not get the ability to enact laws. They can act as warriors and mothers and scientists, but, again, they don’t make the rules. If Killmonger had stayed in charge, there would be nothing they could do about it, in this sense, the women of Wakanda are (in effect) powerless.

    4. Wonder Woman tells the story of a woman in a misogynistic culture having to not only be as good as the boys, but twice as good, to get recognition and respect. Black Panther tells the story of a man who loses his kingdom over a waterfall fight and has to take it back. Tell me, which feels more apropos to the feminist movement?

    5. Crying over you dead father is not some giant male feminist moment. Call me when he’s crying over a poem

    But seriously, when comparing feminism, Wonder Woman has the real muscle.

    HOWEVER – Seeing women of color represented so well in a big-budget action movie says a ton about the advancement and progress of our own NONFICTIONAL culture, and therefore this is a seminal work.

    1. You’re forgetting an important detail. When Shuri, Nakia and Ramonda were debating what to do with the heart shaped herb, they ruled out taking it themselves NOT because only a man could wield the power of the Goddess Bast, but because they knew they would need more than the Black Panther to fight off Kilmonger. They didn’t think they weren’t worthy. They were going to present to W’Kabi because he had the Jabari’s army under his control. Then, T’Challa got the herb because it was the only way to save his life.

      Also, one of the most important women in the movie, Nakia, her defining characteristic is that she doesn’t just go along with T’Challa, even when he is made king. In fact, T’Challa changed his country’s policies in no small part because he listened to her.

      1. Should clarify…they ruled out taking it themselves NOT because only a man could wield the power of the Goddess Bast, **in fact they argue more about which of Nakia or Shuri would be better**, but because they knew they would need more than the Black Panther to fight off Kilmonger.

    2. I see your points here, but I thought I’d give my alternate viewpoint on them.
      1. While it’s true that sexism will always exist… I just found it heartbreakingly refreshing to be allowed to live for an hour in a world where it did not exist. Where the feminist battle does not NEED to take place. A world where I could speak and be listened to, instead of questioned. This was the picture of an ideal world. Not a realistic one.
      2. I disagree here. Any of the other tribes were welcome to have put forward one of their warriors to vie for the throne, whether they were women or men. If they did not, then it was because they respected this T’Challa, not because he had Male-Given-Rights to the throne.
      3. And while the guard, perhaps, was loyal to the throne – I have zero doubt in my mind that the women of Wakanda would have found a way to do away with the threat to their country. Nakia would have taken the heart shaped herb in a heartbeat, if it would have helped the larger picture. The guard also turned on Killmonger, not necessarily because the challenge had not been completed, but their words were “Because there is too much hatred in your heart.”
      4. I do agree that on the Feminist Battlefront, Wonder Woman is all of us. But I would so much RATHER not have to fight this battle, and so I revel in a world where I don’t. I want the world out there to see that this could be a world that exists, that a man can both be incredibly bad-ass, and still look up to his little sister because she’s brilliant, turn to his ex for advice that he truly values, and trust in a pair of women to guard his back with no more thought than any real-life man might give to choosing a pair of Navy SEALS.
      5. The crying bit, I get where you’re coming from. Dead parents ought to make anyone cry. But it’s still far too rare for anyone to acknowledge this fact. And more rare still to have the hero do so, and not have those tears turned instantly to rage, fueling the next big Battle Scene.

      Wonder Woman has the real muscle. But the women of Wakanda have the quiet power. I believe we all need both.

    3. 1. If we dnot dream it, write it, show it, you are right. I don’t believe there will never be a place free of sexism. To say there will never be one is defeatest and a disservice to our young women.

      2. If you read the comic, this isn’t true. The movie did not show it was absolute that a man must be king. And in the comic, not true.

      3. See #2

      4. You are correct, Wonder Woman does show how women have to be twice as good. In Black Panther they show how that isn’t a thing…either anymore or ever. That’s something I’d like to think about for our young people. If you can’t see what it’s supposed to be like, it is entirely possible a feminist movement could over compensate…a pendulum swinging is dangerous if it’s going to far to the other side.

      5. The men I know in my life have not been allowed to cry over their fathers. We do a great disservice to young men by not teaching them emotion is ok; see school shooters. No one sees them and they don’t have any role models where male emotion is ok. Feminism to me also includes men feeling free to show the emotion women are automatically afforded just because they are women.

