Miss Martian and This Sex Which is Not One
By Matthew William Brake
Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti’s Young Justice series, previously written about here and recently renewed for a third season due to a Netflix binge (we did it guys!), has been praised for making its cast of characters diverse in terms of gender and race.
During this Women’s History Month, I want to reflect specifically on the strong female leads on the show, including Artemis, a conflicted girl with a dark secret; Zatanna, a tragic figure who wanted her father to give her space only to have him taken away from her; and Rocket, who was thrown into a new team with a crazy history she hadn’t been a part of, but once she was there, fit right in. Even the two sentient vehicles, the New Genisphere and Miss Martian’s bioship, are female and compelling characters in themselves.
Let’s return, however, to the very first female character on the show: the aforementioned Miss Martian, also known as M’gann M’orzz.
After the rescue of Superman’s clone Superboy in the second episode “Fireworks,” Martian Manhunter’s niece, Miss Martian, shows up at the end of the episode and joins what was essentially an all boys club of superhero sidekicks made up of Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad.
Over the course of the first season, M’gann falls in love with Superboy. The episode entitled “Image” begins with Batman showing Green Arrow and Black Canary footage of the latter training Superboy, only for her to begin to kiss him. As they watch the tape, Black Canary morphs into M’gann who, like the Martian Manhunter, has the ability to shapeshift. The Martian Manhunter explains that this is just an innocent game that is played on Mars and that M’gann meant no disrespect or deception.
Shapeshifting is an interesting power. A person really isn’t “one” anymore, yet they are not “two” either. One has to wonder what it means to be a self when one always constantly is “not” oneself. And how might that affect how one sees the world?
For Luce Irigaray, the need for complete consistency and coherence in one’s views stems from the phallomorphic preference of the Western philosophical tradition. In other words, men like their philosophy like they like their penises: able to impose them on any hole (in logic) that they see and having the only penis (I mean, “philosophy”) that other people care about. One witnesses the effects of such a phallocentric imagination in the “rivalry among males: the ‘strongest’ being the one who ‘gets it up the most,’ who has the longest, thickest, hardest penis or indeed the one who ‘pisses the farthest’” (324).
There is an insistence on the “oneness” of Western reason, which Irigaray contrasts with female sexual multiplicity reflected in the touching of “at least two” vaginal lips and the availability of both clitoral and vaginal pleasure (325). In fact, she writes, “women have sex organs just about everywhere” (326). Hence Irigaray’s assertion that woman is the sex that is not one, but neither is she two. Woman is an other in herself and hence a plurality. Irigaray writes, “One must listen to her differently in order to hear an ‘other meaning’ which is constantly in the process of weaving itself, at the same time ceaselessly embracing words and yet casting them off to avoid becoming fixed, immobilized” (326-327). Irigaray argues that an imagination shaped by the parameters of female sexuality opens “another economy” that “explodes the polarization of desire on only one pleasure, and disconcerts fidelity to only one discourse” (327).
Thus, rather than taking our lead from theories of the world imagined through parameters of male sexuality and its implicit rivalry and desire to dominate, which imposes an artificial oneness to reason and discourse, woman’s sexual multiplicity introduces the possibility that a person need not commit to a oneness of reason or of self.
Like M’gann, or even the bioship and the New Genisphere, both of which are capable of altering their forms, we need not become fixed or immobile in who we are or the reasons we commit to. We need not simply be ‘one.’
Luce Irigaray, “This Sex Which is Not One,” The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory. Edited by Linda Nicholson. New York: Routledge. 1997.
Matthew William Brake is a dual masters student in Interdisciplinary Studies and Philosophy at George Mason University. He also has a Master of Divinity from Regent University and is a teaching pastor at Hill City Church in Arlington, VA. He has published numerous articles in the series Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception, Resources. He is a contributor for Noetic (www.noetic-series.com). He has chapters in Deadpool and Philosophy and the upcoming Wonder Woman and Philosophy. You can follow him on Twitter @mattybrake.