No Man is My Master - My Love's Portrayal of the Women's Movement
The late 1960s and early 1970s were dynamic -- to say the least. Chock full of changing attitudes towards people of various ethnic groups, women, and other marginalized individuals -- the years of the "Long Civil Rights Movement" (a term used to broaden the confines of what is traditionally thought of as the Civil Rights Movement, into time and place outside of the 1950s/1960s American South) are clearly portrayed in romance comics. The (intended) audience of young females consuming romance comics made for the perfect crowd for communicating thoughts on the Women's Movement.
"No Man is My Master" from My Love #10 (March 1971) is only one example of many. One of the predominant reoccurring themes in the romance comics of the late '60s and early '70s was the Women's Movement and its effect on character relationships. Like any blossoming social revolution, the romance comics dealt with issues of feminism in various ways. Many of the stories seem to have good intentions behind them, but fall flat -- especially for today's reader. One has to question the intentions of this story though, as the main character -- Bev comes off as flaky and naïve.
The cover (John Buscema) of this issue depicts a young woman who is torn between "female freedom" and her boyfriend. The interior, written by Stan Lee, penciled by Buscema and inked by John Verpoorten tells a similar story -- but with a different outcome than one may think based on the cover.
We are given a glimpse into the date of Bev and Nick, an attractive young couple. It becomes quickly evident that despite his good looks, Nick is bossy, brutish and self-absorbed. Not the most attractive qualities in a potential mate! Bev is obviously distressed about the state of their relationship, but carries on anyway.
The next day, Bev is convinced by a friend to attend a "female freedom rally." Bev is moved by the message on a personal level. From the rally she takes away the realization that Nick is no good for her.
After the rally, Bev resolves herself to only date men that treat her as an equal. The next time she speaks with Nick on the phone, she lets him know that she is going to be busy for a while. In the time away from him, Bev dates boys who are respectful, mild-mannered and who value her opinions. The men she dates let her take control of their outings -- they let her decide what to do and where to go. Bev becomes put off by this though, as she feels they are meek and indecisive. After an unsuccessful date one night, Bev rethinks her liberation.
Thinking that she has misunderstood equal rights, Bev ceases her casual dates with nice, respectful men and waits by the phone for Nick to call. Eventually he does, and comes over for a visit where he so supportively asks, "did you get whatever was buggin' you out of your system?" Nice!
Nick's tired, cheesy, barbaric line tugs at Bev's heartstrings and their embrace is tagged as "the start -- of something lovely!" Lovely indeed!!!
Before reading the story and purely based on the cover, I really thought the leading lady was going to stick to her new found idealism, but that is my bias from being a female of today. One has to remember when reading these stories, that they need to be understood within the context of the rise of the Women's Movement -- which to some was probably confusing, tumultuous and even upsetting. To today's reader, this story may just seem like a silly and sad product of mass culture. In reality though, this romance story should not be easily dismissed, as it helps give perspective to the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanied the large-scale social change of the early 1970s.