      They both have feminism merit. However, for me? It is a more true depiction of what I want my world to look like than having to fight to get it.

  3. I liked Wonder Woman, but it didn’t speak to me as a woman. Diana is a god. She just wasn’t as relatable to me as, say, the women of Ghostbusters. Black Panther takes that love one step farther.

    My favorite part [Spoilers ahead]
    Was when T’challa asked Nakia to stay with him and she says, in essence, “Nope, I have shit to do.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a film- a woman who gets to keep following her passion instead of becoming an accessory of a man.
    Love, love, love this!

    1. I forgot that Diana is a Goddess. Good point. But I could not relate to her either because of all of her super powers.

      The women of Wakanda were REAL women to me. Fighting with their own skills that they practiced. Worked hard for.

      1. She’s not supposed to be, you know. Formed from clay, divinely brought to life: yes. Yet Another Spawn of Zeus? :yawn: I have no idea why they decided to degrade her uniqueness in that way.

        Her youth, inexperience and hopefulness are what should have made that connection you’re all mentioning… but even Patty Jenkins has no Kevin Feige.

  4. My favorite feminist moment in the movie – Okoye telling W’Kabe that she will kill him if she has to to uphold her oathes. Then he yields. He acknowledges his love and respect for her, when nothing else has convinced him he was wrong.

    1. The entire battle screeching to a halt over a woman standing up to her man… not in a demeaning way. But just exuding absolute and utter power and conviction.
      Wakanda Forever.

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt I had to wait to gush over these women. I knew I needed to, but it felt… disrespectful. As I watched it, and felt my brain and heart want to burst over the amazingness of it… I couldn’t help but want to cry over how amazing this must be to black women and girls everywhere. I’ve HAD bad-ass women I could look to. Not well-done ones, for the most part. But still, they looked like me. I could relate, on some level.
    I have talked to so many women who site Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek as their inspiration for going into tech industries when they never otherwise would have considered it possible… and I simply can not WAIT to see where this next generation of young, smart, empowered black girls are going to push this world.
    *crosses arms to salute them*

    1. I’m an ancient black woman and I want all the young, smart, empowered black girls to also know they have allies like YOU! Respect is the most important way to start a relationship. Thank you.

  6. Appreciated your writing this article! I don’t feel it’s fair to assert that the Amazons could have benefitted the rest of the world had they only revealed themselves sooner. Yet *more* (emotional) labor women are expected/obligated to do: laundry AND save the patriarchy from itself. As white women, it would be unfortunate to imply that about Wakanda: we shouldn’t just trust Black women will fix everything and wait for them to do all the work.

    1. Actually, that’s one reason they had to do a sort of penance once they were rescued from slavery (that’s where the bracelets come from, if you didn’t know – they morphed slowly from shackles into bracers) by the gods — they were supposed to teach Patriarchs’ World the way of love, equality and mutual cooperation, but hid away instead. They failed their mission. Diana was their second chance, so to speak.

      Unfortunately, the movie killed all the gods for some reason, instead of letting the Amazons have their living, vibrant and interactive faith. That and Diana’s parentage are the two biggest quibbles I have with the film version because they dull the Amazons down as a result.

  7. Thank you for writing this article! I felt exactly the same way and I’m so happy this amazing movie is getting such well-deserved, rave reviews.

    One of my favorite moments is Okoye fidgeting with her wig and actually tossing it aside when she starts to fight. Another one is when Nakia was driving with her barefoot during the car chase to capture Klaue. Usually, there’s a shot of the sexy stilettos the woman is wearing if she’s the one behind the wheel, which is totally impractical when you’re trying to fight crime. I just love that women openly embraced their natural beauty and were not sexualized.

    I hope Black Panther breaking records sends a message to Hollywood. I’m so excited for the future of entertainment.

    1. Completely agree, with one correction. When Okoye removes her wig, she doesn’t just toss it to the side, she uses it as a weapon. She throws it in her opponents face as her opening move. Amazing on so many levels. Wakanda Forever!

