Disney has announced that they are planning on developing a new movie in the Fantastic Four comic book franchise featuring Mister Fantastic, The Human Torch, Thing and—drumroll, please—the Invisible Woman.
Now, look: I know that as a lady, I’m not allowed to offer up my opinions on things like this, lest I ruin some grown man’s childhood a la Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters. But invisibility is hardly a “superpower” for a woman. It’s not even all that extraordinary. For women, invisibility isn’t a phenomena. It’s every single day of our lives.
Women are made invisible at work. In corporate offices, women don’t get credit for their ideas, get passed over for promotions and then take home only a fraction of what white men are paid for the same job. In every industry, women face sexual harassment and then retaliation for speaking up about it. And in sectors where women do make up a large share of the workforce, their work is undervalued and underpaid.
Women are made invisible in the media. The news landscape is rife with sexist stories and chock-full of men’s opinions about women’s lives. The entire entertainment industry is still plagued by sexist and objectifying depictions of half of the population, and women who dare to try and break in are often stopped short by the patriarchy at-large.
Women are made invisible in politics, despite the female candidates who are winning race after race, running in record numbers and—especially in the case of black women—actually doing the hard work of organizing and creating new, sustainable infrastructures for progress. And that isn’t even touching on the ways in which women are then made invisible by our own government, an institution in which men like Brett Kavanaugh—despite his lack of understanding of how the female reproductive system works, despite his trying to force a teen girl to give birth against her will and despite numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault against him—have largely uncontested access to power.
Honestly, I don’t care to see another thing about Invisible Woman. I am tired of being erased. Instead, I want to see Visible Woman.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s—oh, christ, who invited Beth?
And I get it, nobody likes Visible Woman. She’s forced to fly coach, because everyone told her there was no room on the jet. (“See, Silver Surfer said he was coming, then he, like, totally flaked at the last minute, and we tried to reach you, but you were already in the air.”) She doesn’t know why Batman is fighting Superman, because there’s actual work to do and bad guys to fight and all of this toxic masculinity is just dragging them down, and she thinks Pepper Potts should be running her own company. While fanboys were debating the flagrant mixing of Marvel Universes, Visible Woman was trying to unionize the Justice League and the Avengers and the X Men and the Guardians—because she believes they’re all stronger together. (Her kryptonite? Two words, three periods: “Well, actually…”)
But Visible Woman gets things done. When a sexual predator is brought to justice, it’s because Visible Woman stood up and said something, and encouraged other women to do the same. When reproductive freedoms are being eroded, Visible Woman organizes the march to take them back. Visible Woman talks openly about her abortion, her eating disorder, her struggles with depression and her plan to vote in the midterms. Visible Woman sits on a lot of committees. Visible Woman did not laugh at your sexist joke just because she felt uncomfortable calling you out. Visible Woman called you out.
Right now, Visible Woman is on her sixth cup of coffee and fostering two dogs. It’s 10 p.m., and she really wants to watch the Great British Baking Show, but there’s just one more email she needs to send about the upcoming town hall and she really can’t focus until it gets done. Her utility belt is equipped with markers and a pack of poster paper, in case of sudden protests. Her skin is covered in a revolutionary material that seems to let everything in—all the hurts of the world, all the tragedy and sadness—while also repelling every insult and derogatory comment that gets thrown at her and whispered behind her back. Unlike Tony Stark, she has no electro magnet to keep the shrapnel from entering her heart, but in her case it only makes her powers stronger. Her lasso of truth seems most effective on herself: she’s unable to not speak it to power, even when it’s a noose around her own neck, costing her work or family or friends.
Visible Woman’s real super power is that she sees injustice everywhere she goes—and still gets back up to fight for something better every single day.
Visible Woman has a lot of foes—Mr. Glass Ceiling, Brag-neto, The Rape Joker—but her biggest archenemy is herself. No one can beat her like she beats herself up. She often second-guesses her actions, and she’s full of self-doubt. (“Is what I’m doing that big of a deal that it warrants being called ‘Super?’ Am I even making a difference?” “Wonder Woman fought the Nazis. Who am I fighting? Internet trolls?”) Visible Woman would be the first one to tell you she could do more. If she could magically let her roots grow in, that would save her two hours this Saturday that she could be phone banking; she knows she could be more visible for her allies, whether it’s recording the racist lady calling the cops on T’Challa for parking his jet in Oakland or explaining to her family members why it doesn’t violate their religious freedom if Batwoman marries her girlfriend, Maggie; and she has to remember to call her City Council member about those sidewalks that make it difficult for Professor X’s wheelchair.
Like Deadpool, the Visible Woman has blown herself up, over and over again—only to eventually find herself somehow put back together, often with a lot of help from her community and her fellow superheroes.
I’d love for Visible Woman to star in her own franchise movie or see herself in a New York Times feature. While Lois Lane writes about Superman and J. Jonah Jameson tries to get pictures of Spiderman, I’d like to see one mainstream newspaper do a profile on Visible Woman and the millions like her. How do they feel about collusion with Russia? What are their economic anxieties? What is their disconnect with the Republican party?
The good news is that people are beginning to see her—and she is demanding to be seen more than ever before. Visible Woman is everywhere, and there’s a part of her in everyone: She was seen in legions two years in a row at Women’s Marches around the world. She posted her own #MeToo story and then amplified everyone else’s. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez and now Julie Swetnick transformed into Visible Women in spite of their own well-founded fears, and at great emotional and physical risk to themselves and their families—and across the country, thousands of survivors and their allies became visible, too, taking to the streets in shows of solidarity and support.
Production company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds created the #VisibleWomen campaign to raise the profiles of women and non-binary professionals in the comic book industry. Hopefully, their work means we’ll see a Visible Woman on-screen soon enough. Hopefully, we’re moving towards a world where Visible Woman doesn’t have to live in a secret lair for fear of getting doxxed; where she can say “looks like my job here is done” instead of “I need to take a day off for self-care but I promise I’ll be right back at it tomorrow”—and where we hear not only “this looks like a job for Visible Woman,” but “and we’re going to pay her fairly for it, too.”
We want you to show us your own vision of a Visible Woman. Post photos and illustrations of Visible Woman on social media with the hashtag #MsVisible, and tag @MsMagazine (on Twitter) and @Ms_Magazine (on Instagram) so we can see them! (And if you’re looking for a woman or non-binary artist, be sure to check out milkfed.us, queercartoonists.com and cartoonistsofcolor.com.)