Wednesday 19 March 2014

Women In the Fridge: where do all the ladies go?

by Emily Towsley


Ladies, have you ever noticed that it doesn’t take very long for your favourite super heroines to fall victim to their nemesis’ plot? Or how about you fellas, have you noticed how many ladies your favourite superhero goes through because their girlfriends just keep turning up dead?

Gail Simone noticed this, and she is doing her best to make sure everyone else notices too. The “Women in the Refrigerator” list started when Simone was reading the 1994 Green Lantern, and for no apparent reason, he finds his girlfriend dead in their refrigerator.

Some argue that violent deaths are part of the superhero world – that you can’t have epic superheroes like Spiderman without a little tragedy like the death of Gwen Stacey propelling them to act in the ways that they do.

This would be a fine argument for character building, if the trend showed up on both ends of the gender spectrum. “Dead Dudes Defrosting” is the male version of the “WIR” list. This list compiles all the male characters that have had violent deaths or maiming, and yet somehow remain unscathed, or return in a future episode.


In Batman the Dark Knight Rises, Bane breaks Batman’s back over his knee. Batman however is not crippled for life, as he should be, and instead trains and rehabilitates himself back to fighting condition in order to face Bane once again. On the female side of this coin, Barbara Gordon, otherwise known as Batgirl, was shot by the Joker in the stomach, in order to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. The bullet went through her spine, paralysing her permanently.

Two very similar injuries, two very different stories. Batman’s injury happened in an active scene. Batman was fighting for his life, and for the good of Gotham, when the man he was fighting, broke his back. Barbara however, innocently opened the door, and became the victim of the Joker, in order to give Commissioner Gordon a larger story arc. Batman recovers, and Barbara remains paralyzed for life.

Luckily for Barbara, she is able to retrain herself in another skill; computer hacking and data manipulation. Her new skills allow Barbara to become Oracle, the great intellect and fighting partner of Black Canary. 
Female superheroes are able to hold their own in the comic book industry, so they aren’t being killed off because of lack of reader interest. This makes it ridiculous that the few females that do make an appearance in comic books meet their end more frequently, more violently, and with less justification than their male counterparts.

Fortunately Simone took her idea one step further, and began contacting comic book industry artists, publishers, and companies to raise awareness of the “Women in the Refrigerator” trope, and how women like herself were sick and tired of it. On her website today, you can see some of the many responses she has gotten from her letters, and most of which are positive.

In addition, as of November 2007, Gail Simone got a crack at the writing world of comics herself. Her Women in Refrigerators site brought attention to the problems of a male dominated industry writing for female superheroes; Simone was offered a job writing for wonder Woman. Not a stranger to comic book writing herself, Simone is responsible for writing hits such as the all-female super heroine crew Birds of Prey, and the ever wisecracking Deadpool.

The future is just within our grasp. A future with female superheroes just as strong, empowered, and death proof as their male counterparts. Making our world a safer place, one rescued gentleman in distress at a time.

(origin picture – the original “woman in the refrigerator”)

Emily Towsley, can be found either teasing her cat, or philosophizing with a customer over coffee in her second-life as a barista. Messages of support regarding her addiction to Netflix, and news of vintage teacup sales can be left on her twitter.( Her spare time is spent reading copious amounts of books, ( or working on her latest blog. (

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