Robot 6

Women in Refrigerators: more powerful than Slashdot and 4chan

mental flossIt’s been more than 14 years since a then-unknown Gail Simone and friends launched Women in Refrigerators, a website that attempted to catalog the female characters in superhero comics who have been “killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease” or otherwise suffered “life-derailing tragedies.” The list sparked reflection and debate, and ingrained the phrase “women in refrigerators” into the comic-book lexicon, and even beyond (it’s a reference to the grisly fate of Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend Alex DeWitt).

The website was, without a doubt, critical to fostering important discussion about the treatment of female characters, but just how influential, how powerful, is Women in Refrigerators? More powerful that Yelp, Slashdot or 4chan, it turns out, and (at No. 3) only slightly less powerful than Amazon.

That’s according to the November issue of the trivia/entertainment magazine Mental Floss, which has released its list of the “25 Most Powerful Websites” (see the entry below). Any list of that kind is, naturally, subjective, and Mental Floss‘ definition of “powerful” is especially nebulous. “[T]o us, powerful isn’t just about computations,” the magazine states, explaining the exclusion of Google, “it’s about changing what we eat, how we vote, and the ways we kill time at the office.”

How much Women in Refrigerators affected change, particularly outside of comics, is debatable, but it has certainly influenced the discussion; the database is still cited in mainstream media coverage of superhero comics, and inspired the late author Perry Moore in 2007 to compile his own list of dead, depowered and retconned gay and lesbian characters. But the greatest testament is that, 14 years later, the phrase “women in refrigerators” — often in reference to a female character murdered, raped or maimed as incitement for the hero to act, or to demonstrate just how bad the villain is — continues to be used with regularity in blog posts, comment threads and forum debates. On the flip side, that may also illustrate just how little things have changed in that time.

But is Women in Refrigerators more powerful than, say, Yelp, 4chan or Slashdot? Objectively, no (and by putting 4chan at No. 9, Mental Floss is just asking for trouble), but with its appearance on the list, the website does what it’s always done: provoke discussion.

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I really like how WIR has become something that’s acknowledged not just in comics but popular culture as a whole.

We can look forward to the Hawkeye Initiative joining the list in 13 years.

I was waiting for that comment LOL…

The Men in Refrigerators website is in the same mythical place that pay equity exists.

When there are just as many male characters getting the same treatment as female ones, with the same social consequences, then it will definitely exist.

Sup, yupsolo: there is no “men in refrigerators” because the nature of violence against women and disenfranchisement of women in society and culture is a separate matter linked closely and specifically with society’s bias against women as a whole. Until society acknowledges its deeply-rooted misogyny and quells it, violence against women will always be a specific subset of violence in general, requiring different layers of address.


While you are absolutely correct and explained the problem succinctly, that is way too much wasted verbiage on someone who doesn’t really give a damn other than to make some idiotic provocative point.

I think it’s pretty silly to get all indignant and start shouting “Misogny!” when a female character dies. Ancillary characters – male or female – exist to benefit the development main protagonist in some way. A big part of super hero comics is about the hero over coming tragedy, so friends, brothers, sisters, parents, girl friends and boy friends all pretty much exist to die at some point. If you want something else read Betty and Veronica.

When did people stop reading comics and start becoming these bland feminist robots? And seriously? It’s POWERFUL? It’s been up for 14 years and really, has anything changed? Maybe we should just ban violence altogether from media? Even YEEEEECKY men.

This topic really just needs to GO AWAY!! Seriously enough already….. It is what it is ladies, deal w/it or STOP READING COMICS it really is that simple

^That didn’t take long. Alright, on with it… Privileged bigots, come out and reinforce the oppression! Comics are only for you!

gail simone has been preceded by three other female writers on wonder woman, jodi picoult being the latest. and that’s not including the creator’s wife, elizabeth holloway marston who was highly likely an uncredited co-writer on the title.

Oh jeepers, I think there might be some over-reacting going on around here. A quick look on wikipedia ( will show you that both male and female super heroes have met their demise multiple ways (torn apart, cancer, falling from large heights.) There have also been plenty of male heroes/mutants who have been depowered, being forced to live a boring life just like the rest of us. There are even cases of (dare I say it?) male sexual abuse.

There are plenty of things to fight for gender equality in, but this isn’t one of them.

But Anon, we’re going to completely ignore you and the evidence because we have a huge victim attitude that somehow blocks out any bad things that happens to men. Since nothing bad happens to men ever, women are clearly victimized because of all these bad things that happen exclusively to women, and society is rotten to the core for letting that happen. If you disagree because of evidence you’re a bigot misogynist pig. Check your privilege.

Lewis’s Law: “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”

I can’t be arsed getting involved in this argument that Mr Ayo nipped in the bud so elegantly (thinking about it now, he may be my favourite current comics commentator). For all the rampant misogyny in comics, it makes me proud that the discourse has had an impact outside the medium due to the incisiveness and clarity of concepts like the Bechdel Test and fridging. I also think DeConnick’s Sexy Lamp Test is amazing, and will hopefully find the capital that these first two did.

Ayo said:

“Until society acknowledges its deeply-rooted misogyny and quells it, violence against women will always be a specific subset of violence in general, requiring different layers of address.”

“Until society acknowledges its deeply-rooted misogyny and quells it”– wow, you don’t want much, do you? This is sort of like Wonder Woman claiming that she’ll never marry until all of crime has been abolished. In other words, it’s a self-defeating statement: not only does the author not define “misogyny” in personal terms, he (or she) makes it an almost mythic presence by which “violence against women” must be measured. Against such an adversarial positioning, there’s no way to define what kinds of violence against female characters might constiture genuine marginalization, and what kinds do not.

For example, take Gail Simone’s inclusion of Star Sapphire on her list, which I argued against on my blog:

‘”Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire (turned into a villain by the Zamarons, possessed by the Predator)”

That’s not a fair representation. Star Sapphire was always, if not actively villainous, a somewhat ruthless figure depending on the writer handling her. That was the whole dramatic point of having her be the “Miss Hyde” to Carol’s “Lady Doctor Jekyll.” It wasn’t something radically added at the time she transforms into the Predator, as the above line implies. Englehart’s idea was simply an extrapolation of the original concept, regardless as to whether one thinks it was well executed. It didn’t belong on a list devoted to female marginalization.’

Though I wouldn’t say the scientific idea of “falsifiability” applies across the board to matters of art, it does apply pretty well here.

The people who wrote this article clearly put the ideas of man-hating women and women-hating men together so you would all argue about this.

Censoring art is ridiculous, and the reason comics are so centered around men is because men made them. People should be allowed to tell whatever story they want. If feminists or women want a women-centric comic, hey should make their own. Its like berating the Greeks for making Odysseus a male greek. People naturally make stories from their point of view.

Its not like this is an issue anyway, the men in the comics suffer just as much, and even if they didn’t, its a non-issue. There is no evidence exposure to fiction depicting anything makes one more likely to go out and do that thing. Typically, feminists moan and whine and try to take away everyone else’s freedom because it “offends” them rather than leaving people alone and doing what interests them.

lol, 3rd most powerful website and this is the first I’m hearing of it? The countless hours I’ve spent on the internet must have been for nothing.

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