A month ago, Salon's Janelle Brown asked, "What happened to the women's Web?" The medium that once seemed to promise liberation from the mainstream straitjacket that was "women's journalism" had instead delivered more of the same old, same old: hairstyling tips, advertisements that promised to "banish your butt" and endless pandering to the lowest common (female) denominator.
But the story may not have gone far enough -- the women's Web isn't just matching the old print world step for gender-stereotyped step. With the appearance today of Women.com's new cartoon superhero, Lacey Brazeer, the women's Web has now officially struck rock-bottom. It is not only hard but actually painful to try to imagine something that might be more insulting to the intelligence of a person of any gender than "door-busting, case-cracking, butt-kicking, breast-powered" superhero Lacey Brazeer.
The mission statement for Ms. Brazeer declares that she will help raise consciousness of breast cancer: "With this new awareness, we can better appreciate the emotional impact breast cancer has on the lives of our sisters, mothers and friends." That's a noble goal, and surely one that a woman-oriented Web site ought to focus on.
But with their choice of a big-breasted faux Wonder Woman heroine with "superhuman intuition" as the delivery vehicle for this exercise in awareness raising, the creators of this particular cartoon have achieved a magnificent triple play: While failing utterly to achieve any sense of irony, they have managed to come off as both exploitative and dumb.
The initial cartoon is the best example: As punishment for a male executive denying a flat-chested woman her rightful promotion, Lacey Brazeer exposes his small penis size to his whole staff. If one were inclined to be charitable, one could argue that the executive was being hoist on his own (not-so-large) petard -- oh, how the tables have been turned. But if one were feeling a little bit more cynical, one might think that jokes about dick size were about as feminist as, well, to quote the description of Lacey Brazeer one more time, a mammary supermama who "has a fashionably sassy attitude to boot."
As one woman noted, "This is really an embarrassment of monumental proportions. A 42E embarrassment, if you will."