I know, that title probably doesn't seem right to you. But bear with me for a while, and maybe I can illuminate you about my line of thought. Who's up for a good old fashioned thesis?
Thesis: Harley Quinn is a feminist character.
I hate to go all feminist rant, because that just isn't me. But here's the one feminist argument that I can make, which is a little different from most. To me, sexism is the stereotyping of female characters to represent a certain role or set of behaviors, based on society's expectations of what a "woman" is.
Taking a broad view of Wonder Woman, for example, I see a serious-minded woman who promotes peace, and who is somewhat of a mother figure. So, Woman = mature, responsible, serious, motherly. Wait...how can that possibly be a bad thing?
Have a look at this ad:
So Woman exists only to tame her man, make him grow up and settle down, deny him all sorts of fun stuff, and generally just suck all the fun out of his life. Oh, and to buy her diamonds or whatever girls supposedly want. (Don't get me started on jewelry ads.) Geez, marriage sounds like hell.
That's a really hit-you-on-the-head example, but ironically, I had forgotten about it. It was this commercial that stuck out in my mind:
While the guy is listening to the end of his favorite eight-minute song, the girl sits there on the pavement, rolling her eyes, waiting for him to be finished with his juvenile antics.
Because girls never do anything eccentric or silly. Only boys are allowed to "be boys."
Why does this commercial bug me? Because way back in high school, my friend and I did pretty much the exact same thing. Driving her home, her favorite song came on the radio, so she made me drive through an empty parking lot (at 2 a.m., no less) and circle the lot until it was over. Ahh, the indiscretions of youth.
I totally shot my thesis in the foot by drawing on personal experience, but so what, it's my blog and I can make or break the rules of logic here.
So who is Harley Quinn? She is fun, she's childish, she's eccentric, she's free-wheeling. She is the opposite of every stereotyped responsible mother sacrificing her time to drive the kids to soccer practice, and who points to a meticulously-balanced checkbook when her husband pleads for a new Dodge Charger. She's liberated herself from the stereotypical female domestic roles of responsibility, maturity, and seriousness. If it were up to Harley, she'd sit around in her PJ's eating cereal and watching cartoons and playing in her room full of toys all day. Not only would she buy her man a Chevy Charger, she'd buy him a machine gun as well, and shred the checkbook, too. Harley took one look at society's expectations of her and said, "Heck with this. I'm buying a pair of hyenas for pets."
Counter-argument: Harley Quinn is a "battered woman" and is not way an empowered female character.
Counter-counter-argument: Did I mention she has a whole room full of toys?