  8. As far as I’m concerned each film had good and bad about them. For me, as a white woman, I found examples of women with strength, integrity, intelligence and fortitude in both films that I will look at and pull from as examples of what I could only hope we,as women become. For women in general both films are a triumph.

    1. Yes. THIS. We could sit around all day discussing “which was better” & argue with each other about why we are right/wrong, but THAT would be anti-feminist. & not because we’re women (‘cuz I’m betting not all of us are, here), but because true feminism is realizing that all women do not experience feminism the same way & feminism does not have to be a monolith to be positive.

  9. What I really liked about the women of Black Panther is at no point does the movie point out “the women of Black Panther”. There’s no moment where they gear up with “sisters are doing it for themselves” playing. None of the characters express surprise that a “woman” is a soldier etc. (the closest is Ross, IIRC, being surprised at Shuri inventing everything, but that seemed more of a “you’re a kid” moment that instantly went into him understanding her tech speak).
    The movie just let the characters be awesome women, while never needing to tell us that these are women and they’re awesome.

    1. Hi there! So it’s actually just underneath the article itself, there’s a bar for reblogging or sharing to various different places like Twitter and Facebook. If you’d like to link it otherwise, you’d just use the URL. Thanks so much for liking the article enough to reshare.

  10. This is truly beautiful. Your humility in entering this topic gives you so much credibility, grateful for your willingness to speak on the subject, while still allowing for the power of listening. Thank you thank you thank you.

    1. Because one has a vital creative force behind it, and the other one, despite a wonderful cast and director, still Doesn’t Get It.

    2. I believe the author said that both films have their place in feminist conversation AND she hopes that there will be both “types” of films in the future. Comparison only has to leave one lesser if you can’t appreciate differences.

    3. It’s just the handiest method of critically reading something. To say A is A only gets you so far, but to say how A differs from B opens up all kinds of avenues of discussion and can start to open up what is going on in A. Also just saying Film A has this attribute and this attribute and this attribute opens your argument to claims that it is highly subjective. Whereas saying that in Film A this happens whereas in Film B this happens is slightly more ‘scientific’ and we can start to talk in more objective terms that don’t depend on the viewpoint of the person making the argument.

      Measuring things ‘scientifically’ usually results in one sample being shown to have higher ‘measurables’ than the other…

  11. I walked out of Black Panther loving the strong women. They captured the movie for me in so many ways. They were beautiful, smart, strong, independent, etc. They were role models for ALL women, not just women of color. I love that they are women of color though. Thank you for expressing so much that I felt.

  12. I am so glad you ended your great analysis with “Thankfully, the world of comics and films has room for both kinds of feminist representation. In fact, it’d be amazing to see multiple complex versions of feminist representation flood media so we can have more women-empowering films and television and books so we can have countless conversations and essays to foster more discussion.” I always think it is a shame when we feminists reject one kind of strong woman or feminist paradigm because another is more feminist or differently feminist in a way that speaks to us more. It is really interesting to poke and prod at the similarities and differences, but in the end I am so happy we have both and celebrate the fact that right now is a moment when we do.

    On another note, one parallel I found interesting was the tension between staying in a utopian world versus engaging in the flawed world that needs help. I am very glad that both movies opted for engagement, especially now.

    Isn’t it exciting to have these two movies that simply would not have been made at another point in history?

  13. Both great movies. Both did a great job promoting feminism. But I think the author of this article did an injustice by comparing the feminism of black women and white women. Why?
    There is no need for comparison. The movies were not meant to be a battle between each other. The bottom line here is that Black Panther and Wonder Woman are superhero movies – period!!! I go to a superhero movie to be entertained and escape the b.s. politics that hits me in the face everyday on social media. I don’t want to have to deal with politics in superhero movies.

    1. Steevo, you’d better stop reading entirely then, because pretty much the earliest comics in the US were fighting World War II and they’ve kept going from there. Jack Kirby’s Prez, the award-winning Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues by O’Neil and Adams, amazing independent graphic novels like Maus… it’s like telling singers and actors to stop being political, you just want to enjoy yourself. Art fights.

    2. Her essay is not a comparison of the feminism of Black women to the feminism of White women. It is a comparison of the portrayal of feminism. The same movies could have been made with a Black Wonder Woman coming from an all female utopia and a White warriors, spies, elders, and scientists living in an utopia of gender equity. For that matter, the women in both movies could have been of the same race, for example all Black women. It just so happens in this case, the women were of different races.

