Natasha: Oh, lord. Chin up, eyes straight ahead, say nothing, don’t let them get to you. They’re nothing, just a crackle of gossiping hens.
Dude A: Look who it is, Natasha Romanoff— the Ruskie spy who turned traitor. Black Widow she calls herself.
Dude B: Yeah, she got one of them souper-hero names.
Dude C: I heard she used to tumble with that spandex exhibitionist, Daredevil— when she wasn’t bouncing around from spy agency to spy agency. Never trusted her kind.
Dude D: The doc’s sending her out solo to get Hazzard.
Dude A: Haz must be almost dead if it’s just women’s work.
Dude B: I don’t know, I heard Hazzard’s a real heart-breaker.
Dude A: Watch out Widow, you might get your little heart broken.
Dude B: Yeah, she won’t have the guts to kill him. She’ll probably fall in love with him.
Dude C: You better kill him, Widow— if you wanna be a member of the club.
This is a real murderers row of haters gonna hate— there’s so much packed into such a short walk down a hallway, not least that this is just one short walk down a hallway, a hallway immediately recognized, immediately known.
These are bulky mustachioed men uncomfortable with the explicitness of Daredevil’s costume, but not with the display of their own arms. They whisper Natasha’s treasons but have no idea what she might be loyal to. “Never trusted her kind,” one of them says, and it’s unclear if he means spies or if he means women. They talk about her, not to her but their eyes and bodies note her presence. She has a job more dangerous than any of theirs because she is better than any of them, but they must twist their logic to make the danger of Hazzard less formidable and not Natasha moreso. And in all their muscleshirted splendor they have come to the easy but cowardly conclusion that it takes more guts to kill a man than it does to fall in love.
And for all this oafish cruelty they assume, with an arrogance born of both privelege and stupidity, that what Natasha wants is to be part of their club.
She has them pegged for what they are, spiteful gossips, hens, a specific sort of frivolous that society genders female.
Superhero comics often show sequences of sexism but they are usually comfortable scenes where Male Chauvinist Pig says something demeaning about Our Heroine, and is promptly met by a knee to the balls or similar. I enjoy these sequences, because in my power fantasies creeps always get what is coming to them. But this is something else, something truer and more tragic, and it touches on things I have felt walking down the street or wading through unfortunate comments sections. To be a woman and to do things is to learn to walk through these hallways. Chin up, eye straight ahead. Guts.
From Daredevil #236, by Ann Nocenti and Barry Windsor-Smith.