Written By Cadeem Lalor
The Walking Dead is currently my favourite comic book series and while I endure the one-month gap between issues, I decided to check out Y: The Last Man. It was highly recommended by many lists and was also only sixty issues long, saving me from the worry of a very long commitment on top of numerous other series and books I wish to read.
I binge-read the series over this past weekend and was not disappointed. Y: The Last Man is a science-fiction comic, where 25-year-old Yorick Brown and his pet monkey are seemingly the only ones to survive the spontaneous death of all male mammals. The sixty issues encompass Yorick’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world and his efforts to uncover the source of the catastrophe.
However, the series also gives us The Daughters of the Amazon, a society that burns down sperm clinics and is determined to remove all traces of perceived patriarchy. They attack Yorick on sight for being male and spend a large portion of the series trying to track him down in order to ensure that he does not reinstall the patriarchy they are fighting against. For the Amazons, the catastrophe that killed most of the men was an act of God or a sign that women need to reclaim their rightful place.
The Amazons can either come across as an indictment of feminism, or more likely they’re a caricature of it. Something here is meant to ridicule the heightened fears that many men have about feminism. The plot obviously lends itself to feminism, since it deals with a society that is mostly female having to rebuild and eventually being able to do so. The first few issues also focus on the issue of presidential succession, highlighting how the predominance of male figures leads the Minister of Agriculture to become the next President of the United States. Agent 355, a member of a covert government branch known as the Culper Ring, also accompanies Yorick throughout the story and acts as his highly competent bodyguard and confidante. It would be contradictory for the series to present one strong female character after another, and then throw in The Amazons as a criticism of feminism.
The series began in 2002, well after The Men’s Right Movement led to a backlash against “political correctness” and “feminazis”. Like today, feminists were fighting for issues such as the eradication of rape culture, the culture of blaming rape victims for being raped e.g. “She asked for it.” Meanwhile, the manosphere begin to grow. The manosphere refers to a loosely connected group of blogs and websites that believe masculinity and men as a whole are now diminished due to feminism. The Men’s Rights Movement began by targeting divorce and child custody laws that favoured women, but has now expanded into a group of men who view relationships as adversarial in nature and believe that men need to dominate women. The manosphere has birthed groups such as pick-up artists and many members have a heightened level of bitterness and anger towards woman, especially concerning sexual rejection. The manosphere promotes the belief that feminism has disrupted men’s natural dominance in the world, leading women to become overly confident. This then makes men victims to egotistical and shallow women who are protected from criticism by the new social order which seeks to destroy masculinity.
With this background information, it becomes easier to see how some men may view the Amazons as regular feminists, as opposed to stereotypical ones. Throughout the series, other female characters counteract the depiction of the Amazons. The comic does not present the women as perfect characters or ones who are all superior to Yorick. Some characters use him for sex, he outsmarts others and many of the women serve as Yorick’s villains. They are strong fighters, soldiers, intelligent scientists and people who are as lost in the new world as Yorick is.
The comics even imply that many of the Amazons only joined the group to escape hunger and homelessness. These are the motives that lead Yorick’s sister, Hero, to join the Amazons early in the story. While it is implied that the leader truly believes in her vision, it is clear that ideology is secondary to security for some Amazons. With this, the Amazons possibly get whittled down to a few members with extreme ideologies. Members like this are found in every group, and the Amazons become a more realistic and moderate creation if we realize that only a few members of their population truly believe that all men must die. Just like the manosphere like to argue that “not all men are like that”, Y: The Last Man argues, “not all women are like that”.