  14. Excellent analysis! As one of probably a small group of senior women who haven’t yet seen Black Panther, I am now more motivated to do so. After reading this article, the symbolism of the story is clarified. Thank you for your insight!!

  15. Excellent points! I really enjoyed the article and agree with much of what you wrote.

    (Minor quibble – please don’t include spoilers about things to come that are not shown in the current movie, for those of us who haven’t yet read the comics? Having “spoiler alert” literally adjacent to the spoiler didn’t help me to avoid it. Thanks!)

  16. As a white man, I have to say I was always a little bemused that WW was held up as a feminist ideal in the respect she was literally a goddess. The women warriors of BP struck me as infinitely better ideals for today as, while extraordinary, they are not supernaturally so. They were simply being the best they can be. I also was surprised that no one had pointed out that Killmongers (who WAS supernaturally enhanced) was still having a rough time of it in the rumble with the royal guard. Talent will out, regardless of the gender of the person possessing it.

  17. What bothers me about Wakanda is that, despite the presence of exceedingly capable women leaders, the rulers are still only men.
    Excusing this by saying that the Wakandan men do not possess “toxic masculinity” is to make excuses for male-only rule. Because if Killmonger continued being king, all the women leaders would lose their place as equals. Remember what the Taliban did, almost overnight, to the social structure in Afghanistan, after the Soviets left.
    A single man could change the entire system of Wakanda. This would not happen in Themyscira, with or without Diana.

    1. I would say the problem you’re highlighting is the problem with absolute monarchy, period, regardless of sex. There have been female monarchs who have been more tyrannical than any male who ever existed. Putting a woman on the throne doesn’t solve the problems of single person, top down monarchy.

  18. Very well written. One scene that stood out for me was when Killmonger confronted the woman regarding burning the plants. That act of aggression was foreign to them. All I thought about was that they had never experienced someone being that disrespectful, however very familiar to what one sees on TV here in the US.

  19. As a man watching Black Panther, I felt the movie made it courageous, brave, strong, and entirely manly to show love, mercy to your enemies, respect and even deference to worthy women. I hear what some have said about the fact Wakanda is apparently ruled at the very top by a monarch who is implicitly a man, but what that did in my mind was to make it feel like bowing your head to a woman who deserves doesn’t make you less. It makes you the king of the world.

  20. I think your piece is excellent. Very insightful & I definitely agree with you. Thank you for this article. As an Black woman, I had been hoping to see such an analysis. Also while I liked Wonder Woman, I had to suspend a great deal of my own feminist/critical race analysis to enjoy it.

  21. I have not seen Black Panther yet, but I am looking forward to seeing it for myself. But I found Wonder Woman disappointing and off-putting. Maybe it was Gal Gadot’s wooden acting. Or maybe it was that I don’t see how it’s feminist to present a woman/goddess from a supposedly utopian society whose main skills are looking gorgeous, jumping like a grasshopper, and physical combat. During the scene that moved other women to tears (WW pressing forward against a hail of bullets), I was simply wondering how her small shield was preventing the Germans from shooting her in the thighs. I left the theater with a feeling that this movie was little more than Captain America with more hair and cleavage.

  22. Hm. It sounds like perhaps Wonder Woman is about the journey (or the statement of journey’s purpose at least) whereas Black Panther is about the destination.

  23. The Amazons did try to change the world. They were met with resistance, violence, xenophobia and misogyny. It would hardly be unreasonable for a group of women in ancient times to believe the world of men was a lost cause and by putting the blame on them for not emerging sooner, I feel it downplays how widespread misogyny is. Perez’s WW goes into great detail showing how even Heracles, the most noble of Greek heroes, was monstrous to the Amazons. This was not a time when women could afford to hope men could be better.

    Yes the Amazons could have made things better but so could Wakanda. And this is acknowledged by both films. Isolationism is never presented as a good thing in either film.

  24. Also, Steve isn’t being a patriarchal jerk when he points out to Diana that things are a lot more complicated than she realizes and the film was about how rushing into a situation without understanding it was a bad thing. It’s about Diana growing up.

