Merch Fail: Training to be Batman’s Wife

DC licensing team? You’re stupid and I hate you.

Yes, I am calling names. So juvenile. But so are they by proxy (by neglect), and they’re doing it in crueller, quieter ways. Take the “Training to be Batman’s Wife” shirt. Why the swirly font?

Batman's Wife DC Target merchandise, 2014, DC Comics, Warner Bros, Traget, licensed apparel

My sweetie was watching a forgettable movie last night, Captain Scarlett, staring Richard Greene. It’s not one for the ages and the details are irrelevant, apart from the way that I could reply “did a lady appear” when the music suddenly changed, in this man-only film, from jaunty nighttime sneaking sounds to swooping strings, swaying and lilting, at which my mister laughed and said “can you guess what just happened.” I was right, obviously. The soundtrack told us that a lady (THE lady, in fact—pedestal fallacy in full force) had arrived, and that meant certain things, among which: wah wah wah. Necessarily. Inescapably. Forever. Until the stars burn out and all is one and one is nothing: work it, hotstuff.

So many people believe and build that you can’t just “be,” as a woman observed. You have to “be feminine,” and coincidentally “how to be feminine” is often defined by creative (HAHAHAHA) teams who think that “feminine” means “I dunno, like . . . secondary?” You have to be ornate or you don’t get to be in the story. And may I just point out: BATMAN DOES NOT HAVE A WIFE. You don’t get to be in the story anyway!

Using a swirly italicsed font for “wife”—”wife” only—defines* wives as fancy, off-balance, and breakable. A certain false maturity, a lack of readiness, an inability to keep up (if this word ran it would trip over its own trailing tails and scrolls).

Now; we live in patriarchy, which mistakenly devalues both femininity and weakness and often conflates them. It’s fine not to be ready to run at a moment’s notice. It’s fine to be fancy. Load up those gel nails with diamond decals. Both of these things can be avenues for self-knowledge, self-care, and self-improvement. Yes! But locking people into avenues that don’t suit them turns avenue into alley, and the alley becomes dark and damp. Similarly, as we do live with this collective agreement that fancy/still means weak∞woman∞bad, associating this with “wife” is bad for us as people in a culture that values marriage and/or long-term romantic commitment.

The above shirt, in its graphic shortcomings, creates the illusion that wives are lame, and probably embarrassments, you see? Sexism and ableism and a degradation of interpersonal respect. Wives are not as good, because they have trouble with physicality, which is why women train to be them instead of training to be Batman. Batman cool, Batwife ehhh, weak person fshhhhh.

Stupid babies DC Target merchandise, 2014, DC Comics, Warner Bros, Traget, licensed apparel

Notice above left how “date” is in a less impactful font. Not only is it thinner—it’s shorter and rounder. Dates? They’re for babies, and I mean metaphorical babies who are wimps with emotions, not like this literal baby who is totally cool and aggressively masculine despite the fact that it is wearing . . . pink . . . (a girl colour!!) and talking about (puke) dates. I ONLY, me (powerful declaration), ((((date (ew))))) HEROES (powerful individuals, admired by the proles they are better than).

Very inspiring. Very Superman/Wonder Woman, actually.

sexysuperman, DC COmics licensed merchandise, Warner Bros, Superman, Wonder Woman, 2014


UPDATE: Our Brenda, being a sensible & straightforward type, sent her inquiry direct to DC. Here’s what she got back, bolding mine:

DC Comics is home to many of the greatest male and female Super Heroes in the world.  All our fans are incredibly important to us, and we understand that the messages on certain t-shirts are offensive.  We agree.  Our company is committed to empowering boys and girls, men and women, through our characters and stories.  Accordingly, we are taking a look at our licensing and product design process to ensure that all our consumer products reflect our core values and philosophy.
Sounds like a sort of a step forward? Keep your eyes peeled.
Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money

One thought on “Merch Fail: Training to be Batman’s Wife

  1. Ugh. I saw the baby ones at Target. Wanted to get one for my friend’s new baby boy but uh… they suck…. The women’s ones? Threw up a little in my mouth.

    Thank you for the t-shirt sass.

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