should i attend college or take the black
I did the thing you always do when you get on facebook: I looked for people with my name.
There are no real people who have my [blog alias] name [Jane Doe.] I shouldn’t be surprised: I don’t have my name. My name is a placeholder for anonymous women.
For me, it’s a name that frees me to say what I want about dating jackassery. Apparently, in other contexts, it’s a name for much more dire circumstances.
So I did a google image search for my name and I found the faces of unidentified, mutilated, murdered women.
This Jane Doe lived for a day after the attack, but was badly hurt and never spoke. She also never got the chance to tell anyone her name.
This Jane Doe was found in a canal with stab wounds in her chest and back
This Jane Doe was eight years old when she was decapitated.
This Jane Doe was reconstructed from skeletal remains found in Wisconsin.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; the name is a placeholder for the anonymous, after all, and who is more anonymous than a murdered woman? And of course photographs like this will appear — should appear — if I look for images of Jane Doe. These women deserve to be named, remembered, and their families deserve to know what happened to them.
But then, what am I to make of this Jane Doe? [graphic image of a mutilated female body]
According to the advertisement, this Jane is “a life-size female autopsy prop with ‘Y’ cut in chest and stomach with fake staples. Warning! The prop has nipples showing. Please ask for none if you so desire.”
So you can get this Jane’s nipples removed if they disturb you? That’s the part that’s disturbing? Her nipples?
I did an image search for John Doe and found: an aging punk star from X and an actor who played John Doe in a movie.
Perhaps it’s odd coincidence that an image search for Jane Doe gets photographs of unidentified murdered women and an image search for John Doe gets rugged, square jawed men, both of whom have “real” names in addition to their their “John Doe” stage names.
I don’t know if there are more unidentified murdered female bodies out there than unidentified murdered male bodies. I do know there are more photos of them when I do this search.
This hardly counts as data. Google searches usually just reflect what people click on when they do a similar search, and maybe people just like to click on mutilated, anonymous murdered women and handsome, square-jawed men.
The question remains, however: where are the John Does? If I scroll a little, I do find this: [tasteful image of a sketch, in pencil or ink, of a male face with three variations]
This John Doe died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His image was reconstructed from skeletal remains.
This John Doe constructed thirty false identities. When he was finally caught, he was called “John Doe” because authorities couldn’t figure out his real name.
I don’t know what to make of this. I initially just thought it would be funny to put up “Jane Doe” images on my facebook, since I can’t put up photos of myself. I didn’t expect to find that I mostly share my name with women lost to history and to justice. I didn’t expect my male counterparts would be musicians or movie stars or grifters or suicides. I’m glad I have a real name to go with my assumed one. I’m glad that I’m not really Jane Doe (even more, I’m glad I’m not *a* Jane Doe). I wish my mutilated female body never figured into anybody’s fantasy, and I wish no one ever thought it was ok to offer to remove my nipples if they should become more offensive than a mutilated woman toy…
As I discussed in an earlier post, pre-Comics Code comic books are full of fascinating women superheroes who’ve been more or less forgotten in the decades since WWII. Born in the era of Rosie the Riveter, when there was a national campaign to get women into workplaces, these costumed heroines were brassy, hard-assed, snarky, and sometimes just plain weird. They displayed remarkable grit and independence, and were portrayed as better crime-fighters than the inept, sexist cops that got in their way.
Even removed from their intriguing, important place in sociocultural history, these stories are compelling bits of pure comics nerdery - eg, the fact that 1941’s Spider Queen was almost certainly the unacknowledged inspiration for Spider-Man. These characters deserve to be better known. Happily, the astonishing www.digitalcomicmuseum.org hosts full-issue scans of scores of public domain pre-Code comics. Which means you can read these comics right now, for free!
Here are a few of my favorite lost superheroines from the 1940s. Click on a character’s name to access an archive of their adventures!
FANTOMAH - Arguably the first woman superhero, and to this day one of the strangest. Fantomah is a near-omniscient (blonde) jungle spirit with incredible magical/psionic powers. She is always threatening her enemies with “a jungle death!” and she turns into a green skull with beautiful hair when she’s angry.
LADY SATAN - Sometime Nazi-killer, sometime occult detective, Lady Satan roams the land in her stylish automobile, using gun, garrote, and fire magic to take out Reich agents and child-snatching werewolves.
MOTHER HUBBARD - Looking like a cartoon witch, speaking only in rhyme, Mother Hubbard uses her bizarre occult powers to battle everything from fifth column saboteurs to Disney-esque dwarves that steal kids’ eyeballs.
THE WOMAN IN RED - A gun-toting jujitsu expert, the Woman in Red is a sort of costumed private detective. She’s the bane of both criminals (especially those who prey on women) and inept male cops. But to the women she saves she’s quite…tender.
THE SPIDER QUEEN - A chemistry lab assistant becomes a wise-cracking costumed herowho uses wrist-strapped web shooters to swing around the city and tie up bad guys. But this is 1941, and our hero is a woman.
THE VEILED AVENGER - Although she’s the frilliest-looking of 40s superheroines, the Veiled Avenger might be the hardest. She uses her crop to make criminals shoot each other…and themselves. And in her civilian life as a District Attorney’s secretary, she scolds dumb cops who endanger witnesses.
Sadly, these heroines all disappeared by the 1950s. As the national project of getting women out of the workplace took hold, bold self-sufficient superheroines became scarce on the ground. Despite some great work by amazing artists over the years, comics still doesn’t have enough of them.
[And now, a plug: I’m working on a longer piece on these heroines, and on some other stuff you might find interesting. You can learn more about all that here.]