    1. Satire? Or do you actually not only feel this way but also the need to express it to a room of predominately female readers, knowing it’ll stir the pot?

      OP: great read and analysis. One thing interesting to me about both black panther and WW films is that these utopian societies-that are completely free of outside influence and invasion- are constantly prepared for battle. In the case of Themyscira, it’s to fend off an eventual attack from Ares, if I recall. But in Wakanda, why in a society devoid of toxic masculinity, as you say, and more progressive technologically and idealogically, is there a need for war rhinos unless we anticipate war at a moment’s notice? The whole country is hidden from the world and protected, yet it seems that each tribe has warriors and weapons at the ready for imminent war. Unless I missed something and they anticipate outside invasion or go to battle with the Jibari (mountain) tribe every generation or so. Thanks for the read!

      1. “Unless I missed something and they anticipate outside invasion or go to battle with the Jibari (mountain) tribe every generation or so.”

        Huh? Wakanda is the only country in Africa that hasn’t been invaded, colonised and looted, it’s culture disrupted and demeaned, its people enslaved, to varying degrees.

        Note that Wakanda is furthermore fictional, and you can see why a free African nation would cultivate a formidable defence capability…

  25. Honestly, why put both against each other? Saying Black Panther is more feminist because it has more strong female characters in the story does not mean it really is. Wonder Woman revolves around one strong lead female character, Black Panther revolves around one lead male character who is involved with secondary strong female characters – and they both are feminist in their own way. Responding to certain points made, If you say the Amazonians live in a utopian land separated from the rest of the world and that being not as great as Wakanda, well, Wakanda was the same throughout time – a utopian society hidden from the world; of course, that changes until the end of the movie, where they decide to start showing up in the world too. Anyway, Wonder Woman did have more than just one strong female. Just because they did not focus on or develop individual Amazonian characters like they did with the Wakandan women does not mean the Amazon women aren’t strong females. Quite frankly, it would be forcing it if they had because what Wonder Woman needed to do was tell Diana’s story. Nonetheless, let’s not forget her mother and her mentor were two strong female characters that stood out from the “non-exceptional” Amazon women. Sure, they weren’t as developed and memorable as the Wakandan female leads, but that, again, is because they were not as present throughout or as necessary for the entire story – and they don’t have to be. In the end, both movies are feminist and it’s great that they are because as movies, first they have to tell a great story. Then, if they can be feminist without interrupting the telling of such story, even better.

  26. This article does a great job of talking about the difference between white feminism and black feminists.

    White feminists in their arguments pit themselves against all men. They’re stories are often of replacement and domination. They are fighting their counterparts- not working with them.

    Black women, however must be joined in the struggles of our also oppressed counterparts. Black feminism is one of creating balance and equality. About fighting the dominant society as a woman. And as a woman who has fathers, brothers, sons. And this film is the best expression of what that could look like.

    1. I agree with you. There is definitely a distinction between white & black feminism. There is certainly a need to coalesce a variety of struggles within Black feminism. We rarely work alone. In my opinion, white feminism often feels completely separate from me & that it works exclusively for white women.

      1. I regret to agree with you that mainstream feminism has often been tunnel-visioned due to the leaders who were able to dig in and make progress at various times – in the urgency to get a message out, they sometimes forgot to consider experiences other than theirs. True feminism, as an ideal and a philosophy, should of course include the concerns of Women of Colour, Transwomen, Lesbians — but as a movement is prone to a typical failing of humanity: Quibbling about priorities.

      2. Well, I did not say “mainstream feminism.” I said “White feminism.” And what appears to be “quibbling about priorities” is actually addressing my true needs as a woman. (How the fuck is that any type of sisterhood?) True feminism does not “include” Women of Colour, Transwomen, Lesbians” We are feminism. Do you not see the huge problems of white feminism? How am I supposed to utilize a type of feminism that sidelines me and basically makes white women the focal point? Why would I give my time, resources and energy to that. I don’t. Black feminism usually attempts to lift everyone. We don’t “include” you. We believe everyone is vital and their needs are central to removing oppression. White women would benefit from dropping their version of feminism too.

  27. Shoshana: you nailed it. The movie has a huge message to send regarding toxic masculinity versus quiet, self-assured masculinity. Thank you for seeing it, writing this analysis, and sharing. Wow. Just … wow. You’re amazing!

