My essay, “From Kitty to Cat: Kitty Pryde and the Phases of Feminism” has been published in the collection, The Ages of the X-Men (McFarland, 2014).
Read the initial proposal for the essay below.
The Initial Proposal for “From Kitty to Cat: Kitty Pryde and the Phases of Feminism”
Chris Claremont is known for helping to develop a number of powerful female heroines during his seventeen-year run as writer on The Uncanny X-Men. Jean Grey and Storm stand out as two of these iconic heroines, and, as scholar Ramzi Fawaz astutely tracks in an article in American Literature (2011) that focuses on “The Phoenix Saga” (#101-108), these two characters respond to the demands of the feminist movement and its shifting direction in the late 1970s. As 1980 approaches, the ground shifts even further, and this unsettled place is echoed in the introduction of Kitty Pryde, a mutant who can phase through objects. Paradoxically, Pryde’s introduction in issue #129 as a student for Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, emphasizes the institutionalization of the X-Men at the very moment in which Jean Grey’s Dark Phoenix shatters that world (#129-138). In many ways, Jean Grey’s arc overshadows Pryde, yet, just as the Saga ends with the Dark Phoenix’s defeat and Grey’s death, the 1970s feminists cannot hold on as a new generation comes to the fore in the 1980s.
This paper seeks to examine this cultural moment of generational change in the early 1980s where female teenagers quite like Pryde are coming of age and trying to find their feet within the established feminist movement. Just like “The Dark Phoenix Saga” garners more discussion than Pryde’s arc, so also is this new moment of change in the early 1980s often overlooked in favor of focusing on the power and glory of the 1970s feminists. During the 1980s, Pryde becomes a member of the X-Men (#139) and eventually takes on the name of Shadowcat. The harnessing of her power means that she can move seamlessly in and out of space, making her the perfect mutant to negotiate the varying terrain of 1980s feminism, as emphasized by Donna Haraway and Gloria Anzaldúa. Moreover, her position as the first official student in Xavier’s School echoes the growing institutionalization of women’s studies in universities across America in the late 1970s, which further changes the discourse as feminism becomes part of the mainstream. Her quiet demeanor seems at odds with powerhouses like Jean Grey and Storm, but she possesses the power to subvert from within in ways not always visible. This essay will draw upon this historical milieu to explore how Pryde showcases the changing face of feminism in the 1980s.