Thank God for Marvel's Agent Carter Feminism

Don’t let the stereotypical G.I. lunks distract you with their butt-smacking, “don’t you need to file something” portrayal of 1940s masculinity. Marvel’s Agent Carter is far from your oh-so-played-out second wave feminist portrayal of manhood – and womanhood, for that matter. Which is why it’s the best show going on television for feminism today.

For every lunk there’s a hero, Carter’s colleague Agent Sousa being one of them. One brilliant expository exchange sets the tone, demonstrating exactly how appealing real men find Carter’s fearless independence:

Carter: “I’m grateful. I’m also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me.”

Sousa: “Yes, ma’am. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Carter: “Well that’s another thing we have in common.”

Carter is a fully empowered female. Sousa knows it, respects it, and likes it. And Carter likes him for it. This kind of His Girl Friday exchange gets equity feminism the screen time our culture so desperately needs. Unlike her Avengers’ counterpart the Black Widow, Agent Carter isn’t squished into slicked up body suits and forced to perform gymnastic feats in order to intrigue her male audience. And unlike gender feminists, Carter draws authority from her sex and uses it to save the day.

Hayley Atwell, in all her Marilyn Monroe-esque glory, can play fisticuffs in heels with the best of them. She doesn’t strap in her femininity for battle. In fact, she pulls it out and uses it full-force, evening gowns, drugged lipstick and all. This is women making their sex work in their favor. As Carter swings her hips, giggles and seduces you realize it isn’t that men hate women, it’s that they are mesmerized by us. We were born with the upper hand and it is in our prerogative to use it.

Contemporary feminists are afraid of sex. First taught to distinguish “sex” from “gender” by the second wave ’60s mamas who, enamored with Marxist politics, came up with the notion that “…it is primarily political interests which create the social phenomena of gender itself…”. Simone de Beauvoir determined “one is not born a woman, one is made a woman” and the second wave sisters chose to embrace her existential concept of “transcending”, that is choosing freedom, to mean they needed to choose to act like men in order to be free.

Feminists divorced “sex,” that is birth’s biological assignment, from “gender,” a strictly social construct. Hence Angelina Jolie can fully defend her daughter’s choice to gender-identify as a boy, because gender is decided by society based on the clothes you wear, the toys you play with, and how you comb your hair.

Agent Carter spins this concept on its flat heel. A woman can transcend cultural notions and still embrace her femininity. Moreover, her sex allows her to accomplish her goals in a way a man’s can’t. She doesn’t need to pursue freedom through the rejection of her sex. Rather, she is uniquely free because of her sex, the opinions of others be damned. This is true feminism.

Brainwashed by the second wave, today’s critics (perhaps even the cast) can’t begin to comprehend the powerful feminist message of Marvel’s Agent Carter, supporting their praise of the show with sophomoric observations like:

Carter, despite her vagina, is actually more capable than the cocky, bumbling male agents around her. Can you believe it? Girls can do anything boys can!

No. “Girls can do anything boys can,” is second wave feminist trope. “Girls can do anything,” is Agent Carter feminism. Forget the comparisons, spare us the faux “equality”. The line “despite her vagina” is especially revealing. There goes that biology versus culture, sex versus gender concept in action. “Despite” is the mentality driving legalized abortion and demands to Congress for free condoms. Control the vagina! Get it in a pair of pants and out of the public eye! Lawyer up before encountering one in action!

Agent Carter embraces female sexuality in a period setting glamorized by camp, the slang of the gay subculture that fascinated second wave feminists like Susan Sontag. Sontag brought camp into the intellectual sphere, paving the way for straight women to glom onto gay men. Fabulous drag queens can celebrate female sexuality in a way the modern woman cannot, honoring the likes of ’40s bombshells (Carter’s contemporaries) with gorgeous dresses, ample cleavage, round red lips and alluring eyes. Carter’s red, white and blue skirted work attire and silver evening gown are fashions inconceivable to today’s woman. The red fedora, let alone the red lips, all things meant to accentuate female beauty – forget it! The vagina must be controlled, hidden, suppressed, and the breasts, the lips, the curves and allure along with it.

In a PBS interview, Christina Hoff Sommers and Camille Paglia explain the difference between equity feminism and gender feminism. Hoff Sommers details:

An equity feminist — and Camille [Paglia] and I both are equity feminists –is you want for women what you want for everyone: fair treatment, no discrimination. A gender feminist, on the other hand, is someone like the current leaders in the feminist movement… They believe that women are trapped in what they call a sex-gender system, a patriarchal hegemony; that contemporary American women are in the thrall to men, to male culture. And it’s so silly. It has no basis in American reality. No women have ever had more opportunities, more freedom, and more equality than contemporary American women. And at that moment the movement becomes more bitter and more angry.

Gender feminists, trapped by their own “patriarchal hegemony” ideology, are forced to deny their femininity. Like Fantine in Les Mis, they are stripped bare of their womanhood, prostituted out to the idea that in order to achieve equality one must strive to embody male gender against their own biological and psychological drives. That’s enough to drive any woman insane.

Paglia rightly advises “…what we need to do now is to get rid of the totalitarians, get rid of the Kremlin mentality… We’ve got to get back to a pro-art, all right, pro-beauty, pro-men kind of feminism.” Want to know “what sex can and does do for us“? Study Agent Carter.