  28. Love this! I’ve always felt that the stereotypical (white) version of feminism was reactionary, or, there was never a scenario where power was shared between the sexes naturally and comfortably. (Maybe because white men often don’t seem to know how to share power?) Redefining feminine power was the #1 thing that I loved about Black Panther. You did a great job expressing what I’ve been feeling for a while.

  29. As a dark skinned Black woman…we are ALWAYS shown as tough and masculine in movies…while I liked Black Panther I just can’t love it bc once again dark skinned black women are shown as fighting and tough and masculine. Wonder women was still shown as feminine. It’s just so sad…things will probably never change on that front…Why cant white women be the fighting force for a country in a movie if they want to be so masculine. Why do black women ALWAYS have to be shown as fighters and hard. Why would men want women to fight for them? Anyway I hate this type of representation in media. Do u wonder why people.in real life treat black women like we feel no pain, need no help, and can handle anything on our own…no matter how bad our health is bc of the stress…no matter how overweight black women get bc we have no help in life…no matter how rampant depression is for black women…but who cares..we r strong and can handle anything ( sarcasm)…

    1. I thought this when i saw the Akoye in the trailers, i just rolled my eyes. But then i saw the movie and i was blown away..

      Yes Akoyes outward apearance is in keeping with one of the stereotypes Hollywood likes to portray of especially darks skinned black women. a portrayal that black women really can’t relate to. But when i actually watched the BP movie, i realised instead of portraying this same tired stereotype, they had made akoye into a actual human being.

      Yes they had actually made her human. She was completly different to what I was expecting. she even reminded me of people i know, not in looks maybe but in her demeanor. Yes she was strong decisive a true warrior. But She was strong not hard, funny at times, unsure of what to do at times, and even almost brought to tears when she thought she might have to kill her beloved for the greater good. She displayed the complete spectrum of the human emotion not just anger. i was suprised. I loved her.

      Not only that but the darkest women Nakia is very femine, she wasnt part of the womens army, had a completely different attitude and personality to akye, much softer but still strong in her own way. Yes, because guess what white Hollywood? black women have different personalities, attitudes, wants and dislikes, reasoning, strengths and weaknesses!!!, yes, hollywood, we really do, its true!
      I could go on forever about BP i loved it i wasn’t expecting to but i did.

      As for wonder women, i just couldn’t connect with it, I just dont understand why they’re using this movie to represent feminism. really i think sygorny weavers character from the aliens movie would be better representation. I understand why it should be, she’s a godess with superpowers, a female superhero, but i dont think the actual movie done well with telling the story and representing her at all. Especially not in any great way that would contribute to feminism.

  30. This is bullshit. I’m speaking as an African-American woman. The feminism in both movies do not strike me as all that different. This sounds like an article that is basically engaging in more MCU v. DCEU crap.

    Speaking of feminism in “Black Panther”, where in the hell was Erik Killmonger’s mother? What happened to her? And why did the movie fail to mention her?

  31. Black Panther: the Sequel needs an even Bigger Screen.

    This glorious film celebrates African genius, during a civil war. It should serve as a powerful reminder to all Americans that, centuries ago, Africans developed science and literature while Europeans were ignorant of both.

    King T’Challa, the Black Panther, learned the hard way that Wakanda’s vibranium wealth should serve all oppressed people. Fifty years ago in the USA, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X understood that the most magical substance is solidarity. By pooling large amounts of courage and small amounts of money they fed their children and taught them black pride. They started free clinics. They protected their people from police.

    The Marvel movie ends as King T’Challa purchases tenements that become a Wakandan embassy.

    And this is where the sequel naturally should begin. Building Wakanda in our country means pooling creativity and money to purchase vacant land and abandoned factories, to demand that cities donate them by eminent domain, or to claim these by adverse possession. Upon this land we will build housing powered by the sun. Then surround this housing with greenhouses, orchards, and playgrounds. To teach skills of neighborhood management. To control the police. To weave nature into the cities so that they become as beautiful as our children.

    The book “Los Angeles: a History of the Future” explains how to bring Wakanda to life. It serves as an example for every metropolis. http://paulglover.org/books.html

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